A couple of months ago I wrote about a trip to Ohiopyle in Pennsylvania. During that visit, we happened to go to the Ohiopyle State Park Visitor Center. It was nice to see the display in there honoring the work done by Linda McKenna Boxx.
Linda served as board president and volunteer executive director of the Allegheny Trail Alliance (ATA) that over the years brought together different trail groups to create the Great Allegheny Passage (GAP). My friends and I rode the GAP on our bicycles in 2016 from Pittsburgh to the Washington, DC, area.
My first interaction with Linda happened in 2009 when she reached out to me for permission to use one of my pictures in the Trail book that was being prepared for that year. She wanted to use a picture of Riley’s Lock that I had taken. I said yes, and the only thing I requested was that they send me a copy of the trail book when it eventually came out. There was no other form of payment involved.
She reached out to me once again in 2016, before my bike ride on the GAP. This time they ended up using two of my pictures. After seeing the book, I decided that I wanted a few more copies of the book to share with my fellow riders before the ride because there was a lot of useful information in it. I was going to pay for these copies, but Linda would not accept any payment. She also shipped the books to me for no cost. You are now one of us, she said. And she wished me a good ride, and requested that I take lots of pictures.
That was the last time I interacted with her. It appears that she has now stepped down from her positions in the ATA.
I have started supporting the GAP with regular donations.
I had not been on a bicycle since the accident that happened almost a year ago. The doctor had given me the “all clear” to go back to my regular activities a while back, but I had not done it even though I had decided a long time ago that there was no way other than to get back on the bicycle. The truth was that I was also missing all the training rides that I had being doing in the years past – on various sections of the C&O Canal towpath, on the Capital Crescent Trail into Bethesda and Silver Spring; on the Custis, the W&OD, the Mt. Vernon and the Four Mile Run trails in Virginia; and even the ride up Sugarloaf Mountain. I knew these trails somewhat well by now, and I could even picture some of the specific experiences and challenges that one came across along the way, whether it was the stop at Fletchers Cove to use the facilities and get a drink of water, crossing the Potomac on the Key bridge, or riding along the river on the Mt. Vernon trail past Gravelly Point and National Airport, or the challenge of one of the slopes on the Custis trail or Sugarloaf mountain. I needed to do it.
But time passed and it did not happen until now. You could say that there was a bit of apprehension on my part, not because of the fear of riding a bike per se, but because of a fear of falling off the bike. It was specifically about the possibility of falling on my separated shoulder once again. I had a mental picture of how severe the damage could be to a clavicle that was already floating around. I did actually look for specific protection that could be worn it this regard, but the only solution out there would have made me look and feel like a gladiator with plastic armor-plating on a bicycle. I could not picture that! But there were other real excuses. We were busy with a wedding and with guests who were visiting until now. Before I knew it, we were half way through the year.
I finally made the move Wednesday morning. I checked out my biking gear the first time in many months – the shorts, the tops and the gloves. Things were where I expected them to be. I checked out the bike, still covered with dirt from last year, reinflated the tires, grabbed my helmet, and after a test ride around the cul dec sac, loaded it into the back of the car.
Finally at Pennyfield Lock.I decided to ride a distance of about 16+ miles (one way) to Fletchers Cove this day. I had forgotten how cool it could be under the trees even on a July morning in the middle of summer as you rode against the wind. I had forgotten the rhythmic sound of the crunching of the tires against the gravel of the trail as one rode on the dirt. I had forgotten the easy and peaceful nature of an early morning ride. There was a feeling of serenity, and the mind could wander once again.
I took it easy. This is the way I usually start a ride, especially after a break from when I have been challenging myself. But then the Adrenalin kicks in and, before you know it, your legs are moving to a steady beat and the pace is increasing to another level. And it is all so effortless at this point. You are enjoying the ride.
I can still sense some fear in me, a fear of falling off the bike if I got too close to the edge of the trail, but it is no more about the shoulder. I know I am over it, and it has happened quickly. The other general fear of wandering across the trail and falling off into the woods or the water will disappear with time, just like it used to in the past. It is a defense mechanism of the brain that I appreciate.
Life along the canal has not changed. I have to stop for pictures along the way.
There are people around on this cool summer morning, especially later in the morning. I re-familiarize myself with the practice of passing people who are on foot on the trail. There are many such people. Recent rains also seem to have done severe damage to the trail. I take a couple of detours off the trail along the way.
