The End of Father Time (Posts, that is)

ROSSITER, PENNSYLVANIA

No fewer than six times have I worried enough to blog about Father Time. He is, after all, undefeated. But why worry?

Last week I rode from Geistown (Johnstown) to Rossiter and was worried that I might not be as fast as I was on a ride 11 years ago. After controlling for similar segments (East Conemaugh to Arcadia), I concluded that I went at least the same speed. And if I parsed it further, stopping when I reached Northern Cambria then resuming when I left, I think I was faster last week than I was 11 years ago when I first rode this.

Kirspy Kreme, Belsano, Pa.

Today I had the realization that it doesn’t matter. Sometime, someday, Father Time will catch up with me. And so what?

I parked at the Kia dealership in Geistown (with permission) and headed down Scalp Avenue. I went straight through Johnstown, not electing for photo ops over by the Inclined Plane. When I came to East Conemaugh, my first timed segment began. I was 20 seconds or so up on my best time when it quit giving me feedback about halfway up the climb. I just continued the pace.

Northern Cambria, Pa.

Confirmation of a PR would have to wait until I uploaded my data to Strava. I needed 14:09 (2010) and came in at 13:20. It was good for #1 age group (an age group of two – apparently not many cyclists my age attempt this road and this climb).

The next two climbs “Don’t wanna go to school” and “Station Road Climb” forced me to quickly sit up. Although on the former I got my second best time and on the latter, I became the “local legend” (with two attempts in the past 90 days). Not only aren’t too many people my age riding this route, apparently not too many cyclists of any age ride out here.

Water stop at Sheetz, Northern Cambria, Pa.

Last week I smoked the segment from Belsano to Duman Lake (11:08 – KOM). Today I came in two minutes later. I rode yesterday in Virginia in 95º heat and it drained my resources. I had nothing left for today. Not expecting much on Blue Goose Climb to Nicktown I grabbed a PR (6:49), taking seven seconds off my PR of last week. That moved me up one place (to sixth) and kept me at #1 age group, being the only one in my age group.

Northern Cambria, Pa.

The temperature today was around 70º and very overcast. My shoes seemed to be constantly wet and I wasn’t sure if there was water coming off my front tire or I was dripping that much sweat (and I was). Right after Nicktown came the descent to Northern Cambria. This is untimed by Strava Live Segments so I rode reasonably hard. But I didn’t feel like I put in the KOM effort of last weekend and I was right. At 5:32 it was my second-best effort but was 0:14 off my mark from last week.

In Northern Cambria, I went to say hello to cousins Don and Nancy but it didn’t look like they were home. So I went to Sheetz. Filled my bottles with ice, bought a $0.99 bottle of water, topped them off, and headed to Cherry Tree.

Yinz Bar, Cherry Tree, Pa.

The roads turn “heavy” here and the road at Stifflertown had new tar and chips although I could ride it with no problems. Just not fast. I set a new best time for Stifflertown to Arcadia, even soft-pedaling near the end. I was chased by a big dog – couldn’t tell you what breed.

Then I headed off for Smithport. Arcadia to Trojan Road is not available for Live Segments as it is a slight downhill. Nor was I racing it – more Just Riding Along. But I set a PR (KOM) of 5:32 which was 0:04 better than last week.

I turned on Trojan Road and here is where the road turns up. And I was 7-8 seconds ahead of the Arcadia to Smithport segment. I maintained that lead until I turned off Trojan Road onto Williams Road and the climb. If the road turns up at Trojan Road, it turns up in anger at Williams Road. Less than one-half mile in length, I lost 27 seconds to last week’s KOM effort. And I figured then I had no chance at the larger Arcadia to Smithport segment. But I saw I was bringing the time back and finished in 20:32 which was 19 seconds better than in 2014.

Visiting Dad

Leaving Smithport I was riding in a very light rain although it would last for only about five minutes. Rather than go straight to the (Lowmaster) Reunion, I turned and went up Church Road to Fairview Cemetery. There I visited my dad’s grave. I am sure he approved.

But the short route to the reunion at Winebark Park also took me on dirt, gravel, and chip and tar road (almost all chips). Plus the entrance in and out of the park is dirt or grass so I gave up a lot of time there.

Tyger Road, Rossiter, Pa.

Unlike last week I did not care what my time was. And I am never going to worry about my time now compared to 10 years ago. There will be a time when I can’t produce the power or speed I did 10 years ago. But I am on a bike. And looking at my age group, I am doing things now that very few people my age are doing. So I am thankful for any speed. I am on a bike. I am finding peace.


Father Time is Undefeated

ROSSITER, PENNSYLVANIA

Father Time is Undefeated. I hear that more than I need to but perhaps mostly from check work for plagiarism free online https://thejeffreyfoundation.org/newsletter/chemistry-lab-report-template/17/ source site task 2 essay topic cheapest source for viagra regents essay exam approved topics see dissertation de littrature terminale l thesis example for persuasive essay go creating excellent thesis statement https://ncappa.org/term/farm-city-essay-contest/4/ best essay writing songs about you taylor http://hyperbaricnurses.org/9713-jelq-on-viagra/ an essay on money essay transition phrases consumer behaviour dissertation topics proscar effects on fertility de malo tomar viagra siendo joven go site best way write college entrance essay source 4 square writing method informational essay cialis generico quando in commercio love cooking essay enter site chemical compound for viagra what would happen if women take viagra cuanto vale viagra farmacia chile essay sociology writing essay translated in tagalog english bulldog no papers Ron Cook on KDKA-The Fan. While accepting that premise I also want to believe I can delay ‘ole Father Time.

I seem to be measuring my rides on average speed. Throughout much of 2021, my rides have mirrored what I did 10-11 years ago (which is basically when I really started tracking such things using GPS). And then there is this ride, Somerset to Punxsutawney. I averaged 16 mph in 2010 and have never gotten back to it. Is Father Time winning?

Parking at Team Kia, Geistown

About today: I parked at Team Kia in Giestown (with permission). From there it is a five-mile descent to Johnstown before the real ride begins. This is the first ride I have done using Strava Live Segments so I had targeted some segments to “race” today.

