Archive for the ‘C&O Canal’ Category

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Location – Hancock Visitor Center

Mile Marker –123

Historical Comments – The Hancock Visitors Center is located in the Bowles House.  Construction of the home began in the mid 1700s and thus pre-dates construction of the canal. The house sits near Lock 52 and after this part of the canal was opened the residents would sell/trade with the canal boats as they transited through the lock.  Passing through several hands over the next century it remained private property until the 1980s.

Hancock is one of the oldest settlements in western Maryland.  George Washington stayed here several times while he was surveying the area as a young man.  During the Civil War Hancock was held for ransom by the Confederate Army, but no one paid ransom.

Ride to Site – The Hancock Visitors Center is not easy to find and is poorly signed. If you are approaching from the east you are riding on I70, the visitor’s center is almost immediately on the left side of road (Main Street/MD 144) as you reach the bottom of the exit.  It is hidden between guardrails and trees as you ride down the interstate exit. I rode past the entrance, the fact it was there never registered.

Coming from the west you might see the sign for the visitor’s center if it is not hidden by tree branches.  It is located between the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) building and the ramp to I70.

Amenities – Visitors Center, public restrooms, parking, all normal amenities in the town of Hancock.

Road Conditions (from main road) – rough pavement with loose gravel.  The entrance/exit is on a somewhat sharp incline please pay attention to your line of travel for the gravel that has been kicked onto the pavement.

Railway Situation – none

Parking Lot Conditions –Pea gravel and dirt with a bit of pavement.

Main Attraction – The first floor of the Bowles house has been converted in to the visitor’s center.  There are several artifacts of the construction period of the canal as well as photographs of the area during the period the canal was open.  Lock #52 is also on the grounds of the visitor’s center and is in good shape.

My Thoughts – This visitor center does not have amount of information on the canal as does the nearby Williamsport visitor’s center.  It is difficult to find and is only open Memorial Day thorough Labor Day.

Map

Ijustwant2ride.com

Difficult to find!

 

 

Last Sunday morning Debbie and I jumped on the Ultra Limited (I think I am going to call it Big Blue) for a day ride.  With no real destination in mind we thought about hitting a couple spots on the C&O Canal.  If you have been following this blog you know I am slowly documenting those spots along the canal assessable by motorcycle. 

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Old school McDonalds.

We left the house about 9AM heading west.  We stopped for a bit of breakfast at a McDonalds along Route 9 near Charles Town, WV.  As you can see in the photo it is one of those restaurants designed to look like an old school McDonalds, pretty cool.

 After filling out tanks (including Big Blue’s) we continued west on WV Route 9 then north on Interstate 81 then west on Interstate 70.  Normally we like the back roads much more than the Interstate but today we thought it would be better on the highway.  Pulling off into Hancock, Md we begin looking for the stops on the Canal but also found some other cool things as well, like the huge anti-aircraft missile in front of a Veterans of Foreign War (VFW) building.

We found both stops along the C&O, the Tonoloway stop and the Hancock Visitors Center.  The visitor’s center was very hard to find as it is not well signed and the road into the park was practically invisible unless you are looking for it as we were.  

Heading back east we wanted to stop at one additional canal stop (4 Locks) and we did but not the one we were looking for.  Again the signage was bad and we happened upon C&O Canal Dam #5 only because I noticed a street called Dam #5 Road (quite imaginative) and the fact that I knew there was a C&O dam in the general area.  But the fact we did not find the area we were looking for was no big deal as the area was great riding, rolling hills, great farmland views all made up for not finding the site. 

After looking about Dam #5 we mounted up and headed for home.  On the way home we started seeing hundreds of motorcycles heading north and west along our route. When we stopped for lunch we asked a couple who were riding if they know what was occurring.  Turns out it was the aftermath of “Operation God Bless America” a ride from New Castle, PA to the Veterans Hospital in Martinsburg, WV.  We have never heard of this particular ride before but with, according to the couple to which we spoke, over 2000 bikes it is one we will check out in the future. 

Unfortunately we had to head home to some yard work. But, as you can tell by the pictures, we had a good time on our 200+ mile day trip.

 

What the likelihood of completing these goals…. quite high I hope!  None of these are to terribly difficult, if I chose to make some time.  But, time is always an issue, I either make time to do this or let life get in the way.  Hopefully I will choose right this year.Capture

Ride the Appalachian Waters Scenic Byway –  This is one of the roads on my motorcycle bucket list.  It would be a weekend trip for us if we left early on both Saturday and Sunday and we would have an overnight stay with my Mother.

Take at least 1 long trip with wife – A few years ago we planned a trip that would take us to Niagara Falls, across Canada to the Harley Davidson Museum, south to Kansas to visit our daughter and then home.  Life conspired to prevent that trip, but something like that should be on order for this year.

Iron butt 1000 – I-81 to south of Knoxville ,TN and back in 24 hours or less.

