Pennsylvania: the parts that don't suck. Updated 4/28/13
I've posted a few day trip Ride Reports previously but decided to make one thread and just keep adding to it. I figured it would make things easier to find for readers/riders. Quick refresher: I started riding again in 2011 after reading far too much on this site and buying a well-used KLR from an inmate. Though I'm a DINK (dual income, no kids) between work and my other (expensive, time consuming) hobbies a real epic journey continues to elude me. So I do the best I can, taking my 'adventures' in tiny chunks, building up to that day when I can tell my boss to suck it and ride off for a month or two like the rest of you. :smooch
Anyway, quick links to the preceding RR's:
The very first one where I head up to Sullivan County. It's a bit of a train wreck as far as the writing goes.
#2, where I spend a day tracing the ruins of the East Broad Top Railroad (I'm a train geek; see above, expensive/time consuming hobbies).
#3, okay it's not really PA...I snuck across the border into Maryland for this one as I trace the abandoned Western Maryland Railway (do you see a trend here?).
I live in south central PA between Harrisburg and Lancaster. I drive every day for my job, mostly highways, and even though we have some neat things right around here I've seen them all literally hundreds of times. I generally head west and/or north from where I am though occasionally I spend some time in southern York county where we have a lot of good roads, many still unpaved, and little traffic. I took these shots the first time I road the KLR after getting it (and myself) legal:
I'm hoping to put together a route this summer that utilizes as many of these roads as possible. It's an easy commute up from Baltimore for those seeking a little country and/or gravel action.
Up north of Harrisburg and off to the west there's no end of possibilities once you get to that region. I took a day trip up to Millheim last summer and here are a few shots from that trip:
Yeah, baby. This is why I bought a KLR instead of a Honda Nighthawk. :evil
And, the obligatory railroad archaeological content:
That's all ancient history. The KLR got a repaint over the winter. New content follows in the next installment!
Memorial Day Ride 2012
The reason I've titled this thread "the parts that don't suck" is because, having lived here my entire life, I have a habit of focusing on the negative. I hate winter. I hate humidity. I loathe how the area I live in has exploded with strip malls, townhouse communities and people from NJ. :fitz I read too many RR's from the southwest (sunny skies, no lawn to mow) and the rockies (mountains that make ours look like the foothills they really are) and grumble about being stuck here. But, via motorcycling I am reminded about the things I do love about this state. We've got forests with hundreds of miles of good gravel roads, wildlife and solitude within an hour's drive. This barely makes up for not being able to buy beer at a grocery store. :csm
My rides usually happen one of two ways: I just hop on it and ride with no direction in mind and see where I wind up, or I sit down with the laptop and my DeLorme map program and seek out squiggly lines that run through 'green' topography. This time I chose the latter. The nice thing about mapping out a route is you can get an idea of how long the trip will be and just how far you can go before you need to head back home. I've got a terrible frame of reference when it comes to distances. I try to keep a day ride around 200-250 miles as I know that's the limit my butt can tolerate the KLR seat. It's not always clear on the DeLorme program if you're choosing pavement or gravel, so often times I'm pleasantly surprised finding dirt where I wasn't expecting it. Today had a nice mixture of both; I really did get lucky with my choices and the route will be saved for a future repeat or modification.
I began and ended in Wertzville at 114 and 944. I'd recently joined a group ride at this location and it's a great starting point, right off I-81 with fuel access and quickly turns into mountains as you head west. I don't get but a few miles up the road and stop to do a clothing adjustment and stall the bike. I go to restart it and nothing; no power at all. I assume I've popped a fuse somehow, so being a KLR I have to remove the seat, which means I have to remove the saddlebags, side covers and so forth to access the bolts. Grumble...snarl...curse...as I'm doing this a couple people stop to offer help which I refuse in a slightly terse response (and I do apologize, if you're reading this. These situations put me in a very foul and undiplomatic frame of mind). One guy is happy to keep chattering on while I work telling me about his kid's KTMs...what great bikes they are...how expensive they are to fix...(I begin to chuckle to myself in spite of my growing rage at the stupid bleeping allen head bolts I can't seem to reach)...but that I've chosen a great bike in a KTM. Should I tell him? :rofl Yeah, I do confess that his reading comprehension isn't all that great. He looks at the bike again...:huh...and realizes his error. :lol3 Pseudo KTM vinyl decals: $5. Look on befuddled KTM owner's face: Priceless. Anyhow, the problem returns after the wildlife encounter later in the day and I finally find that it's a loose battery cable bolt (a loose bolt on a KLR? What are the chances?). Anyway, back to the action.
