Summary – day 14 – Frederick to Columbia (Wednesday 03 July)

Estimated mileage: 35 miles, actual: 38.14 miles

Avg. speed: 14.9 mph

Cumulative distance: 884.49 miles

A very short ride today. We weren’t realistically going to be able to get to Columbia before it went dark last night, so we could have something of a leisurely morning in Frederick before setting off. We woke up and there was torrential rain outside – another reason to take it easy this morning!

Over breakfast at the Hampton Inn, we were talking about the Tour de France – a Mark Cavendish sprint-finish win in Marseilles! On the next table Were Jeff and Ally from Richmond, Virginia. They had been cycling around Gettysburg – the site of the biggest battle in the US civil War in July 1863 – and perhaps the turning point in the war. We chatted about the Tour and our ride. Later, as we were leaving we met up with them again and took some photos – Jeff had a friend who he said would admire my Condor frame – so several pictures were taken of that! The bike’s the star!

We braved the downpour and made pretty good time along highway 144/Old National Pike. There were some undulating sections, but nothing at all taxing. The rain eased and it started to brighten up about through the journey at Mount Airy.

The houses and townships were all looking very prosperous now. Also, the roads were in good condition – smooth and well-maintained. Not far from Mike’s (McL) house we saw our first sign to Washington – 32 miles! We’re almost there!

We arrived at Mike’s at about 12:30 and just had time to change before Mike’s friend Chris arrived to get Mike to his car. Which was left at Chris’ house after Mike had flown to Pittsburgh with his bike. Mike is from San Francisco but said that he didn’t sound like he was from there – I’m not sure that I could exactly pinpoint a San Francisco accent, but Chris does have an extraordinary voice – I could hear South African, British and Irish when he spoke.

Chris was not far from Baltimore, so I took a risk and made a pitch for a visit to the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad Museum – Sean and Lynda back just outside Valparaiso had recommended it. Mike had never been, so we ignored Matthew’s slightly downcast air and off we went.

It was baking hot in Baltimore when we arrived at the B&O Railroad Museum. The main complex is a huge round engine turning house – faced in red brick and with an enormous slate roof. It was 2:45 when we arrived and they closed at 4:00 – so it was going to be something of a flying visit.

Baltimore was where the very first passenger railway track was laid in the US in 1830 – the start of the track was in the turning house. The B&O Railroad Museum has a huge collection of nineteenth and twentieth century engines – they’re really impressive … so much bigger and more powerful than what we saw in Europe. There were some lovely model trains, too. I wish that we’d had longer – but it’s often the case on these sorts of trips. Just before they closed I was speaking with one of the volunteers and he told me about the collapse of half the roundhouse roof after a heavy snowstorm in 2003 – the pictures were incredible and it’s a miracle that what was underneath survived. The restoration was beautiful though.

After the B&O Railroad Museum there was time to wander along Baltimore’s waterfront – some nice-looking ships, a huge Barnes & Noble bookstore where I bought Mike a present: a Calvin and Hobbes anthology. I was surprised that he didn’t know about Bill Watterson’s comic strip that follows the adventures of Calvin, a six year old boy, and his rather sardonic stuffed toy tiger Hobbes who Calvin imagines is alive.

We’d not eaten, so Mike took us to a vegan restaurant near his house: Great Sage – was fantastic. After we’d eaten a woman on next table started talking to us. She’d heard speaking to each other and knew that we were English. She’d been to Manchester to visit her sister’s family and had liked it, but she hadn’t liked Wolverhampton! We thought that it made a bit of a change for an American to have been somewhere other than London or Stonehenge! So after a good dinner – home to bed. Another very happy day!

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