Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Spinning Wheels (My First Tour the Montour)

            I am interrupting the series of posts about my recent cycling trip from DC to Pittsburgh with this post about last week’s 14th Annual Tour the Montour Ride. I will post the next installment in the “From DC to PGH” series this upcoming Tuesday, October 4, 2016.

            For those not familiar with it, The Montour Trail "is the longest suburban non-motorized rail-trail in the United States, with main line and branches extending 63 miles."   It is located west and south of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. I have cycled most of the Montour Trail, some sections numerous times. Last Saturday, however, was my first time to ride in the Annual Tour the Montour Ride.

            As I approached the usual turn off Rt. 51 to the trailhead I was directed a couple hundred feet further west where cars were being directed into a large county owned field that looked like it could hold several hundred cars. I was able to park at the end nearest the trail head and from there it was a mere tenth of a mile ride on a grassy and dirt trail through a couple Jersey barriers to the usual parking area mile “0” 
The Top Gear  truck and Trek Tent at Mile "0"

            The first thing I saw as I approached the beginning of the trail was a large Top Gear Bicycle Shop truck and Trek of Pittsburgh tent. Since my Trek 8.3 DS was purchased at the Robinson Trek Store and I was wearing a Bontrager helmet, gloves and shoes with Trek socks, I stopped by the tent to say hello and introduce myself. I walked away with a $20 gift card which covered over half of my registration fee!

            The next thing I noticed was the donuts, bagels, and coffee spread out on picnic tables under the pavilion. I helped myself to some hot coffee and a bagel with cream cheese. It had been an hour and a half since I last had anything to eat or drink and I figured a few more carbs couldn’t hurt.

            I looked for people I knew from the Mountain State Rail Trailers and the Wheeling, WV area but did not recognize any. I did recognize my Presbyterian colleague Sheldon. After a few minutes of conversation, Sheldon’s wife Tammy, also a Presbyterian colleague walked up and joined the conversation. Coincidently, Tammy and I had once been in the same REI Hands on Bike Maintenance Workshop at the Settler’s Ridge Store.  Tammy had registered for the 44 mile ride while Sheldon had registered for the 24 mile ride.  Sheldon and Tammy were the only two people I recognized at the event.

            The 62 milers started around 8:00 AM. I had signed up to ride the 44 mile distance and as it approached the 8:15 AM starting time we were released a few minutes early. I was the fourth 44 miler on the trail and I think there was no one behind me. I quickly became the third cyclist in the group with my colleague Tammy in the lead. A rider wearing a cycling jersey featuring Maui on the back was behind Tammy and in front of me. As I rode behind him I could have imagined I was cycling in Hawaii.

            I eventually moved up to second for a while but soon dropped back to third.  By milepost 2 Tammy and the cyclist in the Maui jersey pulled away from me and eventually left me behind eating their dust, and I mean that literally. I could feel fine limestone dust on my lips and in my mouth, forcing me to take a swig from my water bottle before I was even thirsty.  I never saw either again. With the fourth 44 miler nowhere in sight behind me, I was alone, but since I usually ride solo, the fact of being alone was not a problem.

            By milepost 4 or 5 I was starting to pass riders who had departed before me but I was also starting to be passed by riders who had departed after me. One participant I passed was a non-peddling freeloading infant comfortably resting in a trailer his father pulled behind the bike he was riding. I wonder if the small child paid a registration fee.

            With safety flaggers at all the major intersections on the lower Montour Trail I had to slow down rather than stopping at most of the intersections, making for a smoother and ultimately safer ride.  I think the flaggers stopped me at only one or two intersection because, after all, cyclists need to share the road with automobiles, but at least I and the other riders did not have to wait long to cross the intersections even when we were stopped.

            I bypassed the first rest stop at Cliff Mine Rd. as after six miles I was just warming up and didn’t want to stop. I also wanted to get the climb up to Boogs over with. I knew this was a steep section and was not surprised when my speed eventually dropped to 8-10 mph. I didn’t pass very many people as I cycled up the steep sections but was passed by more than a few cyclists on road bikes with skinny tires. I did pass a few riders on the level sections and when I descended, suggesting that my bike and I do better on level and downhill sections rather than uphill sections..

At the Boggs  Rest Stop
            Having ascended all the way to Boogs I took advantage of the rest stop after cycling 11.5 miles. I enjoyed a small drink of Gatorade, a little GORP, and a juicy slice or orange, all compliments of the organizers. The folks responsible for the rest stop really pulled out all the stops as water, granola, bananas, sandwiches, and assortment of energy bars were also available. Before leaving the rest stop I took advantage of the opportunity to stretch out some of my muscles before climbing back on my ride.

            Refueled and a little rested after the 11.5 mile climb up to Boggs, I headed back onto the trail and soon found myself coasting downhill faster than I could pedal in my highest gear. I looked down at my speedometer and saw I was doing 24 mph.  At that point I stopped pedaling, stood up on my pedals, and simply enjoyed the ride.

            I bypassed the Galati Rest Stop at milepost 21.5 to ride all the way to milepost 22, the halfway point for my 44 mile ride. The other times I had been past that area I had failed to notice the mile marker and now I know why. The marker is actually on the bridge just outside the railing. If one does not see it at nearly the perfect angle the marker is obscured by the wooden side rails.  Having seen the mile marker this time, I stopped right next to it, climbed off my bike, snapped a selfie with both me and the marker in view, and then turned my bike around and headed back toward the Galati Rest Stop.