Downtown Johnstown

The first was the climb out of Johnstown that begins in East Conemaugh. And it did not come in. So I rode the climb at tempo but never going too deep. The result was my second best time (14:30) which was only surpassed by my ride in 2010 (14:09). I am pretty confident that I could have squeezed out 21 seconds if I knew my progress. So this may have been a win.

Inclined Plane, Johnstown

I was plagued throughout my ride with Live Strava Segments that did not appear where I expected them. This evening I figured out why. I had a new Wahoo and did not set it up with Wifi to connect with my mother’s Wifi. So any segments I set up or selected (starred) yesterday did not sync when I selected sync. Operator error.

Conemaugh River, Johnstown

I had a surprise segment in Vinco (PR) but could not get the Station Road Climb segment in Twin Rocks. That was set on a dedicated ride three years ago in which my goal was a PR. And in 2018 it was also near the beginning of my ride.

Morning overlooking Johnstown (from Geistown, Scalp Ave.)

I knew I would PR the four-mile segment from Belsano to Duman Lake. That was 12:32 (2010). I knew I would have to go hard and I saw I was on pace for the KOM (11:08). In the last mile, I went from being 4-5 seconds ahead to being 1-2 seconds down.

Conemaugh River, Johnstown, Pa.

I buried myself pushing the pace. Finally, I saw the time – 11:09 PR. Missed it by one second. What an effort. Then I told myself that what I saw was a provisional time and maybe once uploaded I would gain one second. I was shocked when that actually happened. And I was even more shocked to see that the KOM was 11:09 and not 11:08 which I was fixated on. I got a well-earned KOM. This segment can best be described as a time trial segment more than a sprint or a climb.

I went reasonably deep for a PR on the Blue Goose climb to Nicktown and got it. And I also got a KOM on the downhill from Nicktown to Northern Cambria. But only by six seconds and since this is not a Live Segment (more than -0.25% grade), I could only hope that pedaling the entire way would earn those seconds.

Winebark Park, Rossiter, Pa.

In Northern Cambria, I stopped at Don & Nancy’s house even while figuring they were out of town. Then I headed to Sheetz. I filled my bottles with ice then bought water from their cooler.

Northern Cambria, Pa.

In Cherry Tree, I passed the fair Cherry Tree Days where a banner proudly displays ALWAYS THE FIRST WEEKEND IN AUGUST. Trying to keep a good pace I did not slow or stop to take a photo.

Cherry Tree VFD

Here the ride gets tougher. It’s all up and down (mostly up) and the roads are “heavy.” I did set a KOM on the Williams Road climb but I am the only cyclist who ever recorded and uploaded to Strava on that road. I was getting tired and by the time I did the last stretch to the “Crossroads” (which is where my great-grandfather, John T. States, lived, I was toast. Done.

Corinne and Barry. When you attend the family reunion and find someone else wore your outfit.

It is time now for reflection. Maybe chasing segments left me more drained than just riding along. Or maybe Father Time is reminding me, Father Time is Undefeated.



Reflection time. I wanted to look at the average speed over time. It ranged from 14.0 to 16.4. I am convinced that I had a strong tailwind in 2010 which helped me achieve the 16.4 speed. That was one week after I posted 14.3.

Today’s ride of 15.4 was almost my second best (which was 15.5). I’m thinking I sucked but that’s almost the best time in 10 years.

Weather certainly affected some rides as I was caught in heavy rains a couple of times. I also think, strangely enough, that the longer rides starting in Friedens or Somerset were a bit easier in that they had 15-20 additional miles that trended downhill to Johnstown whereas stating in Geistown is almost starting in Johnstown.

Sheetz, Northern Cambria

Using the ride in 2010 where I averaged 16.4 mph, RideWithGPS shows the average grade was 0.7% Compared to today’s Geistown ride which was 1.2%. So that could explain most of the one mph difference between the two. Of course, so could competing for KOM segments. I was drained after the segment to Duman Lake and it wasn’t too long before I had to start the Blue Goose Climb. Ending in Nicktown it was only one mile before the descent to Northern Cambria. So chasing segments may have been an overall negative. But getting a higher speed on the segment may have helped out. Who knows?

DateDistanceMPHStart
8/7/201089.4214.3Friedens
8/14/201077.5616.4Friedens
8/13/201178.8214.4Friedens
8/3/201376.0014.4Friedens
8/10/201361.5114.9Friedens
8/2/201485.0515.5Davidsville
8/6/201686.1814.7Somerset
8/13/201640.4315.0Ebensburg
8/12/201740.3214.3Ebensburg
8/19/201751.5314.1Ebensburg
8/4/201860.0314.2Geistown
8/10/201956.0015.0Geistown
8/7/202157.7315.4Geistown

Another factor that is hard to quantify is rest. Yesterday I set four PRs climbing over Ray’s Hill tunnel in Breezewood. My legs felt like Jell-O to start. So how the legs feel leading up to the ride, nutrition both prior to plus while on and off the bike, weather (heat and rain), will all be a factor in how I ride. Plus age – but it doesn’t look like that’s a factor here.

And maybe the final factor is the amount of time I spent sightseeing or stopping to take photos. Today I did not just motor through Johnstown but turned and went over to the Inclined Plane. Likewise, in Northern Cambria, I went to the Lowmaster’s house then went to Sheetz, making a couple of U-turns in the process. No hurry at all. In 2010 I went straight through Johnstown with no sightseeing stops and the same for Northern Cambria. Today’s sightseeing added 1.5 miles but also took 18 minutes. Adding that to the 2010 trip and my average speed would have dropped to 15.8.

I’m not sure what it means but I will include heart rate. Today my average was 136 bpm. My high HR was 174 which was on my “time trial” from Belsano to Duman Lake. Looking back 11 years my HR was 132 bpm and my max was 166 which was on the climb out of Glen Campbell (I missed a turn). I think this is inconclusive. An out of shape rider may have a higher HR than someone in shape. Or if one works harder than the other that could also be a factor. But the work rate as measured by HR was about the same. Maybe I need power meters?