A short jaunt to 850 and rode this up through Kistler where I turned onto gravel (surprise!) at Little Valley Road. This is a mostly straight road that follows the side of a mountain. Those of you with KTMs will probably be going 90 or so but on the KLR 50 seemed like a pleasant speed. :D There's a spot on the map named "Big Knob" with an access road that looks like it would be an overlook; the gated road was open but the only things there were radio towers and a cabin being used by someone that didn't seem too happy I was riding past. :shog If you go, you can avoid that little side trip. The day started out very hazy and was like this most of the morning. I stopped at a power line to check out the mountain laurel which were just starting to bloom but weren't yet into full plumage. Butterflies abounded.
With little exception, well groomed gravel awaited. My route could easily have been taken by a street bike (I'll point out the bit that would be dicey). However, riding a KLR you need not worry about having to clean the chrome later, so the stress level is much lower. :lol3
I wound up riding on a portion of the route the group ride had taken a few weeks prior without realizing it. A bit annoyed at my inadvertent duplication of route, I was riding down the mountain and into a tight right hand turn when a deer of substantial size darted across the road in front of me. I always come to a full stop when I spot deer, because the "forest cattle" as I call them travel in herds and you never know when the next one will run in front of you (or, into you. They aren't especially bright.). To my right is a drop off of maybe 20-30 feet, a little valley with a brook running through it and a steep hill beyond it. Sure enough, another deer is standing at the bottom, looking at me. I've seen thousands of these stupid creatures in my lifetime so, as pretty as they are, have zero desire to pull the camera out and snap a photo of one even for you FF's. As the annoyed doe bounds up the steep far hill I notice movement...and see something in the wild I've never seen before. A fawn! Okay, I've seen fawns before, but this wobbly legged little fellow is very obviously on his first day of life. GRAB CAMERA!!! I do my best to zoom in on it, silently cussing its every move as it turns the wrong way each time the shutter clicks, but here is what i managed:
I learned, many years ago with my first video camera, that one who is not a good photographer should not waste all of one's time taking images. Instead, I stop with the camera and just savor the moment. This helpless, freshly born creature drinks from the brook, stumbles his way up to a perch on the bank and then begins bleating for his mommy in such a pathetic way I know it's time to go. Such are the once in a lifetime moments one can have riding a motorcycle; an event like this would not have occurred in a car as I'd never have seen the fawn below the window frame of a vehicle door.
New Germantown Road took me down to 274 through some switchbacks (love those) to 75 at Doylesburg. As much as I love the mountains/woods there is something to be said for riding through open valleys of fields. Unfortunately, the humid haze made photo opportunities less than stellar so I didn't take any; you'll just have to take my word for it that on a clear day the fields with cows and the farms that tend them are pretty in their own way.
