My Last Ride With Dad

MARKLETON, PENNSYLVANIA

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.

Markleton on the GAP
Markleton on the GAP

I told my sister, Betsy, that I would meet her and Dad at Markleton, Pa. on the Great Allegheny Passage. Betsy followed him to Fort Hill, where he left his Jeep, then the two of them met me at Markleton. It was in the low 60s but absolutely beautiful.

GAP near Markleton
GAP near Markleton

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.

GAP in the Fall
GAP in the Fall

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.

Cassleman River near Markletong
Casselman River near Markletong

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.

Pinkerton Tunnel
Pinkerton Tunnel

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.

Heavy leaf coverage on the trail
Heavy leaf coverage on the trail

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.

Pinkerton Tunnel
Pinkerton Tunnel

At the far end we were on the Pinkerton High Trestle. We stopped and took pictures off this one.

Pinkerton High Trestle
Pinkerton High Trestle

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.

Besty, Dad, Barry
Besty, Dad, Barry

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!

DEL_GAP03

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.

GAP at Confluence
GAP at Confluence

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.

Stairs from the GAP, Confluence, Pa.
Stairs from the GAP, Confluence, Pa.

We grabbed some cookies and a drink then road back up to Markleton. What a gorgeous day on a bike.

Confluence overlooking the Youghigheny
Confluence overlooking the Youghiogheny

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.

 


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