Eight Bridges

SHELLSBURG, PENNSYLVANIA

This time I got it right.

With rain hanging in the air from Greensboro to Boston, I tried to find a window when it was dry enough to ride. In addition I was coordinating this ride with Rocky Sprow. We agreed on the start time of 12:30 p.m. and met at Shawnee State Park.

Rocky brought his friend, Ed, with him. The last time we rode together I had some girl strip naked in front of me and jump off a dam. I couldn’t promise anything quite as exciting as that today.

Herline Bridge - Longest bridge in Bedford County
Herline Bridge – Longest bridge in Bedford County

We headed out of Shawnee State Park towards Manns Choice. The roads were mostly dry but the sky was gray.  We found the Herline Bridge just five miles into our ride.

From Herline we went on Rte 31 and US Rte 30. We were on the shoulder on Rte 31 for 5.5 miles to the Jean Bonnet Tavern and another 1.5 miles on US 30. This was the sketchy part of the ride but best get it over in the first part. This is marked as Pa. Bike Route S – a major route across the state. But as I often say, “just because you slap a sign on it (designating it as a bike route) doesn’t make it safe.”

Claycomb Bridge
Claycomb Bridge at Old Bedford Village

We found the the Claycomb Bridge  at Old Bedford Village then followed Old 220 out of Bedford. From this second bridge to the third would be 11 miles – our longest stretch between bridges. Up ahead we could see rain on Blue Knob. It did not look like we would survive without getting rained on.

Bowsers Bridge
Bowsers Bridge

We went through Osterburg which was the location where I followed the Covered Bridge Route last time and missed four bridges. This time I stayed with what I knew was right.

Snooks Covered Bridge
Snooks Covered Bridge

The third bridge was Bowsers Covered Bridge and then it was only two miles farther to Snook’s Covered Bridge.

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After Snook’s it was just another two miles to Knisley’s Covered Bridge. I rode through each bridge and this was the most challenging. The floor boards have large gaping cracks in them and I rode diagonally to avoid getting my wheel caught in one. But I rode it through it.

Kniseley Covered Bridge
Kniseley Covered Bridge

In an area where drivers are usually very nice, we were on Dunnings Creek Road. A driver came up behind us and laid on her horn for about 30 seconds all the while she was passing out. Wow. A young lady too which blew away our stereotypes. May she have a better day than whatever it was that was disturbing her.

Ryot Covered Bridge
Ryot Covered Bridge

The Ryot Covered Bridge was just ahead, about 2.5 miles from Knisley. We survived less a little hearing.

Once onto Rt 96, yet another 2.5 miles just before entering New Paris (“Named for the Capitol of France”) we came to the Cuppett Covered Bridge. It is not open to traffic but one needs to just carry the bike over a guard rail and it has good flooring. I biked through it.

Cuppett Covered Bridge
Cuppett Covered Bridge

So that was it. From Bridge 3 to 7, we saw five covered bridges in less than nine miles. We also had been trending uphill but one big hill was still to come.

There is a one mile climb from New Paris to Shellsburg. It probably averages 4% for the climb but the steeper sections seem to be in the 6-8% range. Rocky and Ed were on my wheel but I kept a good pace up, for me. Not sure what I was doing but I saw my heart rate in my red zone above 170. Usually only Mt Washington brings that out of me. Then it went over 180. I’m not sure I’ve recorded higher on a bike. But it felt good. And they were no longer on my wheel.

In July last year I went up with Chey Hillsgrove and Chelsea Johnson in more than 10:00. Today I did it in less than 6:00.

We descended to Shellsburg then went over to Colvin Covered Bridge. Then it was a turn towards home. We passed the Hillegass Camp. Rocky said he spent the summer of his 6th grade year here and learned to swim in Shawnee Lake.

Colvin Covered Bridge
Colvin Covered Bridge

Eight covered bridges in 43 miles. I could have added a ninth (Turner’s) by adding a couple more miles but it is down a heavy gravel road. This route was perfect. The sun came out. Perfect temperature, no rain, eight bridges not four, and good riding partners.

