Monday, May 28, 2012

Wishing I Could Go


Patrick Sheridan said they would have wheels down at 6:30 a.m. which I thought was too early after a long and hot first day. But the forecast was for another 90 degree day.

I drove to Nottoway Park in Vienna where I parked then biked to the W&OD and smoked it hoping to meet the cancer group coming up from Alexandria. I reached the end of the W&OD and continued on the Four Mile Run Trail. At a difficult-to-determine intersection I came upon what looked like 20 riders, all holding cue sheets, discussing which way to go. And some already decided to go straight - which was the wrong way.

Jeff Graves

I pulled up and said "can you guys make it all the way to San Francisco without me giving you turn by turn directions?"

I heard someone, I think it was Chris, yell out "Barry!"

Since I rode with four riders yesterday, most in the group did not know me although I did say goodbye to a number of them in Alexandria the day before.

They were glad to see me and quickly decided which group should follow me. Five or six of us headed up the trail to the W&OD. I was talking with a rider from Dallas, Michael Wray.

As we made our way up the trail I asked where Patrick was. I was told he was "way out in front." Uh, no he wasn't.

They decided which group would follow me -- even on trails they stayed true to riding in small groups rather than all 30 riding as one -- and we took off up the trail. As I made my way up the trail I was asked to slow down. Repeatedly. My response was simply to ask them if they knew how a bunch of 20-something guys asking an old rider like me to slow down really stroked my ego?

Even funnier was the account of Stephanie Ausfresser:
"At the beginning we rode a trail for miles. When a fork in the trail came and we didn't know which way to go, Barry, Patrick’s pedal pal found us and pointed us in the right direction. He rode with us for the first two days. He was so strong and fast, I was pushing just to keep up. We made a line to follow each other and break the wind. Even though it was mostly flat, we were going about 16-18 mph."
I guided our first group to Nottoway Park then went back to find the others, eventually leading all groups there. Patrick's group had been first on the trail but missed the Four Mile Run turn and by the time they doubled back, they were last. So I rode with them from Vienna through Fairfax before saying goodbye and riding back to my van.

I took the long way home through Manassas and there I saw the riders again, far off course. I laughed, and directed them back on course. I stopped at a Sheetz and bought 30 hot dogs and found their rest stop. The hot dogs were well received.

But this time I had to say goodbye for good. I had to referee a regional high school soccer match at 5:00 p.m. And some asked me to ride with them. I so wanted to.

I left Patrick's group with my words of wisdom for them. They are too young.

Too young to really appreciate the good of what they are doing. They will look back in 30 years and say "I did what?" While for some this is a (biking) adventure of a lifetime, it is so much more important than that. We survivors can never thank them enough for what they are doing to raise awareness and, yes, funds ($0.5 million). They really do make a difference. Godspeed my friends.

This day and this ride has made me want to retire. Not on the spot and ride with them, although that would be nice. But I want to retire from my job and move on to a place that will make a difference in people's lives. I would like to elevate my cancer fighting game like they are doing for 70 days.


Saturday, May 26, 2012

My First Bike Ride With Dad


I bike. My dad bikes. (Badly)  His bike riding is the subject of many jokes, all behind his back, of course.

I remember learning to ride a bike in our yard in New Salem, (Armstrong Co.) Pa. when I was 6 or 7. I never remember riding a bike with my dad.

Borden Tunnel, Maryland

As a parent, I rode with all my kids, even subjecting Andrew to two days of a planned D.C. to Pittsburgh ride on the last day he was 12. But I never remember riding a bike with my dad. I don't think I did.

In Piqua, Ohio, my brother, Bernie, and I would ride together to the country club where we were caddies. We even somehow managed to ride to the public course with golf clubs on our backs. I never remember riding a bike with my dad.

Betsy and my Dad

A few weeks ago I mentioned to my dad about going for a ride on the Great Allegheny Passage, a rail trail that goes from Cumberland, Maryland to McKeesport, Pennsylvania, and soon connecting to Pittsburgh.  A large portion is in Somerset Co., Pa.

