West Virginia couple travels C&O Canal on tandem bike
CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. (AP) — This summer Carol Plautz and her husband, Jeff, embarked on 184-mile, three-day trek across the C&O Canal-all via tandem bike.
“My husband and I had it in our heads that we were going to ride the whole thing,” Plautz said. “We decided that three days time would be the way to break it up. We rode from Cumberland to Hancock for the first day, Hancock to Brunswick on the second day and from Brunswick to Georgetown on the third day. The first day was about 60 miles, the second day was about 70 and the third day was 50 or 55.”
Plautz said the canal was the ideal place to complete their bike excursion.
“There’s so few places where you ever have to stop for traffic and the C&O canal is one of them,” Plautz said. “The C&O canal holds this special place of really feeling like you’re out in nature as you follow the river for all of those miles.”
What originally drew her family to the area was the many outdoor destinations across the Panhandle, she said.
“One of the things that we love the most is the C&O canal and the other national parks around here. We have always loved hiking, running and biking,” Plautz said. “We moved here from California, and we’ve lived here in Charles Town for more than 18 years. One of the things that drew us to this area was all of the wonderful outdoor activities that you can do here in West Virginia. You’ve got the mountains and the rivers and you are not too far from the ocean.”
To prepare for the trails, the couple completed what they called adversity training, Plautz said.
“We went riding weekly. I remember one ride where we started Southeast in Brunswick. We went down towards D.C. and got caught in a thunderstorm,” Plautz said. “We thought we’d be perfectly safe, but the storm started and we got poured on. We were absolutely covered in mud by the time we got back. I said this was probably the best training that we could have done to prepare for how tough the trail was going to be.”
Riding a tandem bike presents its own unique set of challenges, Plautz said.
“There is a lot of bouncing around on the back of the tandem,” Plautz said. “We met a young couple riding one day who asked for advice on riding a tandem bike. I told the guy in the front just make sure you call up all the bumps. If you’re going to hit a major bump then you call out so that the back person, the stover, can lift themselves off the seat a little bit to not get the brunt of all the bumps. One good thing is that you stay together with the person you’re riding with on a tandem instead of getting separated if one person is a stronger rider than the other. You also get the chance to really talk with the person that you are riding with.”
She added communication is important.
“You have to always communicate. We needed to communicate if we were turning or if we’re speeding up or slowing down,” Plautz said. “You both are doing a lot of work, but the person in the front is sort of making the decisions about the shifting and the steering and the braking. You have to trust. I think if you’re the person in the back you have to trust the captain fully. So there’s definitely an element of that trust and communication.”
There were also hardships including bad weather, stinging plants on the side of the road, mosquitoes and mud puddles, Plautz said.
“It was harder than we thought,” Plautz said. “There were areas of the trail that were kind of in the middle of nowhere-between Cumberland and Williamsport especially-that were very rural and the trail was not maintained quite as well. I think mud was our biggest challenge because there were so much mud puddles, ruts and rocks from the rain that had come through over the summer. Being on a heavy bike like we were with some of this thick mud, it actually took us down and we crashed a couple of times.”
To practice safety, Plautz said a plan was set in place in case of an emergency when riding.
“We were prepared for many different kinds of mechanical problems,” Plautz said. “We also had lots of first aid supplies, snacks and extra water. We were pretty well stocked and prepared for any mishaps.”
Plautz said it is important to get bikes properly serviced before embarking on a long ride.
“We got our tandem completely serviced and tuned-up and ready to go,” she said.
Plautz said it is important to let either family members or friends know about travel plans.
“I think that it’s always important if you’re going to go on any kind of travel excursion that people know where you’re going to be,” Plautz said.
Plautz said the highlight of the trip was the scenery.
“We saw some really beautiful sites and some really beautiful scenery,” Plautz said. “Following the Potomac River for that far, we saw areas where there were waterfalls and where they had put in dams back in the olden days.”
There were areas where the river is as wide and still as a lake and other places where it’s just rushing like rapids in torrents. We had never been to Great Falls, which is close to Washington D.C. and we plan to go back there and sightsee because it was so beautiful.”
In the future, Plautz said she hopes to cross another trail off her bucket list.
“This might be some sort of retirement bucket list thing, but I would like to bike the whole Appalachian trail,” Plautz said. “That is another iconic trail in this area that we’ve always loved, so maybe someday.”
Information from: The Journal, http://journal-news.net/