Lazarus – The End of An Age

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EPILOGUE

Forty years. 

Innumerable miles. 

Untold hours.

Through sun, wind and rain.

In trying to capture, share and reflect on this tale of “a boy and his bike,” I have learned just how important a component Lazarus was in my life, through ups/downs, highs/lows, even during the dormant seasons.

As I imagine with any heroic saga, the hero doesn’t intend or aspire to be a hero.  They simply do what is asked of them, no matter the conditions, often defying established norms, to the wonderment (chagrin?) of those around them. And what epic, heroic tale is worth telling if it doesn’t end in tragedy?

Lazarus is just such a hero. Truly, a “department store” commodity, one “not of noble stock,” but that has risen beyond his mean estate and has endured.

I also think, belatedly, that Lazarus was a worthy exemplar of CheapCyclist’s “No Shizznazz” approach to cycling.

Although I never set goals for riding (event completion notwithstanding), the adventures I’ve had with Lazarus have accomplished a lot more than I could have imagined oh those many years ago.

I suppose it may seem odd to have invested the time and energy into sharing this story, particularly with all the “important” things that could be addressed. But, as I’ve come to learn through my daily work and ministry, we are nothing but the stories we tell. Lazarus has been a part of my story for quite some time, and the loss and grief are real.

There is a genuine sadness and frustration that Lazarus’ story isn’t better documented. As I mentioned previously, I no longer have the course maps or cue sheets from the organized events. I didn’t have tracking information, speed/elevation/grade stats and parameters. I’ve searched through old family photos, etc., but it just wasn’t a “thing.” But, I have this story.

And perhaps some of the beauty of the Lazarus tale, not to mention a key take away heading into the future:

Just enjoy the ride.

Lazarus’ Last Ride – Stage One

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I often think about the biblical character of Lazarus.  I have SO many questions, particularly about his lived experience after being brought back to life.  At least as far as biblical references go, we are told there was a plan to kill Lazarus due to the danger his story posed to the religious status quo of the day.  But, we never hear the end of his story.  He drops out of the pages.  And I wonder how his sisters, Mary and Martha who grieved the first time he was dead and buried, dealt with the eventual second death/loss.

Our Lazarus is not all that different.

I just couldn’t give up that easily after all of that has transpired.  So, I determined to not simply cast Lazarus into the outer darkness, but to let it down gently.  Thus, Lazarus’ Last Ride, an “End of the Road” Final Tour, if you will, in stages.

Despite having purchased a new riding alternative, it seemed only fair, reasonable and just that Lazarus should get the honor/privilege of the season’s first ride.

On April 12, 2021, at 7:26a.m., we set off for an 11.8 mile course of familiar local roads.

Lazarus’ Last Ride – Stage One Map

Bike and Rider, working together again, even after a winter season off, managed to set the bar high, already landing an average speed of 14.5mph, which has become our baseline/benchmark.

A momentous start to an open-ended “final tour” (see also rock groups Scorpions and particularly KISS)

Lazarus – The End of An Age

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XII – The End of the Road

With the 2021 riding season on the near horizon, and armed with a brand new repair stand courtesy of Mrs. P2MP and family at Christmas, I set out to get Lazarus ready.

In the simple process of cleaning/lubing the chain, somehow Lazarus managed to snap another front spoke…with ZERO effort.

When I arrived at the FLBS, wheel in hand, for yet another spoke replacement ($20 ea.), I decided it would be (hopefully) more cost effective to buy new wheels, as I had already replaced more than enough spokes to compare cost-wise.  A wheel was ordered (supposedly) with the proviso that, if the wheel was backordered, they would replace the spoke for the time being.  If the wheel arrived in a timely fashion, we would skip the spoke.

A few days later, having not heard from the FLBS on the wheel/spoke matter, I paid a visit (I was in the area).  They had not replaced the spoke and could find no record of a wheel being ordered.  So they graciously replaced the spoke while I waited.  Lazarus was held aloft by their pro-shop stand.  Out of sheer happenstance, I looked a little closer at Lazarus and noticed this:

I’m no professional bike mechanic, but even I could tell that didn’t look quite right.  I pointed it out to the shop guy, who seemed just as taken aback as I was.  He resolutely declared his certainty they would not be able to find a replacement.  He did, however, astutely note that, even in this unusual state, Lazarus was still capable of functioning.  He advised I should begin shopping for a new bike (much) sooner rather than later. I loaded Lazarus back onto the rack and drove home.

