Pedal PA

As it often happens, my job had me traveling most of this week. I left home early on Sunday and didn’t return until early, like 1 AM, on Thursday. In that time, I drove to Allentown, PA, south to Philadelphia and home again. I had meetings with 4 different customers and managed to squeeze in 2 bike rides.

The first ride was in Allentown. I found a route that looked promising on MapMyRide.com, but given the number of turns and roads traveled, I was hesitant to try it. There’s nothing like getting lost on a bike! Instead, I stopped by a local bike shop to ask for a challenging ride, preferably up one of the nearby mountains. That experience sealed the deal; I was riding Blue Mountain Road. The local bike dude (in the loosest of terms) proceeded to tell me that the ride was too difficult for me. Huh? This guy never asked any questions about my fitness level, he just assumed based on what I have no idea, that I wasn’t fit enough for that ride or the Hills of Emmaus route. Consider it a challenge.

I headed back to the hotel, wrote up a cryptic crib sheet, changed, and was out the door. After what seemed like turns on 50 different roads (missed a few turns here and added a few there…), I was finally on Blue Mountain Road and headed toward the skies. The road turned up and was challenging, but it never “kicked my ass” as was promised by bike shop dude. I reached the top, turned around, and headed back to the hotel. Along the way I spotted a group of 4 riders and decided to follow them…I needed more miles and was still looking for my ass to be kicked. After chasing for a mile or two, the road turned up again (the roads in the area are very similar to those in KC–contant short, steep grades). I caught the group just as the road leveled off and came to a stop sign. I rolled up, introduced myself and chatted for a few minutes. Unfortunately, their ride was over and everyone was headed home. So I turned around and headed to the hotel.

On the way back I noticed a sign for the Valley Preferred Cycling Center and decided to check it out. WOW! The cycling center is one of the best velodrome centers I’ve seen. Lighted for night riding, bleachers on both sides…unfortunately, it was closed so I didn’t get to see the track. But, I did see a huge message out front: “Father Breaks Record to Honor Daughters Fight Against Lupus.” Amateur cyclist Chris Paradysz bested the 24-hour track record at the Valley Preferred Cycling Center, going on to establish a new record of 416.09 miles biked in 24 hours. What a feat!

The next morning I left the Lehigh Valley and drove south into Philadelphia for a quick visit with a customer. Then, it was wagon west for home. Every turn in the Allegheny Mountains brought more and more spectacular views, not to mention the want to park and get out and ride. I finally couldn’t take it anymore. As I-76 turned up for a long grind over Bald Knob before dropping into Breezewood, PA I noticed a secondary road followed the turnpike. I decided this was the ride. I exited at Breezewood, turn back toward the mountain and saw it: markers for the BikePA Route-S. I drove over the hill to make certain I wanted to do this, and as soon as I found a parking spot, I suited up and hit it.

As they often say, pictures are worth a thousand words. I won’t stop with the pictures, but I’ll let them introduce this ride:

8 Percent Grade
10 percent grade

I parked in Hustontown, which was approximately 5 miles from the start of the climb–needed time to warm up the legs. The ride over was a lot like roads in KC–short, steep hills. Once I started climbing, though, I knew I wasn’t in Kansas anymore. After a few miles at 3-5%, the road took a sharp turn up. According to the warning sign, it was 8% for almost three miles, followed immediately by 2.5 miles at 10%. Should I mention that I didn’t have mountain gears? I made my way up and then down and on to Breezewood, and then turned around and headed back to the car. The ride was insane and perhaps one of the best mountain rides I’ve completed. It was short, at 25 miles, but otherwise perfect. The road surface was better than the best roads around KC, the climb was demanding, and there was almost no traffic. What more can you ask for?

While changing, I decided to try a different route back to Breezewood, just to see what the area offered. What I found was even better than the roads of Route-S. Just to the south was a 7 or 8 mile drag at 8%. It wasn’t as wicked steep as the other road, but the climb was a lot longer. I had a fleeting thought of getting out and going for it. But, I had to be in Columbus for a meeting early the next morning. Maybe next time.

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