Ligonier the Long Way


I suggested to (encouraged, begged) Team Portland that the best cycling route from Bedford to Ligonier would be US 30. That route is less than 48 miles with 5,000′ of climb. I was eating breakfast with my parents when Aaron Hoxworth texted me and told me they were already wheels down and headed for Rte 31 and not Rte 30.

Abandoned Storyland

Out the door I got a boost from my dad as we drove to the end of Longview or the Seven Mile Stretch on US 30 and began my day. It was chilly with some rain in the air. I headed down the mountain to Shellsburg, stopping to take pictures along the way. I rode through Shawnee State Park and got on the road behind the cyclists at first catching four girls, er, young women.

Shawnee State Park

Approaching New Baltimore they at first continued straight on 31. I saw the chalk on the road for a turn and called them back. It wouldn’t have been a disaster had I not been with them. Pa. Bike Rte S leaves Rte 31 for a bit but does come back into it. They would have had much of their climbing on the busy Rte 31. But if they had a check point in New Baltimore they wouldn’t have passed it.

It’s about one mile farther to follow the bike route (8 vs 7) up the mountain but the difference is enormous. Rte 31 is a busy road which climbs and descends at the same time. It kicks your butt. The bike route, once the climb begins, continues climbing. It is 7.6 miles with 979′ of gain (2.4%) to where the routes intersect (not the top of the mountain). Rte 31 (Glades Pike) is 6.7 miles with 1273′ of gain (3.6%). Harder, for sure. It rides much steeper, of course. The climbing portion of the bike route is 4.6 miles (797 or 3.3%) which is still easier. And to the top it is 6 miles at 1340′ (4.2%) but there are sections of 10-12%.

 Kelsey Taylor, Patrica Martinez, Helen Smith, Katrina Farrell

In New Baltimore I called them back to a covered bridge which they missed. Slow down. Take pictures. Enjoy the ride.

Kelsey Taylor

Katrina Farrell had flatted at the base of the climb and the support van swung back. While they were changing the flat (unlike Sunday and yesterday I didn’t help preferring that they gain the experience) I was talking to Chelsea Johnson, one of  the support drivers. I asked for turn by turn directions for the day and after Somerset was told they were headed somewhere (my term) connecting with a Pennsylvania Trail System to Linn Run State Park.

Patricia Martinez

That was neat except it wasn’t. In the early 70s we lived on Linn Run Road. I know the lower section in Rector, Pa. to be good, the section in the state park to be paved but bad (rough pave), and the section above it to be dirt and gravel. Further, I was 99% sure that any trail system was for snowmobiles. Or hunting and hiking. Maybe mountain bikes could get through.

Katrina Farrell
 A slight panic set in as Chelsea asked “what do we do now?” I knew nothing more to tell them to do except ride and see what happens. I decided I would ride to Somerset then back to Friedens and call it a day. I didn’t want to climb and descend on the route I envisioned – a route to nowhere.

Rte 31 was busy with lots of truck traffic. It is the route between two turnpike towns, Bedford and Somerset. Rte 30 has some truck traffic but much less. Rte 31, although signed as Bike Rte S was not an enjoyable ride.

PA Rte 31

Up ahead, the group containing Jamie Roberts, Ki Young Kim, and Dan Johnson had stopped for a rider who needed sagged. She was hurting and openly wrote on her blog that she did no preparation for the ride, in fact, her longest ride ever before Sunday was 12 miles. Be forewarned. I shook my head. Why an organization would simply take someone’s money without ensuring they met training metrics is almost beyond me. Almost.

Our group stopped with them for a necessary hygiene break. But when Jamie’s group, down to three riders, was ready to roll and the four young women I was riding with weren’t — they were enjoying the grass and the shade of the barn they were relaxing next to — I went with the first three.

Jamie Roberts, Betsy Sherry, Ki Young Kim, Dan Johnson

We passed Aaron’s group (flat) and rolled towards Somerset. As we descended into town I had us stop at my sister, Betsy’s, house. I thought we would do a quick photo op outside the house thinking Betsy would not be home but she had just gotten home. She welcomed Jamie inside and Jamie got clean indoor plumbing and ice in her water bottles. We stood in the yard and got to watch the other teams go by. As we rolled out, in last, we all met at Sheetz. My advice had been “never pass up a Sheetz.”

Jamie Roberts, Ki Young Kim, Barry Sherry, Dan Johnson

While at Sheetz the riders’ phones blew up with a group message which basically stated the van went ahead and that there was no road or trail system which the riders had planned on. Ah, Google Maps.

Aaron turned to me and asked if I knew how to get them to Ligonier? Although I had decided to stop in Somerset I thought it best to ride with them to Ligonier.

We went up Rte 985 where miles of construction work was taking place. Although we had been split into groups, we came back together at the work site. I had everyone roll out together as I took them around some of the construction using known back roads. Back on 985 we started to separate so we stopped once more to reconstitute. At this point I told the riders I was going to navigate a little by memory and a lot by feel. We turned left into an unincorporated community (Gray) and made our way over to Rte 30.

One rider was struggling and so we were missing two at this point. From our vantage point, we could see the next turn about 1/2 mile ahead in the valley below. I gave Aaron the simple directions (“turn right then follow the road”) and I dropped back while sending the other 10 riders ahead with Aaron.

I met up with Caitlyn Epps who was sagging the struggling rider. We lost a lot of time waiting and I was convinced that by the time I got to US 30 all the riders would be at the summit. Or over the top. I was surprised that as I climbed I caught and passed five riders. I think a lot of riders were beat up by then riding three days in the mountains.

At the summit I led the first group of four down the mountain. I averaged 37.5 mph for the entire descent. I need to up that. In Laughlingtown riders kept coming so we formed a big group and rolled into Ligonier together.


The Diamond in Ligonier

It was a hard day but didn’t need to be so hard. Rte 30 may not look so appealing but in addition to being much shorter, it is full of wonderful things to be discovered. Flight 93 memorial. A 1930s gas pump painted like the Indiana Chief Tecumseh. Another as Vincent Van Gas. The Pied Piper. My mind went to how this could be a scavenger hunt and 20 miles shorter.


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