Practice more – work on my slow speed skills, tighten up my left and right circles.

Ride more miles then 2014 – between all the bikes last year we had a bit over 7500 miles.  That should not be too hard to overcome just if I commute on the bikes  a little more often. Oh, and take the long way home in the evenings. The way I keep track of my season mileage is through the “B” trip meter.  Early each year I reset the “B” meter to 0 so I know the total for the year while using the “A” meter for anything else.

Attend a HOG Rally for at least 1 day – Depending on where the rallies for VA/WV/MD/DE/PA are I should be able to make that happen.

C and O Canal – knock out a bunch of those stops this year.  If you have read this blog for a while you noticed I have attempted to document those stops that are accessible via motorcycle.  I did not do that many last year.

I am sure there are other things that I should add to the list but the more I add the more I might regret not completing. 🙂

Ijustwant2ride.com

Williamsport Visitor Center and Cushwa Basin

Location – Williamsport Visitor Center/Cushwa Basin

Mile Marker –99.6

Historical Comments – Built in the 1830s the Cushwa Basin was developed as a major point on the canal for the loading/unloading and turning of barges. The area around the visitors and the canal itself is steeped in history. Some of the historic highlights of the area include:

Williamsport considered for the nation’s capital

Multiple civil war battles fought to capture, sabotage or destroy the aqueduct.

Gen. Lee used pontoon bridges to cross a flooded Potomac after Gettysburg.

In 1920 a boat bumped the aqueduct wall which caused it to collapse taking the wall and the boat into the creek below.

Ride to Site – The visitor center and basin is off main street Williamsport. Good signage easily directs you to the site.

Amenities – Visitors Center, public restrooms, parking, boat launch, bike rental, all normal amenities in the town of Williamsport.

Road Conditions (from main road) – paved

Railway Situation – none

Parking Lot Conditions –Pea gravel but the edge between the pavement and the parking lot is on a slight hill and appears to suffer damage from water runoff, pay close attention to your line of travel.

Main Attraction – This should be one of your main stops even if you do not want to stop at many (or any) other points along the canal route! Williamsport is only stop where you can visit many of the major canal structures in one place. Here you can see, all within a half mile:

The Conocheague Aqueduct

The Cushwa turning basin

A railroad lift bridge

A Bollman Iron Truss Bridge

A lock house (Lock 44)

Visitor center exhibits

Recreation of canal boat rides (during summer)

My Thoughts – As noted above this is a great spot to learn about the canal. It is easy to get to as it only a few miles from from Interstate 81.

Map Ijustwant2ride.com

 

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Ferry Hill Plantation

Location – Ferry Hill Plantation

Mile Marker –72.8

Historical Comments – Just up the street from Lock 38 is the Ferry Hill Plantation. The area around the plantation began as a cross river ferry site in the 1760’s. The ferry and plantation remained in a single family’s hands until 1958, a really good run. It site served as a restaurant and bar until 1974, catering to the students from Shepherd College across the river in Shepherdstown, WV.

The plantation served as the headquarters of the C&O Canal National Park system from 1979 to 2001. Now it is a museum to the C&O Canal and plantation life in Maryland. If you are touring the Canal this is a nice side stop.

Ride to Site – At the intersection of Route 34 and Canal Road, the ride to the plantation is a smooth easy ride. Coming from Canal Road be aware of the traffic on Route 34 as the speed limit does not seem enforced.

Amenities – Visitors Center, public restrooms, parking

Road Conditions (from main road) – paved

Railway Situation – none

Parking Lot Conditions – Paved and pea gravel

Main Attraction – Ferry Hill Plantation.

My Thoughts – One of the hidden gems while motorcycle touring the canal (it happens to be air conditioned) 🙂 . The plantation house is manned my volunteer docents who provide an oral rendition of the history of the home and grounds.

Map

C&O Canal Motorcycle Ride: Ferry Hill Plantation

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C&O Canal Lock 38

Location – Lock 38

Mile Marker – 72.7 and 72.8

Historical Comments – Near two Civil War Battle Fields Harpers Ferry and Shepherdstown, WV.  Also nearby is the former headquarters for the National Park Service’s C&O Canal division, Ferry Hill, which is now a restored plantation museum.

Ride to Site – Lock 38 has two separate areas both assessable from Canal Road.  Canal road is a paved but not well marked byway, pay attention to traffic.

Amenities – the lock areas have restrooms but nothing else.  Shepherdstown is nearby with full amenities.

Road Conditions (from main road) – paved

Railway Situation – underpass, very spectacular when a train is passing overhead

Parking Lot Conditions – Paved

Main Attraction – The remains of the lock and the nearby Ferry Hill Plantation.

My Thoughts – A major trail head for folks hiking and bicycling on the Canal Trail but not a lot to see here for the motorcyclist EXCEPT for railroad overpass.  The overpass has to be about 50 yards about the roadway and canal.  When a trail is crossing the view is spectacular.

