Musings of a biker

Why should you bike instead of driving a car? Car moves the body, but bike moves your soul. One with the bike, you are.

After a very long time, I decided to go biking for a short stretch on the Great Allegheny Passage (GAP) in Pittsburgh.  It it a beautiful and fairly flat stretch that runs from Pittsburgh to Washington DC, but that’s not the long route we traversed. We instead went for a total of 15 miles up until McKeesport and back.

I agree. When you are alone on your bike, you tend to get extremely philosophical. Seems like life is pretty much like biking. It really isn’t about the final destination, but more about the journey. Reminds me of this professor’s story who biked from west coast to east coast and found that the ups and downs of his life were similar to his biking experience.

After the annoying sounds of fast moving cars, we slowly move into the wooden areas which is flanked by green trees on one side and the Monongohella river on the other side. It’s quite a beautiful site, particularly late in the morning, when the sun rays bounce off the waves of the river to create a shimmering effect. Added to this is the multitude of factories on the other side of the river. Pittsburgh was once a steel hotbed. Andrew Carnegie, founder of CMU was a steel giant. No wonder Pittsburgh was called the Steel city of USA. Often reminds me of my own home town, Vishakhapatnam.

You know, Homestead is quite a famous historic landmark. One of the first strikes for labour rights was held here almost 100 years ago. Can you see those smoke stacks beside AMC? Yeah, they are remnants of a steel factory of a bygone era. Doesn’t Pittsburgh seem more and more interesting by the day? You should also read about the French English wars here.

The ride started slowly and stayed so through the journey. I was particularly keen about riding slow and enjoying the really nice weather. We started off with quite a cloudy weather but luckily it turned sunny, but the atmosphere was still cool. We rode across the waterfront towards Kennywood roller coaster park. We were wondering if we could jump the fences and take a ride in the empty roller coasters, but decided against it, considering the impractical propositions of ours and a danger of getting razed to ground because of the high voltage transformers.

Do you like trains? I love anything technology. When you go ride from Pittsburgh to McKeesport, you will come across a lot of tracks with running trains and abandoned trains. It almost feels like those compartments want to tell you a story, but are so rusted with time and weather that they are just sitting there and lamenting their static life. Isn’t it rather interesting how we crave to associate a story with everything we see?

After Kennywoods, it was a short stretch to McKeesport, and the marvellous weather only meant that we were all excited to traverse it in good speed. We reached McKeesport soon enough and sat at the bus stop for a while wondering if we should take the bus back home or, considering that the route back is somewhat downhill, bike back. We decided to bike anyway, and I was glad. On the way back, I was particularly excited to see a goods train beneath us when we were riding our bike. Interesting thing is that, due to the wooden planks on the bridge, and thanks to the fully filled tyres, I was constantly being shaken. Bizarre feeling if you think about it.

John Dunlop’s son came in the evening and said, “We have a tricycle race tomorrow. I really want to try and win. Unfortunately, it’s such an onerous task, considering the jolts you receive on these unpaved roads”. Dunlop was wondering about how apt the name “bone shakers” was for these bikes, considering that you have a free tour of hell on earth. While he was watering his garden, he observed that he might try wrapping an air filled hose around his son’s tyres. It turned out to be marvellous idea, as his son smoked the tricycle race. Next week he had a barrage of requests for fitting their tricycle tyres with the air filled hose. It went to such an extent that he had to finally ask all the tricycles to be taken back without any fitting. The next week, a patent officer came and asked Dunlop to patent his marvellous idea. And thus, my friend, was born the Dunlop tyre company.

Way back, we saw mother gander with its children wobbling and walking. We halted and were taking photos and the mother gander looked at us as if saying, “Oi mate, what are you looking at? Bugger off! I need to take care of my children”, and so we obliged and had to make do with only a couple of images. And then we kept biking. Considering that it was ever so slightly downhill, we were hardly tired.

Isn’t it interesting? When we go back, whatever was hard is now easy and whatever was easy is now hard. Quite philosophical things you say my friend. Pretty similar to life eh?

And then we kept biking in the now cloudy weather, but still cool enough to not know the long stretch. We essentially traced back the path, from McKeesport to Kennywoods to Waterfront to Southside. Finally, we came to Downtown and took a bus back home. As in any tiring trip, we slumped as soon as we got into the bus. My calf muscles seem to complain a very tiny bit, but more or less it was a comfortable trip and a rather enjoyable one. Ever so slowly, the weather turned even cloudier and the temperature lowered. Added to this, there was a mild drizzle, as if welcoming us back home after a good day under the sun.