John's Bicycle Adventures

Follow my bicycling adventures

The last day of the Big Ride! Poolesvillem MD to Washington, D.C.

3300 miles and 12 states. That’s what this group of resolute riders experienced over the last 48 days. The morning began like so many others—up at 5:20 a.m., loading the truck with our gear at 6:00 a.m., review of the cue sheets, breakfast, and hitting the road.

This morning was different though, because we had only 42 miles to go before reaching our destination of Washington, D.C. We traveled some very quiet roads through horse country as we left Poolesville, Maryland. Then, our route transitioned into some huge McMansions as we got closer to Washington. For the last 15 miles or so, we traveled on the Rock Creek bike path, dodging joggers and baby strollers. The bike path took us right to the Lincoln Memorial. Almost everyone took pictures there. Jim and I also squeezed in quick visits to the Korean, Vietnam, and World War II memorials.

After that, we bicycled a short distance into downtown D.C. where we rode right down Pennsylvania Avenue to the Old Post Office where a former Big Rider and owner of a Greek restaurant, treated us to a brunch about 10:30 in the morning. After that we assembled to ride to the reception area. An adventure ended.

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Day 47 of the Big Ride, Gettysburg, PA to Poolesville, MD

Today we entered our 12th state (out of 12) Maryland. In only 42 miles, we will be in Washington, D.C.! Last week we did two 100+ mile rides in 6 days of riding. So, today’s 62 mile ride was easy. We still had a few climbs but much less than in Pennsylvania.

The scenery was enjoyable as we saw lots of horse farms in Maryland and even more corn fields and soybean fields. Roads twisted and turned and swooped up and down.

We arrived in Poolesville around 12:30 and had lunch. Then we hung out at a nice pool near our campsite at the high school until dinner.

Here are some pictures from today.

Day 46 of the Big Ride. A rest day in Gettysburg, PA

Today’s rest day was welcomed. Even though I feel strong after having bicycled about 3100 miles my legs sometimes feel simultaneously weary and I appreciate not riding for a day.

The route trip was well-planned in that it provided a rest day in Gettysburg, a most-interesting place to visit. Jim Rancourt and I had a leisurely breakfast at the Lincoln Diner, I did laundry, and then we went for a ride around the July 1, 1863 battlefield—the first day of the Battle of Gettysburg.

After that we had lunch and decided to go on a bus tour of the battlefield that was narrated by a licensed guide. That was a good decision because it prevented us from riding on our rest day and the guide was quite knowledgeable.

I learned that there are 1700 monuments around the battlefield. Therefore, I could have taken many more pictures than I did, but here are some that I found interesting.

Day 45 of the Big Ride across America. Bedford to Gettysburg, PA

Today’s 102 mile ride was wonderful. We continue to be blessed with great weather. It has only rained on us twice in 45 days. (On one of those days it was pretty nasty when the temperature dropped to 39 degrees). Today, it was unseasonably cool again with temperatures in the low 70’s-great riding conditions.

The terrain in Pennsylvania continued to be challenging—loooong climbs uphills followed by wonderful downhills, followed by long uphills resulting in long downhills. Sometimes the downhills were close to a small hill. In those cases, we would try to go as fast as we could down the hill in order to give us enough speed to bring us up over the next hill without having to gear down to get over it. I’m sure that I did that several dozen times. Most of the ride was on the well-marked Pennsylvania Bike Route S.

One of the guys on the trip, Tim, had an altimeter on his bike and he recorded 7853 feet of climbing for the day. So, it was a challenging century ride but very enjoyable. Jim and I handled it with as much aplomb as can be had for a hilly century ride.

We ended the day in Gettysburg, PA, of Civil War fame, where we have a rest day on Thursday after bicycling for six straight days.

Day 44 of the Big Ride across America Confluence, PA to Bedford, PA

The morning and afternoon of today’s ride were very different. This morning we continued along a bicycle path parallel to a river for the first 31 miles of the ride. Since the bike path was hard-packed limestone, we only went about 11 miles an hour. It was pleasant, scenic, riding but not the type of riding where you could make much time.

After that we did what I call typical Pennsylvania riding: We would ride up a hill for some distance going between 5-8 miles an hour because of the hill’s steepness. Then, we would fly down the hill at about 25 miles an hour for about the same distance as the uphill. This pattern repeated for most of the remaining 56 miles of the route.

Another interesting part of a trip was riding over a huge bridge that was built just for bicycles. The bridge spanned a river, 4-lanes of an interstate highway, 2 railroad tracks, and a secondary road. It was very high and just for bikes. That must have been a huge expense for the State of Pennsylvania.

The most interesting part of the day, by far, was going to the Flight 93 Memorial in Shanksville, PA. As you likely recall, passengers on that plane realized that their flight was headed to destroy the Capitol building on 9/1/01. Realizing that they were going to die when the plane hit the Capitol or if they grounded it before then, the passengers decided to take on the terrorists and prevent the plane from crashing into the Capitol. The Flight 93 Memorial is a memorial to those passengers and plane crew. A large boulder shows the site where the plane hit the ground, signs tell the story, and the names of all of the passengers and crew are etched into stone around the perimeter of where the plane debris landed. In addition, a National Park Service Ranger did an excellent job of telling the story of that day. The park won’t be completely finished until 2015 but it is well worth a visit.

After the 7 mile detour to see the Flight 93 Memorial we still had about 18 miles to go. The typical pattern of going up and downhills continued with two exceptions. One was a 6-mile downhill at a 9% grade. A few miles later we enjoyed a 3-mile downhill at an 8% grade. Jim Rancourt and I rode together all day and both of us felt good at the end of it. It was a very satisfying day.

Pictures of the Flight 93 Memorial in Shanksville, PA

Day 43 of the Big Ride, Washington to Confluence< PA

Today’s 88 mile ride was dominated by about a 50-mile ride on the bicycle path parallel to the Youghiogheny river. It was enjoyable because it was different-our first time on a bike path and because we avoided 50 miles of Pennsylvania’s hills.

We also visited an interesting town-Ohiopyle-which claims that it receives 1,500,000 visitors a year due to the Youghiogheny and the opportunities surrounding it such as whitewater rafting and kayaking as well as swimming.

Here are a few pictures of the day.