Sprinting though the Allegheny Hills
Today was a really good day. I felt good. The bike felt good. I was rested and motivated and the big miles flew by.
The hills even didn’t seem so huge or repetitive – shock then that more meters were climbed today than almost any other day of this trip so far!
I set a fantastic pace of 23.5km in the first hour. Upon which time almost exactly, I happened upon a diner, so stopped for breakfast.
Friendly folk inside and I got chatting with the locals on a whole range of subjects. The chap immediately next to me was most vocal in describing his vast travels as a Christian missionary.
I try to avoid political and religious discussion immediately with folk just met on the road – all too easy to get into nasty arguments. But this guy’s views on Muslims were just SO wrong I had to call him on it.
Back on the road, I felt slightly annoyed – both that folk can develop such massively warped and bigoted beliefs, and for my debating him – what impression had I left?
Frustration and anger can be great fuel for big miles, and so it was for the next couple of hours where average dropped only to 23.2km/h and 21.7km/h after 2nd and 3rd hours respectively. Which is pretty fast on a laden touring bike.
Oleans is a very beautiful town, nestled amongst the hills with a river cutting through. But I didn’t stay longer than to take some photos. Needed to keep going while I was getting good speed.
Out of Salamanca the road I was on seemed to change to northwards heading, so I stayed true west heading for the Old Route 17 road which more of less continued tack of the main highway.
Except that it stopped being a road. Quite some time ago I’d reckon. After a few miles from Salamanca, I came upon sign declaring the road closed. Which is troublesome for a number of reasons: Do I have to track back these miles to find alternate route?; if the road from town was heading north not west, what are my options then? Decision needed to be made, and a rare passing car stopped and provided my answer – yes, the road is passable and she was just about to drive it. So I went on.
The road continued to worsen and there was zero other traffic! At some point, having lost track of likely distance with the tortoise-pace of travel, I crossed a bridge and said hello to the couple of folk there fishing. No response.
After what I judged to be another mile or so, I saw a single figure far off, coming in the opposite direction. I stopped to check my position on Google Maps. A young guy from the local tribe riding a fat-bike – perfect for this road. Again, I said hello and again I was treated to an impassive response. Except that he then stopped. 20 meters past me. Didn’t look back at me, just stood there astride his bike seemingly messaging on his phone.
Now, I was starting to get concerned. Why (other than condition) was there no other traffic on this road; why are the locals non-responsive to courtesies; if someone wanted to rob me, this would be a perfect setting; what if they take my bike; what if they take my phone?
Convinced there was going to be a “welcoming committee” up the road, I shifted my bank & credit cards to various hiding spots, hopeful that I might be left with one at least.
Turning a corner, a car seemed to take off in the direction away from me. Which confused me as none had passed me and there were no driveways along this road. So was this the start of things going very badly for me!?
It was a connecting road. Finally. And no nasty surprises either. Although the 3 police and Marshall cars sitting in a lay-by not 100m up the road brought back some concern.
Looking back, I saw a sign stating all US law enforcement agencies prohibited from entering except when accompanied by Seneca Indian representatives. No such sign had existed – that I saw – entering from the east. I’m not sure if I was allowed on that road either!
My pace checked, I was making progress again and eventually made it to Jamestown – which had been my target for the day. However, the town is really a meshing together of several towns and villages so creates a fairly large residential area in which camping isn’t generally such an option.
Checking map again I noticed a brewery that a friend, Jimmy Valm, had recommended. And when faced with limited options, alcohol often provides solutions.
Camping at Southern Tier Brewery was out of the equation. The brewery pub was open til 10pm and it would be dark gone 9. But I might as well taste the beer.
Enquiring about food, the customer next to me at the bar (a fellow cyclist) asked in a Scottish accent where I was from and, over conversation, what I was doing, why, and where I was staying, etc.
He was from Shotts, but had been in the US, working as an engineer with Cummins, for over 30 years – yet hadn’t lost the accent in the slightest!
I joined him and his wife, and 2 other couples for my 2nd (and subsequent 3rd) beer. They kindly offered/insisted that I stay with them for the night.
So after all the weight (panniers and tent) was transferred from my bike to John’s wife’s car – and after a final beer – John and I cycled all the way back into Jamestown.
Many many thanks to John Findlay and his wife for welcoming me into their home for a night.