Wednesday, September 8, 2021

Trails and Tails in Pennsylvania

 Dear Friends and Family,

I have not written because the cell service in the campground is weak, and then when Labor Day weekend filled this campground it was non-existent.  Keith said he suspected the band width for the small town of Tionesta was built for normal usage. A holiday weekend, when the population spikes, fills up the available bandwidth.  That makes sense.

I was thrilled to receive a book I ordered to be sent to General Delivery in Tionesta!

And I got a call from Joan who will be my riding partner on the trail.  We made reservations to go to Falling Waters, the Frank Lloyd Wright designed place.  We will go there the day before we start our big ride.  

I am so happy, Joan is going to arrive a day early so we can leave a day early and have an extra day to do the ride at a more leisurely pace!  I was so afraid I wouldn't be able to keep up with the distances, now I am much relieved.

I am going to need to learn more about damage that was done to the C&O Trail from all the rain that hit there when Hurricane/storm Ida went through.  I looked on the Gaptrail.org web site and I hear that they keep their posts current so we will know if there are any areas we need to detour around.  So far it looks good.  

We start riding sometime around 9/20/21.
 

***

I last wrote to you when I was near the Cuyahoga National Park in NE Ohio.  I finished writing, hit publish, and immediately began preparing Lilac for travel.  When I hooked up, my van was right behind a big root on a tree. It took extra gas to pull up a bit so I could get the boards I had put under the driver's side wheel.  When I stepped out I saw I had forgotten to remove the chocks (wedges to keep the wheels from rolling) on the curb side of the trailer.  The front chock was busted.  Oh well, they are easy to replace.  If I am going to make a mistake, (which I know is inevitable on a six-month journey) that was an easy one to fix.

 

So where am I?  Tionesta is a small town nestled between the hills.  We are in the Tionesta Corp of Engineers campground below a big earthen dam on Tionesta Creek.

I am a couple sites over from my friends and Florida neighbors, Keith May and Jean Hawks.  They have been here many times and ridden the rail trails that run along and out from the Allegheny River.  None of the trails are within biking distance of us, but this campground is roomy, full-service with showers and flush toilets, and only $20 a night with our National Senior Pass.

If you want to open a campground somewhere, along the trails here would be a great spot.  They need campgrounds along the trails.  The trails have bicyclist camping areas that are rustic (no water, electric, or toilets even).

The town of Tionesta has a block with miniature shops that sell crafts, gifts, and BBQ and fudge.


On the first evening I hiked up a trail that took me to the top of the dam.  I took a picture looking down at the campground.

Our first day we drove a whole 40 minutes to Emlenton.  That is one of the towns along the network of trails in the Oil Region of Pennsylvania.  We drove there to meet up with Ann and Fred to ride.  

What a delight to see them!  I may have told you that Ann had fractured her hip in April and she has worked this summer to get her riding miles back up.  Last I heard she had done 44 miles in one day!  She is around 78 years old.  What a blessing it is to be surrounded by active and positive people.

 


The part of the trail we rode was lovely.  The big river was on our left and often there would be cliffs on our right with lovely little streams of water tumbling down the rocks.   

Our ride was 24 miles.  Jean had a knee replacement in the spring shortly after I visited her in Mississippi this trip.  She is still working herself up to longer rides and 24 miles was a record breaker for her.  It was a perfect ride followed by a perfect lunch on the patio at Allegheny Grille in Titusville.

Above is Keith and Jean
Jean and Ann
Left to right: me, Jean Hawks, Ann Abeles, Keith May
 
Jean still is passionate about her work as a psychologist.  She teaches and coaches other therapists in a technique for helping those who have experienced trauma.  I think it is EMDR but don't quote me on that.  The next day she had phone consultations so she suggested Keith and I ride again.

