I bought a Trail-gator for attaching Jonathan's bike to mine, and we went on a couple 10 mile rides last week to test it out, and to build up our strength, but I had been pretty tired after those rides, so I wasn't very optimistic that we would make it to Ohiopyle without calling Heather to pick one or both of us up.  But Billy had volunteered to trade off with me and so figured we had a better shot of completing the trip.

We spent Thursday night at the Lewis's house, so Heather wouldn't have to drive us down to McKeesport early in the morning.  The end of the week came soon, and so we had a little trouble getting everything packed, but Heather got it all together while I tried to finish up my work for the week.

We planned to arrive at McKeesport at 8 and be off by 8:15 or so, but we were a little late, and I don't think we left until 9 or maybe even later.  We biked for thirty miles before I got pretty tired, and Josh took over towing Jonathan for eight miles until lunch.  I was surprised at how light his bike was (he was carrying his tent and all of the gear for him and his brother) and he was surprised at how heavy towing another bike was.

After lunch, I biked a little farther, but then gave up, and asked Jonathan to bike on his own for a while.  The first part of the trip is pretty flat, and then the last seven miles or so is a decent uphill (at least at the end of a long day).  The trail follows the riverbed and is where a train used to go, so the hills aren't that significant really...

Jonathan biked a couple miles, but started saying he was tired, so I stopped to borrow a cell phone and tried unsuccessfully to call Heather to get her to meet us, as I figured Jonathan would only be able to go a couple more miles.  But, while I was on the phone and "everyone" was standing around, Jonathan continued to bike on his own, and I caught up to him a couple miles later biking happily along.  Joshua had seen him go, and so had gone with him, but I suspect Jonathan might have kept going by himself if given the chance.  He didn't like stopping very much, and when he did stop, generally didn't want to stop for very long (which I like, but he likes stopping even less than I do). 

We had previously been told that the trip was 70+ miles, and so when we hit Connellsville ten miles earlier than I expected, I was elated and thought we would actually make it easily, but then the uphill started...

Jonathan ended up biking ten miles on his own before connecting back up, and Josh towed him the rest of the way (~12 miles uphill to the campground).

We took seven hours to make the trip, with three hours of rests and four hours of biking.  We average 12.3 mph while we were traveling, but only 8.9 mph for the whole day (counting the stops).  We got the camp setup and used the car to get a couple loads of firewood and register, since we didn't really relish the idea of biking uphill to the registration office.  We had some "Phil's Dinner" (Dad's name for potatoes, meat, etc. in foil cooked in the fire - he entered it in some sort of cooking contest a long time ago) and I think everyone except Ben had enough to eat...

The weather forecast had been a lot of rain all week and all weekend, but there ended up being a lot less rain than they predicted.  It rained a little on Friday night, and then rained most of Saturday and a little on Saturday night.

We woke up early on Saturday morning, but took a while to get out of bed, partly due to the rain, and partly due to being awfully tired from biking.  We cooked up some scrambled eggs, chuck wagon style and boiled water for coffee and hot chocolate on our Coleman stove (which I hear are sort of hard to find now - people are going towards the propane stoves, I guess.  I really like the unleaded gas stoves, it is much harder to run out of fuel, both since it is easy to see how much you have, and also that you can always find unleaded gas around, at least in places where we tend to camp.

Most of the guys went swimming on Saturday, though the water was pretty cold, so they didn't stay in very long.  Jonathan climbed around Cucumber Falls (with barefeet, which one mother thought was pretty crazy) and Noah, Faith and I played a little in the water, and walked along the edge of the river.

We tried to find the other guys (we had driven down to the falls, the guys had biked) but we didn't see them at the falls, the natural water slides, or downtown, so we went back to the campsite where we found they had returned earlier, presumably due to being cold and wet from the rain and swimming.  We had planned to go down for pizza in town, but due to the rain, it seemed like it would be pretty poor biking, so everyone climbed into the car, during torrential downpours, but we all (15 of us) fit in the minivan, and made it to the pizza place successfully.  A number of the "younger" folks wanted to go home for various reasons, partly due to work on Monday, and partly due to threatening thuderstorms (that never came), and so our party shrunk to 9 for that night. A number of the tents and belongings were wet, and so people squeezed into the drier tents and planned a little more for the rain.  We dug a small ditch around our tent as well as covered it with a big tarp, since some rain was leaking right through.

