Friday, July 8, 2011

Bike Route S: So long, ol' friend.

While I can't say I'll miss the terrain we faced in Pennsylvania, I'll miss the ease with which we navigated through the state. From Day 1 when we left the Valley Forge trail until Day 6 when we headed into Pittsburgh, the little BicyclePA Route S West signs pictured above were our guiding light. Now, we're doing things the old fashioned way with the maps Aaron has of Ohio and Indiana, plus the new fashioned way with my smartphone and Google Maps. It's worked out fine so far, but of course we miss not having to think too hard about where to go.

There were a few moments when we certainly questioned Bike Route S - it led us up (and eventually down) three official mountains and we were occasionally on roads that were seemingly unsafe for bicycles. But we had many miles of the Great Allegheny Passage, the old rail trail that was nice and flat, as well as some great views from atop the aforementioned mountains. But what I seem to notice most while pedaling along isn't the views, but the road itself, and the things most closely surrounding it. When you've chosen to travel the way we have, you spend a lot of time looking at the ground in front of you, either to make sure you're not about to roll over a pothole or off the road's tiny-to-nonexistent shoulder, or because you're huffing uphill at 3.7 miles per hour and all you can do is put your head down and deal with it. I've distracted myself with wildflowers, I've seen (and smelled) roadkill in varying states of decomposition, I've noticed that Pennsylvania takes better care of its roads than Ohio does. I've wondered if patched up spots along the side of the road are in fact safer than their jagged-edged counterparts. Riding on roads with rumble strips is terrifying not just because of the jolt they give you if you happen to coast over them, but because they suggest that drivers might do the same.

I imagine that as things flatten out as we continue through Ohio and into Indiana and Illinois, I'll probably look up more than I did through central and western Pennsylvania. In a way, I hope that's the case, at least for my neck's sake. Plus, wouldn't want to miss a second of those cornfields, right? But I also imagine that no matter what, I'll still be scanning the edge of the pavement for the next few thousands of miles, looking for whatever's there to be noticed and avoided.

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