Our ride was delightful.  We rode the trail one way and when we reached the town (was it Oil City?) we rode around a bit exploring.  Keith was patient as I wanted to stop and read information kiosks.  I stopped by a pretty church and read the information and as I was reading, Keith discovered it was open and we could go inside.  It was lovely inside too.


Two doors down from the church as another very pretty old church.
Keith asked if I wanted to see the Caboose Motel.   
 
"Sure!" I said.  
 
I envisioned maybe one or three caboose.  I was surprised when we entered an industrial area and came upon a long double-line of caboose.  I think there was probably a dozen different style caboose lined up on two tracks nestled among huge factory buildings.  The factory appeared to be making plastic culverts and pipes.  There was no smell of plastic which is a very good thing for the guests at the Caboose Motel.

Keith said the owner bought out-of commission caboose from different lines and times.  It was quite the undertaking to turn them into comfortable modern lodgings.
Many of them had built on decks for lounging outside.

What a fun find.  
 
We then rode more to an oil boom town that is now a historical park. I learned that Native Americans used to scoop up oil they found floating on Oil Creek and use it for trade.  Then the boom came, some hillsides were stripped of timber and many derricks went up.  Some places oozed oil.  One well blew oil out with such force they couldn't contain it.  They tried to build a pool to gather the oil, but that overflowed.  The creek ran black with crude.
Transporting the oil once they drilled it was an issue.  Carriages drawn by mules over muddy paths was not a good enough solution.  They built boats and filled them with barrels.  The creek was too shallow.  So they built dams to pool the water and then let it out all at once periodically.  Those with boats full of barrels of oil had to rush to untie their boats as the water rushed to carry their cargo downstream.  
 
One time one of the barges got pushed sideways onto a pillar on a bridge blocking the way for the barges behind them.  It was quite the pile-up.

 We crossed, just for giggles, a steel bridge for cars in the boom-bust town of Petroleum Centre.

As we were riding back I saw several derricks across the creek from the trail.  A woman had told us if we went over there we would see about 30 information kiosks.  I am sure there are so many stories to tell about towns that appeared and disappeared after the oil wells stopped producing.
 
There are still small "nodding mules" pumping oil in the area, but most of them we saw were not operating anymore.
The trees have grown back, creating a lovely bright green canopy over the trail. 

Keith said they worked very hard to clean the oil out of Oil Creek.  He said he thought they had to divert the water and steam clean the rock to get the oil out.  The water runs clear now.

***
I took a day to drive 40 minutes to Warren, PA where there was an Anytime Fitness.  I didn't want to lose the muscle I had worked to gain.  I am feeling stronger when I lift the bikes into the car, that will prevent injury, so I want to keep that strength.

I worked out, did laundry, ate my lunch and then drove over to Cook Forest where the brochures tell me I would find old growth forest.  I wanted to stand among trees that existed over 200 years ago.

As I drove toward the parking area I could see a definite change in the forest.  The canopy left a very shaded earth covered in mosses and ferns.



When I told my sister I planned on going to see some virgin forest, she said, "Oh, hug a tree for me!"

A hurricane force wind came through the area in the 1950s (I think) and quite a few of the giants fell.  Some of them the forest service left to show the power of nature.  A lot of debris they removed to protect the remaining forest from forest fire.
 
The trails were well marked.  I took a picture of the map before heading out on the trails.  There was zero cell service so if I got lost there would be no easy way to find my way out.

Even with care, I ran into some difficulty when I discovered I was on the wrong trail one time and had to back track.  
 
One time I was working my way back to my car on a trail, getting thirsty, when a bridge was blocked off.  I removed my shoes, rolled up my pant-legs and waded carefully over the rocks.  I was thankful that I brought my umbrella, it worked well as a cane to help me balance as I tried to find a good place to plant a foot.

The water was surprisingly cold.




A huge rock with leaf litter and ferns growing on top.

Jean's great great great grandfather was the first white settler in an area near where we were camping.  There is a graveyard where he and his wife and some descendants are buried.  One day Jean was to meet up with some distant cousins at the cemetary.  I got to ride along to see the place. 
 
