Thursday, June 02, 2011

Bike Touring (Torture) Part 1

Well, we did it! We biked nearly 400 miles from Cumberland, Maryland to Oberlin, Ohio. For professional bike touring folks (like my husband and son), 400 miles is their warm up, but whoo heee! 400 miles is a long ways on a bike. I wasn't sure if my knees could handle the million or more rotations on the pedals but I had a backup plan, an out, an escape, plan B, if I wanted to bail. Also, Delfest was on for the Memorial Day weekend in Cumberland and I could always rent a car and drive back to the bluegrass festival and enjoy the music with a cold wine relaxing in a lawn chair and eating funnel cakes.

But I had bought this cool new riding jacket, had my panniers packed with sleeping bag, sleeping pad, tent poles, clothes, stuff, food, more stuff and two knitting projects (I left my jewelry behind except for a pair of lightweight earrings....I know, I can hardly believe it either!) I was ready to roll!

Tami was way more macho with four panniers and carried more stuff than me. She's tougher though, and 6 years younger and lives in Alaska.

Starting out on the Great Allegany Passage (GAP) trail, we traveled through a few tunnels...

sometimes a bit dark, but the longer ones have lights.

The Eastern Continental Divide is about 23 miles uphill from Cumberland. It was a good test to see if we could actually haul our butts, bike and gear up hills. We were lucky that it was really cool during most of the trip. This recent 95 degree weather would have left me panting, whining and possibly crying under the table at the campsites. 

 But our campsites were mostly great. The first night we stayed at 'Husky Haven', near Rockwood, Maryland, about 45 miles in. Camped next to us were 2 dads, 2 boys and their dog, Cooper, a weinheimer. That dog had gone 30 miles that day, another 30 to go the next day, then back 60 miles. I thought this was way to far for a dog to run, so hopefully they would put him on their little trailer for some of the time. He did seem to be in great shape though.

One of the camps was right next to Dravo Cemetery. Isn't that just the greatest name for a cemetery? Sounds all spooky and zombie-like. We set up camp, the mist rose but as far as I could tell, no zombies came out to grab us.

I do have a thing for cemeteries though. I love the headstones, the quiet, the stories and memories that the people buried there had in their lifetime. Most of the stones were so old (or so washed away with acid rain) that I couldn't read who was laid to rest there. 'Laid to rest', that's quite the saying as we were 'laid to rest' in our little dome tent.

After the first two days, I was beginning to think that yep, I could do this. My legs barely hurt (except for that stupid twinge in my knee), the trail had leveled out and the weather was beautiful.  A female turkey (hen) ran in front of us for a ways. She ran very funny, with her legs going out sideways a bit and wandering all over the trail. We encouraged her to use her wings, but she just loped on ahead of us until she ran into some brush, stopped and watched us pass, panting.

I was 'tuned' in most of the time. Houston had set me up with his I-pod touch and yippee-i-yo-ki-ya, I do love that thing! I never ran out of music or 'This American Life' or 'The Bugle'. When I was feeling a bit draggy, I would put on my 'Go Speed Racer!' set (like this one excuse the lyrics) or (this one). I could ride like the wind, well, if the wind went like 19 miles an hour. I do love the music.

 The trail passes through a few small villages, with houses right on the pathway. Jason Weir had a lemonade stand set up right on the way.

 What made this lemonade stand special was that
1. it had a circle of brightly colored chairs in case there were a number of folks who just wanted to sit around, drink lemonade and chat
2. Jason had made a sign out front advertising his stand: Stop on by the Jason Weir Lemonade Stand, Lemonade - 25 cents.
3. Jason had ICE!
4. but the real humdinger was the boom box playing happy music to drink lemonade by. It was plugged into a long extension cord coming from his house across the street.
5. Jason's math wasn't too good because he charged us $2.00 for two lemonades which we happily paid so he could reinvest in his business.

He had a sometimes partner too, his sister Mia. Rotsa ruck kids!

 Because of all the rain, there was way more water near the trail. The last time I rode this, there were fewer waterfalls and the streams weren't so rushing. So beautiful. I love riding the GAP because it feels like backpacking through the woods except it's much faster and my back doesn't hurt.

 Loved this old bike. The for sale sign had a little hand scrawled message, "Needs paint job."

 Along with the enclosed canopy of trees and the flower-lined path, the trail opens up to some amazing views. It was nice to stop occasionally to have a nibble and rest the legs.

 Because we needed those legs to get up to the camp at Ohiopyle. I wrote about this camp before and the hike-a-bike up hasn't gotten any easier in those few months. Phew! We decided they should have an escalator or a tow rope.

We finally made it to the top, set up camp, then had to ride another f'in' mile uphill to the office to pay!

It looks like I ordered take out (and don't think we hadn't thought about it!) but obviously no one delivers takeout at the camp. But we did ride down the gravelly hill with no panniers (yay!) and had us a fine meal in town. You'd think I could finish a huge plate of rich pasta after biking all day, but I wanted to save some for breakfast, and forego the oatmeal for one morning.

 The Youghigheny River was raging. When I was there last October, we sat on rocks and watched the water cascade gently over the falls. la, la, la. But this time it was forceful, loud and powerful. This wedding party posed in front of the falls.

 How cute!

 And I loved her dress!

 Dude here was getting a shot of them too.

 The first five days of biking were cool and crisp. Can't believe how lucky we were, especially since these last few days have been over 95 and humid.

 When I was all layered up, Alaska Girl chose to bike sleeveless.

Our favorite part of the trail was from Ohiopyle to Connellsville. The trail follows the Yough River, where it's wild and beautiful, the mountains are covered in mountain laurel, rhododendron, waterfalls and wildflowers. We had smiles from ear to ear.  Part 2 to follow.


Diane Eskritt said...

I admire you sooooo much. Your talent with color and your versatility in the great outdoors. WOW!

ginger said...

WOW, what fantastic pictures!!!
What an adventure!!
You go girl!!!