Other than the normal aches that come along with a 550-mile pedal session, I felt great when I woke up. We were going to have to get off to an early start to make it to Pittsburgh by sundown. I gave AK another hour before I sounded the trumpet at 6 a.m.
We saw my buddy Larry having breakfast. H told us about his previous day’s ride, a solo 25-hour ride from D.C. to Cumberland. I put extra point on his man card for that.
As I talked with Larry, AK got into a conversation with a few ladies sitting at a table just across the way. They looked to be with a bicycle tour group. I had no idea what they all were talking about, but it must have been funny as they all were laughing. I invited Larry to ride with AK and I towards Pittsburgh. He obliged and I passed on my phone number to call when he was packed and ready.
Even though he spun a mean tale with the ladies, AK wasn’t his normal self this morning. He only ate fruit, yogurt, and granola while I smashed eggs, bacon, and whatever else I could stack on my plate. I made a few trips up to the buffet, and stowed a few bagels and cream cheese for later.
Packed and ready, we waited for Larry's call and waited. Maybe he was waiting out front. Nope. “Did he leave without us?” Then I realized, for some crazy reason, I gave him a phone number I hadn’t used in years. I felt like an ass. I searched for his number in emails, found it and called him. He was already few miles ahead of us, so we set off as well.
It didn’t take long to reach Savage Tunnel. After the tunnel, we hit the continental divide, parked our bikes and snapped more photos. This was also the point where we said our goodbyes to Larry. Even though we were riding in the same direction, our pace wasn’t the same. If AK and I were to make Pittsburgh by dark, we had to push.
We flew! I glanced back and thought I saw someone drafting AK. Was that Larry? We rode several miles before we hit a small rest stop at an old railroad depot and I got my answer. It wasn’t Larry, but some guy on a hybrid who had snuck into our slipstream. As big and bulky as our bikes were, I wondered if he even had to pedal.
We started passing groups of people heading the other way. Then a group of ladies zipped past us and I heard one say “oh my goodness, that...” That’s all I heard, but I recognized them. They were the ladies AK was joking with at breakfast. They must have been on a bike tour which started with a bus ride out of town and a ride back to Cumberland.
AK and I relaxed while we waited for our meals. As soon as the burgers hit the table, we immediately asked for the check. Those burgers didn’t stand a chance. With filled bellies we got back to the pedaling. Pittsburgh by sundown would happen.
As I rolled off a bridge onto the dirt again, my rear tire felt soft. It had been two days since I aired up my tires with a gauge. I hit it with a CO2 cartridge and we moved on. Lots of paintings lined the trail. Then again, my rear tire went soft. I wished that my tires could make up their damn minds!
AK and I rolled up to the Tower where we had parked, I reached over and tagged him! “Your it!” We had been playing “surprise bike tag” the whole trip. I sprinted away to the lot entrance, and to the car. AK was only a second behind. We dismounted and gave a high five. “Great ride,” AK said. I agreed.
The whole trip was pretty incredible. I saw more cyclists than ever before on one trail. AK and I passed hundreds of riders, some solo, some in groups, and some riding tandems. The scenery was amazing at times, the whole experience unforgettable. AK wasted no time and asked, “When we riding the Great Divide?”