Welcome

I am a cyclist, genealogist, soccer referee, grandfather (x5), and cancer survivor. And I have ridden 72,000* miles cancer-free.

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I have included the names, and in some cases, photos of others I have met in my journey. If you are mentioned and do not want to be, kindly contact me and I can change that.

Enjoy the blog. If you would like to know more about me, click my About Me page.

*72,000 miles as of Sept. 2020

Lunch with Texas Friends

LINDEN, VIRGINIA

Planning for this day began weeks ago, accelerated last week, then almost blew up today.

Welcome Texas 4000

The story can be told. It was a 3:00 a.m. wake-up call which I ignored but never really got back to sleep. I had offered to provide lunch today for the Texas 4000. With everything in place I received a text at 10:00 p.m. last night that the location I worked hard to secure would not work because the satellite view showed there was not enough room to turn their van and trailer around.

Ready to roll with a pocket full of Twizzlers

We would leave the house without knowing where we would be setting up. All of us would have to be very flexible about where we met.

Apple butter cinnamon donuts from The Apple House Restaurant

Cheri and I left home around 7 a.m. to set up the lunch stop. We were still on the road at 8:15 a.m. when I got a text that the first group was way ahead of schedule and would be in for lunch at 9:00 a.m. It was lunch because they ate at 3:30 this morning.

My Texas 4000 Stem Cap

Rather than take Interstate-66 to Linden, we took Watermill Road which is a beautiful back country road. We came upon four riders for the T4K. I have a T4K jersey and we gently passed going wide very lightly tapping repeatedly on the horn. Cheri waved the jersey out the passenger window. We heard a shriek. “That is so cool!!!”

As we continued to drive on Watermill we came upon a second group. Again, a gentle pass with a multiple light horn tap, enough to let them know we were friendly and that they should look. This time it evoked a louder reaction. Both groups would say that was a real pick-me-up as they were already on Mile 50 of a 150-mile day.

Still unsure of where we would meet them and set up lunch, we stopped at the Apple House restaurant in Linden. I would be quick and left my wife, my phone, and the keys in the car as I went inside for donuts. The manager had promised that they would donate donuts but since I was unsure of who was working, I grabbed my Texas4000 jersey as a way of explanation.

Aaliyah, the cashier, disappeared for a second and came back with donuts. I motioned for my wife to come in “but leave the car unlocked” and she did. The car power-locked behind her. A sick feeling instantly hit me.

The keys and my phone (which could unlock the car) were in the car. We were at least one hour from home and no way to get there. I hung my Texas4000 jersey on the rear of the car facing James Monroe Highway. Almost immediately Lindsey and Serena from the T4K popped in driving one support vehicle.

Texas 4000 van and trailer

Shortly thereafter the van and trailer with Adrian came into the lot. Adrian had been my point of contact the past month and we were looking forward to meeting. But I felt like crying. And all the food was locked in our car. Striking out on calling a locksmith, Aaliyah suggested calling 911. Cheri did. We only needed to have a child, pet, or life-saving medication in the car which needed extraction. So we did.

Deputy sheriffs from Warren Co., Va.

Two deputy sheriffs from Fauquier Co. showed up within 6-7 minutes. While it seemed like hours, they were able to get their super coat-hanger into car and press the unlock button.

Riding through beautiful downtown Front Royal

I went back into the restaurant and got permission to use their picnic tables. And we hurriedly started setting up.

The stop was short since the riders were on a long day. A Challenge Day they call it and today would be 150 miles and about 15,000′ of climbing. And most of the climbing was in the second half of the ride.

Austin, Kirsten, Autusa, Morgan (crashed by Barry) at the Skyline Drive entrance

Two groups came and went while the third, “The Renegades” were still on the road. What I had hoped to do initially, I finally could. I jumped on my bike and rode east for almost two miles until I found them so I could bring them in.

I rode with Austin, Autusa, Kirsten, and Morgan to the lunch stop. Once refueled, they got ready to ride. And they invited me to roll with them. I had some cleanup to do but told them to go ahead and I would catch up.

Morgan

Nothing strokes the ego of an aging cyclist more than telling college students to ride ahead and I could catch them. And I did.

Morgan told me that their hosts almost never rode with them and they really enjoyed having new people jump in. And she added, “especially a professional.” If I had milk in my mouth I would have spewed it all over her laughing.

We had to cross through a closed construction area

I was able to ride with them until their first rest stop in Shenandoah National Park on Skyline Drive. I would have ridden all day in a perfect world but my wife was up the road waiting and I wasn’t going to ask her to leap frog with the T4K all day just for more miles for me. She had done enough preparing and setting up the lunch stop.

Austin, Autusa, Kirsten, Morgan

To my new friends of the Texas4000, thank you for your fight against cancer. Be safe and godspeed as you continue your ride. #fightingcancereverymile

Trail Magic

MEYERSDALE, PENNSYLVANIA

The alarm didn’t go off. It didn’t need to. I was up at two minutes before 4:00 a.m. and decided I would drive to Pennsylvania and ride a portion of the Great Allegheny Passage Trail.

Supporters of the Big Savage Tunnel at Deal

Although I have ridden on the trail many times (all in sections except one through trip from Pittsburgh to D.C.), today would be different. I was going to provide “trail magic.”

Near Meyersdale

Trail magic occurs when people on the trail experience the magic through the kindness of a stranger. Usually, it will be food or water. But it could be a ride too. I left home and stopped in Cumberland to load up on ice. I had purchased water and snacks before and was all set.

