Afterward

I have a tradition of ending my journeys in catastrophes of one form or another, and this trip was no exception. My dad showed up at my campground around noon with a replacement derailleur. Unfortunately, as the bike shop in Huntington was closed, he had to pick up what was available at Dick's Sporting Goods, which was a 7-speed Shimano Altus. I have a 9-speed cassette, so after a great deal of adjustment, I was only able to get four gears working.

We figured this was enough for the North Bend Rail Trail, so I loaded the bike into the truck and after a brief drive, my dad dropped me off at the trail head. This trail was something I'd looked forward to greatly, on the grounds that it would be two days worth of smooth, car-free riding. It turned put to be car-free but decidedly unsmooth. It's a gravel trail.

It still had its charms, not least of which are its tunnels -- long tunnels in which you inevitably lose sight of anything except the exit, a bright, tiny semi-circle that never seems to get any closer. One of them is supposedly haunted, though I didn't spot any ghosts.

I rode to the North Bend State Park that night, where I camped in 50 degree weather. I wasn't prepared for temperatures like this, so it was a long and difficult night. The next day I took stock.

The day's riding would consist of some 40 more miles of gravel trail, and then unknown highways and hills I probably couldn't climb. The derailleur worked, but it was balky and not much help. Several of the screws in my saddle had disappeared, leaving it to rattle annoyingly. And most alarming, something in my left calf was popping with every turn of the pedals.

My trip was over.

My dad picked me up at nine and we spent the day checking out various locks on the Monangahela. We ate that night at the Say Boy steakhouse in Fairmont, and at eight this morning he put in at Uffington, West Virginia.

There's not really anything more to tell. I do find myself wondering why I choose to do things like this -- it wasn't fun in any traditional sense (mostly), and at moments I struggled with depression and despair. But I can't fathom trading it. These trips give me moments to measure my life against, and it's hard to think what I would do otherwise. Something even more painful and dangerous I suppose.

Anyway, thanks for tuning in. It will probably be at least three or four years before I contemplate doing this sort of thing again, and although I came out of it thinking I should sell my bike, something tells me the day will come again when I find myself out there on the side of the highway.

It's just what I do.