Jeff's pictures: http://www.flickr.com/photos/94813562@N07/
1st half of report.... (second half tomorrow)....
Team NYGTF started our 227 mile Fleche from Eric’s house in Boalsburg PA at 8:00 AM. The morning with bright and cold, about 27 deg F, but we anticipated a nice warm up because there wasn’t a cloud in the sky – a true rarity in this part of the world. As we made our way northwest, straight up the center of Brush Valley along Rt. 192, we noticed we were battling a headwind. It wasn’t particularly strong (5 to 10 mph, I think), but it certainly added to the chill and slowed our progress. It was mildly discouraging because we were not due for a significant change in heading until we reached Lewisburg at mile 55. The first 35 miles were also spent going uphill too. Despite all that we maintained a respectable 14.5 mph average speed along that segment.
We made a brief stop in Rebersburg to find a way to do an information controle for the Endless Mountains 1240, on behalf of Tom Rosenbauer. We did find an easy to find, permanent historical marker that should be perfect.
Further up the road, we stopped for about 10 minutes at the small lake and dam at RB Winter State Park and took a few pictures. There were still some snow banks lining the road in that area. I enjoyed this part of the route… the pine trees, low traffic, and the fast section of road that dropped about 1,350 feet in 18 miles. Not enough of a slope to be a dramatic downhill, but one that made you think....“hmm. I am riding along pretty good here…”. But regrettably the cold headwind put a damper on our speed a bit.
We stopped on the bridge crossing the west branch of the Susquehanna River at Lewisburg, where we paused to eat a bit and snap a few pictures. It was here where Jeff (who is an aquatic biologist) explained the difference between the ‘west branch’ and the ‘main stem’ of this 16th largest river in the USA (and one of the oldest rivers in the world; befitting that the Appalachians it runs through are amongst the world’s oldest mountains).
We then turned south following the river. We had our first controle in Northumberland at mile 64, and we then crossed the main stem of the Susquehanna. Around this time we actually could feel our fingers, toes, and noses again. The wind had left us, and wouldn’t be much of a factor for the rest of the Fleche. We continued on Rt.147, which, although it follows the river, is along its steep banks, and the road rises and falls along the ragged edge of those banks. This road had quite a bit of traffic on it and wasn’t too much fun to ride on. We controlled again in Herdon, and soon turned off of busy roads onto a nice piece of back road PA cycling heaven between miles 82 and 98. Absolutely primo scenery and roads. Doesn’t get much better….but then, it got a fair amount worse….
We had a pretty stiff 800 foot climb on Gap Street leading us to the village of Good Spring, where I gotta tell you the scenery and road quality was anything but good… and I would definitely not recommend drinking the water. Apparently there was a lot of past strip mining in this area, and evidence of the environmental damage was easily visible on both sides of the road for about a 6 mile stretch. There were a few “ponds’ of obvious acid mine drainage here and there. Sheesh. And the road.. oh dear lord, the “road”…. After getting on Rt. 125, we road the worst stretch of state route pavement I have ever experienced for about 4 miles. Imagine what riding over a crack the size of a bridge expansion joint every 10 feet at 22+ mph (this part of the road was distinctly downhill). At least we got through that forsaken area quickly enough….
Soon after that we stopped to have dinner at Randazzo's Pizza in the slightly quaint town of Tremont. The food was good there and the locals were super friendly. Lots of questions. "Where you going? Huh, really, serious? That's crazy! Tonight? In the dark? Where'd you come from? Really? Did you start a couple days ago? This morning!? No ****!" One particular, inebriated gentleman was so impressed he kept wanting to buy us food and drinks with his girlfriend's money. She wasn't as impressed with us as he was. He actually wanted to ride with us, but didn't have a bike, or enough coordination in his present state.
When we left Tremont, we had a fast and fun ride down along Good Spring Creek, and then turned off into another, even more extended (58 miles!), primo stretch of absolute great back roads, eventually passing through Swatara Gap, and the little towns of Fredericksburg, Bernville, and Shoemakersville. Also thrown in there was a brief control stop in Lickdale, right after the Gap (you gotta controle the 'corners' of your route on a Fleche...). My only regret is that we did 2/3rds of this stretch in the dark - so obviously it was a little hard to appreciate the scenery. The roads were so much fun - a never ending roller coaster of shallow rollers and twists and turns, that even in the dark, they weren't even remotely monotonous. I am sure they would be even more fun in the daytime.
(to be continued)