2014…54 Years Old

“This Old House” kept us busy in 2014 with sweaty DIY projects. Gregg “found more treasures” amongst the disintegrated attic insulation, made a screen door for the mudroom, and made new doors for the good shed. I laboriously turned the Mystery Room into a livable space after Window World uncovered the window hidden by siding. They also replaced other old wood-framed windows.

We spent time with family, ran races, ate fresh corn, went to the Buckwheat Cake Festival, traveled to see nieces play sports, vacationed in Lancaster with friends, retired from teaching English, and, among other things, I had an emergency appendectomy.

An item on Gregg’s bucket list had been to ride a bike from Pittsburgh to Washington, D.C. The Great Allegheny Passage (GAP) rail trail goes from Pittsburgh to Cumberland, MD and connects with the C&O Canal Towpath which goes to D.C. In case you are wondering, that is around 335 miles, rising 1,600 feet then descending 2,390 feet.

As we basked in the glow of our fun Holland bike trip, we decided that we could recreate that trip and accomplish a bucket list goal at the same time. If we could ride 50-60 miles a day, we could do the trip in six days, then take the train back to Pittsburgh after a rest day in D.C.

We decided to go in October when the heat and bugs wouldn’t be an issue. In the months prior, rooms were reserved at five bed and breakfasts and a hotel, paniers were purchased for the bikes, and excitement was mounting as details were worked out.

Our bikes needed new seats, so we went to a local bike shop in Florida. The salesperson “informed” us that we didn’t have the right type of bikes to make that trip. We assumed that we were hearing a typical “you need a better bike” sales pitch and ignored that red flag. Even though we didn’t have much “seat time” to prepare, our bikes were already in Pennsylvania, we hoped our running would offset that minor detail.

Driving to Pittsburgh in the wee hours of the morning, we began our ride by 7:00 a.m. at Point State Park. It was cold, drizzly, and there was a strong headwind. To put it bluntly, it was a hard, brutal ride, and I had more than one meltdown on the first day. We were not in Kansas, I mean, Holland anymore, Toto.

Our heavy bikes and the weight in our pannier bags, coupled with my low amount of running since my appendectomy six weeks prior, combined to form a perfect storm. That first night, Gregg laid in bed trying to figure out how to get us out of this situation. The bed and breakfast reservations were use-or-lose-your-money.

Fall days were short. My riding pace was so slow that we were in danger of losing daylight before arriving at our destination each night. Not to mention that Gregg was having trouble staying balanced on his bike at that crawling pace.

The next day, we decided to continue, using a different plan of attack. We stopped each hour on the hour to recharge with snacks and hugs. I drafted Gregg, which prevented me from seeing the view, but the pull helped me go faster. We paid attention to sounds around us, I had a “song of the day” in my head, and we prayed for friends in hard life-situations.  

We enjoyed dinners at night, staying in bed and breakfasts, and talking to the proprietors. The last six miles of the trail, we began to do a “Survivor” show-type memory tribute to each day. It took much longer than a mile to review a day, so we later reminisced, this time recording our conversations. It was a special way to connect and remember the week.

This trip ranks as one of my least favorite vacations. It was a totally different experience from our Holland bike trip, yet WE DID IT! We worked together and accomplished a huge, difficult, long goal. I love doing life with this man whether it be fun, romantic, mundane, challenging, or hard.

Reagan’s soccer game in Huntsville. Sydney, Gladys, Reagan, Dad, Jessica, Bryn, Gregg, Kristin
Julie, on the California University of Pennsylvania track team, qualified to run the Steeplechase at College Nationals! And she placed!
Precious co-teacher and precious students! I still keep in touch with the lady next to me. I love her!
Attic “treasures”
Mystery room, before. (notice the cool old linoleum on the floor!)
Mystery Room After a summer of removing layers of antique wallpaper, patching holes in the plaster walls, mudding the walls to texture them, and several coats of paint.
Back of my sweatshirt
Point State Park In Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, October 4, 2014, beginning our 335 mile ride to Washington, D.C.
We’ve been on this section of the path a number of times, it is not far from our PA house.
“It’s all downhill from here!”
We passed a few before we realized that there were NO towns on the towpath. It was this or go thirsty. We agreed with the sign, it was holy water – a God-send!
Most of the C&O Canal Towpath looked like 2 ruts in the road, often soft and muddy, which made the riding slower.
Locks were along the path.
The End – CELEBRATION!

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