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In celebration of Independence Day, I decided I would start my “hundred bottles of beer” song (that gets me through long hill climbs) at 76 bottles on the wall! That’s what I had in my head as I packed up our panniers and headed for the free hotel breakfast. Frankenbutt headed there first to start making waffles for all of us. When he got coffee first thing in the morning, he noticed that all the elements for a good breakfast were available: waffle batter and iron, peanut butter and bananas. When I arrived at the dining area, a freshly made waffle smothered in peanut butter and sliced banana was awaiting me … YUM! The three of us enjoyed the “a la Elvis Presley” treat.
Before returning to our room, I also took a few apples as road snacks for the ride ahead. Frankenbutt picked up a few treats for Coco and then we all set about the last minute packing and water bottle filling. We got out a pretty good time and then Frankenbutt noticed that Coco’s trailer kennel is starting to fray badly at the opening where she climbs in and out. We decided to check if there was a similar kennel available at the Walmart across the street and there was not; they only had Extra Large or Extra Small soft side Kennels. Hmm, I decided to do a quick “dental floss” stitch up and shop later for a kennel.
We programmed our GPS device to head towards a campground that was about 40 miles outside of Johnstown in the direction of the Westmoreland BMX track. As of the first turn, we flew downhill for about 5 miles, out of Johnstown, though some beautiful winding back roads. We all fantasized about the rest of our trip being downhill like that and laughed, knowing that we’d have some climbs today.
After the 5 miles of downhill, we turned onto Ligonier Pike and did a 2.5 mile, steady uphill climb. When the GPS directed us to turn right onto Menaher Pike, I was hopeful that it would level out … It didn’t. We found ourselves climbing and climbing and climbing and climbing. We’d pause and restart when our knees or backs couldn’t take it any longer.
At the bottom we came into the town of Ligonier and stopped at the Sheetz gas station convenience store and ordered sandwiches for us and pizza for the kid. We sat on the curb, devoured the food and drank every last drop of our water bottles. Before we re-started our ride, Frankenbutt and I went into the store and asked if we could refill our bottles with ice and water from their soda fountain and they very kindly agreed. We also bought a few Clif bars and Power bars to keep us sustained for the remaining 17 miles to the campground.
For the next 10 miles, we had a terrific ride out of Ligonier and onto Route 30, which followed a river on one side. It was cool out and we had a fun, leisurely ride. When the GPS directed us to turn off Route 30, we checked how many miles were left and were thrilled that there were only 7 miles to the campground. It was only 2:45pm. I figured we’d arrive by 3:15 or 3:30 and have time to explore.
Again, I was wrong. The last 7 miles were really tough and almost entirely uphill. UGH! Some of the roads were so steep, even Frankenbutt couldn’t stay on his bike. Old injuries started hurting on all of us and we all got grumpy quick. Then, the sky grew dark and it looked like it would rain any minute. We came upon a convenience store and the Beast announced she HAD to go to the bathroom. She went in while we got Coco out for a break. Soon, the Beast walked out of the store just as a few rain drops fell. We all went into “rain mode”, passing our phones to Frankenbutt to put in his waterproof bar bag and turning on rear flashing tail lights and our personal flashing lights.
We rode in rain and light sleet or small hail … the kind that stings your cheeks when it hits. It seemed like we weren’t getting any closer when we saw a sign telling us the Keystone Park was only a mile away … a mile uphill, but only a mile. YEAH! We arrived and negotiated our way into the camping area. We almost set everything up when a park ranger advised us that we needed to switch to a dog friendly site across the way. We did that and now we are exhausted and ready for bed. It’s only 7pm.
FYI, According to our GPS device, we climbed 2800’ today.
There were only 22 bottles of beer left on the wall.