 

 


Half the Bridges

SHELLSBURG, PENNSYLVANIA

Shawnee Lake
Shawnee Lake Beach

It was a perfect day for riding – perhaps a little cool at 70 degrees and a cloud cover which would soon burn off. I parked at Shawnee State Park and thought I would ride a clockwise direction. As I exited the park I decided I would ride counter-clockwise, mainly to see most of the covered bridges towards the end of the ride instead of near the front.

Herline Bridge
Herline Bridge

Rte 96 to Rte 31 was lightly traveled. Once on Rte 31 was six miles of heavier traffic. There is a small shoulder which provides enough of a cushions.

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The first bridge was the Herline Bridge. It is set back off Rte 31 about half mile away. The Herline Bridge is the longest covered bridge in Bedford County. It spans the Raystown Branch of the Juniata River.

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At the intersection of Rte 31 and U.S. Rte 30 in the Jean Bonnet Tavern which dates back to 1779. I did not stop today although I have eaten there before.

Old Bedford Village
Old Bedford Village

After the merge on US 30 I had two miles of pretty sketchy traffic. Like Rte 31, there is a small shoulder most of the way but the traffic can be busy. It is marked as Pa. Bike Route S but is not bike friendly. Thankfully, there was only two miles before turning off in Wolfsburg.

Old Bedford Village
Old Bedford Village

I rode over to Business Rte 220 and rode to the entrance at Old Bedford Village. Here was bridge number 2. It also spans the Raystown Branch of the Juniata River.

Covered Bridge Route - A local Alleghenies Route
Covered Bridge Route – A local Alleghenies Route

Having visited two bridges in the first two miles I knew I was in for the ride portion. Or the slog portion, if you will. I followed Bus. 220 north. I was lightly traveled. Eventually it became William Penn Highway, again, lightly traveled.

Arriving Osterburg I knew the route I had mapped and had ridden before. But before I came to my turn I saw some arrows on the road marked for BBC (Blair Bicycle Club). It followed Bobs Creek and I decided to follow it thinking it would eventually take me to Bowser Bridge. It would not. I was following Bobs Creek downstream when I needed to follow it upstream.

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I spotted a Bike Route sign for a covered bridge. I thought it would take me back to Bowser Bridge. Oh it did not. I’m not complaining. It took me across Sawmill and Hammond Hill Roads, beautiful roads I would never have ridden on my own.

I found out later that sign is for a 16 mile loop ride as part of cycling the Alleghenies.

But at Fishersville it took me UP Crissman Road which is a nasty climb that I was not expecting. As I summited the climb, I was in an apple orchard and thought for a moment I was at the orchard close to Shellsville. I know there is a climb there.

But I was rewarded with a mile and half descent. Pretty sweet. Reviewing the ride afterward, at the bottom if I would have made a right instead of a left turn I would have seen the Ryot Covered Bridge and may have ridden back for the Kinsley Bridge. But I wasn’t sure where I was and I knew south (left) was the direction I needed to head.

Cuppert Bridge
Cuppert Bridge
Cuppert Bridge
Cuppert Bridge

Actually I thought I was farther north than I was and was looking for the road to take me to Ryot Bridge. I was surprised when I found the Cuppett Bridge. It is not open to vehicle traffic – a good thing since there are guard rails at the Rte 96 end. But I was able to ride through it. This was bridge number 3 and spans Dunning Creek.

Cuppert Bridge
Cuppert Bridge

Leaving New Paris on Rte 96 I passed the road to Gravity Hill but it had very fresh oil for a new chip and seal surface. For cars. Not for this bike.

Vincent Van Gas
Vincent Van Gas

There is a one mile climb to an apple orchard which leads to a one mile descent to Shellsburg. In Shellsburg I stopped at the Vincent Van Gas pump. This was Rte 30 art commissioned by the Pennsylvania 250 celebration in 2008. The paint is starting to weather on the left (west) side.

Colvin Bridge
Colvin Bridge

I followed Mill Road to the Colvin Bridge. This was bridge number 4 and spans Shawnee Branch.

