A Test of the Knee

SAXTON, PENNSYLVANIA

It’s hard to believe that it has been 12 weeks since my knee replacement surgery. I don’t think my knee is where it should be but I will withhold judgment until my next doctor’s appointment.

Since surgery, I have ridden less than 200 miles in total. In many years I am over 1,000 miles and sometimes over 2,000 by this time. But I am not completely “without legs.” I have been riding a stationary bike almost every day, often for up to an hour at a time.

This road. Henrietta Mountain Road. I found it only because some Altoona locals told me about it a few years ago. And I rode it last year. It compared to some of the toughest two-mile climbs I have done.

Last year I struggled. I even thought about stopping on the climb. Or turning back. But this year I seemed at peace with it.

I drove to Saxton and looked for a place to park. I found one at the intersection of Pa. 26 and 913. The car was off the road but otherwise out in the open. I pedaled to the foot of the climb. Just after starting and no more than one-half mile in, I wondered if I had locked the car.  I had left my car keys (I had the clicker), wallet, and laptop computer all in the car and available to anyone if it wasn’t locked.

Although I didn’t remember locking it, of course, I always lock it. I decided it would be foolish to go back to the car. There are somethings that you do automatically and locking your car is one of them, right?

The lower section of the climb starts at 6-8% then gets tougher. Soon the grades were 12% and some reached the 20s. I stayed seated, mostly, but occasionally got out of the saddle. It was hot (87°). For the two-mile climb, only six cars had to pass me. The road is lightly traveled.

At times, I could feel the knee clicking. I could hear the rhythm of the knee. But it didn’t hurt so I pushed on.

The road is steep. Period. I didn’t “paperboy” but I crept. I didn’t stop. I just kept the momentum going.

I did not review the route. The first/last time I turned around at the top. Today I went over the top. I expected to level off and come into Rt. 164 at the top of the mountain, and have a great ride back down. Oh boy, was I wrong.

It was a nice descent into a valley although I did not lose all the elevation I had climbed. It just felt like it. I followed Henrietta Mountain Road to the end, catching two Amish girls with a horse and wagon.

I came to Rt. 164. Instead of being at the top of the mountain, I was at the bottom. And here the road is high-speed, with a 55 mph speed limit. There were guard rails on both sides and no shoulder. And uphill of course because I had to cross back over the mountain. I regretted this route.

But I survived, with a note not to ride this way again. On the descent, I pedaled until I ran out of gears. I hit 49 mph. I so wanted 50 but with a 50 tooth front cassette, and a swollen knee, I just couldn’t find it today.

Back to the car but fully satisfied. I opened the car and found it was unlocked. Sick feeling. But checked. Keys there. Wallet there. Laptop computer there. The car was undisturbed. Whew! Dumb by me.

In the evening the legs felt sore. Like they had a workout. It’s been a long time since I was able to push myself on a climb like that. So glad I did. And looking at the map there may be another way back if I do this one again.

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