Day 7: Joyriding down to Joppa…with hills. Lots of them.

I left the computer shop in Newark with spirits high. The sun was out, the temperatures were in the lower 70s (I think? At least it felt that way), and my phone was working and charging from the Mophie battery pack in the handlebar bag on my bike (the Sinewave charger/Dynamo hub combo work wonderfully, but the Mophie charges much faster. Once I have a fullish charge I leave the phone plugged in to the Sinewave to maintain the juice). After some mild rolling hills I made it to the Maryland border in short order, and had myself a corny little celebration:

After a Gatorade break I started a fast descent down a hill that was exhilarating.


And then the business of the day presented itself. The hills. Oh, the hills. 


The pictures don’t do the reality justice on multiple fronts. First, the Maryland countryside was beautiful. Second, that hill, the first of many on the day, was treacherous. I thought it would be hard to top the short, steep bursts I cycled down US-25 on my tour to Lexington to see Pearl Jam, but Maryland saw Kentucky’s bet and doubled down. I would fly down quick descents all day then downshift into the granny gear and start pushing my way up at a speed just beyond a walker’s pace. But I’m not complaining at all. It was a fantastic day on the bike.

I finally made it past a big chunk of hills, which gave way to rolling expanses of Maryland farmland. It was a really peaceful stretch of road, and almost surprising given the degree of urbanized, developed areas I’ve been through so far on this tour.


The terrain started to articulate again especially when I hit a road called Dr. Jack Road, which amused me to no end (it’s the small things out here). At the end of Dr. Jack I crossed a bridge with a nice bit of creek:


I turned left off of Dr. Jack and around a bend in the road I saw a cyclist with panniers bulging off the bike… It was the first tourist I’ve seen on the road this tour! I knew this would happen, but I figured it would come around the C&O/GAP or out west. We both enthusiastically waved at each other and stopped to chat briefly from across the road. He was French and had pretty much been all over the US by the time we crossed paths on his way to New York. I liked the symmetry of our respective journeys, given that he’s nearing the end and I’m just starting. I would have loved to get his name and a picture but the car traffic had us both instinctively moving along. 

 The road flattened out, and I knew I was making my way towards the Conowingo Dam. But the road to it was lovely:


Lauri and Brian had warned me about this dam on the Susquehanna River – for cyclists in the area there’s really no other way to get across, but it’s just short of a mile with no shoulder. I was advised to pedal fast and recognize that drivers are sympathetic to our plight. When I saw the sign for Susquehanna State Park I knew the dam was right across the road based on the maps I’ve looked at. 


I was nervous when I saw the dam. It was big and long, and lots of cars were moving across it. I took a minute to collect myself and to wait for traffic to die down as much as possible, and then I powered my way through. 

It was an adrenaline-inducing few minutes for sure, but the buildup made it seem worse than it was. A few cars had to wait for me, but much like the rest of the Maryland drivers who have passed me, they were mercifully patient. Once off the dam I pulled off the road and did a little “woohoo” to myself, and took a picture of the just-conquered bit of civil engineering. Wish it could have been a better one but there was no safe way to get one. 


In short order I learned the story behind the word “conowingo”, the dam’s namesake and a fun word to say. 


From the dam it was more steep hills and mosquitoes on my way through Bel Air, MD. I’ve traditionally not been a favorite of the insects, but the mosquitoes yesterday were making up for years of neglect. I was constantly getting bitten, and the best I could do was to keep moving.

I started to feel depleted as the afternoon wore on, and just at the right time I came across the unrivaled champion of convenience stores, Wawa.


I had them make a delicious panini with turkey, bacon, provolone, and a sun dried tomato pesto. It was in my face faster than it took Marie to make it, and she made it fast. 


I’m going to miss Wawa a great deal when I’m out of the area. 

From there I pedaled on for Bel Air but I didn’t get any pictures. The day was wearing thin and I had to make it to Joppa  where I stayed with another Warmshowers host. I took a breather at a nice park though:


And I saw some dear off the road after pedaling on.


After turning down Old Joppa Road I saw a bunch of horses, of which this was just one.


My host for the night, Stephen, met me at a gas station on Pulaski Highway. I followed him on his folding bike to his house. 


He set me up right for the night, and it didn’t take long for me to jump in his hot tub. That was a beautiful moment after almost 60 miles yesterday. 

It seems the biker tan is coming along quite well.

After a shower we chatted about riding bikes, his time in the Army Reserves, and his hobby of being a Civil War reenacter after retirement from the reserves. We both hit the hay early, and had an early start this morning. He rode off to work, and I rode off to breakfast. But before that I got to snag a picture of his super cool Elf by Organic Transit:


A quick early morning selfie, and we went our separate ways.


I can’t wait to get into DC tonight and to take a break tomorrow in the capital. Time to hit the road… I’ve been in this Dunkin’ Donuts long enough!

-J

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