Colvin Bridge
Colvin Bridge

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Shortly thereafter I was supposed to turn left. But there is no road there. Oh Google (Maps) – you’re such a kidder. I will have to have that updated.

I enjoy making “courses” and uploading those to the Garmin. Today I discovered a neat feature – “Distance to Destination.” It was neat watching the countdown except that when I went “off course” by not turning on a non-existent road it was stuck as 3.00 miles until I came back on course.

Skip Back Road
Skip Back Road

In the end I hoped to ride eight bridges. I just got half the bridges. But I learned quite a bit about the roads – which to take and which to avoid. And that’s always a good lesson.

Shawnee Lake
Shawnee Lake

 

 


Spokes of Hope Saturday Ride

TREXLERTOWN, PENNSYLVANIA

Our riding group from Spokes of Hope met at the Valley Preferred Cycling Center for what has become our annual ride in the valley.  I joined Ken and Cindi Hart, Jay Bodkin, Kathy Robinson, Andrew Werner, and Branan Cooper (but Branan could ride only for a short bit).

Ken Hart, Kathy Robinson
Ken Hart, Kathy Robinson

Cindi asked us to gather and we formed a small circle. She gave thanks for friendship and then I offered up that this must also be a dedication circle. I led my speaking about Jake, whose family I had visited an hour earlier. And I dedicated my ride and day to Amelia Schmidt.

Bowers
Bowers

We rode out country roads to Topton. But not without incident. Jay came to railroad tracks and did a bunny hop. He hopped right out of his cleat – the shoe suspended on his pedal. He did an emergency repair and we were able to continue as a group.

Topton
Topton

We did a loop out to Bowers and ended up at the cafe in Topton next to the railroad tracks. While drinking milkshakes and smoothies (I had a smoothie), Cindi asked for a hill on the return ride where we could ride for the people we have dedicated to.

Near Topton, Pa.
Near Topton, Pa.

Andrew found a hill near Mertztown. Cindi and I went up. I yelled for Amelia and Alex and Jake.

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Andrew and Kathy followed. Jay and Ken watched.

Cindi Hart
Cindi Hart

It is always great riding with these cancer survivors as they enjoy their lives and triumph over cancer.

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Clockwise: Ken, Andrew, Jay, Kathy, Barry, Cindi’s shoes (Credit: Cindi Hart)

 


Extreme Skinny Dipping

BEDFORD, PENNSYLVANIA

I met Rocky Sprow and his friend, Ed, at Fort Bedford. It was a beautiful morning.

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We rolled out past Bedford Springs. It is a beautiful property with a nice golf course. We followed country roads for more than 20 miles to Lake Coon and Lake Gordon.

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When we came to the spillway at the dam we stopped to view the lake on one side and the spillway on the other. I met a young couple and had a conversation with them.

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The young woman surprised me by jumping up on the top of the railing overlooking the lake. I went over to take a picture because “she is nuts.” We talked for a few minutes looking down at the water. I thought the distance looked similar to jumping into the River Aare in Bern, Switzerland.

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The couple had been getting ready to jump and we weren’t leaving. Finally the man said to me “well, we were getting ready to jump naked into the lake once you leave.” And I said “we don’t mind if you jump.” And they did. They stripped quickly, dropped their clothes  on the dam roadway, and jumped. Total time from standing to jumping was about two seconds.

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Rocky Sprow and Barry Sherry

Once they surfaced I yelled down to them and asked if they wanted their clothes taken down to the lake. They said they did so I gathered up their clothes and took them lakeside. They were still (hiding) in the water so I got their attention and showed them wear I left them. I also noticed a pair of shorts were near the end of the dam. I think the young man probably left a pair their and when they were done, he would walk up, grab the shorts, then go retrieve their clothes in the middle of the dam. Glad I could help!

We remounted then followed the road another couple of miles until it dipped into Maryland at U.S. Rte 220. We were in Maryland for just two miles. We made a loop then hooked up with our original route and followed it back to Bedford.