Map:

Ijustwant2ride.com

Lock 38

 

 

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Whites Ferry C&O Canal Stop

Location – Whites Ferry

Mile Marker – 35.5

Historical Comments –This stop on the canal is named for the actual ferry with which it shares the location.  The ferry predates the canal by more than half a century and is still in operation today as the only ferry on the Potomac River.  You can read more about the Whites Ferry ferry here.

Ride to Site – Riding to Whites Ferry requires you ride through farm land.  Be on the lookout for slow moving farm equipment.  Pay attention as well for deer and other wildlife crossing the road.  There are multiple speed cameras in and around the nearby town of Poolsville.

Amenities – The ferry operates a small grocery/deli during the summer months, the area has picnic tables, boat ramp, restrooms.

Road Conditions (from main road) – All paved and in decent condition

Railway Situation – None

Parking Lot Conditions – Hard packed gravel, use a kickstand puck.

Main Attraction – Whites Ferry, $3 for motorcycles to cross the river.

My Thoughts – The canal site itself is interesting.  After crossing the river you can, at the traffic light, turn left and head into Leesburg or turn right and head back towards Point of Rocks, MD (another stop on the canal tour).

Map

whites ferry

 

 

A few weeks ago, just before the temperature dropped (and pretty much stayed) into the 30s (F), I was able to get a late afternoon ride to the Bunswick stop on the C&O.  For background on what I am doing with the C&O please look at this post.

Location – Brunswick Visitors Center 40 West Potomac Street, Brunswick, MD 21716

Mile Marker – 55

Historical Comments –This is all about the history of the C&O Canal.

The visitor center, which is shared with the Brunswick Railroad Museum, has several static displays regarding the canal (in classic National Park Service style), its development and its relation to the town of Brunswick.

Ride to Site – The Visitors Center is located in downtown Brunswick. There is no actual “stop” on the canal.

Amenities – All normal urban amenities are present.

Road Conditions (from main road) – Normal two lane roads.

Railway Situation – If you attempt to ride to the path (not really accessible via your bike) the rail line is on the surface.

Parking Lot Conditions – Typical parking for a small town.

Main Attraction –

My Thoughts – Nice little museum.  Brunswick, MD would make a nice little day trip from Washington DC or the surrounding area. Nice country roads will get you into town from any direction.

Map

c&O canal, motorcycle ride

 

Earlier this year I stopped at the Catoctin Aqueduct.   For background on what I am doing with the C&O please look at this post.

LocationCatoctin Aqueduct

Mile Marker – 51

Historical Comments –One of eleven stone aqueducts (allowing the canal to pass over Catoctin Creek) it was recently rebuilt. From 1978, when it was destroyed in a flood, until October 2011 the span across the creek was via a steel footbridge.

You can stay overnight in the Lock house, see here for detail.

Ride to Site – This stop on the C&O is between Point of Rock and Brunswick, MD.  You will use State Route 464 and turn onto Lander rode to get to the canal.  When approaching the turn off of 464 from the east pay close attention, the sign gives you the appearance that you take the next left.  It is actually the second left!

Amenities – parking, lodging

Road Conditions (from main road) – Paved to parking area

Railway Situation – Ground level

Parking Lot Conditions – Large, loose gravel and, use a kickstand puck.

Main Attraction – Aqueduct is about a mile from the parking area. Lock house number 28

My Thoughts – This is a good area to see a lock house and how the canal flowed along the river.  The restored aqueduct is a bit of a hike if you are wearing riding gear.

Map

From Google Map

photo by warren massey

C&O Canal Point of Rock MD

Location – Point of Rocks

Mile Marker – 48

Historical CommentsPoint of Rocks is one of the sites where the B&O Railroad and the C&O Canal fought over the right away as the pass between the river and the cliffs were very narrow.  They eventually reached a compromise that also saw a wall erected between the rail line and the canal towpaths so that the mules pulling the barges would not be frightened.

During the Civil War, the town, canal and railroad made tempting targets for the confederates operating in Virginia.  The rail station, still in use, was built in 1876. Find out more about this stop at the C&O Canal Trust website.

Ride to Site – This stop on the canal is located just off of and even under US Route 15.  The trains at this location run often so be alert for the oncoming locomotives.

Amenities – picnic tables, boat ramp, restrooms, parking.  Nearby gas and food.

Road Conditions (from main road) – Paved but with pot holes.

Railway Situation – Ground level

Parking Lot Conditions – Paved.

Main Attraction – Boat ramp, Route 15 bridge for pictures, rail station for pictures, Lock House 28 is available for lodging on the canal but you would have to park the motorcycles about a mile away.

My Thoughts – Great site for pictures and a nice stop when riding in the area.

Map Picture by Warren massey