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 click here cialis francais cialis 2 5 mg bestellen enter free essay on leadership skills possible side effects of doxycycline https://www.pugetsoundnavymuseum.org/paraphrasing/thesis-statement-lesson-ppt/24/ go to link enter site viagra lawsuits settled in august 2010 https://cpchawaii.edu/lptf/papers.php?rewriter=dissertation-researchers-perspective https://heystamford.com/writing/write-my-essay-quotes/8/ essay grading technology teechers essay characterization of othello essay watch dapoxetine brand name academic paper editing https://plastic-pollution.org/trialrx/amendoim-um-viagra-natural/31/ great gatsby research paper topics ranbaxy nexium launch viagra generika in polen http://kanack.org/statement/essay-on-technical-development-in-india/26/ get link source url chief seattle speech essay topics purchase viagra australia all about direct digital essay source url essay ÔÂ‚Ӊ theory of knowledge essay topics 2010 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!

Path of the Flood

JOHNSTOWN (FRANKLIN), PENNSYLVANIA

I was looking at the Winter 2020 edition of Rails to Trails magazine and saw a very brief article about the Allegheny Portage Railroad. I had seen the eastern end many times, it is well preserved as a National Park Historic Site but I had not been on the western end.

Trailhead for Path of the Flood Trail

In 2010, on my first ride from Somerset to Punxsutawney, I had taken a wrong turn and ended up at the trailhead of the Path of the Flood Trail. I turned around when the pavement ended and the trail became crushed limestone.

First quarter-mile; the pavement turns to a gravel road

I wonder what adventure I would have had if I had stayed on the trail that day. Lost, that’s what adventure.

Path of the Flood Trail. The river is visible on the far left beyond the train tracks.

But today I decided I would do a loop by following the trail to South Fork then taking the road back to where I had parked. The forecast was for rain starting around 11:00 a.m. so I went early.

Path of the Flood Trail – the crushed limestone trail turned to mud and single-track

I drove to the trailhead but the park was closed. Not sure if it was the season (a weekday in March) or was in response to the Coronavirus. I went back into Franklin and parked on the street.

On the trail to Staple Bend

It started to rain as soon as I started to pedal. I was in it to win it and the rain would not stop me.

A bridge at the base of the Staple Bend Tunnel

 

The trail went from decent crushed limestone to less limestone then some grass/mud areas. I was riding my new Trek Domane with 32cc tires and felt comfortable on the surface.

This is an uphill section to the tunnel. As with most photos of hills, this does not capture the grade but it is steeper than it looks.

 

It was only 2.5 miles from start to the Staple Bend Tunnel. I suspect that this was the start/finish of the Allegheny Portage Railroad. The tunnel was the first railroad tunnel in the U.S. (1833). From here would have been an inclined plane that probably went to the river’s edge.

It was here the trail would have been a true “rail-trail” because in this section it followed the path of the Allegheny Portage Railroad. And the surface felt like it. There was the “climb” up to the tunnel. It was probably about 6-7% grade, and while I could ride it, it took me a few steps before I could get going.

Supposed to see light at the other end. This is the eastern portal of the Staple Bend Tunnel.

 

I had read that you could go through the tunnel without a flashlight because you can see light at the end of the tunnel. Not today. Pitch black. It was actually pretty frightening looking. I thought that maybe it was closed for the winter and there was a closed door at the other end. But surely there would be a sign at the open end.

There was light at the end of the Staple Bend Tunnel

I decided to try it. I would ride deep into the tunnel and see if I could see. I had a helmet light and a small portable flashlight. I started pedaling and scanned the flashlight back and forth. I made noise, lots of noise. I was fearful there may be an animal or two in the tunnel. At some point, maybe halfway, I could begin to make out some daylight.

Staple Bend Tunnel westbound – much different portal than on the eastern end

 

As I exited the tunnel, the rain started again, this time heavier. The trail was in pretty good shape, high above the Little Conemaugh River. There was no guard fence and there was a warning to dismount and walk because of the steep dropoff. I did not.

On the left are the stones that were the original trackbed for Allegheny Portage Railroad

 

At Mineral Point, which was only a little more than a mile from the tunnel, the trail ended. I have no idea with the topography of the land where the Allegheny Portage Railroad would have gone.

