Mesa to Pitt 2015

Mesa to Pitt 2015

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

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

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