Having celebrated beating cancer with some kids last night at the Velodrome, this day was reserved for a fellowship ride. Mileage goals aren’t usually that important to me but they do provide an incentive at times. A few days ago I wasn’t sure I would ride 1,000 miles in August then, all of a sudden, realized I could do it today. I had a goal.
I left the Homewood Suites hotel and biked the two miles to Trexlertown. First, I made my way over to the track at Rodale Park and rode laps. By the time my Spokes of Hope friends showed up I already had 10 miles in the book.
And so eight of us pushed off from the Velodrome for the back country roads in Lehigh and Berks counties. We started with Ken and Cindi Hart, Jay Bodkin, Kathy Robinson, Branan Cooper, Andy Werner, myself and some guy named Mike (my apologies).
Surprisingly, I have ridden these roads before. I must say they are enjoyable.
We headed out into Mertztown to Bowers then doubled back to Topton. Mike peeled off in Mertztown and we were down to seven. In Topton we stopped at a cafe by the tracks which appears to be overrun with cyclists (in a good way – lots more bikes than cars and it was busy inside).
When we were ready to roll out we picked up an eighth rider to make up for Mike. Although we didn’t go back to Bowers, we basically just followed the route that we had just come out on.
Back at the cycling park, we huddle up for a group photo and, for most of us, said goodbye for another year. As they packed up, I rode back to the hotel and went over 1,000 miles for the month. A nice way to finish the ride.
For the third straight year I joined Spokes of Hope (their sixth straight year) in Trexlertown. The core of the group traveled to T-Town from Indianapolis. The rest of us just sort of filtered in from elsewhere.
Cindi Hart said there would be a clinic at 5:00 p.m. for the kids. I arrived at 4:30 p.m., and upon not finding anyone inside the gate, just went across the street to the Rodale Park and rode for a bit. When I returned I went to the track and everyone was already riding so I joined in. It wasn’t a clinic, at least for me, but some fun riding on the velodrome.
We cleared the track as the event riders started to filter in. Monica Johnson-Null and her boys went across the street to the park and I joined them.
As the event neared I was surprised to see many organizations were set up inside, including many cancer groups. The Lehigh Valley Pediatric Cancer group was there as was St. Baldricks.
I didn’t get to watch any of the races and was preparing to line up to ride on the track when I heard my name called. My cousins, Stacey and Gary Gravina had come over from Phillipsburg, New Jersey so we talked briefly before they got to go to the stands and see the elimination race (one of my favorites).
We were announced at taking a victory lap over cancer although we took two. We made our way to the infield where our featured survivor was a 16 year old boy with brain cancer. He had lost speech and his ability to walk but now can was riding a trike.
He took the podium as his triumph over cancer and the crowd cheered. It is a great night to celebrate.
And a final note. The final race was the 100-lap pro-men’s Madison, always a fun event. And the finale was an awesome fireworks (“pyromusical”) display – I think the best I have ever seen.
My parents were having a small party at noon to celebrate their 65th wedding anniversary. I wanted to do a ride from Somerset but decided I didn’t have time for the 50 mile ride I was hoping for. And I thought about Johnstown.
I would not count miles riding up a mountain on an inclined plane but decided that I could go down it that way. I parked in Ferndale, just outside of Johnstown and navigated by feel to get me to the top of the mountain. Or hill.
It was basically a two mile climb with another mile of “slight” uphill. Once in Westmont I found my way down their beautiful streets to the Inclined Plane. The Inclined Plane takes people and vehicles from Johnstown below to Westmont above. If it were a road it would be a 70.9% grade.
I found out that bicycles are free. Yeah! Oh, but a passenger fare was $2.25. Well worth it. Once on board, I was the only one. Halfway down I passed the other car going up. Empty.
At the bottom I disembarked and rode across the bridge the cross the Stony Creek River. At the end I could have taken the ramp to the street but the sidewalk with its switchbacks were much more inviting.
I really didn’t have much more time to go exploring in Johnstown. It was a matter of hurry back to the car and go celebrate with my parents. A fun, but very short, day on the bike.
