Great Allegheny Passage Trail

Sunday, September 6

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Today I rode from Meyersdale to Confluence, 30.15 miles.

The route, of course, is the same one that I rode three days ago in the rain. But today's weather was glorious - high around 72 degrees, clear skies and a light breeze at times.

I started out at the Levi Deal Mansion in Meyersdale, packed up my stuff and rode downhill to get ice and water for my bottles and some lunch options to pack in the panniers. There is only one town of any size between here and Confluence - Rockwood - and I suspect because it is Sunday that I will not find any cafes that are open. I picked up a ham and cheese sandwich and some grapes and cheese from Sheetz. They'll make a dandy lunch.

My legs didn't really want to wake up, but climbing from the Sheetz store in Meyersdale back up to the trail is the steepest climbing I have done, so it was time for a leg (and lung warm-up). I made it up to the trail in some of my lowest gears, gasping like a guppy in front of group of riders who were setting off toward Cumberland. A cyclist who looked like he might be one of their sherpas gave me an encouraging word for the last few yards. "Almost there!"

Though the path I pedaled was the same as last Thursday, the ride was different. This time, I stopped at some places I couldn't fully appreciate in the rain, and I took a few photos from the trestles across Casselman River. Sometimes the air was cool enough that I considered a jacket, but just a few minutes in the sun warmed me back up.

When I rode across the long Salisbury Viaduct just outside of Meyersdale, I stopped to take a photo because the valley is so beautiful in the sunshine. I noticed another cyclist who had stopped on the viaduct, too. He was a big tall guy, talking on the phone. I distinctly heard him speaking German as I rode by. His bike had aero bars (bars that point straight forward so the rider can get in a tucked or aerodynamic position). Riders who do lots of long miles or who enjoy riding fast often use aero bars. Some riders use them just to be able to change position while riding and use different pressure points.

My legs were definitely not as peppy as yesterday, but I was riding a gradual descent and decided that this will be my recovery day and I'll not push it.

After about an hour of riding, I stopped at one of the little shelters that the Boy Scouts have constructed along the trail and ate a few energy blocks (Honey Stinger "Limerita" flavor - they are sort of like gummy bears). As I stood there, preparing to take a photo of the shelter in case my brother John wants to talk his scout troop into making something like this for trails in their area in Texas, I spotted a piece of graffiti that made me laugh out loud. Probably written by a passing cyclist, it said simply "COVID Tour 2020."

I noticed a couple downed trees that had been cleared away, and it made me think of the friendly trail volunteer, Doug, whom I had met on this stretch last Thursday. A few minutes later, I came upon a huge downed tree on the trail, and two men were busy clearing away a path for cyclists and hikers. I pulled up out of their way and stopped. One of them was a bicyclist, and the other guy was apparently a trail volunteer. I started to ask him if he knew Doug, when he turned around, and it was Doug! We both recognized each other right away, and he remembered that I was going all the way to Cumberland and back.

The cyclist who was helping him actually had a serious mechanical problem and had been walking his bike for about a mile when Doug found him. I didn't get the cyclist's name, but we started chatting. Somehow, the derailleur on his bike had come loose or gotten shoved into the spokes, and it was completely wrecked. I'm not sure, but perhaps he even broke the chain, too. He was walking toward Rockwood (another six or seven miles up the trail), where there is a bike shop. They asked me if it was open, and I wasn't sure. It didn't appear to be open when I passed through, but that's only because I didn't see anyone around the outside of the building.

The cyclist was hoping to get to Pittsburgh by the end of the day. "It's a personal challenge for me," he told me, "because I have Parkinson's, and I have set this as my goal." I asked him if he was aware of the Pedaling for Parkinson's research done by a doctor at Cleveland Clinic, and he was. I mentioned that I know about it because I had recently written a grant proposal to start a small pilot project with our hospital and the Mattoon YMCA (but that was just before COVID hit, so I'm not sure if they ever started the project). In any case, the stranded cyclist told me that he is an oncologist and works in Pittsburgh and that bicycling has made a huge difference in his health. He was diagnosed with Parkinson's only three years ago, and first he participated in a boxing program, which also helps alleviate some symptoms of Parkinson's.

"But I didn't keep doing it," he said, "and my health declined."

He is apparently passionate about the bicycling and was really hoping that he could get his bike repaired so he could go on. I don't know how the story ended. When I left the pair, Doug was putting the doctor's bike on the trailer hitch bike carrier on his utility vehicle, and they were going to head up the road to Rockwood to see if the bike shop was open. Doug cleared away just enough of the fallen tree so that persons on the trail could pass, and I suspect he will come back later and clear the rest of it away. He mentioned that he knew that there was also a bike shop in Confluence, so I suspect he was going to do everything he could to get the cycling doctor back on the trail as soon as possible.

