Before the trip started Terry Stevenson paid for the artwork and some of us ordered jerseys from him in celebration of the 10th trip down the towpath for the group. They were yellow jerseys with a color emblem on the front and back.
10 July 2003, The trip started at the Lexington Park Chapel in California MD on Wednesday. Almost everyone showed up at close to the suggested time. Our Trail Bosses for the year were Larry Silvestro, Bill Hosier, (his young son Ben helped too) and Dave Lyons. Many of the old die-hards returned for the ride this year including Ralph Gibson who decided to ride instead of Trail Boss. This years new riders, that I can remember, were: Pete Zawada, Alan Price, Brian Hosier, Alec Horan, Neil Stevenson, Travis Stevenson, Devin Stevenson, Jacob Prettyman, Malcolm Kearns, Bradley Silvestro, Robert Angus, and young Robert Erickson (Thomas’ son). Beth and Diana would ferry our Pontiac TransSport van back home eventually and Karen Heath would ferry their truck home. Our van was a designated for passengers and I had it loaded with Beth and my bike on top and Diana’s and the bike Travis was to ride on the back. Travis was riding my old GT Outpost again. That bike has been on the trip every year I have. Soon the food trailer was loaded and the gear & bikes were on the other trailer. Without much delay, we were on our way to Waldorf to pick up more riders, bikes, and gear.
Mattawoman Beantown Rd “Park and Ride” has become the Waldorf meeting place. This year we arrived and were waiting patiently. We had been waiting a little while and were getting impatient when all of a sudden Mark’s big van overheated and spewed antifreeze all over the parking lot. The kids quickly piled out and a well-coordinated team of adults went to work. Mark, Dennis, Bill, and Pete quickly had the offending hose off. Bill had to run all over the Waldorf area to find a replacement. Even the Ford dealer did not have one. Once the replacement was in hand the team had it on and the van running in short time. I’m sure others helped in the endeavor too but their names escape me. At the time the problem occurred most of us did not think of it as a blessing. We considered it a nuisance. Then we started thinking about it. If the other riders had shown up on time allowing us to leave Waldorf on time we would have been on the Beltway when the hose blew. People could have been hurt and the vehicle could have been damaged. So in reality it was a blessing. Without further delay we were on our way to Cumberland via the Frederick MD scenic overlook and the Sideling Hill information center.
At the Sideling Hill information center more antifreeze was added to Mark’s Van. It had been running a little hot but not overheating. It was decided that more antifreeze had been lost than originally thought. The engine had simply sucked the radiator dry and needed to be topped off. No leaks! Cumberland and our fast food dinner were in our sights.
For some reason fast food always taste better right before we start the ride each year. With stomachs full and the sun starting to get low in the sky everyone headed over to the Cumberland Terminus of the Canal. Having ridden the first 10 miles of the towpath several times I declined to ride it this time. I did not want to ride in the dark. Beth had planned on riding but then was undecided because I was not going to ride. Diana decided she was going to ride and retrieved her flashlight. Soon Beth decided to ride too. One flashlight between the two of them. Everyone else except the trail bosses also rode. Many rode without any lights at all.
I went ahead and drove our van to the campsite. The trail bosses had to stop and get some supplies so they were delayed a little. I set up the two tents, one for Beth and Diana and one for me. Then I waited for Riders. The first riders that came in suggested I go and wait at the gate and driveway crossover because it was getting very dark very fast. Once it was totally dark I moved the van so the lights would shine up toward the towpath and then I waited by the gate with a flashlight. Many riders came in but no Beth and Diana. They were still out there and I was getting worried. Eventually I saw a flashlight coming down the trail and heard allot of laughing. It was Beth and Diana. They were smiling ear to ear and had mud splatters all over them. I wish my camera had been ready. I was not able to get a picture of them before they cleaned themselves up. They had a blast but did express that is was dangerous because many of the locks do not have anything to prevent someone from riding off the edge. They were not the last ones to come in either. There were several others that came in later. Everyone arrived safely. After setup was complete there was a short fireside and then it was time to sleep.
11 July 2003, the sun came up too early but the sky was clear and the temp on the cool side. With Larry, Bill, and Dave as trail bosses we were in for some real treats at mealtime. We had home made egg mcmuffins, pancakes, ham, and fruit for breakfast. Karen, Beth and Diana all prepared to leave. The rest of us put all our gear on the trailer and after the prayer we were on the bikes ready to roll. The next stop was the Paw Paw Tunnel. Beth and Diana were also going to visit the tunnel on their way back to southern MD. As we rode toward the tunnel there were Beth and Diana. They had stopped at the nearest parking lot and rode in the 1/3 mile or so. Then they rode through the tunnel and back. For years I had told Beth about how beautiful the tunnel was and now she has seen it and agrees. From there Beth and Diana packed up the van and headed home. It was an uneventful ride to lunch near 15 Mile Creek aqueduct. Geoff Heath was my riding partner most of the day.