It is an island of history surrounded by trailer homes, and shacks with lots of trucks and ATVs.  Chickens plucked at the gravel road next to the cyclone fence surrounding the graveyard. Jean once had a psychic tell her she had touched her own tombstone. 
 
Jean knew right away she was talking about her great great great grandmother's tombstone.   I took a picture of Jean with her g g g g'ma.

Some of the tombstones in the cemetery had been pushed over by the tree that was probably planted when that person was buried.  Some of the stones are no longer readable.

There is an area with just un-marked stones.  Angie, who we think is Jean's third cousin's daughter, said they were buried in the early 1900's and all died of some disease that was going around then.  Ahhh... a mass grave from the last great pandemic, the Spanish Flu of 1918, I concluded.

Jean, Angie, Butch (Jean's third cousin) and his wife... I think her name was Ruth or Ruby.
At one point Angie looked up and saw a black snake nestled in a tree.  We were taking pictures of it when I spotted another snake slithering down the tree into a hole in the tree.

 I stopped standing under the trees at that point and began watching where I was walking!

We drove together to Titusville to dine together, but it was Labor Day and a Monday.  We ended up at a Subway.  Thank you Jean for buying my sandwich!  I did a good job of assembling ingredients, it was a mighty fine sandwich.

***
While out riding one day a woman told us about a brand new paved trail that goes through Leeper, PA.  Leeper was about a 20 minute drive from us.  

Jean thought it was the best trail she has ever been on.  I think she was loving the brand new smooth pavement, the views of the rolling farm land covered in healthy corn and potato plants.  We saw two other trike riders on the trail, which is unusual for this area.  
 
We encountered a guy at the fruit stand that had to give up biking because of his back injuries.  But Keith had him sit on his trike and gave him "the trike talk".  I hope he gets to enjoy riding again.  He seemed excited to have an option to ride again.




***
Yesterday was another ride with Keith as Jean did some more work at the Courthouse or the Historical Museum in Franklin.  
 
Keith and I only rode 7 miles and were exploring some streets lined with big well maintained 100-year-old homes when he got a text that Jean was done with her meetings. 

Oil made some people very rich.  This was the entrance to a 1000 acre farm with a three-story barn and huge mansion.

We headed back.  
 
It is amazing that I have been riding this trike since 2008 and I still catch myself forgetting to release the brake lock after a stop.  I think I rode a half mile thinking I was riding up-hill and into the wind when all I had to do was release the dang brakes.  This time I had both front wheels locked! 
 
When we pulled into the parking lot Jean was all smiles.  She had met a couple of women who were very interested in her ancestral research and graveyard restoration project.  They gave her their contact information and are interested in helping her when she returns to the area next year.
 
Jean asked us if we wanted to continue riding she would take her trike out of the car and join us.  It was 2:39, I asked, "Is it too early to get a beer?"

"No!" they responded in unison!


Thanks Keith for buying my lunch and beer!  I have yet to have a chance to return their hospitality.
  
What fun it has been to meet up with these friends with a knowledge of the area.
 
I stuck around Franklin a bit to use their good cell service and to let the affect of the 5% alcohol beer wear off.  I am glad I did.  I got to see a bit more of downtown Franklin.  There is a row of houses looking out on the square with this peace fountain that were built in the 1840!

Keith mentioned that the courthouse is unique in that it has two clock towers.

There was a spire by the courthouse that the area had won in a contest.  There was a call for donations of items needed during the civil war for the soldiers.  People in this county or area gave the most and won the statue.  On the sides are listed all the people the area lost during the civil war.




Would you fight to preserve the Union?  Would I fight to preserve the Union?  I don't know, but I do know I could donate many items like clothing and food and tools and money to those that did.  I think I heard of a book recently (fiction) that is the world as if the Rebels won and the Union lost.  

