Day 49 Harrisburg PA to Martinsburg WV
This was another love/hate Pennsylvania roads day. It started very well with a short ride on the River Road followed by a longer ride on a bike path (really two bike paths) and then over the Susquehanna on a pedestrian bridge to City Island and finally a ride on a regular bridge to Leymone. It went downhill a bit when the route I had planned to use was closed for construction and the route I did use had several sections of major construction. After that it was pretty good till past Shippensburg PA, 45 miles out, where the lousy road conditions made me hate ridng in PA once again. Things were much better in Maryland and in even in West Virginia, so my day ended on a positive note. In the middle of the afternoon I was regularly cursing the government of PA for failing to maintain their roads.
Harrisburg, thanks to River Road and a nice bike path along the river, is a really easy city to ride through. Lemoyne, on the other side of the river, wouldn't be bad either, except for the seemingly endless construction on the roads I wanted to use. Once I got past Mechanicsburg things weren't bad and past Carlisle it was simply pleasant riding till somewhere after Shippensburg. That last good area has a lot of Mennonites (sp?) and the shoulder showed iron shod wagon wheel tracks as well as horse droppings. I stopped for lunch at McDs in Shippensburg (there were sentimental reasons..) and a Mennonite family came in to eat while I was there. I also saw two Mennonite boys on bicycles on the other side of the highway. They looked shy when I waved at them.
The shoulder on the roads I used were good most of the time. Hummel Rd which changes names a lot of times as it makes its way from near the river to Mechanicsburg is currently sometimes a mess of construction, sometimes four lane with no shoulder, sometimes two wide lanes, and sometimes two lanes with good shoulders. It runs from Leymone through Shiremanstown to Mechanicsburg. It intersects PA 641 on the other side of downtown Mechanicsburg. I got on 641 earlier than that, but I shouldn't have. Too much traffic, including an idiot going the other way who yelled at me to get off the road, and the streets are narrow with lots of parked cars.
641, which I took from Mechanicsburg to Carlisle, has a good shoulder and moderate traffic almost all the way. You could get on 641 in Leymone, as I did last time I rode this way, but the Hummel - Simpson option is better riding. 641 crosses the Appalachian trail in this section, but it is a much less dramatic crossing than the one I did yesterday on 225! 641 is joined by 11, which is a limited access road in Harrisburg, in Carlisle and I stayed on 11 for the rest of the day. I'll be on it for the majority of the rest of this tour.
11 is a good road in NY (one stretch north of Watertown had no shoulder when I rode it two years ago). 11 is a good road in Maryland, in West Virginia (although with only a narrow shoulder in some places), and in Virginia. In Pennsylvania it is good some of the time, OK but in poor repair much of the time, and poor some of the time. My bad riding experience today was on a section of 11 that has a rideable shoulder intermittently.
When I tried to just ride on the shoulder I ran into potholes, broken pavement, and even totally missing pavement. So I ended up riding at the outer edge of the traffic lane ahd getting onto the shoulder only when I had to. Since 11 is three lanes in this section, I didn't have to get onto the shoulder too often, but since the traffic flow is in bursts and once I was on the shoulder I couldn't get back into the lane till the burst has passed, I often got trapped into riding on the shoulder where it is unsafe to ride. The frustrating thing is that the shoulder is so inconsistent, every trip onto the shoulder is potentially dangerous yet the traffic expects me to be on the shoulder because, most the time, it is rideable. I find this situation extremely unpleasant.
I stopped a couple of times for rest breaks that I needed because of the heat and my frustration with the road. The headwinds didn't help my speed, but at least they cooled me off. Temperatures peaked in the mid 90s, a bit higher than yesterday, but riding was actually cooler than it had been because the humidity was lower.
Once I reached the Mason-Dixon line (the Maryland border) I was a much happier bicyclist. Maryland maintains its roads and builds them with good shoulders! I stopped for a second meal at a restaurant in a shoppng center just before Haggerstown - a good place to eat that I discovered last time through - and then rode on to Williamsport which is on the border with WV. The waitress in Haggerstown had mentioned that there was some kind of organized ride in the area and I saw a bunch of riders in Williamstown. I though I might stop there for the night, but the motel I rode up to had a sign saying "Because of the bad weather, please don't take you bicycles into your room." Forget that - I rode on into West Virginia.
Crossing the Potomac into West Virginia, you'll find 11 climbing a fairly steep hill with narrow lanes and a pretty marginal shoulder. It gets better after a miles or so, but that first hill is dangerous. the shoulder is barely rideable and only wide enough to just fit the bike and bags. I heard a beep as cranked up it (did I mention it is steep?) and watched, being able to do little else, as a jerk with a trailer wider than the lane passed me into oncoming traffic. He pulled out far enough so the trailer didn't hit me, but that meant it stuck out several feet into the other lane and those folks were practically in the weeds trying to get out of his way. I'd hate to be riding that section when two wide vehicles met on it.
After that hill, or really after the first I-81 crossing on 11, riding was good. West Virginia may not be very bicycle friendly, but it certainly is a pretty state and 11 is a good bicycling road (OK, so part of that is that it is a little hilly!) in West Virginia and I was riding it at my favorite riding time of day, late evening. When I got to Martinsburg I had ridden almost eight hours and covered about 98 miles - that headwind slowed me down.
I found a motel (right by the interstate there are four new motels) and checked in for the night so I could get this report written. Now I'll mail it and get to bed. Early to be and late to rise seems to be my current sleep mode.