The pictures that I took on my ride last Sunday don’t at all capture the energy I felt for most of the day, energy that propelled me to my best finish ever for a 200km ride. I can’t explain why, but I just enjoyed the ride and that enjoyment translated into the power that kept me moving. And this is not the flattest route I’ve ever done. I knew I was off to a good start when I reached the Pennsburg controle with 30 minutes to spare. And this was after, AGAIN, walking up Eichele. Apparently I’m only ever going to summit Eichele when I’m on my Bike Friday, that is, when I have the small wheels as well as the small gears to get me up to the top of the grade. I was actually surprised to get to Pennsburg with so much time because I rode most of those first 15 miles in dense fog, hoping that cars passing me could see my flashing tail lights.
In any case, I made quick work of my first stop; rest room break and extra bottle of water to obtain a receipt, and I was on my way, again in fog, for the 10 miles to Quakertown and Yum Yum Donuts. Here I was enjoying the luxury of having a few extra minutes so stopped for a pumpkin donut that was delicious but made me stop a bit further down the road for an extra strength Tums. I just can’t eat donuts without suffering. Too bad. After this, the fog lifted and the run down Route 212 from Quakertown to Riegelville was really lovely. I somehow seemed to fly over the small hills, and I was feeling good enough that I was able to take in the scenery. The hills off to the left, the freshly harvested fields, the few tiny villages that I zoomed through…lots for my eyes to feast on. I tried to take photos a few times, but with poor results. Either the photo I captured does not match the peace I was feeling when I looked at that scene, or I didn’t capture the thing that caught my eye because I was past it before I could get my camera out.
There was an old metal sign along the road in Pleasantville that explained that this name was chosen because of the beauty of the surroundings. There were colorfully painted houses that I wanted to capture just before Lambertsville, but I was too slow, and then there was a house in a suburb right not too far before Valley Forge that was so decked out for Christmas, that I almost turned around to take a photo. I’m sure that those people have a crowd every night taking in the scene that they have created.
In any case, in Riegelsville, I again made a short stop and then got busy doing the next 30 miles which would take me to my lunch stop in New Hope. This section is largely flat, so you can go pretty quickly as long as you’re not facing a head wind. You do have to carefully negotiate Milford, Frenchtown, and then Lambertsville, but there are long stretches where you can just push the pace as fast as is comfortable. The biggest issue on these stretches is what to do with your mind. For this day, I tried to keep thinking about how to incorporate the quote I was using to start the presentation I was working on for a conference. My mind would stray but I’d come back to the quote and keep asking myself why it mattered, what it said to me, and how did it fit with the argument I was working on. Here is the quote: “Language is material in the sense that it has tangible effects and that it matters all the time” (David Bleich 469). What does it mean to say that language is material? What are the tangible effects? How do I know that? Can I show tangible effects in writing? So, anyway, I kept my head busy for most of those miles and even came up with a couple of sentences that are now at the beginning of the presentation. I had to memorize the lines because I didn’t want to stop to write them down, and I didn’t want to call home and ask Jayne to write them down. Here’s the first sentence of my presentation: “In the randonneuring community, the narratives that we ride, write and read help mold us into the kind of people who enjoy this sport.”
From New Hope to Phoenixville it’s about 40 miles. This is a curious and diverse section. You leave New Hope on a very busy road that rolls up and down for 5 miles before you get to turn off. It remains busy for a bit more before you really leave the highway behind. I’m always relieved to see 202 and all of the traffic turn off. Soon after this you go through Doylestown, which is an interesting town (restaurants, pubs, coffee shops, the James Michener Museum), but there really isn’t time to stop and enjoy it. Then you’re out in suburbs and semi-rural areas for some time. I’ve done this ride enough that I don’t constantly worry about getting lost but I still remain vigilant because missing a turn will quickly turn into extra miles and headache in figuring out how to get back on track.
It was my goal to get through Evansburg State Park in plenty of daylight because this stretch of the route is remote and would make me uncomfortable at night. Fortunately, I had plenty of late afternoon sun to show me the way. As it happened, the park was pretty busy on this day: hikers, horse riders, and a bunch of other people who seemed to be having some sort of gathering or event in one of the remote areas were along this stretch. I rode past the Rangers’ Station, through the parking lot and picnic area, and along the roads that dump you out on Germantown Pike. In fact, the light held all the way to Phoenixville so that it was dark only for the last ten miles of my ride.
At Phoenixville I realized that if I did not dilly dally I might just complete the ride in 11 hours (maybe even a little less), so I quickly bought a plain bagel (no time for having cream cheese spread on it) and took off. There a few good lumps in this last section but I was on a mission and quickly got my tired self and bike up each one of them and pulled into the Limerick Diner parking lot in just under 11 hours (10:58). Excellent time for me, so I had to celebrate with a Coors Light and grilled cheese sandwich before driving home.
I wasn’t looking forward to this ride because I was tired, overwhelmed with things that I needed to do before I left on my trip, missing my partner and feeling bad that in doing this ride, it meant we had even less time, but once I had the first 25 miles under my belt, it felt really good to be on the road, cranking the pedals, pushing the stress out of my body with each pedal push. So, it was a good day and I’m one month closer to another R-12. Yeah!