I slept pretty well last night, even though we were serenaded several times by coyotes off in the distance. I awoke this morning a bit tired, but excited. Today marked the beginning of the 2nd half of this trip. It also was the day I targeted for a 1st for me - my first 100 mile ride. I have had a few 80 & 90 milers, but never a 100+ mile day. I certainly had never ridden anything close to those distances, after the 3 big days I have just gone through. But, I was feeling confident, as everyday I have performed better. Combining that with my performance yesterday on Denton Hill, I was feeling pretty confident, but that does not mean I was not feeling a bit nervous.
With that as a backdrop, I began to climb out of my tent feeling prepared, only to discover that fall weather had visited early - it was 37 degrees! Now I have biked in low 40's, but with the proper winter clothing, but of course I did not bring that with me. It was now time to think up plan "B".
It was going to be a long day. I figured I would need 7.5 to 8 hours of riding time to complete the scheduled 110 miles. I also need 1 to 1.5 hours to eat and replenish my water supplies. I also have an appointment along the way for a newspaper interview. in Warren, PA. In total, I need up to 10 hours to make this happen. I also don't want to be setting up camp in the dark. Sunset is around 7:30 PM at the campground in Corry, PA, so I figured I needed to be in Corry by 6:30 PM. Working backwards, I needed to leave no later than 8:30 AM to make this happen. It was already 8:00 AM - decision time.
I decided I need to leave ASAP, so we quickly broke down camp. I put on some extra jerseys, and put on my rain gear for wind protection and to keep heat in. We headed back towards Coudersport to start today's journey where I left of yesterday, in front of Olga's Gallery, Cafe & Bistro. This was 7 miles in the opposite direction, but I wanted no shortcuts. There are no shortcuts for those with Narcolepsy, or MS. For that matter, there are no shortcuts for anyone that suffers from a disease. If I made the entire 110 miles then great, if not then I just adjust - just like my son and sister often do.
At 9:00 AM, I started to peddle slowly down Route 6 through the center of Coudersport. The fog was thick, and the temperature was only 41 degrees. Today was pretty straightforward - survive the first 45 miles; which is basically constant climbing and from there, the climbing is done. The effort of climbing should help to keep me warm from the cold. Theresa and I planned to meet at the top of the climb in Mt. Jewett to make sure I had water, and then again at mile 50 in Kane, PA for lunch.
The hills stared right away, but there were some short down hills as well. It was cold for sure, but my rain gear was doings its job to keep me warm. The road was filled with lots of turns and switchbacks. The fog was trying to burn off, but it continued to linger. Even with the cold and the fog, I was in awe of the beauty of the land. The road was constantly taking me through state game lands and forests.
I passed through Port Allegheny around mile 18, and the road turned more eastward. Around mile 22, the hills started to get steeper and the fog started to give way to some sunshine off and on. Around mile 25, the steep hill gave way to an even steeper downhill. This was a welcome break from the climbing, but it was also the last relief before the final 12-mile climb to Mt. Jewett.
The road was quite steep at times, but it was also in great condition. Several times cars would pass honking to give me support. The sun had also finally broken through and the temperature was in the low 70's. I finally was able to take off the rain gear and give my total attention to pedaling my bike. At last I saw a sign welcoming me to Mt Jewett - the summit there - mission accomplished. It was here that I was also forced to take a break, as the roads in downtown Mt. Jewett were undergoing repaving. After weaving my way in and out of paving equipment, I found my wife. She was talking to a local man about the town, and my ride. I gave him one of my Wake Up Narcolepsy wristbands, and he wished me well. I got some water from Theresa to refilled my bottles. I need to start back up as Kane was just 8 miles down the road.
I was barely out of Mt. Jewett when a man wave to me and said, "Can I ask you something?". I said sure and I pulled over. He then asked, "Are you that guy on the bike that I read about in the paper?" I of course said yes! He said he didn't want to keep me, but he wanted to say that he was impress with what I was doing, and he wanted to shake my hand. I thanked him, shook his hand, and was once again on my way. I pushed off with a big smile on my face, and felt really good that my message was being heard!
So let's fast forward to Kane, PA. I am sitting once again in a Subway with my wife. It seems like Subway is becoming my unofficial eating establishment of choice. The climbing was behind me, and I was feeling like I could actually complete the full 110 miles. I had to phone into a conference call for work. At the end of the call my wife asked if she could say hi to my colleagues. Since she knew them, I gave her my phone. She then announced, it's our 29th wedding anniversary and we are at a Subway in Kane, PA. OK, yes I forgot, but in my defense I have been a bit occupied "AND" I truly thought our anniversary was tomorrow. While this wasn't the most romantic anniversary date, we were together and working as a team!
With the embarrassment over, it was time to get back on the bike. I wasn't quite at the halfway point for today, and I needed to stop in Warren, PA for an interview. With the first 40+ miles being mostly up hill, my average speed was only 13.5. I needed to pick it up a lot, if I wanted to have the interview and make it to Corry before nightfall. With that incredible anniversary meal in me, I was fueled and ready to go. Warren was 30 miles away, and the wind had died down. I quickly got into a comfortable pace around 18 MPH, and made it to Warren in an hour and 40 minutes.
I met with Rob Anderson, a reporter for the Times Observer in Warren, PA. Rob initially picked up my story from the press release that the Route 6 Alliance shared with towns along my route. He wrote an article about my ride before I started, and invited me to stop as I came through town. I spent around 45 minutes with Rob discussing my ride, and he published a second great article. This was an amazing experience in a beautiful, small town, but it was a little after 4PM and I need to get back on the road. I was refreshed and ready to finish strong with about 28 miles to go.
The road certainly wasn't flat, but it was a nice rolling ride. The weather was perfect and the sun was shining bright. My pace continued to be strong. With each passing mile, I knew I was going to make the 100 mile ride goal. I started to see signs for towns that I knew very well, and my smile seemed to get bigger with each passing mile. Around mile 95, I saw a sign that said, Corry 16 miles and Titusville 22 miles. I had to laugh. Here I was only 22 miles from my hometown, and I am still 2 days from reaching it. I have to tell you that a part of me was a little tempted to take that left turn and head into T-ville!
I was only 5 miles from completing my first century ride! The music I was listening to was driving me even harder and my pace was now around 20 MPH. Seeing my computer showing 100 miles felt incredible! I am also pretty sure that I let out a few loud superlatives! Without a doubt, I was enjoying an adrenaline rush but unfortunately, it wasn't going to stay with me the remaining 10 miles to my campground. My pace began to slow, but it wasn't taking away from my happiness of my achievement. Around 6:15 PM, I rolled into Corry's Harecreek Campground. The day ended with 110 miles, 4,377 vertical feet of climbing, 7hrs 16mins of pedaling, and averaged 15.2 MPH. I was pumped, because I averaged nearly 19 MPH the last 67 miles.
Theresa was already at the campground waiting for me. As an added surprise, she was on the phone talking to my sister with MS. She has been checking in just about every day. All that remained was a warm shower, a good meal, and a well deserved night's sleep. I have never been so tired and so alive all at the same time. Four days down - two to go. Goodnight. Happy anniversary Theresa - I love you and thanks for all your support.