After lunch Dennis Reed was unable to find Darrin. I thought he had ridden down the trail with another group. Dennis caught up with the groups that left before us but Darrin was not with them and had not passed them. Dennis rode back to the lunch site and eventually found Darrin. He had headed up the road instead instead of down the trail. I do not know how far he went before Dennis caught up with him. As we neared Hancock we did know if Darrin had been found so we split into two groups. Some of us stayed on the towpath and some of the riders rode the Rail Trail. Soon we were in Hancock and most were visiting the ice cream shop. I stayed near the trial to make sure that new riders knew where to turn for the treat. Neil Stevenson ended up getting sick on the trail but was able to make it to Hancock. While in Hancock Pete went into the bike shop and said “give me the most comfortable seat you have, price doesn’t matter.” While indulging on ice cream, we learned the following story: Amos had been shepherding Alec Horan and stopping to wait for him when he fell behind. Alec asked Amos what type of bike he was riding, Amos replied, “Huffy”. Alec said, “I don’t like Huffys.” Amos then said, “Well lets see if I wait for you next time.” At that Alec said, “I like your bike!” From that point on during the rest of the trip Alec told Amos he liked his bike just about each time he saw it. Neil’s son Travis was riding very slow so Neil and I stayed back with him. Everyone arrived safely at Fort Frederick. Dinner was Spaghetti with Texas toast. At the Fireside Bill dressed like a State Trooper and pretended to harass the group for having the wrong permits. It was all about consequences. Also during the Fireside young Robert told us the entire story of the first vision from memory. I was quite impressed. He always has a positive attitude and a smile on his face. Some of the older kids were belly- aching about everything. It was another cool night for sleeping. Great camping weather!
12 July 2002, another great breakfast and we were off. It was a smooth ride to the mill (detour) except some of the kids were really lagging far behind. Everyone rinsed their bikes and waited. While we waited, a father, daughter, and son stopped to talk to us and commented on all the yellow jerseys on the trail. They wanted to know if they were in our group. They were. Once we were on the detour most everyone did ok. A couple of kids still whined but with lunch right around the corner they were easily motivated. We arrived at the rod and gun club for lunch. We beat the trail bosses. That was a first for that stop. After lunch everyone headed down the trail to the cave and then Snyder’s landing. I would see my son Travis at organized stops. Other than that he would always be in the front group. He had a flat going in to Snyder’s landing and someone fixed it for him. He has really become a strong fast rider. The ride to the Antietam Battlefield youth campsite was slow while slow ones were coached the up the hills. But soon everyone caught up and we rode from Sharpsburg to the campsite in a huge line/group. We arrived early again. Many went straight to the creek once they dumped their bikes in camp.
The boys were thrilled. There was a group of YW from the Ashburn Stake at the creek with Sister Gray. The Gray’s used to live in our stake and Dave and his boys have ridden the trail with us many times. I think the girls were happy to see a group of LDS boys too. Before dinner the girls all left to return home. They had been on a Laurel super activity. Dinner was soft-shell tacos and fresh corn on the cob. Because of my intestinal problems Dave, Larry, and Bill made some taco meat especially for me that was not spicy. Ralph used to do that too. These guys are all terrific. We could not do the trip without them each year. I think Bill is going to ride in 2003. We had our ice cream feast that evening too. A different store had to be found to buy the ice cream since the old one is now closed. I don’t remember who came and did the fireside that night. I’m sure it was a good one. It was another great camping weather night for sleeping.
13 July 2003, The day’s trip would have been ok if not for some very slow riders. Almost everyone ended up getting to Whites Ferry before the trail bosses. We did not provide the trail bosses with much help, if any, getting cleaned and packed up after each meal and we should have. It was our fault that they were behind sometimes. Next year the plan is to help them much more. Many of the riders went on without an actual lunch. Some including me bought some snacks at the Whites Ferry store and continued down the trail. I think my son Travis was the in the first group to finish this year. I think only one kid dropped out on the trip and that was at lunch on Saturday. Everyone else made it although some were slower than others. There was a group of young boys that rode in a pace line with Dennis Reed after the lunch stop. I rode hard and came in early too. It was great to see Beth at the Carderock pickup site. I really miss her and am very thankful for the support she gives me each year. Beth had Jodi Davis ride up with her to pick us. The trails were smooth and we only had a little mud to deal with. The weather was terrific. We could not have asked for better conditions. It was a great trip.