At the Galati Rest Stop
           The Galati Rest Stop was much like the one at Boggs but with fewer people milling around. I enjoyed another orange wedge, half a banana, and some more Gatorade. After stretching I mounted my bike and was back on the trail but it was not long before I stopped again.

            As many times as I have cycled the Montour Trail, this was the first time I had seen a train, this one approaching from the opposite direction. I stopped to take a picture, grabbed my camera from the handlebar bag, and captured a few photos as the train sped by. Composed mostly of tanker cars, my hunch was that this train was likely hauling natural gas from nearby fracking facilities or headed toward nearby fracking facilities to fill up.

            After the train passed I cycled on, passing riders and being passed by riders, until I stopped, for the second time, at the Boggs Rest Stop. The first time I stopped here there was a crowd and it was hard to find a place to park my bike. This time I was one of only two riders. Before I left, however, a couple of other cyclists roiled in. Before leaving I enjoyed a drink of cold water, another orange wedge, and stretched some more before heading back out onto the trail.

Just some of the bikes parked outside of Brothers Grimm
            Near MP 3 I turned right and rode a couple hundred yards to Brothers Grimm where lunch was being provided to all registered riders. I have never seen so many bicycles parked in one place. There had to be hundreds. I found an empty place on one of the racks to park mine, grabbed my camera and wallet from the handlebar bag, and went looking for lunch.

            Before making it inside Brothers Grimm I stopped at the UPMC Centers for Rehab Services table just outside the door where picked up some free literature, anti-bac, tote bag, and tasted three samples of homemade sports drinks. Option #3 was my favorite. It tasted like an alcohol free Pina Colada.  Here is the recipe:

            1 cup Water
            1 Cup Pineapple Juice
            1 Cup Coconut Water
            1/8 tsp. Salt
            Pour all ingredients into a pitcher, stir or shake to dissolve, chill.
            Makes 3 cups: Per 1 cup/8 ounce serving: 60 calories, 14 grams carbohydrates, 180 mg sodium.

            After turning my lunch ticket over to the person at the head of the line I filled a plate with haluska, pasta, and a pulled pork sandwich. I selected a raspberry ice tea from the beverage choices and then found an open place by the window bar to enjoy my lunch. After lunch I selected a pizzelle and a protean pancake from the dessert bar.  Before leaving I tried my luck winning a door prize but came up empty.

            I encountered very few riders as I cycled the three miles between the restaurant and trailhead. One young female cyclist passed me at some point but then I seemed to be gaining on her. Perhaps sensing I was about to pass her and not wanting to be passed by an old man she stood to peddle, gained speed, and pulled ahead. She stayed a few yards ahead of me all the way to the trailhead and mile “0” where she proudly proclaimed to her waiting mother “I did it! I am exhausted, but I did it.” I don’t know how far she had cycled but it was certainly an accomplishment. Congratulations.

            I rode another tenth of a mile to the car where I dismounted for the last time. After taking my handlebar bag and water bottles off the bike and I put them them on the back floor of the car. Limestone dust of my water bottles sprinkled onto the carpet as I dropped the bottles. After securing my bike to the car’s hitch rack,  I climbed into the driver’s seat to begin the 45 mile drive home.

            Not intending to, I think I brought some of the trail back with me as my bike and legs were covered in the same limestone dust that had covered my water bottles. Both I and my bike needed showers once I was home. My chain also needed a good degreasing and lube.

            All in all I enjoyed my first Tour the Montour. The weather was nearly perfect. Other riders were polite and safe. The lunch was excellent. All the organizers and volunteers did a superb job with registration, rest stops, road crossings, and support.. Congratulations to all the riders who met their riding goals. I am already looking forward to next year’s 15th annual Tour the Montour.

Here are links to previous installments in the "Spinning Wheels" series:

From DC to PGH - Day 5 (21st Installment)
From DC to PGH - Day 4 (20th Installment)
From DC to PGH - Day 3 (19th Installment)
From DC to PGH - Day 2 (18th Installment)
From DC to PGH - Day 1 (17th Installment)
From DC to PGH - Day 0 (16th Installment)
From DC to PGH - Prologue (15th Installment)
Transitioning (14th Installment)
Flats (13 Installment)
Beware Dehydration (12 Installment)
Creams & Powders for your Butt (11th Installment)
Group vs. Solo Rides (10th Installment)
Competitiveness (9th Installment)
Stats (8th Installment)
Accidents Happen (7th Installment)
Pedals for Cleats (6th Installment)
Riding Shoes with Cleats (5th Installment)
Be Kind to Your Behind (4th Installment)
Combating Hand and Arm Numbness (3rd Installment)
Reading and Riding (2nd Installment)
Starting Over (1st Installment)

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Lectionary Ruminations 2.0 for Sunday, October 2, 2016, the Twenty-Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year C)

Lectionary Ruminations 2.0 is a revised continuation of Lectionary Ruminations.  Focusing on The Revised Common Lectionary Readings for the upcoming Sunday from New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) of the Bible, Lectionary Ruminations 2.0 draws on nearly thirty years of pastoral experience.  Believing that the questions we ask are often more important than any answers we find, without over reliance on commentaries I intend with comments and questions to encourage reflection and rumination for readers preparing to teach, preach, or hear the Word. Reader comments are invited and encouraged.  All lectionary links are to the via the PC(USA) Devotions and Readings website.


This Sunday is generally recognized as World Communion Sunday, and in the PC(USA) the designated day to receive the Peace & Global Witness Offering.  How do any or all of the day’s readings allow themselves to be a springboard for a sermon leading to or pointing to The Lord’s Table and lifting up the ministry of Peace, Peacemaking, and Global Witness?

