We arrived in Pennsylvania on Saturday evening, and after a good night's rest, I was up on Sunday at 8 a.m. for some hot coffee and a pre-ride breakfast of peanut butter toast with a banana sliced on top. That's actually the tried and trusted breakfast that I eat before big races, and since we had a lengthy ride coupled with hills planned, I knew I needed to fuel up. After a quick check of our bikes and filling up our tires, we were off!
My step-dad bought his bike this past spring, and he's become an avid rider in just a few short months. He eventually increased his mileage, riding over 100 miles a week, and even finished a 78-mile race earlier this month (with over 8 mountains, and one was a Category 3... no big deal). He has his own bike repair shop set up downstairs, and although I've owned my bike for over three years, he
Ready to ride
The ride was indescribably beautiful. The weather was perfect - cool to start, sunny with a slight breeze, and hotter just as we finished. We rode on country roads and wove through little towns, east to Penn's Creek along the water and on a more highly trafficked highway into Mifflinburg. Every now and then I would yell to Jack, "I'm stopping to take a picture!" It was too beautiful not to photograph, and I knew I had to capture one of the coolest rides I'd ever been on.
One of many farm-lined roads
Jack briefly steered us off our route to show me this gravestone from 1780! How cool! It says that the man was killed by Indians in the area.
Strike a pose :)
Jack taking in the scenery and looking legit in his Dogfish Head jersey
I slammed on my brakes to photograph this lovely lily pad pond
Scared a few toads away with this shot ;)
The ride truly made me appreciate cycling even more. Unless you've climbed up a hill, shifting and shifting to keep your cadence up and struggling to keep your forward momentum, you can't fully appreciate the power that your body has on a bike and the work that goes into climbing a hill. I was definitely nervous before the ride, mainly because I knew I would encounter some steep climbs, and I basically had no experience riding on that kind of terrain. My rides in Indiana consist of two areas: the Monon Trail, full of intersections and pedestrian traffic, and flat roads in the country. Out here, it's a different story. I loved learning how to climb - from the momentum that you build up on the approach, to shifting at the right time (I even used my front derailleur!), and cresting the hill, all while staying in the saddle. It made me realize that your bike provides everything you need to get up tough hills, and you should work through all of your gears to get there. At the top of each hill, my step-dad would say, "Now, really let loose!" And boy were we flying! My "oh shit" button was around 30 mph - I'd see 30 on my speedometer, and my reflexes made me hit the brakes. ;) I eventually hit 33.4, and his max was nearly 43! Going that fast was yet another thing that I had never experienced on my bike, and despite feeling a little scared at first, once I got used to it, the speed felt awesome. I kept thinking, "This is riding."
It doesn't get much more beautiful than that.
We hopped on the Rail Trail in Mifflinburg - an 8-mile stretch of what used to be historic, inactive railroad tracks is now a half-pavement, half-gravel trail from Mifflinburg to Lewisburg
Probably the coolest moment of the ride was climbing our last hill (that felt like a mountain) and seeing this sight at the top - an Amish Church with horses and buggies lined along the fence.
There's something that cycling gives me that no other sport or form of exercise can create for me. As much as I enjoy running, when I pass a cyclist, I usually wish I was biking instead. You can cover so much distance on a bike, and you can go nearly anywhere, on any kind of terrain, alone or with fellow riders. Cycling makes me feel alive because it pushes me to my physical limits, but it also gives me a sense of peacefulness at the same time. On this ride in particular, as we rode by fields under the wide open sky, I felt incredibly connected to the earth. Don't get me wrong, by the end of the ride (which, by the way, turned out to be 30 miles instead of 25), I was sweaty, hungry, and my legs were shot. But I felt confident that I had successfully ridden some legitimate hills, and I loved that I was able to enjoy my first morning of vacation on a beautiful ride in the Pennsylvania countryside. Jack is already planning our next rides this week - one with "real mountains," and a 50-miler. After Sunday's ride, I think I can handle it. ;)
P.S. Happy birthday to my wonderful Mom!!! :)