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Abominably Steep Hills

Posted by on Aug 30, 11:23 AM
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The gem of a stay at the Malabar farm freshened our legs (and our hair and skin!) enough to help us push through to Custer’s hometown in New Rumley, Ohio, so small it didn’t even have a store. It was the 3rd of July and fireworks could already Golf Coursebe heard popping and snapping in the hills, which were mostly very rural and lovely Big Cookie(and steeply-inclined and heavily-trafficked). We made berry-stops along the roadside all through the state to supplement whatever we had in our bar bags. After a while we began passing through Amish communities and got a kick out of the men on cruiser bikes. Some of these bearded rascals were actually quite quick! The only downside was that the crude shoulder of the road almost always was littered with horse droppings and the tread of my tires filled with the stuff. We camped with the mosquitoes by the monument to General Custer.

Trail to PittsburghThe next morning we took separate routs to Steubenville, a town near the border of Ohio and West Virginia. I crossed the Ohio River and hopped on the Panhandle Trail, which stretches from West Virginia all the way through Pennsylvania and down into Maryland on old Sailingrailroad grades. I followed it past shimmering creeks and through little old-American towns for about twenty miles, then met our Pittsburgh host who escorted us up another trail for 15 miles or so into town. Bruce’s condo had a view of the city fireworks show that we took pleasure in viewing that evening. He also took us sailing the next day on his boat in the warm sun!

We took the Lincoln highway out of town and boy was that a mistake. Four lanes, cars and trucks hurling and roaring past, and generally poor concrete conditions made me shake my fist in defiance of Pennsylvania in general.

RiggingLeaving Pittsburgh difficult. Not because I had become particularly fond of this city-in-the-hills, but because Pittsburgh streets are just not bicycle friendly. The motorists are speed-happy Nuclearand impatient, the hills are very steep, and forget about a shoulder. We took the Lincoln highway out of town and boy was that a mistake. Four lanes, cars and trucks hurling and roaring past, and generally poor concrete conditions made me shake my fist in defiance of Pennsylvania in general. And, all day the traffic didn’t abate. We were finally, after Waffle Girlmiles and miles, gifted with a shoulder to ride on. I can’t remember any flat stretches…just large hill after hill. Just as you crest the top, you see the top of the next climb, which can really put a strain on the noodle after a few decades of miles.

Just after dark I noticed Randall riding toward me (we had separated earlier) with a car following him closer. Both he and the old man in the car beaconed me to turn around and follow, so I did. Randall had met Frank in a grocery store, a little, thin man with a cheery smile and strong-willed demeanor. Frank followed us in his Cadillac for two miles to his retirement park home that he shared with his grandson. There wasn’t a lot of room in the house (though Frank insisted we take his bed and Frank and the Brosthat he would sleep on the sofa, leaving nothing for his grandson) so we slept in our tents on the lawn. Randall was woken by our host at 3am. He had been out collecting money from anyone and everyone that was awake in the small town of Bedford who was still awake! We awoke at 5am to get a jump on the next day and Frank greeted us on the doorstep with a pile of groceries for us to pick through. “You can take whatever you want!” he would say with a grin. “I like you guys. You’re going to need a follow car for the mountains. There’s no shoulder to ride on!”

I did not want to offend him by trying to dissuade him from driving behind us for the day as a sag wagon so the three of us set out for the mountains. At the top of each repeated 1200ft climb (four or five, one after another…) he stopped and topped us up with snacks. To keep himself busy while driving his large pickup at a 12 mile-per-hour average all day, Frank used his HAM radio and cell phone to contact all of the local media ahead on our route, and in addition he solicited every single person that would listen for funds for the cause!

Best Western StaffFinally, we arrived in the inviting town of Carlisle and stayed at the Best Western Hotel for a well-deserved rest after one of the most physically-demanding days to date. The Tour de France had begun and every day one of my top priorities was to catch some coverage on the telly. So, we kicked back and enjoyed the race coverage with waffles from Waffle House.