1:1 I think this verse addresses the reality of cities like Detroit and others in the industrial heartland of America. What other once great cities, other than Jerusalem, might this verse speak to?
1:2 Who were her lovers?
1:3 Might this speak to other exiled peoples?
1:4 Might this also describe back roads and side roads in America after the advent of the Interstate system.
1:5 Who is to blame, the LORD or the former inhabitants of the city?
1:6 Zion is the daughter of whom?
3:19 What is wormwood?  What is gall?
3:20 Might the Book of Job be of any help here?
3:21 Is this example of something from the past serving as a springboard into the future?
3:22 If this is true, then why 1:1-6?
3:23 Ergo every morning brings new hope.
3:24 What is a portion?
3:25 How log shall we wait upon the LORD?  How does the soul seek the LORD? How are waiting and seeking related?
3:26 I cannot but help hear this verse in light of contemplative prayer.

137:1 What ARE the rivers of Babylon? Is anyone else thinking of a song from the Broadway Musical Godspell?
137:2 What might willows symbolize?  Why were the harps hung up?
137:3 Can mirth be feigned? What ARE the songs of Zion?
137:4 Why could one NOT sing the Lord’s song in a foreign land?
137:5 Does “forget” refer to memory only? Consider this verse in light of today’s First Reading.
137:6 What does the tongue clinging to the roof of the mouth symbolize or signify?
137:7 Who were the Edomites?
137:8 Why is Babylon referred to as a daughter?
137:9 Yes, this is one of the more problematic passages of Scripture, but note that is the exiles speaking, not God.  It expresses their profound anger born of grief and exile.

1:1 Why does Paul need to state his credentials in a personal letter to Timothy?
1:2 Why does Paul refer to Timothy as his “beloved child”?  Is there any significance to the tripartite “Grace, mercy, and peace” greeting? Note that there is no “Trinitarian” greeting/blessing here.
1:3 Why would Paul, or anyone, worship God without a clear conscience? What is Paulk talking about?
1:4 What would account for Timothy’s tears?
1:5 Do we know anything else about Lois and Eunice? Was Timothy nurtured in the Christian faith by his mother and grandmother or was he old enough at the time to convert as an Adult with them?
1:6 How can the laying on of hands rekindle the gift of God within a person?  What is this “gift of God” Paul refers to?
1:7 Is Paul speaking of the Holy Spirit?
1:8 Do you think Timothy was ashamed?  Have you ever been ashamed of testimony about our Lord?  Personally, I am sometimes ashamed of those who in my mind pervert the Gospel and inflict pain and persecution in the name of Christ.  For instance, I am ashamed of Medieval Crusades and the contemporary exploits of the Westboro Baptist Church.
1:9 Preexistent grace?
1:10 Preexistent grace only now revealed?
1:11 Is there any differences between herald, apostle, and teacher?  Do the titles refer to different functions and roles?
1:12 What shame is Paul referring to? What did Paul entrust?
1:13 What gives Paul, or any individual, the right to establish a standard of sound teaching? In the Reformed Tradition, only councils can establish such standards, and councils can sometimes ere.
1:14 What is the good treasurer to which Paul refers? Paulk finally mentions the Holy Spirit!

17:5 All the apostles or just some of the apostles?  How does one measure faith?  Are Fowler’s stages of faith in any way a measurement?
17:6 I think Jesus, or the Gospel writers, were sometimes prone to hyperbole. Why would anyone want a mulberry tree to be uprooted and planted in the sea?
17:7 Why am I, a white American living 150+ years after the end of slavery in America, cringing when I read this?
17:8 An interesting verse in light of America’s growing economic inequality.
17:9 And some bosses and managers treat hired workers just this way.
17:10 I do not like this verse. It sounds to puritan to my ears.
17:7-10 How do these verses relate to, inform, or follow from Luke 17:5-6?

I am currently a Member at Large of Upper Ohio Valley Presbytery of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). I am a trained and experienced Interim Pastor currently available to supply as a fill-in occasional guest preacher and worship leader or serve in a half-time to full-time position.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Spinning Wheels (From DC to PGH - Day 5)

Frostburg's Mountain City Coffeehouse & Creamery
            Vince and I woke up, showered, dressed, and then climbed up the boardwalk steps from the Trail Inn to Frostburg’s Main Street for some breakfast. The Mountain City Coffeehouse & Creamery wasn’t Starbucks but it fit the bill.  With a comfortable dining area featuring artwork by local artists on the wall, the establishment was bright, cheerful, quiet, and offered a fine selection of breakfast items and coffee’s. I enjoyed a bagel with cream cheese accompanied by a Vanilla Latte and went back for biscotti after I finished my bagel. My breakfast was delicious and certainly better than instant oatmeal.

            After breakfast we returned to the Trail Inn, packed up and clipped panniers on side racks, strapped tents and pads on the rear racks, and headed back out onto the trail. This time, however, we were not headed out onto the C and O Canal towpath but onto the Great Allegheny Passage. Pittsburg was 135 miles to the west.

Artwork on the GAP access trail. The
Frostburg trailhead in in the background.
            We coasted down the serpentine path that through several switchbacks descended from the Trail Inn down to the GAP. I think I used my brakes more than I had the entire trip as we made our way down to the trail. Along the way we passed some very interesting installation art as well as banners celebrating Frostburg, biking, and the GAP. I was impressed with what Frostburg had done with its trail access area.