The unthinkable began to settle in. Lazarus was mortally wounded. No intervention, no matter how cheap or costly (at least for me),  was available to let this legend down easy.

For Lazarus, an ambiguous future.

For me, the dawning realization that Lazarus needed to rest.

In trying to make sense of this discovery, I tried to mentally playback the 2020 riding season and its mechanical challenges. I took a look back through what documentation I had, which was sparse.

Lo, and behold, while I was celebrating the “new” front derailleur installation, I had completely missed the onset of Lazarus’ career-limiting dilemma.

Early Damage, initially undetected

Y’see, the funny thing is (as noted by the FLBS mechanic) Lazarus was still completely functional. AND…if it had taken this long for this to happen, how long could Lazarus keep going, in theory or in practice?

I checked the time/date stamp of the photo, then went through my library of recorded rides.

Lazarus had rolled up nearly 100 miles after that derailleur replacement, in spite of this “limitation,” INCLUDING that late season, large climb (see previous chapter)! I was none the wiser, and had it not been for that spoke replacement, would have kept pressing Lazarus into service.

But, that wasn’t to be.

I resolved to using Lazarus on a limited basis, certainly not as aggressively as the past year, but ride we would, especially due to the radical lack of bike inventory caused by…well, you know.

And so, with Lazarus tucked away in the basement, and age draws to a close and passes into the annals of personal history and mythology.

Next up…Epilogue

Lazarus – The End of An Age

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XI – Pedaling Through A Pandemic

2020 began with as much hope and anticipation as previous years.  I had pre-registered again for the Bikes & Beers Tröegs and Victory rides.  I had even contemplated adding other events, but then I realized I would be occupying too many non-work/family weekends with self-interest.

When the unimaginable happened, and the world suddenly seized up, it turned out cycling was an “approved/safe” activity.  Without much forethought or planning, 2020 became Lazarus’ and my most storied, epic year together.  The impetus behind such a year is addressed in this previous post.

Looking back, though, that post doesn’t quite tell the whole story, at least as far as Lazarus is concerned.

As you might imagine, after 40 years some natural wear-and-tear occurs.  Compounded by the exponential increase in riding, Lazarus began to have some issues.  While I don’t have an accurate count of incidents, they included a couple of flats, numerous broken spokes, and a variety of atypical squeaks and squonks that demanded attention.

In retrospect, it is not unlike reaching middle age and deciding to “get in shape” after years of neglect, lack of concern, what have you.  If you start actually doing something, that you could have done all along, but didn’t, the squeaks and squonks are bound to follow.  And yes, I had them, too, not just Lazarus.

One of the truly curious outcomes of all of this was I learned and did more mechanical maintenance on Lazarus than ever in our history together.  And suddenly, the FLBS who had backhandedly questioned my sanity why I kept wanting to invest in this…economically efficient…machine had their shop hands full of people needing to do just that. They actually turned work away because they were so overwhelmed with tuneups and the like, they couldn’t keep up.  It was made worse by the fact the supply chain of not only new bikes, but parts inventory was being greatly affected.

That said, they still provided help and support when I needed it.  There were times they replaced a broken spoke “on the fly,” getting me in and out. Other times, it meant dropping the wheel off and hoping they remembered to call when it was done.

Yet, through it all, Lazarus remained stalwart and resolute.

I had started noticing a horrific noise when pedaling that gradually got worse. Nothing like going out for an early morning ride, through the more rural and suburban housing developments and having your passsage noted by the sound of guinea pigs/hamsters/gerbils in a state of high distress. (Note: no guinea pigs, hamsters, gerbils or any other living creature was harmed in the creation or resolution of this particular mechanical dilemma.) 

The (presumed) Noise Culprit

Having a 40-year-old, one-piece crank arm made it easier, I think, at least on me.  Again, with the help of YouTube, I managed to be able to perform the necessary work, get it back together and it actually worked!