It was the annual Spokes of Hope ride. Without a word or hint to the organizer and with a very late registration, I caught the organizer, Cindi Hart, off guard when I walked up to registration. Hugs ensued.
I was given a special placard as “Cancer Veteran” and we veterans lined up 50 yards back from the other riders. When it was time for the opening ceremonies we rolled past the other riders as they cheered us to the start line.
A bagpiper played and we rolled out with a great police escort. Cindi was at the front and, in one mile, when she peeled off, I pulled off with her, not knowing if I would see her at all during the day and I had to leave immediately after it ended. Cindi urged me to go and catch up with the other riders, and eventually, I did.
Or at least I started to. I had to work my way through some slower riders (probably riding shorter distances) and then could finally see the lead group or some riders dropped by them. This was a very small ride and I didn’t realize it but if I didn’t catch on somewhere I would be riding 100 miles solo.
I could see the group and timed them at 2:00 up the road. It took about five miles but I got it down to 1:00. I really wasn’t closing the gap. A couple of riders dropped off the back and I caught and passed them but did not catch on before the first rest stop.
The ride was well-supported if 50 pounds of bacon is support. (It is.) We were at a Love’s Travel Plaza and I walked inside to use the rest room. There was bacon. There were smoothies which were still frozen. Cookies. I grabbed a smoothie and a spoon and was digging at it when most of the riders pulled out. I hated to throw away a smoothie and Ken and Cindi Hart were at this stop so we chatted briefly.
Again, Cindi urged me to go “ride with someone” and when I saw two cyclists pull out I went with them. I met Nathan and Julie from Fishers, Indiana. They were first year cyclists, both triathletes, attempting to complete their first century ride. I’m not sure they wanted me or welcomed me to ride with them but they were stuck with me. We were going to do this.
We rolled into Stop 2 together and I waited for them to roll out. We were now a team. A Century-completing team.
Not long after we left I saw another couple farther back. I thought I would slow the pace, let them integrate with us and give us five. That would give us a physiological and psychological advantage. Todd and his wife rolled by and I jumped on their wheel. Nathan and Julie did not follow. I let Todd go and dropped back with my friends.
At Rest Stop 3 we were told we were last on the road except for a tandem. This is when I realized this was a very small ride. And then Todd and his wife (I don’t know her name) pulled in. They had made a wrong turn.
A volunteer told me to try to keep us together (which I was trying to do) but Todd pulled out and ahead. But we eventually pulled them back and integrated once we all started talking. We had 40 miles to go.
I tried to go to the front and set the pace. The wind was often in our faces and I thought it would help my friends if I rode in it. After Rest #4 I rode at the front almost all the way back. At one point I thought Nathan and Julie were dropping back so I let Todd’s wife ride up front. It worked.
We rolled into Zionsville and, as we came to the finish, I let the four of them finish first. This was also Todd’s first century. Well done, my friends!
Overall I averaged 16.4 mph for the 100 miles. Not bad but it wasn’t the 19 mph I averaged, solo, in the first 18 miles. I had an offer at Rest #1 to ride with a group at 19-20 mph which would have been cool but they took off while I was in the rest room. And if it was speed I was after, I could have taken off at any time but this was much more rewarding. I was very happy to shepherd new riders completing their first century. And they must have averaged at or near 16 mph for their first long ride.
At the finish I was greeted by Cindi. We posed for a few photos then I had to leave. The 7.5 hours on the bike (six of them moving) would be easy compared to the 7.5 hour drive ahead of me.
EPILOGUE: One rider, a cancer veteran, posted that he rode most of the miles solo. Although he seemed upset at first, he used the time to reflect on his cancer journey. At first many people are by your side but eventually one finds oneself facing the journey alone.
I experienced sort of the opposite. I had a journey and could have ridden it alone. But I chose to ride with others instead to encourage and support them. And that was the best thing for me too.
Traveling from Somerset to Indianapolis, I looked for a location where I could stop and ride. But this was more than a place to ride. Fifty years ago I lived out here and I thought it would be fun to go back and see where I used to live.
I looked for trails in the area and found the Great Miami River Trail. This is one worth exploring later. It is a paved trail more than 85 miles in length. I didn’t have time to ride far so planned my trip starting in Troy.
