Yesterday we drove from Pittsburgh to Morgantown, WV to see Billy Bragg perform. It was as part of a recording of the Mountain Stage radio show for NPR, so it was a limited set (I think he only played like 7 or 8 songs). Nonetheless, it was a great show and needless to say I could have watched him for another hour. He started the set by playing “Way Over Yonder in the Minor Key ” really fast compared with the recorded version. At first I thought he was trying to pull off some Ramones-esque, let’s play all the songs faster than they are recorded, so they could squeeze more songs into their limited timeframe. However, most of the rest of the songs were slowed down compared with their recorded versions. Still sounded great. Still loved them; just something I noted.
Anyhow, we drove down to Morgantown with our bikes, had dinner with one of Emma’s co-workers who lives down in Morgantown and then biked some beautiful bike trails that lead along Deckers Creek and the Monongahela River to get to the show. It was approximately a five mile trip. We had been warned that taking the trails back at night was not recommended, so we were going to have to ride through town. We knew there would be some hill climbing, as we had gone down a big hill to get to the trails originally. All we had to do was to find Richwood Road and follow it until we came to Darst Street and then we would be back to the car. So we found Richwood Road and started climbing.
It was a cool night. Too cool to not have a jacket and gloves on, but once you started climbing, a little too warm to be completely comfortable. After climbing a bit, we were riding along a ridge and there was a great view of the opposing hillside with houses all lit up and the moon overhead. It was wonderful. Then we hit another hill. It was about 3/4 up that hill that I glanced over and read “Charles Avenue”. My heart sunk for a moment. Somewhere along the way, Richwood had turned off and we had missed it. Here we were likely climbing a hill that we didn’t need to climb. What the hell?!?
Luckily I had the internet in my pocket and we looked up a map on the phone. At first, in my state of overheating and heavy breathing, I was having trouble orienting myself and thought we had gotten way off course. However, after another minute we found out that if we just climbed Charles Avenue the rest of the way of the hill, we would connect with another street that turned into Darst Street. So we chugged the rest way up the hill and found ourselves at the pinnacle of a great downhill street.
Dark, curvy and incredibly pitched, the road we needed to take lay before us. Armed only with the smallest headlights on our bikes, we began our descent, hoping we didn’t come upon any bad potholes or other road obstacles…and it was awesome. Seriously, it was one of the greatest descents I had ever experienced. After such a pleasant evening of good food and good music capped off with this somewhat bumbling route around town, that hill, both the up and the down, was really the thing that we needed to make the night transcend to that next level.
There’s something about conquering a hill. Last year after only a couple months of seriously committing to biking on a regular basis, Emma and I did the Metric-Century during Pedal Pittsburgh. We took on a good number of hills that day, including the hills of Troy Hill and 18th Street all the way up. That ride took a good bit out of us, but there was a good month of so beyond that day where we both really felt like we could conquer the world.
As we slowly exit winter and move into spring, we’ve begun to venture further and tackle longer distances and bigger hills. In a few weeks we’ll be riding across Pennsylvania from Pittsburgh to Philadelphia. Emma expressed concern that we weren’t in good enough shape to make this journey, but I think those hills in West Virginia helped put those concerns behind us. We might still have to strengthen our legs some and build some lung capacity, but if nothing else, I know we have our heads in the game. We know what’s at the top of each of those hills.