I neglected to mention I was starting to get a headache between Frostburg and the MadDog Line, in addition to the fatigue (which I was kind of expecting, having hit my recent max around mile 16). I also neglected to mention the banana was only the beginning. The second it hit my taste buds, I realized I'd eaten nothing except a dozen or so fresh cherries(at Frostburg) since leaving Roy Rogers several hours before. I was into Negative Calorie Zone - I'd burned more than I'd taken in already since getting up that morning.
So I had the banana, two Kashi bars, a handful of my Better-Than-Gorp trail mix (recipe available on request), and about a quart of water before taking off again. Come to think of it, that may have helped almost as much as Delbert McClinton on the iPod...
The summit was more than half the way to our destination for the evening. 24 miles down, 18 or 20 to go. And from where we were standing, it looked like it was downhill all the way.
Appearances can be deceiving. Granted, it was slightly more level than not for several miles, but there was more incline than decline when there was any "cline" at all. It didn't take me long to burn up the banana and the Kashi bars. And I'm slow anyway.
Along about 6 p.m., we were still several miles out from Rockwood, PA, where Bob had found a hostel. After giving me careful directions to follow the trail to Rockwood, turn right and cross the bridge, then turn right again onto Main Street, he went ahead to check us in before the staff left for the evening - and to see if he could find us a steak or something. He thought he remembered a restaurant...
Only a few miles - I could do that on my own! And I did fine, until I hit the construction zone (closed for the weekend, thanks be to the Almighty) with the big chunks of loose gravel on sand that felt like riding on boulders, immediately followed by welcome signs that listed mostly Rockwood businesses. There was a bridge, and there looked to be a Main Street down there, but I'd only gone about 2/3 of the distance Bob told me. So I located the trail connection on the other side of the road (no small feat) and pedaled on.
The next mile and a half was the worst of the entire ride. In addition to one goodly uphill stretch - again, on loose gravel over sand, short but steep and rough - the trail was pitted, rocky, unkept, with roots and limbs across the middle. I don't know who is responsible for maintaining the trail, but whoever has the stretch along there is falling down on the job.
About three miles out, I was starting to question my judgment. At about four miles, I became convinced I had ridden right past Rockwood. I finally parked the bike at a little bench with a shelter - they're all along the trail - and had myself a Swiss cheese and ginger preserve sandwich and another quart or so of water, and I prayed. I was pretty sure, I told the Universe, that I'd missed my turn. If I didn't locate myself before dark, which was coming fast, I'd be sleeping out here by this bench, getting myself a stiff neck and a nifty case of grass-itch. (Never mind what might break out on my nether parts if I had to go into the brush for potty.) There was no map, no direction, and no clue in sight, but I needed one. Just a clue - just a little hint I was going the right way. Or that I needed to backtrack.
Wiped my sticky, ginger-preservey hands with a towelette, lifted up Nellie Belle, and prepared to mount. And before I could push off onto the trail, three near-teenagers (on the upper end) came around the nearest past bend. Two girls and a guy.
"'Scuse me," I said, in my best Southern Lost Person voice. "Rockwood is back that way?" I pointed the way I'd come, half saying, half asking.
"Rockwood's up that way," one of them answered, and they all pointed up the trail in the direction I'd been going all along.
I thanked them most kindly. And I felt much relieved. No miles wasted. Whew!
I don't think I'd gone more than another mile and a half before I saw Bob coming back down the trail toward me. It was dusk by then, but I recognized his "gait" on the bicycle.
He hadn't found a restaurant, but he'd found the hostel. He had the passcode to the door, so we could get in even though the staff had left for the evening. And he'd found a general store right on the way, and they had sandwiches and sodas and ice cream.
I thanked the Lord for my brother (and his good raisin'!), tuned out the screaming coming from every muscle between my belly and my knees, and followed him the last three miles to Rockwood.
Stay tuned to this station for more Adventures of a (Whiny) Cyclist...