The roads outside Lancaster, PA lumber up and down rolling hills and skirt ridges for miles. Framed by corn fields, they each have a peculiar rut down the center of each lane where the pounding of horse hooves have worn down the asphalt. They are also littered with horse – ahem – dung. This is Amish country, Pennsylvania Dutch to be more precise. And this is also where I spent the weekend with my good friend Matt and his family (Pat, James and Kevin) as well as one of his friends (Dave).
I pulled into Millersville around 7:30 on Friday night, with my bike on the roof rack of the Outback. The sun was low in the sky and the corn tassels shone golden as I was driving from US 30 to the college. After registering I met Matt and Dave and we went out for some dinner (this would be my second dinner) at a little Italian joint called Two Cousins. I had a cheesesteak – not quite Philly, but a good representation – beef, fried onions, cheese, and sauce on a roll baked in the shop. It was heavenly.
After we shot the breeze and drank a beer or two, we hit the sack early because we really needed to get up early to beat the heat. I woke at 5:15 (before the alarm) and took a quick shower, then clad myself in spandex, ate a Clifbar and checked the pressure of my bike’s tires. We had a long ride ahead of us and it was going to be a scorcher of a day. At 6:30, we were rolling and it was already 85F. By 8:00, it was in the 90’s and the heat index was approaching 100 degrees.
The team road at a pretty good pace and we were off the 50 mile course by 11:30, which was a really good thing because heat exhaustion, or worse heat stroke, was a real danger. I learned an important lesson about my cycling abilities — I need to incorporate more hills into my cycling routines. I had no concerns about 50 miles, but I was not prepared for the hills, and to be honest, I was lagging on them — especially by the end of the ride.
After the first days ride, I got a massage which worked miracles and had some food and water. Then we all took naps. After naps, we had dinner in the Millersville Dining Hall. I was reminded of why I don’t live in a dorm anymore — the food was, well, sustaining but not satisfying. The team went out to see a movie, and then we hit the sack early again.
Sunday we rolled at about 6:30 also to avoid the heat as much as possible. The temperature was down, but the humidity was up. To make matters worse, when we hit the first rest stop at mile 9, they weren’t ready for us. We were lucky to get some water and rolled on to the next stop at mile 20. In general, the second day’s course was a bit easier to deal with — less hills — and I felt a little more scenic. Maybe that was just because I wasn’t struggling as much.
As a team we had several setbacks on the second ride including chain pops and flat tires. But we finished the 56 mile course in about 6 hours anyway. I probably added an additional 2 miles to my trip when I went back looking for James who had some bike issues and had been SAGged (we didn’t know this). I thought for sure the man had been swallowed up by a corn field.
All in all, it was a great weekend. Thanks to my good friends and family, I managed to raise $1420 to benefit the Central Pennsylvania Chapter of the National MS Society. This was truly a weekend of giving back and it felt great, even if I’m stiff and sore for the rest of this week…