Flexibility was key for today’s ride - You CAN go home again - CycleBlaze

September 4, 2018

Flexibility was key for today’s ride

I plan so carefully. I really do. But today just didn’t turn out as planned. Not that I’m worried about it - it just turned out different.

Since I didn’t get breakfast at the motel, I made my way across the street to Tim Hortons and had a bacon & egg muffin. While there, two older gentlemen having their breakfsat engaged me in conversation about the ride, bicycles, and the driver in the area. I don’t know, I find that all but one driver have been super courteous on this tour.

Leaving Hallstead, you can see the low clouds still hanging onto the tops of the mountains
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Heading out, the road is in terrible shape. Rough, cracked, broken pavement. It gets better; oh, yes, it does. The pavement ends and I’m on a dirt road 3 miles into the ride. 4 miles in and I get a dog chase! What I soon come to realize is with my 1x11 setup geared for climbing, I don’t have the top end to outsprint Fido. That, combined with the oncoming climb I’m facing, leaves me no choice but to slow down and talk to the dog. I start friendly, “Hi there! Fun run, huh? Did I challenge you enough? Are we good?” He just stands near me, panting at 400mph. Then he turns and begins the long journey back to his home.

I climb the steep dirt road until I’m in the cloud so at mile marker 7. I can’t believe I’ve gained this much elevation.

Climbing into the clouds with the river on my left
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9 miles into the ride I roll into Susquehanna. This is one of those older Pennsylvania coal/rail towns that seems a shell of its former self. Matter of fact, the railroad started in this country right here in this area. It originally was gravity fed, rolling mined coal downhill, and then pulling by horse or pack mule, and then later steam engines, back uphill to the mines. What’s interesting in Susquehanna is the older mid-19th century buildings, 4-stories even, with the ornate façade, and then comparing that to the parking lot in front of the Dollar General. And when did the dollar stores start breeding like rabbits?

The 4-story building in the center of the picture stands in contrast to the Dollar General sign, and the parking lot in front of it
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10 miles in, I reach the Starrucca Viaduct (pronounced “strukka”). Built by the Erie railroad 1847-48, it’s 1040 feet long, 100 feet high, and is the oldest stone railroad bridge still in use today. It’s tough to capture the largesse of the structure in the valley.

Bike shown to scale (and really, why wouldn’t it be?)
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This is massive and hard to get a picture of inside the valley. Note to self - ask for a drone for Christmas
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Then I’m a 4-mile climb to the start of the D&H trail. I look down the trail and it doesn’t look good. Overgrown, rocky, but I figure it’s an adventure so I head down the trail. To say it was mildly unpleasant would be an understatement. In the words of the Grinch, it was “stink.stank.stunk”. Some additional thoughts - abominable, abysmal, deplorable. 1 mile, 2 miles.  I’m bouncing over the rocky ballast, and when that isn’t occurring, I’m fishtailing through gravel. Just terrible. My completionist side said, “just finish it” but my pragmatist side said, “bag it!” And detour off onto a parallel road. So I did. 4 miles on the path was enough for me. When I detoured, I rode onto PA Bike Route L, which was pleasant pavement, and I climbed (4500’ worth today).

PA bike route L. A much better alternative than the D&H trail that far north
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Im having the best time riding along the roads, climbing, descending a bit, then climbing some more, when all of a sudden, my iPhone buzzes and my Fitbit buzzes indicating I have mobile service! This means maps! Data! I check maps and find out where I can reconnect with the trail. It’s not too far down the road, and I climb up Skyline Dr (didn’t expect a climb with this road, did ya?) and then head down the trail.

But wouldn’t you know it, I get stopped by a construction guy who says a crew with Major earth moving equipment is Justin down the trail for the next 6 miles. And JUST when the trail was rideable again. So once again, I’m flexible and backtrack and then head onto a parallel trail, the O&W trail, and take that into Forest City. Then I see the limestone trail and it’s just gorgeous. I divert onto that side and I wind up having to bushwhack onto surface streets since there’s no access from the trail.

Now THIS is a bike path. Smooth asphalt and I’m flying down the trail
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Riding along the surface streets was confusing because it switches from a left to a right to another left, etc. I’m glad I had downloaded maps on my route so. I could follow the route because there were a lot of turns. Tomorrow is going to be even more surface street navigation getting through the Scranton/Wilkes Barre valley.

I make several wrong turns because I’m not watching my iPhone and the navigation every second of the ride. I roll past “Gravity Park” which is this tiny, out-of-the-way Park commemorating the second-ever steam train railroad in the US. And it’s here in Carbondale.

Gravity Park, commemorating the second railroad in the United States
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And then I see a tank in the middle of the road. Well, the road curves but the tank is right in front of me. I didn’t expect to see this in the middle of the street. Even with all th patriotism running through this valley. For instance, the light posts all have portraits (banners) hanging honoring the hometown heroes. So a tank? Maybe it’s not so ridiculous.

Now THIS is the vehicle I could have used earlier on the D&H trail (I’m talking about the tank 😃)
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Today's ride: 65 miles (105 km)
Total: 197 miles (317 km)

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