Wednesday, August 28 – 3100 miles down, 173 to go
Today was book-ended with rain.
Rain was brewing last night when we went to bed, and the air was thick with humidity this morning and it had rained overnight. So we knew we’d have to start on wet roads. We loaded up and then went to breakfast, which we had to order in the hotel restaurant, so it took longer than we would have liked. Didn’t get on the road until 7:50 am. It was so wet that a gang of Street Ducks accosted us as we were about to head out. They came charging across the parking lot, making their intentions quite clear by quacking and threatening us with their demeanor. We threw them some bread to divert their attention, then quickly mounted our bikes and got going.
I had reconfigured our route last night so we weren’t on brutal highway 22 as much. We eventually had to get on it in order to cross the Susquehanna River, but I’d found some back-roads that we could ride for many miles before we got back on that loud roadway. We started and had to navigate out of town and it was sprinkling a little for the first hour or so. Nothing major, and we didn’t even have coats on, but just enough to cloud your glasses.
I had us on Hawstone Road for several miles, and it showed its teeth immediately. You go off-piste, you risk serious climbing. So, we climbed and went up and down for awhile, but it was actually very nice as the road was deserted and we were in the Pennsylvania backwoods. In fact, Amy saw a sign that said “Travel at your own risk” and showed just how remote we were. Hmm, maybe it’s the people who are guarding their stills up there in them holler’s.
We ended up on Old Route 22 and it was a great road as well. Again, lots of little towns, not a lot of traffic, and generally a very enjoyable ride as we spun along. We took a stop in Mifflin to eat donut holes and other fare and the skies were clearing a bit. Right outside of town there was one of the best highway signs we’d seen in awhile. It was about seat belt safety, so see the picture, below.
We hit road construction where they were repaving and had to wait for a bit. When we got up to the flagman he stopped us and said, “I’m not supposed to let you through. My boss said to tell you to go back. You shouldn’t go through here“. Rick replied immediately, in a commanding voice that cut the man like a katana: “Go back where? We’re going to New York!” In my mind I heard Dan Ackroyd’s voice from the Blues Brother’s movie saying, “We’re on a mission from God!“. The flagman jumped like he’d had a Kazat! moment, and said, “Follow that car then and keep up!” We giggled at the force of Rick’s statement, and how it had affected the flagman. Hey, we’re not gonna be denied by anything: detours, flagmen, and as we shall soon see, rain.
Eventually we had to get on our friend highway 22, and it was actually a great stretch and we made good time. For some reason it wasn’t as busy and the shoulder was wide, clean and we had our protective rumble strip. I was marveling at how clean it was, and 10 seconds later I got a rear flat. So, fixed that quickly and got back underway. We crossed the Susquehanna River, and let me tell you, they make wide rivers in the east. That thing must have been 2 miles wide. When we got to the other side we stopped and gazed at this wide, shallow, clear river. I mean, you could see the bottom. It was beautiful. And there was what appeared to be a replica of the Statue of Liberty (all white) on an island in the river. Really cool.
Stopped for lunch when we turned off at Linglestown and used the vacant parking lot of a Jehovah’s Witness hall. Nice shady trees, and we feasted on ham and cheese sandwiches, thin cut Claussen’s and all sorts of goodies. As we left Rick’s back tire went flat, so we fixed that up as quickly as possible and got going again. We were in the northern outskirts of Harrisburg, so we were doing urban riding for awhile, but we finally cleared the city and got on Hershey Road and headed for the chocolate capital.
We rolled into Hershey and asked Amy to go buy us some chocolate at the Museum gift shop. Hershey seems a bit too perfect and clean, kind of like a Disney City. But it’s real nice and they have an amusement park and all sorts of Hershey-related things going on. And their street lights are killer – they all look like Hershey’s Kisses. So, that was kind of fun.
We were about 6 miles from done when we rode into a dark cloudy mess and it started to sprinkle again. So we pulled into the parking lot of a UPS Store to wait for Amy and the sag so we could put all the electronics inside and put on some rain gear. While we were there Tom went into Mayor Mode and soon made friends with Brad, the manager of the UPS store. So, we ended up taking a picture with Brad by the trailer, and we’re hoping our message had some resonance with him and he’ll donate, and tell his friends.
It rained hard while we were talking with Brad, but had stopped by the time we got going again. I had on rain pants and a coat, Rick was in black mushroom mode again with his helmet cover, shoe covers and jacket on, and Tom had his jacket on. It didn’t matter. In about a mile it started to rain again, and then it started to pour. For days we’ve been riding through these towns and they have these gigantic grates on the side of the roads that we have to keep dodging, and we keep thinking, “Why are there so many grates and why are they so big?” Now we know, the water was sluicing down the streets at an alarming rate and we were soaked to the bone.
We ground on but I wasn’t able to see the Garmin to even know where we were or how far we had to go. Plus, we had to take a city limits picture once we hit Lebanon. We found the sign and Amy got soaked taking the picture. Perils of being the sag driver. We ultimately entered Lebanon and rode through more rainy streets to the Days Inn hotel. Of course it’s kind of a dump, and I had to take a picture of the sign that’s right outside of our window.
I can’t describe how soaked we were. Rick went in to get the keys to the rooms and he flooded the reception desk as water coursed down his arms as he tried to sign for the rooms. We stripped down and piled our wet kits on the floor of the room and took a much-needed shower. Then to dinner and the laundromat to wash and dry everything. Had to wipe down the bikes, clean the drivetrains, then grease the chains, etc. We ate at an Italian restaurant that’s run by a guy named Vito Amato. Vito appears to be mobbed-up pretty good and probably runs the place as a front. But he served us huge plates of food and boy was it good. On the way out we took about 10 newspapers so we could stuff our shoes with paper and get them to dry before tomorrow.
Tomorrow we have our Parkinson’s event in Doylestown and Kathleen and Isaac fly in as well. I get to see my family again so I’m excited. Kathleen will ride into New York with us Friday to the finish at Nat Sherman’s and Ike will ride in the sag. Two days left. Amazing it will be over soon.