Today I completed my ascent to the Eastern Continental Divide. The ten miles from Frostburg to the top were interesting. In addition to the beautiful mountain sceneries, which were ever-present, there were a couple of neat sites.
The first was the Mason-Dixon line. The line is delineated on the trail and has a nice monument. Sure I had crossed this boundary hundreds of times, but never before had I taken the time to appreciate it. The line settled the property dispute between the Penn and Calvert families. It was named after the surveyors who established its location. The line has since become arguably the most significant boundary in US history.
While observing the line, a pretty big porcupine stumbled out of the woods onto the trail. I had never seen one in the wild before! It was a really gentle, docile creature. I felt an innate sort of connection to it, compelling me to show it how I felt with a gentle caress. The stupid porcupine wouldn't even let me get close to it. What a jerk. All I wanted was to pet its soft coat. Whatever porcupine, your loss.
Then there was the Savage Mountain wind farm. Climbing towards the Eastern Continental Divide I saw one, then two, then three, then a whole line of enormous wind mills spanning the ridge of Savage Mountain. Standing so close to them was humbling. These things are huge.
Ten miles in I made it to the Eastern Continental Divide. Why was this significant? It was significant because it meant that the rest of the ride to Pittsburgh was DOWNHILL!
I could now cruise through Pennsylvania. My bike naturally rolled across long bridges spanning the Youghiogheny River. Every now and then I would spot some kayakers in the river or cross other fully-loaded touring cyclists on the trail. But for the most part I was on my own. It was just me, my bike, a few tall cliffs to my left and the powerful river to my right.
At one point I spotted a pack of six deer on my right. I don't know what set them off (probably a bear), but they took off running through the woods. I was feeling competitive so I began sprinting on my bike to keep up. We were neck and neck! I rode with them for a quarter mile before the lead deer decided to change their course. They were comin' right for me! No more than twenty feet ahead of me they intersected the trail. What we're they doing? There was a five foot fence on the other side! It was no problem at all for these deer. It's like their legs were spring-loaded. With zero hesitation they launched over the fence to continue their run. I did not know that deer could get up like that.
I arrived at my destination for the night, Confluence, PA. My "hostel" was actually just some guy's unlocked basement with a couple of air mattresses and showers. I'm not going to lie, it was weird.
I left my "hostel" to find some food. There was a guy across the street working on his yard. I asked him for recommendations. It turned out that it was off-season for Confluence so everything was closed except for Dodd's bar. This local bar had a bunch of fried stuff and hamburgers, like every other restaurant I had been to in the past five days. Luckily, the three-piece fried chicken was off the hook. I splashed it with some of their homemade hot sauce and was a happy camper.
I returned to the "hostel" before nightfall. The neighbor was still out there working on his yard. He inquired about the food. I told him the fried chicken was great. We got to talking. This guy seemed to know a lot about this town. He asked where I was from. When I told him DC his eyes lit up. He said "Hold on! I've got something for you!" He ran to his truck and returned with a beer koozie. It read, Confluence Borough-Mayor Brandon Lytle-God Bless America. "I'm the Mayor of Confluence," he told me. Who would've known? I spent the next few minutes talking to him about his story and his town of 812 people.
You know, if I could describe Brandon Lytle in one word it would be "real dude". Well, I guess that's two words, so if I could describe Brandon Lytle in two words they would be "real dude". I don't know how I would describe him using just one word. Maybe I could hyphenate "real-dude" to make it one word. Or maybe I could put a hash tag in front so it wouldn't need spaces. Yeah, that's it. Brandon Lytle #realdude.
And that's it. That night I slept in my "hostel", comforted by the fact that I had met the Mayor but still bugged out about sleeping in this random basement.