Mesa to Pitt 2015

Mesa to Pitt 2015
Mesa to OBX

Friday, July 18, 2014

Bicycling from Franklin to Punxsutawney, via the Allegheny River Trail and the Sandy Creek Trail. June 25

June 25.....72 miles in 6:36....I woke up to torrential, nonstop rain, and I rode it out as long as I could, before I made the decision to ride on a rainy, cool day, rather than wait for a sunny, hot, and humid day.  After some distress on my last ride in the heat, I figured the rain would actually work to my benefit as I would have some juice left for the two days following this one, that promise to be mountainous marathons.
After riding into town, and hooking up with the Allegheny River Trail, the next 28 miles were all on asphalt trails that were reclaimed from old railroad lines. What a huge difference from the Montour Trail in Pittsburgh, which is packed pea gravel. If these trails would have been swampy, I may have sunk in the mud. The rain was relentless, very heavy at times, just heavy at others. The clouds were low in the hollows I was following, and the trees were heavy with their full leaves weighed down by the rain. The Allegheny River was muddy and rushing near flood stage, with the streams and run offs from the hills running at full capacity. I rode through over wash after over wash that ran across the trail as they made their way down to the river, and later, to Sandy Creek. I had to stop three times to climb over fallen trees, and the deepest stream I rode through was probably six inches. In retrospect, the miserable day was really quite unique in its challenges and scenery, and it was enjoyable. My gear stayed pretty dry, because I have giant, heavy duty zip lock bags that hold everything I have with me. It was too warm to wear rain gear, so my lightweight orange jacket and shorts did just fine. Somewhere along the Allegheny, the Sandy Creek Trail crosses the river and runs perpendicular to the river trail, away from the river, up Sandy Creek Hollow. The most difficult part of the day occurred when I had to get the bike up a switchback set of soaking wet, mossy, slippery wooden steps, which climbed about thirty feet. There was a wooden slope for wheeling a bike as you walked up, but it was so steep, and my bike was packed so top heavy in the back that the front wheel popped straight up and caused me to slip backwards, every step of the way. I ended up just carrying it as I negotiated the stairs. I guess the rail to trail people didn't see fit to put an elevator out there in the middle of nowhere. Once on the Sandy Creek Trail, I went through a really neat (read dark, wet, slippery) train tunnel, where the air temperature was at least 10-15 degrees cooler than outside. I also saw a sleek, black animal that could have been a mink, or a weasel. He was the highlight amongst the deer, toads, salamanders, and rabbits that populated the trails. 
The trailhead emptied me out on US 322 as the rain became intermittent, but everything stayed soaked, and the drainage was running full blast. The road was smooth, with nice shoulders. I hopscotched from town to town as US322 rolled up and down with great consistency. Small towns like Shippenville, Clarion, (the Clarion River was flowing calmly and clearly, like the rain had no great effect this short distance from  Franklin), Strattonville, on to Brookville. At Brookville, which had a sweet, historical, flag lined Main Street, PA 36 turned off of US322 to the south, headed towards Punxutawney. There was no rain by this point, but it was cool enough for comfort, with wet roads, and heavily flowing drainage. PA36 was relentless, with hill after hill, helping me achieve 5226 ft of ascent. This road was also smooth, nicely shouldered, with less traffic than 322. When I got into Punxutawney, I discovered that the ground hog statues were still everywhere, but the famous downtown motel that I stayed in last time was closed, with pending legal action. The motel was made famous by the movie Groundhog Day, with Bill Murray. When I stayed there last time I stayed on the same floor as the Bill Murray Suite, but I had a cheaper, smaller room. Very old with historical charm. This time, I had to climb a mile long hill out of town on US119, towards Indiana, PA, to find the towns only operating motel. It was reasonably priced, across the street from a Walmart and a Pizza Hut, so it was Pizza Hut for supper, where I ate an entire large pizza. I saw the days'  first piece of blue sky as I rode into town, but the skies opened up for one final deluge as I unlocked the motel room door. It was great timing , after a surprisingly nice day of riding in rain, and under cloud cover.

Looking from the Sandy River Trail Bridge, down on the Allegheny River Trail (after climbing up the slippery stairs)

Sandy River Trail Bridge

The swollen Allegheny River

Views from inside the tunnel

View from inside the tunnel

Raging water flowing off a hill

Downed tree on the Sandy River Trail

Muddy drainage across the trail

More downed trees on the trail

Roseville!  No relation!