Carl had concocted a gourmet treat of french toast made with pound cake…

Harvest Moon RoomBreakfastLucky for us, the mountains were over with and the ride to New Holland was a beautifully-sunny trip the next day. GrapefruitCourse 1We stopped at the Harvest Moon Bed & Breakfast to see if there was room for us and the owner, Carl, affably invited us to stay the night. So, we did not hesitate. The next morning Course LayoutSecond Coursewe were delighted to find a buffet of fresh, homemade granola, fruits, organic milk and coffee awaiting our consumption. But, this was not the main course. Carl had concocted a gourmet treat of french >toast made with pound cake (“We were out of Wonder Bread,” he ironically remarked) with a lemon-ginger glaze and local blueberries, coupled with a locally-crafted turkey sausage. The B&B is thoroughly classic and steeped in a classicly European essence.

Staff at the 309 Deli309 DeliOn our way to Jersey the next day we had to stop for a real Philly cheese steak sandwich before leaving the state, so we opted for the 309 Deli in Hatfield, PA, which lies about 20 miles north of Philadelphia. We stopped and ate them at a golf course and were almost kicked off the course until the proprietress discovered our mission…then she fed us hot dogs and snickers bars and made a donation for the orphans! Reeling with overly content stomachs, we set forth and north, into the great beyond that is New Jersey…


  1. Beautiful photos! :)

    Photo Master · Aug 30, 02:33 PM · #

  2. Really enjoyed the details of “Frank”. Wish that I could have participated in that long day of hill climbs.

    Sure have missed Thai dinners on State Street.

    I’ve never lived so vicariously through one’s blog….you guys have done a fine job on reporting the details that I really enjoy.


    — Stacy Moon · Aug 30, 05:07 PM · #

  3. i am so confused, (8^o
    you are in Cork Ireland
    and writing about Ohio
    Have i missed something,
    like an Atlantic crossing at some point ?

    — Kim Fortner · Aug 30, 08:19 PM · #

  4. Who is this Photo Master? I am grateful for the compliment.

    Thanks for the encouragement, Stacy. It’s makes it much more fun to write when one knows they have an audience! Hope you and Alice are well.

    Kim, we’re way behind but we’re also making a strong effort to catch up. Luckily there is not much to say about England. Just kidding 8). Sort of.

    Andrew Leese · Sep 1, 08:17 AM · #

  5. I’m a critic.

    Photo Master · Sep 1, 08:32 AM · #

  6. Not much to see ?
    When in England how about
    cycling to Glastonbury Abbey ?
    Earliest Christian settlement in England.
    Steeped in legend,
    Joseph of Aramethia brought
    the child Jesus with him to Glastonbury
    and site of the holy graile.
    Visit SSPX chapel, Our Lady of Glastonbury,
    located in Tauton.
    Continue cycling to Alesford Abbey.
    Site where BVM gave St. Simon Stock
    the brown scapular.
    Happy cycling /:^o

    — Kim Fortner · Sep 2, 07:03 AM · #

  7. Thanks for the tips, Kim. I’ll see if we can hit some of those spots on the way out. Let’s just say our first impression of CYCLING in England was less than spectacular. Too much traffic and so many inconsiderate motorists. Stay tuned for a more detailed account…

    Andrew Leese · Sep 2, 10:28 AM · #

  8. I too am impressed with Frank and hope you meet many more like him. God Bless him and you two.
    A lass from CC just arrive at Servi Domini to help out with the orphans. Lord willing she will still be there way off in the distant future when you two arrive…a familiar face from home would be nice about that time, wouldn’t it?
    God Speed to you both!
    Sincerely, C

    — C · Sep 3, 08:52 AM · #

  9. Hmmm, someone we know? Now I’m curious. That’s great to hear, in any event!

    Andrew Leese · Sep 3, 02:28 PM · #

  10. I forgot to mention that I can’t take credit for all of the photos. The good ones are Randall’s doing, for the record.

    Andrew Leese · Sep 7, 11:08 AM · #

  11. Hey there,

    Just wondering how you are doing with your cause.

    Hope all is good. Thanks for the plug.


    Carl Richard Kosko · Sep 8, 10:33 AM · #

  12. Hey Carl,

    We’re raising money at some churches around Ireland at the moment. I believe we are nearly at $25,000 total to date, but that’s not an official number! I’m trying to work on my French language ability so that we can do some fundraising in France but I have to admit that I have a learning difficulty with foreign languages.

    Hope you’re having a good summer!

    Andrew Leese · Sep 11, 06:23 AM · #

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