As I was reading the signs I thought of my friend, Mark, who is very interested in the civil war.  His ancestors fought in it and he had visited sights and read many books about it.


***

This morning it is raining.  That is ok.  I have hung my phone in a bag from the curtain rod because it is only up by the window do I get enough service to write to you.  The campground is no longer so full.  

Tomorrow my friends leave the area and I will explore the hiking and biking trails on my own.  And of course dive into the new book I have on the Great Allegheny Passage.   It will be interesting to see if I hate camping and riding 10 days or if I find it awesome and want to do more.  I know I will miss Lilac and I am beginning to worry about leaving her.  I think I will check and see what wheel locks cost at the Auto store.

Now that I finally have some service I was able to arrange for mail forwarding to General Delivery on my route and mail holds until I get home to Inverness, FL.  Oh, which reminds me, the Postal Clerk here has been trying to get transferred to a Post Office around Floral City!   It's a small world, hey?

After my stay in Tionesta I will slowly start progressing south toward Florida.  Hopefully the number of people in the hospitals there with COVID19 will have gone down by the time I reach the state in November.

I miss you Canada friends, I don't know when you will be able to travel to Florida again.  I miss you Florida friends Debra and Connie and Margaret and Mari and Beth and Liz and, and, and.  
 
Soon, soon, but first a few more adventures.



Wednesday, September 1, 2021

Anticipation of Adventures and Meetups in Pennsylvania

 Good Morning!

I started to pack up this morning for moving myself and Lilac away from Stow, Ohio near the Cuyahoga Valley National Park and onto our next location near Tionesta, PA.  Then it occurred to me that I may be quite remote there.  Without cell service or good cell service, how will I let you know about all the exciting things about to happen?  

Before my last post went out I heard from a couple people asking where I was at and how I was doing.  I want to share with you some pictures from my great time with Cindy and Regis Hampton here.  And I want to tell you about... well, other exciting stuff happening.  

First, my time here with Regis and Cindy near the National Park has been wonderful.  I just love these folks!  We feel like family, the kind that can argue around the dinner table with respect and that can sit in silence with each other and not feel the need to talk or entertain.  

If you don't know Cindy and Regis they are people persons.  They used to own a friendly little bike shop where bikers liked to go just hang out.  After we semi-retired and moved to Florida, George went to work helping out in the shop.  He loved it, assembling trikes and talking up trikes and recumbents all day.

Regis and Cindy are retired now.  About once a year they try to volunteer at a campsite.  They are super great at talking with just about anyone with curiosity and respect.  They are still turning strangers into friends. 

When I told Cindy about my short bike ride in a neat neighborhood in Cleveland, she asked if by any chance it was Shaker Heights.  

"Yes!"

She and Regis had visited this area before and knew exactly what I was talking about when I mentioned the big homes and shady boulevards.


Our first full day together we rode our bikes right from the campground and took the trail out and back. 

We stopped to check out Brandywine Falls.






Later in the day I went to Anytime Fitness to shower and workout.   I took some pictures of the new grey plastic dressers and the purple baskets.  I am slowly trying to get color coordinated.  I am sprucing Lilac up.

I had kept my laundry in a bag that flopped on the floor.  I found the perfect size bin (black and teal in the picture below) for my dirty laundry.




In the evening we gathered around a fire that Regis made and talked about our plans for the next day.  We would drive to Peninsula, Ohio (in the Cuyahoga Valley) and ride the Towpath down stream and then use the historic train to haul us and our bikes back up stream.  

But later Cindy discovered the train runs from Wednesday through Sunday.  Our ride day was Tuesday.  A change of plans.

We rode upstream and visited the farmers market near Hunts Farm.  As I anticipated, Regis and Cindy were thrilled with it.  We decided to return on our way back and pick up some more groceries.

The trail goes over a beaver pond with some bare dead trees.  Perfect for birding.  We enjoyed this spot and could have spent all day waiting for the next bird to identify.


