Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Setting up for the real work

Rockwood, PA on the Great Allegheny Passage Trail to Ohiopyle on the GAP. 34 miles of riding (and hiking) in 2:20 hrs.

Made it a cupcake day today, not only due to the fact that my logistics really begin here, but also due to Judy’s “not getting any better” lumbar back.
Had a very rainy night of camping last eve, with a constant drizzle all evening long. We huddled in the van listening Labone-head and the Heat get beat in the B-ball game, and then hit the hay. With the sandblasting that I’d gotten that day, and all the rain in the evening I was expecting a rotten day to ride for Wed – and another solid douching of sand for the day. Woke up to about 55 degrees, and man was it feeling cold. We didn’t even want to leave the sleeping bags, but with Judy’s coffee Jones occurring like clockwork each and every morning when she awakes, I knew my fire starting job lay just minutes away.
Once we got some hot coffee down the hatch – and put on a bunch of warm clothing – we were ready to look at the day. And amazingly enough the cloud cover was breaking and the day was really looking awesome. So got the camp broke down, went back to the hospitality place to work for a bit and put my soaking wet cloths – I showered last night and washed my cycling kit and shoes at the same the get all the freaking sand out of them – into a dryer. I’ll tell you, it’s crazy how much silt and sand are in the van right now after yesterday’s ride. I mean the stuff is just everywhere from me moving around. And hell, I’d taken a shower, me and my kit and shoes, only about 15 min after I finished riding, and I still got the stuff on seats, the floor, pots and pans, water bottles – everywhere!
Got on the trail at 9 AM and planned to meet Judy at Confluence, PA – about a 23-mile ride – that due to a detour that made the trail a bit longer than advertised. Judy is working at getting to know maps better, so I’m having her map out the car travel from place to place and then I double check to see if it’s the route that I mapped out. She’s doing well. Big part is to get her to recognize the smaller state and county routes on the gazetteers – it’s pretty easy to miss a road turning into this tiny SR or C route.
Got it rolling with my cycling jacket on due to the temp, and it was just a glorious day, with the sun blazing amidst these cotton ball clouds. Now I was shaded on the trail, so the cycling was cool to say the least, but damn – NO RAIN! And the trail was pretty dry considering how much it rained on Tuesday. Just had a bit of sand and limestone were being kicked up by my mt bike tires, but not enough to be a nuisance. Got to this magnificent span of bridge over the Casselman River. Had to be like a quarter mile across – on wood!! So no bike-a-hike. There were a few cyclist there checking out the view as I did. Pretty impressive stuff. So got going for about five min and then out of nowhere these two guys come up on me. Ok, so I’ve gone through this gig before with you about getting passed by other cyclists. Yes, it’s a bitter pill to swallow no matter what your circumstances. Now my typical thinking is that no one with hair on their legs, handlebar bags, mirrors… and most of all people wearing stars and strips jerseys and World Championship jerseys, I will go into oxygen debt not to let these people pass me.
So anyway these were thru riders on the bridge I’d been at, and they fit several of the categories that I detailed above – hairy legs, massive panniers and bike mirrors. I was doing a nice clip at that time, like about 16 mph, traveling on a rain-softened trail, and working pretty steadily to keep even that pace with no gear at all. And these guys blew by me at like 18 mph. I did a double take cuz they were fully loaded. And I’m like, what’s the deal here, am I going too freaking slow for you? I’ve ridden fully loaded many a time and I would just crack at that pace and on that terrain. So I silently clicked down a gear and road back up to them, matching the pace.
The lead guy asked where I was headed, and I replied Oregon. Then he asked “where’s that?” I replied, “the west coast.” Now I could tell with his talking that he was definitely feeling the effort. So I encouraged him to talk a bit more, where they were from, where they went, how far they’re riding each day. Nice guy and man, he was doing pretty well riding a fully loaded rig at that pace. So I clicked down one gear and picked the pace up ever so slightly. The dude did his best but no way riding a rig fully loaded to keep it rolling on wet sand at that speed. He pulled in behind me and then I ended up just TT’ing the final eight miles to Confluence. Hey, just for shits and giggles I guess?
Did a quick bpj sandwith from Judy and then finished the final 11 miles to Ohilpyle. And man, what a difference this place is from the last time I was here – I mean it’s really built up with outfitters, bike shops, stores, gift shops. I didn’t even recognize it. Thus begins the really hard part of the trip – navigating. I had Judy rest at a parking area right on the trail by the river while I went to hunt down maps and local knowledge. Went to several shops for usgs maps and a county map but nothing. Then I rode to a park office and the guys suggested that I try one of the local outfitters for a local perspective. So I did just that and landed the Laurel Highlands River Tours shop, and was turned on to a young fellow by the name of Patrick. Now this kid had a wealth of knowledge on the terrain from here all the way to Morgantown, WV. And he gave me so much information that I was about to have my head explode, so I told him that the beer is on me for just 1-2 hrs of his time with him looking over my digitized maps and gazetteers. He said he would.
So this worked out pretty well. I’m hoping to meet with him this eve and go over the maps. In the meantime I got a Yurt for the evening in the state park for Judy to relax in a bed – for 39 bucks a night with electricity! Amazing deal for sure.
Met with Patrick in his office around 7 PM back at the Laurel Highlands River Tours. And this is the kind of beta that is just going to be crucial to making this trip successful – getting road information from the locals. Pat was super gracious in sitting down and giving me a road by road link to get me to the Mon River Trail north of Morgantown. He used a google map screen on his desktop to show me a road at a time on how to make the route flow west. Now it’s not total gravel roads, but he seems to think I can link with “gravel berm” rides in conjunction with some pretty remote gravel roads – a couple unnamed. So I feel like this destination was the way to go to link over to West Virginia and the Mon and North Bend trails. Pat also thinks I can do this particular link in about a day of riding. If so – awesome. If not I can easily spend another day making the link go and not feel too bad about it.
So that’s the story from Ohiopyle. I’ll get up early tomorrow and map everything for Judy and I and we’ll see what we can do. Right now we’re chilling on our Yurt and listening to the Spurs-Thunder game on ESPN internet radio on my cell phone with mini-speakers. The set-up is pretty sweet. Great reception out here – 3G! So the internet reception is fantastic in Ohiopyle.
And a final plug for Laurel Highlands River Tours: After I talked with Patrick about the route we chatted about what we do. And this kid – young man – has paddled all over the world, on what seem to be some pretty remote and wild rivers. He and his family have a 60-year history of river running down here in Ohiopyle. This guy knows his stuff for sure. So anyway, I know if I ever give this river running stuff a go, I’ll start here with these guys. I love to talk to people who have a passion for the outdoors and their field of expertise. And Patrick certainly fits that bill for kayaking! Thanks again Patrick.
Talk to you all tomorrow about the next day of adventure riding……..pete

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