Day 41: Connellsville, PA to Cumberland, Maryland

I write this entry from the state of Maryland.  This might be my last state.  Tomorrow I pedal along the Maryland-West Virginia border and it is hard to see on the map if I need to cross over to the West Virginia side of the border.  If I don’t cross the Potomac River, then the last border remaining is Washington D.C’s!

The goal  right now is very simple.  Pedal 90 miles tomorrow, which is Thursday.  Pedal 90 miles on Friday and then get on an evening Amtrak train back to Boston.  The evening train is the only one on the schedule that will take my bike home, without the bike being in a box.

The small problem is that these last 180 miles are mainly along side the C&0 Canal.  The Canal area this past weekend was flooded by torrential rains.  I talked to some people who tried to pedal along the Canal two days ago and they gave up because the mud was too deep.  Hopefully, by tomorrow the ground will have dried out enough for me to make it through.  I really don’t want another experience like the one I had outside of Fargo, North Dakota, where the mud made the road impassable for bikes.

The end of the today’s ride showed me the problems caused by this past weekend’s torrential rain.  The first 70 miles of today’s ride was a gentle up-hill.  That is not a misprint.  I pedaled up a slight grade from 8 AM until about 5:30 PM.  At 5:30 PM I reached the Eastern Continental divide, which is where water either goes into the Atlantic or the Gulf of Mexico.

From the Continental Divide to the hotel in Cumberland, Maryland it was a gentle 20 mile downhill.  Unfortunately, part of the path was washed away by the rain and someone did temporary repairs by tossing loads of fine rock and gravel on the path without packing it down.  This led to lots of spots where I almost had the bike slide out from under me.  Luckily, I was able to stay upright each time and made it to the hotel without crashing.

The downhill ride was also interesting since it crossed the Mason-Dixon line, which demarcated free and slave states before the Civil War. The people who built the trail created a solid line in the ground so that you knew exactly where the line stood.

The trail also had a number of railroad tunnels for pedaling through.  Five years ago the tunnels had no lights.  This time the tunnels all were lit.  It was much safer today, but less of an adventure when it is possible to see where you are going.

On a different topic, while on the trip I have done a number of interviews about various topics. For example Bloomberg News did a story on “Successfully managing a financial windfall” and the Spanish language newspaper El Pais asked me questions about the economic problems associated with divorce.  Just before typing the blog I did an email interview about when consumers should or should not buy an extended warranty.

The most interesting request so far is an email from a reporter at “The Pulse”, a health and science show from the public radio station WHYY in Philadelphia. He wants to interview me as I ride into Washington D.C. for an upcoming episode. The theme of the show is “in the name of science” and it is about the lengths that researchers go to for work or academic field. I don’t know if it will happen, but it certainly sounds intriguing.

Economist Advocating for Using Cash