I slept terribly last night, making it easy for me to get out of bed this morning because there was no point in trying to sleep more next to this forsaken train yard.
The skies were cloudy but the wind was affable as we peddled Southeast towards Hancock. Last night's rain had formed small puddles on the trail. At first I tried to avoid riding through the puddles in order to not get splashed. That strategy was quickly abandoned as I realized the inevitability of filth. Sam, seeming to embrace his inner-child, romped right through the puddles.
We took a snack break, maybe 10 miles in. Niko had this book describing edible plants one can find while hiking. On the side of the tail he identified a furry green plant that resembled the curly hair atop the head of the Grinch who stole Christmas. He plucked several then shared with Sam and me. He and Sam popped them into their mouths.
"It's bitter." Niko remarked, a straight look on his face.
I stared at the plant cautiously. "Maybe I should be the one person that doesn't eat it just in case."
*pfftt, pfttt, pfttt
Niko and Sam were spitting out the plants with looks of disgust on their faces.
"It's pretty fuzzy." Sam commented, green drool dripping down his chin.
Niko and Sam rode in a pair, I rode ahead. My mind went to many different places.
I realized that the experience of riding the C&O Canal Southbound is different from riding it Northbound. Each direction offers a completely different perspective.
I thought about Facebook beef. I got into it with a friend online and it was stuck in my head. I thought about how difficult it is to discuss social issues in America. I thought about how people are totally right and totally wrong about everything they say about this stuff. I also thought it was cool that my friend didn't delete my or her comments. She isn't afraid to be herself and take criticism. I had that thought because some other guy erased an innocuous comment I made on his wall, which was cowardly. He's going to have a hard time learning that you can't erase comments in reality.
Yup, those are the things I thought about. I've sort of come to the realization that the thoughta you have at home come with you everywhere you go.
We took a mile detour to the town of Paw Paw, West Virginia for lunch. Paw Paw reminded me of Baw Wit Da Baw, which made me think of my buddy Ben, a New York Jew who was profoundly affected by a white trash country rocker from Detroit.
Back on the trail we passed through the Paw Paw Tunnel. I had seen it before so was less star struck than the first time. Traversing the tunnel was just as travels as I recalled.
After the tunnel I spotted a black snaffle on the trail and screamed, "Oh shit!" I quickly turned my head to see where Niko and Sam were. They were far enough away that they probably didn't hear it, thank goodness.
The sky cleared up in the afternoon. As a matter of fact, it was beautiful out. We rode through the Green Ridge State Forest, which I recalled was my favorite part of the C&O Canal ride last year. We took a break to dip in the Potomac at the Devil's Alley campsite.
A cool thing about cycling is that riding shorts work perfectly as swim shorts. Another cool thing about cycling the C&O canal in April is that there's no one out here so you can jump in the Potomac naked. We took a dip in the river, our feet clasping the slimy rocks to prevent the currents from sweeping us down to the Chesapeake.
After swimming the three of us took a break on the riverside. The sun shone and the wind barreled down the river. I became hypnotized watching tree limbs bounce and sway. I felt a part of something great. I recalled a Rabbi who said that these moments were God relating to us. I was excited to find that God was just 150 miles Northwest of DC.
We rode to tailwinds and drumming woodpeckers. There were also a few skiddish deer that stuck their tails up at us. By sunset we arrived at our campsite where we set up tents before heading into town for dinner.
After dinner we rode about three miles back to the campsite through the dark chamber of ribbits. We didn't speak, our ears just indulged in the natural symphony. All of a sudden there was a boisterous rattling. "AHHHH!" I screamed in fear.
Niko and Sam gasped. Rapidly clutching his brakes, Sam nearly went over his handlebars. The three of us stopped to investigate the machine-gun-like noise that terrified me. It turned out there was a stick in my spoke. I removed the stick and we continued the ride, our hearts beating a bit fasted than before.
Back at the campsite we gathered sticks like neanderthals to make a fire. Around the fire our minds went to a strange place. We began talking about murder and gore. Niko gave vivid detail of how man under extreme duress will murder in an animalistic way for survival. We then talked about the South American plane crash where surivers were forced to eat each other.
"This conversation is going to a weird place." I commented.
It became eerily silent.
That night I had a hard time sleeping.