The “No Shizznazz” Approach to Bike Maintenance
Huh. So THAT’S all there is?
Grease – Not supposed to be “chunky”

Lazarus and I were churning through the year, and the three phases of the Bikes & Beers Virtual/Social Distancing Ride continued to provide at least a bit of motivation.  We were averaging 40-50 miles per week, most weeks and pedaling away the pandemic blues, at least a little bit.

All was quiet for awhile.  Then, I started to notice other, similar noises.  This time, I determined it was the pedals, and I tried to lubricate them as best I could.  Spraying ’em with silicone worked, at least for the first ride afterward.  It seemed the issue was the central axle of the pedal.  I discovered a way to “open” the pedals, and applied some heavier grease with a toothpick into the ends, then reassembled. 

In early October, we reached the (initially) unanticpated milestone of 1,000 miles.  For most of the year, it had not occurred to me that was something I might attain, but there it was.  And we celebrated! (at least for THAT moment)

But then, in a sequence of less-than-fortuitous happenings (to avoid copyright violations and such), it became evident that Lazarus had sustained some damage.

The first was the front shifter derailleur.  I had been having some difficulty with latent or non-shifting from front big chain ring to small, but thought it was simply an adjustment due to cable stretch, etc.  So, I set out to investigate.

More “No Shizznazz” Bike Repair Setup

With that settled, we set out to do a segment of a much longer route that I had discovered the previous year.  I had a day off and we got to our starting point nice and early to allow plenty of time.  After getting Lazarus off the car rack, and all necessary accessories set, we rolled to the edge of the pavement, and with a mighty push-off…I nearly fell over.  One of the pedals had irreparably broken apart under my foot.

The FLBS of choice was not even open yet, but by the time I reloaded Lazarus onto the car and drove the 12 miles there, I held the slimmest hope they could at least muster a cheap pair of pedals.  And indeed, they came through once again.

With all of that behind us, we finished the riding season with two big accomplishments. The first being a 19-mile ride with a climb I think may be the biggest one of our riding career (10.6% grade according to the tracker). It was in the “switchback” section on the left side of the map below, traveling approximately North to South (top to bottom of image).

Stat Block of the Climbing Portion

The second was an absolutely beautiful 23-mile Thanksgiving Day ride. And with that, we closed the book on the 2020 Pandemic Road Riding Season.

Next up…The End of the Road

Lazarus – The End of An Age

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X – On The Road Again

In November of 2017, I bade farewell to CheapCyclist and the state of Indiana as a whole, and set out for south-central…PA.  Due to various circumstances, I had to (temporarily) leave the family behind, living in less than ideal conditions for a short while (okay, about two months, actually).

With unseasonably comfortable weather and no commitments over the Thanksgiving weekend, I took an opportunity to explore the new area with Lazarus.  I had learned about the Capital Area Greenbelt and it seemed like just the thing.  And it was…sorta.

It turned out to be just the thing to humble me and my riding aspirations that I brought from the Midwest. 20-ish miles, and these really troubling things the locals call hills.  Despite having grown up in western PA, I had apparently lost/blocked my familiarity with these topographic features over the years.

First Capital Area Greenbelt Ride

After slugging through this and walking three climbs, Lazarus somehow landed a flatted rear tire crossing the final bridge back to the parking lot. So ended 2017.

By early 2018, the family was back together and we were settling happily into our new environs.  I don’t remember exactly how I found out about it, but I discovered a new (to me) organized ride under the banner of Bikes & Beers.  They were hosting an event at Tröegs Brewing in Hershey, PA.  What a novel concept! Ride bikes, drink beers*, provide financial support to develop and improve local biking trails and infrastructure.

After the “magnificent” history of riding events in past years, a 30-mile course seemed like an ideal choice. With little to no “training” (i.e., advance preparation/riding), Lazarus & I rode into a new day, so to speak.  Feel free to read about our experience here.

I continued to ride intermittently through the year checking out the new territory and discovering new road routes for myself.  When the early announcement came to sign up for the 2nd Bikes & Beers event at Tröegs (at a discount!), I jumped on it, AND, decided to add a second event at Victory Brewing in Parkesburg, PA, the following month.  See here and here for those 2019 events.  Mrs. P2MP joined me for moral support and for the post-ride social aspect of the Victory event. It was an awesome day, and Lazarus continued to be a solid performer. I believe the Victory ride may have been one of our BEST efforts together.

