Experimental music, photography, and adventures

Bunker Hill, Mt Zion, Lake Louise, etc

Monday, November 10th, 2008

Yesterday I decided to do my first longish ride since moving to Pennsylvania. I imagine I won’t be able to fit in too many more long rides before winter hits, so it felt great to spend an afternoon on my bicycle, exploring my new home territory. I planned to do this ride I found on MapMyRide.com.

This ride ended up having more climbing than any other ride I’ve ever done (3600 feet of climbing), even though I’ve done much longer rides. For reasons I’ll explain below, my route deviated significantly from the one I intended to do. Here is the actual route I rode.

I still haven’t adjusted to the switch away from Daylight Savings time. Even though I left by 1:00 pm, I was a little worried the sun would set while I was out riding. I only planned to do about 45 miles of riding, but given how long even my 15-mile rides around here have taken, due to all the climbing, I didn’t know what to expect. So I brought lights with me, just in case.

It was in the 40s and quite windy when I started — windy enough to have me a little worried. A few gusts really blew me sideways, and I worried that with the wind, combined with the mountains, I’d run out of steam. As it turned out, the meandering route I took meant that I was never riding into the wind for very long at a time. Also, the mountains helped block the wind, and the wind died down over the course of my ride. So it wasn’t as big a factor as I feared.

The ride started with the big climb up Bunker Hill that’s becoming quite familiar to me. I am getting more comfortable with this climb; it’s never very steep, and I am quickly learning that the best way to approach most of these climbs is to use a very low gear and keep my cadence up, only pedaling hard when necessary. I can climb for a long time, as long as I don’t attack too hard. I was astonished at how much more bare the trees looked than they did even a few days before; they’re really shedding their leaves now.

I’ve photographed the view of Pennsylvania Route 309 before, but this time I stopped to get some better shots.

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My bicycle on Bunker Hill Road, overlooking PA Route 309

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Three-shot panorama of the view from 309 (worth viewing large)

I’m not sure that this climb is getting easier, but now at least I know what to expect, and I have a pretty good idea when I get near the end. Eventually, after a ton of climbing, I enjoyed a blistering descent down to Carverton Road, some views of Frances Slocum Lake, and another sweet descent, fast enough that my eyes were watering.

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Frances Slocum Lake

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Going into a sweet descent

This is where the route deviated from familiar territory. I went left on Eight Street and almost immediately right on Mount Zion Rd for some more serious climbing.

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Taking the high road

Even though I had just spent a while descending, it was a little disheartening to go into another big climb immediately. But it ended up not being too bad, and I continued to use the same “climb slowly” technique. It worked well. I saw some amazing, huge houses nestled in the mountains, some smaller houses and barns, and even a place with a sign saying they were selling old books.

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Huge house

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More climbing

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Barn (I should really do more photo treatments like this)

I had a few minutes of flatter riding, and as I approached the descent I had an amazing view of the surrounding areas. Mountains, and a golf course.

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Distant mountains

Mt Zion panorama
Golf course panorama (view large)

I enjoyed a steep descent with some twists and turns, but none very sharp; I was able to let loose during this part and I’m not sure how fast I got going, but I was hauling. The Long Haul Trucker still impresses me with its solid feeling while descending. I swooped smoothly down the mountainside.

I soon realized that many of the country roads in this area suffer from the same problem as those in Indiana: an utter lack of street signs. I had to guess which road to turn on. It didn’t help that the street names on my printed maps sometimes weren’t legible, and I didn’t bring my Pennsylvania Gazetteer. I had brought one map, but it was of the Wilkes-Barre metro area, and I was already off the map. So, I guessed which road to turn on. And as I eventually figured out, I guessed incorrectly.

I rolled through some more beautiful country, not knowing if this was where I was supposed to be, but I at least turned in the right direction. A few miles of moderate rolling hills gave my legs a bit of a rest while I enjoyed views of more mountains, barns, and a Christmas tree farm with very young trees.

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Mountain view

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Young trees

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Barn

I reached an intersection and when the road I was supposed to turn on wasn’t even an option, I knew I had gone the wrong way. Rather than backtrack, I got out my compass and tried to orient myself with the roads on the map. I was a little unsure where I was, and wished my GPS wasn’t broken, but I figured that if I could get moving in the right direction, I would eventually hit the route I was supposed to be on.

I went into another long climb and really hoped the road I was on would take me where I wanted to be. Eventually it connected with Lake Louise Road, one of the roads from the route. I got the compass out again to make sure I headed in the right direction. I was clearly approaching from the wrong place, but I thought this would take me where I needed to go. Lake Louise Rd had a strange surface, it was paved but had a rough surface almost resembling tiny pea gravel. I continued to climb.

