Writer’s bicycle trips created a wealth of stories to tell

When I set off on one of my long bicycling trips throughout the seventies or eighties, the interesting stories that came from them were an unexpected reward.

During my 13 years as a high school Earth Science teacher, I used those stories to both amuse and instruct. I have often chuckled that many a lesson was snuck in the middle of those tales. Now more than a quarter century since my teaching days, I still have former students tell me they remember some of those stories and lessons.

It was one of those inspired students, Jane Gill (who I taught in the mid-eighties as Jane Pruner) who introduced me to Dalton and Blake Weeks. The Weeks brothers finished their own cross-country cycling adventure the last week of July.

How did an Altoona girl come to know two California boys making their way across the country on bikes? One of Jane’s best childhood friends was Dalton and Blake’s mother Heidi Confer, who moved to the Golden State after graduation.

When Jane heard of their adventure, she told me the story and mentioned the possibility that the brothers might come through Altoona on their way to the East Coast. She bought them both a copy of Winding Roads, the book which tells the story of my own transcontinental ride after college graduation.

Though several thousand cyclists likely cross the United States each year, it is, nevertheless, a rather small confraternity. It should come as no surprise that when three people who share the experience get together (even when the trips are separated by four decades), it’s difficult to shut them up.

Last time, readers heard about some of their experiences, made even more incredible by the circumstances surrounding our bizarre summer. Though the ride was in its closing chapters when I spoke to our valiant travelers, those chapters produced yet more crazy tales.

Following a few days in Altoona, the brothers were looking forward to visiting State College and Penn State (especially the Creamery) but were disappointed to find that, like many other cities earlier this summer, the town was mostly closed.

Their trip north to Lewisburg on scenic Route 45 (being from California they called it “The 45”) was “absolutely stunning”, much as I had remembered the ride many years ago. As they contemplated their final few days in the saddle to get to the coast, they calculated it to be 216 miles to their friend’s apartment in the Brooklyn. In one of those insane moments which can often come upon weary travelers, Dalton suggested they do the last 216 miles nonstop.

“Blake was game and what followed was a brilliant showing of perseverance, tenacity, and a true team effort to go out with a bang,” Dalton recounted. The Delaware and Lehigh Trail provided a somewhat saner alternative to the road for the nighttime portion of the trip. “It was absolutely beautiful, but very, very dark at night.” They crossed the Delaware River at dawn, inspired by an “absolutely stunning” sunrise through the early morning fog.

The fairy tale was not over just yet though. Once in Brooklyn, Dalton was introduced to a young lady who had cycled from Texas to Alaska a few years ago. Their first date was a 44-mile bike ride to the beach.

In the next edition of Earth Matters, John Frederick (www.johnjfrederick.com) will reflect upon the 75thanniversary of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings and the relevance of the events in today’s world.


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