In light of all this and motivated/inspired by on-demand spin classes, Mrs. P2MP had a renewed interest in joining me for a bit of casual rail-trail type riding, just for something else to do together. We also did some hiking at local state parks and continued benefitting from the free fitness center provided by her employer.

* Full Disclosure: NO Beer drinking is done during the ride; solely a post-ride refreshment/reward.

Next up…Pedaling Through A Pandemic

Lazarus – The End of An Age

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IX – Get Out And Ride, Part Three

Aside from the second run through the Tree City Rolling Tour, the 2016 and 2017 riding seasons were unremarkable compared with the previous two.

I had made the decision to leave congregational ministry and engage in a one-year residency/educational program toward becoming a chaplain. With more regular/structured hours and a one-hour commute to the city each day, riding opportunities were at a premium. I STILL managed nearly 200 miles in 2016 followed by a dismal 39 miles in 2017 (and the majority of that was a single effort that will be described below).

There WAS a nice, casual, impromptu ride that CheapCyclist led to some covered bridges around his then-town-of-residence. If you look REALLY close in the photo, that’s him and his ride in the middle of the bridge.

Covered Bridge Mini-Tour

It would take another two months to get another ride in. A slow roll along part of the Cardinal Greenway.

2017 had a lot of evening walks with Mrs. P2MP around a local park. Time to relax from the day of work and catch up with each other.

Later that year another transition (aka “cross-country relocation”) unfolded as I/we relocated to central PA as I began my new work as a hospice chaplain.

Next up…”On the Road Again”

Lazarus – The End of An Age

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VIII – Get Out And Ride, Part Two

It took until late 2014 for me to get techie enough to have a smart phone and until early 2015 to be able to utilize tracking apps like Map My Ride. 

Until that point, I have no idea where I rode or for how long.  I mean, after 30+ years, the number of rides/miles this bike/rider combo have completed are just lost to the expanse of time.

By May 2015, though, I had enough tools and experience at my disposal to plot courses and record them.  Honestly, it helped a lot that the state of Indiana has a rather unique road numbering/ID system that helps keep you directionally no matter what (almost).

The first recorded ride of the 2015 season was late May.  Scrolling back through the timeline of rides, it is clear Lazarus and I were having a lot of fun.  Y’see, riding Lazarus was quickly growing into a valuable tool for offsetting the rigors of pastoral/congregational ministry.  Being able to simply roll Lazarus out the driveway and set off seems like such a mundane thing, but it allowed me to recover the joy/thrill/wonder/excitement of simply riding.

Thus, 2015 became a standout year in Lazarus’ story.  It included 258 miles of riding, three organized ride events, the advent of this blog, and some tragedy.  Since many of the significant moments were previously documented by either CheapCyclist or myself, no need to write of them again here.  Below is a list of the various high- and lowlights.  I’ll see if I can muster any previously unpublished photos to accompany the list.

Rupert’s Ride/Junebug Jamboree – Part One and Rupert’s Ride/Junebug Jamboree – Part Two with my recorded stats from this unique outing: Map My Ride

Course Map of Doom
The Calm Before the Course Change

Decatur Flat 50 – and again with the recorded stats from this watery pursuit: Map My Ride

Course Map for the Flooded Fifty
Respite from the Rain, Flat 50 SAG

Tree City Rolling Tour – with recorded stats: Map My Ride

Course Map of one of the best organized rides I’ve done
SAG Scene at Lake Santee, Tree City Rolling Tour
Modern Day Hitching Post for our Rides

Our next to last ride of the year was one I will never forget. The course is documented on Map My Ride, but that is largely insignificant. I had taken a day off and was out for a ride to just “get away” for a bit, no particular destination or time frame. The only reason I had my phone was to track the ride. When my phone started buzzing with a call, from a number I couldn’t identify, I quickly silenced/ignored the call. In quick succession, several more call attempts came in which I still ignored. I don’t recall how many before I finally decided to pick up, while stopped at a rural intersection.

