This morning my legs are heavy and I’m nursing some saddle sores, but I’ve got a smile on my face. In summary, we had a great trip.
We’d been planning this for a while, and my goal was to pare my kit down to pretty much only what I’d need three days where we’d still be in touch with civilization and riding through towns and villages where we could stop for some meals and/or pick up food. With clothing, I opted for two pair of Andiamo skins, one pair of shorts, my “touring shirt”, a spare coolmax shirt, and an outfit for sleeping in.
Cooking would require no more than boiling water, so both Scott and I went with Esbits. I threw some fruit and a few granola bars in my saddle bag, along with two dehydrated meals. My only luxury was to pack a French press for morning coffee. The result was that my panniers were only about 3/4 full and I don’t think the load was that heavy at all.
Day 1: Scott and I agreed to meet up in Boiling Springs around noon. It was a great morning for riding, and I covered the 20 miles faster than I planned, even though I thought I was holding my speed rather well. Even though I knew the routes, I had the Garmin turned on and a route programmed as a test for how it would track a longer route.
Boiling Springs was busy with families walking around Childrens’ Lake, and a lot of lunchtime traffic. I hung out on the front porch of the Appalachian Trail Conservancy and enjoyed people watching.
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Before long, Scott rolled in and we enjoyed a good lunch at the coffee shop across the way. I sense that the clientele are used to seeing bikers dropping by, but not with touring gear. We did get a few looks, but not in a bad way.
After lunch, we began the climb to Pine Grove Furnace State Park. It was a nice ride, without much traffic, except for this one spot just outside Mount Holly where the berm got really narrow – wouldn’t you know that that is when a half dozen large trucks caught up with us and for a few moments things were hairy.
We rolled in to Pine Grove Furnace, again earlier than we had figured, and took the rail trail in past the lakes. Neither of us was hungry yet, so we hung out until dinner, which we grabbed at the park store.
After downing some cheeseburgers, one of the locals decided to entertain us with tales of his exploits and knowledge of the best campsites in the area. Scott kept muttering about how he always seems to attract crazy people; I figured the guy just doesn’t get around people very much, because he just kept talking, and talking, and talking. He certainly gets points for his enthusiasm.
Scott’s solution was to suggest we start the climb up the mountain without delay. Not long after we started, we probably had the closest call with a car, when some yahoo kid towing a 4 wheeler trailer swerved back in front of us really close. We caught up to him, or at least his truck, on the top of the mountain. Had it been a little later, this guy would have been looking for an air pump in the dark.
I actually did better than expected with the climb, riding all of the way up, even though the granny got a good workout.
We were pretty tired, so camp went up fast. We again had the meadow to ourselves, except for a few of the ATV’s blasting around. They left before dark. Although the woods were pretty well picked through, we found enough downed branches to build a manly fire.
For a couple of hours we talked about bikes, camping gear, and solving the worlds problems. After turning in, I read a couple of chapters on the Nook, admired the stars and the full moon, and drifted off to sleep.
Day Two: If this tour were divided into stages, today would be known as the mountain stage. We both got up at 6:00, made breakfast on a nearby picnic table, and then blasted down the mountain back into the park. The bathhouse near one of the lakes provided showers, impromptu laundry service, and refilling of water bottles.
After some discussion about the day’s plan, we opted to go over the mountain on route 233 for a direct run to King’s Gap. It proved to be a pretty big undertaking that we managed to handle with low gears until the very top, when the grade just got silly steep and I had to walk for about 100 yards.
Late morning we stopped for a good cup of coffee at the local Handy Mart/Taxidermy Shop, and then headed east to King’s Gap. The road in is a steady 4 mile climb, but without too hard of a grade.
King’s Gap used to be a private summer residence for the Cameron family. The grounds are pretty nice, but the view is what made the climb worth it.
Back down to the base of Kings Gap Road we stopped at the General Store for lunch. I wish I had taken some pics inside – it’s like a throwback to the 1930’s with the amount of antique collectables sitting about.
Then on to Colonel Dening. Fortunately the climb was not as bad as we had imagined, and it came up fast. Once in the park, however, we had a bit of climbing to get to the campsite, and we were pretty much spent. We got set up, and then rode down to the lake to refresh a bit. It was great to cool off and get a little snap back in the legs.
Then we made dinner, made a fire, and had a quiet evening. We were the only ones in the tent camping area, so sleep came easy.
Day 3: Breakfast was pretty basic, and it didn’t take long to break camp and head out. One disappointment of this park is the apparent lack of shower facilities, but for $15 a night, it wasn’t a bad deal.
I thought today would be pretty rough, given the amount of riding we had been doing, but the trip back into Newville was quick. We stopped at a coffee shop in the center of town for a second breakfast of coffee and scones.
We took Rt. 641 into Carlisle. With the exception of one climb, this is a beautiful road for riding: smooth, good berm, nice scenery.
Scott and I split up outside of Carlisle, and I had 25 more miles to get home. Again, I was surprised at how I actually felt stronger today than yesterday. My only real complaint was my bumm, and even then I was diligent with ointment, so things weren’t that bad.
I grabbed a quick lunch at a Rutters, and pulled in our driveway around 2:00pm.
There isn’t much that could be improved upon with this trip. It was just the right length to get away for a few days without it becoming a big production. The hills were also a challenge with four big climbs, but I’ll remember them long after the flat and level areas.
All of the gear worked well, although there are still a few tweeks that need to be made to the Garmin where it tried to take me off course. Scott was having similar issues with his unit. I also think it might be time to measure and possibly change my chain – I had a little bit of ghost shifting.
If the trip would have been longer, I would probably have packed my Kelty two person tent for some extra space, and brought the canister stove for a little more flexibility. I’d also need a rest day in the middle.
Distance: 124.8 miles 2012: 628.7