Open Road Press

Leaving the Midwest

October 7-8, Days 97-98 of TheHopeLine Tour of 2014

We’ve been in the Midwest for roughly two months, thanks in part to our extended stay in Sioux City, Iowa, while recovering from an injury and a bicycle route designed for geographic diversity and to increase fundraising opportunities for TheHopeLine. Well, today, we officially entered the northeast with our entry into our 14th state, Pennsylvania.

Entering PALeaving the Midwest did come with a unique geographic feature. How many states can you enter by bicycling over a lake? The Pymatuning Reservoir, the largest manmade lake in Pennsylvania, straddles the border of Ohio and Pennsylvania. Entering Pennsylvania gave us renewed confidence that we would indeed make it home from this long tour. We can do this!

On our first day in the state, we cycled to Meadville and booked a room early. There aren’t many accommodations for miles beyond this city, and the weather was again cold with a strong possibility of showers. Rather than a repeat performance of yesterday’s dousing, we opted for a drier end to the day. We also need to catch up on some rest, as we seem to need more of it these days.

Climbing into Meadville PAWe avoided one detour of a bridge outage on US Route 6, but ran into another one. Locals tipped us off regarding a shortcut that improved mightily upon the official detour rerouting. It saved us several miles. However, it also put us on track for a monster hill outside of Meadville. It didn’t matter. There are no more monster hills at this juncture in our tour. No matter the size or the grade, we can handle them. This one was long and straight, with four lanes of traffic along for the ride. We dispatched of it systematically while anticipating an early end to the day.

Pennsylvania PotatoesPennsylvania feels like familiar ground. On our second day here, we still saw corn and soybeans, but we also saw a potato field! This brought me back to the days of my youth, picking potatoes in Houlton, Maine. I had to get off the bike to believe my eyes. I was indeed looking at a potato field.

I reminded Debbie of the potato-picking lifestyle, which I’d brought up when cooler weather struck us in Ohio. We’d arise at 4:30 in the morning to a hearty breakfast in preparation for a long day in the field. Even before sunrise, the farmer’s pickup, which was designed for transporting pickers to and from the field, swung through town to pick us up. This vehicle usually contained a wooden structure with a bench seat lining its three inner walls to house more pickers than you’d imagine could fit in. Some would ride on the rear bumper.

Silos and CloudsThe attire we now wore was so similar to the approach back then. We layered our clothing for picking potatoes. Since the near-frost temperatures from the morning would give way to warm afternoons, the layers would come off one-by-one until the final row of the day was dug. The crisp autumn air of potato harvest has been in full abundance on our tour of late.

This video will give you a feel for the road conditions as we left Meadville today. Check out the sky!

A strong tailwind from the west whisked us along US Route 6. The road has some truck traffic on it, yet it also has a reasonable shoulder for bicyclists. Indeed, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania deemed it appropriate for bicycles and designated it as “Bike Route Y.” Late in the afternoon, we approached Warren, an industrial town on the banks of the Allegheny River.

We’d bridged a long gap between services on a road for which we lacked good intelligence. It was satisfying. A few more days like this one, and the end would soon be in sight.

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