Saturday morning I set out to ride the Bartram Trail section of the incomplete Schuylkill River Trail. I was still sore from a crash the weekend before, and didn’t know how much riding I had in me, but I’d been off the bike for three days and I missed it. Also, the fall colors were calling me. So fortified by three Ibuprofen tablets, I headed an hour’s drive north.

The plan had been to meet Sayre Kulp for breakfast at the Cracker Barrel in Hamburg at 10:00 AM for his post-race breakfast. I was running very late, and unfortunately Sayre’s cell phone died on Friday. At 10:40 I was walking through the Cracker Barrel looking for my friend. As everyone stopped eating and stared at the sight of a fat man in Lycra, I scanned the faces in the crowd and didn’t see my friend. So I left and went on to the trailhead at the desilting basin, and started down the trail. I thought I’d glimpsed Sayre’s car at the trailhead and figured I’d see him on the trail at some point.

The Bartram Trail is the most scenic section by far on the Schuylkill River Trail. The two to three per cent grade climbs up along the rock face, looking down on an active rail line and the river, and across to Blue Mountain. The six miles completed here pass by two towns, but not through them, and currently ends at an abandoned bridge. I rode carefully but with vigor, walking through bollards as a precaution, and soon reached the end of the trail. I didn’t see Sayre. I thought about asking other riders and walkers on the trail if they’d seen him, but become stuck on how to describe him. “It’s not like he’s big anymore,” I thought. “He could be anyone here.”

I met a group of riders at the trail’s end and spent 20 minutes talking with them. After I’d convinced them they all needed to ride the Great Allegheny Passage – yes, I am predictable, aren’t I? – we turned around and headed back. Not before they took my photo, however.

I hadn’t gone a hundred feet before someone I knew pulled up.

After Sayre filled me in on his race, the problems he encountered and overcame, his winning a medal, and I congratulated him, we rode back down the trail. I didn’t take photos on the way up, and now we stopped frequently to get shots. Sayre and I contemplated Blue Mountain:

We stopped at Port Clinton to admire the train station below. Sayre climbed down the Appalachian Trail steps while I observed from above.

As we rolled along our discussion turned thoughtful. My friend, as his recent thread about his 2011 goals shows, is still working through the fact that he’s not 425 pounds anymore. To “turn away your former self” is a heroic tale; fortunately Sayre is up to the task.

Back at the trailhead Sayre borrowed my phone so he could call his ride. While we waited I let him ride Roark to get a feel for a Brooks saddle. He rode Roark like he stole him! I got my bike back, of course, and I might have just sold another saddle for Brooks. Then it was a quick trip down to the dam. The road was bumpy, but it was short and the drivers courteous. And the view was worth it.

We rode back to the trailhead, Sayre greeted his wife and loaded the bike on the rack, and they left. I still had a good bit of the day left, and with 14 some miles done I still had riding I could do. First I got food from a nearby gas station, and was rewarded when the clerk started flirting with me. She wasn’t my type, and I was polite but cool. Still, in the parking lot, I thought “I’m a fat, sweaty, sloppy mess, and I’m not only awesome, but I still have “it.”

I finished the day with a mile’s walk in Port Clinton to see the train station Sayre had hiked down to, and then added another seven miles of riding into Hamburg, back down to the dam, and a mile back down the Bartram Trail to photograph a bridge. By now the bruised ribs were bothering me; I’d forgotten how much of the core muscles get used in riding. As the sunlight faded and my stomach began to bother me, I headed home.

I slept nearly 12 hours that night, and felt wiped out the next day. Obviously I overdid it, considering my injury.