C&O Day 1: Crystal City, VA, to Brunswick, MD

Yesterday morning, Crispin and I had breakfast at Bob and Edith's Diner in Crystal City. I had my go-to breakfast of western omelette with a cup of coffee. I usually don't eat breakfast when I'm at home, but since I'm on a bike tour I would need the calories soon enough.

After packing and getting our bikes loaded, we checked out of the AirBnb and rode on the Mt Vernon Trail into Washington, DC. I was leading Crispin and I thought the trail would intersect the C&O Towpath but it didn't. We had to carry our bikes up three sets of steps to the gravel packed C&O Towpath.

Start of our C&O ride

The trail was bumpy and full of pebbles. I worried that my back tire might get a flat since all of the weight of my packs were on back. Luckily, the bumpy trail became smoother once we were out of DC and into Maryland.

We had the canal to our right the whole time and the Potomac River to our left. At times, the water in the canal were full of algae, other times it'll be clean with geese and other wildlife. I spotted some big caterpillars on the trail and tried my best to not run them over.

On the C&O Towpath

Before Great Falls

A family of geese

Since it's early in the tourist season, we didn't see too many cyclists with panniers. Most of the time, we took rest stops along the trail. There weren't many benches along the route compared to the GAP trail, though we did stop by Great Falls Park. It wasn't until mile marker 35 that we reached the first restaurant for lunch in White's Ferry.

Crispin examining a canal lock

Great Falls Park

At the White's Ferry Store and Grill, Crispin and I devoured our half pound burgers and fries. They were just the food we needed for the bike ride. There was another cyclist at the restaurant. He came from San Francisco and will ride all the way to Pittsburgh, doing both the C&O and GAP. He also cycled from Portland to San Francisco before and told me it's better to ride from north to south on the west coast if I ever decide to do that.

While Crispin and I were resting outside the restaurant, another cyclist on an ebike arrived. As usual, Crispin started a conversation with this guy named Bill.

Bill was a volunteer with the C&O Towpath, short for Chesapeake and Ohio Towpath. Since the C&O is governed by the National Park there are a lot of bureaucracy since the towpath is considered historic. This is different from the GAP trail, which is operated by the local government. Bill told us that in order to do anything on the C&O, such as installing a bike pump, there's a committee that has to approve the effort. Soon, it became clear that there were a lot of red tapes. At one time, there were 150 volunteers taken care of this section of the towpath and there were refurbished bicycles that people can rent out for free to cycle the path, but the bureaucracy stopped all of that and consequently Bill quit being a volunteer. Sometimes, too much government isn't a good thing. They want to preserve the history of the towpath, but what is history anyway? Yesterday was history.

Crispin and I cycled another 20 miles after our meeting with Bill. We enjoyed the flat gravel path, which was covered by the same company who did the GAP trail, according to Bill. After crossing a foot bridge detour, we arrived in Brunswick, MD, at mile marker 55 a little before 5 PM. We had ridden a total of 61 miles on our first day.

Trail closed

Foot bridge detour

The owner at the local bike shop recommended us to book an AirBnb since it's just across the street. I booked it even though I thought the price was a bit high as I later learned the hotel is about $50 cheaper. Oh well. I guess I'm paying for the convenience.

We had a chance to talk to Todd, the AirBnb owner, while getting our bikes in the shed for storage. Todd recommended Potomac Street Grill across the street for dinner and Beans in the Belfry for breakfast.

After getting settled in our loft and taken much needed showers, Crispin and I went to the restaurant for dinner as the sun was setting. We took a walk around the town before we came back to our room for the rest of the night.

Downtown Brunswick, MD

The weather report indicated rain overnight and early morning. Crispin and I plan on going to the cafe at 8 AM and ride about 45 miles to Williamsport since it might rain again some time during the day.