In my fourth season of riding, all of it with the Harrisburg Bicycle Club, I was finally ready to experience my first Fall Tour.
For the past four years I had heard about riding my bike from Harrisburg to Cape May, New Jersey and how great a trip it was. Unfortunately, timing (and maybe a bit of trepidation) kept me from experiencing riding this far from home. But this year I was ready and the calendar worked, so I signed up.
I was worried about how I would return home, how I would return home and how I would return home! My wife does not ride and never drives that far! But thanks to my sharing this fear with Patty Baughman, who spoke to John Donoughe, I was set! John had room and his van was my way home.
When the “six pack” assignments came out, I was again reassured with John and Patty Baughman and John Donoughe as my riding partners. Then Bill Pickering met with me and asked if I had any questions. Well, I did….and Bill was right there to answer every one of them in a reassuring way.
I was feeling pretty good!
On the day of departure, Phyllis Zitzer, my new neighbor, and I rode to the meeting point at the East side of the Market Street Bridge. As soon as we got there I realized that I had left my water bottles in the freezer at home. A frantic call to my wife led to her getting into the car and quickly driving the bottles to me! WHEW!!
And off we went; down Front Street, into Steelton and then Middletown and then…. I had no idea where we were. But following Bill and Patty, with John at the rear, I was led through beautiful back roads into Lancaster County and eventually to our first night’s stop in Lancaster.
It was not a bad ride; we averaged around 12 miles per hour and stopped often to let the blood flow into our posteriors. But they kept saying the “hard day” was tomorrow; it was to be a day of serious climbing. But for now, I was just enjoying the camaraderie of my fellow Fall Tour riders, at the hotel and out for dinner. I was a first time “newbie” but was made to feel a total part of the group, even though many of the others had experienced this trip many times before.
The second day, the “climbing day”, was FABULOUS! The climbs were not really that bad, but the beauty of the ride; the scenery, the farms, were magnificent! We made stops; I shall never forget the stop at an Amish apple press where the farmers brought in their apples and the press turned them into fresh (and delicious) apple cider. We were off of the beaten tourist path; we experienced the Amish countryside as welcome visitors and participants
And then through Maryland for a short distance and into Delaware.
They said it would be flat in Delaware and it was! No more coasting down hills; there were no hills to coast down (except for a couple of bridges where, after going up, we went down)!
As we rode along, Dave Leroy, Fall Tour chairman, stopped us and said, “Do no stop at the scheduled lunch stop. Keep going.” We learned that Dave, in his car, checked up ahead and learned that the bridge which we HAD to cross was about to be resurfaced and they were about to destroy the bridge top. Dave convinced the crew to wait just a bit until we all passed through (he must have unreal persuasive skills!) and we all crossed with success, learning that just after the last of the Fall Tour riders crossed, they immediately removed the bridge surface.
We continued through Delaware wetlands to the ferry to cross the Delaware Bay. At one point of high tide, I even got my tires washed; the water was about 1 inch deep on the roadway.
At each stop, at each lunch, the entire group of 20 seemed to be together, enjoying the beautiful weather and the excitement of almost being in Cape May.
Finally we arrived! After four days of beautiful riding, of fabulous weather, of great camaraderie, I, along with 19 others, arrived in Cape May!
The next two days were spent in the hospitality suite at the hotel, walking on the beach and riding through this neat resort area, which reminded me of the shore in the 50’s that my family and I enjoyed.
Our 20 riders turned into a much larger group, as spouses and other Club members arrived to spend the weekend enjoying Cape May.
I had done it! I had experienced Fall Tour. And if there is any way, I shall do it again and again. Unless you have done it, you will never know how great the experience is.
I shall never forget my first Fall Tour. And I shall have stories to share with my fellow Harrisburg Bicycle Club members who were not with us. Interested in hearing some of those stories? Just ask me.