Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Road Dirt and Fog


After two days of driving from Key West to Baltimore then to Somerset, Pa., I was ready for a nice ride. Maybe not this one but it's the ride I got.

I have driven the mountain up westbound on US Rte 30 from Shellsburg towards Stoystown probably more than 100 times and always wanted to bike up it. A nice little climb it's a two-lane road with a little bit of a shoulder. Safe enough.

I left my parents' place and rode into Somerset, fueling (eating) at Sheetz. Then I headed east on PA 31. The rode has narrow shoulders and lots of coal truck traffic. But generally the coal trucks gave me wide berth - it was the regular pickup truck drivers who made no attempt to go wide even when no cars were approaching.

The weather was about 50 degrees and a mist from the fog hung over the area. The first 20 miles featured some nice rollers on the Allegheny Plateau. Crossing the Allegheny Mountain I pedaled hard trying to hit a good speed. Only when the road flattened out did I check to see my high speed -- 50 mph.

Anytime I hit 50 mph it's going to be a good day on the bike. I descended to the valley floor then navigated by feel. I knew where I could go to get to Shellsburg but took a chance on a road before Manns Choice. I guessed right.

In my mind I was going to go farther - over to Rte 96 and past Shawnee State Park to Shellsburg but I was also planning to meet my sister, Betsy, for lunch. So a 50+ mile ride made more sense than a 60+ mile ride. I found Buena Road which cuts over to Rte 30 near the Buffalo Farm.

Coming out on US 30 I turned left and started up the mountain. I always wanted to ride up US 30 but in better conditions. It was foggy and visibility was low. Winter dirt was still on the shoulders. Here they use a mix of of salt and black cinders to treat the roads. Combined with the mist and fog, it made for a wet mix on the bike.

I began the six mile climb and enjoyed every pedal stroke. I only wish I could see. Visibility was so poor near the summit I could hear a car approaching before I could see its head lights. I was hoping that no car would come flying up behind me. But none did. And over the six miles only 20 cars passed me on the climb.

On a clear day it is advertised that one can see three states and seven counties. But today I could barely see 100 yards. I passed the remains of the Ship Hotel, a travel icon in the 1930s.

I continued on "Seven Mile Stretch" and reflected that three days ago I was riding Seven Mile Bridge. What a difference. Unrelenting sunshine. Views that went forever. Here? Not so much.

I passed the entrance to the Flight 93 Memorial then continued to Stoystown before heading back to Friedens. It was a dirty, chilly and wet day but was still a good 54 mile day on the bike. 

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