We crossed the dam again and saw no evidence of our naked dam jumpers. We continued on.

It was punch on the way back and I secretly decided to win every KOM from my friends. I think I did (of course it helps if they don’t know what I’m doing to them).

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Back to Bedford, it was a great day. Of course, not every day does a young woman strip naked in front of you, if only for a few seconds. I need to come back here.

 

 


Keystone MS-150

HOLLIDAYSBURG, PENNSYLVANIA

This was a two-day event held July 23-24. The route was from Hollidaysburg to Penn State University as the official meeting site was the Penn Stater Hotel.

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We rolled out at 7:00 a.m. in waves. I was in the third wave. The first mile or two was sorting out faster from slower riders and getting in with the right pace. For a while I was sitting in with a guy on a recumbent and his friend, who was riding with his bib straps undone. I was going to say something but figured if his friend never told him then maybe he rides that way. Later I saw him at an aid station and they were pulled up.

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Once on Reservoir Road I was pedaling a comfortable pace when a group of about eight riders came by. I jumped in with them. The pace was a little higher than I wanted but I was committed and didn’t want to drop out. But two riders did. Then a couple more. Then two more. And just like that, I was out in front by myself.

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We rode through Roaring Spring to our first aid station at Ritchey’s Dairy. I wasn’t there long and head out through Martinsburg. When the one traffic light turned green four riders went in front of me and I was right behind them. We were riding the same pace and I was sitting in. I was willing to do some work but two guys were pulling and the other two were sitting in and I was behind them. I enjoyed a free ride to Williamsburg to the second aid station.

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Ugh. I wasn’t feeling well and spent more time at the aid station than I wanted. Once one the road I rode solo and picked my way through the riders. We rode up through Spruce Creek to Camp Kanesatake, a Christian camp in Spruce Creek. Lunch was served and was delicious.

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As I got ready to roll out I noticed the group of four that gave me a free ride was rolling out too. I made a conscious decision not to sit in with their group and I really didn’t feel like riding at any pace other than my own. I let them go up ahead.

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The next 14 miles were surreal. I saw no one up the road and, occasionally, looked back to see if anyone was gaining. I was all alone. There was an occasional turn marking to let me know I was on the right road and/or someone at an intersection.

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I did catch a glance at someone about a quarter mile up the road. For a while I wasn’t gaining, and the road, with curves and forest, made it difficult to see anyone. Eventually, about 13 miles in, I saw I was gaining and recognized the rider as the one woman in the group I was with earlier.

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I thought when I caught her that I would offer to ride with her to Penn State. She was struggling. When I did catch her I chided her group about dropping her. Before I could tell her my plan, we came upon a rest stop. Never got her name but she splits time between Bedford and Boulder so we talked Ride the Rockies.

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A group from the Blair Bicycle Club rolled out together and we both jumped in for the ride to Penn State. I talked with some of the riders and we kept a reasonable pace for the final 13 miles.

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At the Penn Stater I showered then took a shuttle to downtown State College and grabbed something to eat. When I was done I made a a phone call back to the hotel and I was picked up within 12-15 minutes.

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A delicious breakfast was served. I was in line to leave by 6:45 a.m. and was in the second group to roll out. Like yesterday, the first couple of miles was just sorting out different riders’ speeds.

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I talked to Tina Kunstbeck who was wearing an awesome Kick Cancer kit. And then I was riding in Tina’s group. For 45 miles.

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At the first aid station we rolled into together but I was not about to presume that I would ride with them. They rolled out then 30 seconds I left. I didn’t think I would catch the group of four but I did. Although we hadn’t been riding a pace line before we began in earnest.

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One of the guys asked me how old I was. I told him 61 and he said “I sure hope when I’m old I can ride as well as you.” That made me giggle. I think it was a compliment.

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We arrived at the third rest stop which was also a lunch stop. I went inside and got lunch and discovered my group had rolled on. Oh well. No malice intended and they may have even tried to find me before leaving. But it was all good.

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I like to take pictures. I missed three good photo ops today while riding in the group because I was not free to hit the brakes and take a photo. Now I could.

