#23: Springtime in York County


Bike: Larry Walker

In my ears: Unremembered podcasts

Springtime in York County. Long shadows from a sinking sun and songbirds I can’t identify warbling from forests yet to blossom. Cars rushing home after work, then solitude on the 10% grade of Granite Quarry Road. Southwest wind blowing the exhaust from the smokestacks on Three Mile Island upriver. Rollers past decaying barns and turn-offs to gravel roads that I’ve learned over time lead nowhere, or at least nowhere passable by road bike. T in the road, then west-northwest along the creek, carried all the way to bigger roads by a tailwind. On Old York it never feels steep going up the south side, and I appreciate the new asphalt they laid last summer, and on the smooth descent I watch for wet patches caused by snowmelt tracing its way down the ridge towards the interstate. In New Cumberland the old movie theater is finally closed now, the marquee still impressive but the windows hollow and no showings listed. From Negley Park I look out over Harrisburg in the gloaming, the bridges connecting it across the river like straight-edge arteries, the Fulton Bank building standing watch over the capitol dome.

Final stats: 33 miles. 2 hours. 1,985 feet.


#22: Checking in on the Sasquatch


Bike: Reggie Jackson

Companion: Tyler

Normally I take Mondays off. But with snow in the forecast (?) for Tuesday and Wednesday, I wanted to take advantage of the sunshine and get outside, despite heavy legs from a weekend of biking slowly and hiking.

It was a pretty typical 443 route: up the more enjoyable side of Blue Mountain Parkway, down the sketchy side (but less sketchy with disc brakes and 30-mil tires). Up Piketown and down Sleepy Hollow. Detours on Mockinbird Road, which winds through the overgrown, abandoned golf course that would be a good spot for an episode of The Walking Dead, and Potato Valley Road, which has a funny name.

I felt awful for the first 20 miles, then better on the back half. I thought it was maybe my legs easing into it, getting rid of the lactic acid or something. Tyler suggested maybe it was the tailwind, coming out of the northeast as it almost never does. Agree to disagree, I say.

Getting in a 2-hour-plus ride a weekday is always good. I’ll take it. I still haven’t adapted to spring though–I wore lobster gloves without even thinking about it, then quickly realized they were utterly unnecessary. Winter does things to you.

Final stats: 38 miles. 2 hours, 44 minutes. 2,651 feet.

Strava: https://www.strava.com/activities/1461680419

#21: To/From


Bike: Tom Joad

In my ears: Screaming legs

Some rides, like yesterday’s, are memorable. Back roads, scenery, all that jazz. Some rides, like today’s, aren’t. Basically this was a glorified commute to Detweiler Park, where I did some trail running. Nothing new about the route north to Dauphin and onto 225 to the base of Peter’s Mountain. Tractor-trailers passing at close range on 322 under the bridge. Done it a hundred times.

Also, you know it’s not going to be great when you feel like you’re bonking two miles in. Not a great sign. I think it was because I didn’t sleep well last night, and I did this exercise fasted.

So, nothing really to see here.

But hey, traveling by bike produces 100% less carbon than a car.

(and the running at Detweiler Park was amazing, by the way. Flat, wide, smooth trails. Fields, forests, mountains, even rows of pine trees planted in the 50s that reminded me of childhood summers at the family farm in Wisconsin. But this is a cycling blog.)

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Final stats: 20.69 miles (lol). 1 hour, 22 minutes. 500 feet.

Strava: https://www.strava.com/activities/1460070075

#20: Logjammin’


Bike: Tom Joad

Companion: Nobody

In my ears: Crunching gravel, wind

I’d planned this ride-and-hike for awhile, ever since looking at the 30-mile network of trails at King’s Gap Environmental Education Center and the long section of gravel known as Ridge Road and wondering if there was a way to combine them into one really fun day. There was, and it didn’t disappoint. Yeah, the sky was overcast for much of the day, and there was an annoying headwind on the way out. But other than that, it was perfect. Twenty miles to the base of Ridge Road, then another 10 or so as the road climbed along the spine of South Mountain, offering glimpses of the Cumberland Valley through the trees. Most sections of road were in good condition, packed down by the somewhat-frequent car traffic (though I didn’t see anyone else); it’s Pennsylvania, though, so there were of course some minefields of giant-ass stones. I was on my Jamis Renegade with 32c Panaracer GravelKings and they held up great. Doing the climb on 38s or 40s, set up tubeless, would be even better.

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The round wound upwards at a steady grade. The sun skirted off behind some clouds and pretty much stayed there. Up on top of the ridge a lot of the forest has been logged. The trees looked thinned-out, even more so than normal before the leaves arrive, and there were rough roads for big trucks veering off into the woods at regular intervals and florescent tags tied to trunks, fluttering in the breeze. I don’t like the way a forest looks when it’s “working” for us humans. It’s just ugly. But I use paper like everyone else, so I can’t really complain.

At the top of Ridge Road I was greeted with a pleasant surprise: the Barrow’s Rocks overlook. Never heard of it before. Judging by its location miles deep into a state forest on gravel roads, not too many others have either. I snapped a few photos and kept going to the Buck Ridge Trail trailhead.

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I power-hiked for a couple hours on trails that I had entirely to myself. I’m always amazed how relatively few people take advantage of the incredible free public recreation areas Pennsylvania has to offer. I have no idea why the parking lots aren’t packed, why the trails aren’t swarmed. Yeah, it’s nicer for those of us who do use these spaces. But I wish more people knew the joy of being out in the woods under your own power, hearing birds call and looking down deep into streams so clear the water looks invisible. Is Netflix that alluring? Are family and work duties that all-encompassing? Personally, I don’t think so. Autumn says she has coworkers who have plenty of time but say they just don’t like being outdoors. Just don’t enjoy it. I can’t understand that.

With a tailwind at my back, the ride home was smooth. (That is, after the three-mile gravel descent on Cold Spring Road. Let’s just say that I was praying to non-existent god to not flat, and that when I hit pavement again I silently thanked non-existent god.)

I rolled back eastward, through the towns named for springs, through farmland slowly morphing into developments where everybody gets their four acres and an Audi, under a sky gone dishwater grey. On previous trips, already five hours in, I would have been tempted to just hop on 641 and take the shortest way home. But I’m trying to get more comfortable spending long days outdoors in the elements and inside my own mind, trying to get comfortable with being uncomfortable. And I think it’s paying off. I followed the route as planned, which took me on Lisburn all the way into Grantham. (I wondered if the good Christian students there drink and fuck each other like college students everywhere, except in secret and with next-day shame. Or if they actually are Mike Pence-pure, then just get married young and live mildly unhappy lives like our neighbors at our old apartment.) Up Mt. Allen Drive, down Hertzler Road where I used to do intervals before I realized racing bikes is a lot less fun than just riding them. Then the outskirts of Lemoyne, the cemetery, the nice swooping downhill on State Street under the train tracks. A right onto the Market Street Bridge, the Susquehanna sliding past below. City Island, greenbelt, and finally, home.

When I’m olderI know I will treasure the days I spent like this in my youth soaking up the world while I could. Seeing a lot, sweating a little, moving my body in ways it was meant to move. I don’t think any days spent like that are wasted.

Final stats: 64 miles. 4 hours, 26 minutes. 3,500 feet.





https://www.relive.cc/view/1458022096 (part 1)

https://www.relive.cc/view/1458022148 (part 2)