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Thursday, December 13, 2012

S24O and Goofus Decision Making: I've got lights!

12/13 49M 239#
Readers of a certain age might remember Goofus and Gallant; Goofus was a bag boy, a recidivist miscreant who provided a "don't be that guy" narrative in stark contrast to exemplary Gallant who was the kid our parents hoped we might become. My decision-making on this ride was more Goofus than anything else.

Goofus pisses the morning away then cheerfully starts in the afternoon.
Gallant starts out earlier than necessary, leaving time for unexpecting issues.

Goofus perseveres with what he wants ignoring the clues the universe provides.
Gallant is alert to changing conditions and adapts with a safety-first attitude.

Goofus bikes in the cold, dark forest alone playing "single-thread".
Gallant reviews lessons learned while watching the sunset.

Goofus puts himself into a shuttered tiny town without planned shelter.
Gallant keeps the Concierge informed of his needs.

Goofus is an lucky asshole with limited life-expectancy.

I planned an overnight bike trip, a Sub-24hour-Overnight (S24O) to have a bit of variation in the ride pattern, to log a few miles, and to nurture my Inner Introvert. I got off to a later start than I had originally intended. Gallant sets out earlier than he needs to, but Goofus procrastinates.

I drove out to the GAP Trail and I wasn't sure where to park in Connellsville. Stopped at the police station and asked where to park overnight, and they said well, at the trailhead, of course. I did see an unexpected mural on that side of the river.

I parked at the northern trailhead, by the stained glass, cabooses and the Adirondack shelters. I believe that in the summer months, there's a wifi transmitter close to the shelters. I started pedalling at about 1pm.

The weather was excellent in that it was clear, bright, cold, and dry. The trail surface was soft and moist due to the rain in the previous days, and there were more active waterfalls than usual along the trail due to the recent rain. The spray from the waterfalls had frozen onto the adjacent plants and it was very pretty, it looked a lot like translucent Chihuly Glass.

By the time I reached Ohiopyle it had gotten colder out, and I stopped for a bowl of chili which was excellent. Back on the trail and it was still quite soft.

In Confluence by 4.30. I put a pair of chemical toe warmers in my shoes, some earmuffs on my head, and got some coffee for my thermos - these were all big helps. I called my destination, the Rockwood Hostel to confirm how late I could get there. The staff was available for checkin until 7pm, and Goofus-me confidently calculated that I'd cover the 18 intervening miles in about 1.5 hours and arrive well before 7pm.

Hah. (For the rest of this saga of bad decision-making, the role of Goofus will be played by Bad-Decision Dinosaur).

At 4.45 as I was leaving Confluence, a man came up to me and asked where I was going; he runs a B&B in Confluence and he had rooms for the night. No thanks, I said, but thank you; it's going to be a fun ride to Rockwood. "Gets dark soon", he suggested. Oh, I know, Bad-Decision-Dinosaur replied; I've got lights!

The 18 miles to Rockwood is really 20 miles, because of the two bonus miles of the Pinkerton Bypass which were not accounted for when the mile markers were set out. The trail was quite soft but starting to freeze in some places where there was a bit of standing water.

It gets real dark out there between Confluence and Rockwood. Between my headlight mounted to my helmet, my 2-watt headlight on the handlebars, and my HID headlight in reserve, I was pretty well equipped. When I ride at night I also keep a small hand-crank light in my pocket, just in case I fall off the bike or get separated from it.

On this segment, I was working real hard to maintain 8mph, and I was not making good time. As I approached the Pinkerton Bypass, at the halfway point, the worklights at the construction scene completely ruined any night-vision I had going - which I can't complain about, because the trail is closed at night. After getting back on the mainland and leaving the Pinkerton bridges behind me, I stopped at a bench with my Thermos and turned off all my lights.

It was a beautiful evening with a tremendous field of stars. It reminded me of being at sea. I drank coffee and ate snacks and enjoyed the moment. Recently DBackLover wrote a blog post about Zen Cycling and a key point was "having an adventure by yourself", and this moment certainly qualified. Although I admit that I had some qualms about being in the middle of the forest by myself in the Deep Darkness, six more miles to the Hostel and I'd be back in the Cradle.

I rode those last few miles and it was OK. A few times I would see the eyeballs of animals in the brush. I got to the trailhead, turned off into Rockwood (which by now had rolled up the sidewalks), and rode to the Hostel. Dark. Locked. Unresponsive. Screwed. Cold. 30F going to 25F. Bad Decision Dinosaur. Gallant ensures he has a place to stay in small towns. Goofus just plunges ahead and assumes. Stupid Goofus.

I took stock of my situation. I had my sleeping bag rated to 25F, I had an emergency space-heat blanket, I had an extra layer of wool, and a few more chemical warmers - I could spend the night outside and not die. I remembered an American Legion Post near the trailhead with cars in the lot and decided to go over there, figuring I could show them my tattoos, explain I was a veteran, and ask if I could sleep in the corner please. I could see having to ingratiate myself with somebody named Dottie and that just wasn't exciting.

As I rode the few blocks over, I came across a sign "Husky Haven Guest House" with a phone number. I called it up, no phone coverage. I moved down the street and got one bar, called it again, somebody answered. Sure, I could spend the night. Sure, they'd be right over to let me in. Better and better.

A lady came out, took me to a B&B, turned the lights on and the heat up, and Damn I was living the dream and rescued from Dottie over at the Legion. Four walls, a shower, hot water, cable TV, hell they even have wifi. I really appreciated that turn of events.

For the first time in my life I got to watch Faux News. That was informative.

Looking back, which is not something I often do, I should have never left Confluence when it was going to get dark in the next half-hour, at 30F, by myself. If I had been flying on a multi-leg flight, I would have recognized GetHomeItis and stopped right there. I made a real bad decision and was lucky to get away with it. I'm going to try to not repeat that.

The bike did real well. 49 miles. Average speed: 9.

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