Bicycling From Dawn To Dusk

By David Kagan Well, I did it! I bicycled along the Pine Creek Rail-Trail from my Torbert Village home to the northern terminus at Stokesdale just above Wellsboro, and then back again–117 miles, in 13 hours, on a beautiful September 17, 2008 day. Why? Partly as training for my fourth straight year of participation in…

Read More

By David Kagan

Well, I did it! I bicycled along the Pine Creek Rail-Trail from my Torbert Village home to the northern terminus at Stokesdale just above Wellsboro, and then back again–117 miles, in 13 hours, on a beautiful September 17, 2008 day.

Why? Partly as training for my fourth straight year of participation in Lock Haven’s Megatransect on October 4th–a 24.9-mile hike/run up-and-over Bald Eagle Mountain.

Partly because I’ve always been into testing my body to its limits. As a younger man, I ran eight marathons, the 26-mile 385-yard races.

Partly because I just love it out on the rail-trail on a gorgeous day–taking in the sights and sounds of Nature, passing through the small Pine Creek villages, meeting people along the way.

And partly because I’m just plain nuts. I admit it. My wife knows it and tells me so. But after 36 years of marriage, she accepts it, although she probably worries about me more on my “extreme outings” now that I’m 60 years old.

So what was my 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. odyssey like? Rather cold at the start-just under 50 degrees-with me appareled in shorts; two long-sleeved, collarless cotton shirts over a cotton T-shirt, along with a cotton scarf around my neck tucked down into my shirt front; crew-length cotton socks and sneakers; a knitted, cotton “Phillies” cap pulled down over my ears, with a Jersey Shore Fly-Fishing Club cap perched on top; and a pair of bicycle gloves.

As I cycled up past Ramsey and Waterville, a solid blanket of mist hid the sun. I covered 10 miles the first hour, then dismounted briefly to make the first of many seat-height adjustments to try to prevent my posterior from crying out in too much pain as the miles mounted.

Not another soul around. Sailed by sleepy Jersey Mills. Finally, at mile 15 just before the village of Cammal, I caught up to another lone male bicyclist.

We exchanged first names-his was Larry. From Shippensburg, 50 years old, he had camped the night before at Little Pine State Park. Headed for Ansonia, Larry was cycling with loaded front and rear wheel panniers, and a sleeping bag behind his seat.

I appreciated his company for the next seven miles to Slate Run, even though I had to slow down to his pace. At Wolfe’s General Store, we parted ways-he ordering and waiting for a breakfast sandwich, I just grabbing a raspberry-flavored coke.

Pleased to resume at my faster rate, smiling over my small, rear saddlebag’s practically non-existent hindrance to my swift progress, in contrast to Larry’s cumbersome, speed-retarding trappings, I flew past Cedar Run and reached mile 30 at “The Narrows” by 10:15. With the sun now finally starting to break through, I doffed my Phillies’ knit cap and removed my scarf.

Past “Rattlesnake Rock” and into Blackwell. The 40-mile mark at 11:18, just below the Tiadaghton campground. Sun finally fully out. Downed a “Carb Boom” energy gel with water.

For me, the area just above Tiadaghton is the most serene section of the entire 62-mile bicycle path. Where all you hear are the birds, the babbling creek and the wind through the trees. It is truly salve for the soul.

Darling Run Comfort Station at 12:25-50 miles! At the village of Asaph, my stomach began rumbling, as it had been a long time and much calorie burning since my 6 a.m. breakfast of scrambled eggs.

Reached the northern terminus at 1:22 p.m., 58.3 miles from home. About 100 yards to the left on Butler Road, I found a real godsend-the Pag-Omar Farms Market.

Inside, advertised at the counter, was “large, hot fudge, brownie-delight sundae, with whipped cream, nuts and a maraschino cherry–$4.00”! Sold!!

After downing that mouth-watering, mega-caloric, morale-boosting “meal,” and purchasing a bottle of G2 (an electrolyte replacement drink) for the road, I eased back into the saddle at 2 p.m., my stomach my friend once again, and cycled with renewed vigor and confidence southward towards home.

During my return trip, I, of course, made necessary pit stops at comfort stations, and constantly readjusted my seat-height to fend off the growing skin irritation, pain and numbness. As the afternoon and the miles wore on, I believe I almost entered a hypnotic trance at times.

A trance broken by having to stop for a DCNR crew as they dug a hole by the side of the trail for a new fence post, by being startled by a squirrel darting across a fence railing as I passed by, by meeting Larry once again back at the Darling Run station.

At 3:11, I passed the 70-mile mark. My odometer turned to 4000 miles (the distance that I’d bicycled since July 2007). At 4:05 and 80 miles into my ride, just north of Blackwell, I swallowed another “Carb Boom” gel, liquefied down my gullet by my electrolyte drink. The 90-mile mark at 5:07, just below Cedar Run.

Then came some real excitement. Approaching the Hilborn Comfort Station, I saw an adult black bear lumbering along the rail-trail towards me, perhaps 100 yards ahead! I considered bicycling on to get closer for a great camera shot.

But fear, and perhaps good sense, prevailed. I stopped, got off, got my camera, then looked back up. Bear gone! With camera in my left hand, I slowly cycled up to where I had sited the Ursus americansus, stopped, and looked to my right.

Staring at me from the brush, perhaps 20 yards away, was Yogi! Before I could react (either to snap a picture or to flee), the bear crashed through the brush towards Pine Creek and out of my sight.

Disappointed over my failure to obtain evidence of my close encounter, I cycled on, arriving at a closed Slate Run General Store at 5:30. Reached the 100-mile mark at the Cammal General Store at 6:05.

Closed also, and I was thirsty, out of water and G2. A man, who was up on a ladder measuring the store for a new roof, answered my query about whether there was a soda machine anywhere outside the store with a “No.”

As I dejectedly walked away, he yelled to me, “But I could offer you a cold beer.” My heart leapt as I replied with a “Really?” “Yep,” he said.

He handed me an ice-cold Milwaukee’s Best from the cooler in his pickup truck. I shook his hand in sincerest gratitude, and we exchanged names. “Very glad to meet you, John Stoltzfus!”

Liquid manna from heaven! I greedily gulped it down. “Thanks for being a lifesaver!” I shouted to him in parting.

Refreshed and “flying” down towards Jersey Mills, I startled a dark-colored egret just north of Truman Run, and he joined me in flight as he soared over Pine Creek. At 7:13 p.m., just south of Waterville, I passed 110 miles for the day.

At 7:25, with dusk well advanced, and only four-and-a-half miles to go, I rewarded myself (but also because I was quite saddle-sore by that point) by walking my bicycle across the Ramsey Bridge over Pine Creek.

I reached the Torbert Bridge over Pine Creek by 7:50. Less than a mile to go. A celebratory, victory walk across the bridge. Deep dusk. Nightfall imminent. Cricket chorus. Dog barking from a house yard across the creek.

Back onto my bicycle. Home (a shower, some food, my bed) just ahead, as sure as nightfall.