Goodbye Pennsylvania

Wellsboro, PA to Wellsville, NY

That’s right. That’s chocolate milk and Mini Wheats.
Or what I call, “Lunch”.

The advantage to yesterday’s extended ride was that today would be a short ride. I mean, I guess it didn’t have to be and I could’ve just gone further but I already made arrangements with a host so I decided to stick with that plan.

Due to the shorter distance of today’s ride, I didn’t get going until about 10:20. Sometimes I think shorter rides are tougher than the longer days because my brain (and body) kind of take the day off.

Much like yesterday, today’s ride included a big climb and a big descent. Unlike yesterday, I didn’t benefit from any sage advice and instead followed Google’s route. A route that took me on Parker Hill Rd. I’m pretty sure nothing good ever came from a street with the word “Hill” in its name. In all honesty, the hill wasn’t the issue – I kind of like hills. It was the gravel road that went up (and then down) said hill.

Hey look, a hilly road lined with goldenrod. Have I mentioned I’m allergic to goldenrod? Sigh.

Completing yesterday’s big climb was rewarded with a screamingly fast descent of fun. Completing today’s big climb was punished with an occasionally terrifying, brake-shredding, descent of terror. Seriously, I think Google owes me a new set of brake pads. Front and back! Grrrrr. Gravel roads aren’t fun at the best of times. Trying to manoeuvre down them at 45 km/h on a loaded bike with thin tires and no suspension is a good way to shorten life expectancy.

Anyway, having not shortened my life expectancy while surviving the descent of terror I returned to paved roads which, of course, were infinitely more pleasant. I guess that’s why Google then decided to put me on “The Wag Trail”. A trail comprised primarily of grass. GRASS!! Like Wimbledon (just to be clear, you don’t see many bikes at Wimbledon). Seriously, Google needs to buy a bike. For the life of me, I can’t understand why Google Maps would take me off an actual paved cycle route and put me on a trail that clearly was not meant for bicycles. Sure, it’s my own fault for following the route presented to me but it’s still pretty annoying. As you may have guessed, when the first opportunity came to escape The Wag Trail, I took it.

The most significant (and sad) aspect of the day was that it was my final day in Pennsylvania (for now). For a brief moment I actually don’t really know where I was. I looked one way and saw the “Welcome to New York” sign and when I looked the other way I saw the “Pennsylvania Welcomes You” sign. And there I was. In between them. No man’s land. Wherever I was, Goodbye Pennsylvania. I look forward to my return.

With the gravel roads, grass trails, and even Pennsylvania behind me, my day ended very well with another great Warm Showers stay. Admittedly, most of the night was spent doing some freelance work and wrapping all my gear in plastic bags. Apparently it’s supposed to rain tomorrow. All day. At least it’s going to be cold. Sigh. Why am I heading north again?

Today’s totals:
Distance travelled: 68.02 km
Ride time: 3:35:15
Average speed: 18.96 km/h
Maximum speed: 48.87 km/h

Not How I Planned It

Lewisburg, PA to Wellsboro, PA

Wise words.

For better or for worse, my foray back into highway riding was very short-lived with much of today’s ride being back on a trail – the Pine Creek Rail Trail to be precise. It wasn’t paved but it was comprised of crushed limestone and, for the most part, provided a pretty good surface on which to pedal a loaded up road bike for more than a few hours. And, as it turns out, a few more kilometres than I had intended when I started my day. But I’m getting a bit ahead of myself.

As you may recall, two days ago I noted there was no need to rush into long travel days. Well, apparently long travel days can begin on Day Four.

After another great Warm Showers stay, I set course for Cedar Run. There’s not much around Cedar Run but it’s about 110 km from where I was starting my day so it seemed like a reasonable destination.

Ben, my host, suggested an alternate route to Google’s route and I was happy for the advice. Sure, I only met Ben yesterday and I’ve known Google for much longer. That said, I had infinitely more confidence in Ben’s directions than Google’s … yes, I’m still a bit angry over the whole logging road fiasco in Scotland. Grrrrr. Anyway, with the course set I was ready to go – after a quick breakfast, of course, and a photo with my hosts.