But I went, down and under the train tracks and across the bridge into Mineral Point. This town was virtually wiped out in the 1889 flood. Here I picked up the Path of the Flood Trail. The trail climbed on the north side of the river. It was never a hard climb but a gradual one.

Little Conemaugh River in Mineral Point

 

Across the river, I could see the Conemaugh Viaduct. It was a beautiful stone structure in 1889 where the rushing waters forced debris and piled up until the structure collapsed. It was, by some accounts, more forceful than the damn break.

Conemaugh Viaduct

The Pennsylvania Rail Road needed to get trains back in service and amazingly, had a new structure in place within two weeks! A permanent stone structure built in the early 1890s.

Path of the Flood Trail between Mineral Point and South Fork

I got into South Fork and planned on taking the road back. But first, I wanted to continue east towards the remnants of the dam, which I have seen many times. But then heavy rains came. I turned around and decided to head back to the car.

I had gone a little more than two miles when I pulled over to put on my glasses. I couldn’t find them. I had started the day wearing sunglasses, despite the absence of sun, to keep the rain out of my eyes. But they had fogged up and eventually, I tucked them away. They were in my back jacket pocket and now they weren’t. They had fallen out when I got my phone out at the tunnel and I thought they must have fallen out somewhere between the tunnel and South Fork.

At first, I decided to roll on without them. It was raining, and cold. The glasses served me many miles but they were old. My $50 investment would be gone. I went about half a mile farther and decided I would backtrack and I may find the glasses. I knew no one would be on the trail and if they fell out, I would find them. They had white frames, not black, so should be easy to spot. I made the decision I would trace my route to Mineral Point but not the final section through the tunnel as it was pretty rough riding.

On my way back, as I came to the viaduct, the morning fog had lifted and I went for a photo. Then I took the flashlight out of my jacket and put it in my jersey pocket. There wasn’t room. My glasses were in my jersey. Duh! I must have put them there after they fell out of my jacket. They were with me the entire time.

Path of the Flood Trail in Mineral Point

I rolled on to Mineral Point. As I crossed the bridge a geyser of sealant came gushing out of my front tire. I had a leak. I quickly turned around for a slight downhill section to go as fast as I could to rotate the wheel and get the sealant to seal it. It worked. I think.

I started the climb on the road out of Mineral Point. The tubeless tire seemed to have sealed. This road was steep. It was also about 3 1/2 miles. I got to the top, turned right, and began the coast home. I was worried about the tire but it appeared to be holding. I got back to the car and tried to wipe the bike down. I inflated the tire as it was down to 35 psi (from 80) I put it back to 80 and it appeared to hold. I drove through Johnstown on my way to a bike shop. Then I heard the tire. It was leaking again. A not so good ending to a wet and otherwise, perfect, day.

Got a bath in sealant

 



EDIT/EPILOGUE – The great tubeless experiment 2020 lasted little more than a month. I needed to get a repair fast and City Cycles in Johnstown was closed – forced closed by the governor. I called Paul McIntyre, in Pittsburgh. Paul had been my go-to mechanic in Reston before moving to Pittsburgh. Their bike shop was also forced closed but Paul met me in a dark alley in Pittsburgh and we repaired the tire so I could ride another day.

 

Paul McIntyre – Not doing a bike repair in a back alley in Pittsburgh which was illegal according to the Pa. Governor.

Inclined Plane

JOHNSTOWN, PENNSYLVANIA

This is about the shortest ride I will write about – the only one shorter would be the Mount Washington Auto Road Bicycle Hill Climb. Why this? Because it was fun.

In shorter order I drove to Ohio and rode on Friday. I went on to Indianapolis the rode with the Spokes of Hope ride on yesterday. After the 100 miles I drove back to Somerset last night.

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.

Floor of one of the cars
Floor of one of the cars

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.

Jtown1

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.

Jtown2

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.

Jtown4

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.

Jtown5

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.

Jtown6


Punxsutawney Phil

PUNXSUTAWNEY, PENNSYLVANIA

I’ve done this ride before although never quite like this. It was “wheels down” at 6:30 a.m. on a cool morning with a cloud cover. I left Friedens and rode up Pa. Rte 281 to Stoystown and not a single car passed me. I stopped briefly to take a picture when I found one of the decorative 1930s gas pumps that celebrate the Old Lincoln Highway.

