Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Spinning Wheels (From DC to PGH - Day 7)

            Our Adirondack style shelter provided us with a sound night’s sleep. Even though we were camped on the edge of town and there were cyclists camping nearby in the other three shelters, the night was quiet. It was also bug free.  With no tents to dry and pack up, Vince and I were able to get an earlier start than usual even though we didn’t need to.

            Not long after Vince and I headed west from Connellsville toward Dravo Cemetery, our next camping spot, we started hearing cicadas. We had not heard or seen a single cicada since we left DC but now their song was almost deafening. We could see them flying through the air and occasionally one would fly into us.

Geese fouling our progress on the GAP
            Cicadas were not the only wildlife impacting this day’s ride. At one point we encountered over a dozen geese and goslings waddling along the GAP toward us. They were not crossing the Gap but marching toward us as if they owned the path and had no intention of getting out of our way.

            We stopped for these birds but did not get off our bikes. Years ago I had once been attacked and bitten by a goose I got too close to, so we did not approach these foul trail users. We did stand our ground, however. About ten feet away from us they finally waddled off into a more open wooded section off the GAP to our left. It probably took five to ten minutes for the birds to clear the trail so that we could proceed.

            By the time we reached West Newton we were ready for lunch. West Newton is one of my favorite Gap towns and the first place I ever rode the Gap, riding from there to Ohiopyle. Vince and I enjoyed burgers and beer at The Trailside Restaurant & Pub, one of my preferred GAP watering holes. We were lucky to enjoy some shade under a large umbrella as we ate and drank on the outside deck overlooking both the Gap and the Youghiogheny River just beyond. If it had not been for the umbrella shading us we probably would have baked in the hot sun. I charged my cellphone as we ate, using a nearby outlet that I could keep my eye on. Several other cyclists were also enjoying lunch on the outside deck and almost every available space was occupied.

Lunch at West Newton's Trailside Restaurant & Pub
           After eating we went downstairs to the look around in the West Newton Bicycle Shop. I have always found this establishment well stocked and offering a good selection. This day, however, I did not buy anything.

            We walked our bikes across the street and then rode to the nearby West Newton Station Visitor’s Center where the air conditioning felt most refreshing. This is my second favorite visitor’s center along the Gap, surpassed only by the visitor’s center in Meyersdale.

            After browsing and signing the guest book, I purchased a GAP patch I intended to sew onto one of my panniers along with a C and O Canal patch I had bought at the National Park Service bookstore in Cumberland. West Newton seemed like the best place to buy this patch since, as I previously noted, West Newton is where I was introduced to the GAP. I wanted to but a GAP cycling Jersey but felt like I did not yet deserve to wear it, at least not until after I went back to ride the GAP section from Cumberland to Frostburg, the only section of the GAP I had yet to ride.

The Dravo Adirondack Style Shelter
           After our layover in West Newton we peddled on to Dravo. We arrived at our night’s camping spot by 3:30 PM. We had the time and energy to cycle all the way to Pittsburgh but both of our pick-up ride drivers were expecting to meet us up the next day around noon. Besides, even after having been cycling on the Gap for seven days, while I was anxious to get back home, I was not anxious to leave the GAP. In spite of the initial rain and mud, grime, sore knees, and now hot and humid weather, I was having and had been having too much fun. Vince and I seemed to be good cycling and bike camping partners and I was not want for our ride to end. Perhaps riding from DC to Pittsburgh was indeed becoming the ride of my life.

            Since the Adirondack style shelter at Dravo was unoccupied when we arrived, I took advantage of it. Vince, however, opted to set up his tent nearby, either so the mosquito netting would keep away the bugs or he would not have to listen to my snoring.

            The water from the hand pump was refreshingly cold. With Vince’s help I filled up my water bottles as well as my solar shower, and then I helped Vince fill up his water bottles. As I had the afternoon before, I spread my sleeping pad, silver side up, out onto the ground and put the water filled solar shower on top of that for the sun’s rays to heat it up. Since there had been few trees around the Connellsville shelter I did not have to do anything else the day before except leave it all in the sun. There were so many trees around our shelter at Dravo, however, that I had to occasionally move the pad and solar shower out of the shade and back into the sun.

            I also used Vince’s solar charger to charge my phone, but like the solar shower I had to keep moving it out of the shade and back into direct sunlight. I still managed, nevertheless, to add some power to my phone, hopefully enough to get me to Pittsburg with enough power left to call my ride and let her know I was there and waiting to be picked up.

Dravo Cemetery
            With plenty of time to spare I explored the area. As I walked through the Old Dravo Methodist Church Cemetery and I occasionally stopped to read tombstones. I also followed a foot trail down to the nearby Youghiogheny. I thought about going for a swim but the bank and surrounding area looked too muddy. Had there been more sand, gravel, or rocks,  I might have gone in. When I later told Vince I had thought about going for a dip he opined that a swim probably would not have been a good idea downstream from so many industrial sites.

            My Mountain House meals now all gone, I was left with just one meal, a Salmon Craisin Couscous Pilaf I had prepared at home following a recipe from Sarah Svien Kirkconnell’s Freezer Bag Cooking: Trail Food Made Simple. All I had to do was add boiling water and let it sit for five to ten minutes and it would be ready to eat. I had made the meal once before and liked it. Since it was our last night, Vince and I also enjoyed left over bits of this and that, including cheese, pepperoni, and other staple trail food as there was no reason to save it and take it home.

            After dinner and before turning in for the night I once again used my solar shower to wash the sweat and trail grime off my body. This had not been an issue the first couple days of our trip because it was so cool. These last couple days, with a dusty rather than a muddy trail, and with afternoon temperatures in the high 80’s, I appreciated being able to shower before turning in for the night.

The Youghiogheny, upstream, from Dravo
            With the shelter more or less to myself I used the opportunity to spread my gear out on the floor. I set aside what I thought I would need for the next morning and packed up the rest, all in anticipation of our last few miles the following day. As I looked at what I had spread out I realized that I had used almost all it at least once. The only gear I had not used were my Marmot waterproof wind pants, only because my waterproof cycling pants had sufficed.

            Clouds moved in as dusk approached and I could see lightening and hear thunder in the distance but it never rained on us.  It looked like our last night out on the GAP would be a rainless night. I hoped our last half day would be rainless, as well.

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

From DC to PGH - Day 6 (23rd Installment)
My First Tour the Montour (22nd Installment)
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)

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