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I rode ahead to aid station four in Bellwood. I was alone. I did not catch anyone and two riders briefly caught me but I passed them back.

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After the Bellwood stop, a group of five caught me and I joined in. We rode to the finish. The only obstacle of having a real good time today was the four to five miles in Altoona. City traffic.

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I arrived back and was able to shower at the school (Hollidaysburg High School). We had lunch at noon which made that 10:00 lunch stop unnecessary which is, I’m sure, why my group kept rolling after a quick water break.

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It was a good ride. I rode carrying a name on my back – I RIDE FOR _______ – and only two people asked me about my name. My take is this is mostly a local ride well supported by riders, but many without an MS connection. In that way it was much different than my cancer riders. I had hoped for more of a discussion but oh well. It is a great cause and I’m glad I rode.

 

 


DAY 1


DAY 2

 

Ohiopyle

MARKLETON, PENNSYLVANIA

I was here in October for what would be my last ride with my dad. However, on that day we rode from the Markleton to Harnedstown trail heads, not quite making it to Confluence or Ohiopyle.  Today would be a solo effort to Ohiopyle.

I put on some arm warmers for what looked to be a beautiful day. But it was cool. Leaving Markleton, I was in a thick forest. And I was way down in a valley formed by the Casselman River so no sunshine yet permeated the trail.

I came to the Pinkerton Trestles. Trestle. Tunnel. Trestle. This place is beautiful. No picture can really capture how beautiful it is.

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Pinkerton Low Trestle looking towards the tunnel

Approaching Confluence I was crossing a trestle, not at high speed, when a boy not quite in control of his Golden Retriever, let her cross in front of me stretching the leash. I stopped. The parents were horrified and apologetic. I laughed. I told them they must let me meet their dog.

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Always stop and meet the dogs

At Confluence I was on the original GAP rail trail. It may be just as popular today as it was in 1985. It is beautiful.

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Youghiogheny River at Confluence

This may be the prettiest 10-mile stretch of the 335 miles between Pittsburgh and D.C. The trail hugs the Youghiogheny River. But it was also crowded with casual cyclists (think rental bikes – it’s what they do at Ohiopyle).

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Youghiogheny River at Ohiopyle

The trail has nice restrooms at Ohiopyle. It is a hub of activity including restaurants and outfitters (both rafts and bikes).

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Ohiopyle

The bridge over the Yough was crowded with inexperienced cyclists. Good for them as the kids are learning to love riding their bikes! But just 1/2 mile farther to the loop bridge and the trail was empty.

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Youghiogheny River from the Loop Bridge at Ohiopyle

The ride back was mostly uneventful. A stop in Confluence for some ice cream. And one detour by choice. At the Pinkerton Tunnel I chose not to ride 800′ through the tunnel but to take the “bypass” as it is now signed. For years the tunnel wasn’t open and one had to follow the river. It is an additional mile and one half of solitude. No riders on this section.

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It was just a beautiful day on the bike. Trails are not my preferred method of biking but for a couple of days I have really enjoyed riding off road.

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Cumberland by Dust

CUMBERLAND, MARYLAND

Fifteen years ago I was all about riding these great rail trails. They are still fun, for a change, but not generally my preferred riding.

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Canal Place, Cumberland, Md.

The last time I was here with a bike the trail wasn’t open from Cumberland to Frostburg. Andrew and I took the train, the Western Maryland Scenic Railway, and put our bikes on the train. And that was cool.

But the rail trail has been open for years now. It is one of a handful in the country where a rail trail shares the right of way with an active railroad. Plus it also shares a tunnel.

I started at Mile 0 at Canal Place where the Great Allegheny Passage (GAP) and the C&O Canal Towpath meet. From here is it 184 miles to Washington, D.C. and 150 miles to Pittsburgh.

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The first two and one half miles are paved. I brought the mountain bike and was starting to wonder if this is now a paved route. (It should be.) The pavement ends once one reaches the bridge at the Narrows.

