Monday, October 26, 2009

Pumpkin Ale Pass-In-Review

I've mentioned once or twice that I love autumn.

For our anniversary dinner, my wonderful wife and I got to go to Clyde's. We love Clyde's regardless of the time of year. However, autumn is especially awesome at Clyde's. I love having things like acorn squash soup (it was sooooo good!) and spiced pumpkin salad ("apple smoked bacon, pumpkin seeds, caramelized onions, spinach, frisée, radicchio and pumpkin vinaigrette.") My only disappointment there was they put pancetta on our salad instead of apple smoked bacon, and the flavor of the pancetta was a little too strong for me, so I picked it off. Aside from that though, the salad was fantastic. Anyway, I digress. The whole point of this post is really autumn BEER.

One of our favorite restaurants in NoVA is the Sweetwater Tavern in Sterling. They have a micro-brewery right there in the restaurant and have AWESOME brew and food that's just to-die-for. This time of year at Sweetwater, you can get the Ghost Town Pumpkin Ale ("a lightly spiced amber ale made with real pumpkin...available with brown sugar and pumpkin spice garnish.") They sell growlers that you can take beer home with you, too. If you buy a growler of their pumpkin ale, they even give you a little ziplock bag of the brown sugar and pumpkin spice garnish to put on the rim of your beer mug at home. I love it! :-9

I wish we could afford to go to Sweetwater Tavern for dinner every night... and that we had our own personal driver so both my wife and I could enjoy their awesome brews every night... and that we had an extra couple of hours in each day and a personal trainer to help us work off the resultant beer gut... but alas, it is not to be.

So Saturday we were at Wegman's for lunch. I love Wegman's food court. Whenever it seems like none of us in our family can agree on what to have for lunch, there's always the Wegman's food court. I can get the exotic international flavors I want like Indian food or sushi or Thai food, my wife can get whatever suits her fancy (which will NOT be anything anywhere NEAR the Indian, sushi, or Thai counters), and my kids can get their staple pizza or chicken nuggets.

Sorry, I'm digressing onto food again. Stay on target.

In Wegman's they had a big display set up with over half a dozen different varieties of pumpkin ale. As we sat on the balcony eating our lunch, I thought to myself, "Self, you should do a taste test and figure out which is the best bottled pumpkin ale down there." So before we left, I bought a few varieties of the pumpkin ales to try out.

Actually, I bought all but two. I did NOT buy any of the Dogfish Head Punkin Ale or the Weyerbacher Imperial Pumpkin Ale. I know you're thinking to yourself, "Self, why didn't he buy any Dogfish or Weyerbacher?" I'm glad you asked. Somebody at those two companies needs to go take some classes on marketing because otherwise their companies are going to fail miserably.

The Dogfish and Weyerbacher pumpkin ales were sold in 4-packs. When I first walked up to the display, I immediately picked those two up as my first two choices. I liked that I could get a 4 pack and try it out and not have to work my way through a full 6-pack if I didn't really like it.

Then I looked at the price.

Both the Dogfish and the Weyerbacher pumpkin ales were $10 for a 4-pack, so $2.50 per bottle. ALL of the other pumpkin ales in the display were $9 for a 6-pack, so $1.50 per bottle.

Cha-ching! Cha-ching!

Dogfish and Weyerbacher both came out of the shopping cart and back onto the display.

I did get five others to try though, so here for my 5 or so loyal readers who like beer are my thoughts and impressions of the five pumpkin ales I tried out this week. These comments were written in the order I drank them - NOT all in one night mind you!


Smuttynose Pumpkin Ale
(Portsmouth, New Hampshire)


Meh. Fairly light in body. Definitely pumpkin flavored. Tasted a little weird but nothing I could put my finger on. Not something I'd rave about or buy again.






