Ellwood City to Meadville

Thanks to my host's profession as a high school teacher, my day got off to an early start. By 7:30 am I was on the road. People who know me know how impressive that is. I embarked on another challenging day of riding. 

The challenges were both physical and mental. Physically I was struggling with all of Pennsylvania's rolling hills. They are beautiful, but they are also exhausting. Mentally I was struggling with the discomfort of being constantly overtaken by trucks. As I rode North on state route 19, drivers made few considerations for me. Each time I felt the gust of a tractor trailer my anxiety grew. It occurred to me that if I felt this unsafe the entire time then there would be no way I would make it to the Pacific. 

I arrived at my destination, Meadville, in the early afternoon. Little did I know that my day was far from over. My first move was to wander into the French Creek Valley Conservancy. The purpose for the visit was to inquire about places for me to camp out that evening. The staff were very helpful in pointing me towards the Woodcock Creek Lake Campground.

My first flat

My first flat

After getting directions, I head out to discover that my rear tire had gone flat. No problem! I had a spare tube and the weather was nice. I wandered around the corner to Diamond Park. There I broke down my bike and installed the tube. I gave the new tube a few pumps, then POW! It completely exploded. What the heck was going on? I grew perplexed. There was a bike shop down the road, but it was about to close.

A motorcyclist saw me on the side of the road looking like a fool with my bike scattered all over the place. He offered to give me a ride to the bike shop. Awesome. I hopped on his ride. He asked, "You ever ride on a Harley before?" This was my first time on a chopper. It was pretty bad ass.

He continued, "Usually I make guys hold a gas can when they hop on this thing so people don't think we're on a date."

I had an entire entire bike wheel and tire in my right hand. I responded, "I don't think too many people are going to have questions about what is going on here." We both laughed. 

I had mixed feelings about the bike shop. I got the sense that they upsold me a tire I didn't need. I cant get too mad at the place though. They did get me the right equipment to continue my journey. Plus, in the end of the day, I (emphasis on the 'I') am responsible for ensuring my bike functions properly.

That's a great lesson I'm learning from this trip. I have no one to blame out here besides myself. 

This whole tire-fixing outing lasted way longer than it should have. Something like three hours. I needed to have dinner and get to the campsite. I grabbed a sandwich at the Pennsylvania Sandwich Company and Pizza Co. This place rocked. The owner, Mark, was nice enough to let me stash my bags there while I ran around like a chicken with its head cut off trying to fix my bike. I then had a great Vietnamese Bahn-Mi sandwich. My pallet needed this exciting meal after all of the burgers and pierogis I had been eating lately. 

The sun was setting so I sped out of the restaurant. I really wanted to get to the campsite before dark. Did I accomplish my goal? No. I got lost. Again. My supposed 45-minute ride took closer to an hour and a half. It came complete with at least two excruciating climbs, one going on for over half a mile. 

The campsite at Woodcock Creek Lake was beautiful. The night sky was completely illuminated by the nearly-full waxing moon. It was as if the moon was a night light. In all honesty I could hardly enjoy the moon because I was so cold, filthy and paranoid. That night I slept in thirty minute intervals. As the temperature dropped I felt more and more ridiculous. At one point it became so cold that I couldn't feel my toes. They were numb. What was my ingenious solution? I mashed my gloves onto my feet, jamming my toes into the tiny finger holes. 

Woodcock Creek Lake 

Woodcock Creek Lake 

I woke up the next day with gruesome bags under my eyes, frost-bitten toes and a severely damaged ego. On to the next adventure!