Pennslyvania Transcontinental Bike Trip

The 500th-Mile Day

The lightening flashed and the thunder boomed. There was still some space between the two, and it wasn’t raining yet, so we kept on moving. Then the wind started blowing. In the lee of the houses there was a false sense of security, but when we came to the cross-streets, the gusts carried dust, sand and leaves sideways. Its strength made handling our overloaded bikes challenging. We finally stopped when trash can lids and other debris were blowing across the street in front of us, and there was less than 5 seconds between lightening and thunder. Then the rain came.

The day had been beastly already. The temperature-sign said 90 degrees an hour earlier as we sat outside the mini-market in Monongahela, Pennsylvania. We had already covered 25 of our 40-mile day’s quota, and we were feeling done in by the combined heat and humidity. This was rare for this time of year people said, in fact the news called it record-breaking, if that means anything anymore.

When the storm hit, we were climbing into the hilly residential areas from central Monongahela on the river. We had reached some nice but small houses that had mature landscaping. One bit of landscaping caught our attention immediately, a grove of tall trees. We took cover.

What the neighbors thought of two old guys, looking perhaps homeless-with-bikes, resting under their neighbor’s trees as all hell broke loose, could only be imagined. The owners of the property couldn’t really see us, but there must have been phone calls.

Finally the storm passed and we started back up the hill. At least the storm had dropped the temperature into the 70’s, but of course it raised the humidity. And we had miles of PUDS to go before we rested.

At one time, Western Pennsylvania must have been a level 1200-foot high plateau before the rain and the rivers did their erosive work. What modern man is left with is terrain that varies between 700 and 1200 feet, and that land undulates continuously. On a bicycle that means you are never on level ground, you’re either climbing or descending and somehow, the latter never quite makes up for the former. Since you descend quickly, the cyclist has the impression that he is continually climbing. That’s exactly the way we felt. We stopped often for fluid and calories.

We were flirting with darkness when that 500th mile went under our wheels. We stopped at a gas station to tweet the good news, and then continued. Our bike lights blinked our passage as we pedaled the narrow highways. We prayed the motorists could see us.

Even in the twilight Washington, PA, our destination, appeared to be a clean, prosperous city of well kept homes, with many tastefully elegant. In the near-dark, children played in the neighborhoods, unafraid of two bikers. Out of the residential darkness came the lighted business center, and the last hill was summited, We caught sight of our hotel, right next to one of our recently adopted favorite restaurants. Hot showers, warm food – bliss.

To be continued.

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The other Mike
The other Mike
13 years ago

CONGRATS!!! 500 miles!!!!

Stephen Crandall
Stephen Crandall
13 years ago

You guys are impressive.

To paraphrase what Herodotus said referring to the courier service of the ancient Persian Empire which was turned into the USPS creed:

Neither flats, saddles sores, chafing, rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these bikers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.

This will be an adventure for memories.