Today began the adventure. Despite the monumental significance of this day, it got off to a routine start. I had breakfast with my parents then picked up a couple of shirts from the dry cleaner. I can't believe I'm saying this, but I think some part of me is going to miss the cleaners over the next six months.
After goodbye hugs and selfies with my folks, I mounted my bike and set off. Google maps guided me through the north suburbs of DC to the C & O canal. Navigating through Bethesda, Rockville and Gaithersburg was pretty uneventful. Things got interesting just North of Germantown. Everything was suburban and familiar until I took some left turn and then BAM...it was the countryside. I knew it was the countryside because there was a convenience store advertising "Live Bait" in its front window. Stores don't sell live bait in the District. They sell oysters. They sell three dollar oysters and gluten-free organic stuff. Just North of Germantown I realized that I was not in Kansas anymore.
I witnesed a beautiful sunset about halfway into my ride. The sun slowly returned to its resting place behind the rolling green hills. As it made its way, the shadows of lonely fences stretched across the pastures. Moments like today's sunset will be my motivation to keep pushing when things get tough. And they inevitably will.
I arrived at the C & O canal aqueduct by the 45 mile mark. The sun was almost entirely tucked behind the horizon. The flat canal was a pleasant respite from the hills I scaled in order to get there. I was the sole person on the trail. My only companions were a racoon climbing a tree, a few bunny rabbits hanging by the side of the road and a symphony of frogs that croaked the dusk away.
The daylight was totally gone. I had to turn my headlight on to see the path. Thank goodness it was fully charged. Riding the tow path in the dark was surreal. I had to stay focused on the narrow spot illuminated by my headlight. Images of horror movies crossed my mind, only adding to the excitement of the ride. Something caught my eye while I road. Something shiny. I looked up to find a sky full of brilliant stars. The electric lights of DC were too far away to estrange me to the stars any longer. I was so happy to again feel connected with the cosmos.
The ride dragged on. I grew fatigued. All I wanted was to get to Harpers Ferry. My depleted water supply unnerved me. I had to get to my hostel. I arrived at the bridge to Harpers Ferry. This was my final obstacle. I had to carry my bike loaded with 40 pounds of gear up two flights of stairs in order to traverse the bridge. I really had no choice. I pushed the bike up the stairs. One step at a time. Each step elicited a larger cry than the last step. It didn't matter. I could be as loud as I wanted. There was no one listening.
I made it up the stairs and crossed the river to arrive at my first destination. I made it! Now my mind went from riding to dining. I WAS STARVING. I was disheartened to find that everything was closed. It was looking like a dinner of beef jerky and almonds for me after my 72 mile ride. But wait! There was one restaurant with its lights on! Mena's Pizzeria hadn't yet closed. Just as I arrived a young lady came outside to flip the sign from "Open" to "Closed". I pleaded. "Is there any way I could get some food? Any leftovers will do." It was no problem. They invited me in and made me a 12" meatball sub. I spent the next two hours on my hostel's couch, cuddling with my meatball sub. That night I slept happily.