Friday, September 12, 2008
Well, we didn't stay dry after all - it started sprinkling by about 10 am, not after 1 pm as promised, and it continued to rain for the rest of our day's ride. We were soaked when we got to our motel in Shippensburg, which turned out to be a fancy sort of place in the middle of town, but they didn't seem fazed in the least by the two dripping wet souls that turned up at their front desk. After a warm shower and dry clothes, we felt much better; now we're just hoping all our bike clothes dry sufficiently by tomorrow morning.
We left at 7:50 and started climbing Tuscarora Mountain straight off this morning. The grade jumped to 5% almost immediately, not giving us much time to warm up, then quickly got up to 8-10%. After about a mile of climb, we rejoined US 30 and the grade mellowed out to just 5% again, which seemed like a rest by comparison. It edged back up to 8-9% soon enough though. It still hadn't started raining but it was very cloudy and we were climbing right into the clouds. The visibility wasn't bad most of the way, but right near the top it was getting pretty soupy. There was a large building right at the summit which we didn't even see until we were practically at its doorstep! I was very glad to be back down the other side far enough to be able to see again. We were quite grateful that the road, both up and down the mountain, had a good shoulder; it made us feel quite a bit safer. The climb was 3-1/2 miles up and 3-1/2 miles down, both very steep so we had to brake constantly on the downhill. There were all the usual truck warnings and a ramp for runaway trucks on the way down. Near the bottom, the grade leveled out enough that we were able to stop braking and coast for a while. We soon had to pump away again, though, as we came to a series of short but fairly steep hills. It had begun to sprinkle by now, too, and we put on our jackets since it was also fairly cool, but the little hills soon got us too warm to wear the jackets.
We weren't able to take many photos today because of the rain, but we tried to catch the highlights. Route 30, or Lincoln Highway, continued to be a historic and picturesque road. We passed by Fort Loudoun, established 1756, but it was 4 miles or so to our right so we didn't see it. We then passed through St. Thomas which has the distinction of being the birthplace of Nellie Fox, an American League baseball player from the mid-40's through the mid-60's. There was a board stating these facts as part of the welcome sign to St. Thomas, then we saw another barn-side mural with a picture of him as part of it, and finally we saw another old gas pump painted with a representation of him, similar to the one in front of our McConnellsburg motel's diner. This gas pump was in front of a family restaurant where we stopped for a mid-morning snack; it seems to be a regular fixture along this part of the highway - we saw another one painted with orange fruits and vegetables in front of a road-side produce stand later on. We came to Chambersburg and turned onto Rt. 11 to head more northward to Shippensburg. Chambersburg was a rather large town and we snaked through the middle of it. There were some very nice buildings downtown, including a Masonic Temple, a fancy municipal building, and a historic building which appears to have been the county jail (looked much too nice for a jail). Once we were on 11, the road was a lot flatter and we made much better time. It was raining more heavily by now and we were becoming quite drenched. We stopped for lunch close to Shippensburg, close to 1 pm, hoping the rain would stop by the time we left. It didn't, but it did let up a little.
We arrived at our hotel by 2 pm, having done 33-1/3 miles in 4 bike hours, glad to have the mountains behind us. Tomorrow should be relatively flat, although a longer day. We come into familiar territory again, in Carlisle, Mechanicsburg, Harrisburg, and Elizabethtown, having biked this way before on earlier trips. Our last day, from Elizabethtown to home, is a trip we've done twice before. It will be an even longer and hillier day but should have a very sweet ending. Only 132 miles to go!