6/30: State College, PA
Host: St. Paul’s Church, 109 McAllister St
Today is another van day for me, and I will use it as a chance to get in a couple extra stretches and rest my legs. I am accompanied in the van most of the day by Emily, and together we enjoyed a great morning riding past the other riders while cheering them on, and then eventually finding a nice local coffee shop near lunch to talk while we waited for people to arrive.
That all said, van days are a lot of hurry up and wait, and the afternoon was not as relaxing as the morning was. Because of the longer distance, we have two lunches, so the van and trailer rush ahead to set up a second lunch closer to the end of the day’s journey.
7/1: Johnstown, PA
Host: YWCA, 526 Somerset St
Today is probably the toughest ride to date, but it starts out wonderfully at a local delicious coffee shop. It is easily the best latte that I’ve had so far on this trip and it’s from Saint’s Cafe in State College. But after the easy start, the day has a little of everything—big rolling hills in the morning, mountains in the afternoon, a torrential downpour of water, an incredibly steep downhill into the city near the end, and a sizeable overall distance at around 80 miles. By the time we arrive at the host, we can barely pull ourselves together to shower and eat before collapsing on our Thermarests for the night.
7/2 – 7/3: Pittsburgh, PA
Host: Smithfield United Church of Christ, 620 Smithfield St
My knee isn’t behaving itself today. It uses almost any excuse to flare up. A little bit of bumpy road, a steep incline, and a fast gear change are examples of things that my knee disagrees with today. Before I hurt myself, however, I get picked up 15 miles short of our destination because this journey across America is definitely a marathon not a sprint, and I need to make sure my knees will make the trip. Upon arriving, I get a chance to meet up with my old roommate Gabe who is driving across the country back to the west coast and we enjoy a meal together as I recount some of my stories from the road.
Our second day in Pittsburgh is our first day off. We cherish these days off for several reasons. We are allowed to sleep in. We get to do whatever it is we want to and explore the area. And we only get three of these days all summer, so their scarcity makes them quite special. On my day off in Pittsburgh, I start off by going to a delicious coffee shop called 21st Street Coffee, followed by a deep tissue, rather painful massage. I then find another coffee shop to write a little bit and catch up on some of my Bike & Build leader responsibilities before heading to the Andy Warhol Museum in the afternoon. The late afternoon is enjoyed at a converted church that is now a microbrewery. And finally, the end of the day takes us all to a top-ranked Pirates game where they are playing rival Phillies and we get to see the sunset over the city as the Pirates squeak away with a victory. The change of pace today was welcomed and I feel we are all refreshed to start anew tomorrow.
7/4: Cadiz, OH
Host: Presbyterian Church of Cadiz, 154 Market St
We made it out of Pennsylvania! There were times that the hills of the great state of Pennsylvania become a little more than trying, but I feel that we all had an opportunity to bond over said hills through the process of climbing them.
Today was a nice day to leave the otherwise bustling city of Pittsburgh because it being the 4th of July meant that the streets were a little quieter. Pennsylvania got one more laugh at our expense with a couple very nice hills at the beginning of the day, and although I assumed that hitting the Ohio border meant that the terrain would become instantaneously flat, it seems that I have miscalculated a little. It is still fun bicycling over the rolling hills, smelling barbeques on many a porch, seeing wagon wheels on at least every other front yard, and just generally seeing the stars and stripes much more than I am accustomed.
My knee and I weren’t exactly on the same page today, but we both came to at least some compromise. And although the last stretch just before the church was a solid uphill, my July 4th ride can be described as mostly successful. For dinner, the church was very nice to provide us with pizzas. To our surprise, all 12 pizzas were of the pepperoni variety—welcome to Ohio.
7/5: Coshocton, OH
Host: Coshocton Christian Tabernacle, 23891 Airport Rd
I’m driving the van today. The morning is very mellow and I find a lunch spot just next to the cemetery where the great Cy Young is buried. The afternoon is full of running errands such as going to Post Office, to Walmart, and to showers, but overall, it was a nice easy day. In the evening, although it was a day late, we continued our July 4th celebration while we played with sparklers outside in the church parking lot.
7/6 – 7/8: Columbus, OH
Host: Jacob’s Porch, 45 East 13th Ave
In terms of terrain, today was one of our nicest to date. Unfortunately, my body did not make the day as relaxing as it could have been. My knees are feeling weak, and I stop frequently to stretch. Amanda is nice enough to stick with me throughout the day through my rest stops and all.
A couple notable things today are the delicious cupcakes we try around mile 60 that were once featured on the Food Network, and that near the end of our journey we pass the 1000 mile marker since we left Portland, Maine.
In Columbus, we spend 3 nights, which is really a treat because it means packing our bags at least a little bit less. We still need to tidy up at the beginning of the day, but there is no need to try to squeeze everything in our duffels each morning. We have two build days here on the same sites, which means that we get to know the builders and the staff at the sites where we are working and we really get a sense of the Columbus / Ohio State University area.