Final Route Map, SF, CA - Montauk, NY

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Thursday, July 8, 2010

Mile 4207.4 - Free water in central PA

The morning started with a faster than usual breaking of camp. Because I didn't have anyone's authorization to camp where I was, I wanted to get out before anyone noticed I was there. That happened well enough and I continued along the road as it followed the Sinnemahoning River. At first there was a comparatively long stretch of nothing, which was just fine with me. The shoulder wasn't always the most robust as it wound around with the river.

The towns shown on the map were suggestions of towns, clumps of houses along the river with maybe a hardware store. Then I hit a mile long patch of road construction. The flagger waved me through at the head of a long line of cars. While the fresh road surface was nice, it was long enough that I couldn't keep up with the traffic. Before I hit the end, the oncoming traffic was coming my way. Most of it was fine, since I was as far over on the pavement as I could be, but there was one gravel truck that forced me onto the grit off the shoulder. Bastard.

This was coming into Renovo, the biggest town I'd been through since St Marys. I asked the flagger at the end of the construction where in town to get breakfast and she told me the only place to go was Yesterday's, a hotel and restaurant a few blocks ahead. The dining room had a 50's diner feel and Elvis and Roy Orbison crooned out of the speakers. I sat in the corner where I could plug in the phone and ate my eggs and potatoes while listening to a discussion of the weekend's high school track meet. At one point their discussion changed to the weather. A larger man a bit older than me said he was doing yard work in his mother's yard and by 3:00 it was so hot 'I went and dove in the crick'. I wanted to pipe up and say that all I did was ride 110 miles yesterday and didn't think it was too hot at all. Then again, I'm sure a dive in the crick would have felt good.

After breakfast I stopped for water at a service station in town that didn't have a nationally branded sign over it. The old man behind the counter asked how far I was riding today. I told him today I wanted to get close to Williamsport, but I was headed to New York. His eyes widened with the thought of riding a bicycle to New York, then I told him I had started in San Francisco, so I was almost home. He got really excited and started asking questions. He told me that he was really impressed with someone following a dream like that. He waved away the couple dollars in my hand that I had held for the last several minutes trying to pay for the water. 'I can't charge you for water' he told me, then he grabbed one of the local papers off the stack and opened the first page. He found the paper's phone number and called them up. 'Yeah, this is Gene at the gas station...' he started. After relaying the story to the editor, he gave me directions to their office, just a click down the road. He shook my hand and again told me how impressed he was with me. On my out the door, another customer was coming in. 'There goes a real man', he told him. That made me proud.

I followed the directions I was given (basically go straight until I get there), and stopped in at the office of the Clinton County Record. Barbara, the editor, interviewed me for about 10 minutes and offered to fill my 1/3rd full gallon from the water cooler. Sure! That was nice. We stepped outside for a few photos with Penny and I gave them my address to send me a copy. As of writing this a couple weeks later, I still have not received my copy and the paper has only the weakest of websites.

It was now about 11:00 and I had gone about 25 miles despite the early start. I cranked it up a notch and covered some miles pretty quickly. I stopped for a quick break at rest area between the road and the river. By now the Sinnemahoning had met up with the Young Woman River to form the Susquehanna. There was a truck in the lot, a boy in his mid teens was walking a tiny puppy while the parents were fussing with something in the back of the truck. The father saw me and asked if I wanted any water. The gallon I had refilled was down more than a quart already and had completely lost the coolness it enjoyed while still in the water cooler in the office. I told him I was ok, though, that I had refilled in town. He said that they had a gallon that was unopened in a cooler, so it was still cold. Cold was the magic word. I took it from them and chatted a little about the road ahead. I refilled my bottles from the cold gallon, then strapped both of them to the rack. I had never had the double barrel extra gallons before, but it was now hot, so I didn't mind the extra weight.

It was around 2:30 by the time I got into Lock Haven and I needed a break with food. I made the tour's only stop at a Subway and got a sandwich, eating in the AC while reviewing the route ahead of me. There was a bank clock across the street that said the air temp was 102. I dive in the crick sounded pretty good. Leaving Lock Haven, I crossed the Susquehanna and rode within hearing of the interstate. I stopped at a gas station in Avis for gatorade. By now the free cold gallon was gone and the original gallon I had refilled in Renovo was the temperature of hot tea left to cool for a while. It was not refreshing. Outside, a man walked up to me and asked where I was going with all the pack. I explained and he got really excited about what I was doing. I mentioned that I wanted to see small towns do more for pedestrians and cyclists. He agreed and said he lived about a mile away, but thought it was ridiculous to drive that short a distance. Clearly, we think alike.