Blue Moon Brewery's
Harvest Moon Pumpkin Ale
(Golden, Colorado)


I took a sip expecting pumpkin flavor. After all, it's got a painting of a pumpkin on the bottle, and it was being sold in amongst half a dozen other pumpkin ales. I detected no essence of pumpkin in this. I re-examined the bottle and at first I couldn't even find the word "pumpkin" on the bottle. I looked a little closer and saw under the BIG words "HARVEST MOON" there is the fine print "pumpkin ale." In any case, it was just okay. I thought it tasted more like Sam Adam's Octoberfest than a pumpkin ale. It was better than the Smuttynose, but again it was nothing that I'd rave about or race out to buy again.


Random Aside about Brewery Websites:

Is it just me, or is there absolutely NO POINT in putting a thing on your website that asks for your birthdate before you can view the website??? That just seems totally useless to me. I could enter any date I want that shows that I'm 21 years old and go on in and browse the website. It's not like it's allowing me to purchase alcohol without proof of ID. It's JUST a WEBSITE. How does putting something like that on your website prevent anybody from accessing the website???

I have this nagging feeling in the back of my head that it has something to do with frivolous lawsuits. I wonder what brewery got sued because some underage kids were viewing the website, and that somehow encouraged them to buy beer under age, and somehow that's the brewery's fault because they didn't ask the kids' age before they viewed the website, so just like the McDonald's-coffee-is-hot lady, some idiot is a millionaire from suing some poor brewery, so now they all have to put some silly widget on their website that asks you to enter your birth date.

Wait... Do I need to put one of those birthdate checker widgets on this blog post? OH MY GOD WHAT IF SOMEONE UNDER 21 IS READING THIS BLOG POST!?!?

Okay, getting off my soapbox now...


Shipyard Pumpkinhead
(Portland, Maine)


The initial taste was like almonds or amaretto. BLECH! I HATE amaretto or anything almond flavored. (Aside: I especially hate almond-smelling soap in public restrooms - it drives me nuts!) After I got over the initial amaretto taste, it actually tasted pretty good. The amaretto flavor wasn't so overpowering that I couldn't finish the bottle. Still, not something that I would seek out again in future beer-purchasing trips to the grocery store.



New Holland Brewery Ichabod
(Holland, Michigan)

The best so far in this taste testing. No weird initial or aftertastes. Strong, bold and balanced flavor. I could go for another one of these right now. I'll seek this one out next time I go to the store to buy beer. Still one more beer to try though...





Brooklyn Brewery
Post Road Pumpkin Ale

(Brooklyn, NY)


This brew had the most hops out of any of the five pumpkin ales I tested. I'm not a big fan of hops, but they weren't unbearable and this Post Road Pumpkin Ale was otherwise pretty bold and flavorful. I'd say it was pretty tasty for about the first two thirds of the bottle. As I got to the bottom of the bottle though, the taste of the pumpkin spices got to be overbearing. It might be a good idea to store prone or upside down to help keep the spices more evenly distributed in the bottle when you turn it up to open and drink.


In the end, the hands-down winner of Blunoz's Pumpkin Ale Taste Test was:

New Holland ICHABOD

I really liked the flavor of the Ichabod and the fact that the hops weren't overpowering. The runner-up award goes to the Post Road Pumpkin Ale. Both Ichabod and Post Road Pumpkin Ale were good enough that I would seek them out in the store and buy them again. The other three - meh, I wouldn't bother.

Rewind back up the page a bit. Has anyone tried the Dogfish Head or the Weyerbacher? Are either of them good enough to justify the extra expense? It's NOT that I'm a total cheapskate. I am willing to pay extra for something if I know it's worth it. Standing there in Wegman's looking at the variety of pumpkin ales to try, I was already looking at buying FIVE of them, so it was an easy-on-the-wallet decision to not buy those two. If someone tells me they're THAT good that I should try one or both of them, then I will.

Update 11/10/2009: Alright, someone recommended the Dogfish Head Punkin Ale, so I decided to give it a shot. It was really good. Strong, bold flavor with just a hint of pumpkin and not a lot of hops. I liked it a lot. However (comma), it was right on par with Ichabod. While it was an enjoyable brew and I will certainly enjoy drinking the rest of the 4-pack, I don't think it's worth the extra dollar per bottle. Long term, I'd go with Ichabod which is just as good but not as expensive.