One other comparison. From the bridge in East Conemaugh to Trojan Road (Arcadia/Glen Campbell). It is 41 miles. Both times took me 172 minutes (2:52) at an average of 14.4 mph (it trends uphill beginning with the climb out of Johnstown). Looking at this metric, I rode the same today as I did in 2010 which was my best time ever. And maybe, just maybe, if you take out the eight minutes in Northern Cambria today riding over to Sheetz, then I rode better today.

Also looking at this metric, maybe I didn’t have a great tailwind in 2010. Maybe that was the standard and I matched it today, some 11 years later.

When I did not come close to my 2010 speed I was bummed. But looking closer, I posted a good speed today for the Appalachian Mountains. The difference between total speed between 2021 and 2010 can mostly be explained by the sightseeing component and some by eliminating the long time trending downhill by starting in Friedens.

Father Time is coming for me – but maybe not as fast as I feared. Back off Jack!

Abandoned Turnpike

BREEZEWOOD, PENNSYLVANIA

I have been here perhaps 10 times. Maybe 15. I’m sure I could look it up but I’m lazy. But I wanted to bring my friend, Tim, with me.

Gate at entrance to Abandoned Turnpike

We left Woodbridge at 6:30 and drove out I-66, stopping in Linden at the Apple House Restaurant for some apple butter cinnamon donuts. We arrived in Breezewood at 10:00 a.m.

Apple cinnamon donuts from The Apple House Restaurant

The entrance to the Abandoned Turnpike used to be a dirt singletrack. I was never able to ride up the pitch and only once dared to ride down it. Today I noticed that it had been widened and paved with some asphalt. Both Tim and I were able to ride up the path to the beginning of the trail.

Riding down the turnpike

There was a gate across the road and the jersey barriers were arranged that one could not take a bike. We had to do the Limbo, ducking under the bar with our bikes.

Approaching Ray’s Hill Tunnel

We were only in about a mile when we passed two guys coming back. One was riding slowly and the other was pushing his bike as his had a flat. I offered any help and was willing to give him a tube but he said he would walk. They were almost back to the cars.

Tree down

I mentioned to Tim that there is a lot of broken glass here and to always be vigilant. We rode our Trek Checkpoints with knobby tires so I was feeling pretty secure. I also thought that the turnpike looked like it had been swept at some point. Although there was broken glass, it wasn’t nearly as bad as it had been.

I talked to a family from Carlisle at the entrance to the first tunnel and Tim went ahead without me. Brave guy. In the tunnel I hit something, probably falling cement from the ceiling.

Overlooking the valley

The distance, end to end, is just 8.5 miles so an out-and-back ride is just 17 miles. That seemed too short of a ride. So I added a valley loop and created two KOM segments on Strava that I could compete for. Tim could too but having never ridden this before Strava would not show his first effort as a PR.

I went ahead on Hess Road and captured both KOMs. I consider these as garbage KOMs. First, is because very few people ride here. Second, no one knew these were segments before I created them. But I have ridden here before and would be happy with PRs. But they were KOMs and I will take them.

Between the two tunnels

We finished the loop and headed back inside the tunnels. As I came out of the second tunnel I could feel some squishiness in my front tire. I looked and told Tim that I was flatting and was going to ride ahead.

With less than two miles to go, I had hoped to ride as far as I could before it was unrideable. Being so close I didn’t want to take the time to change the flat thinking it would be faster to ride than perhaps walking. And walk I did.

Sideling Hill Tunnel

It was about 3/4 of a mile when I could no longer ride. At that point, I had to walk. I could have changed the flat but I was so close, or so I thought. End of the ride for me. But I should have changed the flat.


Although I blamed glass, I think it was just as likely broken asphalt or broken concrete inside the tunnel. I found no debris in the tire.


Trail Magic

MEYERSDALE, PENNSYLVANIA

The alarm didn’t go off. It didn’t need to. I was up at two minutes before 4:00 a.m. and decided I would drive to Pennsylvania and ride a portion of the Great Allegheny Passage Trail.

Supporters of the Big Savage Tunnel at Deal

Although I have ridden on the trail many times (all in sections except one through trip from Pittsburgh to D.C.), today would be different. I was going to provide “trail magic.”

Near Meyersdale

Trail magic occurs when people on the trail experience the magic through the kindness of a stranger. Usually, it will be food or water. But it could be a ride too. I left home and stopped in Cumberland to load up on ice. I had purchased water and snacks before and was all set.

Trailhead at Deal

I parked at Deal Road. At 7:45 a.m. I pedaled off towards Ohiopyle. My trail magic was directed at the Texas4000. Although their website indicated that they would be on the trail this day, I never ran into them. It would have been a grand gesture but just didn’t work out. Just south of Markleton I turned around to head back.

Eastern Continental Divide

Although disappointed, I was prepared for this possibility and would make the best of it. It was a beautiful day. I was on a bike. It would be a great day.

Near Meyersdale

When I had passed Rockwood there was a volunteer standing at her “welcome center.” She asked me to sign the guest book and I told her I would on the way back. So now, on my way back, I stopped and signed the book. Name. Address. Comments: “Pave it.

Salisbury Aqueduct

This trail is so nice but how much nicer would it be with a fresh coat of asphalt. I rode my gravel bike (Checkpoint) but with road tires (32s). And that was easy enough. 28s or 25s would have been OK too. But crushed limestone is a tad bit harder to pedal than asphalt. Mostly for me, it’s the dust. My water bottles were coated with fine limestone dust and it tastes gritty even if it really isn’t.

Meyersdale Station

I caught a young woman, Hannah, near Garrett. She was leaving Rockwood when I was signing the guest book and was far enough up the trail that I assumed she had jumped off at Rockwood rather than continue on the trail. I asked her where she was headed and she said the Eastern Continental Divide. I told her I was too if she would let me ride with her. She said that would be fine.

Hannah. Not sure if this was an accidental selfie but it was on my phone.

