Our third full day on the towpath begins with Chad three bunks down snoring like a champ. However it is that champs snore, if champs even snore. I take a pre-dawn leak, settle back into my bunk and can’t pass back out. My left hand and arm are numb. I gather myself and begin assessing my life in relation to finding coffee. Behold, I needn’t boil water, theres an ice cream and donut spot called Fractured Banana around the corner. Good name. Hit it. Coconut donut and large dark roast, por favor.
An hour of bike maintenance later and I’ve got a completely clean and lubed drive train; I take a bonus combination outdoor shower-toothbrushing — wondering why kids make such a fuss about brushing their teeth. Why I probably did as a little piss pot. After a couple days, getting my mouth clean is a mega-magnificent feeling. This must be adulting.
Chad is now using Chad as a verb. Something and something about something in Paris or somewhere. It’s easy to give him about 12% of my attention span. Our mutual friend Tim may or may not have registered a web domain akin to “Chad speaks authoritatively on shit he looked up on Wikipedia dot com”. Or dot org. Or dot edu. Maybe it was a podcast. I don’t know. He also loves to do a slow monotone play by play of some of the most mundane shit possible. Like cooking utensils hanging on the wall kind shit. I feel like he seeks this shit out. Chad is a most definitely a Chad.
On what had already been ordained as a late start, we finally hit the paved Western Maryland rail trail around 11am. This paved rail trail literally parallels the C&O. Geography and math skills combine! We’re on such an awesome route that there’s two trails — where we’re going, we don’t need roads. It’s a welcome respite from the more rocky historic towpath that we’ve been on. Most delightfully, it is totally devoid of the mud puddles we’ve navigated the entirety of yesterday. After 15 vangloriously smooth miles, the asphalt ends and we’re back on the towpath, dodging muck holes. Mothermucker. The mud still wants to grab my front tire; I splish splash my way through it, getting wet and muddy again, though not nearly as soaked as in yesterday’s rain. Fortunately, today is a mostly sunny and cooler day and our first thirty miles cruise by blissfully, save the occasional bug in my mouth or mud splash on my sunglasses. Dragon flies and cardinals dart and glide across my personal viewing screen, sometimes even gracefully cruising alongside me for a good distance. Thanks for hanging little buddies, stay golden.
We take a brief rest stop and I toss the skin of a small clementine orange on the ground, devouring its contents whole. Then another — in thirds — and another in small normal size pieces. Whatever normal is. There is however a pile of orange pieces now loudly displaying my quenched desire for calories. I don’t consider this littering and if you do then fight me about it. I think of them as biodegradable wrappers, no one seems to mind. No ones around either. I return back to the present. Scanning my surroundings, I see a sign and a deep burning question rises up in my soul. The sort of question that can define ones existence. A question I may spend my entire life searching for the answer to…
Where the fuck is that one third of lock number sixty four? How does one even have just two thirds of lock? How does it all add up to one point twenty one jigawatts? I may never know, but I’ll never stop trying to know without doing anything to find out.
Paw Paw. The tunnel so nice they named it twice. I guess you guys aren’t ready for that yet, but your kids are gonna love it. I rode the Paw Paw Tunnel through it last year, all 3000+ feet of its uneven surface and darkness. Banging around blindly, I almost fell over the edge into the canal more than a couple times. Like Doc Brown hitting his head in the 50’s. This time, we mostly walk through the tunnel. I brought a new front light for just this purpose, only to discover the battery was drained. Plus there’s a lot more people walking than last year — when there was no one. We cross the bridge back into West Virginia, the town is also called Paw Paw. Grab breakfast for dinner or lunch or breakfast; stick a pin in the map to represent Buffalo, New York; push on for the final dozen miles toward a hiker/biker campsite.
Some wells are browner than others. One thing’s for sure, dehydration will kill me. Another short stop and we are tapping the well at Devil’s Alley Campground, where Daniel and I camped last year. Great spot, but this H2O is more like H2No. You can’t imagine how much of the iodine I tasted. Maybe you can. I don’t recall it being this brown when I was last here. Whatevs. I fill up all three bottles; pondering that it’s better to have and not need than need and not have. Not dead yet.
With fifty miles of making like a tree and getting out of here, we pull into Pigmans Ferry campsite about an hour before sunset. No more river access, but boy is this well’s water clean! Well, cleaner. Well well well. Only mildly iodine, for the win, fuck the world. It’s a bit more of a chilly and buggy night so I set out to gather firewood before hooking myself up a little ramen noodle dinner. Afterward we enjoy a decent fire in an open clearing under stars galore. I sit mesmerized in front of something much for fun that TV before crashing out amidst crickets and bullfrogs and a wild bunch of other nature sounds.