Baltimore, MD, to York, PA

hey, on paper it looked like a great idea. but after tomorrow, i’ll just be able to look back on it as a learning experience, and something i will never do again. it has had its moments, but by and large, it’s been a wash.

the route: it’s a modest ~55 miles. i thought to myself, “hey, i was able to do 100 miles in one day. this will be no big deal.” i forgot to remind myself about just how tumultuous the elevation profile could become. have you ever given one of those fat crayons to a three-year-old, shown them a big sheet of paper, and said to them, “go ahead?” that should clue you in on how many peaks and valleys were on this route.

this trip marks the first time ever i needed to hop off my bike and walk. some of the hills were simply too much for me to pedal. the high note of the route? (and this isn’t me being sarcastic or bitter or anything) It’s peach season, and along the way, perhaps two hours outside of york, i stopped by a family-owned fruit farm with some of the absolute most scrumptious peaches i’d ever tasted.

in york: you know, i’m one of those types who like to go somewhere truly different from my usual environment, or else it doesn’t really feel like a vacation. i’m sad to say that, after about 15 minutes of biking through york, i knew i didn’t want to be there for long. it reminded me too much of baltimore: a big dump with neighbourhoods they invest tax dollars in just as long as the inhabitant’s skin isn’t brown. even the neighbourhood surrounding the college isn’t worth commenting. i stopped by the visitor’s center on market street in central york, and after being accosted by a bewildered drunk for some change, called up a hotel closer to lancaster, set to bike an additional 20 miles…seriously, i should have done that from the beginning.

accommodations: i’m currently staying at a ‘main stay suites’ hotel in mountville, pennsylvania: a borough approximately six miles west of lancaster. the room is spacious and quiet; they didn’t bat an eye when i brought my bicycle in; there’s free internet access; and the free breakfast is a tasty all-you-can-cram-in affair. the bathroom and kitchenette were clean–at least until i showed up–and the turbo-blasting shower is nice and hot.

about half a block away is a combination pizza joint/ice cream parlor/mini-golf spot, so i bought myself a pizza and had two night’s worth of dinner for a total of $16.50 or so.

the cost of the room for two nights is$191 and change. this includes the AAA discount i nabbed by accident: while on the phone i mentioned something about the “visitor’s guide discount” that other hotels were offering, so that sliced over $40 from my total bill.

in lancaster: when you’re traveling by bicycle, travel slows down so much that you can’t help but notice exponentially more than you would if you were in an automobile. this phenomenon has gradually eroded my initial affinity and wonder for urbanity. once again, i’m sad to say that lancaster has gentrification written all over it. lots of people clearly have no problem with that phenomenon, but i tend to side with the have-nots out of principle.

that being said, there are some obvious locales where tax dollars have been spent, and a few are worth the visit. i visted two free museums, walked past another (that admittedly was more of a window display, depicting the history of newspapers in town), and only paid $7 to visit a fourth one. in it, there was a sizable display of history and artifacts related to the native susquehannock indians; the final display case culminated in an enlarged woodcut illustration depicting a cane-and-top-hat crew of white males beating native american women and children (no, i am not bullshitting you). it was more comforting to view those display cases in reverse.

the most stunning display i saw today in the basement of the same building, where over 600 taxidermied birds were on display. also shown were beetles and other exotic insects, small mammals, reptiles, crustaceans, and a broad assortment of minerals and rocks acquired from all over north america.

i also saw displays featuring various artifacts from the early- to mid-1800’s: furniture and architectural renderings; commercial art from the 1800’s and 1900’s; and authentic hand-made looms and loom-worked rugs and tapestries created prior to the industrial revolution. in the other free museum was a display of photography of the late 1950’s, featuring steam locomotives just before they were “placed on reserve.” these photos were truly impressive, but in a kitschy, contrived way that’s familiar to anyone who has observed photos from that era.

i ate lunch at a hipster joint that served me home fries, vegan fake sausage (very convincing and tasty) and a vegan muffin along with a coffee. with the tip, it was just over $11.00.

on sundays in lancaster, apparently everything is either closed, or closes by 4pm. so i biked back to my hotel room to eat the rest of my pizza, suck down a milkshake, and write. man, this hotel is great: they gave me a handful of those single-serve coffee filter packs when i asked, no problem.

although there are complimentary laundry facilities on site, i opted to wash my clothes in my room because i knew they’d only have perfumed detergent (which i hate) and i brought only one pair of pants. being a guest in a hotel, i’d feel uncomfortable seeing strangers walk around in their underwear.

departure: this has yet to occur. however, i intend to modify my exit route only slightly (as i’m leaving further east than york), crossing back over the susquehanna river, then heading south on prospect street to eventually hop back onto route 24 in red lion. maybe once i make it into maryland i’ll take jarretsville pike east to visit my mother and ask her or my stepfather to drive me the rest of the way home. we’ll see how i’m feeling tomorrow; those hills really are a bitch.


debriefing: okay, so i was waxing a bit dramatic last evening. i ended up bicycling the entire return trip: 66 miles in about 5.5 hours. this includes several breaks, which i deliberately planned–as opposed to my saturday trip, where i took breaks only when exhausted.

although i’m firm in my position that it was a poor trip, i was still able to learn a lot from it. i was reminded of what a great trip entails:

  • a well-planned route. this is the foundation of a solid, enjoyable bicycling trip. “if you don’t know where you’re going, any map will do.” i had the big picture in mind (something to the tune of “three days by bike, with one day in lancaster”), but the details are where i faltered. in this instance, flying by the seat of my pants was a painful experience.
  • bring not just water, but also adequate food. water is not fuel. you still need to power your muscles with solid foods. particularly so when it’s a challenging route; be sure to have enough high-energy foodstuffs.
  • don’t be afraid of breaks. trying to push yourself will often result in an injury. this means that, for the rest of your trip, you will have to cope with that injury. therefore, avoid stress-related injury by taking a break every once in a while. even when doing this year’s MS bike challenge, rest stops were frequent (usually every 20 miles or so), and that route was mostly flat and easy. taking a break is not a bad thing.
  • finally: keep going. you can do it. it’s usually a matter of simply putting one foot in front of the other, and repeating until you’re there. besides, the sooner you finish your route, the sooner you can take that hot, relaxing shower.

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