Monday, August 22, 2011

Lancaster Covered Bridges Metric Century

We rode the Covered Bridges Metric Century in Lancaster, Pennsylvania yesterday.  This was our third year participating in this ride, and once again, we had a great time.  The ride organizers put on a great event that is well-staffed by volunteers, includes a real lunch during the ride, and ice cream afterwards. It isn't the longest or hardest organized ride out there, although it does have some hill, but it is very pretty and one of the nicest.

This year, the forecast was terrible.  I think it said something like, "Hopefully, your bike doubles as a canoe or flotation device and you'll be lucky if you don't get struck by lightning at least once.  At least you'll have a helmet to protect you from hail."  With that in mind, we set off at 7:30 from the Lancaster campus of Harrisburg Community College under overcast skies.  It was a little crowded at first, but not like RAGBRAI and pretty soon, I found myself wondering where all of the other cyclists went.  There were 2,500 people registered for Covered Bridges, but it is amazing what an event like RAGBRAI with 10,000 riders will do for perspective.

Every year that we've participated, the route has been roughly the same:  a beautiful winding ride through the farms surrounding Lancaster, crossing six covered bridges in the process.  The only change this year was the starting point, which added two miles to the ride for a total of 64 miles.  It is truly a great route, passing through miles of corn, tobacco, and bean fields.  Almost every farm has signs out advertising what they are selling, from eggs and vegetables to border collie puppies and furniture. 

In addition to the normal traffic one sees on rural roads, the area around Lancaster has a high volume of Amish horse and buggy traffic.  Since it was Sunday morning, lots of people were in buggies, headed to church.  Generally, cyclists are faster than horse-drawn buggies and we passed a lot of them.  We even got caught in a "buggy jam" as we were passing a church where services were about to start.  We also passed a lot of Amish or Mennonite (I'm not sure which) folks bicycling to church.  One of the funniest sights was a very serious spandex clad roadie (I say that as a card carrying member of the spandex-clad group, well maybe not the serious part) on an expensive bike getting dropped by two local Amish or Mennonite men going up a hill on not nearly as expensive bikes.  I wouldn't have noticed it except the roadie expressed surprise that they were passing him on the uphill (he had passed them on the downhill).

All of the riding we've done this summer has paid off in a big way.  We were almost to the lunch stop at mile 36 before I even thought about taking much of a break and it was just 10 a.m.  We didn't spend too long there, because we were still worried about the weather.  Before lunch, there were some very wet roads, but it didn't actually rain as we passed through.  As we left the lunch stop, the wind picked up and we were pretty convinced that a deluge was imminent.  We rode in somewhat strong headwinds for a while, but we got lucky, and the rain held off until around mile 55.  By the time we finished, it had stopped, giving us time to eat our ice cream.   We finished at 1 p.m., an hour earlier than last year (partly attributable to spending less time at the rest stops).  The other thing we noticed:  the hills seem to have gotten smaller since the first time we did this ride.  Training is a funny thing.

Pictures (click to enlarge):
 One of the six covered bridges along the route.
 A cyclist descending the last hill before the lunch stop.
 Oxalis stricta (Yellow Wood Sorrel) at the lunch stop.
Cyclists ascending one of the hills. 

No comments:

Post a Comment