I am a dirty man. Literally. There’s mud currently flying everywhere and caked on everything. Legitimately. Massive mud plashes occupy my ocular experience. Seriously. Synaptic nerves fire and I instinctively feel my body wanting to avoid riding through the muck pools. I resist. Le Résistance. La Revolución. I plow directly through it full Ernesto Guevara style. This whole experience rewinds me ten years prior, to my time in the New York State Academy of Fire Sciences. My bicycle is a motherfuckin time machine. Recruit Class 2011-1. Our PT instructor was an incredibly impactful and impressive man named Tom Margeit. He whooped us into shape each and every morning. He ensured we were “motivated, motivated, motivated, sir!”. He taught us the value of being present in our lives, especially on the job. Focused in the moment. One morning, we’re out running in cadence — in the rain. Chief Margeit was livid when some of us ran around, hopped over, or skipped a step through the rain puddles. Absolutely went off on us like Private Pyle in Full Metal Jacket. The Chief slightly resembled Gunnery Sergeant Hartman, and he exacted his toll on us that day. We maintained an unflinching pace and cadence from that day on. Tom Margeit lost his battle with multiples cancers a few years ago, but his words and voice have never wandered far from my mind. And his spirit is alive right now as I push on in pouring rain, through mud puddle after mud puddle with no shelter coming anytime soon.
Quantum Leap that ass to when I’m woken up pre-dawn by a movement rivaling anything Beethoven ever pooped out. An hour later and we’re all up and prepping for coffee and oatmeal. I break down the portable palace and within moments Mother Nature breaks down the precipitation. It is something fierce too. I don’t even make coffee. We pack up triple time and get moving. We are in quite a remote section of the C&O and there isn’t much out this way beside trees and iodine water pumps. And by isn’t much I mean there ain’t shit. Nada. Just us and the torrential drenching. So we might as well be moving toward somewhere.
The sludge brings with it a slower pace and much higher degree of riding difficult. Mud wants to grab my front tire and throw me. It’s clear I have to keep pedaling and moving forward. Easier said than done, as the downpour continues and the pools grow larger. I try navigating around. No bueno. Nope. Straight into the heat of the puddle seems to be the messiest but safest way through. Hard and fast. I get better at it. Pick up a little speed. Then almost get thrown when the system fails. I sharpen my attention and stay present with each one, white knuckling a good chunk of the morning.
Eventually the heavy rains let up. The puddles remain. So mud, mud and more mud continues to dominate the day. Finally, civilization! Places with covered shelters. We cruise into Williamsport, sloshing around with soaked sneakers. My feet feel like they might never unwrinkle again.
It’s now just down to a sprinkle. The oasis that is a late lunch at the Desert Rose is keeping us alive right now. Right I’m alive. Coffee is first and foremost on my list and they deliver a cup quite magnificently. The three of us crush a collection of caloric commodities. Sandwiches. Chips. Soup. Lemonade. The decor and staff and owner are all a little eccentric, which fits well with our style. A few miles later up the path and I inform Kara and Chad that they along with myself, we might be the three weirdest people alive. A turtles shows up to agree.
The rain finally let’s up and the sun comes out. We decide pound out 25 more miles (10 more than our daily goal) and check into a outdoor bike hostel for the night, C&O Bicycles in Hancock, MD. Daniel and I sort of crashed this place last year on our ride up the trail. It’s a bike shop up front with a little fenced in compound out back, complete with outdoor showers, toilets, sink and fridge. Apparently one can pay $5 for a shower. Daniel and I didn’t ask to use anything. Didn’t pay anything. Took showers in the middle of the day and kept riding. This time Kara, Chad and I take the official route. We book a space. $15 for everything, including an overnight in the screened-in bunk room. We do some laundry. We hit the grocery store and enjoy some dinner. We clean off the bikes and ourselves. We do all that in the reverse order I just typed it. All of this climaxes with some serious pass out vibes.