Monday, September 13, 2021

A Daring Ride to Jim Thorpe

Some weeks ago, I invited you to join me on a Sunday bike ride to Jim Thorpe and back. Yesterday was that day. A few of you contacted me, but I honestly had no idea who would be at the Cementon trailhead. Believe it or not, at the ungodly hour of 9 am, four of you were there. It was a great day for a ride along the most beautiful stretch of the D&L Trail. It also became quite an adventure. 

Three of the group were only able to do a portion of the ride and turned around after about 10 miles or so. That left me with one other rider, an Air Force captain. My plan was to ride into Lehighton and turn around there instead of going to Jim Thorpe because Tropical Storm Ida did quite a bit of damage to the canal towpath at Weissport. Parts of the towpath were rumored to be littered with frickin' boulders the size of Blue Mountain. I was bike riding, not mountain climbing. 

Unfortunately, the Air Force CPT outranked me, and wanted to ride into Jim Thorpe and have lunch. He had his wife's credit card, and offered to buy, too. I accepted. 

As you go into Weissport along the D&L, you have to turn off and go up this switchback hill. It is well-marked, but easy to miss. I know because I missed it a few times last year. But I was now a guide and had no problem pointing it out to the aviator on a pre-electric Townie. I kind of felt like Davy Crockett. 

After ascending the hill, you cross a bridge that takes you over the Lehigh River and into the bustling metropolis of Weissport. I hopped into the bike lane, cranked my Cannondale Trail 5 into 10th gear, and flew across the bridge, down a hill, and up a hill to the towpath. But when I turned around, the Air Force was nowhere to be found. I actually backtracked a bit and still didn't see him. Eventually, I got a call and he had somehow lost me. He never saw me when I wizzed by, probably because I broke the sound barrier. After providing directions, he caught up with me.

Just as he was doing so, another guy was leaving the tow path on his bike, having come from Jim Thorpe.

"How's the trail"? I asked.

"Don't do it!" warned the cyclist. "There are rocks and washouts everywhere. It's too dangerous."

Now the guy who gave us this warning had just ridden a trail he considers too dangerous. What's more, the bastard had only one arm. 

"If some guy with only one arm can do it, I think we can do it," said my comrade.

"Yeah, but maybe he lost that arm doing the trail," I answered. 

Like idiots, we forged ahead. Sure enough, there were rocks and washouts everywhere. In fact, I saw an arm lying on the path at one point, waving at us. But we continued in true military fashion. I was feeling quite manly, like Hannibal crossing the Alps. Then we were passed by a few 80-year old ladies who jeered at us as they sped by.   

"Eat my dust!" cackled one of them.

Eventually, we made it to Jim Thorpe, the Mecca of Lehigh Valley cyclists  While there, I posed in front of a gigantic black lump that looks amazingly similar to, though slightly smaller than,  my usual morning deposit. It's anthracite coal. 

We ate at Molly Maguires, which fortunately had no Irish cuisine The Air Force dude kept calling it Murphy's, and when I pointed out his error, he said, "You Irish are all alike!"

That's true. We're all quite gifted, except when it comes to food. Seriously, does mutton sound like anything anyone in his right mind wants to eat? But it is better than haggis, a food created by a dare from none other than Satan himself. 

After lunch, the ride back is pretty much downhill. We were tooling over those rocks and washouts when, suddenly, the Air Force dude realized his saddlebag had been knocked off his bike. In it was his wallet, phone, car keys, a few sidewinders and, worst of all, his military ID. If he loses that, it's a firing squad. 

He quickly turned around and found his bag, which was apparently being dragged away by that lone arm.      

From this point, I tried to stay behind him in the event his bag fell off again. 

My main fear along these trails are the rocks and ruts. His are snakes. He hates them, although he admitted to eating a few on some survival mission with the Air Force.

Snakes never bother me. 

Professional courtesy.

We continued along and then, about three miles from the end of our ride, "Pffffffft!"  The Townie's front tire went flat. Some snake no doubt bit his tire, especially after he admitted to eating them. 

Fortunately, he had a tube and was able to repair it in a few minutes. If that were me, I'd probably still be there. I did help with the pump and provided lots of sage advice. 

All in all, the ride was a blast. What's sad is that the leaves are turning color and there will only be a few left before it becomes to cold. 


Anonymous said...

Very entertaining account. That detour in Weissport I had no idea about my first time, and I ended up in Lehighton. Have eaten at McGuire's. My last couple times I have gone up the hill a bit to the firehouse - good grub. I can't recall the name of it. You're pretty hard core, Bernie. Ripped, no doubt. Not surprising others can't keep up with you.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Lol Those two old ladies had no trouble.

Anonymous said...

Yesterday was a beautiful day to ride. I was at the Cementon Trailhead looking for you with two others. Since we did not see you, we left at 9:00 and biked to Lehighton because of the condition of the towpath at Weissport. When we were on the way back, I saw you. Sorry that we missed you, but glad you had a good ride. Waiting to bike the Abandoned PA Turnpike with you.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Pathfinder, I'm sorry I missed you. There were four people waiting for me at 9 am. i was a tad late and got there around 9:10 am. Next time we will have to exchange numbers so we don't miss each other.

Anonymous said...

you need and electric mountain bike

Aarohed said...

That was entertaining! Good piece.
I love Jim Thorpe. Go there for DUI court often and eat there also. Next time try the ride from there up the river. It fun when the train passes you and you try to keep up!!

Bernie O'Hare said...

Lol, I’ve done that!

Anonymous said...

Stop drinking and driving.��

Ed K said...

Great story. I was on the same trail yesterday but I started at the Nature Center north of Slatington. Wiessport was bad and not impassible. The one small section with the boulder, I walked my bike around. Overall a bumpy ride and I am glad I was not on a road bike!!

Bernie O'Hare said...

Good point, lol.

Anonymous said...

What kind of bike do you ride. I am your age and want to start riding. What do you recommend

Bernie O'Hare said...

If you are new and my age, I’d recommend either (1) a pedal-assist ebike or (2) a hybrid you can use on either road or trail.

The Cannondale Trail 5 is actually a mountain bike but I like it bc it has 29” tires and they are wide for rougher terrain. This bike has made me faster on my hybrids. You can pick up a decent hybrid at a good price at Facebook Marketplace