Thursday July 30: Confluence, PA to Flintstone, MD

73 miles, 2 Appalachian passes, and Rails to Trails.

The day started out wonderfully -- until we re-entered civilization again and had to deal with stupid drivers who don't see bikers dressed in bright neon green shirts who totally have the right of way *and* who were waiting in line behind 3 cars at a light before going and said stupid drivers try to make a left turn through Jen and almost kill her but don't. Hmmmph. Anyway, the drivers in La Vale (just above Cumberland Gap) are rotten. They totally don't see the 700+ bikers riding down the road when making turns from the other side. Hmmmmph.

But, back to the nice part of the day!

As expected, Confluence hosts many rivers. We started the day with a 5 miles steep climb towards Markelton Village, crossed the Casselman River, then immediately started up. Well, it looked more "up" on the map; the majority of the 800 foot ascent after Pit 1 was once again on Rails to Trails, this time the AHT, or Allegheny Highlands Trail. This wasn't the packed gravel of the YRT, but instead was more dirt/gravel , looser, yet still good to ride. We then exited the trail at Meyersdale, where I got a picture of Ro next to their American Legion Tank, and through Salsbury and Boynton and Elk Lick, which had been hit by twin tornadoes in the center of town June 13th or so (2 days before our ride started). Lots of construction, some roofs still missing, but recovering. We met a really nice fellow who had helped with some of the rescues who was showing riders a scrapbook of pictures from just after the storm. One person died in the tornadoes, and two others (one a friend of his) just afterwards as people used generators to replace power, in their case releasing carbon monoxide fumes throughout the house. I hadn't even heard of the tornadoes before today. The roof of the high school was ripped off, so the senior class graduated in their rival's (Boynton) auditorium. But like I said, they're recovering.

Just outside of Salsbury we crossed the Mason-Dixon line into Maryland, and entered the National Pike/Alt Rte 40 series of steep rolling hills along the top of the ridge. This was actually more fun than expected; the steep descents were really *steep*, so the headwind didn't really matter at all, and you had clear sight to the top of the next hill and a good shoulder most of the way. Whoo-hoo!! At the very last hilltop, just before a 9 mile, 1600 foot descent, we saw a great sign for truckers that left us wondering what bikers should do in similar circumstances!! We don't have engine-braking on bikes. *grin*

The descent to Frostburg was the best part of the whole descent -- not a lot of traffic, good shoulders, and steep steep steep. Frostburg itself is built almost on terraces into the hillside; Pit 3 was on the third such terrace, almost all the way through Frostburg. After Pit 3, the descent became less steep, and as we entered La Vale the traffic got significantly worse and our shoulder went away completely (but there were 2 lanes for each direction of traffic, so we had *some* sort of cushion. We passed (and then quickly braked for) the First Toll Gate House for the Old National Cumberland Road, I almost got killed but didn't, we made it through lots of detours through the Cumberland Gap and the city of Cumberland, and started climbing back up towards our campsite, at the Rocky Gap State Park, just before Flintstone, MD.

It rained, but the talent show was fun, our wet clothes were airing inside one of the gear trucks, the Team Public Storage Photo was postponed until tomorrow, and the showers were about a mile from camp (maybe less), and the bikes were a 1/2 mile in the other direction, but what the heck. We only have one more camping night left. The highlight of the talent show was a rendition of "Camp Pallotta", to the tune of "Camp Grenada" (presented with apologies to the author, whom I think is Alan Sherman?). I don't have the lyrics yet, but I will. Ro and I got our suggestions for it put in!

Also, the tent mostly held back the water, with the help of Ro's biking rain jacket. Some drips, but it wasn't that bad. It looks like all the tents are in pretty bad shape by now -- forced wet packing and prolonged UV exposure are not good for rainflys -- but at least we didn't have standing water in the tent as some people did. Ugggh.

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