The draw of a fall tour is, of course, the color. A side benefit is a bit of hide-toughening before the winter cold sets in. On a long weekend a month after the equinox, we had both on a run through the mountains of central-southern Pennsylvania.
Our crew was a reprise of the summer Vermont tour, organized by Crista. Lane and I were in for three days not four, so we drove to Shippensburg early Saturday to meet Chuck & Crista and Joel, who had biked out of Frederick on Friday.
We spent a cool, mostly cloudy day chugging west against the grain of the Alleghenies, which our route cut at the point where the rake of the bear claw tips from mostly east-west to mostly north-south. We “enjoyed” five climbs of two-and-a-half to three miles with grades of eight to ten percent, the toughest of them number four, Sideling Hill, west of Raystown Lake. And on the last downside of the day, Joel encountered hail on Tussey Mountain. But I was in the valley, taking in a double rainbow amid a shower.
Sunday morning we headed south with the grain through rolling hills and valleys, taking a few hard punches along the way. Over an 1800-foot gap, I hit 50 miles an hour for the first time ever, a non-event because the road was smooth and fairly straight. An hour or so after a mid-afternoon lunch, we made the turn east, once again cutting against the grain until the final climb back over Sideling Hill, 10 miles from the day’s end on the C&O Canal at Hancock, Maryland.
After a restful night at the Riverrun B&B next to the Western Maryland Rail Trail, we got up Monday to a cold thermometer, about 40 degrees, and put off the start of a section of the DC Randonneurs’ classic Frederick 400k route. C&C and Joel broke east for their return to Frederick; Lane and I continued the 400k to Cove Gap and on into the Cumberland Valley to Shippensburg. After four hours, the temperatures had risen to earlier-season levels, the upper 60s under clear skies. We’d had just a taste of the winter cold, but as the pics show, mission accomplished on the color.
The photo show is here.