Saturday, April 3, 2010

Peace on a Bike


For five months I looked forward to this day - the day that I would be back on the bike and come back to these mountains. 

Much of 2009 was a blur with an illness then a diagnosis of cancer. Most waking hours were spent thinking of cancer and quite a few sleeping moments as well. The only time I was completely at peace was on my bike.

I came to these mountains to enjoy their beauty and to get away. Generally, when I was on my bike I thought of nothing else except riding. It was especially so when I was in the mountains.

I rode "The Wall" by Horseshoe Curve four times last year. I also went to the White Mountains in New Hampshire and was able to lose myself in thought. Truly, I found peace on my bike and in the mountains.

David Vito unloading next to Panera in Altoona

We loaded up six riders in Reston, Va., at 7:00 a.m. and drove to Altoona, arriving by 10:30 a.m. It was "wheels down" at 11:00 and we headed out to Frankstown Road. We were greeted by an unexpected one and one half mile climb.

Kelley Noonan

I had promised three great climbs and three screaming descents on my planned 100 km route. As we waited at the top of the hill - this was a no-drop ride - I had to rethink the 100 km route as everyone complained about not being in riding shape. I adjusted.

Scott Scudamore leading the group over the top on Valley Forge Road

Adjustment number one was we turned at Newry and started an 11 mile climb but at 2-3%, up to Puzzletown. In Puzzletown we turned on Valley Forge Road. Here I hit 48 mph - pleased, but then disappointed that I couldn't push it to 50.

We turned on Old U.S. 22 and began the seven mile climb to the top of the mountain. Once at the stone arch, we went through the Portage Railroad National Park and cut over to Gallitzin for a short break at a country store.

David Vito on Sugar Run Road

Then we earned our seven mile descent down Sugar Run Road. Three of us formed a paceline while others were content to ride it at a more reasonable speed.

At the bottom we made out way over to Horseshoe Curve and split our group. A bit of a mutiny as Kelly Noonan and David Vito decided to sit out yet another climb, the steepest of the day too. But we pushed on.

We got everyone up and over the top, back to Gallitzin and down Sugar Run Road again. Then we made our way back to the van.

In a recovery that is slower than I want, I can say this was the best day I have had since surgery.

My bike at Horseshoe Curve

As for peace on a bike, Kelley remarked to me that riding in Altoona one can only think of the suffering on the climb or the fear of descending at breakneck speed. "No wonder you never thought of cancer while you rode here."

Indeed. Just peace on a bike.

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