After a lifetime of not riding with my dad, I was able three years ago to take him on the Great Allegheny Passage which runs through his backyard in Somerset County, Pa. We went again in 2013 but missed a ride last year (despite trying but my dad was too tired the day we were going to ride). This time, we got it right.
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I chose this route because of the newly opened Pinkerton tunnel. Also, my dad hadn’t been this far on the trail. I knew it trended downhill from Markleton to Fort Hill and packed a lot of scenery into its five miles.
With leaves mostly still on the trees in Northern Virginia, it was strange to be here where most leaves are on the ground. The trail was fully covered in places.
Words cannot describe how pretty the trail is. We went a couple miles then came to the Pinkerton Trestles. It was probably 10 years since I last rode through here which was always Trestle – Detour – Trestle. And that was a beautiful route.
But with the tunnel open, it was even more beautiful. Although the trail trended downhill, it is mostly flat. One can’t coast but pedaling is a little easier in this direction. We were in a heavy forest and with leaves on the trail one could not see the surface.
And then – the trestle. We came to the Pinkerton trestle although we didn’t stop on it. We saw the tunnel and kept riding. It is not lighted, one would be helpful but is not necessary.
At the far end we were on the Pinkerton High Trestle. We stopped and took pictures off this one.
Reaching Fort Hill my dad asked “Is this the end?” He said he wanted to keep riding. I was worried that if we rode four miles down to Harnedsville that it would be too much for my 86 year-old father to ride another four miles back up to his car. I grabbed his keys and drove his Jeep down to Harnedsville. And so we rode.
Betsy and my dad rode ahead. Once at the trail head with his Jeep, I rode back up to the trail to meet them and we then continued to the Harnedsville trail head. At the end we got a little concerned when he went into the middle of the road where the trail crosses and stopped. Just stopped. A road normally lightly traveled, there was a car coming from each direction. Betsy yelled “Dad!” I got the attention of one car and motioned for him to slow or stop. Dad said “OK!” Then he moved. Whew!
Although he wanted to ride ahead and look at a church in Harnedsville, there was no way we were going to ride on the road with him. I loaded his bike in his Jeep and he drove home.
Betsy and I rode on down to Confluence. We looked for a place for a snack and found stairs leading from the trail with a bike trough to walk the bikes. The problem was the trough was on the side and not in the middle so the pedals hit the supports as I pushed the bike. Oh well.
We grabbed some cookies and a drink then road back up to Markleton. What a gorgeous day on a bike.
UPDATE: (SEPT. 14, 2016) – This post has been updated to “My Last Ride With Dad.” With each ride we wondered if this was our last ride with him but this ride had more of a finality to it than the others. My dad seemed a little out of it standing in the road and I worried for his safety going home. He made it safely and then promptly sold the Jeep.
He never talked about it but looking back I sense he knew his mind was failing and that it was best to sell that beat up Jeep he loved so much. We were just talking about another ride this spring when he fell in April. I wanted one more ride. I looked at first at recumbent bikes. Hand cycles. Tandems where I did the work. Ultimately, he would never ride again. And on this day we said goodbye to him we were thankful for the rides we shared with him. We were the lucky ones.