            Once we finished our descent to the trail we started climbing up the seven and a half miles to the Continental Divide.  Frostburg is located at 1,832 feet above sea level. The Continental Divide is at 2390 feet. According to my calculations that means we would be cycling up a 1.5% grade for seven and a half miles. Before we reached the divide, however, we would first pass through Borden Tunnel, across the Mason Dixon Line, and through Mt. Savage Tunnel.

            I found the climb a grueling, perhaps because we hit it the first thing in the morning and had not had the opportunity to warm up with a few flat miles beforehand. For the first time since we left DC Vince was pulling ahead of me as I huffed and puffed up the grade. Not to be deterred, I maintained slow, even cadence, and for the record, I was not using my granny gear! I was still on the middle ring of my front crankset with some reserve in case I needed to slow down even more.

            After just two and a half miles we reached our first tunnel of the trip, the Borden Tunnel. Even though the TrailBook recommends walking bikes through the 957 foot long shaft because it is not illuminated, Vince I simply turned on our bike’s headlights and cycled through. Just remember to also take off your sunglasses before you do so. The cooler air in the tunnel was a welcomed relief even though the day had not warmed up that much

Crossing the Mason-Dixon Line south to north
            Three miles past the Borden Tunnel we finally reached the Mason-Dixon Line, a sight I had really been looking forward to. I had seen several photos of the area that had been posted on Facebook and on several blogs but wanted to see it for myself. This artificial boundary that has so defined regional politics since before the Civil War has become part of my psyche, in part because I have crossed it so many times, including on my way from West Virginia’s “Northern” Panhandle to its Eastern Panhandle as I was headed to DC for this trip.

            There are fifty-five counties in West Virginia. All but four of them lie south of the Mason-Dixon Line. The four West Virginia Counties that make up the Mountain State’s Northern Panhandle, in which I grew up and recently returned to live, are not only the four northern most counties of the state but the only four north of the Mason Dixon Line. That means that I am a true “northerner” and was now cycling back in my native north.

            Vince and I stopped our bikes at the line, climbed off, and started reading the interpretative signs and taking a lot of photos. I was fairly impressed with the way the actual line had recently been marked. Large cut stones sat on the line just off to the side of the trail, each engraved with a letter to spell out Mason Dixon. A large stone monument stood on the line on the other side of the trail, distinguishing between Pennsylvania and Maryland, as the Mason Dixon Line serves as the dividing line between the two states. Between the cut stones and the monument a concrete marker in the ground contains the likeness of a surveyor’s chain that marks that part of the line that the GAP crosses. I thought it was all very artistic and not at all schmaltzy.

View looking north from near Big Savage Tunnel
            After playing tourist around the Mason Dixon Line we climbing back onto our bikes and headed toward the Big Savage Tunnel. The higher we rode the more the view shed opened up. After a few miles we stopped at a small trail shelter near a memorial to Fred R. Schaffer and just before the Big Savage Tunnel to rest, snack, and take photos of the panoramic view before us, in my opinion better than any views we had seen on the C and O.

            The Big Savage Tunnel, at 3,300 feet, was the longest tunnel we would ride through between DC and Pittsburgh.  This tunnel, closed in winter, had lights mounted on the ceiling but we still turned on our bikes headlights as we rode through as a couple of the lights were out. I marveled at the engineering as I cycled through the tube and recalled the numerous times I had driven along Interstate 68 and seen a sign identifying Big Savage Mountain. I latter checked and learned that where Interstate 68 crosses Big Savage Mountain the elevation is 2,800 feet above sea level. The tunnel, of course, is at a much lower elevation.

Vince and I at the ECD
            A mile and a half after passing through Big Savage Tunnel, and little past noon, we finally reached the highest point of our trip, the Eastern Continental Divide, at 2,392 feet! It was, relatively speaking, all downhill from here but Pittsburgh was still 126.5 miles to the west. Vince and stopped to take more photos, enjoy some snacks, and to wait for his aunt and uncle who were to meet us at the divide. As other riders passed by they too stopped to take commemorative photos and we all engaged in conversation, talking about our rides and favorite trails.

            While our climb from Frostburg to the Continental Divide was steeper than anything we had encountered in the previous four days, gone were the mud puddles, tree roots, and ruts we encountered while cycling the Towpath. The finely crushed limestone on top of railroad ballast, typical of much of the GAP, was a welcomed alternative, even if the climb up to the divide was steep.

            Vince’s Uncle Dave and Aunt Val eventually arrived from west but wanted to ride on to the Big Savage Tunnel before heading back to Meyersdale, so we waited a the divide a bit longer. I climbed the embankment from one side of the divide to the road running across the overpass we were under to take some above the GAP photos. I later checked and learned that where Interstate 68 crosses the divide that the elevation is 2,610 feet above sea level, 218 feet higher than where we were now cycling across it.

Dave, Val and Vince riding the GAP toward Meyersdale
            Val and Dave took a little break after returning from the tunnel. Then the four of us headed downhill toward Meyersdale. Before reaching Meyersdale, however, we crossed over the 910 foot long Keystone Viaduct. This impressive structure is perhaps the longest and highest viaduct I have ever cycled across. Anyone with a fear of heights might have a problem crossing it unless they don’t look down.

           A couple miles after riding across the viaduct we arrived at the Meyersdale’s Western Maryland Station, now serving as a Visitor’s Center and Museum. I was impressed. It was the nicest visitor’s center I was in along the entire GAP.  Not only did it offer clean, inside restrooms but also cold water at the fountain, a repair station, picnic tables, benches, and bike racks. The museum interprets local history, including the railroad, and several model train layouts take up about half the building. A small souvenir shop stocks not only trail and railroad related commemorative items but also snacks and a few essential cycling items like patch kits.