I planned to start at Treasure Island Park. I arrived and found it was close for construction. I parked on the street instead.
I started by riding north on the road. When I came to where the trail crossed I jumped on the trail. It is in great shape. Paved. Wooded. With the exception of crossing the river, I was surprised the trail was set back far enough that I wasn’t riding next to the river, in fact, wasn’t aware there was a river nearby.
At Piqua there is a bridge crossing. The approach going north is by 8-10 stairs with a rail in the middle that serves as a tire trough if you want to push your bike. Once I crossed the river I then followed the river through and past Piqua. The trail is next to the river which has a very high embankment so I could never tell I was actually in the city.
The trail disappears alongside the old Miami-Erie canal, a good portion which is still full of water. At the end of town the trail was under construction and I rode through about 100 yards of grass (to avoid 100 yards of the gravel trail).
I jumped on the road and took Rte 66 (not THAT Route 66) to Houston. The road was fine (meaning it had a shoulder) in Miami County. But once entering Shelby County there was no shoulder. Traffic was extremely light but when it passed me it often was extremely close. I did not like riding this road.
Although it was almost 50 years since I attended the Hardin-Houston school, I had no problem finding my way to it. On the road out of there I passed kids running and figured (correctly) that they were cross country runners. I turned around and road about 200 yards with two girls. I told them I went to the school 50 years ago and this was my first time back. They were not impressed.
I rode down to Lockington, unsure if I could take my bike across the Lockington Dam. Although I hadn’t returned to Houston in (almost) 50 years, I refereed a tournament in Sidney, Ohio in 2007 and visited Lockington then.
The road across the dam was no longer open, and my memory escapes that there was still a road across the top. There was an entrance and a parking lot in 2007 but as I rolled up I saw that the park was closed. Disappointing. I was hoping to ride across the dam.
I rode up through Lockington, with most of the houses unchanged since we moved in 1967. The parsonage where we lived was now connected to the church my dad served although it closed.
I visited the locks we used to play in, many looked to be in danger of collapse in the 1960s but are still standing. I was surprised to see someone has been rebuilding the first lock.
I rode back into Piqua really enjoying the quaint downtown of this city of 20,000. Although I thought I would roll right through town and back to Troy I did a U-turn when I saw the railroad bridge.
The east-west bridge was the old Pennsylvania Rail Road bridge which was abandoned in 1985. It is now a bike trail named Linear Park. A number of steps with a concrete trough for walking bikes leads up to the bridge. I pushed my bike up then rode across the bridge and followed the trail.
The best I can tell, I had biked here before – 50 years ago. The B&O tracks run north-south and the PRR ran east-west. I remember being with a couple of other kids (don’t know who) and this was a grade crossing of railroad lines. You don’t see those much and I didn’t see it here since it no longer exists. But I am 100% convinced it did in the 60s. In fact, I found a couple of references to it including this one:
“This station was hastily built in October 1913 when the PRR told the CH&D they would not be using their new downtown Piqua passenger station when the elevation opened. So the CH&D rapidly built a box station north of the crossing at Garbry Road.” – http://www.west2k.com/ohstations/miami.shtml
I’m not crazy. There was an at grade crossing of tracks in Piqua although there is no evidence of that now. But it was great to ride over to it.
My ride back to Troy was uneventful. Although I planned to take the road back, I enjoyed the trail so much I followed it again. I even opted to follow it when I was just a couple miles from the car and just a straight shot away.
The Great Miami River Trail is really cool. Add to that a 50-mile reminiscing of my childhood and it couldn’t get much better. And 75 degrees, no clouds, and no humidity didn’t hurt.
Rather than one ride, this does not lend itself so well to one post. Instead, we get one post for a week of rides.
We arrived at South Bethany, Delaware, to stay in the home of Pete and Lisa Schmidt. They had donated a week of their beautiful home to CureFest and I had been high bidder last year.
It was a beautiful home on a canal. Still, I worried if I would find good riding here. Flat. Windy. And those are the two words that describe the riding here. And it was good.
