We met Dana early on the second day, a 41-mile bicycle ride from Cumberland to Little Orleans, Md. We happened to talk in the morning and realized we all were heading the same destination.
Dana, a retired attorney living in Tucson, is a through rider; i.e. she rides until she is through for the day. We, on the other hand, are snap and nosh riders. We never pass up an opportunity for Sabra to take a photo, and for me to have a snack. Dana also had a different approach to the muddy trail. She lightened her bike by mailing all but a few items ahead so she wouldn’t get stuck. I, on the other hand, put on extra provisions– a bottle of wine, jar of peanut butter, crackers, cheese, beer, ice pack, etc.– in case we got mired. Stranded, I might get eaten alive by mosquitoes, but it will happen while enjoying a Wisconsin seven-course meal: cheddar and a six-pack.
So it wasn’t a surprise that Dana reached Little Orleans ahead of us.
In its heyday, the town was at the junction of the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal (C&O) and the Western Maryland Railway but both are now defunct and very little remains except for a restaurant/store/tavern called Bill’s Place. Among other things, Bill’s is known for a tradition started years ago that involves patrons tacking a signed dollar bill to the ceiling. I like this custom and have run into it before but balk at leaving dollar bills all over the place. A few years ago, however, I came up with the solution of writing a check for a dollar and leaving that instead.
I may be cheap but I’m not stupid.
We found Dana at the bar in Bill’s having a hamburger and beer, and I decided she might be our kind of gal after all. We shared a shuttle to our night’s lodging, the Town Hill Hotel, spent the night talking with the gracious owners, ate a scrumptious breakfast together and shared the shuttle back to the trail the next morning. During this time we realized we were headed for the same overnight again so we threw in together, and she made for good company on the 41-mile ride to Williamsport that day and the 21-mile ride to Shepherdstown the next, where we parted.
During these long hours on the saddle I had plenty of time to observe and reflect about women.
One thing that struck me was how easily Sabra conformed to Dana’s routine. I beg, plead, whine, posture, threaten and bribe Sabra to not take so many photos but to no avail. The two days Dana was with, however, the old Kodak rarely made it out of Sabra’s panniers lest we slow our new friend down.
Another thing is how simpatico girls can be even in the weirdest way. During this segment of our journey, Sabra decided that there was something about the Maryland mud that was making her feet smell, and Dana concurred one hundred percent. During our now rare stops I caught the women pulling their feet to their face, smelling them and then dissecting the components of the odor. They never smelled each other’s feet, but I suspect it was only a matter of time.
If that’s not weird, I don’t know what is. I mean if it stinks, why smell it?
An appreciation of Dana came on our last day together.
We were between Williamsport and Shepherdstown and ran into the only detour on the 320 miles of trail. I read that the bypass added four miles on narrow, busy, hilly roads and really didn’t want to take it but was pretty sure Sabra would insist on following the rules. She’s like that; I’m not. We heard a couple of riders offer that they were able to make their way around the obstruction on the trail by walking a few hundred feet into the woods, thereby avoiding the longer, official detour. We discussed our options, and Dana agreed with me that we should risk the unofficial way around.
It proved doable but harder than represented. The few hundred feet turned out to be a few hundred yards up a steep incline through dense forest, across someone’s back yard complete with barking dog and then back down through a maze of construction equipment. When we came out the other side we noticed a boat with two men zooming towards us across the river.
“This could be trouble,” I noted but Dana offered that because she was a lawyer she thought she could handle it. “How?” I asked, thinking she’d cite some legal precedence.
“I’ll cry,” she offered.