Everyone has heard of it, few have been there!

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Being Pap for a day June 24

It was a great day to be a grandfather. We had some baseball time, some basketball time, some time in the pool, some indoor time while it was raining, some time to check out the tow truck that was at a minor wreck in front of Andi's house, and still had time for lunch and naps. My legs felt very sluggish when I woke up, but improved as the day went along. Humidity was high and it rained off and on, so it was a good day to be Pap, and let my legs get it together.
Speaking of getting it together, I took my bike to town, and stopped at Country Pedalers, a bike shop right on the bike trail that runs along the river. He fixed my broken spoke, and told me it was a miracle that the wheel survived without permanent damage. The clunking noise was a pedal that was shaking loose, and it was a simple fix with an Allen wrench. Twenty dollars later my bike was good as new, and ready to tackle a mountainous ride to Punxsutawney tomorrow.

The Country Pedalers bike shop

Pap with Carter - who is showing off his band aid on his thumb

Pap with Chase

Chase and Carter

Chase wearing his Bryce Canyon shirt (we bought that.....)

Carter in the pool

Chase chillin in the cabana float

Carter chillin out

Carter and Andi

Chase hugging the beach ball while floating in his cabana float

Eating out on the deck!

"What?  No more food???"

Bicycling Morain State Park, then from Slippery Rock PA to Franklin PA(the scenic route) June 23

June 23....62.14 in 6:13...The last time I did this trip, it was only 36.7 miles, so I got it in my head to do some exploring. Just past the motel, there is a side road and a sign that says 'Morain State Park---5 miles', that I have always wondered about but never explored. I didn't think it would be a hard day so I went for the bait. Twenty three miles later, I rolled into Slippery Rock. It was, indeed five miles to the entrance to the park, south, paralleling I-79 through country corn fields, on a small, back road. From the entrance, there were six miles of  beautiful bike trails, along the lake, mostly running downhill, to a nice beach, that you can actually see from I-79, if you know where to look. I stopped at the beach and had a gator aid, before heading a different way to get to Slippery Rock. GPS girl took me out in the country, over Mt Union, which was a significant climb from the low elevation of the lake, and I rode my brakes down the narrow, beat up road, down the other side, but still hit 45 mph.
Once in Slippery Rock, I stopped by the SRU Pole vault camp, where our son Buddy was an instructor. I stayed for about an hour and watched the proceedings, until the camp broke for lunch. Then, I made the biggest mistake of the day, which was complicated by a GPS that was confused about my destination. The mistake was taking the GPS route, instead of the route I knew. Somewhere along the line, the GPS destination changed from Franklin to a Holiday Inn Express in Oil City. How the hell that happened, I will never know. The GPS took me off of PA 8, which was my main course of travel last time, onto a side road. Ok, I thought, because PA8 is pretty busy, and I thought I would go on a country road. What happened next was just a comedy of stupid road tricks, hollow hopping, GPS signal loss, 9% grades, desolation, cows and cornfields, gravel roads, mud roads, lack of water, and growing frustration when I realized I was headed to Oil City, not Franklin. The mileage was building on what I thought would be an easy day, and I did most of my 5079 ft of climbing on the constant rollers as I jumped across hollows, in a very primitive, desolate, backwoods section of Pennsylvania. At some point I rolled down a really long, steep, hill, to a creek, surrounded by three huge hills. Down in that valley, my GPS lost signal, which it never did anywhere out west that I can remember, and I had to guess.....left or right?
With my penchant for being wrong on anything 50/50, I guessed left when I should have guessed right. Right would have taken me downstream, to the Allegheny River, which I would have followed into Franklin, I think. Left, took me up a monster climb, right to PA 8, along a stretch of four lane highway, which it was very familiar with, as it was the main drag into Franklin. This unnecessary climb, plus the next monster on old Rt. 8, really kicked my butt, as heat and humidity were building, fatigue from two big days after not being in my best shape, combined with all the climbing really drained me. Not only that, but somewhere on those back roads, probably on the gravel or when I hit some big bump with my brakes on, a spoke broke on my back wheel because of all the weight in my panniers on the bad roads, on spokes that had 20,000 miles on them. The wheel gradually became more and more wobbly with every rotation, until it was rubbing brake pads for a majority of each rotation. Also, Allen wrench screws that were holding my pedals on the bike, began to shake loose, making a big 'clunk! ' in each stroke I took. Things were really beginning to suck, for the lack of a better word. My wheel probably should have blown apart as I flew down the two mile long hill into Franklin and the Allegheny River Valley, but it didn't. The final insult was a mile long hill heading out of the town to Andi's house. At the steepest point, I got off the bike and walked it for a quarter to half mile. Absolutely an unthinkable, unprecedented, humiliating, disgusting, and absolutely necessary turn of events. 
I hobbled into Andi's driveway and sat on a step, trying to regroup, before knocking on the door. As I sat there, Andi came around the corner of the house with Carter, and Chase, the reasons for my great northwest Pennsylvania adventure. The rest of the evening was wonderful, as the grand kids took my mind off my fatigue, as they warmed right up to me and made the whole trip worthwhile.