Arriving on Saturday I went for an early evening ride up the coastal highway, across the bridge at Indian River inlet, then turned and rode out to Ocean View. In the 1960s, 70s, and as late as the early 80s, we had camped at Sandy Cove and Bayshore campgrounds. I rode back there from memory.
It was a nice ride. It was flat, except for the bridge. After I got back and uploaded my data I was distressed to see there was a timed segment on RideWithGPS for the bridge portion. I went slowly up the bridge. I stopped for some pictures, and was timed at 3:21 – only 18 seconds off the worst speed ever. I was 87th out of 90. Ouch.
It really wasn’t a bad ride, save for that segment. But I wasn’t going to let that rest.
On Sunday I had a little time to plan and put together a nice Bethany – Fenwick Island loop ride.
I was wheels down at 6:38 a.m. It was a 32 mile loop mostly on country roads until it came back to Fenwick Island at which time I rode on the Coastal Highway.
The Coastal Highway has a wide shoulder marked for both bike and running/walking lanes. Despite some moderate traffic, it is a safe route and I have no hesitation suggesting it to anyone.
Monday was to be my shot at redemption with that awful segment on the Indian River Inlet bridge. Wheels down at 6:52 a.m., I rode north, paying close attention to keep my speed up over the bridge.
I rode through Dewey Beach and into Rehoboth Beach, which surely scrubbed some speed off a good ride. Up and back it was just short of a 30 mile ride.
As for the segment, I did better. I went from 87th to 67th which is still in the bottom third. Maybe I need to come back and ride with a massive tailwind.
Then I also learned there was a Bethany to Dewey segment. I will go faster if I know I am being timed. Darn. On this one I was 29th out of 64 leaving me wonder if people come just to ride the bridge and not to Dewey Beach? I did check the top speed for that segment and that guy, Brad Rittase, definitely had a tailwind when he set the top speed, although his bridge climb speed was butt slow. He was hitting speeds in the highs 20s going to Dewey and 12-13 mph coming back. It happens.
But I was happy with my ride. I don’t know if I will do it again. Just flat and always windy and you never know where the winds will be coming from.
My Tuesday ride was my go-to ride — the Bethany-Fenwick loop with an addition to Bishopville, Maryland. Once on Lighthouse Road, two cyclists pulled out about 1/4 mile ahead. I thought at speed I would catch them. I didn’t “chase,” per se, but I was marking myself each time I could see a landmark. I was pulling them back very slowly. When I finally caught them I was glad to see they had shaved legs.
I would have worked with them to have a group of three but the one guy sat on the front rider’s wheel and they never changed positions so I thought it wasn’t up to me to upset their balance. I let them go on Coastal Highway but eventually pulled them back. I passed them for good getting back to South Bethany.
Wednesday would be my longest ride. I was wheels down at 6:24 a.m. I headed out to my Fenwick Loop but headed south instead of due east to Fenwick Island. I missed a planned turn but knew the boundaries of the roads and knew the sun so I headed south. I had to ride on U.S. 113 (that part was planned) which is busy (wide shoulders), but it was only for two miles. Most of the rest of the roads were country or had wide shoulders.
I got on U.S. 50 just before riding into Ocean City. I’m not sure if the narrow sidewalk on the bridge was the bike lane or if we were welcomed in a travel lane. I took the lane. Since there was no shoulder I took the middle of the lane since it was unsafe to encourage anyone to pass me (think sharrows). Besides, I was doing 20 mph in a 30 mph zone. It was all good.
In Ocean City, I hopped on the Boardwalk, thinking I might ride it for a while. I did, about three blocks worth. Too crowded, even at 9:00 a.m. Then it was back to the streets. Ocean City has a bike/bus lane so traveling north-south really is a breeze except for all the stoplights.
In all I rode 219 miles in seven days (and slightly more if I count running around Saturday morning with the girls in the Burley Trailer before we left). I averaged 16.6 mph which is probably one mph faster than I ride at home, all things being equal. That includes fighting the wind. Yes, it sometimes benefits you but during a loop it’s one part headwind, two parts crosswind, and one part tailwind. I’d rather have no wind.
But it was great and I would love to come back here to ride some more.