Morning happens and I realize I’m not on the Southern Tier Route in wintertime anymore, Toto. This is summertime on the C&O. It’s warm as I wake; I’m not shivering and waiting for the sun to come up. I’m in my new unsponsored tent and not my old unsponsored tent, a North Face Tadpole. Fuck you pay me. You know what else? There is absolutely no hurry to do anything. And I like it. And Kara agrees, adding “great”. And Chad is just Chad. Maybe the Chad. But definitely a Chad. He’s named after an African nation. No he’s not. But my dude Jose riddled me once that there are only five nations on earth whose English language names are one syllable — Chad is one of them. Four more, y’all. Send your guesses via Braille Morse code in a bottle. I’ll get back to you eventually. Maybe. Possibly. Probably not. Don’t let that or anything stop you. Ever.
Coffee and oatmeal dominate the morning picnic table. We’re plush with Jetboils, who also does not pay me to represent their brand. Mine is damn near twenty years older. Chad’s is brand spanking new. He’s a Chad. The Potomac River provides all sorts of birds in the morning, most notably a few majestic cranes and herons, searching or scanning or swooping around for breakfast. I feel connected again; I feel a deep and thorough love. It’s vague though. A few moments later, I realize this deep and thorough love I have is with shitting in the outdoors. And wet wipes.
Sweeping panoramic shots pull in tight to reveal the canal towpath trail. Where the three of us are grinding gravel in ever increasing heat. A dusty hue settles over the trails color pallet. I’m certain it’s got one of those Instagram color posts somewhere. Streaks of morning light beam through the lush forest coverage, manifesting in dust clouds rising up to meet leaves and bugs and birds coming down.
White’s Ferry makes for a nice little late morning stop. Shade and a store and a ferry that is shut down. It either costs 50¢ to cross it or Curtis Jackson owns the dock across the way in Virginia. Lots of a other cyclists out today. Most look like day riders. They’ll likely be in beds and air conditioning tonight. I smell like river water and sweat. I can’t even taste the iodine in the well water anymore. Wait. Hold up, there’s an actual bathroom with plumbing next to this store!! With water?? What a treat this is going to be!!
Fuck you it’s fucking locked. Water sources have not recovered yet.
The natural high of naturally being in the natural world returns quickly and I’m right back where I was at in the last leg of my 3,000 mile romp with Damon just a few months back. I could ride forever. Responsibility be dammed. Never mind that I literally just purchased another piece of property last week. Nor that I’ve got that whole career version of a winning lottery ticket back home. Speaking of which, it’s hottern hell out here and midday is upon us. I’ve got dust all over my face and it’s time to find a swimming spot. Easy to do along this trail. Afterward, I put up my hammock between to shady trees along the bank. Swaying in the breeze I clear my mind by thinking of all the things I’m not doing right now. I’m not checking emails. I’m not performing CPR. I’m not responding to texts. I’m not fixing a broken toilet. I’m not on a ladder with a chainsaw outside of a commercial garage engulfed in flames. I’m not even riding my bicycle right now. None of those things. There’s so much I’m not doing. I’m proudly in a present partnership with procrastination.
Eventually, we find ourselves pushing on in the heat. Damn near 100° right now. Probably hotter. We pass the intersection with the Appalachian Trail at Harper’s Ferry and head to to a campground two more miles up. Huckleberry Hill. I am immediately back in the river. It’s feels great. I even bring soap and clean up. I pop up the palace with the intention of heading back into Harper’s Ferry for dinner. And to find out what secrets went down with John Brown. One house seems to have things figured out.
Fast forward two light bike miles in reverse; then a walk across a bridge into West Virginia. I shit you not we just sat down on the patio of this small restaurant a minute earlier and now it’s pouring. Cats and dogs. Lions and tigers. And bears, oh my. Luckily, we’re undercover, without Dre, Snoop or the pigs. That’s not true, I’m ordering pork shanks. Prawns also. Mere appetizers before I devour a burger covered in bacon and blue cheese. The calories are replenished and the storm passes. All at once. I waddle back over the river into Maryland. We cruise back into camp and I b-line to the inside of my tent. Partly because of mosquitos everywhere, partly because of exhaustion and inflammation everywhere. I’m out before the sun sets.