Yesterday John and I joined Catonsville’s Rails To Trails’ Fourth of July ride to Ft McHenry. John posted about it here. This 26.9 mile ride started at Atwater’s on Frederick Road taking the Gwynn’s Falls Trail most of the way. I was curious to check out the trail, and I’d never been to Ft. McHenry either. Here was an opportunity to do both. We started out at 8:30 a.m. with 16 riders lead by the enthusiastic and supportive Charlie.
As we rode along, John and I both had the chance to chat with some of the other group members and enjoy the relatively cool air and the lightly-trafficked roads. Once we got on the trail things got more than a little hairy. The trail began with a series of sharp hairpin turns. There was a lot of storm debris still on the trail. Parts of it were gravelly and others quite muddy. All of this caused some slowing down and was quite a struggle for those on road bikes. Even on our touring bikes with wider tires it wasn’t easy! Next we came to our first large, downed tree. And then another. For perhaps 8 miles (that’s a guess) we continued dodging storm debris and negotiating our way over, under and around 16 trees by John’s count. Whew.
People began peeling off as we got to where the trail intersects Frederick. One woman headed back on the street. Another called for a ride home from Ft. McHenry. They both needed to get back faster than they possibly could if they continued on with the ride. A young couple who were new riders had enough of the rough conditions and headed back on the street, too. By the time we reach Ft. McHenry park we were down to 12 riders plus Charlie.
We hung out for a while enjoying the breeze and the river view. It’s a really nice park and would be a great place to return to for a picnic. As we headed out another couple stopped at the restrooms and said they would meet up with us later. We didn’t see them again and assume they got back fine. Next, one of the guys took a fall, scraping his arm and flattening a tire. Charlie came back to see what had happened to those of us who were with him. We offered to change the man’s flat, but he was done for the day. He phoned for help, and urged us to go while he waited in a shady spot for his ride. Now we were down to 9 plus our leader.
This group of 10 hung together until we were a few miles from the end of the trip. At that point between my general slowness, and us catching a red light that separated us from the pack, John and I fell quite behind. A few people continued on, 6 waited in a shady spot, and Charlie came back to assure no disaster had befallen us. I don’t know how he felt about the extra miles in the heat, but he was very pleasant and kind as he rode with us.
It was simultaneously a great ride and tough one that left us feeling wrung out. We figure the past couple of weeks of extreme heat is taking a toll and decided more liquids and little more salt in our diet might be called for. While we had planned some long rides during the couple of days we took off this week, John suggested modifying that to some shorter rides instead. Next week the temperatures should drop and we can fit in a longer ride then. Sounds like a plan to me!