A.D.D. moment: I went through the town of Dry Run, which consisted of a few houses and a bridge over (wait for it...) Dry Run Creek, which was noticeably not dry. Makes guys like me wonder where they come up with these names. It may not have that effect on you. :scratch
Photo op somewhere along this portion of the ride (I forget exactly where this was):
Or, without the sinister zombie apocalypse machine blocking the view:
A right turn onto 641 takes you up and over another ridge (switchbacks!) followed by a left onto SR2009. This somewhat boring bit takes you under the Turnpike and down to a ridge crossing at Carrick Valley, then through Fannettsburg on SR4004 and over another ridge (switchbacks!) at which point I turned left onto Lower Horse Valley Road. There's some unpaved roads marked on the left side of this road that I didn't investigate; may do that next run through. This leg could easily be cut off by simply riding 641; I was just adding miles to see stuff. Left onto 997 at Roxbury; this is a more 'major' road but not heavily trafficked and a nice highway speed ride if you want to get some wind on a hot day. There's a greasy spoon restaurant at McKinney (turnpike exit) if you're hungry. Three Square Hollow Road to Cowpens Road gets you back to gravel (several 'unimproved' roads noted on DeLorme in this area; anyone know if they are open?). I think it was on this bit I was climbing when on the left I see this 'mist' alongside the road. I'm greeted by several flowing mini-waterfalls feeding a creek that runs under the hairpin turn. I nice refreshing spot to take a break, wash the grunge from my face and take a artsy photo of the terrifying KLR:
Laurel Run takes you up the mountain; at the top I had Bowers Mountain Road on the route. This road is gated but was open; my guess is it is closed over the winter as it's not heavily graveled. This one may be a bit rough for a 'street' bike as it's a bit rocky. As I'm zooming along at, oh, 40 mph I pass a sign, which is really unexpected out here in the middle of nothing. I slide to a stop, turn around and check it out. Another of those fascinating little surprises you find when least expected.
Note the little coffee can 'pot' and the flowers. The marker is right next to the road, so I pondered if poor Henry was actually buried there or not. And I had to ask myself, how does one get run over by a bulldozer, a vehicle not exactly known for reckless high speed? Google instantly brought me the answers and a little more background about our mystery man (copied and pasted here from a site with pop-ups):
Laurel Run Road takes our ride back to 233 and is a fast, rollercoaster ride interspersed with some occasionally sudden twists and soft, muddy spots that will keep you from getting complacent. :p3rry From there it's a short ride back to Landisburg where you can alternately take 74 south and then Fox Hollow Road for a change of scenery. The entire trip is about 200 miles (my numbers are skewed since I have a commute to/from the start point) and will kill about 5-6 hours depending on your pace and the length of stops. Despite the haze, high humidity and constant threat of thunderstorms it was a day well spent. Well, any day on the bike is a day well spent, right? :evil
NICE D! Love the name of the thread!! You have your work cut out for you.... PA has a huge amount of stuff that doesn't suck!:lol3
Nice trip, My cousin has a camp a few hundred yards from the intersection of Cowpens Rd. and Laurel Run Rd. Lots of gravel roads around to ride on. I've been bugging him to get a weekend trip planned to ride the state forest roads.
Very nice ride! I love riding in PA, would you like to share the tracks if you kept them?
Nice threads. If you find anything good south east of you post it loud and proud! We're starved for good riding spots in ChesCo. Dirt roads are nearly extinct at this point. :cry
Great thread-love PA-I'd wouldn't mind moving there if I weren't tied to this job o' mine. Beautiful pictures, your KLR looks fantastic.
I have the route saved in DeLorme; it's a tpx.file. Not sure how to convert it to .gpx.
Chester County...yeah, good luck down there. I tend not to go that direction as the population density increases rapidly and SR 30 loaded with tourists can be pretty terrifying even in a cage. My father grew up around Parkesburg but even he didn't spend time down there after he left.
The KLR looks good in photos I guess. The makeover killed the hopeless 1980s look but this thing has been used hard before I got it so the tank is dented and every bit of plastic has something broken, scratched or gouged (bedliner in a can FTW). Not caring about it's appearance (much) is part of the joy of owning it, though I do crave a nice bike someday...that I would undoubtedly crash, while this one will probably live with me unscathed. :rolleyes
I was born and raised up in the Tuscarora region of Perry County and have yet to explore most of thos areas that you were on. Soon I hope to get my wife out there and do some riding on the back roads.