Hannah was from Cedar Rapids, Iowa, but is now living in Morgantown. She came to Ohiopyle to ride her first Century. So we talked all the way to the Continental Divide. When we turned I insisted that she stop and get some trail magic. And she was happy too. I had ICE – and the temperatures had crept up to the high 80s. I gave her a cold Gatorade to take with her as well.

Bollman Bridge

As Hannah was leaving I rode with her another four miles towards Meyersdale before wishing her the best of luck and turning around. Then I returned to the car. It was just in time as two women and a man were sharing what little water they had left. I invited them to my car for some trail magic. Ice. And water.

My car at Deal

It didn’t work out for the Texas4000 on this day (I learned they were wheels down at the ungodly hour of 5:00 a.m. and I just missed them at Deal) but it did for other complete strangers. That was fun this trail magic thing. And an added bonus. My name is on a plaque at this stop.

My name is on the plaque at Deal

___

The Shadow Knows

PUNXSUTAWNEY, PENNSYLVANIA

The roads here have one quality. They go up. Turn a corner and the road goes up (occasionally down too). But there is one place they don’t. The Mahoning Shadow Trail.

Water Street, Punxsutawney, Pa.

The MST is a 15-mile rail trail that follows the Mahoning Creek to the west and goes deep into the forest to the east. I wasn’t sure how much time I had to ride so I asked for recommendations from my Punxsutawney friends. The consensus was the cool things were to the west.

I parked at Punxy Phil’s (I would eat there too) and joined the trail at the west end of town (well, the west end of downtown). The trail is a crushed limestone trail but there were large stretches where it was barren of limestone. More like packed dirt which actually was OK.

At time is was almost two single tracks

The Mahoning Creek is a beautiful creek with lots of sections of what appears to be deep pools of water. And this was a logging creek 150 years ago as loggers could float their logs to Pittsburgh from here.

Beautiful Mahoning Creek

This became a coal mining area and one passes abandoned coke ovens in the hillside. They were used to burn coal into coke for iron furnaces.

Coke ovens

I passed perhaps 12 other users on this section from Punxsutawney out to Valier (or Fordham). I made mental note of the best photo ops for the ride back into town.

Reaching Punxs’y I carefully noted the signs as I had read reviews which stated they were lacking. And I concur. I don’t know Punxs’y but I’m not a complete stranger either. I knew where the trail entered and exited the town and if I couldn’t follow a marked on-street trail I was OK navigating there by myself.

On the trail in Punxs’y

The signage is bad. Period. Entering Punxsutawney from the west I found myself on the levee next to Mahoning Creek. Or on a paved path. The path here is very narrow but on this cloudy and cool day, it was OK because I didn’t meet anyone coming from the other direction.

On the levee next to the Mahoning Creek

I lost the “scent” of the trail but headed back to where I knew it was. I found the skateboard park but turned around when I didn’t see a trailhead. I left, went back to the main road (East Mahoning Street), and decided I would ride the main road to Cloe. At Cloe, I could pick up the trail.

On the road, it’s a climb. A real climb. The roads here go up and go up some more. But I like to climb so I was OK with taking the highway. But once on East Mahoning Street, I saw a sign marked Bike Route and decided to take it. And I found a trailhead for the MST. And I still don’t know if it’s THE trailhead – but it worked.

Punxs’y Phil is everywhere

It is two miles alongside the Mahoning Creek before reaching Cloe. And here the trail leaves the Mahoning Creek.

This is also a trailhead /parking and a decision for me. Where does the trail go? I hadn’t studied a map to know and my gut said to turn left (on Rte 36) and I would find it in a couple hundred yards. At the stop sign in the lot there is a small blue arrow – straight.

Trail marking. Apparently. Perhaps add a small MST sign to the blue sign?

What is this? Is this a directional sign for the MST? I didn’t know but it puts one on the Cloe-Rossiter Road and I was OK with riding to Rossiter and back on the highway and calling it a day.

I went a few hundred yards past Cloe Lumber and saw a sign to the left for the MST. I think. Or maybe it was just bike route. But I jumped on it and was now on the eastern portion of the MST.

No longer following a stream it did cross Canoe Creek. On a map I was next to Ugly Run but never saw it. I was in a deep forest. There is nothing here except trees. And more trees.

MST – towards Winslow

At the end I came to Winslow Road. I wanted to jump on the road for the ride back but wasn’t sure where it would take me. I decided to ride the trail back. And I would just ride. (And it was a good decision not to take the road.)

Winslow Road trailhead

I followed the trail back to Cloe, crossed Rte 36 and decided to ride as far as I could in Punxs’y before the trail ended. I passed where I had entered and this time exited at the skate park. I also rode through the grass. For this rider, the trail is not well marked.

Once in town, I decided to take surface streets back to Punxy Phil’s. It was nice riding through town.

Downtown Punxsutawney

My short review of the trail is this. It lacks the railroad infrastructure of high trestles or tunnels some iconic trails have. But the MST can’t do anything about that. It also lacks facilities but you are never more than 7.5 miles from Punxsutawney where you should be able to find anything you need – water, food, restrooms. The signage is not good in town. But you will find peace and quiet and solitude riding out towards Winslow with a fast ride back. IMHO, it is prettier riding towards Valier simply because you are next to the Mahoning Creek most of the way.

It may not be a destination trail but definitely one you should ride if you are in Punxsutawney.

Equipment: I rode my Trek Checkpoint (Gravel bike) with 700×32 tires. There were no issues with tire size. 28s would have been fine and 25s would be too.


Lebanon Valley Rail Trail

JONESTOWN, PENNSYLVANIA

I was returning home from Allentown, Pennsylvania, and had not yet ridden today. With only a little research, too little, I came here looking for the Lebanon Valley Rail Trail. I didn’t have much luck.

Jonestown, Pa.

The Lebanon Valley Rail Trail looks like a nice 18-mile trail but it isn’t here (mostly). According to TrailLink.com “Two short, isolated sections of trail totaling 3 miles have also been constructed north of the main segment. The first segment in Lebanon begins at Union Canal Tunnel Park, where parking and picnic benches are available, and extends north just less than 2 miles to Long Lane. The second segment begins in Bunker Hill near PA 72 and Swatara Creek and extends through Jonestown to US 22.

