Oh My! What a Gone of Bears! (USA Day 14)


The plan for the morning was to break camp and cycle to the first town that we’d hit on the C&O Trail: Hancock. There we’d sit in a café, charge all our devices and eat some hot food before getting on with the remaining 40-or-so miles to our camp. An easy day, all round.

Hancock was weird. Our big mistake was to settle in a Hardees, which served truly awful sandwiches and had no plugs. Luckily, I charmed a waitress enough to charge my laptop behind the counter, then set up my solar panel for some measly volts while we drunk refillable coffee and waited out the hottest hours.

Before continuing on the C&O, we stocked up at the local Dollar General. As Amy waited outside she was immediately beset upon, as she is every time, by a well-meaning but ultimately unpleasant man. Today’s offering was a haggard bloke in a tatty plaid shirt, with a huge beard that yellowed around his mouth. Calling himself ‘Skateboard Freddie’, he went on to make a number of truly remarkable claims within the space of about three minutes. Here are just a few of them:

  1. His shoes were given to him by Michael Jordan

  2. He was close friends with Billy Idol and ACDC

  3. Tony Hawk taught him to skateboard, and he was ranked 23rd in the world at one point

  4. He had six million dollars in his bank account

  5. He painted Buckingham Palace in two days (usually takes two weeks)

  6. His family came over on the Mayflower

  7. His father designed the Family Dollar building that they were stood outside

  8. Trump is the most intelligent president America’s ever had.

Once I’d emerged with our provisions, Freddie offered us both a hit of vodka (which we refused) and made his excuses to leave. Truly amazing to meet such a talented, renowned individual in the parking lot of a Family Dollar.


The second half of the day was mainly filled with a world-class round of Cat eats Mouse (150 links, at least) until, during a routine break for cookies and water, we heard an ominous grunting coming from the surrounding woods. Our minds instantly flicked to ‘BEAR!’ and we engaged anti-bear protocols, speaking loudly, stomping about, no sharp movements, get the hell out of there. We cycled like our padded shorts were on fire, Amy glancing back in terror between bursts of overly-loud meaningless babble, me singing Jet’s inane hit ‘Are You Gonna Be My Girl?’ repeatedly to any large mammal who’d listen. Even at the time, we were pretty confident it was a stag or something: we’ve seen so many deer on this trail it’s barely worth pointing them out anymore. But the noise was enough to make us super twitchy, so as we approached the endlessly-long and worryingly-dark Pawpaw tunnel we assumed that, too, was a bear, or at least contained a bear.

By the time we arrived at our primitive campsite, about twenty miles from the end of the trail, we were thoroughly spooked. The lovely couple who’d camped across from us yesterday were there too, having covered the same number of miles as us, and re-assured us that bears around here just weren’t going to stick around to charge at humans, and not to worry. (They then went on to remind us never to leave food in our tents to avoid large and hungry night-time visitors, so clearly they are still a consideration.)

Anyway, as the light dusting of rain turned to a downpour, we tried to sleep amid the croaking of many frogs, one of which sounded distinctly like a bear. So it turns out we spent the afternoon fleeing a frog. How was your day?

Today: 57 Miles

Total: 376 Miles