Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Chips and Stones

Part of the Pennsylvania Wilds, my favorite run to date is Pa Route 144. It begins in Potters Mills at the Eutaw house and ends 100 miles later on the northern tier at the intersection of U.S. 6 in Galeton, Pa. I usually pick it up in Bellefonte then ride it through to Renovo where I can grab a late breakfast. The best section of this leg comes after the straight away at the top of the ridge road. Twists, turns, mottled sunlight and no services—it has everything.

Currently it’s being chipped and oiled. Nothing sucks the fun out of a ride like loose gravel and hot tar. Sometimes this process is a harbinger of a complete overhaul—and the promise of a new surface. A quick look at the PennDOT site tells me otherwise. Time to find a new section of road and let the chips fall where they may.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Magic Hour

Summer has been good this year. The light before sunset is warm and soothing, and an hour ride after dinner took me through a series of narrow back roads that hug the tributaries of Spring Creek.

Little hamlets with names like Linden Hall and Axeman straddle the roads that twist and turn with the creek bed. No traffic. Plenty of rain and temperatures in the 80s have filled the fields with the sweet smell of cut hay and fresh manure.

My recent trip to Seattle reminded me of how much I miss the Northwest. This evening reminded me of why I moved back to Pennsylvania.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

What Happened To the Sunday Drive

The day is full and the roads are empty.

Tiger lilies, corn flowers, and daisies boarder the summer roadside in Central Pa. Even in the midday light, their colors are deep and inviting. I found this stretch on the way to Bald Eagle creek. I was driving the shuttle car for one of our summer canoe trips, and I made a note to ride through here on the bike later in the weekend. It was good. So good that I turned around and rode it again.

One of the many things I enjoy motorcycling is the solitude and simple beauty. The rush of wind in the helmet and the quiet presence of mind that an empty road brings has turned out to be everything I expected. However, I miss traveling in a car with friends.

My father and grandfather were Pennsylvania State Troopers. They knew all of the back roads and diners. As we drove, they would point out the roadside attractions and local stories. Pop was the history ace. When he would visit, he and our neighbor Harold would prowl the roads in an old Impala and swap stories. If it happened in Pennsylvania, Pop or Harold knew the back story.

Dad on the other hand was all about local color. Years spent hanging out with old coots left him with the secret locations of the best diners and roadhouses, late summer trout streams, and vast blueberry fields. Most of the good stuff is gone now, but I remember names like, The Star Garden, The Big Trout, and the Renovo YMCA. And when I'm in the mood for a two mile walk in, Spruce Run is still good for native trout in all but the driest of summers.

There was a time when my wife and I would spend hours off the beaten path. We would share stories of what this region was like when we were growing up, or tell tales about the local history we learned from our parents. These are things we had planned to do with our daughters. Pennsylvania's lost highways and their history were to be a staple of our children's summer days.

With gas at $4.00/gallon, our car time is now spent running errands. Family rides with no particular destination have fallen by the wayside. If the traffic I saw today is any indication, the Sunday drive has already become a thing of the past.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Motorcycling Has Killed My Yard

The good weather, and the neglect of three months of yard work has taken its toll.

What was once a somewhat shabby and overgrown plot has now matured into the kind of yard that causes committees to form and ordinances to be enforced. The culprits: An old sink from the kitchen renovation, two charcoal grills, and the middle row of seats from a 1990 VW Vanagon—sold by the way, to six kids from Leeds who are currently making their way across the U.S. and Canada. These items are, as the hosts of HGTV inform me, “the focal points” of my landscape.

The regular afternoon rains that have killed my riding schedule have also encouraged the creeping vines to run unchecked through the garden. So, in an effort to make up for past indulgences, I decided to face this monster head on.

It is amazing what you forget as you get older. Apparently the little section of memory—once reserved for the information that keeps me from hurting myself—has been cleared out. It has been re-purposed to store the names of my youngest daughter's stuffed animals, their location, and ranking within the royal hierarchy. The space in the back of my mind which once reminded me of what poison ivy looks like is gone.

It was bad. The idea of stuffing my foot into a leather boot for a ride was as appealing as a trip to the vivisectionist's. I missed days of riding in warm light that lasted until nine. My skin was crawling.

I am on the last two days of a prescription steroid. Things are on the mend. My right foot no longer frightens small children. The vines however, continue to be a menace.