For a year my wife and I had been planning and training for our Pittsburgh to Washington, DC bicycle trip along the Great Allegheny Passage and the C&O Towpath. It was to be a seven day, 340 mile long adventure, complete with warm showers and a soft bed at the end of each day. We started in Homestead, PA under cloudy skies and climbed to the eastern Continental Divide and then down to Cumberland, Md. over the first three days. On the fourth day we started the first leg of our ride on the C&O in a steady rain and a temperature of 45 degrees. As the day progressed, the puddles on the trail become ribbons of water and mud, masking such hazards as rocks, roots and potholes. Our fifth day of biking was another overcast day but the rain had subsided. The trail was soggy and muddy but manageable. After all, we knew day six and seven of our trip would be our shortest rides and forecasted to be in the sun! The worst was over.
We left the Clarion Hotel in the morning and headed down Rte. 480 towards the bridge. At Shepherd University I attempted to transition from the street to the sidewalk at the University's entrance ramp. Unfortunately, the lip of the drive was higher than I thought and my front wheel kicked out and sent both me and my bike flying. I don't remember a thing. Two maintenance workers from the University came to assist me; helping me to get up and asking me if I was all right. I was able to stand and move about slowly. One of the men mentioned that this was the third time someone had taken a spill there. Seeing that I was apparently OK the men returned to their work. My wife told me to stretch and get back on my bike. She was hopeful we could continue our trip but I had started to get some biofeedback. There was definitely something wrong.
"Sue, I am afraid this might be the end of our ride. I may need an ambulance. Could you go ask those men if there is an urgent care facility close by?"
As she was talking to the men a jogger ran up and asked if she could help me. Still a little dazed, I asked
"How can you help? You are wearing sneakers."
"Well, I live right up there and I have a car."
Suzan returned and reported there was nothing in town to which the jogger added that the closest urgent care facilities would be in Martinsburg or Hagerstown and that we could drive there.
"Drive there? How can we drive there all we have are these bikes?" my wife asked, explaining that we were biking from Pittsburgh to DC and had no other means of transportation.
"You can take my car. "
"You would do that? Give us your car?" My wife started to cry.
"Yes. I would come along with you but I have two children that I need to be home for."
The two of them walked to the woman's home, dropped off my wife's bike and retuned to collect me and my bike. As I waited for the women to return I thought how ironic it was that I would injure myself trying to access a sidewalk and not on the C&O towpath which had so many hazards and also, how lucky we were to have this woman's help. A constant stream of cars passed us by; not one stopping to offer assistance.
We dropped the jogger off at her home and headed to Hagerstown where urgent care confirmed my broken clavicle and ribs. While we had the vehicle we were able to make arrangements to pick up a truck rental to take us home. When we asked the woman how could repay her she said simply,
"Pay it forward"
My wife and I knew this trip would be an amazing adventure, but little did we imagine that the most amazing aspect of it would be a stranger's kindness and trust.
Thank you, Traci Morris.