Trailhead at Deal

I parked at Deal Road. At 7:45 a.m. I pedaled off towards Ohiopyle. My trail magic was directed at the Texas4000. Although their website indicated that they would be on the trail this day, I never ran into them. It would have been a grand gesture but just didn’t work out. Just south of Markleton I turned around to head back.

Eastern Continental Divide

Although disappointed, I was prepared for this possibility and would make the best of it. It was a beautiful day. I was on a bike. It would be a great day.

Near Meyersdale

When I had passed Rockwood there was a volunteer standing at her “welcome center.” She asked me to sign the guest book and I told her I would on the way back. So now, on my way back, I stopped and signed the book. Name. Address. Comments: “Pave it.

Salisbury Aqueduct

This trail is so nice but how much nicer would it be with a fresh coat of asphalt. I rode my gravel bike (Checkpoint) but with road tires (32s). And that was easy enough. 28s or 25s would have been OK too. But crushed limestone is a tad bit harder to pedal than asphalt. Mostly for me, it’s the dust. My water bottles were coated with fine limestone dust and it tastes gritty even if it really isn’t.

Meyersdale Station

I caught a young woman, Hannah, near Garrett. She was leaving Rockwood when I was signing the guest book and was far enough up the trail that I assumed she had jumped off at Rockwood rather than continue on the trail. I asked her where she was headed and she said the Eastern Continental Divide. I told her I was too if she would let me ride with her. She said that would be fine.

Hannah. Not sure if this was an accidental selfie but it was on my phone.

Hannah was from Cedar Rapids, Iowa, but is now living in Morgantown. She came to Ohiopyle to ride her first Century. So we talked all the way to the Continental Divide. When we turned I insisted that she stop and get some trail magic. And she was happy too. I had ICE – and the temperatures had crept up to the high 80s. I gave her a cold Gatorade to take with her as well.

Bollman Bridge

As Hannah was leaving I rode with her another four miles towards Meyersdale before wishing her the best of luck and turning around. Then I returned to the car. It was just in time as two women and a man were sharing what little water they had left. I invited them to my car for some trail magic. Ice. And water.

My car at Deal

It didn’t work out for the Texas4000 on this day (I learned they were wheels down at the ungodly hour of 5:00 a.m. and I just missed them at Deal) but it did for other complete strangers. That was fun this trail magic thing. And an added bonus. My name is on a plaque at this stop.

My name is on the plaque at Deal

___

T.J. Evans Trail

NEWARK, OHIO

I needed a place to stay returning home from Dayton, Ohio. I viewed trail maps and looked for a paved rail-trail. And I found the T. J. Evans Trail in Newark, Ohio.

Skyline Chili, Pinkerington, Ohio

After another 80-mile day on the Little Miami Scenic Trail (and hot too), I had dinner at the Skyline Chili in Pinkerton, Ohio – the same place I ate on the way out. But with the big miles behind me, instead of a large plate, I got the regular size.

Doubletree Hotel, Newark, Ohio

I drove to Newark and checked into the Doubletree Hotel and Suites. While not my usual Hilton preferred property, this one was very nice and I was glad that I stayed here. With the Tour de France ongoing, I decided I would have an early breakfast (6:30 a.m.), go for a bike ride, then shower and watch the last hour of Stage 11. This was a double ascent of the famous Mont Ventoux and was won by Wout van Aert. It was a very good stage.

Newark, Ohio

I was out wheels down at 7:38 a.m. It was a very pleasant July morning even if the humidity was a little high. I had mapped out a ride to take me to the trailhead which was four miles away. I visited the downtown area in Newark and think this city (population: 47,000) is beautiful.

TJ Evans Trail

I came to the trail and found the people on it were quite friendly. And why not? This is Ohio. The trail was quite wooded and had no significant structures.

TJ Evans Trail in Granville

In Granville, I saw a guy enter the trail just ahead of me. I was catching him and saw he was wearing a Trek jersey. Maybe I just wanted to name drop but I caught him and then asked him if he had heard of Toms Skujins.

A section of the TJ Evans Trail goes by fields near Johnstown

Ed and I talked all the way to the end in Johnstown then turned it around to come back. We chatted almost exclusively about cyclists (the Schlecks, Jens, and even Lance), as well as riding in Europe. Ed hadn’t been (yet) but his brother has many times.

Ed riding next to Raccoon Creek

Approaching Newark, Ed told me of a local hill climb and said he was riding over there next. He asked if I wanted to come along. Of course, I did. We headed over to Fern Hill Drive (Granville) and I hung back while Ed went aheead then followed at a distance. For a flat state and county there are some hills to be found. I saw 10-12% grades on the street.

Granville

As we came to the end of the trail, Ed asked if I would be interested in a different way back. I jumped at the chance. The trail took me most of the way to Newark before Ed turned around and I found my way back to the hotel.

Newark, Ohio

If you go: The T.J. Evans trail is paved and in great shape. Most of the trail is wooded. There are no great railroad structures on the trail. Given its short distance (14 miles) and lack of features, it would not be a destination trail for most people, but if you’re in the area, or traveling like I was, it’s definietely worth a ride.


Little Miami Scenic Trail

SPRINGFIELD, OHIO

The Little Miami Scenic Trail runs from Cincinnati to Springfield, Ohio. It is a 78-mile paved rail-trail and is a “destination” trail, i.e., one that you would travel to just to ride. I had ridden on parts of it before. But I had never ridden the entire length. I decided it was time to ride the entire trail.