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The rough Lake Louise Rd surface

Eventually I came to a point where I could see a lake that I presumed was Lake Louise. The route was supposed to go past that lake, so I rode toward the lake.

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Lake Louise, from above

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Lake Louise (three-shot vertical panorama – view large)

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My bicycle by Lake Louise

As I climbed back up from the valley where the lake was, I saw a huge house with lions on pillars on either side of the driveway.

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Huge house with lions on pillars

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The view in my mirror

After that long climb were some big rolling hills, followed by a pond an a marsh.

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Rolling hills

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Marsh

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The road behind me

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Barn

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Winding climb

Soon I reached the town of Center Moreland. I looked for water in some vending machines. I didn’t find any, but I didn’t really need it anyway. I probably should have been drinking more, but I felt fine. From here, the next six miles or so were almost entirely gently winding and downhill; this was where the majority of the climbing I had done paid off. The descent was steep at times and more gradual at others, and I enjoyed some spectacular mountain views along the way. During this section I hit my top speed for this ride, 42 mph (and that’s with a rather bulky jacket and pants adding a lot of drag).

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Part of the fantastic descent

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More scenery

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Winding road

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Looking behind me

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More mountains

Eventually I turned south on Pennsylvania Route 92, which would follow the Susquehanna River back to the Wyoming Valley, where we live. At times it had great views of the river; at times, it was far enough away that you couldn’t see the river. This part of PA 92 had very little traffic, but as I got closer to town, traffic picked up. Some motorists were obviously annoyed at my presence, as three or four of them honked at me at various times. There was always plenty of room to pass me, so I’m not sure what their problem was. It made me a bit nervous, but I was glad to have my mirror. I could tell when someone was behind me and move over to the shoulder when necessary to let them by. I tried to share the road the best I could, I only wished they had done the same.

There were some hills during this section that although they look small on the elevation profile, still gave me quite a challenge. Most hills look small compared to the 1,000-foot Bunker Hill climb. Fortunately during many of the climbs there was an extra passing lane, so I just stayed to the right and cars could easily pass me. This section was still challenging, but easier than most of the other riding I’d done, with no long, sustained climbs.

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Susquehanna River

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Some industrial activity by the river

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PA Route 92, river, mountains

The scenery continued to amaze me. These were either some of the biggest mountains of the ride, or I just had better views of them. Very impressive indeed. As I approached town, I saw more signs of industry, and even got a great view of the Wyoming Valley, where I was now headed (home).

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Power plant

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View

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Sheer rock face

PA Route 92 panorama
PA Route 92 Panorama (eight shots, stitched together – view large)

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Wyoming Valley, where the ride started and would end, is visible in the distance

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Railroad trestle across the Susquehanna

The traffic continued getting heavier. It never got terrible, but I may want to figure out a quieter way home. I saw some potential ways to do that. The only downside being extra climbing.

Eventually I turned onto Old Exeter Road and took this to Slocum Road, which took me most of the way home.

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Riding into the sun

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Huge pile of coal with an American Flag on top

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The sun is nearly setting

I arrived at home at around 4:30. I felt I had made pretty good time, a bit over 3 1/2 hours for 45 miles of mountainous riding. My ride time was 3:14, reflecting the fact that I only took a couple of brief breaks.

This was a truly fantastic ride. I can’t wait to explore the area more.

6 Responses to “Bunker Hill, Mt Zion, Lake Louise, etc”

  1. Kevin Brady Says:

    I love the way the trees hug the roads in so many places. I wish that happened more around here, but we are much more agricultural. Not that we don’t have trees…just not hugging the road. Beautiful ride! Thanks for sharing!

  2. Myles/ rattrappress Says:

    Very nice. That’s a whole lot of climbing. You probably won’t even notice the hills before too long.

  3. John Says:

    Now that you are so close, maybe you will consider the NYC Five Boroughs Ride in May. 45 miles in a New York State of Mind.

  4. Marty Says:

    Looks like a great ride – I particularly liked your ‘antique-y’ barn shot. So, how are you liking PA so far?

  5. Tim Says:

    good to see you’re stretching it out some more. I can imagine some big-time rides in the spring. and better you climbing than me. hell, I might never get anywhere. And great pics as ever. keep ’em coming.

    As a different aside, I lived for a while outside of Marshallton, PA, which is near West Chester (outside of Philly). I know you’re a good piece form there, but those roads west of West Chester are some of the best riding roads anywhere. Consider a summer exploration.

  6. Jon Grinder Says:

    I know what you mean about people honking at you when they have plenty of room. Today, on my way home, a guy in FRONT of me honked at me. I really didn’t get it.

    In other news, I’m thinking I’m going toset up my Voyager (A Worok In Progress) in a mode very similar to your LHT. I think it will work out very well.

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