We started today with our drive back to Ebensburg from our Altoona hotel. Unfortunately, the stretch of Highway 22 from Ebensburg to Altoona becomes limited access highway, and bicycles are prohibited. Unfortunately for the state of Pennsylvania, they neglected to post signage about transition, so Jonathan and I headed down this more direct and safer (due to larger shoulders) highway. Two and a half miles into riding, a 1.5 inch nail ruined my no-flat-tire streak came to an end. For the first time since before buying a new flat-resistance tire in Grand Island, Nebraska, I found myself once more on the side of the road changing my tire. A motorist actually stopped to make sure I had what I needed to change the tire, something that does not usually happen when we are stuck/stopped on the side of the road. While I may have been slower at tire-changing than I was back when we got multiple flats per day, I was back to rolling down Highway 22 in no time.
Eleven miles into our day, we reached Summit, PA. We had been slowly climbing since Ebensburg and now a sign informed us that we had earned seven miles of 5% down-grade. Along with the break this afford our legs, we also got to take in fantastic views of the Pennsylvania countryside as we coasted down into Altoona. We made great time here, but due to an expected lack of solid breakfast options before we would reach State College, we hunted down a Bob Evans. Bob Evans, as usual, gave us a great breakfast for a great price, and we were now ready to ride for hours without needing to stop for a meal. We headed northeast, mirroring I-99, and other than stops caused by stoplights, were making great headway to State College.
Before we reached Bellwood, we encountered another construction zone, telling us that the road was closed to through traffic in 1.75 miles. With our past record of being able to walk/ride through construction sites, and the detour taking traffic on the Interstate, we decided to try our luck. Unfortunately, the road work was actually a project that involved replacing a bridge over the Little Juniata River, and we were forced to water 3.5 miles of riding (with backtracking) and then take a detour to Bellwood. Of course our unofficial detour also had a road closure, so we had to do even more "creative navigating" to emerge in Bellwood and resume our paralleling of I-99. This road (Old Highway 220) was fairly straight and rather flat compared to other options leading to State College, and it allowed us to make much better mileage than our convoluted route around Pittsburgh did yesterday. We passed an "amusement park" in Tipton, and continued on to the mill-town of Tyrone.
After we passed the paper mill in Tyrone, my "flat-resistant" tire was tested once more. It failed. To its defense, I am not sure any tire could have survived receiving a through-and-through double sidewall puncture from a 6 inch long screwdriver. This caused a blowout that blew my tire off the rim, and threw the screw driver 10 feet across the road. I was mad that my expensive new tire had been destroyed so completely by roadside trash, but honestly was quite lucky that the screwdriver had not broken my more complicated chain, spokes or derailleur. Luckily I was still carrying my old rear tire that I had been too lazy to ship home. Tire replaced, and nerves regained, we set off to our next gas station rest stop at Port Matilda. Here, I called the State College bike shops, and once I found an acceptable tire, sent my mom to pick up a new pair of tires (I do not want to waste any more time of this trip on the side of the road).
As we made our way to State College, we had to climb the side of a mountain to catch up to the elevation I-99 had gained. At the top, we realized that we had gone higher than I-99, but were rewarded with a great view of Happy Valley and the city of State College. We rushed down the other side of the mountain and into State College. Penn State was gorgeous and quite expansive. Jonathan said that it reminded him quite a bit of Storrs. Unfortunately when we met up with my mom, it was time for her to start heading back to Connecticut. We consolidated our bags, and left behind our camping gear and anything else we could spare. With our bags lightened, and a hotel reserved in Mifflinburg, we headed out to ride the last 45 miles.
We were very grateful that my mom was able to come out to Pennsylvania and help us over the past few days. Taking our bags was immensely helpful during our hill climbs, and we do not think we would have made it successfully through the busy and steep Pittsburgh suburbs if we had been weighed down with our panniers. My parents also donated a nice hotel room to us, which was quite a step up from where we have been staying recently, and allowed us to get a great restful night's sleep. Thanks mom! See you soon in Farmington!
With our bikes and gear we headed along Route 45, and immediately found ourselves in flatter land filled with agriculture. We felt more like we were in Illinois than Pennsylvania at this point. When we reached a gas station containing a Subway, we stopped for our second meal of the day (around 5pm). This time we only ate half our sandwiches and planned to eat the other halves further along on our trip. Unsurprisingly, we felt much better after this meal and while we had more energy after our break, we also did not have stomach cramps from eating too much. Looks like this "moderation" technique might be a winner. As we continued on, the hills began to roll and we soon found ourselves among the Pennsylvania Dutch. The presence of their horse and buggies gave us wide shoulders great for riding, and practice avoiding obstacles (horse poop). We exchanged waves with the Amish, but did not take any pictures out of respect.
The cornfields disappeared after we ate the other halves of our sandwiches and were replaced with State Forests. We felt more than ever, that we were almost back in New England. The sun set, and before long we were riding under moonlight and light from our bike lights and headlamps. Five miles before we reached Mifflinburg we found an ice cream place, Chilly Willy's. Here we met Mandy who told us that our hotel for the night was a historic building that was potential haunted. I was excited, Jonathan was not particularly thrilled. Apparently employees stayed out of the basement and the third floor had burned down in a fire. The hotel had been recently remodeled/rebuilt. Mandy also told us of a 10 mile-long rail-to-trail we could take from Mifflinburg to Lewisburg tomorrow morning. She said we would avoid a big hill between the two towns, something that excited us quite a bit. After ice cream, we rode by graveyards and agriculture as we approached Mifflinburg. Reaching the town, we took in what we could see of the historic buildings lining Route 45, before reaching The Mifflingburg Hotel and Scarlet D Tavern. The waitress who helped us check-in told us the hotel was built in 1884. She asked about our trip and donated to Lea's Foundation. Our room is on the previously burned third floor...
Photos by Jonathan Kobles
About Lea's Foundation
In 1998, Lea Michele Economos, a young woman who died of leukemia at the age of 28, made a dying wish to her parents that others would not face the hardships she encountered by finding a cure for this disease. Her family started this charity to carry on that wish. Today, Lea’s Foundation takes an active role in finding a cure for leukemia, lymphoma, Hodgkin’s lymphoma and myeloma and to better the lives of people living with these diseases. At the UCONN Health Center, the Lea’s Foundation Center for Hematologic Disorders sponsors research in this field. A new program covers the cost of bone-marrow testing to help recruit life-saving transplants for patients. Also, annual scholarships are given to children with leukemia who are planning to attend nursery school. For more information on other projects carried out by Lea’s Foundation, please visit their website at www.LeasFoundation.org.