Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Great Allegheny Passage 2013: 73 miles with 9 kids and 8 adults in 2 days= 1 fantastic trip!



I am the locomotive. Steady chugga chugging up the long long climb from Cumberland Md. to Frostburg, Md. on the Great Allegheny Passage.

The children riding in line behind me, the "cars" of the train, sing a loud and joyful cadence, as only children can, over the soft rolling crunch of the fine gravel path.

"Hey bay-bee"

My five year old daughter's voice, as pure and as sweet and as precious as the rainbows that slide on the surface of a soap bubble, responds - in a quiet voice tinged with excited expectation - from the trailer that I pull up the hill. 

"Someone's calling my name"

"Hey bay-bee"

"I think I hear it again"

"You're wan-ted on the tele-phone"

"Well if its not sister -then I'm not home."

"Hey sis-ter"

Now it's sister's turn. 

The song doesn't end. The call and response goes in circles, naming each rider, until every car in the train has had his and her turn, or two or three or more turns, as we ascend the long steady hill on a warm Sunday morning in July lifted by song and sharing.

The Great Allegheny Passage is car-free path of crushed limestone that goes from Cumberland, Maryland to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Our group consists of  9 children under the age of 15 and 8 adults. We are riding our bikes 73 miles from Cumberland to Ohiopyle State Park in Pennsylvania in two days. The first 24 miles of our route rises 1,754 feet in 24 miles and crosses the Eastern Continental Divide. The grade is not steep but it is still a long steady climb.

For many of the riders - adult and child- this trip will be a longest, or highest or some other memorable first.

One of the adults is shuttling a mini van of food and supplies to our lunch stop. We'll switch drivers five times along the way. In that way all of us get to see almost all of the route.

The weather is July hot, but the path is tree shaded and runs a long a river. Then there are the streams. Cold streams that run down from Savage Mountain and Mount Davis through fern lined gullies. Streams that cool the air and mist us as we ride past. They are not frequent, or long lasting, but like a kiss it is still a thing to be remembered. Together, the trees, the scenery and the treats along the way take the edge off the heat and give us a path through the mountains that is kind to children and forgiving of their parents.

We were a self supported ride. The logistics were planned, primarily by the wives, with the practical efficiency, attention to detail and creativity borne by decades of motherhood. In a flurry of emails and one planning meeting, everything - food,  lodging, entertainment, ice cream (and beer) was accounted for before I fully understood when and where the ride would be. In the end, I defaulted to the role I know best; Sherpa Daddy. Pull the 5-year old in the trailer, fix bikes, lead the bike train or ride sweep, make campfire burn bright. Me ride strong. Me fix bikes. Simple but practical. Hey, what can I say, it works for me.

We stayed in a Hotel, a Hostel and a tent. We picnic lunched  at the Western Maryland Train Station in Frostburg, and the gazebo in the  town center of Confluence, Pa. We swam in the cold Casselman River near the trestle of the Western Maryland train line and crossed a thin viaduct bridge across corn fields and train tracks that overlooked the lush greenery and layered mountains of western Maryland and Pennsylvania. 




All that we did cannot fit into one post. Perhaps it's better that way. Some stories the pictures will tell, some stories are for others to tell, some stories memories will tell and some stories may just wait until a child now under the age of 15 looks back in a few years to remember this trip as something special in their young lives. 


I know that I will.

"Hey Dad-dee"

"Someone's calling my name"

"Hey Dad-dee"

"I think I hear it again"


8 comments:

  1. Sounds like it was a great time with the family. From your words, I can almost see the bike caravan, and hear the song go by.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I have wanted to do this trip for a long time, congrats on your accomplishment. Any pics?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. This is my second time on the GAP. Its a great route. I have lots of pics. This post is the "soft release." It will be updated in the next day or so with the pics once they are uploaded. So check back in a day or so.

      Delete
  3. I was one of those rookie adult riders whose longest ride up until this trip was my usual 20 mile city bike path. I can't tell you how comforting it was to have an experienced rider along. As anxious as I was to actually make the ride (didn't want to hold anyone back), having Nigel along, and the other experienced riders, allowed me to relax and enjoy beauty and the awesome company– well after that first 5 mile wall! HA! Thanks Nigel.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You are quite welcome and great job breaking through that wall.

      Delete