Old gas pump, Stoystown, Pa.

In Stoystown I got on Plank Road for what should have been an enjoyable descent down to and past the Quemahoning Reservoir. And then I remembered a couple of weeks earlier laughing at Frenchman Arnaud Demare stopping during the Tour de France and running into someone’s camper to use their bathroom. Karma would get her revenge today although there were no campers alongside these forested roads. The good thing is that no cars passed me on this stretch of road either. (**)it happens.

Quemahoning Reservoir

Riding my new Trek Domane, I was wondering if my average speed would be higher today than it was four years ago when I was chased by Rottweilers. But I rode at a relaxed pace, often stopping to take pictures. Or other things.

Arnaud Demare takes a comfort break during the Tour de France (2014)
Source: BleacherReport.com

In Northern Cambria at Mile 55, I stopped at the home of Don & Nancy Lowmaster for a needed water break. The sun had come out, it was warming up, and I had depleted my water. Nancy refilled my bottles with ice and water.

Fox Pizza, Davidsville, Pa. – My “One Hour” Photo

Although another 20 miles remained to my destination of a reunion site, these were the hardest miles for me. While the climb out of Johnstown seems somewhat steep, the road is good and the grade is constant. Once on these back country roads the climbs become stepper, the surface a little rougher, but for me, the hardest part is the grades are not consistent. It is hard to find a pedaling rhythm.

Coney Island, Johnstown, Pa. Hot dogs aren’t just for lunch anymore.

On Arcadia Road, I remembered a loose dog last year, so I sped up and went into stealth mode. I thought I was by safely. Then to my right heel was a pit bull chasing. Oh boy. But I was already 200 yards past his house and I think he was more chase than catch. At least today he was.

East Conemaugh, Pa., looking towards Johnstown

Just before Smithport someone went by and called out “Hi Barry.” I have no idea who it was.

Gobblers Knob, Punxsutawney, Pa.

After the reunion, I decided to ride on to Gobbler’s Knob and into Punxsutawney. I had never been to Gobbler’s Knob. It was another 6-7 miles with much of it on those nasty little climbs that are steep with no consistency. It was August 2 – six months after or six months before Groundhog Day. Was I early or was I late? It didn’t matter. It was a sweet ride down to Punxsutawney to end the day.

I had my dad leave the reunion and drive my car to the County Market in Punxsutawney to pick me up.

Gobblers Knob, Punxsutawney, Pa.

A check of the data shows I was not faster than four years ago although it was my second fastest time – even while not feeling so hot.

Punxsutawney Redeux

PUNXSUTAWNEY, PENNSYLVANIA

It’s reunion time! First the States reunion followed by the Lowmaster reunion the first two Saturdays in August. It gives me the opportunity to ride from my parents’ place near Somerset to the reunion site near Punxsutawney.

One hour photo – Top of Summit Hill out of Johnstown

I just can’t seem to leave early enough (daylight) to make it on time and decided to do something different today. Planning to drive to Pittsburgh to see the Steelers v. Giants with my father, I asked him to drive my car to Punxsutawney after dropping me at Davidsville, Pa.

This would knock the first hour off my trip but it also took 30 minutes or more driving there so it really only saved me 30 minutes. It also took 17 miles of the easiest riding out of the trip.

Two Hour Photo – Duman Lake, Cambria Co.

Grey and overcast, I wore arm warmers when I took off. Coming out of Johnstown, it started to rain, lightly. I just couldn’t escape the rain on these trips. Like last week, I felt good on the climb but managed a higher descending speed because the roads were mainly dry on this trip.

In Northern Cambria I stopped briefly at my cousins, Don & Nancy Lowmaster, for a water break but they weren’t home. No worries. I pushed on.

Three Hour Photo

In Cherry Tree I stopped for about 15 minutes and talked to the young clerk in the post office. I am friends with the postmaster, Michael Perrone, and was surprised to learn that he had recently retired.

I took the usual back roads through Banks and Canoe Townships in Indiana Co. At one point I came to some barking dogs, one unleashed. Not my friend. I like dogs and I was able to make friends with this one. He licked me. Although he wanted to chase me when I left.