The ride back to Pennyfield Lock is when the muscles in my thighs begin to feel it. It is a familiar feeling, but it is not a feeling that you tend to remember the details of once the ride is complete and those sore muscles have recovered. I ride steadily, without a sense of rush, but by now I am also in the groove once again, and I have to make the conscious effort to slow down, and perhaps even stop once in a while to take a picture or two. This is all familiar territory for me.
The ride ended successfully. I am going to try my best to make sure this was not just a one-time effort, a flash in the pan if you will. I need to do more rides for my sense of balance and sanity. Perhaps longer group rides are in the cards once again starting next year.
Today is the birthday of an old friend. We go back a long way, all the way back to elementary school. My friend is a remarkable person – full of joy, sweet, smart, kind, curious, adventurous, and always helpful. He is one terrific guy. I went on a bike ride with him this summer in the Rockies in Canada. Here are some pictures from the ride that capture his spirit, including his sometimes playful, dare I say, cheeky nature.
At the start of the ride.At the Goats and Glaciers viewpoint.The lovely couple.Do not know what happened here!Supporting a fellow rider up a challenging slope.He is his own man,but I am not sure what he is doing here.They both have one foot in the Banff National Park and the other in the Jasper National Park.The explorer on Parker Ridgeprobably looking at Saskatchewan Glacier (not in the picture) in the distance.He gives a friendly wave as we head out to our stop for the evening at The Crossing Resort.He was the first to venture into the glacier fed waters of Waterfowl lake. It was cold!Here he is returning from an exploration in the vicinity of Bow Summit.The friendly wave. Happy birthday and happy trails, my friend!
The Old Chain of Rocks bridge is just a short distance north of St. Louis, MO. This bridge used to carry the famous Route 66 highway across the Mississippi River. Today this bridge is limited to pedestrian and bicycle traffic and is part of a trail system that is being developed in the area.If you wish to visit the bridge by car, you should park on Chouteau Island on the Illinois side of the river. The parking lot on the Missouri side is closed off these days, most likely due to safety concerns. You can also ride a bike from St. Louis to the bridge if you wish, or park a couple of miles away from the bridge on the Missouri side and walk.
This is the entrance to the bridge from Illinois.This is a pedestrian’s view of the bridge.The bridge is unique because of a 22 degree bend in the middle.There is some memorabilia on the bridge from the old days when it used to serve road traffic.You find this rusted sign at the Missouri end of the bridge.There also is a small rest area on the Missouri side of the bridge.This is what the entrance to the bridge from Missouri looks like.The next few pictures are from the bridge.The pictures below were taken from one of the trails on Chouteau Island. The first picture also shows a water intake from the river, and the new Chain of Rocks bridge that carries Interstate 270 across the Mississippi.
For this week’s challenge, I scrambled around looking for any and all pictures taken during recent travels that could be relevant to the theme of windows, regardless of the context in which the theme could be invoked. The result could appear to be somewhat scattershot. Perhaps the real unifying theme is that these pictures a part of larger stories that appear elsewhere in my blogs.
During our recent visit to New England, we stayed one evening at a lovely Bed and Breakfast establishment in Gorham, NH. I wandered around early in the morning, taking the following pictures that showcase some of the windows in this old home.The following pictures were taken during the same New England trip in Tip-Top House, which used to be a hotel right at the top of Mt. Washington in NH. The entire facility still exists in its original form even though it is not in use today. The windows here seemed somewhat small. Perhaps they are that way in order to minimize the loss of heat.The following pictures were taken from the window of my plane on my way to the Canadian Rockies for a six day bike ride.The following pictures were taken from the window of our van as we drove into Jasper National Park in the Canadian Rockies for the start of the bike ride.These last pictures was taken during the rescue operation after the bike ride, during my train ride from Edmonton to Toronto on The Canadian.
Perhaps you will sense a different feeling to this post when compared to the earlier ones from the ride. Of course, one of the reasons this post is different is because of what I did to myself at the end of the day. The other reason is more sentimental. I want to acknowledge my travel companions. The focus is not just on the scenery but on the people who accompanied me. I am going to break my own unspoken rule and specifically mention names. I am hoping that nobody minds. We start in the morning as we get ready to depart Lake Louise.
