We have arrived at the Continental Divide and through dumb luck, a lone biker named Joe agreed to take our picture forcing Ted to abandon his efforts at setting up a selfie stick. As he said smiling, "It's all downhill from here," we too smiled realizing that our long uphill slog was over. We have reached the elevation of 2,390 feet above sea level and over the next few hours will be descending to 625 feet in Cumberland.
Joe, a trail veteran from the Detroit area, was right about the downhill because for the last three days, every advance required a good push with our legs and now we could coast letting gravity do the work. As if on cue, all the clouds lifted and the sun is now shining on us hard, heating up the afternoon. Ted, never one to take chances with the sun, reapplies suntan lotion before we start our descent.
More quickly than it seemed possible, we reached Big Savage Tunnel, the longest tunnel on the GAP at 3,294 feet. While it has ceiling lights, we are taking no chances and put on our headlights. Entering the tunnel, we are greeted with a blast of cold, humid air making us want to don warmer garb. But we tough it out as we enter. Ted is behind me and my weak flashlight is no match for his LED lamp that not only lights the way for him but casts my shadow far ahead in the tunnel. I thought about making little bunny shadow puppets with my hands, but as I was on a bike I reconsidered.
As we exited the tunnel, I noticed that it has doors on this side of it, as would a giant to its mountain lair. But that is not the case as the tunnel is closed during the winter to prevent ice damage.
A few hundred yards south of the tunnel is a clearing with a panoramic view of the surrounding mountains. Towns, farmland, mountains are all there. Either eagles or hawks spiral high on the thermals coming up the mountain. We are not alone as families and travelers use the spot to rest going down or coming up Mt. Savage or to watch the birds and appreciate the spectacular view. We too spend time resting and watching but we need to get on our bikes and head for the Mason-Dixon Line.
The Mason-Dixon Line was surveyed was between 1763 and 1767 by Charles Mason and Jeremiah Dixon by in the resolution of a border dispute involving Delaware, Maryland and Pennsylvania. Ironically one of my granddaughter's favorite songs is Mark Knopfler's "Sailing to Philadelphia," which we sing together. "I am Jeremiah Dixon, I am a Geordie boy. A glass of wine with you sir and the ladies I enjoy. . ." As Ted doesn't want to sing-a-long with me, we get back on our bikes and roll.
Our speed picks up and we are traveling around 18 mph without much effort. The speed limit (posted regularity on the trail) is 15 mph but I don't think we are in any danger in getting a ticket. I hope we don't get a ticket. But it is hard to help oneself as the sensation of flying down a hill without much effort is energizing and intoxicating. For a moment I think that I should close my eyes, hold my arms out and feel the moment as part of nature, much like Paul Newman did in the movie, "Butch Cassidy & the Sundance Kid." But I quickly think better of that and kept my hands firmly on the handlebars.
This part of the ride feels a bit like a cheat as we will travel 20 miles in a little over an hour where for the past three days it took us a little under three hours (including breaks) to make the same distance. The difference on this ride is that our ability to sightsee is tempered by speeding down a hill and not wanting to eat gravel.
We do make a stop in the small college town of Frostburg noticing the unique sculptures of a person's head that uses bicycle wheels to represent their hair. There is also a bike repair station at the stop that has all the tools and supports to make bicycle repairs easier. There have been a few on the trail that we have seen.
But even without trying, the scenery going down is great. We are riding right next to the railroad tracks. Ted and I hope that a train will go up or down so we can get an up close view. Nothing comes.
Looking to my left, I spot lines of wind generators marking multiple ridges. A little later we pass a seam of coal that has been cut for the railroad tracks. The mixing of the old and new on this trip has been surprising.
We are almost in Cumberland and to our left is a great looking outcropping called Lovers Leap. Normally we would stop, read the history sign, take some pictures but we are just too tired. We have peddled over 60 miles today. We see Cumberland in the distance. It is time to finish the day.