Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Geezers, Live Bait, and Ice Cream

My favorite thing about back roads is the general store.

Rebersburg in Penn Valley has two directly across from each other. The one on the south side of the street has hitching rings on its porch for the Amish horse and buggies. Another in Moshannon sells hunting gear and ammo. At one time you could outfit an entire hunting camp from that store—including guns. Some have lunch counters; others are attached to garages.

Waterville’s has a large, sweaty wheel of white cheddar under a glass bell. The bell is attached to a string and counterweight. The girl at the counter cuts large slabs and warps them in wax paper. Another in Cobern comes complete with rocking chairs and geezers on the porch. All have live bait.

These are the places I look for when I ride. They remind me of childhood road trips with my grandparents. Lazy summer days spent at produce stands and evenings out for ice cream at dairy stores and roadside drive-ins. These are the places that close early in the winter but stay open late into the night once summer arrives. Places that get swallowed up as rural America becomes gentrified. These are the places I love.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Runing Dry

I logged somewhere in the neighborhood of 150 miles on Friday—two mountain passes, a ridge road, and some straight lines through farm country. Redbuds and cherry trees were in bloom. Farm fields were freshly plowed. It was perfect. I ran the tank dry.

I didn’t think much about it at first. I was more concerned about finding a gas station than marveling at my mileage. After filling up, my total was $16.00. In 2000, that same $16.00 filled my Golf. In 1984, it filled an old F-Series flatbed that I drove.

When I first thought about driving around Pennsylvania’s back roads, I had dreams of an old Ford truck similar to those I grew up driving. In fact, the one I learned to drive on sits outside what used to be the Big Trout Inn in Bellefonte, Pa.

With gas at $3.65 per gallon, I’m glad I got the bike.

Saturday, April 26, 2008


Don't sneeze in the helmet. Hold off if you can. You're going to have to trust me on that.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Everything Counts

Each time I ride I learn something new about my abilities and the bike. This past weekend I learned about wind. Not the headwind that crushes you on the straightaway, but the gusting crosswind that kills your line.

I was in a long curve—not unlike a cloverleaf—heading uphill on a steep incline. I could feel the wind hitting me hard on the inside. The bike remained stable, and I never felt out of control, but the wind was pushing me into the outer passing lane. As I continued to accelerate through the curve the crosswind seemed to have less of an effect, and my line corrected itself.

Little things like this remind me that everything in the riding environment is a factor, and that I ride at my own risk.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Opening Day

I skipped the opening day of trout season this year. For those of you who don’t know, Central Pa. has some of the best trout streams on the East Coast. Browns and rainbows lurk in deep pools, the water is clear, and on a day like yesterday, you could see the fish lining up. My choice not to fish would be considered heretical by some—or liberating.

The roads were clear and dry. The air temperature was in the high 60s. Not bad for a day that was supposed to be rainy and gray. With my mother-in-law due to arrive in 48 hours and the spare room still not finished—I realigned my priorities and rolled the bike out of the garage. Did I mention that liberating feeling?

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Smells Like Spring

For one brief, beautiful day spring took hold, and I took to the road.

In rural Pennsylvania early spring is lush and deep. The air is filled with earth. It surrounds you with anticipation and the promise that better things lie ahead.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Trout? What Trout?

The bike started. The weather has moved from dismal to passable. I’m on the road. It’s a week before tout season, and I’m more concerned with road conditions and wind chill. This is not me in spring.

Usually at this time of year, I’m one of these guys—hip deep in 58-degree water—but not this year. This year, I hit Fisherman’s Paradise via Houserville road—rolling through the ess curves that hug Spring Creek. The trout can wait.