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The trail opens up, following the Western Maryland Scenic Railroad. Before 1975 this was a two track right of way. Today it is one track for the train and a crushed limestone path for bikes. And walkers.

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At Mile 5.5 (I think) I came to the Brush Tunnel. I believe this was the big hang up in completing the trail from Cumberland to Frostburg. The lawyers for the railroad didn’t want anyone close to the tracks, especially in a tunnel. In the end, the tracks and trail both go through the tunnel, separated by a cable guard rail. And a warning sign not to be in the tunnel when a train approaches.

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Although this was my first time on a bike, I have been up this trail before. Almost two years ago we took, Andy, Aiden, and Annabelle on a steam train ride up to Frostburg. And years earlier Andrew and I took our bikes up to Frostburg on the train.

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The train had too much crushed limestone for my liking. Snap. Crackle. Pop. Every revolution sounded like Rice Krispies. And the dust was something else. My bike was covered in dust as was the water bottle.

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About two miles from Frostburg the train tracks turn up towards the town and station while the “main line” continues straight. When I reached the Frostburg I was planning to turn around. But I checked the map and saw the Borden Tunnel was only a couple miles up the road. That was my new goal.

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After reaching the Borden Tunnel I kept going. How far was the Mason Dixon line? A new goal.

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I reached the Mason Dixon line. It is now a small park instead of just a sign which it was the last time I had been through here on my bike four years ago. Then I turned around.

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Mason Dixon Line

At Frostburg I took the road up to the train station. There wasn’t much happening because the train has been closed since spring due to a landslide above two miles east of here. So no trains make it to Frostburg.

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Near the site of the landslide closing the train

Back on the trail I was just shaking the lactic acid from my legs and adjusting my Garmin on my bike. A couple passed me. That shouldn’t have happened. Didn’t they see I was merely adjusting things and then going to ride?

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I decided I would pass them back and they would never see me again. I did and they didn’t. I took off and rode @ 20 mph for most of the next hour. On limestone. On a mountain bike. It was a dusty day but otherwise very pleasing day on the bike.

 


Mount Evans

IDAHO SPRINGS, COLORADO

Nine years ago I flew in from San Diego to attend a sports officials conference in Denver. I rented a bike in Idaho Springs and rode to the summit of Mount Evans. My legs were like Jello and I said I would never do this ride again. Once was enough. Until today.

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The last couple of years I was curious what the effect of riding a week about 10,000 feet may do to my ability. So this year I did it.

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The section from Idaho Springs to Echo Lake

I went to Idaho Springs with this new found fitness level. And my own bike. I remember in 2007 that I could not drink enough water. Although my plans were to include bringing a Camelbak, I forgot that at home. But I did throw two extra bottles of water in a backpack which I wore.

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The section from Idaho Springs to Echo Lake

It was near 70 degrees (20 C) when I left the parking lot at Idaho Springs at 8:00 a.m. The first 14 miles are relatively easy, well the first seven miles are definitely easy. And I was taking it easy. I was reliving the events of last week’s Ride the Rockies when I was startled by Mike from Kansas City passing me at Mile 8. Initially going as far as Mile 11, I convinced him to ride to Echo Lake (Mile 14) and we chatted the whole way.

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Entrance to Mount Evans Road at Echo Lake

There was a line of cars waiting to enter the Mount Evans Auto Road. I joined two other cyclists talking about the admission fee ($3) when a ranger came and told us that we didn’t have to wait and just to go on in. Sweet deal.

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14 Miles to the Summit

We started up the road together but after taking one photo I pulled over. My phone said that memory was full and I stopped to delete photos to free up some space. I would be rewarded for that.

About two miles up the road I saw a bear amble across the road. I could not react quickly enough to photograph him but the road cut through a hillside. The bear came from the lower section, crossed the road, then continued up the hillside into the trees.

Echo Lake
Echo Lake

I did not have the benefit of a Garmin tracking my ride nine years ago. I would be curious to know how this ride compared. Maybe not well.

