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.

 

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.

Source: BleacherReport.com
Arnaud Demare, 2014 Tour de France

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.

My One Hour Photo
Davidsville, Pa.

 

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 for breakfast?

 

On Arcadia Road I remembered a loose dog last year, 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.

 

Looking towards Johnstown, Pa.

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

 

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.

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.

 

Barn converted to Car Sales in Davidsville0

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.

On the climb coming out of Johnstown on 271

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.

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

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.

 

West Branch Susquehanna River near Cherry Tree

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

Normally no one has every heard of Gipsy

As I left the skies 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.

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 temperature 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. 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 it it seemed to be a 5-6 mile climb and I wanted to see how my legs would respond on a lengthy 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 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.

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 complied to fill 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. But as I picked up speed, and I was pedaling, I caught them and then had a dilemma.
I wanted to hit 50 mph and I needed to pass them. But I rode 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. I wasn’t happy that I didn’t hit 50 mph but it was a wonderful day with 50 miles in the mountain.