Pentagon Gouge: Mass Transit Subsidy Distribution

Reminder for folks in the DC area: The National Capital Region (NCR) Mass Transit Subsidy distribution is this week. Don't forget to stop and pick yours up!

To see the schedule when and where they are being distributed, visit this website from a .mil computer.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Violated

This post was a runner-up for Post of the Week.
Thanks, Hilary!

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

So there I was...

Minding my own business... Actually, to be totally honest, I was minding everybody else's business because I was reading Facebook, but I digress.

Then the phone rang.

I instantly recognized the area code and prefix as being from my alma matter, USD. We know from our caller ID that they've tried calling several times lately, and I figured I better answer the phone or they'll just keep calling. I fully expected it to be a fund-raising phone call, so I hid my wallet, put up my mental defenses, and practiced saying, "no, no thanks, not today, no, and what-part-of-no-did-you-not-understand." Then I answered the phone.


Man, the business school at USD must be doing really well... especially with that telemarketing class they're offering.

They got some young junior with a very friendly, soft, and sweet voice to call me up and flirt with me for a while. She asked why I chose to go to USD and what I liked most about going to USD. She talked about her favorite parts about going to USD. She told me about going to the Navy Birthday Ball with one of the NROTC midshipmen. She asked me about life in the Navy and what my favorite port calls have been. We talked for several minutes without even a mention of money.

I chastised myself, "Self, you were totally wrong to assume that just because USD was calling it was because they wanted money. You should be ashamed of yourself! They have clearly started a NEW program to help re-establish connections with alumni. Granted, the underlying motive in refostering the relationship and making me reminisce about my time at USD is so that they can get me to donate later, but in the meantime, it's nice to talk to a USD student and remember what life was like in college."

Just about then I let my guard down. I was enjoying talking about life at USD. The sweet young lady on the other end of the phone line must have sensed the change in my tone of voice. I shifted from my guarded no-you-can't-have-my-money tone of voice to my wasn't-being-a-college-student-awesome nostalgic voice, and she knew she had me.

Then WHAMMO! She sensed the opportunity, so she went for the jugular.

"So can USD count on your donation of $600 to support the founders' scholarship fund?"

I started coughing like I had just inhaled a tarantula. My mind quickly jolted back from nostalgia-land to the here-and-now of the present, and I quickly felt for my wallet to make sure it was still secure.

I'm sorry, what??? Did you seriously just dead-pan ask me for

SIX
HUNDRED
DOLLARS?!?!


[Sniff, sniff] Here I thought you weren't like all the other sweet-talking college students that call us from USD. I thought you were different. I thought we shared something special...

No, I didn't really say that. I said something more like: Ahhh, no, sorry, we just bought our plane tickets to fly home for Christmas today and I'm out of spare cash (which is true).

"Oh, okay, well how about $250 then?"

Um, no thanks.

"We can defer the payments or set up a payment plan for you."

Gee, thanks... but no thanks.

She pressed on a couple more rounds, and I finally gave in and pledged to give them SOME money (but not much).

I feel like I was just robbed by a girl scout.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Pentagon Gouge: Gym Membership

Sorry I didn't get a Pentagon Gouge post up last Monday. What can I say, it was a holiday and I was busy picking out pumpkins and enjoying the farm scenery in the country.

I learned something new recently that I wish I had known before I reported aboard. Well, at least before I signed up for my PAC (Pentagon Athletic Club) membership.

If you're an O-4 or above and you work in Crystal City, then I highly recommend getting your gym membership at the Sport & Health Club.


It turns out, the Navy Staff ("OPNAV Staff") has a special agreement with the Sport & Health Club. Members of the OPNAV Staff can join the Sport & Health Club at the same rate as the PAC ($20 per month or $240 per year at the time I wrote this). That's considerably less expensive than the normal Sport & Health Club membership, which is in the ballpark of $90 per month. The special OPNAV Staff membership doesn't get you access to ALL the Sport & Health outlets across the country like a full-blown membership would, but it gets you access to the TWO Sport & Health Club locations in Crystal City (one at the north end and one at the south end).