We got up pretty late and had some oatmeal and made lunch and packed up the camp with some rain here and there.  Once we got on the road (11:30) there was just one sprinkle, and it actually got pretty sunny and hot, though most of the trail is shaded.  Jonathan wanted to bike home, but I wasn't sure I had the strength to tow him, and didn't want to have to depend on Josh (Billy, despite being our star biker last year, hadn't biked at all this year, and so was as beat as the rest of us, so while he was up for trading off leadership of the drafting pack, wasn't up for towing Jonathan), so I told Jonathan he would have to bike on his own.  He biked around 12 mph on the first seven mile downhill, and then slowed to ten mph for the last ten miles until Connellsville, where Heather was waiting for us. Jonathan led the pack and set the pace, though some of the guys entertained themselves at the slower pace by stopping and then sprinting.  Jonathan was pretty tired after the seventeen miles, but still really wanted to continue, but I don't think he could have made it at the ten mph pace much longer, and that was much slower than everyone else wanted to go, so I made him get in the van.  It turned out that a nut had falled off of the trail-gator, so I wouldn't have been able to take him anyway.

Since we had been "resting" at the ten to twelve mph traveling pace (two hours for the first seventeen miles), we had lots of energy, and so most of us were comfortable with a sixteen to eighteen mph pace, though there were occasional complaints from a couple guys (and there probably would have been more complaints had one of them had a speedometer to know how fast we were going).  But Josh, Billy and I traded off leadership of the pack, and we stayed very close together (with occasional wheel rubs, since we were only an inch or two apart) and we made good time.  We completed the last forty-five miles in three and a half hours, with a traveling average pace of eighteen mph, so the end result for the day was one hour of stops and an average of 11.3 mph including stops, so a couple mph faster than on the way to the campground, so I was pretty happy with that pace. When there was a mile or two left, we came out onto a road that had a train traveling by, so I thought it would be fun to race it, and see how I could do for a top speed at the end of the day, but alas, I could only get to 26mph, and the train was probably going 30mph, so I only gained some mud from the experience.

My speedometer estimates that I burned 5000 calories (and 700 grams of fat) over the weekend, though that only counts my weight, and not Jonathan or the gear, so I figure it is around 30% higher than that.  Jonathan's bike is probably the heaviest of all of the bikes that came on the trip.  However, though I lost ten pounds on the week preceeding the trip, I actually gained a couple pounds over the weekend, since we were eating pretty much non-stop for most of the weekend.

We are planning to bike to Washington, DC with a subset of the guys in August, but I am not sure how well it will work out for Jonathan to go, at least not all of the time.  Though Heather and I have been dreaming about tandems and quints, but they are really expensive, so I don't know if I can go for it.  It would be a ton of fun.  Perhaps we should sell the car and house and travel around the country for a year or two!

Posted by Jon Daley on May 25, 2010, 11:42 am | Read 5485 times
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Jonathan seems to have learned to bike the way he learned to read (from slowly sounding out words to reading adult-level books in the blink of an eye). Did he use training wheels at all, or just go from tooling around on Noah's pedal-less bike to fooling around in the basement on his own bicycle to biking long-distance biking?

Posted by SursumCorda on May 26, 2010, 3:33 pm

He did not use training wheels. We bought the bike at a garage sale at the CT Langdons last summer, and he rode it a bike around the side streets here - and then we've ridden a bit this summer, we went to a park a couple times. So, not quite in the blink of an eye, but I suppose quicker than most (including myself) would expect.

I think I was probably 10 or so before I started biking mileages like that.

Posted by Jon Daley on May 26, 2010, 5:26 pm
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