9 weeks ago today we started the adventure, and in 4 days it will be over.
After having cycled about 80 miles every day for the past 6 days, today’s ride was a little respite for me. I rode 64 miles from Woodland to Coburn through Penn State University and over another 4,000 feet of hills and through another 4,300 feet of downhill coasting. The landscape is a little less hilly, revealing Pennsylvania’s own beautiful farms and majestic barns.
The Poorly-Placed Sign on the On-Ramp
I stayed on Route 322 because it proved a great road to cycle yesterday. 30 miles in, however, it turned chaotic. Route 322 merged with 3 other routes, and suddenly I found myself on the on-ramp for Interstate 99 with a sign that read: “Motor Vehicles Only.” (I’m wondering why they didn’t place this sign at the top of the on-ramp instead of half-way through it…) A little stuck, I continued cycling for about 500 feet when I saw a frontage road. I scaled the 2-foot concrete wall that separated the two roads, averting a ticket and being counted as road kill.
A shout out to my good friend Jeff Brown for steering me in the right direction through Pennsylvania. Having been raised in eastern Ohio, he knew about the Appalachian Mountains. A few days ago, he suggested that I attack them from the north instead of the south. And now I am in love with the cycling in Pennsylvania! (Thank you Jeff Brown!) The Appalachians are stunning, the uphills are challenging, and the downhills are exhilarating. I’m not sure I would have felt the same if I had started this adventure on the east coast and headed west. I feel stronger than ever which is probably why these hills are fun instead of dreadful.
After a break this afternoon, the RV choked (we’re not exactly sure why). “Clank clank clank” is the only sound it made as Justin tried starting it. As I was reminding myself of Lesson #2 from Day 62 (be intentional with flexible expectations), Justin pored over the RV manual for a resolution. He literally jumped up when he read about the emergency starter button. Discovering it next to the steering wheel, he pressed it, turned the key, and started the engine easily. Tomorrow morning, MacGyver is driving the RV to a service center on our route…
On another break, I met up with Justin as he was interviewing James, an organic farmer and jack-of-all-trades in Center Hall, PA. Not only is James a farmer, he is also a carpenter, a welder, and a blacksmith. James says that what he loves about work is staying busy, but from what I observed around the farm, what James really loves is restoring, creating, and inventing things. When he gave us a tour of his farm, he couldn’t help but proudly show us the contraptions he has invented, the tractors he has fixed, and the 1880 barn he has restored. One of the most positive, upbeat, friendly people we’ve met.
5 More Lessons
- Eat a little a lot. I don’t eat a lot, I eat something small, but I eat all the time – as in every 10 miles. I have discovered that in doing so I have trained my body to use the food as it goes in instead of store the food out of fear that I might not feed it again for a while. So I have learned to keep food with me at all times, and Rob and Justin can attest that when I get hungry and don’t have food within reach, I get ugly.
- Listen to my knees. I didn’t do this trip last summer because of my knees. So for the past year I have worked with Steve, an amazing physical therapist, who has taught me about my knees, including how to rub the tendons around them to alleviate pain whenever it hits. As a result of listening to my knees, I have cycled 4,000 miles without Advil or other pain killers. Turns out my knees weren’t an obstacle to the ride; they just needed a little attention and TLC.
- Keep some kind of journal. I have never kept a journal, until the blog, which has served as my journal for the trip. And yet there is so much that I did not put in the blog that I wish I would have documented somewhere to remember for myself. I am amazed at how the days seem to blend together, even on one of the more exciting adventures of my life. (No wonder the weeks and months fly by in the real world.)
- Paper maps and clear directions are vital tools. In my car I rely on my GPS to get me where I need to go. As a result, I’ve become a bit road-stupid. I am crazy about my bike GPS (the Garmin Edge800), but it is not 100% reliable for best routes. So I have come to love reading maps again and asking people for specific directions. In a car a wrong turn is an inconvenience. On a bike it is more than frustrating.
- Bring friends next time. Next time I ride across the country, I’m bringing some friends with me. I didn’t realize what a difference it would make until I had the joy of cycling with Alan through Nevada and Utah, Wendy through Kansas and Missouri, and Rob and Jeff through Illinois and Indiana. It was so delightful to experience the scenery, the road kill, the signs, and the funny moments with other cycling enthusiasts.
Day 64 Stats
Total miles: 3,972.72 miles (tomorrow will be 4,000 miles!)
Day 64 ascent: 4,091 feet
Day 64 descent: 4,377 feet
Total interviews: 103
Road kill count: 1,825
(Added 78 today, including a groundhog – new to the list. Groundhogs are so rampant that they must have been in other road kill counts, but evidently unidentifiable each time.)
Destination for Day 65: Elysburg, PA (more climbing through the Appalachian Mountains!)