My dad expressed desire at going and I had hoped to have a four generation ride on Memorial Day weekend. As the time got closer I had been invited to a wedding the next weekend in Pennsylvania and two of the four generations couldn't make it so I was hoping my dad would postpone it.  I wasn't looking forward to two consecutive weekend trips to Pennsylvania. We could do it next weekend.

Betsy Sherry, Jim Broadwater
Although he had complained of back pain, he assured me that riding a bike would be no problem. After all, he rode 1.5 miles on the stationary bike in the doctor's office.

Savage Tunnel, Pennsylvania

Arriving in Frostburg, I was shocked at how heavy his bike was as I unloaded it from the van. We met a friend of Betsy's, Jim Broadwater, and headed down the switchbacks from the train terminal down to the trail.

Savage Tunnel. I Climbed to the top of the portal to take photos,

Our plan was to ride east to west going through two tunnels and crossing the eastern continental divide. There was one thing wrong with that plan. Other than the section from Cumberland to Frostburg, the Frostburg to Deal section had the highest climbing of any section on the trail.

Cyclists entering Savage Tunnel

I love climbing. More enthusiastic than talented, the satisfaction of reaching the top is, well, satisfying. My dad is not a climber. Yet, the rail trail is just a 1-2% railroad grade so it's not like we're ascending Mount Washington and its average 12% grade.

We had gone but 300 yards and my dad says "I think I'll walk now." I can't describe how I felt. I was annoyed that I drove up this weekend and we rode all of 300 yards and he was walking. In fairness, this was one the one section of the trail that wasn't true to its railroad past and did climb up to 4% or so for 100 yards.

Jim, Dad, and Betsy exit Savage Tunnel

Once over the hump we settled into a pattern of ride for about 1/2 mile and then rest. It was sort of funny. Sort of.

I do not know how I will be at 82 years old. Or if I will be. I don't appreciate how the cardiovascular system works and how it may not replenish the red blood cells as fast. I do know that we didn't see any other octogenarians on the trail.

Eastern Continental Divide

The trail was full of wildlife. Five turtles, four snakes, (including one rattlesnake), three rabbits, two chipmunks, and one deer.

We entered the Bordon Tunnel, unlit, which I think surprised my dad. When he saw through it he said "We can see right through it." Only once inside did he realize how difficult it was for the eyes to adjust. Jim had two lights on his bike and Dad was able to stay in front of those lights. 

Dad, Barry, and Betsy
At the longer Savage Tunnel he had gone about 100 yards and I heard him say "Is this only 3/4 mile? - I can walk this." I kept riding, leaving Jim and Betsy to stay with him. At the exit I climbed to the top of the portal to take pictures of them exiting, not knowing when they would exit.

But Dad had a brief acclimation to the tunnel which caused some dizziness but quickly adjusted and rode his bike through the tunnel.

"Rock Anchors" - Donors for Restoration of Savage Tunnel

We stopped at the Eastern Continental Divide, the location where rainfall to the east flows to the Chesapeake Bay and Atlantic Ocean watershed and to the west to the Ohio (River), Mississippi, and Gulf of Mexico watershed. It was here I saw an elevation map for the trail painted on the wall. Frostburg was much lower in elevation than Meyersdale, something I hadn't accounted for. We rode the wrong direction.

At the Divide we had another mile to go before reaching Deal. It was here we parked his Jeep as a bailout measure. It was a good measure. He was tired and for someone who had only ridden 1.5 miles on a stationary bike, the 11 miles we just covered, on a trail, was quite an accomplishment. 

Storm clouds were rolling in, the temperature was dropping, and it was a good place for him to stop. I loaded his bike in his Jeep for the drive home.

Borden Tunnel

Betsy, Jim, and I headed on to Meyersdale where she had parked. It was another seven miles. Arriving at Meyersdale we found my dad, who had driven there, probably to make sure Betsy got back to her card safely.

Our journey over 18 miles took almost 4.5 hours. A little more than 3 mph.

