The hilliest day of my tour. It started out badly as I missed a turn and got bad advice from a local. I ended up doing an extra 5 miles with 500 feet of climbing before I got out of town on highway 40. There things settled down to a series of 10% or better grades up and down mixed with gentler grades and occasional flat spots. The actual markings on grades were from 8% to 13%, (the sign says 13% grade 1/2 mile) and I spent much of the day in my lowest (23 inch) gear doing 5 mph or so. Another, much briefer part was spent doing 40 mph going down the other side of the hills.
Highway 40 was not bad riding most of the way. Their were some bad stretches with coal trucks and no shoulder coming into Uniontown, but mostly the shoulder and the traffic was OK. I ate a big breakfast before I left Washington and then I stopped 15 miles or so down the road for a milkshake. Shortly after that I rode through Daisytown and was 'Whooped' by some guys in a car going the other way. I think it was a compliment as I bet they don't see too many loaded tourists coming down 40. I also had support signaled from two cars while I was riding on the bypass around Uniontown. At Hopwood, just south of Uniontown, I stopped for a big lunch. I'd ridden 45 miles and climbed several thousand feet of steep hills and I was tired! Lunch and several cups of coffee helped, but the hill going south out of Hoptown was not fun.
Before I started this tour I rode my loaded bike from my home to the top of Mt Mitchell and camped there overnight. I figured that the climb from the Parkway to the top would be worse than anything I'd encounter on my ride across the country. I was wrong. The road up Mt Mitchell starts with a 2 mile, 1200 foot, climb. The road after Hoptown climbs 1300 feet in a similar distance. Plus it is a lot hotter and muggier in southern PA in July.
The hills continued as I rode towards Maryland. Near the border I passed a cheap motel which advertised itself as being on the Mason Dixon Line. Right after that I passed the 'crest of the Alleghenies.' Good, I figured that things would get better after that. Instead, after a long downhill, the road climbed again to an even higher ridge. Then it did it again and again. I was getting mighty tired of this. Near rthe Maryland border I saw a strange sign. A Mennonite SWAT team is an oxymoron! I realized that SWAT is just an acronym for something related to keeping the shoulders clean, but it still was funny.
In Maryland I stopped at Keyser's Ridge to eat. I first tried a truck stop, but they didn't seem to want my business (the only place like that I encountered on this tour), so, after cleaning up at the truck stop, I rode to a fast food place 100 yards away. After supper I rode on, over two more big ridges, to Grantsville. It was getting late, but I might have been able to make it to Cumberland before dark. I was simply too tired. I was really happy to see the Casselman Motor Lodge in Grantsville. It turned out to be one of the best places I stayed on this trip, as well as one of the cheapest. 83 miles with 7800 feet of climbing, most of it quite steep.
I was at the Casselman for three nights because a big storm system moved in the first night. The first full day made a nice rest day, but the second day was a bit frustrating. On the other hand, there was torrential rain, high winds, flood warnings, etc. - not weather that I wanted to ride in. My stay was enhanced considerably by the restaurant in the Casselman Hotel. Good food at good prices. I really enjoyed eating there and, for any masochists who might be bicycling on Alt. 40, I recommend you give it a try. Their Friday night buffet is perfect for really hungry bicyclists!
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