I rode on through the Pinkerton Tunnel, across the river a few times, and soon I was approaching Confluence. More people are on the trail today - not enough to make it crowded, but noticeably more than I encountered on Thursday. Some are riding in small groups, but most are twosomes - of all ages, too. Several times I have seen a parent and child, riding together with a pack that indicates they might be camping somewhere tonight. I have even seen children on bikes with training wheels on the trail. It makes me feel good to see others using the trail.

I passed an older gentleman heading the same direction as I but more slowly. "It's a nice day," I said as a rode by.

"It's a lovely day!" he replied, and it almost sounded like an Irish brogue.

A few minutes later, I rode by that wooden bench I saw at the start of Thursday's ride, with the Irish blessing. Do you suppose the little people are with me on this ride?

I arrived in Confluence about an hour before check-in time at the B&B, so I stopped at the River's Edge Cafe and sat in their shady garden area and drank a cold Stella. They were very busy, and I took the opportunity to also request a reservation for a table for dinner. When I went in the reception area, I spotted a picture hanging on the wall that I was happy to see.

It was an old print of a little girl, in her birthday suit, playing with her toes. It's a picture that Steve's mother, Sharon, had admired so much because it hung in the house of her Hagerty grandparents. Another cousin inherited the print, but Sharon liked it so much that she asked the cousin to send her a photograph of it and she found a local artist in Beardstown make a painting for her.

(Martha will remember this story.) The artist was Gene McLaughlin, who worked at the Beardstown IGA and lived with his wife, Rita, in Mrs. Brasell's house. Several years ago, Martha and I drove down the lane to Mrs. Brasell's place after the Burgoo because we wanted some fall pictures of the timber and of our house, taken from the levee. Gene came out and greeted us. I hadn't met him before, but I remembered who he was.

Not knowing that I was married to Sharon's son, Gene said, "I've been working on something. Let me show you," and he walked into the outdoor screened-in gazebo to get this painting. He explained that he was painting this for someone and he wasn't sure that it was finished. As soon as I saw it, I recognized it as the painting that Sharon loved. "Are you painting this for Sharon Daniel?" I asked and explained how I knew.

"Yes!" he said, surprised.

I assured him that Sharon would be delighted with the work. I hadn't ever seen the picture, but just from her description of it, I knew that this was going to make her happy.

Just a few days after that, Gene took the painting to Sharon, and she was extremely pleased. A day or two later, Gene died suddenly and unexpectedly of a heart attack.

Seeing this picture here in the River's Edge Cafe is significant for another reason. Last night, I dreamed of Sharon. She looked like she did 30 years ago. In my dream, she asked me, "How is he?"

That is all that I remember from the dream.

On Wednesday of this week, it will be one year since Sharon died.

Today's lessons:
We are never truly traveling alone.
New lessons await, even on a road you've already traveled.

View from the Salisbury viaduct

View from the Salisbury viaduct

Molly at a trail shelter with graffiti

Molly at a trail shelter with graffiti

Graffiti - COVID Tour 2020

Bicycling (or hiking) has offered the potential for socially distanced exercise during the pandemic, and enough people took the opportunity that it resulted in a (hopefully temporary) shortage of bicycles.

Shelter and bench along the trail - built by Boy Scout volunteers

Shelter and bench along the trail - built by Boy Scout volunteers

Another fallen tree

Another fallen tree - and the disabled bicycle of a rider who had some mechanical problems. The trail volunteer clearing away the tree transported him further up the trail, where they hoped to find a bicycle shop which was open on a Sunday.

Group of friends relaxing at Pinkerton Tunnel

Group of friends relaxing at Pinkerton Tunnel

Hikers or cyclists enjoying the waters of Casselman River near Confluence

Hikers or cyclists enjoying the waters of Casselman River near Confluence

Approaching Confluence from the south

Approaching Confluence from the south

Glass of wine at River View Cafe, Confluence

Glass of wine at River View Cafe, Confluence

Grilled mushrooms and naan bread

The server recommended the grilled mushrooms and naan bread at the River View Cafe, and I heartily affirm that recommendation.

Salad with grilled salmon

Salad with grilled salmon at the River View Cafe, Confluence

Painting of a girl

The old print hanging inside the reception at the River View Cafe in Confluence

Gene McLaughlin's painting for Sharon

Gene McLaughlin's painting for Sharon

Next - Monday, September 7
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