Last week, I decided I should plan a long ride for Saturday. I always thought it would be neat to ride to Tunkhannock, a small town about 25 miles north of here, and back. The route I planned was around 57 miles, and if successful, this would be my longest ride since moving to Pennsylvania. I planned to take some new roads, including some mixed terrain. One odd thing about the route is that most of the climbing would be in the first 20 miles. Here’s the map and elevation profile.
View 07/25/2009 Tunkhannock in a larger map
I am not normally an early riser, but I got up early and was on the road by 9:00 am. Partially, I got up early to beat the heat, but I also knew it would be a long day of riding. It was a very pleasant morning — foggy and cool. My ride started on the Back Mountain Trail, even though I knew I’d have to make the sketchy creek crossing where the bridge washed out. The roads and trail were wet from rain the night before.
Shortly after I got off the Back Mountain Trail, the fog lifted and it started heating up. Aside from a couple of steep sections, the first 12 miles was mostly gradual climbing; a routine ride up to Center Moreland.
I made the usual stop at a convenience store in Center Moreland. The clerks there have typically been pretty unfriendly, but they were much nicer this time, for whatever reason. From there, I went west on 292 briefly, and then hit Pine Ridge Road, the first new road of this ride. My Garmin software said this was a gravel road, but it turned out to be some nasty chipseal. But I had no trouble with it at all on the Trucker. I was glad I had reduced my tire pressure, as my tires soaked up a lot of the bumps. The scenery improved, thanks to some bigger mountains.
Soon, I came to an intersection. My route had me continuing on Pine Ridge Road, but ahead of me it changed from a chipseal road to a loose, rocky doubletrack trail. The map on my GPS didn’t quite match what I had seen before; on my GPS, it appeared this road didn’t quite go through. However there was only a small gap and I decided to see if I could get through.
This was some tough riding. Traction was poor and the “road” rose some 350 feet over the course of about a mile, getting rockier and steeper as it went. Along the way I encountered some power lines and figured I could probably follow them for a while, if need be.
Eventually, I reached the top. The “road” did go through, although things were a little confusing at a power line intersection. As soon as I reached the top, I started down the other side. It was steep and rocky, once again. Suddenly, the road spit me out of the woods, with some nice mountain views and a jaunt across a field.
I immediately turned onto another chipseal road and started climbing. Naturally, a dog decided this would be a fine time to chase me. I couldn’t sprint up the hill fast enough to get away from him, but he was moving pretty slowly and it quickly became clear he was just chasing me for fun. Also during this time, I started hearing some weird sounds coming from my front fender. Later inspection would show that my Velo Orange aluminum fender developed a crack during the bumpy descent.
So, I pedaled away from the dog as fast as I reasonably could, with my fender ticking and creaking the whole time. Some more fields yielded excellent views.
But soon I turned onto Barziloski Road, another chipseal road and gravel road, and began a climb that I had terribly underestimated. It’s not often that I walk a hill; sometimes, I’ll stop to catch my breath. But I walked for quite a while here. Some slopes were so steep that I just couldn’t keep the pedals turning. And the climb just went on and on. Another 350-foot climb I didn’t really realize was there.
Once I finally reached the top, I rested for a bit and sprayed water on my face from my water bottles. My technique for dealing with the heat was just to take my time and stop frequently to cool down. After a break, I felt quite refreshed and enjoyed quite a crazy descent down the other side.
The road flattened out briefly, and I turned onto a paved road and enjoyed a paved plunge toward the Susquehanna River. The smooth pavement felt wonderful after all the chipseal and gravel and I swooped alongside the river on a winding road with plenty rolling hills. Gravity did most of the work and I really enjoyed allowing gravity to carry me over the rolling hills, which are in short supply around here. The scenery was stunning too, with the river and the mountains.
I spent a brief time on PA Route 29, which is a busy highway, but it had nice decent shoulders most of the time. I reached Tunkhannock and spotted a Subway, which seemed like it would be a great option for lunch, so I stopped.
It felt great to sit in the air conditioning for a while and refuel. I called my wife to let her know where I was and that I was behind schedule. With all the climbing and the road/trail, it had taken nearly four hours to ride just under 25 miles, so far. Fortunately, I felt strong, and I knew the second half of the ride would be much easier.
When I was done eating, I filled my water bottles and headed out. I crossed the Susquehanna River and saw the road to the quaint downtown Tunkhannock area, but I kept going. I spent a little time on US Route 6, which was busy but had wide shoulders, before turning on PA Route 92.
US Route 6
I turned onto PA Route 92, where I would spend the next 11 miles. The road follows the river, and I would follow the river most of the way home. I had ridden on 92 before, but not this section. Traffic was quite unfriendly and a few cars honked at me for no apparent reason. I enjoyed the way the road was sandwiched between the river and a mountain, along with a train track, but I spent a lot of time looking in my mirror and worrying about the traffic. Fortunately, after a couple of miles I passed the junction with PA Route 307 and traffic thinned out. Most people must have turned onto 307, which heads toward Clarks Summit and, eventually, Scranton.
92 was relatively flat, with the exception of one tough climb of around 300 feet toward the end. The biggest problem I ran into was that there was very little shade, and the sun started getting to me after a while. I continued to take frequent breaks so I could cool down. I took a slight detour on Sand Plant Road. This turned out to be great, as I avoided some extra climbing on 92 and Sand Plant Road had an excellent, sweeping descent and only a slight climb back up to 92.
I reached the town of Falls, where Route 92 crosses the river before continuing south. I stayed on the east side of the river and took the quieter roads on that side. But not before checking out Buttermilk Falls and noticing that I was about to be on Hoppy Road. Naturally, this made me wish I had a beer.
I spent the next six miles or so on a nearly-deserted one lane road that with alternating paved and gravel sectons. It continued to follow the Susquehanna River and railroad tracks, just as 92 had done, but the riding here was much more pleasant. The road even had a slight downhill trend, so riding was easy, except that there were a lot of potholes to dodge in the gravel parts. This was all technically a road, although it felt more like a rail-trail part of the time, thanks to the narrow road and lack of traffic. Now that I think about it, I wouldn’t drive my car there. The gravel portion is quite rough.
After a while, I reached Ransom and from here on out I’d be on paved roads of varying quality. After following the river for a few more miles, I went through a cool one-lane underpass and then reached the bourough Duryea. From there, I took Main Street to Pittston, crossed the Susquehanna on Route 11, and headed home by way of the West Side Trail.
Finally, I made it home. I was gone for about 7 1/2 hours, making this my longest ride in some time. To my surprise, my moving average was nearly 12 mph according to my cycling computer, faster than I expected. However, I took a LOT of breaks. I was hoping this would help me deal with the heat, and it did seem to help quite a bit.
Fortunately, I had a nice, hoppy beverage waiting for me at home. I enjoyed a Stone IPA. I love big, hoppy brews and this one didn’t disappoint. Maybe a little on the bitter side for my tastes, but even so, there’s nothing more refreshing than a cold beer after a long ride.
I rode close to 60 miles and climbed 5190 feet. It felt great to get out for a long ride, I have had too few of them lately.