My Dad's Bike. I Rode it Part Way too.
After dropping off Betsy, Jim and I headed back up to the trail to Frostburg. We had been hearing thunder for two hours but could tell it was two mountains over. Yet rain was near us and we had just a brief exposure to it. But going back through Deal the trail was soaked although we hadn't got caught in it, it did make for harder conditions.

My attire for the day was "relaxed" and I wore sandals and had platform pedals on Andrew's bike, which he never rides anymore. As Jim and I went up the rail he kept a good pace. There are days on the road bike when I don't average 16 mph yet Jim and I made the 18 miles back in little more than one hour. We averaged almost 16.5 mph. I say we smoked it.

I can reflect on the ride. In 82 years this was the first day I rode my with dad. And in Deal, we walked around, where I found a plaque commemorating trail builders. I think a commemorative brick back at the tunnel had been promised, but in the end, they simply erected a plaque. There on the plaque were the names of two trail builders - Barry & Andrew Sherry, a reminder of the days this dad used to ride with his son.

After uploading my ride data, I got an email that RideWith GPS made the Meyersdale to Frostburg section a timed segment. I've never been first on any segment but there I was in first. I smoked it going back.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Bike to Work Day


It was Bike to Work Day and a gorgeous one at that. Chilly, and low 50s to start, but after 10 minutes of riding I quickly was comfortable and wasn't cursing my decision not to wear arm warmers. Rather than navigate that mess known as Minnieville Road, I drove the van to the commuter lot so that I could take the lightly traveled Telegraph Road instead.

My route would take me down Tanyard Hill Road into Occoquan and across the pedestrian bridge that spans the Occquan River. Then Ox Road (123) to Lee Chapel, Burke Lake Rd., Lake Braddock, Olley Dr., Guinea Rd., some exploring a shortcut which never materialized, then Prosperity Rd. to Gallows Rd. then hooking up with the Washington & Old Dominion trail.

One of the joys of biking is traveling the road less traveled. I bet thousands if commuters travel through or by Occoquan each day without realizing a bridge exists for cyclists. And walkers.

Crossing the Occoquan River. By bike.

At Gallows Road I stopped at a Bike to Work pit stop for my free T-shirt then continued on. In Falls Church I stopped at their lively pit stop. The police officer on duty was Jimmy Brooks, a friend of mine.

Officer Brooks

It was fun seeing Jimmy and he made sure that I knew the ABC's of cycling. A is for air pressure. B is for brakes. C is for crank (or drive train). He said I passed.

From there I followed the Custis Trail to Rosslyn retracing my ride of three years ago. But I didn't crash.

In Washington D.C. I rode by the Washington Monument, even diverting to go through some water sprinklers. It felt good.

My route home was a little different. I followed the Mount Vernon Trail to Four Mile Run to the W&OD.  On the Four Mile Run Trail I was about to announce my presence passing a woman, who wasn't wearing a helmet, when I got a puff. Of her cigarette smoke.

Rather than pass I slowed down and heard a "ding-ding" of a bell from a rider behind me who wanted to pass. I said "you've got to be kidding me." I was thinking out loud why I should warn this woman about me about to overtake her when someone needed to warn her about the effects of smoking.

The guy behind me heard me and started to apologize for ringing his bell. I laughed. I told him what I was thinking and he agreed with me.

Barry with Officer Brooks

Officer Brooks invited me back on my return trip which was fun. Music, smoothies, ice cream, and a slow rider contest which was going slow without put a foot down. I won my heat.

After leaving the W&OD at Gallows Road it was then a matter of riding home. The legs felt good. Some days when biking home from work the legs start to hurt after 30 miles but today, after 70, the legs still felt good. It was the best 77.77 miles I have felt on a bike but maybe that's because I rode slow for BTWD.

But road rage???? In more than 2,000 miles of riding this year I have been honked or yelled at three times. Today? Four. All in Fairfax County. Wow. Somebody who was stuck in a car was grumpy today. Jealous.