I wanted to keep my heart rate low. I did. About three hours in Zone 1, 23 minutes in Zone 2, and I never went into Zones 3, 4, or 5. To say I didn’t push myself would be an understatement.

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But I just kept my pace steady. I tried at times not to look too far in the distance because all I could see was the road cutting through the rocks ahead. I won’t say I remember every turn from nine years ago but much of it was familiar.

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Switchbacks near the summit

However, one section I misremembered was Summit Lake. When I approached it it was nothing like I had pictured except it was still on my right. The road dipped down more than I remembered and the lake wasn’t at all how I pictured it.

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Summit Lake

The climb is a slog. It just keeps going and going. Above the tree line the road is paved but the freezing caused whole sections to buckle. It’s not bad going up because of the low speed but makes for a rough ride coming down.

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Mountain goats at the summit

Nine years ago I tried to pedal out of the saddle (standing up) and immediately sat down. I got dizzy quickly. Today I could stand with no issues. I think one week of riding at altitude made that easier for me. But yet, I think I was slower. One week at altitude may not offset 20 pounds and nine years.

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At the summit I took a couple of pictures then left. I had intended of staging my arrival by handing my phone to a stranger then going back down 200 yards or so then coming back up. But really, there is no great summit moment. Just a parking lot that people are trying to get into.

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Nine years ago I went hypothermic on the descent. Today I carried a vest and arm warmers and that was enough. I was glad to have them but would have been okay without.

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Tried to capture how steep the drop off is but I didn’t. Trust me. It’s steep.

Leaving the summit, the first five miles aren’t a lot of fun. Visually it’s hard to see how steep the road descends. At times it looks like it may go down 1-2% but is probably 6-7%. The bike wanted to fly. But every 50-100 yards was a big crack in the road. Those aren’t fun hitting at 25-30 mph.

At Summit Lake there is a bit of a climb. It was no problem this time although a 28 mile downhill uninterrupted would have been nice. The farther you descend the better the road gets.

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Beautiful Idaho Springs

Once back to Echo Lake I had a 14 mile descent on beautiful pavement. I took off my vest and warmers because the temperature at 10,600′ was a balmy 75 degrees. From there I let it roll all the way back to Idaho Springs.

Nine years ago this was a major accomplishment. Today, it was just another ride. But a ride in which I saw a bear.

 


Texas 4000

GREENWOOD VILLAGE, COLORADO

Seven years ago I received a message from a 17 year-old referee wanting to officiate in the WAGS Tournament. Thus my friendship began with Vanessa Beltran. When she was in DC she told me about the Texas 4000.

My affection for and affiliation with the Texas 4000 has grown from that day. Today was the day for me to ride from Denver to Boulder with the Texas 4000.

I arrived before their dedication circle. I met my “Bicycle Buddy,” Ayesha Kang. Or I met her again, since I actually met her in October in Austin at the Livestrong Challenge.

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Dedication Circle

I dedicated my day to Jacob Grecco, Alex Shepherd, and Jamie Roberts.

I was assigned an all girls’ group, Ayesha’s group. Out of the 20 riders, 13 were women and only seven were men.

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They had the turn by turn directions and I was only along for the ride. We stopped a lot. And we stopped at stop signs, even when it was visibly clear. One of the riders made it a point to state that the Texas 4000 stops at stop signs. I can also state that they have extensive safety training, have to ride a timed century, and ride at least 2000 miles before they ride their first mile with the Texas 4000. This group does it right.

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Ayesha now rides for Team Jacob

We meandered. Back tracked. But it was all good. We only had gone 15 miles when we came to their rest stop. One of the riders, Alex Lawrence, had family in Denver and brought out a big lunch. Her family was very proud of her to to serve the Texas 4000.

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After lunch, I wanted to keep riding but I knew there was no way I would ever find my way back. I said goodbye to Ayesha and the rest of her team. We had two alumni riders and two friends who rode out with us so I jumped in their group to ride back.

We did not back track. Maybe that was impossible. But we found a new, longer way. Life is good. At the Cherry Creek Dam in Denver, we stopped to wait for our riders. The Denver Century was being held and there was an Aid Station right where we stopped. We got some fresh cold water for our bottles, needed on this hot day. They didn’t seem to mind that we weren’t part of the Denver Century.

