Posts Tagged ‘C&O Canal Towpath’

An Early Retirement Gift to Myself

I recently completed thirty years of service with the Federal government and became eligible to retire.  And although I am not retiring quite yet, I decided to buy myself an anniversary gift to celebrate the milestone.  And when I saw this bike on eBay I knew what the gift to myself should be.

The newest addition to my collection of bikes is a Surly Disc Trucker.  Surly‘s Long Haul Trucker (LHT) enjoys a reputation as one of the best riding and most value-packed touring bikes out there.  It’s been around long enough to be tested in the real world, in all kinds of places, with all kinds of loads on all kinds of roads.  My 2012 Surly Disc Trucker is an LHT but upgraded with disc brakes to provide a bit more braking performance than the standard rim-brakes that the LHT provides.  Other features of this bike include:  thicker-walled and larger-diameter 4130 CroMoly steel frame tubing than standard sport-touring frames;  a longer wheelbase than you’ll find on a road or hybrid bike, making for maximum stability, comfort and responsive handling under load, and all the braze-ons you could want, from rack mounts to water bottle cage bosses to spare spoke holders.  And the componentry includes:  a Cane Creek 40, 1-1/8˝ threadless black headset;  a Shimano UN-55 square taper interface; a 68 x 118mm bottom bracket;  a Shimano Sora FD-3403 silver front derailleur and Shimano XT RD-M771 rear derailleur; an Andel RSC6, 26/36/48t. square taper interface crankset, and; a Shimano HG-50, 11/12/14/16/18/21/24/28 /32t cassette.  Finally, and with all due respect to Surly’s limited factory available colors of Super Dark Green or Blacktacular, the color of this bike has also been upgraded to custom powder-coated Hi-Vis Neon Yellow.  Combined with matching Deda bar tape and Hi-Vis yellow Ortlieb waterproof front and back panniers, the bike will be almost impossible not to see when I’m out touring.

And going on occasional long-distance bike tours is something I’m looking forward to doing after I retire.  I’ve already planned and mapped out a few different bike tours I will be doing.  One is a tour of the lighthouses of the Outer Banks of North Carolina, which would involve riding from north to south down the coast, and then looping back around on the mainland and ending up back at the northern-most lighthouse again.  I also will being doing a tour of the Great Alleghany Passage and C&O Canal Towpath, a 336-mile route without any cars or motor vehicles that connects Pittsburgh with D.C.  Along the way it also allows riders to take in a number of small historic towns, state parks and other attractions along the way.  A bike tour along the lower coast of Florida on down to Key West is also on my list.

While there are plenty of other bike tours I would also like to do here in the United States, I would also like to do a bike tour across Northern Spain.  The route there is called El Camino de Santiago.  Also referred to in English as The Way of Saint James, it is a network of spiritual pilgrimages leading to the shrine of the apostle Saint James the Greater in the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Galicia.

It’s been a long journey to get to the point of being eligible to retire.  And I look forward to more journeys in the future.

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William O. Douglas Statue

William O. Douglas Statue

Nominated by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, William Orville Douglas was confirmed as an Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court at the age of 40, becoming one of the youngest justices appointed to the court. His subsequent tenure on the court lasted over 36 years, making his the longest term in the history of the Supreme Court. Douglas also holds a number of other records, including for the most decisions, for making more speeches than any other Justice, and for sidebar productivity.  Douglas also holds the record among Justices for having had the most wives (four) and the most divorces (three) while on the bench.

However, it was not for his judicial career, but rather his environmental legacy, that a statue of Douglas was erected near the Chesapeake and Ohio (C&O) Canal and Towpath where it intersects with 30th Street (MAP) in the Georgetown neighborhood of northwest D.C. It was this statue that was the destination of this lunchtime bike ride.

Douglas was a self-professed outdoorsman, and wrote prolifically on his love of the outdoors. His love for the environment was so strong that it even carried through to his judicial reasoning. For example, in his dissenting opinion in the 1972 landmark environmental law case entitled Sierra Club verses Morton, Justice Douglas famously argued that “inanimate objects” such as “alpine meadows, rivers, lakes, estuaries, beaches, ridges, groves of trees, swampland, or even air” should have the legal standing to sue in court. In addition to his opinions and dissenting opinions, he also wrote some thirty books.

While serving as a Supreme Court Justice, Douglas also served on the Board of Directors of the Sierra Club from 1960 to 1962. Douglas’ other environmental activities and credentials include hiking the entire 2,000 miles of the Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Maine, helping to launch the nation’s first law review dedicated solely to environmental issues, and swaying his fellow justices on the court to preserve the Red River Gorge in eastern Kentucky when a proposal to build a dam and flood the gorge reached the court. In fact, based on Douglas’ activism in advocating for the preservation and protection of natural areas and resources across the country, he was given the nickname “Wild Bill.”

But perhaps his best known contribution as an environmentalist was his role in helping to save the C&O Canal Towpath, and inspiring its subsequent designation as a National Park. He was at his D.C. home one morning in 1954 when he read a Washington Post editorial backing a plan to build a highway over or along the historic canal. Incensed, Douglas issued a challenge to the Post editorial writers to walk with him the entire length of the canal, and then decide whether it should be preserved. His efforts convinced the editorial board to change its stance, and helped save the canal.

After that, in the 1960s and early 1970s, Douglas and his wife Cathleen “Cathy” Douglas, whom he married when she was 22 and he was 67, would go for hikes along the canal every Sunday morning. Douglas was also known to take solitary walks on the towpath “when he wanted to think deeply about a case” before the court. Today, five million people a year visit the canal, making it the ninth most popular park in the U.S.