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)

1 comment:

Mountain State Rail Trailers said...

I saw you in passing, John (we were going opposite directions). We thought it was a great day to Tour the Montour for sure! (Susanna here)