After too many busy, booked weekends I finally get a free day on Sunday to head out on The Mighty KLR for a few hours. Today was one of those days where I just point the handlebars in a general direction and ride, trying to piece together a path simply by choosing roads that appear to be least traveled. These photos will give you a more realistic flavor of the land directly around where I live; pretty typical landscape just outside any town in south central PA. One can ride through endless rolling fields, then climb a small mountain through woods with twisty asphalt, and back down the other side to more farmland. I did find a few nifty twisties, but between having too much fun and a camera FAIL I didn't get any photos of that stuff. Still, a few 'stills' for you to enjoy until we head back to the woods on our next ride (hopefully).
Though not at my place, this is pretty typical scenery when I leave my driveway:
These flowers were in bloom alongside the road in dozens of places. Not being into horticulture, I'll need someone smarter than I to tell you what they are:
Part of the camera FAIL was losing the photo of them lining the roads I were on.
Wildlife consisted mostly of dodging suicidal squirrels and the occasional chipmunk or groundhog. As I'm passing over the Norfolk Southern mainline just outside Wernersville I glance over the bridge railing and see this:
This is actually the second deer; I had to turn around and come back to get this shot. Knowing how stupid these deer are, all I could think of was the giant mess this thing would make when a trio of NS SD80MAC's comes roaring through here at 70 mph.
I also passed by a few churches where the Mennonite Mafia were having their meetings:
For those who don't know about the Amish and Mennonites: The Amish are the ultra-strict, off-the-grid, horse and buggy farmers and carpenters that central PA is famous for. Mennonites are the less strict, living-in-the-modern-era religious sect that now exists in multiple varying degrees of 'plain' living. In the old days, the rule was they could not own vehicles with any 'flash' to them, so would take a can of paint and a brush and cover over any and all chrome on their cars with black. We referred to them as 'black bumper' Mennonites. Their numbers have dwindled quite a bit; most now drive normal cars, though typically in darker colors, but with whatever chrome and shiny wheels they come with. The stricter sect will insist on black cars, but as you can see, the paint can and brush stay in the barn now on all but vehicles owned by the really old folks. Even though I live around here, it's now kind of noteworthy to come upon a 'meeting house' with a parking lot full of nothing but black cars. :huh Hence, the nickname Mennonite Mafia. :D
It was a short day, only did around 115 miles before I returned home to take care of some boring domestic duties I'd ignored all week. So if you're happy enough with rural farmland as scenery, come visit us sometime. The local gals are all eager to meet you. :lol3
July 29, Bald Eagle SF
Welcome back, fans of Pennsyltucky! :wave
I'd not had the bike out for several weeks and had a totally shitty week of work, so created a Mental Health Restorative Route on the DeLorme. This was a full day; around 250 miles round trip on a stock KLR seat, which is about my limit of tolerance. I decided to head back up to Bald Eagle State Forest where I had wandered around back in 2011. I selected a bunch of new roads (and inadvertently picked a few I had ridden then!), loaded the GPS, and headed up 322. Though riding slab sucks, I have to admit 322 above Dauphin is a nice ride. Even on pavement. Even on a KLR. Even with a cloudy sky.