If you're O-3 or below, then membership at the PAC is free, and I'm all about free. However, if you're O-4 or above and have to pay for your gym membership no matter where you go, then you get much more bang for the buck at the Sport & Health Club.

Unfortunately, I didn't find out about this deal until after I had already paid for a year membership at the PAC. So I just used the PAC for the first year I was working in Crystal City. When my PAC membership recently expired, I switched over to the Sport & Health Club, and WOW what a difference!

What do I like about the Sport & Health Club?

- It's closer to my office.
- It's bigger than the PAC Annex in Crystal City.
- It has racquetball courts (and lots of them).
- It also has tennis courts, but (a) I don't play tennis, and (b) playing tennis costs extra.
- The southern Crystal City location has a swimming pool.
- It has free classes.
- There are six TVs in front of the cardio machines. Each TV is tuned in to a different channel and you can listen to the audio channel for whichever TV you want to listen to. (The PAC Annex has ONE TV on, and the volume is on so you get to listen to it whether you like what's on or not).
- They provide towels (so does the PAC though).
- In the men's locker room, there's both a hot tub and a sauna (there's just a sauna at the PAC Annex).
- I could almost get away with not bringing any bathroom-kit with me. In the showers, they have large dispensers of shampoo, body wash, and conditioner. At the sinks, there are large dispensers of hand-soap, shaving cream, lotion, tissues, and Q-tips. Pretty much all I need is a comb or a brush for my hair.
- They have a nice, modern, digital scale with a zero function and a crisp readout to the tenth of a pound. At the PAC Annex they have this arcane old scale with a HUGE dial that indicates anywhere from 0 to 300 pounds. It will tell you your weight within about 5 to 10 pounds of accuracy.
- The lockers are bigger and have both a hang-up bar and hooks on the side, a shelf up top and a little tray on the door for storing things. Plus, there is a mirror right there in the door of your locker so you can comb your hair without having to walk back over to the bathroom.
- They have rental lockers available. You can pay $20 per month, or $200 for the year if you pay in advance. That way you can just leave your racquetball gear, shower gear, an emergency set of black socks, etc in your own locker. (No rental lockers are available at the PAC Annex).
- You don't need to bring a padlock with you to secure your locker. The lockers each have a little key. At the PAC Annex, you figure out which lockers are empty by trial and error (open one door, nope - somebody's stuff is in there, open another door, nope - somebody's stuff is in there...). At the Sport & Health Club, you can tell which lockers are available because there is a key in the door.
- Added 11/09/2009: There's a little side-room off the men's locker room with an iron and an ironing board in it! That's cool.

So, like I said... If you're on the OPNAV staff working in Crystal City and you're O-4 or above, then I recommend going to the Sport & Health Club instead of the PAC Annex.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Mayne's Tree Farm

On Monday, some friends of ours from church invited us to join their family tradition of going to Mayne's Tree Farm to go for a hay ride and pick out pumpkins. Mayne's is in a small but adorable town called Buckeystown, Maryland not far from Frederick.

We were really impressed with Mayne's. It was a truly enjoyable experience. It's out in a very rural area and isn't at all commercialized.

Right after we pulled into the parking lot, the farmer brought out the John Deere tractor pulling a trailer with some hay bales on it. We all climbed on board and enjoyed the ride out to the pumpkin patch to pick out our pumpkins.



We told the boys the same rule as the family who invited us - they each got to pick one pumpkin, and they could pick any pumpkin they wanted as long as they could carry it.

I picked one out, too.

Pumpkin Self-Defense

The boys bent the rules a bit and decided that their stuffed animals should each get a pumpkin, too.

Lotis and his pumpkin

Teddy and his pumpkin

Weighing-In and Paying-Up

After we finished at Mayne's Tree Farm, we had an awesome lunch at a pizza place just north of Buckeystown. Then we did some sight seeing around the Maryland countryside on our way back home.

The farmland up there is beautiful.

I love autumn.

