Having already completed the Covered Bridge Metric Century (CBM) earlier this year – a story for a later post – I began looking for another way to stay in shape as the summer wound down.
Earlier this year, I’d read an article in which the writer said he never told anybody he exercised. Instead, he always told people he was training for one event or another.
Me, at the start of the race in LeTort Park, Carlisle, with temps in the 40s.
That seemed like a good idea, since motivating myself to get to the gym somedays seems a monumental task. Instead, I could set incremental goals, register for events two or three months out, and shoot to be prepared by the time they rolled around.
Having finished 62-plus miles in Lancaster County in August, I found the Three Creek Century (TCC) run by the Harrisburg Bicycle Club. With three separate loops – a 50-miler and two 25-milers – I could ride what I wanted to ride and stay pretty close to home.
I checked with Frank, my father-in-law, got him on board, and registered. Cost for the ride is very reasonable at $20 per rider before August 15 including a lunch, snacks, cue sheets, water stops, etc. and the most omnipresent SAG wagon I’ve seen.
Frank and I rode the CBM together with several of his friends, but the TCC would be just us. We loaded my bike onto Frank’s rack before 7 a.m. on Sunday, Sept. 15 and headed for LeTort Park in Carlisle.
Now, I’m no expert cyclist. I bought my first road bike this summer, and I’ve ridden in two major events. I know what I like, and what I think could be improved, and I’m aware it is just my opinion.
With that caveat offered, I thought the Big Spring Meander on the TCC was a terrific route, well planned and plotted, with a few minor drawbacks.
First, the water stop at mile 16 was located inside a fish hatchery building. Frank and I rode right past it, and didn’t get any real break until we reached Newville. No big deal, but this stop could have been much better marked.
Second, and I have no idea how immense an undertaking it is to mark every turn on a 50-mile course, but the TCC markings could be improved. The colors for the different loops were difficult to differentiate in the low, morning light, and some turns came up pretty fast because the marking was located very close to the turn.
On the CBM ride, turn markings were copious and well executed. They appeared well in advance of turns, and even with five hours of rain, you could always make out which ones you needed to heed.
The Big Spring Meander, a 50-mile loop on the Three Creek Century. Via RunKeeper.
Finally, near the end of the 50-mile loop, Frank and I totally missed a turn across Walnut Bottom Road onto tiny Baker Drive. We added less than one bonus mile to the ride before we realized our error, but were followed by some other riders who also missed the turn. Perhaps a large yard sign or some other overt signage at this intersection would be helpful.
All that aside, I enjoyed the ride, a lot. We lucked out with some remarkable weather, even though I didn’t thaw out until we reached Mount Holly Springs after about nine miles of riding. Regardless of the frigid fingers, it was all worth it.
Early in the ride, the scenery was tremendous. The course ran along a ridge line from Mount Holly west towards Walnut Bottom. At the crest of a small rise, I snapped a few pictures of the early morning Cumberland County countryside.
Click to expand.
Panoramic shot. Click to expand.
The other riders were tremendously helpful and collegial. From calling out at intersections to wishing you a good morning, everybody enjoyed the day.
And the Harrisburg Bicycle Club outdid itself at the Newville rest stop. With copious amounts of space to stretch out, a bike repairman and his full kit, and amazing snacks at hand, you almost didn’t want to return to the road.
Best snack of the day came from the gentleman sans cap in the long sleeve yellow shirt. A slice of banana and some peanut butter on a Nilla wafer. Wow! Amazing stuff.
Newville rest stop on the Big Spring Meander loop of the 2013 Three Creek Century.
A few moments from the ride stick with me.
Early, with the sun having risen on my left and a cornfield on my right, the sun was warming the damp brown cornstalks. The rusty autumn aroma of decay baked off the plants flavoring a short downhill stretch with a sharp, end-of-summer note.
Later, having left Newville and endured a couple challenging climbs, I was riding alone with a cornfield on my right and a small grassy area on the left side of the road. Wind rustling the corn leaves was one of the few sounds I could hear as I pedaled along a flat, sunny stretch of road. I felt isolated, but not really alone, as I also made out small animals moving on the floor of the field.
Finally, approaching Carlisle near the end of the ride, we came up a small rise to an old stone farmhouse on a corner with a barn immediately across from us at a three-way intersection. Along with a few other riders, we swept around the left-hand turn, and I could almost believe I was creeping through the back roads of Cumberland County, whispering over the blacktop, disturbing no one as I pedaled back to the park.
The things you think after three hours on a bike. Geez.
At the end of a day that began before dawn, and featured my coldest bike ride yet, all I wanted to do was digest the amazing gift of a day with Frank. Well, that and a Steakhouse Wrangler cheeseburger at Dodge City; the icing on the cupcake of a tremendous biking day.