Buddy "pushing a vaulter thru" at SRU vault camp

Buddy demonstrating a proper "press"

Mr Personality at the SRU pole vault camp

70 vaulters at 4 pits, simultaneously

Pole drills on the field

Farmer humor (I think) near Franklin

Hairy Pennsylvania cow near Franklin

Gravel roads that GPS girl put Mike on....

Amish country

Bicycling from Houston, PA to Slippery Rock, PA June 22

June 22......78.75 miles in 6:56.....This is the third time I've done this ride, the second time in this direction. The ride took mostly the same course as the ride from Andi's house to home on May 12. There were differences that were interesting, however. I plugged in the GPS from the second I started pedaling, just to see where I would go. Within the first six miles of my ride I was on roads that I may have never been on in my life, and I've lived in this area for 30 years. That truly demonstrates to me that GPS takes you to the most desolate, out of the way 'safest' roads it can possibly find, at the expense of mileage, accessibility to a store or rest stop, and even to much civilization. It just takes you 'out there ', somewhere. After those six miles, I connected with the Montour Trail, right where I left off, on the ride from Andi's. The next 23 miles were on a gravel pack trail. It was a boring start to the ride, even though there were plenty of people out on a Sunday morning, getting their exercise. There wasn't anyone that looked like they were touring, except me, loaded down as I was with panniers full of all I hoped I would use for the next two weeks, give or take a few days. The trail ends in Coraopolis, and I rode up PA 51, which would normally be congested as it goes through a 'downtown' area. I expected to cross the Ohio River on the Sewickly Bridge, as I had done before, but GPS girl took me further up , (which is actually down) the Ohio, to the Aliquippa/Ambridge Bridge, which I didn't know existed. Then it was climbing out of the Ohio River Valley on some back roads, past a junkyard and up some short, intense hills to Zelienople. From there, GPS girl took me on a pretty neat route that went out past Seneca Valley High School, and along some streams with nice, shady, rolling green terrain, and no traffic, or civilization, even though I could sporadically see and hear Interstate 79. Eventually I crossed under 79, and out onto US 19, which was my route on the previous rides. It's hilly ( I climbed about 3900 feet for the trip)  and pretty busy, but that stretch only lasted 6 miles.
I knew that PA 108 from US 19 was sort of a nasty road with steep rollers, short sight distances, no shoulders, and crazy drivers, but GPS girl took care of that for me. She put me on a back road that was pleasant and took care of some bad areas on 108. I popped out on 108 with just a few miles to go to the Evening Star Motel. The most famous, and until recently the only motel in Slippery Rock. It's too far from town to walk in for supper but it's right next to a Dairy Queen. I proceeded to have a DQ fest that evening- mushroom Swiss burger, fries, banana split, 2 chili cheese dogs, and a cheeseburger sufficiently replace the calories that I burned off today.  A $49 motel room also went down pretty well. I walked off my sore legs by checking out Slippery Rock Campground, which you can see from I-79, but I had never really visited.

Farm 4 miles from our house that I never knew existed.  Thanks to GPS girl navigation

AKA the No Tell Motel!!!!