Little Miami River – Yellow Springs

I had ridden with a friend, Bob Berberich, twice previously and I would meet him somewhere. I went to Springfield, Ohio, and stayed at the Fairfield Inn and Suites. I had scouted out restaurants in Springfield beforehand and knew they did not have a Skyline Chili but Columbus had five locations. Before arriving in Springfield, I stopped in Pinkerington for my carbo-loading.

Spaghetti, chili, and a pound of cheddar

It was 6:00 p.m. when I arrived in Pinkerington at the Skyline Chilli restaurant. Perhaps foolishly, I went for a large four-way figuring I would need all the calories I could get. It was a bit much.

This unmarked intersection is the start/finish in Springfield, Ohio

I checked into the Fairfield Inn and Suites. Very nice staff and I informed them what I was planning to do – bike to Cincinnati. They figured that might take me five days. Needless to say, they were a bit surprised and impressed when I said I would be back tomorrow. I had called ahead and asked about leaving my car for a day and they said that would be fine.

Ghost town in Springfield

Most hotels are not fully staffed to resume serving breakfast and this was no exception. However, they had oatmeal and that was enough. I also grabbed a couple Nutri-Grain bars for my pockets to fuel me on my ride.

Train station in Yellow Springs

I am not into bike-packing. I have no paniers or racks on my bike. I don’t want the extra weight. I would travel as minimal as I could. But that would mean a small backpack.

Corwin

In my small backpack, I would carry a change of clothes (shorts/t-shirt/underwear), deodorant and toothbrush, a clean cycling kit for tomorrow, and flip-flops. Sunscreen. Even then, maybe that was too much.

Caboose at Morrow

It was 69º when I rolled out at 7:52 a.m. Sunny. I had mapped out the route using RideWithGPS and sending it to my Wahoo computer unit. Of course, that would be super easy once on the trail. But the first four miles would be on city streets. Two were “main drags” while the rest were residential streets.

The Miami Trailyard – a very nice outdoor cafe in Miamiville

I came to the northern terminus of the trail. It was not marked – I just happened to know it was there. I jumped on it and went 50 meters and it was closed. Detour. The detour did not last long, also 50-60 meters and then I jumped on the trail again. This time for good. I had ridden this section before and recognized where I was.

The trail in Morrow

Once south of Springfield the trail is mostly forested with a heavy tree canopy covering the entire trail. Although not recommended, one could probably get away without applying sunscreen because of the shade.

Directional sign in Loveland

The first 20 miles to Xenia are on a wide asphalt trail. It could safely accommodate riders 2×2 in each direction. The pavement was good with barely any sections with uproots on the trail.

Little Miami River at Morrow

In this section are two towns. The first, Yellow Springs, is 10 miles from Springfield. The second is the city of Xenia at 20 miles.

Covered Bridge at Yellow Springs

In Xenia, the trail goes right through the downtown area (which is very nice). On my way south I missed the trail crossing to the other side where it became a dedicated bike lane. Somehow I did not see the bright green crosswalk.

Downtown Xenia

All trails, and there are many here in “Trail City,” lead to Xenia and Xenia Station. What a beautiful old station here. While it is great for cyclists it is sort of sad to think these trails were train tracks and were the lifeblood of this community.

Xenia

The route south of Xenia starts by entering Little Miami State Park. Here the trail becomes narrower and a little rougher. There are some rooted sections as well.

At grade railroad crossing in Loveland

Except for one lonely mile marker left behind by the railroad, there were no markers on the side of the trail. But there were large painted mile markers every half-mile. And all distances seem to be the distance from Xenia.

The only railroad mile maker remaining – Waynesville

I had planned to meet Bob for lunch at Kings Mill and was having problems finding distance charts. Finally, at Corwin, there was an information board with mile markers. (I cannot find the map online.)

Detour on the trail north of Loveland. But one could get their bike through there safely.

I saw Corwin was MM 14 and that Kings Mill was 36. With 22 miles to go, I texted Bob and told him I’d be in at 11:45 a.m. And I got there at 11:45 although I underestimated the climb and distance from the mile marker to the restaurant since my calculation was to the trail head.

Lunch – Buffalo Wings and Rings, Kings Mill

After lunch, and the temperature was up to the low 90s, I went back to the trail expecting another 20 miles or so to go. I passed through Loveland, which is probably the nicest trail town here (Mile 40).

Todd Fork

I came to a river crossing of the Little Miami and saw some “kids” (who were probably 18-year-olds, so adults, no?) at the end of the bridge. Some were crawling over the railing.

Crossing the Little Miami – notice the kids at the far end climbing down (Loveland)

I went to the end and talked to a couple of the kids. They were scaling the fence then carefully climbing down the trestle to a girder. From there they would carefully edge their way out on the girder to the middle of the bridge and jump perhaps 30 feet into the river. Collectively, they’re braver than smart.

Carefully crawling out on the girders – Loveland, Ohio

The last miles went fairly fast. I passed the Milton Trailhead and went down to Newton where I exited. The trail appears to officially end about a quarter or half-mile farther but I was exiting.

Interstate-71 – Oregonia

A family on four bikes was taking a wide turn into my lane so I moved over and greeted them. The mother/wife replied, “I like your cookies.” Not sure a woman ever told me that before. (I was wearing a Phil Gaimon “cookies” kit.)

