Monday, September 29, 2014

Filling in the gaps of the GAP (day 2)

I woke up in Meyersdale in my quiet room in the Morguen Toole... alarmless. I slept in as much as I needed, I was tired and it had been ages since I'd had the ability to have a night uninterrupted by a dog who needed to pee at 2:30AM. It was glorious.

Howdy, stranger.

I dressed and wandered over to the GI Dayroom. Another mistake I'd made was my packing: I could have brought all manner of clothing and kept it in the car, but my obsession with spartan packing meant I'd inadvertently brought nothing but black warm things to wear on the chilly walk over to the restaurant. It was filled with the local cliques of retired men gossiping in the booths and on the stools at the counter. The lone stranger walks in dressed all in black and every head turned and stared in silence. It was eerie, like something out of a Western movie. Honestly, I don't always dress like Johnny Cash's goth daughter! I smiled and took a booth and hoped they'd resume their chats and after a few seconds, they did. So awkward. Note to self: blend.
I wondered if the spandex-clad who come in clicking their clips along the tiles get the same reaction.
I ordered an egg sandwich and many cups of coffee. There was WiFi here. I was happy.
Jody, my waitress, asked me to sign a guestbook, being a GAP traveler. I took the time to look back at the previous entries and noted all the faroff places people come from to ride the GAP. Very interesting. This was the second guestbook I'd been asked to sign in Meyersdale.

I loaded up the bike and got on the trail to Rockwood. Just outside of Meyersdale I found a small cemetary, and I'm guesssing these are the Meyers that Meyersdale is named for.

There were many more trees on this part of the GAP that were turning. It stood to reason: the maples turn first and Meyersdale is the Maple City. The number of maples here was far greater.

Rockwood and my OCD rears its head.

I reached Rockwood quickly, being only 12 miles from Meyersdale. There was a small manned visitors center there with a cell booster. The gentleman inside helped me figure out the water fountain and take my photo in front of the train sculpture.

He clearly didn't understand that getting the bike in the shot was uber important.

Planing to turn around and make it an early day, I felt cheated. I'd come all this way and stayed overnight... I wondered if I could make it to the Pinkerton Tunnel and I asked him how far away it was. He told me 8 miles. This would turn my 24 mile day into a 40 mile day. I could do this.
If I didn't, there would be a gap in my GAP map... a part of the trail I hadn't completed when I was so close. The obsessive compulsive side of me yelled: "Do it! You can't leave that section unfinished!"

I headed West and made it to the side of the Pinkerton tunnel I hadn't seen. I visited the other side a few weeks ago.

OK, if I turn around now, that'll be 40 miles for the day. Wait, the Bypass! I HAVE to ride the Bypass, I can't leave that unridden! Two miles later, I reached the other side of the tunnel. There, I did it. My obsessive side sighed contentedly.

I noticed this bit of pay-it-forwardness along the trail. Very nice.

Seeing myself as others see me

In my travels, I find that many were asking me: "Traveling alone?" or "With a group?".
I encountered today something I don't recall seeing before today: a lone female cyclist. She had lots of gear and stopped frequently to take photos. She stood out in stark contrast amongst all the other parties I saw: couples, groups or single men.
When I first encountered her, my first thought was: "She's alone." 
Not: "Nice panniers."
Not: "Love the way she braided her hair." or "Awesome bike."
My first thought was she was out here, by herself. It dawned on me: this was probably everyone else's first impressions of me. Did they think I was vulnerable? Lonely? Left behind by her party? A target? I never had those thoughts whenever I saw a lone male rider. I never gave that a second thought.
It left me with some discontent.

Feather Identification is difficult

I find bird, mammal and plant identification fascinating. I do fairly well at IDing birds by sight, flight patterns and calls, but IDing a bird by a lone feather is tricky, I discovered! I found this feather from a large bird in my travels today. Wanting to know the species, I called upon Google. Hoping it was from a bird of prey, I was disappointed.

Just a wild turkey feather, nothing special.

The final stretch with another Trucker

Along the way back, I played leapfrog with a group of 5 or 6 heading to DC. They were heavily laden, one of the bikes being a Xtracycle cargo stacked high with supplies. I liked seeing this. One of them told me: "You look like you know what you're doing!" I told her I had her fooled.
One in the party had a disc Trucker. I parked Fizz next to it when I returned to Meyersdale.

Green Trucker meets yellow Trucker

44 miles, a good day.

After getting back into Pittsburgh, I dropped Fizz off at Thick for a new saddle and front rack as well as a tune up. I'd have to use Ruby for a while.

Grabbed a new patch for my top tube pad:

And here's the map of my GAP progress after this weekend:
I should have more sections filled in before winter arrives.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Filling in the gaps of the GAP (day 1)

I'm trying to tackle the GAP in small bites before taking on a multi-night adventure. Before this weekend's adventure, Here's what I'd managed to complete.

The yellow parts have been ridden, the remainders await.

Bereavement and ruminations

Having lost someone suddenly and without warning, their death was weighing on me. My stress rash returned after having been in remission for several years, this was taking a mental and physical toll on me. I needed a diversion... this was my respite, from everything. I needed to be alone, mourn and get used to their absence.

More firsts

This was my first overnighter. I'd found a place in Meyersdale that had a room on short notice and I jumped on it. I packed the panniers, basket bag and dry bag. I was worried I wouldn't have enough room for all my stuff, but I had plenty of extra space. This bodes well for upcoming trips that might involve more than one night. I was very pleased with my restraint when deciding how much stuff to bring. I went bare-bones.


Of course, this is all relative. I'm sure the next cyclist might look at all of my baggage and think: "All that for *ONE* NIGHT?"