I was being summoned by the county sherriff’s department to an unimaginable tragedy. One of the members of the congregation I served, a family patriarch, had ended their life, and the family needed support.

I was at least several miles from home, in the middle of the country, nowhere near my car (parked in the driveway). I couldn’t think. I tried to ride it out, and realized that wasn’t good enough. I vaguely remember stopping along the side of the road to call one of the family members to let them know I was trying to get there. I made a frantic call to my wife, who was working (thankfully locally), and asked her to meet me with my car for a pick up, and trying to help her understand my whereabouts and orientation. We managed to find each other, make the trip back home, and get where I needed to be. It felt like it all took forever. And I always question what/how it could have gone differently.

Next up…”Get Out And Ride, Part Three”

Lazarus – The End of An Age

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VII – Get Out And Ride, Part One

At age 34-ish and with a new lease on life, Lazarus was finally ready to establish a legendary legacy.

Lazarus – Ride Ready

I learned about a VERY local organized ride known as the Raintree Ride. As most organized rides/events, it offered a variety of course lengths. I thought this would be a good way to see the new area in a bit of a more “controlled” way, than just striking out on my own. Despite not having participated in an organized ride event for, oh I dunno, a couple of decades (?), how hard could it be? 1) its Indiana; 2) its, well, “just like riding a bike.”

With some novel enthusiasm, and possibly a bit of zealous badgering (you’ll have to ask him), CheapCyclist agreed to participate in this undertaking with me. Granted, we had only known each other for a few months, and had only interacted among larger, common gatherings. But, the main point is, he agreed! And we registered for the 32-mile course.

At the time, CheapCyclist documented the event via his blog here.

We met at the event starting point/parking lot alongside the lake at Westwood Park. I was not all caught up in cycling fashion at the time, so as I had done for ALL of my riding/cycling history to that point, I arrived dressed in a pair of shorts and a t-shirt. I believe we jointly snickered when we were approached by a rider looking for an air pump compatible with the valve on his high-end wheel/tire combo. Had he taken just a moment to look at our rides, the question would have answered itself. He seemed annoyed that we would be riding something that didn’t have specialty needs. We received our cue sheets and listened (mostly attentively) to the pre-ride announcements. Then, away we went.

I’m not sure whose idea it was to start a ride in a low lying parking lot with the first challenge being getting up the park road driveway, much to the consternation of more than a few folks (especially those on “beach cruisers), but with that we were underway. Since I was completely unfamiliar with the area, and had no on-board bike tech, I followed CheapCyclist’s lead.

This was easily the longest ride of any sort Lazarus and I had taken in probably two decades. It was a great course, and a very good event.

The takeaways from the day included the revelations that: 1) maybe I SHOULD consider investing in bike shorts; 2) that region of Indiana had some nice areas to ride/see; 3) CheapCyclist is a great ride partner.

I also learned that I am a task/goal-oriented rider, as in, if I’m on the bike, the pedals should be turning to get to the end. CheapCyclist takes time to pause and enjoy the scenery, which actually makes riding MUCH more pleasurable.

Next up…”Get Out And Ride, Part Two”

Lazarus – The End of An Age

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VI – Lazarus!  Come out!

In early 2014, I pursued a new call to serve in the state of Indiana.  It was from this season of life that Lazarus would truly come into its own, earn its name and begin to establish itself as a true LEGEND!

New town, new places, new faces and names, lots of conversations…it can be overwhelming.  Within that mix was my introduction to Eric (whom I would later come to know as CheapCyclist). While I honestly don’t recall the genesis of the discussion, it must have included exchanging personal interests and pursuits, mutual and otherwise.  I think it really only took one coversation for him to offer enthusiastic encouragement to knock the dust off the bike, get it tuned up and #getoutandride.

Call it fate, karma, kismet, divine providence, or simply chalk it up to CheapCyclist’s persuasive charm, but I found myself sold on the idea of exploring my new surroundings on the two-wheeled workhorse I brought with me.

Side Note: as we moved in early March and were relegated to a rental townhome for the first few months, the bike was in storage until we found a very livable home and location. (My wife still contends it is/was her favorite home we have owned thus far, in 25 years). Suffice to say, Lazarus likely didn’t “come out to play” until the late summer of 2014.