Trails End – The Bridge from the trail over the Little Miami River.

It was five more miles to the hotel on Round Bottom Road. This was the only sketchy part of the ride. I would describe it as part country and part residential although that’s not quite accurate. Maybe a mix of light industry and country. And busier than a country road should be. With no shoulder, I was not comfortable riding this road.

Cyclists in Morror

I checked into the Tru by Hilton Hotel which was near the Interstate. The restaurants were too far to walk so I continued to ride. Quaker Steak and Lube had outdoor seating so I chose that. The one problem was their outdoor seating was smoking. C’mon Quaker Steak – you can do better. I sat outside braving the occasional smoke because that’s where my bike was.

Tru by Hilton – Milford

In the morning I scrounged for oatmeal as the breakfast offering was scarce. I filled my water bottles at their water cooler which had the worst tasting water from a cooler I ever had. I suspect it wasn’t an actual cooler with bottled water but had a direct line to the hotel water which was pretty awful. Of course, I never tasted the water and didn’t discover this until 10 miles into my ride.

Loveland, Ohio

It was 74º when I rolled out on Tuesday morning. Very pleasant. I took South Milford Road into Milford passing by a nice retirement community and beautiful homes on Mound Street.

The Junction – Milford, Ohio

I came to the edge of downtown which looked really nice but I was right across the Little Miami from the trailhead and just went to the trail.

Milford Trailhead from the parking lot

It was a lovely morning as I went north. I was 22 miles from the trailhead at South Lebanon and met Erin T. at the trailhead. With 54 miles to travel, I would backtrack my route from yesterday with two exceptions.

South Lebanon

The first deviation came in Xenia, the Town of Trails. Erin was out of water and I wasn’t drinking mine. I brought a measured amount of ScratchLabs drink mix for one bottle and I could not taste it as I drank. The taste of the water was enough to keep me from drinking and I needed to be drinking.

Sand sculpture in Xenia

We went into a Speedway gas station/convenience store. With temperatures in the 90s, Erin took her bottles to the ice dispenser on the soda machine (or here I guess it’s the “pop” machine). I went to the cooler and bought a gallon of water for $1.99. The small bottles were $1.49 each. We went outside, filled our bottles with cold water. I had dumped out my hotel water. I then gave away half-gallon of water to a passing customer.

Train station in Morrow

The other deviation would be a stop at Young’s Dairy Farm. I did not have a big breakfast at the hotel and did not find packaged bars at breakfast to fill my pockets. I was hungry. I was hoping Erin would want to stop for lunch and we came to a pizza place (two, actually) in Yellow Springs. But she wanted to keep going.

Young’s Dairy Farm, Yellow Springs

At least three times I have been told to be sure to stop at Young’s. So this time I did. We saw a sign and turned on West Jackson Road. A man on a three-wheel recumbent bike had turned on the road ahead of us and it gave us a feeling that this road was safe if he would ride on it. Young’s was almost one mile away. And it is worth a stop. It was very busy but if I get back here again I will be stopping.

Young’s Dairy Farm

Back on the road, we stayed on Ohio 68 rather than backtrack to the trail. I knew they would intersect although I was surprised at the distance which was 3.5 miles. But they did come back together. We then had four miles through Springfield back to my parked van at the Fairfield Inn and Suites.

Barry at Yellow Springs. Photo Credit: Erin T

Bottom line. This is definitely a destination trail. Almost 80 miles of paved bliss. Out and back in two days was a great ride.

I Do Strava Wrong

Actually, I do Strava right. Here’s what I do

  1. Ride Hard (Do Good, Live Well)*
  2. Create segments that you will enjoy or will test you
  3. Flag the obvious outliers after a fair review of their rides

In the beginning, there was the bike. And it was good. And then there was a second bike and they probably raced. But soon there were thousands of bikes or millions, and people started looking at others and stating “you’re doing it wrong.”

Some cyclists started looking down on others because of how they sat on the bike, the bike they rode, or the clothes they wore. Eventually, “the rules of cycling” were codified, if you will, into The Rules.

For many cyclists, this list of 101 rules became the official rules of cycling to be followed no matter what. For others, they are viewed as what many thought they were intended, a satirical look at the idiocy of some in our midst who worry about crisp tan lines and sock lengths (while criticizing the UCI for worrying about sock lengths).

Cycling can be expensive. It can be exclusive. We need more people riding and our attitudes turn off some potential riders. And so Phil Gaimon rewrote the 101 rules into just 11. These are The New Rules of Cycling: AKA Philuminati.

Phil took 101 “rules” and came up with 11. Basically, do what you want. Wave to people. Have fun. Don’t be a dick.

With that as a background, I was a little dismayed to find “The Un-Written Rules of Strava.” I am not going to dignify a new list by including here. But I stumbled on someone’s rules for Strava. Or the “Un-Written Rules for Strava.”

I disagree with almost every one of the unwritten rules starting with the spelling of “unwritten” (unwritten and not Un-Written).

The author states that you are not to go overboard in writing the titles for your activity. Who cares? “Ride in the pouring rain” is fine as is “Trip to the bank.” It’s your ride, use what you want. In fact, I have an automated title creator from Bandok.

Just a title from Bandok that was auto-generated

Make the title what you want. Running Magazine even had an article about the seven kinds of Strava title-makers. The more it is fun the more people will ride. Keep in fun. If long titles work for you, use them.