The Roses are Rambling Again! June 21

After six weeks in Washington County, dealing with issues and dilemmas, both expected and unexpected, the window of opportunity for a summer in North Carolina finally has opened. The plan was for Pam to pack the Jeep to the gills and roll southbound, and for me to duplicate a trip I have bicycled before. First, north to Venango County and Franklin, PA, to visit my daughter, Andi, her husband Ben, and our only grandchildren, Carter, 2 years old, and Chase, who just turned 1. Then, after a visit, off through the Allegheny Mountains to visit my oldest daughter, Jamie, and her boyfriend, David, and nephew, Anthony, in Hagerstown, MD. Then, make a bee line to the Outer Banks for the summer and early fall.
The six weeks at home were busy, and we got a lot accomplished. We spent the time living in the motor home, not in our house. It was easier than moving everything into the house, only to pack up again. Our original plan was not to be there six weeks, but events conspired to keep us in town until things were squared away to our satisfaction. Staying in the RV also allowed Buddy the freedom and independence he deserves and has become accustomed to. We spent the first three weeks or so parked in the parking lot at Freightliner Trucking Co., dry camping for free, taking great advantage of our solar panels that we bought in Quartzite, Arizona, and showering and the such at home. They inspected the RV and allowed us to stay there until we decided it was time to move on. The second half of our stay was spent on our property in Claysville, in the yard next to our storage building. Once again, we dry camped, and enjoyed the serenity of a small town while we got some work done at the building.
Time was spent cleaning out our basement at home, the garage at home, both the loft and the workbench in the main area. We also cleaned out a 40 ft trailer where I was storing my parents and grandparents possessions until we could have a few sales. National Pike Days provided the perfect opportunity to sell most of the stuff, and a day at Trader Jacks Flea Market the next weekend got rid of a lot more. I also took three or four pickup trucks full of scrap metal  to the salvage yard. Overall, the cleanup was pretty profitable, and the much needed chore was complete before I started to scrape, prime and paint the metal roof on the storage building. It was a huge job, more than I expected, to scrape, pressure wash and put two coats on a 4800 square foot roof, dodging rainy days, and tolerating sunny, hot days on a metal roof. Actually, the job never got finished, because with most of the work done, except for most of the final coat, I fell off the roof, or ladder, or something, and endured a few days in the hospital in Wheeling while my bell stopped ringing. I don't remember a thing, so I missed the fall, and a ride in the E car (ambulance.) memory began to return the the trauma unit, but I have no idea what happened. Pam found me, unconscious, at the base of the building, covered in red paint, which was the color of the final coat. She called the rescue squad, which was located just across the street, and after considering life flight, decided on going to the trauma center at OVGH in Wheeling. I didn't know that Washington Hospital was not equipt to handle injuries like mine, so we didn't go there. I had a pretty beat up head, stitches on my leg, and bruises and cuts all over my body, but no permanent damage. I think I'm lucky I didn't die, or become crippled. But anyhow, the roof will be finished by a pro, and I'm grounded. 
The last detail that we had to deal with was getting the garage door opening enlarged, and a new garage door installed, so we could store the RV, which is about six inches taller than the old one. The door had to be ordered, and that took a few weeks, but the work was done as quickly as possible, and the day after it was completed, we pulled the RV in, and it was time to ride.
In the six weeks we were home, I only rode about 13 times, not even totaling 350 miles,(346.6) with a long ride of 53 miles. My legs lost some conditioning, but they are fresh, and the trip to the Outer Banks will take us back to the point where the great adventure started, and complete the Atlantic to Pacific and back route.

Somehow the ladder got twisted during Mike's fall

The scene of the crime!  The red on the grass is where Mike landed.  We aren't sure if he fell from the roof or while he was transitioning from the ladder to the roof....  we do know that when he fell, he hit the trailer and then the ground.  

Our new garage door!!!

Our pretty girl fits!!!  She now gets a much deserved rest before we hit the road again.

Arthur can't keep us down!

July 4 - I just wanted to send a quick post for all our friends and family who have been worrying about us. Mike just got down to the obx on Wednesday and we evacuated our Hatteras Island campground beach home on Thursday morning.  We drove an hour inland to the lovely town of Edenton to "hunker down"!  We are now waiting for word on our trailer and for word that we can get back on the island. Hopefully tomorrow.

I know our motorhome is happily sitting in our storage building and thanking us for leaving her behind in Pittsburgh!

Stay tuned for more info and Mike's stories about his bike ride to the obx 

Outer bands of Arthur moving in