Being his usual helpful self, Rick had packed our luggage into the back of Ben’s van for the last day’s ride. He was quite proud of his effort. Rick also did his bit to keep us entertained as we rode every day.Here is Ben giving us instructions for the last day. Ben was very thorough in his support. Go ahead and take a tour with him at Mountain Madness Tours. You will not be disappointed!We had been riding thus far on the Icefields Parkway. From now on we are on the Bow Valley Parkway. The funny thing is that my bear sighting was pretty soon after we saw this sign. The road ran beside the Bow River.Here is a picture of the riders on the move. You may notice that the road markings here are very different from those encountered on the Icefields Parkway.A freight train awaits beside the road.Koushik, the heart and soul of our riding team.One way to smell the flowers, perhaps on another planet (get it!?).Nancy and Stacy, old college mates.Ben in his vehicle, after overtaking one of the riders.I stopped with KP at a memorial point for the Castle Camp internment camp. Even though this episode happened during WW1, it is not difficult to imagine something like this happening even in our modern times.The last paragraph in the wayside marker for the internment camp below reads “In total, eight thousand five hundred and seventy-nine men became prisoners of war in twenty-four camps located across Canada during the internment operations of 1914-1920. Most were foreign nationals, a few were British subjects or Canadian citizens. The majority were non-combatant, unemployed civilians – victims of the 1913 depression, racial prejudice and wartime hysteria. Many of the internees came from western regions of Ukraine, then a part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.”Stacy, Nancy and Sally.The Bow river.Ben’s van and trailer at the last stopping point.Resting before the last push.Sally and Bob, our riding leaders. They were the youngest and the oldest in the group. Bob, a former triathlete, took on the hills we encountered as if he was on a mission. Sally was not too far behind.A squirrel observing the goings-on at this last stop.This was the last picture I found on the camera after the trip. I did not take this picture. The time stamp on the picture leads me to believe that it was taken after I fell off the bike. I suspect that Bob, who had retrieved the camera and eventually delivered it to my home, took a picture to see if the camera was working. A great picture from that perspective. The camera ended up in better shape than I did! That was the end of the ride, but not the end of my adventures.
If you want to continue to read about how I got home from Canada, start with this posting.
Those who may be reading this blog regularly will know that there was a break in the postings between day 5 and day 6 of this trip. This blog will also look different because I do not have my camera with me to download the pictures I took on the last day. I might have another posting on the ride when I have pictures. The pictures do help me remember more details of the adventures.
The last day’s ride from Lake Louise to Banff was the longest, about 60 km. We left the Icefield Parkway in Lake Louise and got on the Bow Valley Parkway as we headed towards Banff. We biked on a shaded road for most of this section, surrounded by tall pine trees. Off to our right flowed the Bow river. A railroad line ran along the riverside. (The pictures I will post will give you a better sense for this.)
I was not able to take a picture of the amazing encounter that I had with a bear. I was riding at the rear of the group when the black bear ran across the road right in front of me. I stopped the bike, but it had already disappeared into the bushes. There was no time to pull out my camera. The person riding in front of me confirmed that she had had also seen the bear sitting by the side of the road. Wow!
We had our usual stops along the way for snacks and sightseeing. As we got closer to Banff, we got more focused on the riding. A group of the riders were leading with a somewhat fast pace, and a vaguely defined and somewhat ragged Peloton of some of the riders began to take form. I was towards the back. I had one other fast rider behind me, whom I was prepared to slow down if needed.
Then disaster struck just a few kmfrom our final destination. My wheel went off the the edge of the road because I had gotten too close to the side, and the cycle skidded on the gravel beside the road. I could not fight the laws of physics. I took a toss at high speed. The result was fairly devastating. I have seen my helmet after the ride, and I am pretty sure it saved my life. I ended up in a hospital in Calgary (from which I am writing) for a few days. Because of my injuries, I have to take the train home. It will be some time before I get home.
People have been very very kind to me since the fall. It is overwhelming. A riding buddy stayed back to keep me company for a couple of days. My brother arrives to accompany me on the train ride to Toronto. My daughter drives me home to Gaithersburg. Everybody is so concerned. I feel a little bad for ruining the end of the ride for others. But we also did have a wonderful and unforgettable time for the most part, and nobody and nothing can take that away from us. I am so happy we did the ride. What happened was my careless mistake. I am usually cautious, but I let my guard down.
I, unfortunately, did not get a chances to say goodbye properly to most of the others involved in the ride in the end. They all made the experience even more special. They also took care of me when I fell. I owe them all a depth of gratitude.