Saturday, June 30, 2012

Lions and Tigers and Bears...Oh MY! WV

Having survived that freakish storm,  night was in full force.  Not seeing well at night, I thought it prudent that I stop for the night, especially since I was leaving the highway and getting on local roads; I did not want to navigate wet, winding West Virginia roads in the dark.  I pulled up to a Holiday Inn, only to find it full.  Many others were also taking refuge for the night.  That left the Super 8, where the only room left was a business

I won’t go into that story now, but that was the hotel from Hell!   Enough so, that I requested and got token refund on the room and also spent time writing a negative review on Trip Advisor….something that I don't normally spend time doing, but people needed to be warned….   After a multitude of other events, what finally broke this camel’s back was when I was awakened at 1 am by a woman pounding on my door and trying to get in. 

What do you want?”  I yelled.

“It’s the hotel staff, “ came the reply, “We just needed to find out if this room was occupied.”

"Go is occupied!",  I retorted.

Are you kidding me?  I approached the desk the following morning and told them what happened.  The woman said,

“Oh, that was me.  The boss told me to do that.” 

To which I replied, “You’re luck you didn’t get shot.  I sleep with a loaded gun on the nightstand!”

Don't mess with Texas
She visibly paled.  I think that might have had something to do with receiving the discount. 

Not sure where I was exactly, I left the hotel early, and with time to spare; I was to meet a group riding from the courthouse in downtown Morgantown.  After plugging the address into the Gramin, I was chagrined to discover that I was 5 short miles away from destination.  I could have spent a comfortable night with my WV host, Tracy.  

Like a good mother hen, Tracy called to check on me as I was driving around downtown Morgantown.  She must have good instincts because I had been driving around and around the same block trying to find that stupid courthouse!

“It’s right by Pathfinder, the bike shop where my boyfriend works.”,  she instructed

And I looked….I had been past Pathfinders several times….this time I saw the BIG red brick courthouse; it was in plain view.  How I never noticed it before, I have no idea…..things that make me go ‘hmmm’.  No matter; I was there with time to spare.

Ten o’clock came and went; no one showed.  Now what…..  

I am finding on this trip that one has to be flexible and change plans on a dime.  In an odd way, this has been quite liberating.  I had planned to ride the Decker Creek trail tomorrow, but I could do it today,  if it wasn’t trashed by the storm.  I could cross that bridge when I came to it, though. 

First, I was going to go to the bike shop and see if they carried cleats for my shoes; mine had worn out and were being held to the shoe by a hangnail of metal.  (That was a scary discovery; the result of that clip failing could have been disastrous.)   I had been unable to find anyone that carried that clip in my last two stops and riding with it in that condition worried me.

Not seeing any on display, I approached the young, long-haired, friendly bike mechanic.  I showed him my shoes and clips; he visibly shuddered, but pulled out exactly what I needed.  Bingo….I hit pay dirt.  He even had the tools to remove the old one, which required a Dremel tool as the screws were so worn that a screwdriver was rendered useless.  Yippee!   I could ride safely now!

This cleat should have looked the same on both ends.  As you can see , there is nothing left of the top.
As the drill sang "zing, zing, zing", cutting through the worn screws, I got a status report of the trail—one of the mechanics had just cycled in on it.  A few downed trees, but it was in good shape.  Double yippee!  An hour later, I was on my way.

The trail was beautiful.  Once out of the city, the pavement stops and the trail surface becomes packed dirt with gravel the size of kitty littler.  A bit nervous to be riding a full carbon bike with skinny tires (23s) on a trail,  I rode at a cautious pace, gingerly navigating the trail.  I truly had nothing about which to be nervous; the trail was wonderful and very stable.  

Alone on the vacant trail, all I heard was the crackling crunch of my tires as they rolled over the fine gravel, the rushing water of storm swollen Decker Creek and the birds singing throughout the forest canopy.  I cruised past a huge working quarry, that looked like something out of Starwars, abandoned mines and coke ovens, passing wonderful rustic churches, all the while being serenaded by the water of the creek and the birds.
Beautiful packed gravel path
The rushing Decker Creek
Old church, still in use
As I let my mind drift, I became aware of just how alone I was....all alone...all alone...all alone  Those words beat a cadence in my mind and my imagination jumped onboard,  expanding on all the possibilities those words held, batting them around like a cat plays with a mouse. The mind is a powerful thing, and as those words bounced around inside of my skull, I began to feel the tendrils of fear creep into my peaceful ride. All sorts of "what if's" began to pop up.

