This story goes way back, and I may have forgotten some of the details, but it is still clear in my memory. Some time back in the early 1970’s, or maybe it was in the late 60’s I bought a 3-speed bike, yes it was one of them with the Sturmey-Archer hub.
I’d been riding that bike to and from work, about 5 miles each way for many months. I’d been wanting to go on a longer ride, so when the weather looked good on a summer day, and the company I worked for took that day as a holiday I drove about half way around the Washington Beltway, also known as I-495 to Great Falls Park. and the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal It seems kinda unbelievable that on a holiday the park was empty, but I think I remember it being in July.
I learned a lot that day, carry food, water, and money. Now I know I should have carried a repair kit too, luckily I didn’t have any flats or I would have been in trouble. I did carry a map. Well, I started the ride with one.
I started probably about 10 in the morning, with one Peanut Butter and Jelly sandwich. I headed north not knowing how far I was going to ride. I hadn’t thought of water, but I did know that along the C&O Canal there were HBO – Hiker Biker Overnighter – camping spots. They have with Picnic Tables, Porta Johns and most importantly Water Pumps.
My first stop was at White’s Ferry, with a store with snacks and drinks. Outside the store is the General Jubal Early, the ferry to Virginia carrying cars, bicycles and pedestrians. It is privately operated and the only ferry operating on the river now. During the winter when the Potomac River freezes and after heavy rains when the river floods the ferry does not operate and commuters have to detour to Point of Rocks miles upstream.
About 3 or 4 miles north that short stop I stopped for a short nap on one of the picnic tables, yes it was hard, but not as bad as lying on lumpy ground. When I recovered from that nap I noticed that my map was missing. So I headed back towards Whites Ferry, but soon gave that up as a lost cause, I could have dropped it almost anywhere. Oh Well, the Tow-Path only goes two directions so it would be pretty hard to get lost.
I stopped at most of the HBOs for a drink, it was getting hot. And I was getting hungry. I came across two youngsters fishing in the canal and asked how far the next town was, that would have been Point Of Rocks, their answer was ‘just around the bend.’ It felt like that was another 5 miles, but probably lots less. When I did get there, after riding about 34 miles, I headed to a small store and used the last of the little money I brought to get an ice cream bar – to the best thing to eat on a long bike ride. I didn’t have time, or the energy to appreciate the old Railroad Station, but since then I have returned, by car, many times to get photos of the station and the Capitol Limited the to Chicago as well as some of the commuter trains that stop on weekdays.
If a ride had been waiting for me I would have gladly put the bike in a car and driven home in comfort, but … So I headed back south, stopping for water and a rest every couple of HBOs or so. When I passed my northbound rest stop where I’d discovered my missing map I kept an extra watch, and Ha! It was just beyond the point I’d given up looking for it. I’m not sure it would have helped me at all, except to tell me not to ride as far as I did. Then came White’s Ferry again and as I passed it a friendly mid-sized dog came out to greet me, well I do like friendly dogs so I probably stopped to pet and talk to it.
From there to the end of the ride, about 20 miles I had a constant companion. When I’d stop for a rest he would snooze under the table, and I’d try to sneak off, but soon I’d hear him panting close to my back wheel. I tried many times to scold him and tell him to “Go Home” but he’d only take off into the woods chasing whatever he’d find then regain his place behind me.
When I got to Great Falls and my car he took one look at me with the “Oh No, Not Again” expression and headed back up the trail. I guess he’d done that many times with other riders and could be called a “Resident Dog”.
From that long ride, which I later figured as almost 70 miles, I learned a few things
- Plan ahead
- Take lots of Water
- bring food
- bring some money
- Bring more Water
- have a repair kit and tools
Now I carry two water bottles on most rides along with tools, a couple of tire patch kits, a pump and C02 inflator, and yes money and my phone.