We stopped again on our return trip and some woman came up to us and asked if we wanted our picture taken!  How cool is that!

We stopped again at the Farmers market and I got blueberries and eggs.


The day before when I stopped at the farmers market there were two bees on the barn.  As I was leaving a man in a lift bucket was trying to lift the third bee up.  It was quite heavy.

Back at Peninsula, Cindy had picked out the Winking Lizard for lunch.  It was very good!  I got a veggie wrap and one of the side options was steamed broccoli.  Five stars, I highly recommend.


They actually have a rescue lizard with one eye missing.  Hence the name of the tavern.  Pretty cool.

Another really cool thing... I was up on Facebook and our bike friend Rick from the Waukesha, WI area posted an interesting post.  I have not seen Rick since we sold the business in 2014, but I see him occasionally on Facebook.  He posted that his friend in Pennsylvania just published a book on the Allegheny Gap Trail.  This is the trail that I plan to ride with my tent and gear starting September 22nd this year.

He had pictures of some of the illustrations.   I shared his post on the Great Allegheny Passage / C&O Canal Enthusiasts group page on Facebook.  I asked if anyone had gotten the book and what they thought.  Well, of course the author of the book is on that page!  Bill Metzger wrote, "My thoughts are: buy the book. You'll have fun and learn stuff."

Then I got a message from Rick.  He wanted to introduce me to Bill and his wife Pam.  He thought we would really enjoy each other and maybe get to ride the gap together.

I am excited about that possibility too.  Bill's book is beautifully illustrated, he is not only an railroad enthusiast but an artist and cartographer.  So his maps of the trail are lovely.  I couldn't resist, I bought the book and had it sent to General Delivery to Tionesta, PA.  That is where I hope to pick up my mail today.  I sure hope it arrives before I leave that area.  

Next time I travel long like this I will have to hire a neighbor to pick up my mail and send me pictures of anything important.  Because it seems I have not been getting my mail forwarded very well through the P.O.   I sure hope I didn't get a jury summons or something else important that I will be in trouble for not responding.

Ok, one more exciting thing... or two.

Ann and Fred Abeles will be meeting me and Jean Hawks and Keith May at the Allegheny River Trail tomorrow to ride!  Finally we meet up, they have been traveling some of the same areas as I have been only a few days difference.  So I am glad we can meet up.

Did I tell you also that I got a message from Will Byers of a trike riding group from Polk City, FL.  I have ridden with them in the Everglades at least once.  He is having another moonlight ride this November, but I have decided that I really need to be home to get my house ready to rent out and to settle myself.  But I am meeting up with his group on the coast of Georgia.  I will be riding with them on Jekyll Island at the end of October.

Marie is part of that group and will be there!  She is the woman who was supposed to travel in her motor home with me on the first part of this year's journey all the way up to Iowa.  She had to cancel because of health issues, but they are resolved now, YAY! And we will get to ride together in Georgia.  She is concerned about COVID though, two of her close neighbors have or had it recently.  

The vaccines really help people stay out of the ICU and stay alive if they get it.  The thing is, they can still get it and spread it.  So we vaccinated folks still want to be careful.

***

UPDATE!  Regis and Cindy just stopped by to say goodbye for now.  They are heading out  before me.  They told me it looks like the eye of Ida the hurrican, now storm, is heading right for where I am going.  They said it would be best if I stayed here one more night.

I have looked a bit at youtube for news of the Ida devistation, then I have decided that there is nothing I can do about that or the fires out West.  So I am putting my fingers in my ears, closing my eyes, and singing, "la la la."

That had been my plan.  I still have the night reserved.  But what about meeting up with Ann?  I will call her.  She will know what is happening and whether we will be able to ride tomorrow.

I will write to you again when I get to a place with cell service or WIFI and I have time between moving, biking, and happy hour conversations. 



 

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