            Vince and I eventually decided that it was well past lunch time so we broke out his tortilla shells, my parmesan cheese, and each of our packages of tuna and enjoyed tuna wraps while sitting outside under the sun at one of the picnic tables. Val and Dave continued to enjoy the museum while Vince and I ate. Even compared to the excellent fish and chips at Weaver’s and the “Broaster Chicken” at the Trail Inn the day before, the tuna wraps tasted pretty good, especially after riding seventeen miles.

Meyersdale’s Western Maryland Station 
            After we finished eating, Vince and I said goodbye to Dave and Val and left Meyersdale and headed toward Rockwood, our day’s final destination. I enjoyed meeting Vince’s family, who offered us any assistance if we needed it, telling us to just call them if need be. Fortunately, we never needed to.

            Our destination in Rockwood was the Huskie Haven campground, around milepost 43, where we had reservations for the night. Vince had camped there at least once before on a previous trip and spoke highly about it.  We rolled into what looked like a deserted campground around 3:30 PM. The only person we encountered was the owner, whom we paid for the night’s stay. He pointed to our reserved campsite but said that since we were the only people with reservations for the night that we could have a covered picnic shelter instead at no extra cost. We took him up on his offer.

            We had cycled only 28 miles this day, one of our shortest days of the trip, and were able to rendezvous with Vince’s aunt and uncle and enjoy riding a few miles with them. Still, I could not help but think that if we had been able to reschedule Vince’s family reunion and our reservations at the Trail Inn and Husky Haven Campground that we could have avoided the shuttle from Hancock to Frostburg by covering more miles per day on the Great Allegheny Passage, which was an easier, dryer, and faster ride than the C and O Canal Towpath.

Our pavilion at Husky Haven Campground 
            After unloading the gear from our bikes onto the picnic tables in the pavilion, we rode farther down the trail, crossed the bridge over Casselman River to Rockwood, and back up through this small trail town to Husky Haven’s lounge and shower house. Considering the price, I didn’t mind the commute. We both showered, made use of the computer in the lounge to check email and facebook, charged our phones, played a game of ping pong (I won!), and topped off all our water bottles for the night and next morning. I also washed out my day’s riding kit in the sink in the shower house and allowed it to dry outside on a line while I showered.

            Back at the covered pavilion, with a roof over our heads, we spread our sleeping pads and sleeping bags out on the concrete floor of the shelter after dinner rather than pitching our tents. I ran a clothesline from one shelter support to another to dry the riding kit that I had rinsed out in the shower house.  Then Vince started cooking dinner.

Vince preparing dinner
            Vince had enough provisions to make two calzones, so he offered me one and I accepted. As he followed a recipe from Tara Alan’s Bike Camp Book, I watched my cycling partner turned trail chef demonstrate his culinary skills. This was certainly a step above the mountain house meals I had been preparing each night in camp. The only drawback was that cooking calzones takes a lot more time and uses a lot more fuel than boiling water to rehydrate a freeze-dried meal. The calzones were a delicious feast but I could not have imagined cooking them under a tarp in the rain our first couple of days. Cooking them in dry conditions while under a pavilion with several tables on a concrete slab was a different matter.

            Other cyclists, some of which we recognized from having passed them on the trail, started rolling in and we were no longer alone in the campground. We were alone, however, in enjoying a roofed shelter and all the other cyclists opted to put up their tents as they were camped under the stars rather than a roof.

            Before turning in for the night I read in the TrailBook about our next day’s ride. We were currently camped along the banks of the Casselman River, which flows into the Youghiogheny at Confluence, one of the towns we would be passing through the next day. We would also pass through Ohiopyle and spend the night at Connellsville. The Youghiogheny passes through both Ohiopyle and Connellsville.
            Husky Haven was just about everything Vince said it was. Sitting on  a narrow stretch land nestled between the GAP and Casselman River, It lacked the primitive qualities of Hiker Biker Campsites along the C and O but offered showers (and for us a roof) as well as a chance to   check email and charge our cell phones. The only drawback was that like almost all the other camping options along the C and O and GAP, train tracks were still active across the river and I was once again glad I had earplugs.

            As I drifted off to sleep I found myself thinking that this was not the first night I had slept in Rockwood. Forty-two years earlier I and another friend spent the weekend with a mutual friend at her family’s country nearby, but that is another story for another day. Back then I could not have imagined that over four decades later I would be back in Rockwood, sleeping on the concrete floor of a pavilion in a campground next to the Great Allegheny Passage, a little more than half way through a cycling trip from DC to Pittsburgh.

            Thanks to our shuttle from Hancock to Frostburg, we kept both of our night reservations and met up with Vince’s aunt and Uncle. We were also back on schedule with our original itinerary.