Bridge over Swatara Creek, Jonestown, Pa.

So I came to Jonestown seeking a one-mile rail trail. That’s not quite a destination but it was on my way home.

Bridge over Swatara Creek, Jonestown, Pa.

It was cold. It was April. It was spring and it was only 43º. The windchill was 36º. There were snow flurries in the air.

Gravestone of Johan Wilhelm Kurtz

I found the sign for the Lebanon Valley Rail Trail and parked in a small lot. I started down the trail and went 1.2 miles when it abruptly ended. And that was it. I went over to Ebenezer Road and took it back to Jonestown.

Zion’s Lutheran Church, Jonestown, Pa.

I rode through Jonestown looking for some nice streets. It’s a small town. I was leaving on Old U.S. 22 and turned back to town. I went to the large cemetery and found the gravesite of my great-great-great-great-great-grandparents, John William and Regina Kurtz. John (1732-1799) was a German Lutheran pastor and served the church well in Eastern Pennsylvania. He served the Zion Lutheran Church in town and I visited it as well.

Swatara Creek at West Market Street, Jonestown, Pa.

I headed back to the car then decided to follow the trail in the opposite direction. A power line pole was leaning precariously over the trail. I had to ride through the field to get around it. The trail was only extended for a half-mile when it ended. So end to end the trail in Jonestown is less than two miles long.

Lebanon Valley Rail Trail, Jonestown, Pa.

It will be great if this segment connects with the main segment of the Lebanon Valley Rail Trail. But it wasn’t a wasted trip. This is also one of my ancestral homes.

U.S. 22, Jonestown, Pa.

The Hoodlebug

INDIANA, PENNSYLVANIA

It was cold. It was 32° (freezing – 0° C) as I rolled out. I trusted my phone app to find parking and a trailhead. It was an open area but there were a few trucks from the Indiana County Parks department working in the area. There was a sign: Property of Devine Destiny Ministries – Park at Your Own Risk.

Parking at the Hoodlebug Trail in Indiana

It was perhaps 50 yards on an access trail to reach the actual Hoodlebug Trail. The trail follows the rail line of the Indiana Branch of the Pennsylvania Railroad, an 1850s line that ran from Blairsville to Indiana. Single self-propelled cars ran on this line into the 1940s. Called Doodlebugs, or locally, Hoodlebugs, it became the nickname for this line.

The trail runs 12 miles from Indiana to Black Lick and connects with the Ghost Town Trail. Because of the cold, I planned to ride five miles out and back or 10 miles total.

One can see US 119 in the background

At the access trail I didn’t see a sign, not that there wasn’t any. There were men working on the trail on their truck may have blocked the view.

Crossing Yellow Creek

It was gray without a hint of sunshine. I had no idea which direction was anything. I headed right which turned out to be south towards Black Lick. The trail is parallel to US 119 so despite a wilderness feel at times, I was never far from the din of the highway.

Yellow Creek

I crossed the Stoney, Two Lick, and Yellow Creeks. In Homer City the trail ended briefly and followed a two-block work around (not a detour because this is permanent). I had gone a little more than five miles and decided a turnaround was in order. Ten miles would be good enough today.

In Indiana – Rose Street

When I got back to the access trail, at a little more than 10 miles, I decided to continue north to see where the trail would lead. IUP is where. The trail cuts through the Indiana University of Pennyslvania (IUP) on the street. Before reaching IUP the trail was paved with emergency call boxes every 100 yards or so.

Snow covered bridge

I am much more comfortable on a trail with no improvements than I am on an improved trail with emergency call boxes. Nothing says danger more than the need for these call boxes. I imagine this section is also used as a night walk on campus.

Trail at IUP – Maple Street

I followed the trail on street for a while but wasn’t sure how much farther it went. Nor did I need to find out. I turned around while on the IUP campus and headed back.

Underpass

The trail is crushed gravel. It was a good riding surface. But there was nothing structural or natural as big attractions. It’s a nice trail and maybe the perfect length for some riders. I would not make this a destination trip but I was already in Indiana so this was the perfect ride on this day. Except for the cold.



LINKS

Trail Link – Hoodlebug Trail

Hoodlebug Trail (Pa. DCNR)

Directions to Trail Heads

Indiana County Parks & Trails – Hoodlebug

Horseshoe Curve – My Happy Place

ALTOONA, PENNSYLVANIA

In early 2008 Bicycling magazine published an article about the toughest climbs in each state. Maybe not the toughest but most iconic in each state. For Pennsylvania, Horseshoe Curve was listed with a description of a “Three lakes, a 200′ tunnel and an 18% wall, what could be better?”

At the Curve – May 5, 2018

It was then I knew I had to ride it. And it has become my go-to ride. My happy place. So let me tell you in my words what is so special here.

I first came here after I read the description. And I keep coming back.

I call the climb Horseshoe Curve. Technically, I suppose, Horseshoe Curve is really the engineering marvel completed in 1854 which got trains over the Allegheny Mountains. The New York Central could run a train from New York to Chicago in 16 hours but it took four days to travel between Philadelphia and Pittsburgh using canals, horses, train cars, and the Allegheny Portage Railroad. One can read about the history anywhere, I will link to an article at Uncovering PA.

Typically, I park at the Logan Valley Mall to begin a ride. Although gradual, one begins climbing the minutes you push down on the first pedal. It’s about 2.5 miles up 58th Street to Kittanning Point Road. Make a left here and it’s an easy three more miles to the Curve.

Canal diverting mine water – May 5, 2018

If you are lucky, there will be a passing train or two and you can hear the clickety-clack clickety-clack of the train. If it is climbing you can race it although eventually, the sound will pull away.

You will pass three lakes – all reservoirs with the Altoona Water System. The first is Lake Altoona, the largest and prettiest of the three. The second is the Kittanning Reservoir. The third is at the Curve itself. It is smaller than the first two and I’m not sure that it is named.

Lake Altoona Reservoir – 19 Mar 2020

The water in these lakes is pristine. But that is because of a unique water-diversion system. There is a lot of mine drainage in the area marked by the bright orange color of the acid water. There is a canal next to the lakes which carries this water safely past the lakes. I do not know where the orange water goes after bypassing Altoona’s water supply.