We took White's Ferry back across the Potomac north of Leesburg, Virginia. Then we stopped at a few Loudon County vineyards to do some wine-tasting. There were some gorgeous flowers out in front of the Lost Creek and Hidden Creek vineyards.


Overall, it was a wonderful autumn day out in the country with my family. If you're in the DC area and looking for a nice day's outing to pick up some pumpkins with your family, then I highly recommend Mayne's Tree Farm.

REMINDER: THIS WEEKEND is the Loudoun County Fall Color Tour! Click on the link for a map and list of participating farms and what they will be offering.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Rockbridge

Over the holiday weekend, I went with a group of guys from my church to the Rockbridge Men's Weekend.

Rockbridge is a Young Life camp near Goshen, Virginia, about fifty or so miles west of Charlottesville. We left Ashburn shortly before 3 p.m. on Friday. We had a BSC along the way (Brief Stop for Coffee at Starbucks) and arrived at the camp just after 6 p.m. Registered and picked out our bunks then headed to dinner.

Overall, it was an awesome weekend! I'm really glad I went. Friday evening, Saturday morning, Saturday evening, and Sunday morning there were sessions in the meeting hall. Each session started out with The Riverman giving us funny lessons about being a man. Then the band would lead us in singing some songs of worship. Then we'd get to hear the guest speaker. The main guest speaker who led most of the sessions was Bill Paige, and he was an AWESOME, inspiring, truly remarkable speaker. If you're interested, you can check out a video of Bill Paige here on the YoungLife page. The video is more geared toward the youth group audiences, but it certainly gives you a feel for his style of speaking and his enthusiasm.

The band that played the music for us during worship was absolutely incredible. They were extremely talented musicians, and all the music was fantastic. They said they came from a church in Richmond. They should be Christian recording artists if they aren't already. I actually kept wondering if they already are some famous contemporary Christian band and just weren't introducing themselves that way because they didn't want to draw undue attention to themselves or detract from the purpose of the weekend or Bill Paige's speaking.

When we weren't in the meeting hall for the worship and seminars, there was a lot of stuff to do around the camp.

We played frisbee-golf on their 18 "hole" course.

This is the first "tee." Each "tee" consisted of a rectangle on the ground from which you had to throw the frisbee.

Each "hole" was really a wooden post with the number on a blue sign. You just have to hit the post with your frisbee.

Then some of us did the ropes course.

Gearing-up for the ropes.

On the course.

The staff members kept saying "don't look down." Not sure why.

At the end of the course, you come down via a swing. I was perfectly fine thoughout the ropes course until I got to the swing. It took me a minute to work up the nerve to scoot myself off that ledge. I sent my camera down before I did the swing so one of my friends could take this picture of me swinging down.

video
Blunoz on the swing.
Totally random aside: Does anyone know why my camera keeps making those thump noises on the audio when I take movies like the one above? If I knew what was causing it, then I would try to stop it from happening.

There's also a rock-climbing wall, a gym, basketball courts, hiking trails. In the summertime they have a lake with a zip-line, but the lake was drained while we were there this weekend. Unfortunately, since we were only there for the weekend, we didn't have enough free time to try out all the different activities they had to offer.

I love autumn.

It was a great blessing to share this weekend with the guys from church down at Rockbridge. I hope I can go again next year, too.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Land of a Thousand Hills


Hat-tip to a friend of mine from church who introduced me to Land of a Thousand Hills coffee. The story behind the coffee is worth reading. This guy was in genocide-ravaged Rwanda and decided to help them learn to work together peacefully and productively in growing coffee.

So they've got the good cause going for them, but is the coffee any good?

Apparently the soil in Rwanda is similar to the soil in Ethiopia, so looking at other companies websites, you will see Rwanda coffee grouped in with Ethiopia and Kenya. I ordered a pound of Rwanda Blend and a pound of Rwanda Medium. I've been drinking the Rwanda Medium in the mornings all week, and it's really good. I like it a lot.

