Mike Costarell's Pgh to Columbus after-the-fact road journal

Discussion in 'Road Cycling' started by Cycle America/N, May 29, 2003.

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  1. This came in on Friday and I am just getting to it now. It's Mike Costarell's fun account of his Pgh
    to Columbus ride,

    Day 1

    I woke up, not quite on time, for my first day of bike touring. I loaded the bike and gear in the
    back of my pickup truck and headed for Pittsburgh, which was the meeting point. Since there would be
    an hour's drive, I passed a McDonalds on the way, and stopped for one last cup of civilized coffee.
    The cashier gave me some looks while I was transitioning the Drive-Thru; I wondered what she would
    tell her coworkers when I left, "There was some guy in spandex shorts in a truck, paying for his
    Extra Value Meal from a Ziplock bag, with an odd looking bike strapped to a 2x4 in the back of his
    truck. Oh my God!".

    We departed Pittsburgh as a five-some: Jim, David, Nathan, Denise, and
    me. Jim is a 60-ish engineer, about 6'-2", and most of that legs. David in his 20's, is a linguist
    from Canada, and will serve as the guide for the group. He has done the trip before and knows
    where all the campsites, trails, and ice cream stands are. Denise in her 20's, is also linguist
    like David, and has people skills on the verge of being gregarious. Nathan is in his early 20's,
    and is a Political Science major. Although he is a good hiker, he is new to cycling.

    After a good bit of bungee strapping, gear shifting, and bike checks, we were off on the journey. We
    crossed the 40th Street Bridge, and then took the trail near the Allegheny River downtown. The path
    is paved with crushed limestone, and I wondered how waterproof my newly-devised panniers would be as
    we made our way through last night's puddles. Note for next time: use splashguards!

    We went from trails to road a few times, because the trail route is not complete. The trail offered
    lower grades, but more tire drag due to the limestone. Avoiding the steep grades seemed worth it
    alone, plus we could stick together and talk.

    After about 20 miles, Nathan started to lag behind. We stopped for lunch in Oakdale and rested a
    good bit. We asked Nathan to decide if he could go on. He thought about it over the meal, and then
    opted to head back. It was probably the right decision, because there were some punishing hills near

    David was the best hill climber, I could hang with him for some of the hills, but Denise and Jim
    tended to lag. I dialed in their work rates based on my heart rate monitor and speed. We stayed
    together when my HR was around 130, and Jim climbed all steep hills at four mph.

    Jim's road skills deserve comment. He is carrying a lot of weight in his trike, so traveling uphill
    is tough. On the way down, he lets it rip, sometimes pushing the barrier between Bold and Insane.
    From the back, the trike looks like a low wheel chair with 2 orange pennants hanging off the sides.
    Jim had no reservations to ride in the car lane, stop on the shoulder of a busy 55 mph (meaning 70
    mph actual), or park in the middle of the road while we discussed the next move.

    New Alexandria was very scenic. Everything was on a hill, just like Pittsburgh, except that there
    were cows grazing on 30 degree inclines rather than houses. The spectacular late-evening sun cast an
    orange light and long shadows.

    I had another inspirational moment - one with an image that was permanently burning into my memory.
    I was at the back of the group, riding west on RT 151. The sun was before us; bathing everything in
    orange brilliance, save for the three cycling shadows ahead. "This is perfect", I thought. A blink
    or two of the eye later, I saw an advertisement that sort of put a fly in the ointment. A blue and
    yellow sign advertised "Lightening Rods by Dr Boom!". That pretty much ended the mental recording.

    Day 2 Day 2 draws to a close as I write this. We are at the Salt Fork State Park, about 70 miles
    east of Columbus, Ohio. We broke camp when everyone was awake. There was no rush with only 50 miles
    to go. It is trying to rain, just enough to make you worry about a soggy sleeping bag, but the
    weather was supposed to be, and was, good for riding. The plan was to avoid the busy RT 22 and stay
    on the back-roads. That proved to be very hilly and time-consuming, and we opted for the freeway.

    Within a mile, the four lane road reduced to two lanes. Near this point, I saw a house that made me
    sick. It was an 1800's brick farmhouse, with a barn in the other side of the road. My first
    impression was "That house looks just like mine!" As I got closer, it was apparent that the entire
    building had been gutted of its doors, windows, and woodwork. Only the brick frame remained, with
    some of it haphazardly removed to help haul out the front door. What also stuck me was how close the
    barn and house were to the road. That farm may have been the reason the first muddy lane was made in
    the first place; it outlasted its original purpose, and is now in ruins.

    David wanted to ride ahead and keep his rhythm. I could hang with him most of the time, but the
    others could not take the hills as fast. I told him I would sheep dog the others in case they got a
    flat or ran out of gas. Denise was the one to watch, not because she was the only girl on the trip,
    but rather, she had the oldest bike, and was pedaling an extra 50% of her normal weight. My bike and
    luggage were only 30% of my weight; David and Jim were also in that range.

