My journey on the Great Allegheny Passage commenced after a nice breakfast and 2-hour loitering session at the McDonald's in Cumberland. I planned a short 16-mile ride because some friends advised me to go easy on the westbound climb to Frostburg. Looking at the elevation map corroborated my friends' accounts. I was headed into a steep climb.
The ride was more mild than the elevation chart would lead you to believe. There were no intense uphill sections, just a slight grade the whole trip. As the elevation increased the sceneries became more and more impressive. I especially enjoyed the view of Savage, MD, a quiet town tucked away in the Appalachian mountains. The blue sky, mesmerizing views and fresh mountain air made the climb far more pleasant than I had expected.
I got to Frostburg in relatively short order, less than two hours. I still had about three hours before my Couch Surfing hostess would be available, so I decided to pay a visit to my favorite location in the Frostburg area, Dan's Rock (notice I said, "Rock"). I was introduced to Dan's Rock by my brother when he was an undergrad at Frostburg State University. I recalled it being this amazing lookout with all types of colorful graffiti. Now was my opportunity to rediscover Dan's Rock nearly ten years after first visiting it.
I didn't know where Dan's Rock was, but luckily Google knows everything. I turned on my phone's GPS and used Google maps to route. It returned the directions to Dan's Mountain State Park (notice it said, "Mountain"). I hopped on my bike and began to make my way.
Halfway there I cruised through a town called Midland. Just to be safe, I asked a fellow standing outside of a bar for directions to Dan's Rock. He pointed me down the road. I thanked him and mounted my bike. As I departed, a woman said, "That'll take you to Dan's Mountain, not Dan's Rock" (notice the distinction being made amongst the various geological formations in question). I didn't think twice. I just kept peddling.
Three miles later I arrived at the entrance of Dan's Mountain State Park. I made it! Now I just had to get to the lookout point. I put my bike in the lowest gear and began my ascent. I climbed...and climbed...and climbed. I climbed about 750 feet in total. It didn't really get me anywhere though. I was at the top but there wasn't any lookout. Just a few homes. I stood there in confusion. Where the hell was Dan's Rock? A couple of obnoxious dogs barked at me while I pondered. Their owner came out to shush them. I asked, "Excuse me ma'am. Where is Dan's Rock?"
She responded, "You gotta go back to Midland for Dan's Rock. This is Dan's Mountain."
I was officially exhausted. Climbing the Passage to Frostburg and Dan's Stupid Mountain took a toll on me. I had to keep pushing on though. Who knew if I would ever make it back to Frostburg. I rode my bike back to Midland. There I returned to the bar where I had originally asked for directions.
When I entered, every single person in the bar turned their head and blankly stared at me. I began, "Excuse me folks. Could anyone help direct me to Dan's ROCK?"
They were all very helpful. It turns out there is an Old Dan's Rock Road which takes you directly to Dan's Rock. They chuckled at me for thinking Dan's Rock and Dan's Mountain were the same thing. They warned me, "The climb to Dan's Rock is worse than Dan's Mountain. You oughta just sit down and have a cold beer! "
I was tempted, but sorry folks, I had to make it to Dan's Rock. I headed out.
Old Dan's Rock Road wasn't too hard to find. Again, I put the Surly in its lowest gear and climbed..and climbed...and climbed. It was excruciating. The ascent looked like it would never end. I contemplated turning around but couldn't let myself. This time I climbed over 1,000 feet. The people at the bar were right. This was worse than Dan's Mountain. How much worse? Find my elevation charts below.
Despite the pain I was in on what was initially supposed to be a "light" day, I made the right choice by going to the top of Dan's Rock. It was as awesome as I recalled.
It was all downhill after that. Literally. I BOMBED the 1,200 foot mountain that is Dan's Rock. It was amazing. I topped out at 40 mph. Never in my life have I moved that fast on a bicycle. I was stoked, to say the least.
Dan's Rock (and even Dan's Mountain) reminded me of the perseverance that lays dormant inside of us all.
I spent the evening staying with my first Couch Surfing hostess, Suzy. This self-proclaimed "wild cultivator" made me feel right at home. I hung out with her in the kitchen while she prepared dinner for the two of us. She is really passionate about food. Her kitchen feels like a museum. Rare spices and exotic ingredients decorate her shelves. I don't know what the heck was in the meal she prepared for us, but I do know that it was unconventional and REALLY good. It was some sort of blue corn tortilla with beans, rice, jalapeño and pickled dandelions. This healthy meal was much needed after all the junk I've been consuming over the past few days. Full of good food, I slept like a rock.