Prologue VII: Fin, Part I

by davidharries

Miles: 57
Miles so far: 361

The shakedown’s finished. We made it. Mission accomplished. Et cetera. Today started out like every other — wake up, discover everything you own is camp damp (not unlike “business drunk”), put on your best impression of Shaquille O’Neal emerging from a Fiat 500 as you climb out of your tent, trip over guyline,  make instant coffee, curse said instant coffee, drink it anyway, and realize somewhere in the process that life is grand and you’re on an adventure (typically while recalibrating expectations re: coffee’s insipidity).

Today was a lazy day. We weren’t on the road until a little after 9:30 a.m., and stopped for breakfast in Point of Rocks at a deli where the bold exterior color scheme was more interesting than the bagel sandwich. Think used-car lot-cum-moon bounce. Acres of trains passed as we ate, lording their victory over the 90-years-defunct canal.

Down the road we crossed the Monocacy River on the, wait-for-it, Monocacy Aqueduct! Finished in 1833, this 438-foot crossing was built with stone quarried out of nearby Sugarloaf Mountain. It’s a really pretty structure, all the more so when you consider it’s built in the middle of nowhere for utilitarian purposes. During the Civil War, the Union used the canal for troop and supply transport, which made it a common target for Confederate harassment. Intrepid C&O employee Thomas Walter persuaded attacking troops to drain the canal rather than destroy the more difficult to repair (and thus expensive) aqueduct. For this, he was briefly fired for collaborating with the enemy before his neighbors successfully petitioned for reinstatement.

Rather than follow the towpath to its Georgetown conclusion, we crossed the Potomac at White’s Ferry on the Gen. Jubal A. Early, the only still-operational ferry serving the public. Two dollars gets you across the river into Leesburg and the land of Lexus, where roads are paved with glorious asphalt and you rejoin the horseless carriage and traffic signals. Lunch was a nice NY-style pie at La Villa Roma, with pre-Bloomberg monster fountain sodas. Sometimes HFCS is just what the doctor ordered — time to show your pancreas who’s boss. We used the Washington and Old Dominion Railroad trail to transit Leesburg to Vienna, and then took secondary roads home to Suburbia. The W&OD was a shock to my system coming from the canal. It’s very road-like, paved, and with a center stripe down the middle to remind you to keep to yourself. It’s not quantifiable, but the closer to Washington we got, the less gregarious passersby seemed. In Meyersdale, Hancock or Sharpsburg, folks would say hi, or wave, or give you some kind of acknowledgement, whether on bicycle, foot, perched on a tractor or in a vehicle. I admit this is unfair, but the W&OD contained a much greater volume of folks out to simply fill their prescription for exercise — stoic and joyless in their pursuit of an elevated heart rate.

I’m glad to be home for a couple of days to relax and regroup,but I’m definitely not ready to call it quits. I guess that answers segment (a) of my Prologue I query. I have some ideas about (b) and (c), too.