The Un-Written Rule keeper wrote down his rules and published them so we may disagree on more than the spelling of the word. How about a discussion on whether these are actually written rules. Hmmm.

He continued. Never flag a segment.

I have seen lots of segments where people in positions 2-5 are all grouped together within seconds but the “winner” (or KOM) for a segment was a full minute or two ahead of everybody. The author says to accept there are faster cyclists out there and don’t be a snitch.

There are plenty of cyclists faster than me. Most, in fact. There are some segments where I won’t be in the top 4,000.

Sugarloaf Mounatin, Florida (yes)

I look at the segments and ask if it could have been done on a bike. And how far does it stand out? On Strava you can see one’s entire ride. And it’s easy to determine if the effort was real. The presence of a heart-rate monitor is telling.

But I really have the problem with the author’s reasoning. He says to accept there will always be someone faster and don’t be that guy to report them. Cycling tried this in the 1990s and 2000s. It was called doping. No one was to call out another cycling for doping. In part, most were doping but even the clean riders were supposed to accept that someone else was faster. It didn’t work for doping and it doesn’t work for Strava.

I have flagged a handful of rides and in each case there was a clear ride portion of a few miles, usually averaging 10-15 mph. And then there was a segment, always at the end, which averaged 50 mph or more for the last couple of miles. In one ride where the user held a local segment (a half-mile from his house) the user’s last 15 miles were on I-95 in Northern Virginia where his top speed was 79 mph.

In all that I’ve flagged it appeared that the user inadvertently left their recording device on. I don’t believe for one second that any of the users decided they would get in their car to set a new Strava KOM. But more than just accept there is always someone faster, we also want realistic goals to chase.

The author then opined about what segments and how many are acceptable to create. He said on one 15-mile route that he rides there are 30 segments created. I say great! It doesn’t matter to him. Ignore them. Hide them. In my case, everywhere there is a decent enough uphill segment I create a segment. I want to challenge myself on my rides.

I have created a lot of local segments. And I always hope that I am not the default KOM when I create it. This gives me a goal set by someone other than myself. And if I pass someone for the KOM, they get a message or see that they are not the KOM any longer on a segment they probably didn’t know existed. And they can go out and reclaim, hopefully by just a few seconds, so I can try to recapture it again.

Lots of Segments – I did not create any of them

So the more segments the better. I’ve created some fun ones. Some challenging ones. And I know some on my local rides that I just ignore.

At the end of the year, Strava tells us how many kudos we’ve given and how many we’ve received. Strava wants users to be engaged. But the author encourages users not to give kudos for boring rides. Because he decided.

I saw one user who gave thousands of kudos (and usually always finds mine). He stated simply that he gives kudos for anyone who gets off their coach and exercises. Bravo Vince! I now do the same but, so far, only for outdoor activities. I don’t know what’s going on when I see a computer image of Alpe d’Huez. I’ve ridden the Alpe and it doesn’t look like a computer screen. But I will get there (giving kudos for indoor workouts).

So that’s it. One user felt it was necessary to write un-written rules for Strava. Don’t use titles to which he will disapprove. Don’t give kudos unless it’s for something epic. Don’t create too many segments. And don’t flag faster rides obviously done in a vehicle. So basically, I do Strava wrong.

Now off to create more segments. Hopefully those are on his route. I do Strava right. For me.

The Shadow Knows

PUNXSUTAWNEY, PENNSYLVANIA

The roads here have one quality. They go up. Turn a corner and the road goes up (occasionally down too). But there is one place they don’t. The Mahoning Shadow Trail.

Water Street, Punxsutawney, Pa.

The MST is a 15-mile rail trail that follows the Mahoning Creek to the west and goes deep into the forest to the east. I wasn’t sure how much time I had to ride so I asked for recommendations from my Punxsutawney friends. The consensus was the cool things were to the west.

I parked at Punxy Phil’s (I would eat there too) and joined the trail at the west end of town (well, the west end of downtown). The trail is a crushed limestone trail but there were large stretches where it was barren of limestone. More like packed dirt which actually was OK.

At time is was almost two single tracks

The Mahoning Creek is a beautiful creek with lots of sections of what appears to be deep pools of water. And this was a logging creek 150 years ago as loggers could float their logs to Pittsburgh from here.

Beautiful Mahoning Creek

This became a coal mining area and one passes abandoned coke ovens in the hillside. They were used to burn coal into coke for iron furnaces.

Coke ovens

I passed perhaps 12 other users on this section from Punxsutawney out to Valier (or Fordham). I made mental note of the best photo ops for the ride back into town.

Reaching Punxs’y I carefully noted the signs as I had read reviews which stated they were lacking. And I concur. I don’t know Punxs’y but I’m not a complete stranger either. I knew where the trail entered and exited the town and if I couldn’t follow a marked on-street trail I was OK navigating there by myself.

On the trail in Punxs’y

The signage is bad. Period. Entering Punxsutawney from the west I found myself on the levee next to Mahoning Creek. Or on a paved path. The path here is very narrow but on this cloudy and cool day, it was OK because I didn’t meet anyone coming from the other direction.

On the levee next to the Mahoning Creek

I lost the “scent” of the trail but headed back to where I knew it was. I found the skateboard park but turned around when I didn’t see a trailhead. I left, went back to the main road (East Mahoning Street), and decided I would ride the main road to Cloe. At Cloe, I could pick up the trail.