For one day I joined this cancer fighting team. It was a great day. Godspeed my friends.

 


Fort Collins

FORT COLLINS, COLORADO

On its sixth and final day, RTR will return to Northern Colorado with their eyes set on Devils Gulch and Horsetooth Reservoir; a stage originally planned for 2012 but rerouted by the High Park Fires. Cyclists will enjoy a 55-mile trek through Larimer County, touring the vibrant communities that not long ago were hammered by relentless rain and devastating floods. Now, standing tall as ever; a testament of community, will and grace; these towns are primed and ready for a parade of cyclists. The week will draw to a close as 2,000 friends – new and old –reflect and rejoice at Odell Brewing Company in a little town we fondly call Fort Fun!

One week goes by too fast. Hard to believe this is the last day of Ride the Rockies.

I left the Comfort Inn and went back to RTR headquarters. I noticed a number of riders were just jumping on course and going, and who could blame them? But I rode uphill and went to the official start line, not to be pure in my ride but simply to meet my riding partners.

David and Christine were at the start. I sort of ignored the actual profile believing, as I told them, that we had a 20 mile downhill followed by a mostly flat run-in to Fort Collins. I was partly right. We had a 20 mile downhill.

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Looking at Estes Park with the Rocky Mountain National Park in the background.

We rolled down through Big Thompson Canyon. It was here in 1976 that a flash flood killed 143 people. The canyon is gorgeous and made for a nice descent to Loveland.

It was a perfect ride except when we were in the lowest part of the canyon. At first it appeared the highway department was doing some road work but it became more apparent that a truck hauling asphalt came by and was dropping asphalt. There was a stream of asphalt in the west bound lane. Although we were going east, the cars were trying to avoid it and black, tar covered pebbles were flying towards us in our lane. Yuck.

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Big Thompson River

We turned on Buckhorn Road for a back roads ride to Fort Collins. I expected a flat or maybe “lumpy” finish. This was anything but that. We stopped at Aid Station 2 where Christine caught up with her brother, Don, who joined us for a bit.

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We came to the Horsetooth Reservoir. There were three sections that appeared to be spillways but I think they were just dam retaining walls. All were close to the water and then featured a neat little climb up away from the water. These were some of the steepest grades we had all week. Many people were walking. (Not us, of course.)

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But what comes up .. must come down. On the last one I saw a real nice descent. I let it go. I was quickly up to 51 mph, my top speed of the week, when I saw a 35 MPH speed limit sign and two policemen. Oh well. If they were busting cyclists on this descent they had me. I just got down lower in my tuck and rolled by. And waved.

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Random finishers

The roll in through Fort Collins was nice. This is a very pretty city. We continued to O’Dell’s Brewery where the finish line festivities were being held.

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My car was in a lot next to the finish. Had I had my keys with me I could have put the bike away. Instead, I had to retrieve my luggage from Alpine Cycling and take all of it to the car. Then I went back for Terry Moran’s bike. He had gone home on Tuesday but Alpine moved his bike to Fort Collins so I could take it home.

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After the ride I searched out the Smoothie folks for one last Smoothies. I found a Polish Sausage to celebrate then waited for the closing ceremonies. I didn’t win the bike but heard some facts about the ride: Youngest rider was nine; Oldest was 82. Every state except West Virginia was represented. Ten countries were represented as well.

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Throughout the week we passed some amazing cyclists. I saw a blind cyclist – hopefully he was stoker on a tandem. There are always some hand cyclists, often with Ride to Recovery. There is a guy I met two years ago who has no hands – just prosthetic hooks. Since he can’t brake using hands, he has a “butt brake” where he slides back on the saddle and it applies pressure on a bar connected to a braking system. Then there is “Tim.” He rode a recumbent trike. No legs, and one functioning arm plus as prosthetic arm. Absolutely amazing.

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It was a good week and a good ride to end the week. Let’s do this next year!