Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Th Great Allagheny Passage on a bicycle

A few weeks ago, two of my buddies and myself went on another great adventure on our bicycles. We left Cumberland Md. and traveled over the Eastern Continental Divide. From Cumberland it is an uphill trip from start to finish and is approximately 22 miles across the Mason/Dixon line to the top, in Pa. It took us 5 hours to arrive at the top. Then another 20 miles to the town of Rockwood Pa, this time on the downhill slope. It only took us another 3 hours to reach our destination from the top. A total of 8 hours and 42 miles in the saddle. It was nice to get a camping spot, build a fire, cook and eat, relax and discuss the day. On day two, after another campfire and breakfast of pancakes cooked over the fire. We weren't sure about making the trip back to the same camp so we decided to pack our gear. We continued on the down slope another 20 miles to the town of Confluence Pa. We had our lunch at noon in the town square. I would like to personally thank the guy who was mowing the grass, while we were trying to enjoy our lunch, especially after 4 trips up and down the sidewalk past us to blow the grass off. I guess he never heard of a broom. I didn't know that city workers had to work on Sunday.
After lunch we began our trek back towards camp. The return trip is now on the up slope. It took us quite a bit longer to return than it did to arrive. We did make it back 20 miles, to the same campsite. Another evening around the fire and a good night sleep, Except for the never ending train whistles that blew every couple hours all night long. At 6 in the morning the train was so loud, I actually thought about getting up to make sure it was not going to run over my tent. After breakfast, we were packed and back on the trail at about 8:30. The climb back to the divide was just as long and just as gruelling. But after getting to the top, it was smooth sailing all the way to Cumberland. The return trip after going over the crest was mostly coasting. Only peddling now and again to keep pace with your buddies. Three days and a total of 120 miles on the trail, a couple side trips into town brings the odometer to 138 miles. What a good time.
The trip was a nice retreat and getaway.
Anyone on a fire dept. can tell you, especially if you volunteer, the pager can go off at anytime. You have to be "ready" at all times. When you get a chance to get away, you take it, even if just for a couple days. Then you can truly relax and not "be ready". And everyone needs to relax once in a while.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Memorial day weekend

Every year since 1991, over Memorial Day, there has been a "ride to the wall" event to the Vietnam Veteran Memorial Wall in DC. Bikers from all over the U.S., mount their trusty steads and head to DC to show their support in memory of the many POW/MIA's from all the many wars, headlining Vietnam. It started with as little as 200 bikes. Today it includes nearly 1/2 million bikes. My buddy Tyson and myself with his wife, left home on Friday evening and went to our other friends home (Matt) in Cumberland MD. I met Matt last June when we went on a bicycle trek to DC down the C & O canal. Matt opened his home to us and I can't say enough about his hospitality. The three of us stayed three nights at Matt and his wife's home. Friday night we arrived to open arms at Matt's around dark. We visited a while and then went to our assigned sleeping quarters. On Saturday morning, Matt suggested we ride bicycles up the mountain a ways to see how the trail is and to decide which direction to ride our bicycles. The trip to DC is mostly level. However the trip towards Pittsburg travels over the mountains. The first 22 miles rises in elevation 2000 feet. After riding about 6 miles up the trail and back we deciced that the three of us are going to ride, this time, heading towards Pittsburg Pa. The trip is scheduled for the weekend of June 13th. After our 12 mile up and back on the trail we visited the Canal museum and the train depot. Then off for lunch. We had an excellent meal at an outside cafe. Back to Matt's for more visiting. Tyson and myself are not the type to sit much, so we deciced to ride to the next town to see some sights. Off we went. After some riding we stopped at a Wal-mart to see about getting a new SD card for my camera. I had been concerned about mine not working correctly. On the way back to Matt's, it began to rain and by the time we got "home" we were soaked.
On Sunday, we headed towards DC for the Memorial Day event on our motorcycles. Matt gave us directions and off we went. We deciced to leave early, so as to arrive early. Matt said that there well be a lot of traffic and short parking so we should get there early and find a spot and then walk to see the sights. He said to get fuel in Frederic. We did then on to DC. After a short ride on I-495 we got stopped by the local law. They were stopping everyone on the freeway. In a short moment, we found out why. Here come a line of motorcycles that were getting on at the ramp. The line lasted nearly 1/2 hour. The lawman told us that if we wanted in the parade we could join in at the end. By the time the end arrived, there were about a dozen bikes waiting with us to join in. From there the next 35 miles was all motorycles. Bikes were joining the parade at every on-ramp. Every overpass had several people waving flags and cheering. It wasn't anything that I ever imagined. Upon arriving in DC we found a spot like planned. One between Arlington and downtown. A short walk to see both. A visit to Arlington Cemetery and the changing of the guard. It is indescribable. Makes the short hairs raise on the back of your neck just to watch. Back towards the center of DC, and much to our surprise and joy the bikes kept coming and coming. For approximatley 6 hours, the roar was deafening. People were cheering and waving flags, showing support for our military (Past and Present). We visited most of the memorials. It was most interesting to be among that many people and that much noise, and then when visiting the Wall, the silence was eerie. There were many there, who you knew, were THERE. Many older men wearing biker vests with tears in their eyes. The walk along the many names on the wall was crowded and slow but I would not have missed it for anything. The things that were left along the wall, for the fallen, I cannot describe. Few words were said, and then they were quiet words. Most just walked and remembered. In my case, I am old enough to remember when my Uncle left and luckily returned. Many did not. They are named on the wall.
I remember the many letters my Mother sent to her Brother and the worried face when she spoke of him. He was wounded but not seriously and survived.
We got to see everything we wanted while in town. We must have walked several miles during the day. It was an experience for me that I will never forget. The weekend put over 900 miles on my Harley, by the time I got back to Ohio. I can't wait until next year.