Today had many looks. At the start it had all of the makings of a long day. I probably stopped 10 times in the first two hours. Deer picture (above). Too cold. Too hot. Bathroom breaks. Wrong turns. Phone charge at a sports complex bathroom. Valley Forge visitor center. But then came the best greenway ever. The Chester Valley Trail. 15-20 paved miles, flat and super well maintained. Fort Mill: you are on notice. I’ve started planning how I can influence a better network of pedestrian-friendly trails.
I woke up this morning in my tent in a large pavilion at Evansburg SP and truly didn’t know where I was. I suppose this means I slept amazingly well. That State Park was a happening place until about 8:30pm. All kinds of people coming and going. So much so that I held off on putting up camp as it was difficult to predict where the later hang out spots were going to be. In the two hours I was there I saw a nasty breakup (he stood with his hands in his pants while she screamed at him – not a good scene), a newly dating couple of middle agers (he prepped a cooler picnic complete with fondue, they took a walk and did some smooching) and an 80 year old couple walking their tiny small white dog. Then there were lots of random folks slowly driving around. Barely a state park. But I still slept well.
Riding after the greenway trail was largely marked by time on PA-10. Think picturesque corn and soybean fields on a winding hilly road…silos, barns, horses split by a road stacked full of farm-related 18-wheelers cruising through the countryside. After 10 miles of this I piled into a roadside stand run by two local Minunite families. For $6 I drank homemade blackberry lemonade, ate two fresh apples, a homemade energy bar and a whoopie pie. Pretty good way to say goodbye to Pennsylvania.
Hello to Maryland was a little more abrupt. After a momentary break under fruit trees at the state line it was down, down, down to ride over the top of the Susquehanna Dam – a small two lane road where the water was actually at eye level to my right. I rode as fast as I could over the 1/2 mile crossing at mile 70 of the day while holding up about 22 cars behind me that had no room to pass. They loved me. From there I spent three hours learning that Northern Maryland is really, really hilly. I easily spent more time today in my Granny gear than on any prior day on this trip. Serious gradients. Serious fatigue. Serious props to all of the Maryland cyclists.
My day had an awesome ‘carrot’ pulling me along. Matt and Jenn Hellmers and their home. With less than 24 hours notice they put their lives on hold to host me in their home. This only after realizing there was no way I could make 30 miles more to DuMont’s house (sorry Chris and Robin). The Hellmers’ did make me earn it with a huge final pull (in my granny gear) up to their hilltop home. Once there, I couldn’t stop admiring their garage. It could have been mistaken for a well-stocked bike shop. Super cool. They socialized, fed me, the kids toured me around their playrooms (loved the Thomas jump track!) and allowed me a shower and a great night’s sleep in a bed. I am super-grateful for their hospitality on no notice. I know this now (and didn’t then), but they are truly in the thick of it kid-wise. 3 and 5 year olds take all you got. This is my second house visited with kids these ages and I shudder at their apologies. I get a great feeling of warmth knowing the stuff we went through with kids that age was normal. All families with kids that age are going through it. A lesson only time teaches and I imagine I’ll continue to learn over and over again. Thanks Hellmers for the lesson and hospitality. I hope I can repay it one day.
What did I love today: Seeing old friends and hanging out at the Pennsylvania barnside stand.
Oddity: A hawk takes off from a field adjacent to me, drops a small mouse from its talons on the road in front of me. The mouse scurries to the side of the road for cover having his life just spared and misses my front tire by millimeters! Oh the injustice that would have been. That mouse should play the lottery. Luckiest. Day. Ever.
Zen moment: The Chester Valley Trail.
Not-so-zen moment: The hills of MD. I might have cussed them a bit.
Who did I meet: The full Hellmers family!
Food I ate: banana, peanut butter and Nutella wrap, bar on the bike, bar on the bike, whoopie pie, granola bar, 2 apples and blackberry lemonade, 3 handfuls of chipotle chickpeas, bar on the bike, roasted veggies, salad and barley with apples and grapes at the Hellmers.
Tomorrow into VA via D.C. 779 miles ridden.