On the road, it’s a climb. A real climb. The roads here go up and go up some more. But I like to climb so I was OK with taking the highway. But once on East Mahoning Street, I saw a sign marked Bike Route and decided to take it. And I found a trailhead for the MST. And I still don’t know if it’s THE trailhead – but it worked.

Punxs’y Phil is everywhere

It is two miles alongside the Mahoning Creek before reaching Cloe. And here the trail leaves the Mahoning Creek.

This is also a trailhead /parking and a decision for me. Where does the trail go? I hadn’t studied a map to know and my gut said to turn left (on Rte 36) and I would find it in a couple hundred yards. At the stop sign in the lot there is a small blue arrow – straight.

Trail marking. Apparently. Perhaps add a small MST sign to the blue sign?

What is this? Is this a directional sign for the MST? I didn’t know but it puts one on the Cloe-Rossiter Road and I was OK with riding to Rossiter and back on the highway and calling it a day.

I went a few hundred yards past Cloe Lumber and saw a sign to the left for the MST. I think. Or maybe it was just bike route. But I jumped on it and was now on the eastern portion of the MST.

No longer following a stream it did cross Canoe Creek. On a map I was next to Ugly Run but never saw it. I was in a deep forest. There is nothing here except trees. And more trees.

MST – towards Winslow

At the end I came to Winslow Road. I wanted to jump on the road for the ride back but wasn’t sure where it would take me. I decided to ride the trail back. And I would just ride. (And it was a good decision not to take the road.)

Winslow Road trailhead

I followed the trail back to Cloe, crossed Rte 36 and decided to ride as far as I could in Punxs’y before the trail ended. I passed where I had entered and this time exited at the skate park. I also rode through the grass. For this rider, the trail is not well marked.

Once in town, I decided to take surface streets back to Punxy Phil’s. It was nice riding through town.

Downtown Punxsutawney

My short review of the trail is this. It lacks the railroad infrastructure of high trestles or tunnels some iconic trails have. But the MST can’t do anything about that. It also lacks facilities but you are never more than 7.5 miles from Punxsutawney where you should be able to find anything you need – water, food, restrooms. The signage is not good in town. But you will find peace and quiet and solitude riding out towards Winslow with a fast ride back. IMHO, it is prettier riding towards Valier simply because you are next to the Mahoning Creek most of the way.

It may not be a destination trail but definitely one you should ride if you are in Punxsutawney.

Equipment: I rode my Trek Checkpoint (Gravel bike) with 700×32 tires. There were no issues with tire size. 28s would have been fine and 25s would be too.


A Date With Sugarloaf

CLERMONT, FLORIDA

I came here for one thing only. A PR on Sugarloaf Mountain. Having ridden the Horrible Hundred event three times I thought I would be able to set a PR because I am down 40 pounds plus since I last rode it (and set a PR that day).

But first there was some unfinished business. I had a new tire (Continental 5000) with me and decided I would replace the one that flatted yesterday on the Seven Mile Bridge.

My bicycle pump doubles as an impromptu bike stand

I had mapped the route of the Sugarloaf climb and uploaded it to my Wahoo. I took off into the wind. I hadn’t gone far before I was off exploring some new roads. And then I came back to familiar roads.

I was following the route when I came to Sugarloaf Road. I remembered a left hand turn but the road did not look familiar. Oh well, I rode anyhow. But it just didn’t feel right.

Sugarloaf Mountain Road

No Strava-Live segments were coming up on Wahoo and then I realized I had come up the backside of Sugarloaf. I have ridden down this way three times. But never up it. Damn. I mapped this out in the wrong direction.

Not sure what is happening but I think it’s a triathlon

I was very conscious of the wind today. It was strong. I came to the top of Sugarloaf and was amazed looking ahead at my descent. This should have been my climb. But I remember standing at the top of the 90-meter hill (ski jump) in Lahti, Finland, in 1995, and thinking what a hill. And I get to ride down it. Of course, I was riding at speed while processing this and just kept riding.

Where trails were provided I chose them

My speed crept up. I saw 48 mph on the computer and I always felt on the edge of control. As the road started to flatten out I saw a cyclist riding up the hill. I nodded because I could not take my hands off the handlebars to wave.

Moving the hillside

At the bottom of the hill, instead of turning right and following what I had mapped, I turned around. I had to try Sugarloaf the right way.

I saw the rider up ahead of me on the hill. And I was gaining. Wahoo started with a GO! But did it twice. I had marked two segments and I really was interested in one. I briefly saw I was ahead of my PR time but then didn’t see that anymore. I need to unstar one of those.

The Hancock Trail

I had a speaker on my bike and was blasting 50s music from SiriusXM. I could see the rider was a woman and I was gaining quickly. As I got close I said “there’s no sneaking up on you.” She looked at me and said “You make it look easy.” If she only knew.

At the top I went another quarter mile to a house which offered free water. I thought she would come over the top but she didn’t. I would learn that she turned around and went to ride it again. Hill repeats. Ugh.

A true sign

Turning around and going back down, I wanted to hit 50 mph. But that cross wind was a serious problem. A safety problem. I pedaled and then got into a tuck. Again, I saw 49 mph and then had a serious wheel wobble. With the winds this was too fast. I looked to slow down.

Free Water on Sugarloaf Road

At the end of the hill a truck pulled up and some cyclists got out. I thought it was strange they drove out to ride the hill but I don’t know their stories. From there I followed Wahoo and for the next 10 miles followed the Route of the Horrible Hundred – backwards.

