Saturday, May 2, 2009

Over a Mountain and Back in Time


I parked in East Freedom, Blair Co., at the elementary school. It started out sunny and seemingly warmer than it was. I wore a jersey and arm warmers. I soon realized it was cooler than I thought with temperatures never climbing more than the mid 50s. I slipped on a jacket that was in my back pocket.

My route took me down the valley and around the base of Blue Knob. Blue Knob is both a State Park and ski resort. At 3,127 feet (953.1 meters) it is the second highest peak in Pennsylvania, second to Mount Davis.

After 22.5 miles the climb began at Pavia. The Blair Bicycle Club listed the climb as almost five miles at 7%. They listed a 25% section which I did not find. But the distance was right and it was a nice climb. I think two cars passed me on the way up so "lightly traveled" might even be an understatement.

Top of Blue Knob. No one here to greet me.
It was a ghost town at the top if one building, a ski lodge, constitutes a town. If I needed a place to get more water or food and had counted on this, I would have been out of luck. But the bottles on my bike were enough.

The descent from Blue Knob was a little scary. The first mile of the descent was steep and in horrible shape. There were many potholes and lots of loose gravel. The steepness necessitated riding the brakes but the gravel made it dangerous to use them.

The wind was blowing and it was cold -- in the mid 40s, and I was still soaked with sweat from the climb. But after the first mile the pavement improved. And once I reached Ski Gap Road it was a long straight 2-3% descent back down to Claysburg.

At Claysburg I had to return to East Freedom. But the road I was on, Bedford Street, was lightly traveled and in great shape. This would be a great place to live to ride. One can stay on the flat roads of the valley or head to the mountains.

And then the most surreal part of the ride. In East Freedom I saw a man mowing his lawn. I first went by him then something said to turn around. I did and I caught his attention. I introduced myself and then told him "I used to live in this house."

John Griffin immediately said "well you have to come in and see the house." He proceeded to take me room by room while I was wondering "was this the house I lived in when I was three or was it the house next door?" But eventually I figured out that it was the right house and gave him a little history to go along with what he gave me, namely, the house was built in 1910.

Afterwards, it was a quick trip to Panera in Altoona for some refueling. This was a very special day. It was a trip over a mountain and back in time.

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