Thursday, July 9, 2015

Đại úy Chuck and the NCOIC - Intermission

Any trip is a collection of events, like most of life, I guess. The sum of the events is the story that you compile and modify over time sharing with anyone showing even modest interest.  One of the funniest stories of our trip was far from funny when it happened, but adding my part of the story to Đại úy’s changed the event from being as scary as possible to something bordering on slapstick. For me, The GAP did not begin until there was hard packed dirt or gravel under the tires. For Đại úy, it began soon after escaping the two mile section of W. Carson St where it parallels the Ohio water front before passing under the West End Bridge.

We’d received a police escort to the beginning of Montour Trail where it leaves Pittsburgh International Airport and most of the next hour or so was spent on a bike friendly trail of hard packed gravel. It had been a pleasant beginning. Wooded sections, babbling creeks and the scent of flowers had to, occasionally, compete with the din of heavy, high speed traffic, but after that first fourteen miles we rode twelve in city traffic of varying densities, sans trees and brooks and sweet aromas. While I indulged in the challenge of navigating through urban traffic (PA-51) and dodging potholes, Ða?i u?y was battered by the compressive force of the wind blast from each passing truck and clinging gamely when I zigged and stopped quickly.

As trying as the first too-many miles of PA-51 was, the final two miles were even worse. Traffic on the usually heavily traveled surface street was reduced to a single lane with no room for anyone to squeeze past a heavily-loaded, slow-moving tandem bicycle. At intersecting streets breaks in the endless line of concrete barriers allowed us to get out of the way and allow backed up traffic to pass. Two miles never passed more slowly!

Perhaps, after years of finding convenient routes through behind building and through parking lots, I should have anticipated that a trail through a true urban setting would not resemble the bike paths to which I’m accustomed. Eventually, we reached an industrialized area where a marked bike lane or path made navigation simple; time to make some time!

Đại úy observed, some days later, that it helped to have an uncomfortable, demanding day as Day Number One. Any idea that the ride was going to be easy was washed away, literally, when a severe storm joined our adventure. When there’s lightning in the area do not seek shelter under trees. Well, there were few trees and even less potential shelter, so we rode on with lightning striking close enough to make flash and sound pretty much simultaneous. Several times Đại úy asked how close a strike was. “Not close at all,” I’d lie. For Đại úy, the story turns cute, or funny, or even damn funny when he says, “I knew he was lying ‘cause I could feel the hairs standing up on the back of my neck!”

I’d weathered the same weather in August of 2012 in North Carolina on NC-101 crossing the Intracoastal waterway and thought I’d drown if I inhaled too much. Choices? POR; press on regardless. Or greater concern to me were crossing and recrossing of the railway that required climbing steep, slippery inclines on one side then descending on the other. Oh, yeah, and negotiating too-tight turns! Slippery. Raining! Loaded!

Wonder how we looked? It’s a heavily used Trail, so bike traffic is common. Tandems? Tandems with trailers? As we rode past an eatery a young boy gasped, “Whoa!” as we rode by and I imagine that reaction was pretty common. So, seeing us teetering and easing our way around and up and down might have been amusing. From where I sit now it is very amusing!

By the time we’d covered half of our first day’s expected mileage we’d overcome or survived a buncha stuff. It wasn’t definitive, but there was a strong suggestion that we were up for the task.


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