Entering the Middle Branch Trail south of Baltimore, just a wee bit of rain lately.
Staying in the present is one of the exercises I’ve been working on during this trip, not anticipating too much into the future or dwelling on days past. But seeing as our trip is just over halfway done, and we’re wrapping up our sixth of 15 states tomorrow, I’ve let my mind drift off sometimes in the last few days to imagine how it will feel when the trip is over. You know, back to normalcy: the five-day work week in an office, two weekend days for play but also chores. Like grocery shopping! It gives me good perspective on how amazing this time is, two months in which the day of the week has no meaning. Sixty days in which we spend the majority of our days outside, in sun and wind and (like today) rain. The sights, sounds, and smells we absorb: birds, honeysuckle, humidity.
And so very little routine. Routine bores me, it makes me restless. One incredible feature of this trip is how different each day is. We have little idea of what to expect and we are often pleasantly surprised. We’ve watched the topography, the trees and vegetation all change as we’ve inched our way north. The cities, towns and crossroads each have their own character, nothing we could predict until we reach them.
Today’s ride is a great example. It was our second shortest at just 34 miles. A chilly, gusty wind blew all day and rain fell for all but our first few hours, so we were good with ending the day early. We never heard back from a warmshowers host another 10 miles up the toad in Towson, so we booked a room in a funky downtown Baltimore hotel.
Of our two most pleasant surprises today, one was the Greenway network that starts with the beautiful Baltimore-Annapolis Trail (former rail line), then a connector trail to a greenway running alongside the Baltimore-Washington airport. A few miles of roads later, the Middle Branch Trail took us into Baltimore. It made for easy, pleasant riding even in the rain.
Jane meets us on the trail, before the rain started
Happy surprise #2: meeting Jane Wadsworth. Jane has ridden a few of the East Coast Greenway Week A Year tours. I met her quickly last fall in Wilmington, NC, as the last WAY tour started, and I loved reading her funny blog posts during that trip.
Jane took the time to write to me about meeting up with us somewhere near Annapolis. She confirmed last night that she’d ride with us today. But when the forecast was pretty definite about rain and cold today (50s! In June!) we were sure she would politely decline and wish us well. Instead she showed up at the B&A trailhead, wearing a familiar East Coast Greenway bike jersey and a big smile on her face.
We loved Jane’s company and once again having a local who could lead us through a couple turns and connections on the trails. She’s a bonafide athlete: a former professional tennis player who transitioned into triathlons, marathons, competitive rollerblading, and cycling. Aside from her athleticism, Jane felt like a sister — we are the same age, both married to older men, and she is a writer on the side when she’s not writing software.
Jane loves the B&A trail and for good reason— it’s well maintained, travels 12 miles from Annapolis to Glen Burnie, and offers access to coffee shops, ice cream stores, a bike shop and other important amenities. We pulled off mid-morning to a small diner just steps from the trail.
We said goodbye to Jane at the start of the BWI trail and shook our heads as we rode further in the wind and rain. Who do you know who would meet you to ride 15 miles or so in cold rain, then turn around to ride back alone? Pretty impressive.
Dee went to use the bathroom at a ranger station on the B&A trail and met these rangers, all very keen on their local trails, she reported. Meanwhile Jane and I helped a grown man riding a kid’s bike who needed an Allen wrench to raise the seat. I felt mechanically competent to pull my key set out of my pannier.
We arrived in downtown Baltimore and the inner harbor with Dee nearly hypothermic, her fingers white and useless from Raynaud’s. There’s the one advantage of the extra body fat I carry, compared to Dee: I wasn’t nearly as chilled. We stopped at the visitor center and a kind staffer — turns out he’s a bike commuter — was sufficiently impressed with our trip and called to book this hotel room for us, $90. Yes, the rain is dripping through the ceiling in one corner of our room and soaking the curtains but hey, we are now warm, drying out, and resting up for tomorrow’s adventures. And grateful.