I drove to Meyersdale and set out Southward early in the hopes of getting to the Savage Tunnel (between Frostburg and Cumberland) and on to Cumberland if I had the energy. If I didn't have it in me, Frostburg would suffice. Then I would turn back around and head back to Meyersdale and stay in a B&B. This was also my first time in a B&B, so I was unfamiliar with how things worked.

Wow: over state lines? On my bike? Staying in a bed and breakfast? So many firsts on this trip.

I arrived in Meyersdale early-ish. I was rerouted through the City and Wilkinsburg because all my routes to the Parkway West were blocked due to some damned event. The Great Race, maybe? 20 minutes blown trying to find my way to the Turnpike. Why didn't I take 43 to 70?

That was mistake #1. Mistake #2 was packing my clothes for the next day on the bike instead of leaving them in the car. Wow, that was dumb. Oh well, it was a lesson in packing and load distribution, which was also wonky. I had to get used to the heavy stern and starboard side, it nearly pulled me over the first time I mounted it with everything loaded. I think I need a front rack.

It was a chilly morning and I started out using my wool leggings and arm warmers. I wasn't able to remove them until noon when it finally warmed up.

I noticed many Amish folks (or Mennonites?) along the trail: perhaps going to Sunday services? I wished them a Guten Morgen and a Guten Tag later in the day...which surprised and delighted them, I think.

I hit the Mason Dixon line, Continental Divide, Big Savage and Borden Tunnels (hooboy, that one's DARK!) I'm very glad I brought my headlamps.

So many fellow cyclists love to help take your picture!

Oh, hai

Gianormous black snake!

Frostburg made!

I wasn't enamored of the creepy head sculptures at Frostburg.
When I arrived back in Meyersdale, my legs were giving me the "We're about to have some wicked spasms" warning. I needed more water and salt. I checked into my room at the Morguen Toole and got the tour from Brooke. She told me some of the history of the building which was once a Morgue and hardware store, the floor where I was staying was the mortuary, where the bodies were prepared.
Very cool. The building inside is a restorationist's dream. Old tin ceilings, brick walls, old fixtures, artifacts from the morgue. Wow, I loved this place.

The bikes stay in the garage. Fizz was that night's only occupant.

I showered and napped, but the muscle cramps that threatened were making a visit and interrupting my nap in my cozy, quiet room. They hit my feet... my FEET! My big toe was nearly vertical. Torture! I'd wanted to bring pickle juice with me, but I'd forgotten it.
I headed down to the restaurant for something salty. Brooke was also my waitress as well as hotel concierge and hostess. She brought me a burger with extra pickles and mustard on the side.

After dinner, I wanted to walk around Meyersdale and check things out. It took 10 minutes. Meyersdale isn't that big. It IS interesting though.

I went back to my room and enjoyed the quiet: no dogs, no TV, no spouse to entertain... just complete silence pierced only occasionally by a train's horn. The mustard and pickles as well as the walk helped my legs. I slept like a log.

I took many, many pictures. The leaves were just starting to turn on this part of the GAP. 
You can see the rest of them here: Trip photos

32 miles on a gorgeous autumn day.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

All dressed up with someplace to go

It's here! It's here!

Last week, our custom-made bike rack for the office arrived. I can't wait for it to be installed.

 The Dressed-up ride:

I don't often break out the pearls. They come out when we're going someplace fancy: the Symphony, brunch at the Ritz Carlton, etc...
Mind you, I inherited these pearls. I still consider them my MILs. I don't claim ownership; I'm not worthy to consider such an exquisite item 'mine'.
At any rate, the whole office was needed to work at our annual Women On The Move luncheon. It takes place at a local high-end restaurant or golf club and many local socialites break out the giant hats, the press shows up. Not my cup of tea, I'm just working to make things go smoothly there. So, I've gotta step up the wardrobe a bit for this shindig. Lookin' sharp in a blazer, skirt and pearls, I set out to LeMont, which is UP on Mount Washington. There's no way I can haul my ass up a mountain dressed up and arrive not looking sweaty and haggard, so I employed the use of the Duquesne Incline. It's one of two inclines that date back to the 1870s to take passengers up and down the steep hillside along the bank of the Monongahela river.

Wheeeee! I hope we don't have a landslide!

The incline building still uses a woodstove for heat?

I'm glad I pared down the panniers and basket as I had to carry the bike up two sets of steps once inside the Incline's lower building. Ooof. They didn't make things wheelchair accessible back in the 1800s!

It has a stunning view from up there.

The valet guys were sufficiently impressed. They're not accustomed to seeing people arrive on a bike.
The remarkable thing was, only one of my co-workers was all that stunned that I rode my bike over. They have become so used to seeing me on a bike that they thought nothing of it. "Oh hey, you rode your bike up here? Cool." "You made it over here faster than we did in the car."
I liked the nonchalant attitude. I'm de-sensitizing them.

Afterwards, I decided to take the famous Sycamore Avenue back down. Sycamore Ave is one of the Dirty Dozen streets.
I can imagine how brutal this street is to climb up. Going down was an unfamiliar obstacle course of potholes and sharp blind turns. I rode the brakes the whole way not knowing what was in store for me around each bend.

Bike Pittsburgh is using my "Little Girl in Training Wheels in the Bike Lane" photo!

"Excuse me, did you drop a scarf?"

I noticed an abandoned scarf on the Ft Duke pedestrian bridge.

Further ahead, I noticed someone who might be the owner, she had her coat draped over her arm and I guessed that her scarf had also been draped there and had dropped a few yards back.
I was right.