I have had a number of nay-sayers pepper me with their fears and concerns about my traveling and riding solo.  Until this moment, I had shrugged off their suggestions of danger lurking around every corner, but now those voiced opinions and concerns came tumbling off the shelf on which I had placed them, like plates in an earthquake.  Anxiety welled in my chest.  I felt like Dorothy walking through the Haunted Forest in the Wizard of Oz, waiting for the Flying Monkeys to appear.   

....All alone....all alone....lions and tigers and bears...oh my....

As in Macbeth, I mentally shouted "Out, damned spot!"  to those words and fears........(I'm not sure the context was right, but the intention was clear....) and they sulkily crept away.  I knew they would be back if I let them, so I turned my focus back on the ride and the tranquility of the woods.

Successfully keeping my fear subdued, I continued down the trail; unfortunately, I was unable to ride to the end. The storm had taken down trees, which blocked the northern portion.  I hiked around a few of them, but finally came upon a fall that was beyond navigation. Turning my bike, I headed back the way I came.  Having only ridden a few miles, I ran into a crew clearing the trail. I must say, I was quite impressed with how quickly the issue was addressed.  These trees hadn't even been down eight hours...that would not have happened in Dallas.....

Fallen trees from the derecho storm that hit the area
Crew clearing the way less than 8 hours after the storm.
My untimely return left me a few miles short of the self-imposed mileage I needed to accomplish my goal.  To up my mileage, I continued on the path as it wound through downtown Morgantown.

Now, let me tell you a little about Morgantown; the hills there are equal to those found on the streets of San Francisco.  As I approached the particularly steep and well renowned climb, Spruce St, I stopped and watched two lithe, well-muscled young men, in full matching kits, struggle up the steep grade.  When one went down due to his slow pace and inability to unclip fast enough to save himself, I did a U-turn.  Not that I couldn't do it, mind you....I just didn't want to embarrass the boys by passing them.  (if you believe that, let me tell you about some land I have in Florida....)

I was on my Pinarello, affectionately known as "Baby"..... (Most people think that is her name because as I climbed steep grades, they would often hear me shouting "Come on, Baby!", mistakenly thinking I was talking to the bike.......I am really referring to myself.  Sheepishly, I have let that misinterpretation stand).......and the gearing on that bike is meant for flat, performance riding. There was no way my engine (aka my legs) had the power to get up a 20% grade with that set up. I wasn't going to even try; I had nothing to prove and much to lose.

I turned and flew down the hill I had come up to reach Spruce St, through the WVU campus, and back on the FLAT trail that ran along the Monongahela River  (try saying that three times when you're drunk).  Mileage complete, I was tooling along, well aware that my saddle sores were not happy, wondering what I was going to do about it, when I came upon a bike shop tucked in under bridge.  Odd, but clever place for it....I assumed it catered to people wanting to rent bikes for the trail.  I buzzed by, but something beckoned me back....namely the pain of my sores.  Perhaps, just perhaps, they would have bike shorts with a chamois my current ones lacked and that would relieve the chaffing.

Well, today I hit the trifecta in good fortune; this was a full-fledged bike store, carrying higher end brands. (Wamsley Cycling) What an unexpected surprise! With the help of owner, a petite, cordial woman, I found some shorts that just might do the trick; they had a chamois extending well down the leg, with little padding and high tech fabric.  They also had a high price; Deborah graciously discounted the shorts to effectively give me a two for one price......and threw in a free water bottle on top!  I just love free stuff!  Thank you, thank you, thank you!  West Virginia certainly excels in friendliness!

So, what started out as ride that continuously threw curve balls in my planning, turned out to be a wonderful and enjoyable experience.
Deborah, my saddle sore savior, and head mechanic, Colin.
Chip, Deborah's husband
And, of course, I stopped to take a picture....
Abandoned railroad trellis
More scenic beauty of the trail
Tracy's dog wasn't sure about me
Tracy and BJ, hostess extraordinaire
What a nice welcome!
Trains are everywhere
Gravel quarry
Part of the quarry system.  It was huge.
Old coke ovens

Come, take a ride with me on the Decker trail

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