My intent was to ride 15 up to Lewisburg and get the long slab out of the way first, but I made the mistake of blindly following the GPS and wound up doing the ride in reverse. :dunno Doesn't really matter. The roads are so good I don't really mind, even if they were ones I had been on before. I began my gravel on Locust Ridge Road (photos of which are shown earlier in the thread where the paved road does a hairpin at the entrance). I meandered over to Weikert after stopping (again) at the scenic overlook:
Hazy, of course. This is Pennsylvania. :bluduh And the same photo sans Awesome Adventure Bike:
Yeah, I know, really scenic. Just a bunch of trees. Well, it's a good spot to stop for a pee. :wink:
Obligatory shot of smooth gravel forest road:
Random commentary: okay, so these roads aren't really challenging. I get that. A lot of you would be bored on this stuff. You can go 90 mph if you dare with little worry (particularly since this road is mostly straight). You could probably ride a Fat Boy on these roads if you didn't mind cleaning it afterwards. I like this stuff; it's in the woods, and I just enjoy the sensation of the bike dancing around on the loose surface. It requires a little more participation without beating the crap out of my aging body like the rougher, more technical stuff. Which I also like, and we will get to shortly. :evil
Ever aware of abandoned railroad beds and other remnants, I begin to notice what used to be a rail line alongside Weikert Road. It's actually been turned into a rail trail, and was the former West Shore Railroad that ran from Lewisburg to Mifflinburg (and, apparently, beyond...most likely to Millheim). Service ended in 1997 and the 12 mile roadbed was sold in 2008 to become the Buffalo Valley Rail Trail http://bvrt.org/History/
The trail terminates prior to this removed bridge. The line was built by the Pennsylvania Railroad (PRR), and they were known for using huge cut stone blocks for both abutments and the bridges themselves. This one would have been steel. Nicely preserved and the road and creek go right through it. Private property all around, and nothing really to see from up top so you don't have to trespass like I did. :patch
So I encounter this sign, the first of these I've ever seen:
Not on my route, but hey, we need to investigate this! :ricky
Well, it's very ride-able, but on a KLR it's mostly first gear:
The ruts are quite deep and the whole trail is really rocky, though not so miserable it passes from challenging to unbearable.
Noted on the map for future investigation. :D
I turn around and head back to my mapped route. The farther I rode, the more recent storm damage I saw. Mostly small branches lying in the road, but occasional spots where something had been chainsawed. However, rounding a corner I encountered this (yeah, that yellow tape would have been helpful back another 100 yards).
KLR and rider easily fit underneath. Not so the guy in the F150 I passed coming the other way. :lol3
Cresting the top of a hill, I turn onto the last gravel road I had picked from the Bald Eagle map I downloaded, Nittany Mountain Road. This was marked on the map as a "drivable trail". With the F150 guy coming behind me I turned onto it without paying much attention, and the road immediately turned to crap. Horrific ruts, tons of rocks, very technical riding lugging along in 1st gear. Other than a few indications of people coming back the road in decidedly lifted 4x4s to drink and party, nobody used this road. I made it about a mile and forded a few puddles before I encountered this:
I checked the DeLorme and I'd gone maybe a mile. I had about 4 more to go, and the unused road could possibly have downed trees across it and more of these questionable stagnant, mosquito breeding puddles to ford. While it doesn't look intimidating in the photo, trust me, without wading into it there was no telling if it had a bottom full of rocks or thick, sticky mud. By myself, in a place no normal vehicle could get to if something went awry? I voted:
So yeah, I'm a wuss. But I'm a clean, dry wuss. As I return to the intersection, I finally notice the sign...which says "Dead ends in 4 miles".:oscar
I took an alternate route on Running Gap Rd (which was actually pretty nice) and made my way to Lewisburg, onto 15 south, and back to civilization. My butt was sore, but it made me forget about how my life will suck again 8am Monday morning for awhile, so it was a good day. :thumb
Stats, for those of you who geek out on this kind of thing:
Good stuff D. :thumb
Sept 1, 2012
Welcome back, fans of everything Pennsylvania. Here's a brief thread bump/update and a few photos showing my mAd RyDiNg SkIlLz, Y0!
A few weeks ago, I get a PM from inmate Klrdar saying he recently bought Kawasaki's finest motorcycle but is having trouble finding fun places to ride it. He's read some of my posts and figures I would be some kind of great tour guide to Places Unpaved. I agree to help him waste a day trying to get his too-clean bike dirty and plan a ride up to Bald Eagle based on a route I did a year ago that I kept on file. I go into the map program and tweak it a little (mistake) and we agree to meet up early Saturday morning. As my vast fan base of two or three of you know, I generally have ridden solo on my adventures but have been thinking a riding buddy would be a wise idea, since some of the places I ride are pretty remote, and I ride a motorcycle constructed in 1989. Talking to Klrdar on the phone and emailing him revealed what appeared to be a compatible riding partner, but I had a concern. I kid you not, his first name is....
