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.

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