Here are links to previous installments in the "Spinning Wheels" series:

From DC to PGH - Day 4 (20th Installment)
From DC to PGH - Day 3 (19th Installment)
From DC to PGH - Day 2 (18th Installment)
From DC to PGH - Day 1 (17th Installment)
From DC to PGH - Day 0 (16th Installment)
From DC to PGH - Prologue (15th Installment)
Transitioning (14th Installment)
Flats (13 Installment)
Beware Dehydration (12 Installment)
Creams & Powders for your Butt (11th Installment)
Group vs. Solo Rides (10th Installment)
Competitiveness (9th Installment)
Stats (8th Installment)
Accidents Happen (7th Installment)
Pedals for Cleats (6th Installment)
Riding Shoes with Cleats (5th Installment)
Be Kind to Your Behind (4th Installment)
Combating Hand and Arm Numbness (3rd Installment)
Reading and Riding (2nd Installment)

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Lectionary Ruminations 2.0 for Sunday, September 25, 2016, the Twenty-Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year C)

Lectionary Ruminations 2.0 is a revised continuation of Lectionary Ruminations.  Focusing on The Revised Common Lectionary Readings for the upcoming Sunday from New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) of the Bible, Lectionary Ruminations 2.0 draws on nearly thirty years of pastoral experience.  Believing that the questions we ask are often more important than any answers we find, without overreliance on commentaries I intend with comments and questions to encourage reflection and rumination for readers preparing to teach, preach, or hear the Word. Reader comments are invited and encouraged.  All lectionary links are to the via the PC(USA) Devotions and Readings website.

32:1 Why are the references to the reigns of two kings significant?  What year was this?
32:2 Who was the king of Babylon and why was his army besieging Jerusalem? 
32:3a What had Jeremiah done to provoke King Zedekiah to confine him?
32:6 How did Jeremiah know and how does anyone know when the word of the LORD comes to them?
32:7 What is the right of redemption? Where is Anathoth?
32:8 What and where is the land of Benjamin? What is the significance of this real estate transaction?
32:9 What is the contemporary value of seventeen shekels of silver?
32:10 I think it is amazing what Jeremiah was able to do while confined.
32:11 Why all this documentation?
32:12 Why are all these people and witnesses mentioned?
32:13 This must be one of the shortest verses in the Hebrew Scriptures.
32:14 What a significant archeological find this would be! I can imagine the sequel now” Indiana Jones and the Lost Deed of Jeremiah”
32:15 How can contemporary real estate purchases be theological statements? Perhaps we need to be purchasing real estate in depressed and distressed neighborhoods. Oh, I guess that is gentrification!

91:1 How is a shadow a shelter?  If the Almighty does not have a physical body, how does it cast a shadow? Might this be metaphorical language? What is the deeper meaning of “Most High”?
91:2 How is a refuge and fortress like a shelter and a shadow? Note that both a refuge and a fortress are defensive, not offensive. When I read about refuges in the Bible I think of National Wildlife Refuges.
91:3 Who is the fowler? What might the deadly pestilence refer to?
91:4 God has pinions?  God has wings? Raptors, like eagles, have pinions. Hens do not have pinions.  What is a buckler?
91:5 Why is terror associated with the night? Why am I thinking of Dylan Thomas?
91:6 Rather than a chiastic structure we have 91:6 parallel to 91:5, ABAB.
91:14 Who is speaking?  Has the voice changed? What does it mean to “know a name”?
91:15 What do being rescued and being honored have in common?
91:16 What does “salvation” mean in the context of the Psalms?

6:6 What is godliness? Is great gain the only motivation to strive to be godly?
6:7 So the person with the most toys at the end of the day does not get to take their toys with them! I cannot help but think of Luke 12:13-21.
6:8 Would you, or most Americans, be content with only food and clothing? How much food and clothing do we need to be content?
6:9 Is there a difference between being rich and wanting to be rich? When it comes to being rich, how much is enough?
6:10 It is not money but the love of money that is the root of all evil. How do we reconcile this and the preceding verse with the capitalism?  Why must the desire to be rich lead one away from the faith?
6:11 I have a hunch this was not intended to be an all-inclusive, exhaustive list.
6:12 I have problems with the “fight” metaphor.  Is there another metaphor that would suffice?  How about “Climb the good climb of faith”? Note that “witnesses” are again mentioned, as in Jeremiah 32:10.
6:13 Is it a problem that this is not Trinitarian?
6:14 What commandment?  What does it mean for our Lord Jesus Christ to be manifested?
6:15 Who will bring this about?
6:16 What is “unapproachable light”? Who is it that no one has ever seen or can see?
6:17 Why do we not enjoy everything God provides us with? Are you surprised that the rich are not commanded to distribute their riches to the poor? What about Matthew 19:20-22 and Luke 18:21-23?
6:18 This sounds like the beginning of a stewardship sermon.
6:19 What life is not life?

16:19 What is the significance of being dressed in purple?  There seems to be an almost seamless transition from the Second Reading to the Gospel. Note that the rich man is not identified by name.
16:20 Note that the poor man IS identified by name. Is this the same Lazarus in John 11?
16:21 Is this an example of trickle-down economics in the New Testament era? Why am I thinking of Matthew 15:26-27 and Mark 7:27-28?
16:22 Note that the poor man is carried away by angels while the rich man is simply buried.
16:23 What and where is Hades. Why was the rich man being tormented?
16:24 How does this verse feed into popular and contemporary notions of hell?
16:25 I am surprised Abraham referred to the dead rich man as “child”. I think this is just another example of the reversals we find in Scripture, reversals lie the first shall be last the last shall be first, the rich will become poor and the poor will become rich, and so on.
16:26 How could the rich man converse with Abraham if a great chasm exists between them?
16:27 Note that even in his torment the rich man refers to Abraham as “father”.
16:28 Is there any significance to the number five?
16:29 Moses and the Prophets represent two of the three divisions of the Hebrew canon. Should we not also listen to the Writings?
16:30 This sounds like prefiguration.
16:31 Do I detect some prejudice toward Judaism? Is there no hope or promise her? This sounds like an admonition only.