At the time, it occurred to me the bike might need a bit of a tune-up. Sensing it was beyond my ability to tinker, and being unfamiliar with the area, I determined to hand the bike over to a LBS. However I decided, I ended up taking the bike to Greenway 500 Bike Shop. Located on a slightly out-of-the-way side road, but directly adjacent to a major rail trail (see more below), the one-man shop took the bike into their care. Recognizing that the bike was a less-than-top-of-the-line machine, i recall the owner encouraging me to take a test ride on a new bike and experience the thrill and comfort that was available.* I declined. Having just moved, bought a home, and trying to be frugal with household finances and non-critical expenditures on a pastor’s income, there simply was no way I was going to consider spending $600+ on a bike. It’s a BIKE after all.

I don’t recall what the finally tally was, nor what the final parts list was, but several hundred dollars later “and in a loud voice crying LAZARUS! COME OUT!”…Lazarus emerged into the light of a new riding day!

Lazarus

* As it turns out, this would become a regular experience for me and Lazarus, no matter where we roamed (with the exception of Hardin’s Bicycle Shop, Muncie, IN).

If you’ve never been there, the state of Indiana would seem like a cyclists’ paradise as the topography is largely mundane (read: “flat”), particularly in relation to other regions (pretty much anywhere but the midwest of these United States), at least in my limited experiences. Not to mention, Indiana has an incredible system of rail-trails, of which the Cardinal Greenway, running from Muncie to Richmond is the primary one of note.

Next up…”Get Out And Ride”

Lazarus – The End of An Age

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V – Another Dormant Season

In 1996, I got married and had a family. I first moved from Pittsburgh to Beaver Falls. We started out renting a townhouse and I think the bike got relegated to the basement until we bought our first home the next year. That home had a spacious 2-car garage with plenty of room for the things that typically wind up in garages, including bikes.

With work, family, homeowning, etc., solo bike riding wasn’t necessarily on the list of pursuits. Of course, our son had various bikes that he rode around the neighborhood with friends. I also had a Yamaha XS650 motorcycle at that time, so that kinda provided the two-wheeled experience. I don’t even really recall “missing” riding the bicycle during that time.

Things continued like this until 2008 when life took a serious redirection. I was accepted to attend seminary at the (then) Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg (PA), and we left our lovely home and moved across the state to spend the next four years in a small, third floor, no elevator, on-campus apartment. For much of that time, the bike was in the provided attic storage cage. During the summers, it was dragged diwb the stairs from the cage and locked to the bike stand outside in the weather.

It should have been a no-brainer that this was a great place to ride, and indeed it WAS/IS. However, as a significant tourist destination, road riding hazards are a bit heightened from about April through the beginning of November (approximately). Compounded by the rigors of the academic program, riding continued to be relegated to a minimally utilized past time. I DID get out a couple of times. I had not ridden in such a while, and my cycling fitness was lacking enough to make it less enjoyable when trying to ride some of the park/battlefield roads. The main town roads were suitable enough, although as mentioned above a bit more hectic than I had been accustomed, and my riding confidence was not what it used to be.

Gettysburg/Adams County Riding Info Website

After graduation and ordination in 2012, we ended up back in a new (to us), unfamiliar area of western PA. Any relocation comes with its fair share of busy-ness, adjustments, adaptations and the like. The bike had a garage to be in once again, although riding remained a minimal activity, mostly due to the topography and terrain of the area and our home’s proximity to a VERY busy state road frequented by big truck traffic. No thanks!

We DID make at least one or two attempts to ride a short portion of the Armstrong Trail, but didn’t find it particularly appealing.

Armstrong Trails

By the end of 2013, we were on the move AGAIN. We packed up and moved to New Castle, IN. The family bikes went into a storage locker until we found our next home and they got a garage, then a backyard shed. Through all of these travels, I don’t think the bike had much if any maintenance or upkeep.

Amusing aside – it confused a number of people in the Kittanning area when we told them where we were going. Y’see, Kittanning is situated between New Castle, PA (Butler County) and Indiana, PA (Indiana County). People seemed to think we were being intentionally evasive in telling them our new destination.

Next up…Lazarus! Come Out!