The canal the diverts water past Lake Altoona Reservoir

These three miles (3.2) are pretty easy. Yes, one is climbing but a lot of it is flat beside one of the three lakes. I calculate this portion to be 1.9% grade.

At the Curve itself are the attractions. The Curve itself is the main attraction. This is a pay-attraction area. As of 2020, admission was $8 but one would need to check to be certain. At the Curve, one can climb 194 steps or take a funicular (Inclined plane) to reach the viewing platform. I come here to ride a bike and not watch trains so I cannot comment any further about the Curve.

For years the Curve was covered in heavy forest. Around 2018 they cut down acres of trees which was both disappointing but also pretty cool. Now as you approach the Curve you can see the trains on the tracks. And the passengers on the Pennsylvanian (Amtrak, twice daily) surely must enjoy the view.

A foggy, wet, day – 19 Mar 2020

Traffic on Kittanning Point Road to the Curve is generally light and always courteous. In the three miles to the Curve one might get passed by 5-6 cars. Most of the traffic seems to be going to visit the Curve.

And then the fun begins. There is a 200-foot tunnel that goes under the Curve. Look carefully because there are two tunnels. One is for car traffic and the second is for water – that disgusting orange mine water that bypasses the drinking supply.

Mine runoff – ugh

Go through the tunnel and everything changes. First, the road turns up. Second, one is in a deep forest. Nothing to see but trees and water of the Glenwhite Run. It is absolutely beautiful here. (And I typically do not have photos from this area as I don’t want to stop then have to restart.)

The legs may slow down as the body notices, even if the eyes do not, it is getting harder to pedal. By my calculation, it is 3.3 miles from the tunnel to Coupon-Gallitzin Road. And the grade works out to be 5.3% which doesn’t sound like much. But that also includes a downhill section near the top.

Glenwhite Run

There is a half-mile section that averages more than 12%. The “Wall” is 18% or 19%. Two things always happen when I go up this road. First, I always battle myself and wonder if this will be the first time I have to get off and push my bike. And second, there is an immense feeling of satisfaction and pride from having made it.

I am almost always alone on this stretch. Traffic is light – often only 1-2 cars will come up the road. Today, there was a logging truck followed closely by a car. And that was it.

16 Aug 2020

I’ve had my moments with others too. In 2009, I met Richard and Stacey Fiore riding up the road. Stacey had never made it before without walking and I sent her husband up the road while I rode with and encouraged her. I thought we had it but she dismounted only about 50′ from the top of the Wall.

For my first post-cancer ride in 2010, I brought some friends here from Northern Virginia. None was more special than my good friend, Scott Scudamore. I am sure glad he got to experience this climb and we had a blast twice bombing the descent on Sugar Run Road.

Kelley Vito said she understood why I find peace here because “you only think about dying while climbing that hill.” In 2017, I was with Chey Hillsgrove and Chelsea Johnson. Chelsea would see a curve ahead and then ask – “Oh my God, is that where it begins?!” I laughed and told her the truth – “Oh no, that’s not the Wall – the Wall is much worse.”

I would have bet against Chelsea that day but she found her inner strength and made it. I was so proud of her.

The third reservoir – at the Curve itself

But Kelley was right. When I come to these mountains, all I can think about is the next pedal stroke. Pushing up that hill. Or descending at crazy fun speeds but 100% focus on the descent. There is no time for cancer in my life when I am in these mountains and on this climb.

I was feeling quite down this morning. And I looked on my bike and the stem cap says “I am a Survivor – 10 Years.” And my bad feelings went away. Let’s enjoy this day!

I didn’t have any segments starred in Strava so none displayed as I was riding. But at the end of the ride, I saw I was averaging more than a 15 mph pace. And I don’t think I ever did a ride with this climb that I averaged 15 mph.

I looked at Strava. I averaged 15.4 mph. And I had PRs on all the segments. Most of those I am #1 in my age group as well. Although my times are nowhere near the best times – I can’t compete with the young guns. But in competing against myself (PRs) and in my age group, I did pretty well.

All PRs on September 24, 2020

My earliest rides were not recorded. The first record ride I can find of Horseshoe Curve was August 2, 2009. I had lost a lot of weight prior to my cancer diagnosis. In addition, I was “training” for the Mount Washington Auto Road Bicycle Hillclimb. And on the same route as today, I averaged 14.2 mph. Of course I was 11 years YOUNGER!

For one day, I felt strong(er) in the mountains. My times pale in comparison to the young riders but I was better today than 11 years ago. And only in the last five years have my rides been uploaded to Strava for those comparisons – and I broke every personal record there too. On a heavy gravel bile.

This mountain is where I come to get away. And this is where I find peace on a bike.

Horseshoe Curve – Sept. 24, 2020

Distance: 20.4 miles
Average: 15.4 mph
Max Speed: 41.8 mph
Weight: 179

The Grand Canyon of Pennsylvania

JERSEY SHORE, PENNSYLVANIA

I read about this “destination” trail in Pennsylvania called the Pine Creek Trail. It is a 62-mile rail trail that runs between Wellsboro and Jersey Shore.

Start in Jersey Shore – An access trail to the rail trail

I love the open road. I don’t like traffic. There must be a happy balance between the two. Rail trails are especially nice if they are paved. Most are not. And this trail had a crushed limestone surface.

Caboose in Jersey Shore – probably the true start/finish

Most riders choose a hybrid bike to ride this trail. I chose my Trek Checkpoint, a gravel bike. I used road tires, 32 cc width. I think 25 cc would be ok too although 28 cc would be better. I do have 40 cc gravel tires with small knobby tread but decided that would be overkill for this trail. The 32s were fine.

Some of the scenery on the Pine Creek Trail

And I was right. Especially near the Wellsboro and Jersey Shore trailheads, the path is packed down pretty solid. In the middle, I found a bit more loose gravel but it was no problem for my road tires.