The first 33 km of the ride could only be described as easy. The same can’t be said for the subsequent 6 km. At all. That’s not to say it wasn’t fun but it certainly wasn’t easy. Ok, maybe “fun” isn’t the right word but I enjoyed it in an excruciatingly exhausting way. Much of the climb in question was about an 8% grade but there was a moment near the top when my cycling computer was indicating a 15% grade – which, after 45 minutes of climbing, is a bit of a harsh finale. Fortunately, there was some pretty instant gratification. As exhausting as going up was, the trip down the other side was more than a little fun. The best way to offset a 45 minute climb is with a 6 minute descent. So fun.

Yup, that road goes up and over that mountain.
And so did I.

As the name suggests, the Pine Creek Rail Trail is, well … a rail trail. As such, you won’t find any 8% climbs. That said, rail trails are not all flat. In this case, heading north along the Pine Creek Rail Trail means a continual climb for the duration … the duration being approximately 90 km. Sure, it’s barely noticeable except, for example, if one were the type of person who likes to keep track of one’s average daily speed. Yes, the sole purpose of this paragraph has been to explain my somewhat slow average speed for the day. Yes, I know. I’m probably the only one who noticed.

With few stops for provisions along the way, I opted to stop for a sub in Jersey Shore (who knew there was a Jersey Shore in Pennsylvania?). For what it’s worth, I pedalled right past one of those famous chain sub places and went to a local place instead. I had a meatball sub and it was delicious. I kind of wanted two! And by “kind of” I mean “really”.

Fast forward a few hours of somewhat effortless riding and I found myself about 10 km from Cedar Run where I stopped at Wolfe’s General Store – the only such store in the area. I figured if was going to stop at Cedar Run for the evening, this would be the place to stock up. By “stock up” I mean I bought two bags of chips and a Creamsicle. One bag of chips and one Creamsicle later, I was back on my bike pedalling my way towards Cedar Run and the end of a nice day of pedalling.

Pine Creek Rail Trail

What happened next isn’t exactly clear other than to say my brain apparently ceased to function. The entire day I was planning to stop at Cedar Run but then when I arrived there I just kept pedalling. I don’t know why. I have no explanation. I had no plan beyond Cedar Run and yet my legs just kept pedalling. The next town on the map appeared to be Morris so I figured, “Ok, I’ll stop in Morris for the night.” That ended up being a great idea until I realized that the Pine Creek Rail Trail doesn’t go to Morris (although the road does) and, more importantly, Morris is actually kind of out of the way from my overall destination.

At this point, I couldn’t hep but think that the recently consumed chips and Creamsicle were an even wiser decision in light of the navigational challenges that were before me. That was the only fuel that was keeping me going at that point.

My backup plan to Cedar Run was Morris. I had no backup plan for that backup plan. So, after consulting the map I decided to continue following the Pine Creek Rail Trail with the hope it would take me somewhere with accommodations. Yes, I realize that’s not the most thought out plan in the world but it was the plan I was going with.

Chips and ice cream for lunch.
Cycling is great.

For reference, all of this was happening at about 4:30 and I had about 30 km to go. Given the fact that I was surrounded by mountains, the amount of sunlight I would normally have at this time of year would be reduced once the sun sets behind those mountains. In my experience, racing the sun has usually not worked out so well. As such, my pedalling pace increased. Did I mention the whole trail is uphill? Just to be clear, I was racing the sun not so much because I genuinely thought I’d be on the trail after dark but because I really had no idea where I was staying. Being surrounded by mountains does not make for an ideal situation to get a cell signal – and the trees weren’t offering up any magical free WiFi – although how cool would that have been?

With the sun slowly setting behind the mountains, I finally escaped the trail and found myself back on a highway. I was still without a cell signal. As a backup, I used my GPS in the hopes it might give me some indication as to what accommodation options were in the vicinity. At this point I was at 148 km for day and really didn’t want to have to resort to searching for a wild camping spot – plus I really needed to get some stuff done on the computer – not the least of which was blog updates before Julie-Ann berates me again (then again, maybe she’s the only one reading … thank you for reading Julie-Ann).

Fortunately, the GPS indicated a motel was a scant 3 km from where I was standing. Even more fortunately was that there was another motel along the way which is where I ended up stopping for the night. Yes, I was tired. Yes, I was hungry. Yes, I was a bit sore. But all things considered, I’d say it was a very good day.