I am currently a Member at Large of Upper Ohio Valley Presbytery of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). I am a trained and experienced Interim Pastor currently available to supply as a fill-in occasional guest preacher and worship leader or serve in a half-time to full-time position.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Spinning Wheels (From DC to PGH - Day 4)

Morning at Jordan  Junction HBC
            I am generally an early riser and was always up and out of my tent before Vince climbed out of his. This morning I was also up before Joel, Levi, and Glenn and my early rising did not go unrewarded. I was quietly sitting at the picnic table in our campsite, facing the towpath with my back to the Potomac River, when two deer walked out of the woods and onto the towpath. I had seen probably half a dozen or more deer since we had left DC but they were all crossing the trail in front of us while we were cycling. This was the first time during our trip that I was able to sit still and enjoy such a sublime moment.

            My breakfast was the same as it had been the previous two mornings: Quaker Select Starts High Fiber Maple & Brown Sugar Instant Oatmeal followed by a cup of Starbucks VIA Instant Vanilla Latte. After breakfast I started getting ready for another day’s ride, our shortest one yet.  Thanks to a low dew point the night before, I was able to take took down and pack up a dry tent for the first time of the trip.  All my clothes were dry as well.

            While I might have been the first one in our campsite to climb out of their tent, Glenn and Levi, travelling light and eating cold meals, were the first ones to break camp and hit the towpath. Vince, Joel and I said “goodbye” as they headed toward DC.  Joel was not far behind them, but he was heading in the opposite direction, toward Cumberland. After leapfrogging with Joel for three days and finally camping together in the same site, we would not see him again after he left that morning.

            Vince and I were finally cycling too, following far behind Joel but riding only as far as Hancock. We had about a 21 mile ride ahead of us before arriving in Hancock, where we hoped to arrange for a shuttle to Frostburg. Frostburg held the promise of hot showers, washing our bikes and clothes, and electricity to charge our cell phones, not to mention real beds.

            Once on the towpath we again encountered mud puddles and muddy spots, especially in shaded areas where direct sunlight could not reach to help dry the trail.  After cycling about twelve miles, and just past Fort Frederick near mile 113,  we turned right off the towpath and after a short distance turned left onto the Western Maryland Rail Trail, which we followed for about ten miles all the way into Hancock.

            As soon as we hit the rail trail we picked up speed and started cycling around 12-15 mph. After three days on the wet, muddy, and sometimes bumpy towpath it felt good to be on a dry, smooth, paved rail trail, but the picturesque solitude of the towpath was also replaced by the sight and sound of traffic on nearby Interstate 70. I had driven by here five days ago on my way from West Virginia’s northern panhandle to West Virginia’s eastern Panhandle and had no idea then that I was so close to the rail trail and towpath.

            The nearer we rode toward Hancock the closer we were getting to the narrowest part of Western Maryland. This part of the state, sandwiched between West Virginia, across the Potomac to the south, and Pennsylvania, across the Mason Dixon line to the north, is about only two miles wide!

            As Hancock loomed ever closer we started seeing more casual cyclists out for a short ride. We also encountered runners and walkers, some pushing baby carriages and some holding dogs on leashes. We even encountered a solitary unicyclist on the largest wheeled unicycle I have ever seen! We also started passing more homes and businesses as we rode ever closer to our first real taste of civilization since riding out of DC four days ago.

C & O Bicycle in Hancock
            Our first stop in Hancock was at C & O Bicycle where I purchased two .30 Fl. Oz. packets of Chamois Butt’r and an Axiom Frontrunner fender. I had never used Chamois Butt’r or any other chamois cream, instead relying on Anti Monkey Butt Anti Friction Powder to help combat chaffing. After four straight days of riding, however, I was starting to feel some chaffing. The small packets offered me the opportunity to try Chamois Butt’r without spending more for a larger quantity.

            A day or two earlier I had seen someone on the towpath with a plastic contraption on their downtube intended to prevent splash and water from the wheel hitting the rider. I asked the person behind the counter at C & O Bicycle if they had such a product and he pointed me to the Axiom Frontrunner. Light weight, detachable, and less than $20, I purchased it but decided to wait to attach it until after we were in Frostburg and our bikes were cleaned.

            Before leaving C & O Bicycle, Vince and I also asked about the cost of a shuttle to Frostburg and where we might grab some lunch. We noted the shuttle cost but wanted to check some other prices. The salesperson told us about and directed us to Weaver's, saying they had great burgers and that they were just a block or two away on Main Street.

            Before heading to Weaver's we called Frostburg's Trail Inn, where we had reservations for the night, to ask about the cost of their shuttle. Not only was their regular price less than the price quoted by C&O Bicycle but the voice on the other end of the line said he would discount that price an addition $20 because we were staying there that night. We took him up on his offer and asked if he would meet us at Weaver’s. He said he would and that he would be there in about ninety minutes.

Heading to lunch at Weaver's in Hancock
            Vince and I then rode to Weavers, parked and locked up our bikes in the metal bike rack conveniently located outside the restaurant, and walked in. We were immediately greeted by cool, refreshing air conditioning and soon afterward by the wait staff. We asked for a booth near an electrical outlet so we could charge our cell phones and were escorted to a booth in the corner.

            Vince ordered a burger with fries. I ordered the fish and chips, the best I have eaten in a long time. We both had ice cold fountain drinks. We took our time eating and drinking, our first non-trail food meal, our first meal in a restaurant, and our first chilled beverages in over four days.