In Jersey Shore, I found the end of a nice looking bike trail. I was on it for all of a couple hundred yards before it ended in a parking lot. Riding through downtown, it was clear they were setting up a parade. I imagined that the parade was for me and wondered what the people who actually were in it did to be in a parade instead of me. I crossed the Susquehanna for a third time. After a couple initial hills, the land on this vast central island between the Susquehanna and White Deer Rivers became flat. I passed through Oval and into the town of Collumsville. In Collumsville, I could see a problem ahead. I knew the road continued east, yet to my east I saw a looming hill. as I got closer , I could see where the road curved to take the low space between a couple butts of hills, but then climbed into the trees and out of sight.

The climb started at 850' with a curve into the trees. I cranked my way up in a pretty high gear. At 1335', the road started dipping again, and I was feeling pretty good. I had kept up a 8mph pace on a pretty long steep hill. The road now dropped to 1225' and started climbing a bit again. Stopped at a gravel sideroad was a man in a white truck. He asked me if I wanted a ride to the top of the hill. No, I thanked him, I'll make it up. But that was a bad portent. Top of the hill? I just climbed almost 500' over about a mile and a half, how much more up was there. This was the question that the hill was quite willing to answer at length. I crossed 1334' again and kept going up. 1461'. 1581'. Still more up I passed 1740' and there was a curve that looked like it would be the top. It was just a turn around to a slightly steeper climb. 1891' and I saw a turnout at the curve up ahead of me. I got up to the top and pulled off into the wide clearing. The view was fantastic, row after row of blue-grey hills rolling off to the horizon. I had unwisely unclipped both feet to take a better picture. This made it harder to start up again for the last 50' push to the top. I made the top and was drifting forward slowly to take a picture. I had made it to the top of the North White Deer Ridge, at 1924'.

Suddenly, the wheels beneath me started turning of their own accord. I shoved the camera back into a jersey pocket and shifted down into my lowest gear. Without pedaling yet at all I was going 38mph, so I started to crank into it a bit. Once I got up to 45mph, I stopped and let gravity take me down for a while. Gravity did, increasing my speed up to 46.4 mph. Then I just hung on and steered down and around the curves. There was a car that hung out behind me for over a mile because I was going too fast for it to pass me. I got down to the bottom exhilarated. Sure the climb had been long and pretty hard, but I got up it with only the rest at the top. The ride down was almost as exciting as the Wind River Mountains back in Wyoming. Within three miles of the summit, I was back down to 685'. There's no way to do that but fast.

The sun was setting behind the mountain I had just crossed. I wanted to cross the Susquehanna one last time and stay at a motel in Muncy. I shortly got to where US 15 crossed the highway I was on and stopped at the gas station at the intersection for gatorade and water for the morning. About 7 miles up the road north of me in Willimsport was the Little League Headquarters and the fields where they play the Little League World Series. I asked where the motels around were, and the attendant suggested I go south to the motel just down 15 instead of trying to make Muncy. This sounded reasonable as the light was quickly fading and the motels down the road were a mile away, as opposed to 5 or 6 to get to Muncy. She stepped out with me for a cigarette while I filled my bottles. We talked about the hill I had just come down and she told me about all the crashes on that hill in the winter. 'People take it like it's a day like this, but there's a solid inch of ice on the road' she explained. No winter goes by without at least one fatal crash on the road, though often it is a car going off the road into the trees. After a few minutes, I thanked her, then rolled my bike off the 6" raised sidewalk. The back tire hit the pavement with a pop. It was flat. Flat flat flat. The first flat, in fact, that I had gotten since Stagecoach, NV. I had ridden across 9 states since then and since Stagecoach is in western NV, almost 10.

The tire was a mess. I think the major problem started with the soft, sticky pitch on the road in President. In addition to several cracks in the tire, there was now a dime sized flap that was hanging on for dear life. I would need to address that soon. I inflated the tube to check it, and immediately I heard the hiss of a leak. That's ok, I had been carrying 6 tubes since Carson City, so it wasn't worth my time to try to patch it. I had gotten the new tube on and started inflating it when a man walked over to me talking about flat tires. He was fueling up a motorcycle, and said that when he was closer to my age he rode a bike all the time. I got the tire back on and repacked the bike while telling him about my trip. By now it was dark. I started up the hill towards the motels. There were two of them a couple hundred yards apart. I rang the bell at the first one and got no answer. I rode up to the second one and roused the owner with my ring. I got the last room he had to let.

I took a shower and set up my camp stove outside for a hot meal. I hadn't had anything hot since breakfast, so I used up my remaining freeze-dried hiker's dinner. I boiled a couple cups of the still warm water for it and while I was waiting for it to rehydrate, called Emily. It had been a day of ups and downs and I was still on schedule to get home Sunday night.

Day 70, Sinnemahoning Camp - White Deer Motel, East of Montgomery, PA
88.7 miles today in 7:13:41. Now a total of 4207.4 miles in 319:29:21 and a east of the Mississippi high speed of 46.4mph

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