Today’s totals:
Distance travelled: 150.45 km
Ride time: 7:29:11
Average speed: 20.09 km/h
Maximum speed: 66.60 km/h

Back In the High(way) Life Again

Harrisburg, PA to Lewisburg, PA

Spoiler Alert: Yuengling at the end of the day
is always good.

In keeping with the trend of getting progressively closer to meeting my intended departure time, today I only missed the mark by a mere ten minutes. I was actually ready to leave on time but then decided to take a few photos of Tracy and Teresa’s yard. I’m a fan of both personal chicken coops and personal beehives – I mean, who doesn’t like the birds and the bees? Anyway, Tracy and Teresa have both.

Today’s goal was to reach Lewisburg, a very reasonable 110 km ride. That said, it ended up being unlike any ride I’ve had in quite a long time. Not in a bad way. Not necessarily in a good way either. Just different.

For the first time in a LONG time (at least it SEEMS like a long time) I spent much of the day on a highway. A real highway. Big trucks. Lots of cars. All travelling with a lot of speed. I actually kind of forgot what that was like. It definitely makes for easy riding from a navigation standpoint – not that navigation has been in any way an issue lately. It was definitely nice being on asphalt as it makes pedalling a lot easier than travelling on crushed gravel. The biggest adjustment wasn’t really in dealing with the traffic itself but from the noise. Highways are really noisy! Apparently you forget that when you spend so much time on trails.

As I approached this sign, I had sinking feeling that bikes weren’t allowed. Happily, the opposite was true.

However, before I found my way onto the highways I had to navigate my way through and out of Harrisburg. Some of that trek was on trails, some of it was on city streets. Either way, it was pretty slow going for reasons I’m not really sure. Anyway, it took an hour to go the first 14 km. An HOUR. 14 km. Totally unacceptable. Fortunately, my average speed for the remaining four hours of the ride was a much more respectable 24 km/h.

Other than the noise of the highway, there really isn’t much to report from today – although, I’m sure I’ll be able to ramble on for several more paragraphs. Sigh. Now I feel obligated to ramble on for several more paragraphs.

There were a few photo stops along the way, but not many. There were a few broken phones along the highway but, again, not many – and none were in anywhere near operational condition. There MAY have been a Burger King stop along the way where there MAY have been a Two for $6 Whopper Deal. And I may have eaten two of said whoppers. I probably could’ve eaten four. And by “probably” I mean “definitely”.

Fast forward a few hours and I arrived in Lewisburg. To say that finding my hosts’ house was easy would be a gross understatement as it was a simple matter of crossing the bridge and hanging a left and, voila, there I was.

My hosts tonight are Ben and Janet (along with Rodeo and Peaches, two Rhodesian Ridgebacks). I met the latter three first and met Ben shortly thereafter. In what has become typical (but not taken for granted) for Warm Showers, they were all very welcoming and generous.

The plan for the night was to set up camp in their backyard with a nice view of the river and bridge (which I had just crossed moments earlier). Rodeo and Peaches were happy to supervise my tent setting up technique. I, of course, didn’t mind. Rhodesian Ridgebacks are beautiful, and these two were super friendly.

We enjoyed a fantastic dinner on their covered porch and later that evening I wandered downtown as per Ben’s suggestion. Lewisburg is a small town of about 6,000 people and downtown is a handful of blocks from Ben and Janet’s home. According to Ben and Janet, its residents can be a bit precious about their university town (it’s home to Bucknell University) and that’s reflected in the downtown with all the independent shops. I have to say I was a big fan of the movie theatre with the big marquee sign. I’ve always liked that look.

Welcome to downtown Lewisburg.

Anyway, I returned from downtown and settled into my tent for the night. It’s kind of fitting that tonight is my first night in a tent in quite a while … just like riding on highways earlier in the day. All in all, it was another great day on the road.

Oh, and apparently rambling on for several more paragraphs wasn’t as daunting as I first thought.

Today’s totals:
Distance travelled: 110.39 km
Ride time: 4:55:29
Average speed: 22.41 km/h
Maximum speed: 45.38 km/h

© 2017: Mark's Midlife Crisis