I saw a lot of things I thought were right on this ride. Like a group of shirtless guys pedaling like maniacs on crap bikes.
We saw the guys every day on the trail except one. On the second day, I stopped to take a picture of the empty trail ahead of us, as I like to do, and the first of their number blew past with flags flying. After we were back on the road, the rest of them came by, giving each other a hard time, yelling out a greeting to us, and moving on ahead of us. There were eight or so of them, mostly wearing nothing more than bike shorts, shoes, helmets, and beards. They were on beater bikes they had bought cheap or in at least one case, borrowed for the trip.
When we caught up to them at Ohiopyle, they were stopped, and one of their number had his rear wheel off and was gone to find professional help. Other members of his crew had stepped in to the bar under the restaurant we had lunch at, and were procuring beer and flirting fruitlessly with the bartender. When we came out, one of the guys was playing Jenga, seeing how many beers he could fit in the nooks and crannies of the haphazard collection of bags he had bungeed to his bike.
As would be the norm, they would catch up and pass us on the trail, and we would pass them in the morning since we got up earlier. They would pass us going to lunch, and we would get ahead again since we didn’t spend as much time drinking beer as they did. This repeated until we came off the trail.
They hollered encouragement to us every time the passed, and when we passed them, they would loudly complain “Oh man, the old guy is ahead of us again!” When we were climbing the last bit to the Divide, I was not having fun. It was uphill in to the teeth of a substantial headwind, which are two of my least favorite things. They came up from behind and hauled out to pass when one of them pointed to the windmill on top of the mountain we were climbing and yelled “Don’t worry about the headwind! When we get to that big fan we’ll turn it off!” as they went by. It was a much needed chuckle in the middle of an un-fun slog. They hooted and hollered in the tunnels. Once they rode past and the last one pointed back and said “Bear behind us. Pedal faster.” as he hauled away.
This is what bicycle touring is at it’s best. Not a lot of gear. A reasonably serviceable bike. Not a lot of money. Just people out on bikes having a good time and going places, pedaling along and enjoying being outside and on the trail.