I finished the ride and then checked my results. I set a large number of PRs but the one I wanted – Sugarloaf, I lowered by 28 seconds. I was happy. I was now #4000 instead of #6000. I jumped 2000 places. But for context, that’s out of 10,000 athletes. So I’m in the top 40% instead of the bottom 40%. I still suck.

Waterfront Park

Maybe if I hadn’t climbed Sugarloaf from the backside first I would have been better. And maybe if there was no wind (I’m not asking for a tailwind) I would have shaved more time off. But the wind, even a crosswind, was formidable today.

Looking at other segments, Up the Ridge Westbound – horrible pave and I was second age group – missed age group#1 by :02. If I had known I would have gone for it. On Sugarloaf-Downhill I was #1 age group. I can still go downhill fast.

There are thousands of cyclists who ride these roads. I never came for a #1 in any group. I just wanted to see what I could do on Sugarloaf. I’m not done here. Next time I will ride in the right direction. And hopefully without the wind.


Distance: 31.1 miles
Average Speed: 14.7 miles
Weight: 172

Half-Mile Bridge

OHIO KEY, FLORIDA

It was eight years ago that I did a ride from Key West to Marathon and back. It was windy that day and that was OK because I did the hard work the first 50 miles into a strong wind.

The accurate forecast for today was 30 mph winds from the east. My plan was to ride from Marathon to Key West and return. But I would have a great tailwind for 50 miles and then a very difficult headwind when I was tired – the last 50 miles.

Parking at Ohio Key

I thought about first driving to Key West then riding 100 miles the same as I did eight years ago. But I stayed overnight in Homestead. I would have had to leave by 6:00 a.m. to have a decent start time. I did not check out of the hotel until 8:15 a.m.

There are some bike paths but some, like this section, are unridable on a road bike.

Much of the Overseas Highway is signed at 45 mph. It would take 2.5-3 hours to drive to Key West. And that long to drive back. Add six hours for riding and I was looking at a 12-hour day. That was too long. If I was to do this I would want to overnight in Key West.*

I settled on a Seven Mile Bridge Ride. I drove over the bridge although I could have stopped in Marathon. Around MM 31 I saw parking and decided to park there. From there I headed “north” on US 1 (which was really due east).

Former railroad then highway bridge

The winds were very strong. I needed to keep both hands on the bars to control the bike. I stopped at the bridge for a picture of the sign but decided the sign at the other end would be better.

Former railroad then highway bridge. Notice the roadway was added to the top of the structure.

I had gone just short of half a mile and I could feel the bridge bouncing. But it was more than that. The bike was bouncing. This was the tell-tale sign of a rear flat. I looked. It was flatting.

Seven Mile Bridge

I pulled over, and there isn’t much room and went to remove the wheel. I pulled out my tool kit and looked for my wheel removal tool. It wasn’t in the kit. While I was pondering how I would get back to my car, I looked at the wheel and the tool was attached. I blamed my mechanic for putting it there but it may have been put there by me when I last changed a flat on the road.

Seven Mile Bridge

Ready to inflate the wheel, the unwrapped the CO2 cartridge and the inflator tool. As I was screwing in the cartridge I saw air (vapor) spewing from a seam in the side of the tool. I quickly attached the inflator and emptied the contents into the tube. It wasn’t enough. The tire was very soft.

Bontrager Inflator

When there was a break in the 55-mph traffic on the bridge I ran across the highway and there pondered my options. There was nowhere for someone to pull over to help if I could flag someone down. I figured I had a half-mile to go to get off the bridge and then reconsider. I decided to see if I could ride it or how far I could ride until I ruined the tire completely.

Bridge beside the Seven Mile Bridge

I stood, putting all my weight on the front wheel. I made it off the bridge and saw the Sunshine Key and RV Resort. It looked beautiful and on the other side of the security fence I could see couples riding their bikes. My best option would be to ask one of them to borrow a pump. Someone would have one.

Flat tire on the Seven Mile Bridge

I rolled up to the security gate. I explained my plight and the guard was unyielding. He told me rules are rules. I asked if he liked soccer and he did. I told him the story of the Marine Colonel who didn’t understand bending the rules. And my sage advice was if he followed the rule book 100% of the time he would always make the right call – but sometimes not the best call. The guard just looked at me. He had made the right call – he would not let me in to borrow a pump.

Crumbling bridge beside the Seven Mile Bridge

Next door at the gas station I asked if they had a pump. They did not. I looked at the five cars at the pump to see evidence of bikes – surely they would have pumps. I saw no bikes. So I decided to ride as far as I could and then hitchhike.

Some bridges are open beside the highway – and some, like this one, are closed

I stood on the pedals and took off. Like on the bridge, I kept my weight forward, never once sitting on the saddle. In all it was 6.5 miles back to the car. And I made it.

Don’t take this bridge

At my car, I got out my floor pump and looked at the gauge. Less than 10 psi. Flat. I pumped it to 80 psi and then did another half-mile. It was windy. I had a long ride ahead of me. I called it a day.

Marker 88 Restaurant – Plantation Key. After a frustrating ride I decided to grab a late lunch here. Worth it!

Distance: 14.2 miles
Average Speed: 12.5 mph
Top Speed: 20.8 mph
Weight: 172

___
*If there is a next time, I should consider a shuttle service. Park in Marathon or Key Largo and ride to Key West one-way with a prevailing tailwind. Then shuttle back. Keys Shuttle and Florida Keys Shuttle are two of the services that I need to check out.