For a while there, I had regressed into a bad habit of laziness and was spending $2 every morning for coffee on my way to work. Now, I'm getting back into the good habit of setting up the coffee maker before I go to bed at night. My wonderful wife got me an awesome new thermos that conveniently fits in my backpack, so I have been using it to take my coffee in to work with me in the mornings.


The price for Land of a Thousand Hills coffee is comparable to several Starbucks varieties and it's cheaper than Caribou or Kona coffee. I did a quick inventory of the price for 1 pound of whole bean coffee on the internet and found:

Kona coffee on Amazon.com - $29.99
Caribou Kenya - $16.95
Caribou Columia -$13.99
Green Mountain Ethiopian Fair Trade - $13.58
Starbucks Rwanda - $12.95
Starbucks Kenya - $11.95
Starbucks Ethiopia - $11.95
Green Mountain Our Blend - $11.32
Land of a Thousand Hills - $10.95*
Starbucks Verona - $10.95
Dunkin Donuts - $7.99

Okay, yes, it's more expensive than the Dunkin Donuts coffee we normally get, but it supports a good cause and the coffee tastes good, right?

* Note: You can bring this price down to $9 per pound if you buy either a 3 or 5 pound bag.

So hey, if you would like to try some good flavorful coffee and support a good cause, you might want to give Land of a Thousand Hills a try.


Disclaimer: As always, these are MY own opinions. NOBODY PAID ME to write this.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Pentagon Gouge: Flu Shots

Update 10/6 @ 1155: Just got an email saying they are running short on flu vaccine, so they are only giving the flu shots to active duty military.

Heads-up for folks in and around the Pentagon: Flu shots are being given at the DiLorenzo Clinic in the Pentagon this week (5-9 October) from 0800-1500.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Great Allegheny Trail bike ride

Saturday I went for an awesome bike ride on the Great Allegheny Passage trail. This was with the same friend from church that did the C&O Canal bike ride a few weeks ago. This time though, we had both our families drive us up to Meyersdale, PA. They dropped us off there, did some sightseeing and had lunch, parked one of the cars for us in Cumberland, MD, and headed home in the other car. That left for the two of us bicycle commandos to make the 33 mile trek from Meyersdale down to Cumberland to find the car and drive ourselves home.

Arriving at the Meyersdale train station.

This is another one of those rail-trails - a former railroad that was converted into a bicycle / jogging / walking trail. The old train station in Meyersdale has been very nicely refurbished thanks to generous charitable donations, and they have a pretty decent museum inside considering the size and charitable funding source of the operation.

Getting underway from Meyersdale

The trail is hard-pack dirt and fine gravel, so you don't get any of the Lance Armstrong wanna-be speed-demons like you do on the W&OD Trail through Ashburn.

The first 9 miles was uphill from Meyersdale up to the Eastern Continental Divide. However, thanks to it being an old railroad, it was a gentle slope. I got a good workout from it and was breathing heavy when we got to the top, but it wasn't too tough. According to my GPS, we averaged 8 mph on the uphill leg.

Keystone Viaduct

The highlight of the uphill leg of the trip was seeing the Keystone Viaduct. This magnificent structure was refurbished recently to help complete the Great Allegheny Passage trail from Pittsburg to Cumberland.

Autumn is in full swing up there in Allegheny County, and the trees and windmills just beyond the Keystone Viaduct were gorgeous.

This is the small bridge-tunnel at the Eastern Continental Divide. There are nice murals on both sides of the tunnel.

The view looking back down the way we came.

Statistics at the Eastern Continental Divide.
8.42 miles 0.0 mph current speed
59 min 30 sec moving 8.5 mph moving average
15 min 29 sec stopped 12.3 mph maximum speed
2394 feet altitude at Eastern Continental Divide


Altitude Profile.

We overheard someone on the trail say that for the downhill section through Frostburg to Cumberland, you don't need pedals on your bicycle - just brakes. Whereas our average speed was 8 mph going uphill, we ended up averaging between 13-15 mph going the rest of the way down to Cumberland.

