The C&O Canal is administered by the National Parks Service. It is one the best preserved and least altered of the early American Canals. It grew from George Washington’s vision of linking the valleys of the early west with east by “ties of communication.” Thats some vision considering how young the nation was at the time. And really, as far as old white slave owners go, how much more fucking awesome can he get?
I wake up just before sunrise and I’m feeling fantastic. Daniels moving a little slow but we drink some campground coffee and get a move out. The protocol has been to knock out a bunch miles before the heat becomes too oppressive. It’s doesn’t take long for me to get soaked in sweat. By 10am it’s Stevie Wonder Hotter than July hot. Put him and Ruth Bader Ginsburg in bubble wrap, pretty please.
25 miles later and we’re back in yet another cot dayum “Port” town – this time its Williamsport. Im stating to feel like I need my own port. Im literally running on fumes and need something for breakfast. The cafe I spot is closed due to covid. Cue recurring theme music. We hit a gas station and have to do the computer screen ordering thing at Sheetz. Ugh, what utter trash for calories. We take a longer than normal break and talk about how absolutely gassed we are.
We work up the gumption and push another 30 miles to Hancock. I’m definitely struggling and falling behind Daniel at times. But we get there. I hear the town might be named after John Hancock, but I think they mean Herbie Hancock. Fact check that with the ghost of Chris Farley. Either way it’s far superior to Williamsport. We hit the local bike/camp shop; I pick up some dried food dinners and cliff bars. Then we wander out back and there’s basically a hostel. We take free showers and fill our waters. There’s even a freezer full of ice and electricity. Daniel calls it “the Hancock Hilton”. I pass on napping in the bunk beds and instead siesta in a chair before we decide to spend another hour in town grabbing some extra sustenance. Two pubs in town and one has pictures of a confederate flag in google. So we opt for the other because who wants to dine with people who are proud to be losers. And also traitors. Fuck that noise. Good choice as the other – Buddylou’s – is part antique store and part restaurant beer and eats. We enjoy some fantastic food and beer in the AC and Nina Simone and James Brown are playing in the background. The waitress is super awesome. It all feels so “normal”. We discuss how quickly this luxurious comfort will dissipate back into pain and exhaustion once we’re back on the trail. Living in the moment is a must when on a tour of this length. In my opinion, it’s a must whenever you’re alive and maybe even when you’re dead.
In the ultimate dialectic relationship, we were both right about the exhaustion. I felt gassed after just another mile outside of town. The heat is just too much. My hands hurt. My wrists. My elbows. My shoulders. My ass. My legs hurt. Dude, my legs have never actually hurt on tour. They might be sore to touch, but they have never been painful during usage. All this reminds me that I have to cancel my annual physical with my primary doctor because there’s no way I’ll be home in three days…
But I digress.
Every mile is painful. I want to stop every other mile for a break. This heat has changed the game. I play some music and push forward. Mmm. Shoutout to Norah Jones. Damn she’s talented. And fine as fuck. We get the 15 miles in and setup camp at another hiker biker sight. There’s a couple from Richmond here. They did 30 something miles on a weekend trip. We all meet while sitting in the now pretty steady current of the Potomac. My muscles are struggling just to not get swept downriver into some weird non-bicycle having purgatory between Maryland and West Virginia. But the hydrotherapy is awesome. The water is warm but it still eases the total body inflammation. Plus I feel cool as fuck. And I am cool as fuck. And I am ready to set before the sun does.