See ya later Alligator

THE EVERGLADES, FLORIDA

I must say, that was quite an experience. I went to Shark Valley in the Everglades with not much in the way of expectations.

Entrance to the Everglades at Shark Valley

My Lifetime Senior pass got me right in and avoided a $30 (vehicle) or $15 (bicycle) fee.

The tram/bike path

The parking lot was pretty full but I found a space. Got my bike out and was ready to roll in a few minutes. I saw a park ranger and asked if I should ride the loop clockwise or counterclockwise. He said it was better to ride it counter-clockwise.

Just a teenager

The trail is one vehicle width wide. Just large enough for the park’s tram tours to get by. There is a sign that cyclists must pull over from trams to pass. Since they were going clockwise, it was easy to see them. While I was on the trail there were two trams that came by. I dismounted, stood gingerly off the road always carefully watching my feet for any activity that may be lurking nearby. Both times the tram operator gave me a big thumbs up.

A couple youngsters

It was within the firsr quarter-mile that I saw my first gator – just relaxing just off the road to my right. Alligators could be and were anywhere. Left side or right side. Just riding along with my head on a swivel, there were gators on both sides.

Pedal fast to get by – tram coming in the distance

And none were moving. They seemed completely disinterested in this cyclist. Perhaps adult humans were too big to attack, at least on land. In the water would be a different story but not going in there.

I passed a nest, if it was called that. A momma gator had perhaps 30 little ones with her. I wasn’t real sure that she might be aggressive. In fact, the National Park Service put out yellow tape near her nest so she was easy to find but at the same time let people know to keep their distance.

The observation deck

Most of the alligators I saw were in the first seven miles to Shark Valley and the observation deck. People could hike (walk) that far but the two most common ways were to take the tram or bike. As of this writing, the tram rates were $27 for adults and $14 for children. Bike rentals were $20.

Alligator to the right

Actually, the first three miles probably contained the most alligators. But this will vary depending on the season and water level. People willing to walk in for about two miles then turn around would have seen plenty.

Big white birds. I suspect this is the Wood Stork.

I made the turn back at the observation deck. There were few travelers in this section although a park ranger came from the other direction. She was on a bike and not wearing a mask. All federal properties including national parks were under a mandatory mask requirement and only about the rangers wore them and probably 20% of the visitors. I suspect it was a requirement on the tram though.

Vultures. These two did not flinch as I rode by.

But what fun. Just riding along and there’s an alligator. Or two. Or twenty. Definitely a bucket list trip. Try it. It’s fun!


Marco Polo. Marco Island

MARCO ISLAND, FLORIDA

it looked like a nice ride so I thought about this 40-mile loop for a few weeks now. I have never been to Marco Island so this was my chance – perhaps my only chance.

Bike path – looks like a sidewalk, but it’s not

I used a ride done by my friend, Joe, a few weeks ago. I parked in a shopping center by a Publix grocery store. I headed west planning to be on street but it had no shoulders and no bike lane. Next to it was a concrete path that looked like a bike path. I followed it for a half-mile until I turned into a residential area and took streets until I reached Collier Blvd.

Collier Blvd bike lane

Collier is a six-lane highway which is very busy. It does have a separate bike lane which is separated from 50 mph traffic by five inches of paint. But it’s white paint so that must have protective qualities.

On Marco Island

The next 4.5 miles to Marco Island, I flew, I was hitting speeds of 30 mph and averaged 24 mph for the segment. That could only mean one thing. Tailwind.

Marco Island

On Marco Island, I was mostly in traffic lanes. I didn’t find over-courteous or rude drivers. Just drivers. They were fine. I was fine. We got along.

I followed the southern route out of town. It took me over the Stan Gober bridge and then it was a 55-mph two-lane highway. Joe told me it was straight and the traffic was used to seeing cyclists. While I was the only cyclist I saw today, at no time did I feel unsafe or had any cars pass without giving a wide berth. And I was also going into a brutal headwind. My trip to Marco was a gift. This was the work.

Stan Gober Bridge

For the next 12 miles, I only averaged 14.6 mph. It was tough work. I saw a number of signs for “Buddy,” a dog missing in the area since Feb. 11 (a month now). Breaks your heart. I sure hope Buddy was reunited at his home.

On the down side of the Gober

I turned on Highway 41 North and, to my surprise, saw a pretty nice bike path next to the highway. It would only last 2.3 miles. But I crossed over the highway and picked up a bike lane. I would ride the bike lane six miles to my turn back into the neighborhood. I also picked up a cross tailwind. It helped. I averaged 20 mph in this section.

View off the Gober bridge

Not all cyclists are comfortable riding on the road, like I did leaving Marco, or in a bike lane that is on Hwy 41. You have to trust, and hope, and pray, that no one is distracted and they stay in their lane and don’t drift. It’s not my favorite place to ride but I would not necessarily avoid it.

Bike lane on Hwy 41

The last five miles were back into the headwind. And my speed dropped to 14.9 for the segment. Arriving back I had covered 41 miles at a speed of 17.9 mph. I was hoping for 18 but with the winds, this wasn’t too bad. My winter rides were often 11-12 miles and even though I rode at Hilton Head last week, it wasn’t far and wasn’t at speed. So this was a jump. A huge jump. I’m happy.


Distance: 41 miles
Average speed: 18 mph (RideWithGPS)
Max speed: 37.8 mph
Weight: 172