Pine Valley Trail – Mile 37

The literature often suggests that the trail runs downhill from Wellsboro to Jersey Shore. I’ve seen estimates as much as a 2% grade. I call nonsense. Let’s resort for a minute to facts.

WellsboroJersey ShoreDifference (feet)
1,306′ elevation604′ elev.702′
Distance (mi.)Elevation Change (feet)Grade
627020.21%
Elevation Chart (If you can’t do the calculation yourself check out this elevation grade calculator by Kenneth Alambra.)

The elevation change over 62 miles is only 702 feet. That computes to 0.2% grade. Or for those who claim it’s one percent downhill, they have overstated the grade by fivefold. For this cyclist this trail is flat. But I didn’t know that before riding.

Pine Valley Trail

I wanted to ride the entire trail. Ideally, I could ride 62 miles and meet my ride. That wasn’t an option because I was riding solo. Actually, it could have been an option had I researched this because there is an outfitter in Wellsboro that will drive your car to Jersey Shore for $120.

First Trestle

My options for riding the entire length would be: (1) ride 128 miles in one day; (2) Ride from one city to the other, overnight, then ride back the next day; or (3) ride out and back on two days to cover the distance.

Near Rattlesnake Rock Access Area

I thought I might not have enough daylight or energy for the first option. In retrospect, I would have. I did not like the lodging choices for the second option plus I did not want to carry extra gear with me to overnight. So that left me with the third option.

End or start of the trail – Jersey Shore

I decided on staying in Williamsport as they had many good lodging options. I left home early yesterday morning and arrived in Jersey Shore at 1:00 p.m. I would ride half the trail today and half tomorrow.

Pine Creek Trail

Based on the erroneous claims that the trail is uphill to Wellsboro, I wanted to start in Jersey Shore and ride uphill so I would have the downhill on my return. Of course, I would soon learn that the trail is flat.

Pine Creek Trail

I decided to ride for two hours then turn around. I would return around 5:00 p.m. which was a good day.

Turnaround point for Day 1 and start/finish for Day 1

I parked next to a trailhead in Jersey Shore although I don’t think this is part of the trail. I think it is a one-mile access trail to reach the actual trailhead.

View from Rte 414 near Cedar Run

Once on the gravel trail, I had gone seven miles just south of Waterville. I came upon a woman on her bike and her adult son running. Except they were stopped and pointing in the woods. And there was a black bear. My day was made. My ride was made.

There are a lot of at grade road crossings. Although most are small roads that lead to cottages the trail does cross Pa. Rte 44 and 414 a few times as well. At each of these crossings, there were usually two gates to navigate. I soon discovered that rather than try to see how to get around the gates it was easier to see where the worn trail led. I thought that getting through these gates would slow my average more than riding on gravel.

Cammal – MP 35. Follow the worn path.

There were three trestles in this section and I rode to the Black Walnut Bottom parking area (MP 37). I chose to ride for two hours then find the next or closest parking area where I would start today. So this was perfect. It looked like I had ridden 25 miles and averaged 12.5 mph – which is what I planned for a gravel trail.

The second trestle

I had stopped a lot for photos. And bears. So my moving average was certainly faster. When I turned around I felt dirty. Grit all over. The bike was dirty. I was dirty. And I saw the road beside the trail. I hadn’t studied the route ahead of time but felt the road would take me back to Jersey Shore.

Start of the trail near Wellsboro

I could not check my phone for a map. The Pine Creek Trail is in the Pine Creek Gorge which is more commonly known as the Grand Canyon of Pennsylvania. There is no cell service deep in this canyon. So I jumped on the road to see where it would take me.

Start of the trail near Wellsboro – a bridge to grass

Some of the time the road was pancake flat and stayed next to the trail. Other times it climbed high. It gave me views high above the trail that I would not otherwise see. But I was still in the canyon. I did not climb out of the canyon. To see the canyon from the top I would have to leave and go to one of the vantage points. That would not happen on this trip.

One lane bridge at Slate Run – MP 4. This can be seen from the PCT or ridden on Rte 414

My return trip went much faster. Part of it was because I didn’t stop as much for photos. But part was because I was on the road. When I checked my data at the end of the ride I had averaged 15.5 mph. I was shocked because I expected 12-13 mph since I was on a gravel trail, at least for half the time.

Cottage on the Trail

Today’s ride would be a little more complicated. I did not want to simply do an out and back starting at MP 37 (Black Walnut Bottom) which is where I stopped yesterday. I had studied one alternative route back by road.

Marsh Creek – Around MP 8. About one-half mile south of here the Marsh Creek flows into Pine Creek and begins the gorge, or Grand Canyon of Pennsylvania.

It was 50° when I rolled out at 9:30 a.m. Deep in the canyon the sunshine doesn’t reach some of the deeper parts until later. It would be one hour until I saw anyone on the trail. They were all keeping warm.

Swinging Bridge (Private Property) – Crosses Pine Creek to four cottages

I just rode. At Blackwell, a group of eight cyclists was just ahead. I recognized the 2016 Ride the Rockies jersey on one of them. Another referred to me as a serious cyclist. I guess I was because I would pass them and they would be out of sight 30 seconds later.

Two Women Riding around MP 5

I’ve read other accounts about this trail and how to get to the nearby waterfalls. I just rode. My road cycling shoes are not that good for hiking and I don’t really see me switching pedals and shoes for this bike. It’s a gravel bike but it’s primarily my second road bike. I’ll probably never have cycling/hiking shoes unless I put platform pedals on this bike.

Barry and the second trestle

I reached the end of the trail near Wellsboro (three miles away) and decided to execute my road plan of returning. I knew I would be riding more than 70 miles and only had two bottles with me, one banana, and one pack of Skratch energy chews. I should have stopped in Wellsboro for something to eat.

Zip line across a gorge to a house

One reason I did not was because of restrictions in place due to COVID-19. I didn’t go for a bike ride with a mask. Maybe a store or restaurant would have had a mask for me or wouldn’t care, but I just didn’t want the hassle.