We saw a lot of caterpillars along the way - mostly either black & white ones or black & red ones. Something struck me as odd though. They all seemed to be crawling WITH the flow of traffic on the trail. I would think a caterpillar would want to spend as little time as possible ON the trail and would try to CROSS the trail to get to where the green stuff is that they can EAT. Every single caterpillar we saw was crawling along the trail as if they were going the same place we were (or back the way we came).

Self portrait with orange autumn tree

There were three tunnels along the way. The first and by far the longest was the Big Savage Tunnel.


Big Savage Tunnel

There's a wonderful view just as you come out the other side of the Big Savage Tunnel.

Crossing the Mason-Dixon Line back into Maryland

Shortly after we crossed the Mason-Dixon Line, I decided I needed a drink. I tried flipping the valve on my Camelbak bite valve open to take a drink, and the yellow part of the valve popped out! Doh.

This resulted in the contents of my Camelbak bladder spewing all over the front of my body with nothing to hold the water back. I squeezed hard on the brakes. Note to self: Bicycle no stop quickly on fine gravel. I must've left 15 foot long skidmarks on the trail as I came to a screeching halt. I stuck my finger in the hole where the bite valve used to be and walked back up the trail to retrieve the missing piece. Luckily it popped right back into place and I didn't have any further troubles with it.

Borden Tunnel

A Frostburg church steeple peeking out above the trees

Our plan had been to stop and eat lunch in Frostburg, MD. Unfortunately, we did not realize that the path does not run through Frostburg. It actually runs BY Frostburg, but at the bottom of the hill from the town. If we wanted to go into town for something to eat, it would have been a steep half mile climb up into the town.

Frostburg Rest Area

There was a nice rest area alongside the trail there in Frostburg though, so we just ate the snacks we brought in our backpacks and kept going down the trail.

Brush Tunnel

After leaving Frostburg, the trail runs right alongside the railroad tracks for the Western Maryland Scenic Railroad. From this point on, we noticed a higher number of bicyclists on the trail. It turns out, you can ride the railroad from Cumberland up to Frostburg, then ride your bike back down the hill again. That sounded like a pretty cool idea to me - I may try that someday with my family.


Near the Brush Tunnel, we stopped to find a geocache, only there was a snake guarding the geocache. He looked peaceful enough at first...

...then I poked him with a stick. I expected him to scurry away. Nope. He didn't like me one bit. He hissed and inflated himself to twice the diameter he was before, then adopted this coiled S-shaped spring posture and tried snapping at me. I've been trying to identify him. I think he's either a garter snake or a ribbon snake.

The trail is well-marked with mile-markers along the way. The numbers tell you miles from Cumberland, so I took this photo to show we were in the home stretch.

We saw lots of the same flowers alongside the trail - very small white flowers and purple flowers mostly.

Toward the end of the trip though, I spotted only a couple of these, and I thought they were the nicest flower we saw on our trip.

Then in the last mile before Cumberland, we spotted these purple flowers with Monarch butterflies all over them.

The Allegheny Trail ends in Cumberland right where the C&O Canal Towpath begins.

Western Maryland Scenic Railroad Station

Beginning of the C&O Canal Towpath

Turning Basin at the end of the C&O Canal

Overall Trip Statistics
33.1 miles 0.0 mph current speed
3 hours 26 min moving 9.6 mph moving average*
1 hour 32 min stopped 20.3 mph maximum speed
632 feet altitude in Cumberland

* This average speed includes the uphill segment. We actually did between 13-15 mph most of the downhill portion of the ride.

We stopped and had an excellent dinner at a place called the Crabby Pig right next to the end of the C&O Canal, then we piled in the car and headed back home again. Overall, it was a great trip and I hope to do it again someday, especially the downhill section with my family.

Statistics for today:
1,790 feet elevation drop from Eastern Continental Divide to Cumberland (approximate)
1,320 caterpillars spotted on the trail (give or take)
165 pictures taken
33 miles ridden on our bikes
3 railroad tunnels we rode through
3 hours driving to Meyersdale / hours driving home from Cumberland
1 bug in the mouth (I spit it out)
1 bug in the eyeball because I didn't put my sunglasses back on when we came out of the Big Savage Tunnel