    I picked older architectural sites to observe while waiting for the others - usually at the top of a
    hill, in the shade where I could get a drink while waiting to spy the orange of Jim's orange flag,
    and Denise's orange shirt rounding the last bend. There was an old brick church at the top of one
    hill near Smyrna, with Gothic windows, just like those in the painting of the pitchfork-holding
    farmer and his wife. Those windows were in sad shape; and whoever last painted them was rushed and
    did not scrape the over runs from the glass. The handmade bricks were made before the use of
    Portland cement - the same type as are in my house; more like pottery than masonry.

    An interesting story presented itself as I stood there resting, holding my front wheel with my knees
    and sipping some water. Two adjoined outhouses behind the church, marked 'Boys' and 'Girls', each
    looked like single occupancy units, but there was a slab of plywood nailed in between. Was that
    needed to shield the view when the doors opened? The plywood being a new material, was the original
    privacy device recently replaced? I could have been an anthropologist and done more research but I
    kept on riding.

    Dinner at the Salt Fork Camp was on the verge of maniacal; we filled our bellies with a vengeance.
    We were going to have pasta for dinner, but ended up without sauce. Not to worry; a can of chili
    beans was drummed up, and along with a fresh tomato and pepper, a decent meal resulted.

    The night was rainy. As a rookie camper, I kept waking up to look for floods coming into the tent.
    I did OK, and woke up dry. My friends asked how I would sleep on the hard ground like that. My
    answer was, and proved to be, that after 70 miles on the bike, a picnic table looks inviting to a
    tired biker.

    Day 3 We broke camp leisurely, expecting to only cover 50 miles this day. It turned out,
    unfortunately, that we really needed to go about 70, and we would get caught in the rain. I
    cannot gripe about the misjudged distance, as I could have easily looked at a map myself and
    judged the distance.

    Part of the estimation discrepancy was the distance to Zanesville. We were all going to meet there
    so we could all ride at our own pace. This turned out to cause some delays as we gathered everyone.
    In the future I will propose that any group, especially one of very different climbing abilities,
    stay within sight of each other. The riders can also draft each other while close, and are available
    to help with mechanical problems. Plus, it can be tough to self-diagnose when you are starting to
    show signs of dehydration; a co-rider can keep you in line.

    It started to rain, thunder, and lightning as we approached Hebron, Ohio. I later saw a newspaper
    that Heron, Israel was the site of a Homicide Bombing that very day.

    There is a question that you need to ask yourself constantly in those situations: "What are we going
    to do next?" We were wet, had lost track of fellow rider Jim since Zanesville, and were riding on
    some fairly busy roads. We all agreed to get a hotel room and dry out.

    Appearing on the horizon was the dry oasis in our wet desert, "Gangster Pizza." Not unfortunately
    next door was a beer distributor; things were beginning to look up. The delivery guy at the pizza
    shop, who curiously left his car idling the entire time we were there, gave good directions to the
    nearest hotel. We decided we would check in, and call for the food (and beer!) rather than carry it.
    As we headed off to the hotel, I saw why the delivery guy's car peel out of the lot like he was
    chased by Godzilla. The Columbus Drag Races were in town, perhaps he was inspired.

    The food, pizza and conversation that night were excellent, but I must take a moment to categorize
    some of the odd body markings I had at the end of the day. First were the black marks the chain and
    gear grease left on my legs. I had four of them, and was by far the most oiled up of the group.
    Secondly, I had some really funny tan lines on the back of my hands. My gloves have an adjustable
    Velcro strap on the back, with a bit of an opening in between. I did not put sunscreen in there, who
    would have thought? The result was two Stigmata-like red sunburn circles on the back of my hands. We
    were just past Easter, and kind of heading toward the Bible Belt, I did not think much more down
    those lines.

    Day 4 We met a local rider, Jeff, the next morning at the hotel. Jeff led us out of town at 15 miles
    per hour, a lot faster than the 10 or 11 we were averaging before. He did not have any gear on his
    bike, but he weighed about 220 pounds, and plowed a big hole in the air for us to follow.

    There were 40 or 50 riders that meet us near the city limits; it was good to see a big group like
    that on a Friday afternoon, and Jim was in there somewhere. Denise, David and I had a few beers left
    over from the night before. We had ambitiously ordered more than we needed, and fell asleep early
    like tired lightweights should have. We felt rebellious, and broke one open, just as Jeff started
    addressing the group. We were pointed out; of course, I hid the beer in my water holder so as not to
    look like a total drunkard in front of the group.

    Our arrival in the Columbus was pretty big; there were belly dancers on the steps to welcome us!
    What a town!! As is turns out, our arrival was adjacent to the City Cultural Celebration, not too
    bad a deal as we had an even bigger audience and a good supply of curry chicken.

    That really is the end of the interesting stuff. I have purposely omitted the stupid rental car
    stories and body aches, as they tend not to have entertainment value. I will do this ride again in a
    few months; so let me know if you want to hear about it.

    MARTIN KRIEG: "Awake Again" Author c/o BikeRoute.com 79 & 86 TransAms, nonprofit Nat. Bicycle
    Greenway CEO

    Ever wanted anything so bad U were willing to die for it? Really die? By moving thru clinical death
    and reversing paralysis, *I saw God* when I answered that question.

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