Wellsboro

And I really wanted to keep riding. And so I did. This little city is quite beautiful. I had a 2.5-mile climb leaving Wellsboro and then a sweet 10-mile descent to Morris. There I picked up Rte 414 and had another five miles before meeting up with the Pine Creek Trail again. Although when I did I would stay on the road.

The Road Less Traveled – Rte 414 high above the trail

I arrived back to the car having ridden 71 miles (the road loop was shorter). My average, like yesterday, was 15.5 mph. The surface is generally pretty hard. Having ridden it once I now know I could have averaged 15 mph and done an out and back for the entire length in 9-10 hours. But for that, I would stop for lunch.



Distance: 123.7 miles
Average Speed: 15.5 mph
Weight: 178

Brunswick Doublecross

LEESBURG, VIRGINIA

What a beautiful day. I had mapped out a 55-mile ride and loaded it on my Wahoo. Truth was, I didn’t need a map because except for a two-mile stretch of Va. Rte. 267 (Berlin Turnpike) from Lovettsville to Brunswick, Md., I have ridden all these roads before.

W&OD at Hamilton (MP40)

Well, not all roads. Twenty miles would be on the C&O Canal Towpath. Yes, on my Domane (road bike). I was comfortable riding the canal because six days ago I met my sister, Betsy, and her husband, Tom, plus friend, George, as they were doing a through-trip from Pittsburgh to D.C.

Betsy had texted me and said “They’ve resurfaced at least this part of the canal! .. no puddles, no roots, no rocks.”

Hamilton, Va.

When I met the crew last week, I had just ridden through a steady rain. Although it had quit raining when I met them, that led to a discussion about the surface. Between Point of Rocks and Whites Ferry, it is generally hard-packed. With the rain it looked, and rode, like asphalt.

Purcellville

When I mapped out this ride I thought about taking Md. Rte. 28 from Brunswick then connecting to Martinsburg Road and the familiar country roads I have ridden many times. These are the roads to and from Sugarloaf Mountain so they would be familiar territory.

Purcellvile

But an alternative would be the C&O. The paved C&O. Well, so I thought.

Road Construction in Hillsboro

It was a chilly late-summer morning. Just 55° (13° C) at the start. My cold-weather gear consisted of arm warmers. And that’s it.

Doukenie Winery, Hillsboro

I followed the W&OD to Purcellville then took Hillsboro Road over to Hillsboro. There were ZERO cars behind me today. There’s a major construction project in Hillsboro with a detour around the quaint town, and cyclists benefit by the detour.

Lovettsville

From Hillsboro to Lovvettsville I followed Mountain Road. It was absolutely beautiful. I had mapped out an alternative for bypassing Lovettsville but that did not work out. I have to go back to the drawing board but I was comfortable staying on the roads I knew.

Welcome to Maryland (Brunswick)

Actually, the drawing board is confused. Checking what I had mapped out and downloaded, what Wahoo was showing today was not the same. In Purcellville, it was supposed to route me onto Chestnut Overlook Drive but did not show that. Then on Mountain Road, it told me to go straight about 200 meters, do a U-Turn, and then turn on Brittain Road. And that was gravel so I ignored it. But it looks like I had mapped an alternative for bypassing Lovettsville but that never showed up either. Don’t make me lose trust in my Wahoo.

Horine Bldg (1910). The man is Dr. Arlington Grove Horine (1863-1956) owner of Horine’s Drug Store and Soda Fountain Shop. He was a surgeon with the B&O Railroad (1891-1903) and Brunswick’s mayor (1906-1914).

I jumped on the Berlin Turnpike (just the name of the road, it’s not really a turnpike). I came to a construction area and stop where the flagman held up a stop sign. We chatted briefly. He told me I was flying up the hill before I reached him. That was a nice compliment.

Brunswick, Maryland Train Station

It wasn’t long to the bridge into Maryland and over the Potomac River to Brunswick. In Brunswick, I looked for Mommer’s Dinner, a quaint little restaurant where Andrew and I ate back in 2001. I did not see it and would learn that it closed. I can’t determine if it was this year or just some time in the last 19 years.

Bridge Out on the C&O

Crossing the B&O tracks, I came to the access road for the C&O Canal. And it was crap. I was expecting paved and this was a gravel road with many potholes. It was horrible.

C&O

Thankfully, it would last one mile, just to the entrance of the Brunswick Family Campground. And it was 19 years ago that Andrew and I camped one night here. We thought we found a great campground only to be woken up too early by the trains just 50 meters away through the trees.

Point of Rocks, Md.

But the canal path became much improved here. I could see, without the rain, that this was definitely a crushed limestone surface. Except for one detour around a bridge that was out, it would be 19 miles of glorious crushed limestone. Along the way, I passed many cyclists. All were much slower than me. Every time I looked my speed was 17-20 mph. Not bad on this surface.

Point of Rocks, Md. US Rte 15 connects Loudoun Co. Va. with Frederick Co., Md.

There was one guy I caught and surprised. He was probably around 40 years old. He had mountain bike tires but was making great progress – probably 15-16 mph. I called out “on your left” which surprised him. He looked back, a little surprised, probably thinking he was the fastest rider on the canal today. But I was on a road bike and he had fat tires. If we switched machines he would be way faster, I’m sure.

Monocacy Aqueduct

One week ago I was in a steady rain crossing the Potomac by ferry. Today was a gorgeous day. I arrived as the ferry was arriving from the Virginia side. I never stepped off the bike although I had to put a foot down for 4-5 minutes.

Whites Ferry

Leaving the ferry my legs felt good. There is a ramp here which is probably 15%. Almost always the lactic acid hits me here and I can barely pedal. Today I noticed no lactic. And although I was riding into a strong headwind and had 50 miles in my legs, I saw my time on this Strava segment was coming down. I would set a new PR. And I sort of smashed it.

Monocacy Aqueduct

It was a beautiful day. This is a ride I would love to do with friends. It can be done with road bikes. The canal section isn’t bad except for one mile in Brunswick but that shouldn’t be enough to discourage one from this ride.


I sort of smashed my PR. It is good for #1 overall for my age group but just 67th total (out of 2691)

Distance: 55.0 miles
Average Speed: 16.3 mph
Weight: 181