I'm sure the poor guy has been teased enough in his life by others, so I won't dogpile on him here, but it's one of those things that makes you go :huh. For those who don't see the significance: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Darwin_Awards
Unfortunately, I'm on kind of a schedule today because my wife has scheduled a dinner with friends that evening and would prefer I at least pass through the shower stall at home before we go out. So there is a noticeable lack of photos for this trip. But we've got a few.
We ride up to the area, a pretty decent ride on half slab and half two lane to get us to this oft photographed overlook. Nothing quite completes the beauty of a scenic overlook like a KLR, and we've got two for your visual enjoyment:
While standing there enumerating the endless merits of the KLR, I spot this guy crawling nearby:
Looks quite a bit like a Wooly Bear http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pyrrharctia_isabella which are common around here, but if he is he's albino. Folklore suggests that a Wooly Bear can predict the severity of winter by the ratio of brown to black on his 'hair'. I've no clue what an all-white one means. Perhaps the Mayans are right? This is actually an Armageddon Caterpillar? Who cares? It's too nice of a day to worry about such things. Let's ride.
During our initial introduction earlier, I make the fatal error of mentioning to my riding partner that I've not dropped my bike while on it (letting it fall in the driveway while lubing the chain to me doesn't really count). I'm certain that it's because I'm mature (old), and I have developed proficient motorcycling skills (that's what the cover of the book I read says). So, sure enough, shortly thereafter I cook it into a hairpin a little too hot, get in the loose crap at the outside, and at about 5 mph test out my gear:
Oh yeah, the gear. About that...
As a race car driver (of absolutely no success whatsoever, but I have fun), I'm big on safety equipment. Entering the ADV world, I was willing to embrace the concept of ATGATT, and pieced together a decent (if color mismatched) ensemble of head to toe coverage mostly via the Flea Market section of this fine site. With one exception. Summer riding pants never found their way into my wardrobe, so I relied on my reliable friends at Well Worn Wranglers to cover my legs.
Yeah, that didn't work out so well. :rolleyes
You can sort of see here the nice hole that instantly was made the minute denim touched down onto loose gravel. My knee lost an appropriate amount of cosmetic covering (skin) but it was conveniently covered shortly thereafter by attractive blobs of dried blood. In all seriousness, this decidedly inconsequential off did just enough damage to drive home that you are a moron if you ride with anything less than ATGATT. There is simply no excuse. This little flesh wound in no way would compare to something that would happen if I had gone down any faster or on any harder surface. I cringe just thinking about it.
I'm :baldy the rest of the day inside my helmet.
Upside is I finally have a photo of a sleeping KLR to post in the "KLR Photos" section. :rofl
After lunch in Millheim (a town devoid of rest rooms with paper towels) we head out on segment two to return home. Very shortly afterwards I find my 'tweaking' of the route has sent us up a untraveled trail that, if open the entire way, will take us hours to navigate. Several failed attempts at getting around this bottleneck burn up too much time and we wind up slabbing it back home in time for me to bandage my wound (my spouse has a decidedly gleeful "I told you so" moment pouring alcohol into my destroyed knee), make myself presentable and make the dinner appointment.
To his credit, Klrdar has not killed me and, in fact, has engineered a KLR transport system for his truck so that we can avoid the slab portions of the ride for our next outing.
My new summer pants with armor should be here any day. :deal
Did you ride on Rt 150 between Beech Creek and Mill Hall Friday afternoon?
Then stop at Aungst's Restaurant?
I passed a ADV looking KLR, and then saw it parked about 4:30.
Very similar to yours if it wasn't you!
Not I. Would have been on Saturday.
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