For those who’ve never pedaled 70-90 miles a day – day after day – it is difficult. Add in the hills, the wind, the heat, the rain and the mechanical issues and it’s not for the faint of heart. Nah. Fuck that. Really it’s not for the faint of mind. The much required mind power became apparent my first tour. Its probably in much the same manner that long distance runners defy conventional physical limitations. In the words of George McFly, “like I always say, Marty”. With just myself and Daniel – another experienced bicycle tourist – left to talk to, our conversations reveal to me that the way I go about this isn’t just my way of doing it, but it’s the only way to do it. Mindgame, mindset and mindmatch, mother fucker.
Snotty, beam me down to when the permeating scent of cow manure is my first sensory experience of the morning. (If you’re keeping track at home – and you should be – that’s the second Spaceballs reference this trip.) The tree line my tent is on is also on a farm fence line. It’s about 0500 and the sun is coming up. Morning motive: break down and head back to the covered patio to charge the batteries with caffeine and electricity. Daniel and I head out through thoroughly Mennonite and farm country. Nothing but churches and cows, both qualifying as nothing but bullshit to me.
I’m still dragging ssd quite a bit through 25 miles of morning rush hour and hills, our intended destination is breakfast on the Susquehanna River. It’s been rough of late and my mindset is total crap to boot. I know I’m so close to that point where everything kicks in but I can’t lock in that dedicative focus. We haven’t seen much in the way of services lately, and the google maps show that we will have options for what every single morning Daniel calls “egg and cheesy”. We make it to Columbia PA and both of the spots are closed. Stupid pandemic. One was a deli and the other s coffee shop. Defeated and on fumes I spot pure tour gold in the form of a breakfast diner they are open and we can sit down. What is a mainstay for me on any other tour has been absent unti now. We do the math on eggs+potatoes+pork+toast+coffee and it all equals lifted spirits on the Susquehanna River.
Our proper tour breakfast cherry popped, I’m thinking about a shortcut. Looking over the route, Daniels digital updated ACA route (which we’re not currently on) takes us west to York PA and my printed 2012 ACA route (which we are on) takes us south along the river to Maryland. Upon further inspection we find a rail trail south out of York. U know, the kind that’s graded and doesn’t have motorized traffic. More gold. We hit it hard to York, grab some puerto rican food to go from a bodega in town and boogie down the trail, skipping our previously planned midday stop. As it turns out, part or all of this trail is in the rail trail hall of fame.
Hold up. There’s a rail trail hall of fame.
It’s clear that this is trail is superb in many ways. Fine crushes stone. Free ice cold water to drink. Free ice cold river to refresh and bathe. We push 20 miles on this thing and stop to indulge in the pernil, plátanos y empanadas. There’s little sculptures along the trail and quaint PA and MD towns along the way. We eventually jump off at the point our our different routes re-converge. The hills return and I have end of day legs. We get to a small Maryland and find a store for provisions. I head over and knock on the door at the local volunteer fire company. The guys inside are ok with us setting up camp in the land behind the station. Brotherhood.
The castles are built for the night in Butler Maryland. My front yard is a giant field along a stream thanks to the Butler Fire Company. Only two of us left means a six pack equals I drink three beers. Daniels in his tent already snoring away. I’m sitting outside, teasing what appears to be a millennial aged deer (in deer years, duh) trying to get across the field to the stream at dusk. I let the young buck get just less than halfway across the field before jumping up and down and yelling. He goes sprinting back each time. The sun gets low and I give up on communicating with deer, happy to watch the light show provided by fire flies, lightning bugs and the constellations, all on a ceiling so high that none of us can build anything like it.