Not quite my Four Hour Photo

I told my dad it would be 4 1/2 hours and I pulled in 4:40 minutes later — it was those extra 10 minutes in Cherry Tree.

I like this route. Route 271 between US 422 at Belsano and US 219 in Northern Cambria is especially nice. Great pavement and very little traffic plus a real nice four mile downhill from Nicktown to Northern Cambria. I’m ready for more reunions.
 

Punxsutawney Bound

PUNXSUTAWNEY, PENNSYLVANIA

It has been two years since I was able to ride to a family reunion. Yesterday’s forecast looked promising but just as soon as I left my parents’ place in Friedens, just north of Somerset, Pa., it started to rain.

What used to be a barn is now and auto sales lot in Davidsville

Riding with a broken collarbone I was a bit skittish as I rode. I was very afraid of having a spill on the road and landing on the collarbone. So I took it easy.

I stopped once an hour to take on food. While it was a just a gel that I normally take while I’m riding, I didn’t want to ride with one hand on the bars and one hand on the gel. It also allowed me to stop and take a one-hour photo to document where I was.

On the climb coming out of Johnstown on Rte 271

I have ridden the route enough to know the turns and climbs and find it quite enjoyable. The climb out of Conemaugh/Johnstown was quite enjoyable. I found myself with a comfortable pace albeit in the rain.

Horse poop. Amish Country. Three Hour Photo on PA 271 near Duman Lake Park

When I reached Northern Cambria, I stopped at the home of my 4th cousins, Don and Nancy Lowmaster. I had never stopped here before but warned them that one day I may stop for water. This was the day. Unfortunately, I was pretty squishy. When I moved you could hear water squishing. Nancy was great about cleaning the one bottle and refilling it with ice and water.

West Branch Susquehanna River near Cherry Tree. The river is so small here one can literally throw a stone from bank to bank.

As I left the skies really opened up. I was in a real downpour for the next 10 minutes but then the faucet was turned off for the day. By the time I reached Cherry Tree the sun was out, and other than my wet clothes, you wouldn’t have known it had rained.

Normally no one has every heard of Gipsy. But four months ago in Homestead, Fla., Craig Babst was talking about Gipsy like it was his hometown.

This was my first long effort since breaking my collarbone and I felt good. I feel as though I am starting to regain my form.


Johnstown-Ligonier-Somerset Loop

SOMERSET, PA

I came to the mountains to ride and was not disappointed. I left my parents’ place in Friedens and headed north to Stoystown. 

Farm on Plank Road near Stoystown

I had a nice descent past Camp Harmony and the Quemahoning Reservoir. Went to Ferndale then crossed the river into Johnstown.

Quemahoning Reservior

Coming out of Johnstown I followed Menocher Blvd (Rte 271) which turned out to be a neat 11-mile mountain climb to the top of Laurel Hill Summit.

Downtown Johnstown – Inclined Plane on Hillside

Rte 271 between Ligonier and Johnstown

I was disappointed that I only could get my bike up to 48 mph coming off the mountain. I surprised my niece, Bekki Reese, when I stopped at her place in Waterford. I told her someday I would and it would be a complete surprise. Today was the day. She gave me water. Yes!!!

The Diamond in Ligonier

I left Ligonier and rode up Rte 711 to Darlington Rd towards Rector because I knew I could hit 50 mph on that hill. But as I was descending I saw a sign for Bridge Out Ahead. Brakes!!!! If I wanted to return to Somerset I could have followed Rte 381 to Jones Mills and then took Rte 31 to Somerset. Instead I turned around and climbed the hill I just flew down. It was a 12% grade beast in places.

Rte 381 bridge in Rector

I returned to Ligonier then followed U.S. Rte 30 to Laughlingtown where I took a short nutrition break at the Pie Shoppee (the more letters in the name the more expensive it is). Leaving Laughlingtown I climbed for 3,5 miles to the top of Laurel Mountain — also marked as Laurel Hill Summit.

Compass Inn in Waterford, Pa.

Crossing Laurel Mountain Again – Rte 30
between Jennerstown and Laughlingtown

About four miles north of Somerset I stopped at the Quecreek Miners’ site where nine coal miners were lifted to safety from what would have been their watery grave back in 2002.

