Sunday, June 3, 2012

Bats in the Belfry


Yesterday, on my way from Virginia to Punxsutawney, Pa., for a wedding, I stopped at the Logan Valley Mall for a "quick" ride up the mountain. I always love the climb and it's always just enough to make me wonder if I will have to dismount and walk.

A wonderful surprise was new blacktop. This is so much better than three years ago when in September they put down a chip and tar surface. It was treacherous descending in all that loose gravel. But today was fresh blacktop. Sweet!

A bit chilly, 66 degrees, and I could have used arm warmers at the top, but didn't have time to contemplate my choice. At the top I rode one mile to make sure I had 10 miles in so I could hit 20 on the round trip. Then I decided that it was shorter going back to turn around and ride that great black top than to continue over to Sugar Run Road. I don't know if it was or not.

Beautiful road surface and still going UP
Glenwhite Road
But I had a nice descent. It was 55 minutes up and 16 minutes down.

I was able to come back today. For more.

Mid 50s and overcast at the start. Wheels down at 10:00 a.m. with a forecast of 70% chance of rain by 1:00 p.m. I wasn't sure that I would want to do the long route (70 miles) that I planned and would play it by ear.

My Garmin was finicky. Although I had mapped out a "Three Church Ride," it seemingly wasn't calling out the turns for me so I was left to guess. Instead of climbing to the top of Frankstown Road via some neighborhood streets I found Garmin routing me around the mountain. Maybe it was smarter than me after all.

Canoe Creek Church

I rode out Scotch Valley Road and followed the signs to Canoe Creek State Park. Seeing an old church and cemetery I almost kept pedaling but the building next door, a garage, caught my eye with its handicapped parking. Out in the country, a country garage, and there was a handicapped spot.

That didn't make a lot of sense to me unless this was a location people came to. And it was.

The church was the former Canoe Creek United Methodist Church.

In 1958 my father followed his calling to enter the ministry and as a student pastor was assigned to East Freedom with a three church charge. Canoe Creek, then Evangelical United Brethren Church (E.U.B.), was one of those three churches.

No longer an active church, it has been taken over by up to 20,000 bats. And people come here in the evenings to watch the bats.

Getting back on the road I saw a couple of cyclists go through the intersection I was approaching. After turning back onto Scotch Valley road I could see four cyclists riding about 300 meters in front of me. I tried to bridge to them.

As the line of four went up a hill, I caught them as one, Sean, who was on his first ride coming off shoulder surgery, was dropping back. We briefly continued as four and I wondered how long it would be before they realized they had four but it wasn't the same four.

Sean and Anna

I started rolling with them then introduced myself. All kitted up in green of the Spokes N Skis shop, I met Bryan, Anna, Richard, and Sean.* Finding myself next to Anna I asked her how far they were going and she said they were 10 miles into a 30-mile loop returning to Hollidaysburg.

Perfect. For me.

I decided to ride with them and they were great hosts. They showed me the foot of Locke Mountain Road while we stayed in the valley. Bryan offered to show me the roads to my mapped out route but I told him the roads will always be here - I'd rather stay with the riders today. And we did.


Bryan and I chatted, as did Rich and I, and I told them how much I love riding in Altoona. I even reminisced about riding three years ago while battling cancer. Although at first I couldn't remember all the names, I mentioned the Stacy as one of the riders I met. Joel and Richard were the other two riders. Bryan couldn't recall a Stacy.

Our formal ride of four, or five to include me, ended at Hollidaysburg. I said goodbye to Bryan and Anna, who will be married on September 15, then Richard and I pedaled on towards Altoona. Once back at the Mall where I parked I decided I could squeeze in a mountain ride too and headed up Sugar Run Road for another 19 miles.

Richard and Anna

On my descent down the new blacktop of Glenwhite Road, I hit 48.5 mph but was disappointed I did not reach 50 mph. This one is a little tricky. You can fly coming down off the Wall but there is a curve of which you cannot see the transition. The mind says to brake but I have been through this before and know I can lean through it.

I braked.

Just a touch. But that was just enough I'm sure to keep me from doing 50. I have to try again.

*Bryan Caporuscio, Anna Gauriloff, and Richard Fiore.

EPILOGUE - After returning home, Bryan remembered Stacy -- Richard's wife. He liked that I love the roads around Altoona and that I love to ride. He also stated that Stacy always wondered what happened to that guy with cancer who encouraged her while climbing up the wall in August, 2009, and was quite please I joined their group ride.

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