            After lunch Vince and I headed outside to wait for our shuttle ride to Frostburg. We had not been waiting long when a van with a bike rack pulled up in front of us. As the driver, an older gentleman,  got out and walked toward us I asked him “Are you our shuttle?” He replied “Yes I am.” Our shuttle driver, it turned out, was John, the co-owner of the Trail Inn in Frostburg where we would be spending the night.

            Vince and I put our panniers and other gear in the back of the van. John closed the back hatch, raised and secured the bike rack, and then Vince and I helped lift our bikes onto the rack. John secured them with the rack’s straps and then also wrapped a bungee cord around them “just in case”.

            Vince rode shotgun and engaged John in conversation. I sat in the back behind Vince and pretty much poke only when asked a question. It was probably obvious to John, as it was to almost everyone else we met on the trail that Vince was the talkative one and I was the quiet one.

            As we rode out of Hancock, westward along Interstate 68, and into Frostburg, I took in the sights and listened in to the conversation between Vince and John, chirping in only occasionally. I also could not help but think about the 75 miles we were shuttling across, 60 of it on the C and O Canal towpath and 15 of it on the Great Allegheny Passage. I vowed to someday return, hopefully before the end of the summer, to cycle those seventy five miles. I wanted to fill in the missing piece, that is, if we ever made it to Pittsburgh, so that I could honestly claim that I had cycled the entire C and O and GAP, even if not in a single trip.

            As soon as John parked in front of the Trail In and removed our bikes from the rear rack, he opened the van’s hatch and Vince and I pulled all our gear out, setting it on a nearby picnic table next to the bike cleaning hose. After we paid John’s wife for the shuttle and our nights lodging, we started cleaning.

Vince cleaning mud off his bike at the Trail Inn
            The first thing I did was to change out of my riding shoes and socks and put on my Teva’s. Then I used the hose to rinse out my riding shoes. Yes, walking through the flooded Potomac the day before had cleaned most of the mud off them but now they reeked of day old river water. After a thorough rinse I set them aside in full sunlight to dry.

            Vince and I took turns hosing off our bikes, picking away at dried mud packed and caked on derailleurs, cables, brakes, tubes, and just about anything near the ground that could hold mud. We then adjusted settings, tightened bolts, cleaned our chains as much as possible without any degreaser, and lubed our chains and pivot points. Our rides now looked almost as good as new and were probably lighter by a pound or two with all the mud gone.

            After my bike was clean I attached the Axiom Frontrunner I had purchased in Hancock. As I took it out of the package and started attaching it I truly began appreciating its light weight and simple design, but I wished I had had it from mile zero in DC. It probably would have kept some of the mud and water from the trail splashing on me.

            Once our bikes were clean it was time for showers. With several private shower rooms available, Vince and I were able to shower at the same time rather than take turns like we did with the hose to clean our bikes. Even a cold shower would have been welcomed but the shower at the Trail Inn, my first shower in over four days, was warm and truly appreciated. I could feel the sweat, grease, and grime wash off my body and as it did I felt a little more human. Afterward, I even shaved the stubble of my beard. Not was the shower at the Trail Inn warm and private, the Trail Inn also provides wash clothes, towels, soap, a shampoo/conditioner!

            Once Vince and I were dry and wearing street clothes we combined our all our dirty clothes and washed them in the washer just around the corner from the showers. As soon as the wash and rinse cycle were complete we separated what could be dried in a dryer from what could not. Yes, two college educated men were smart enough and able to do that! What couldn’t go in the dryer we hung in the bunk room between bunk beds where the air-conditioning would help it dry?

At the Trail Inn for our fourth night
            As our laundry was drying, Vince and I meandered into the nearby attached cafĂ©. We both downed an ice cold bottle of beer while waiting for our “Famous Broaster Chicken”, fries, slaw and roll. John brought us some chips and salsa while we waited. Our entree was worth the wait as it was simply delicious. We each enjoyed another ice cold beer or two and pie for desert. My entire bill, with tip, came to $20! These were not New York City prices where the beers alone would have cost $20.

            After our delicious dinner we retired to the Liberty, a large room with four bunk beds and three single beds. Even though the room could accommodate eleven people, Vince and I were the only ones in it and each of us enjoyed our own single bed without a bed on top. We took our dried clothes out of the dryer, separated them, set them on the spare single bed. The clothes that could not be dried in the dryer still hung on a line between bunkbeds, nearly but not quite dry. We then turned in for the night.

            Our tentative plan for the next day was to rise early, eat breakfast somewhere up on Frostburg's Main Street, shower again, and then pack up and head back out on the Great Allegheny passage for Rockwood, a mere 28 miles away. Somewhere near the continental divide we planned and hoped to meet up and ride with Vince’s Aunt and Uncle.

Here are links to previous installments in the "Spinning Wheels" series:

From DC to PGH - Day 3 (19th Installment)
From DC to PGH - Day 2 (18th Installment)
From DC to PGH - Day 1 (17th Installment)
From DC to PGH - Day 0 (16th Installment)
From DC to PGH - Prologue (15th Installment)
Transitioning (14th Installment)
Flats (13 Installment)
Beware Dehydration (12 Installment)
Creams & Powders for your Butt (11th Installment)
Group vs. Solo Rides (10th Installment)
Competitiveness (9th Installment)
Stats (8th Installment)
Accidents Happen (7th Installment)
Pedals for Cleats (6th Installment)
Riding Shoes with Cleats (5th Installment)
Be Kind to Your Behind (4th Installment)
Combating Hand and Arm Numbness (3rd Installment)
Reading and Riding (2nd Installment)
Starting Over (1st  Installment)