Thursday, July 23, 2009

To Paradise and Back


OH MY GOD DAD What’s that smell???

The youngster and I did the MS Bike ride in Pennsylvania. I’m not ready to say it was better or worse than the MS ride we do here at home. It was definitely different.

First there were two MS Chapters doing the ride. There was the Central Pennsylvania and Delaware Valley Chapters. I thought that would mean we were doing the same route, but no. We shared some of the same rest stops and parts of our route was the same as theirs, but parts were different. I have no idea why.

Second, there was no universal organized start time. The stuff I got said we could start from 6:30 to 8:30. I took that to mean the mass start would be at 6:30, and stragglers could leave up to 8:30. We got there at about 6:25. I expected to be stopped and directed to park somewhere, but no. We drove right through the start line to a nearby parking lot. There were just a few people there. I’m thinking, “Where the hell is everybody? Are we in the right place?” Turned out we were. We got our stuff together and headed to the start line, and waited for someone with a bullhorn to show up. There were all of two groups waiting there. It soon became apparent that nobody with a bullhorn was going to show up, and those two groups were only there because some of their friends hadn’t shown up yet, and they were waiting for people. No organized start. No police help. Just get up and go when you’re ready. The youngster caught on first, saying, “Dad, I think we just go.” I was being stubborn waiting for someone to tell us to start. Then, after seeing a few other people leave, I conceded, “I think you’re right. Let’s go.”

The weather was perfect. Temps started in the high 60s and maybe hit 80 by the time we finished. Not much humidity. Lots of sun…no rain.

First part of the ride…mostly downhill…and the youngster’s smiling. “I love this hill thing!” I blinked and we were about 5 miles into it. I’m thinking…dude, we gotta go back up at some point, and it won’t be fun. We learned real fast that there would be a whole lot more shifting in this ride than anything we do in Florida. I was really appreciating that I wasn’t riding my old bike with the lever shifters on the down tube. That would have been a killer. It all seemed like a much smaller scale than the ride at home, but some of that was because of the staggered start and not everybody on the same route, and some was because it really is smaller.

The scenery was amazing. Again, not really better or worse than home (I mean really, going down the beach on A1A is pretty nice too), but definitely different. It was really cool for the youngster, who had never been out there in farmland and rolling hills before. He kept saying, “Dad, just look to your left (or right). You could make a whole calendar of pictures on this ride.” I didn’t say, “Yeah buddy…people do.” But I was thinking it. We went through covered wooden bridges and passed a whole lot of horse and buggy riding Amish folks. We saw Amish people in the fields and one guy pounding something on an anvil. We saw tons of barns, some with hex markings. One guy was riding this scooter looking thing with big bike wheels, but you had to push it…no pedals. It was a beautiful ride.

With the cool scenery comes reality though. We came in very close proximity to a bunch of barns, maybe ten yards from cows in those barns, and the youngster got his first smell of very fresh cow manure. That’s when he took one hand off the handle bar, buried his nose in his elbow and yelled, “OH MY GOD DAD! What’s that smell?” He complained for a little bit, and then mused about how we were going to smell when we finished. Then there was the reality of the whole horse and buggy thing. Those buggies travel the right side of the road, like we do. Unlike us, horses don’t wait for rest stops and use the rest room. Avoiding chunks wasn’t so hard, but the stuff ground into the road…no way. Realistically, none of that is staying with your tires for very long, but the youngster’s were new, and he whined a little about that. Last, but certainly not least, were the hills. After that first little downhill slide, came the first uphill part, then down, then up, then down, then up, then up some more…etc., etc., etc. Sometimes you could build speed on the downhill part and gain momentum for the next uphill part, but lots of times there were stop signs or lights at the bottom of the hill (or a covered bridge, and you couldn’t fly through those…wooden slats for road), so you had to stop at the bottom and start from scratch and head back up. About 40 miles in, the youngster said, “Dad, you said there’d be hills, but you didn’t say it’d be all hills. It’s all up or down. There’s no flat.” The kid was right. I underestimated that part, and how hard they’d be.

They didn’t provide us with a route map, although I know they existed, because I saw them at rest stops. I couldn’t read them then, because I didn’t carry reading glasses with me. They probably had them at some table at check-in, but I didn't look at the time. Here, you can download a map from the website for the ride, but it wasn't on the website for the ride up there. I did, however, e-mail the organizers when I got home and requested one. I hope they come through. I expect we went to the town of Paradise, since it was part of the name of the ride. I know we went through the town of Intercourse, because we had lunch there, and I saw signs (and no, contrary to what you may think, Intercourse and Paradise aren't the same). Other than that, I have no idea exactly where we were.

They called us "the orange people" because of the jerseys we wore. They were the ride jerseys from the ride we did last fall from Saint Augustine to Daytona and back, and had orange sleeves and sides. The youngster overheard people at one rest stop say, "We're doing OK. We're keeping up with the orange people." Yeah, like keeping up with us means you're doing OK. Nobody told them it was our first attempt at that kind of topography. Then one of the later rest stops came with a cheering section, they welcomed and bid farewell, "the orange people."

Unlike the ride at home, you come to a fork in the road about 40 miles in where you decide to ride 75 or 100 miles. I like making that decision toward the end, evaluating whether or not I feel good enough to do another 25 miles. Here, that wasn’t an option. We got to the rest stop at 90 miles and people who had done the ride before were talking about the last 10 miles…and that it was all uphill. It wasn’t all uphill, but it was close. We were paying for that first downhill part of the ride, and it was hard. It was easily the most difficult ride I’ve ever done. It finished at Millersville University, where it started, which was nice for us one day riders. Supposedly the second day route was different. Maybe the two chapters just switched routes. We didn’t stick around to find out.

I’d have to agree with the youngster, who said, “I couldn’t do another day of that tomorrow. I’d be dead.” Overall, it was an enjoyable day and I'm very glad we did it. It'll be a while though, before we pack up the bikes and head back north for round two.

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Blogger JessieE said...

great story. I think about you sometimes when I'm out on my bike (!) and how lucky you are that it's FLAT where you ride. Not so much here.

3:15 PM  

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