Rescue Site, Quecreek Mine

I returned through Somerset, stopped and visited another niece, Hannah Cramer, before returning to Friedens. After 86 miles the legs felt good and I was tempted to go ride another 14 miles to make it an even 100 but my mother had made dinner so it was a good end to a great ride.

Court House, Somerset, Pa.

Thunder in the Valley

LIGONIER, PENNSYLVANIA

A beautiful day with temperatures in the 80s brought out thousands of bikers, as in motorcyclists, to the annual Thunder in the Valley event in Johnstown and the surrounding mountain communities including Somerset and Ligonier. I don’t ride a single kilometer without a helmet and my lasting impression of these bikers will be of the hundreds I saw riding care-free without their helmets. That’s not for me.

I started in the village of Waterford and took Nature Run Road to Laughlingtown. One mile on U.S. Rte 30 and three miles on Pa. Rte 381 was the only flat riding of the day. The three miles from Rte 30 to Rector hasn’t changed much in the 42 years since we first drove it when we moved from Ohio to Rector. It is lined alternatively by a canopy of trees and post and rail fence or borders the Loyalhanna Creek. This is “Mellon Country” having been the home of financier Richard King Mellon and the Rolling Rock Farms. There has been one improvement — the road surface is in excellent condition making this a wonderful ride on a bike.

Devil’s Hole – Rector, Pa.

When we were kids each spring we helped dam up a portion of Linn Run, a very cold mountain stream, so we could swim in Devil’s Hole. A natural pool was 3′ deep and we could get the water level up from half-way to 2/3 of the way on the large rock pictured above. Yes, the cold water was over our heads. Sadly, it is now marked No Trespassing.

Coming out of Rector I climbed the one-mile Darlington Road hill up to Rte 711. In the lower sections it has 15% grade and by the top has leveled off to 11-12%. My route took me on Darlington Road where perhaps I could have hit 50 mph on a descent except I didn’t trust the road surface at this point. It was rough with some loose gravel.

I went behind Idlewild Park and found myself on another great road headed to Bolivar. All roads were climbing or descending. When I reached the end of my loop I decided I would continue on Rte 271 towards Johnstown. Well, not all the way to Johnstown although that would have been a fun destination. But to the top of Laurel Hill Summit.

When I drove the climb it seemed to be a 5-6 mile climb and I wanted to see how my legs would respond on a long climb with a fairly steep grade – consistently 8% but at times 10%. I went three miles and emptied my second water bottle of two. I decided not to continue without water. It was a daunting climb and I have been battling but getting over a three-week illness. Unless… …Unless I saw a woman sitting on a porch. Which I did.

This is a climb on a mountain road. There are very few houses on this road. To find a house and had a woman on the porch was close to a small miracle.

I pulled over and pulled out an empty water bottle and pointed to it. I did talk too but the pointing simply illustrated I was friendly and the reason I was approaching her. I asked for and she willingly filled my water bottle. When I asked how far to the summit she told me it takes her more than an hour to walk it. Great. But on I went. The water was just right even though I could taste the iron in the well water.

Two miles up, and when I thought I was nearing the summit, a car waited for me to pass the entrance to his driveway then the driver yelled out some encouragement. “You’re doing an excellent job.” Maybe he’s a cyclist because most people don’t understand how an almost-defeated cyclist magically gets wings to fly when hearing words like those.

It was another mile to the summit and I rode to the Somerset-Westmoreland County border then turned around. On the descent, I wanted to fly. But I was passed by 12 bikers on six bikes just as I started my descent. Probably 2/3 of all bikers had two people on them. (To be certain, these were motorcycles.)

But as I picked up speed, and I was pedaling, I caught them and then had a dilemma. I wanted to hit 50 mph but to do that I needed to pass them. But I touched my brakes instead. I hit 48 mph but there was no way I was going to integrate with this group. They were taking pictures of one another and almost daring me to pull side by side with them. But I was rolling along on wheels that were 3/4″ wide on a bike made of carbon fiber. There was no way I would try anything stupid at this speed.

They certainly didn’t mean any harm. They were having fun too. But it was too dangerous to ride too close to them. I wasn’t happy that I didn’t hit 50 mph but it was a wonderful day with 50 miles in the mountain.