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The drive to Meyersdale, Pa., proved especially long and boring. Ohio and Pennsylvania offer no views from the interstate other than a constant wall of pine trees. Our only diversion was the voice of our female avatar contained within the TomTom navigational system I purchased recently. Why I had it on in the first place is a good question as the route is no more complicated than get on Interstate 80 for 400 miles until it turns into Interstate 76 for another 400 miles. The TomTom computer makes it interesting, however, as it gives a steady stream of directives to either “stay left” or “stay right.” Especially disconcerting were admonitions to “turn left” as we barreled down the pavement at 70 miles an hour. Apparently its positioning system thinks we have drifted into the ditch or a nearby frontage road.
If that wasn’t maddening enough, in our moment of need, it went stone silent when we finally exited the superhighway and began looking for the local roads that we needed to take us the last 20 miles to Meyersdale, our destination for the day.
It turned out to be a blessing, however, as the lack of direction caused us to look up to see the Pine Inn just waiting to serve up some stretching room and a cold beer in the town of Somerset.
We were soon on our way again and reached Yoder’s Motel in Meyersdale about 6 p.m. After a visit with the gracious Helen Yoder and a quick shower, we were off to dinner at the Morguen Toole Company restaurant, where Sabra had the best salad she has ever eaten. One of her endearing qualities is that nine of the 10 best meals she’s ever had have been served to her in the last two weeks. It’s a blessing of a short memory and an optimistic outlook: two desirable attributes of diners and spouses.
The next morning we were saddled up and on the trail by 8 a.m., heading southeast on the Great Allegheny Passage (GAP) trail. I chose Meyersdale as our starting point because it is only six miles from the Eastern Continental Divide. Although the grade of the GAP is only one percent at most, it’s a lot better to be riding down at one percent than up. It’s similar to the difference between Democrats and Republicans: not much but the Democrats are going in the better direction.
The trail proved to be in great condition and the weather perfect for our first day of riding. After topping the divide, my extra weight allowed me to coast at 12 miles an hour while Sabra pedaled lightly to stay abreast. It was about here that Sabra suddenly realized that she forgot her driver’s license– something she’d need to go on the upcoming White House tour later on our trip.
In short order we found ourselves at the base of Frostburg, Md. This is a beautiful city with only one notable flaw: it’s high on a hill overlooking the Gorges Creek Valley. Weighted down with heavy packs (more about that later), we made the ride nevertheless. We had a nice lunch at the Sand Springs Saloon Steakhouse (Sabra had a chicken wrap, the best she’s ever had) and headed downhill back to the GAP.
Just as I was getting back on my rear tire blew out. I carry a spare tube and a patch kit, but a close examination of the tire revealed a tear. As I put in a new tube and pumped it up a small crowd of fellow bike riders gathered to offer help and advice. After several tries using different configurations of duct tape it became clear that a repair on the spot would not be possible. Sabra walked back to the trailhead to see if there was a sign for a bicycle shop in town. There was no shop but a cyclist in the parking lot offered to drive me and the bike 15 miles to a bike shop and back. Since the Good Samaritan was offering this I saw an opportunity to correct the forgotten license issue at the same time.
At the end of day I wound up with a repaired bicycle and a photo ID for Sabra. We can’t wait to meet Barack and Michelle, and are grateful for the kindness of strangers.