"Visit PA" is what is written on Pennsylvania license plates, and last Wednesday I was ready to heed that call and do a bike ride into the Northern Tier of the Quaker State.
As per usual, I had a late start due to complete lack of preparation on the previous evening. The planned route was about 130 km and I didn't mind the fact that I would have to do parts of the ride in the dark. The weather forecast predicted temperatures around and slightly above freezing and possibly even some sunshine in the afternoon.
The plan for the ride was to get out to Spencer, head towards Waverly and then turn around, taking a different route. Since NY-34 between Ithaca and Spencer is somewhat annoying to ride on when you go towards Spencer (traffic, narrow shoulders, constant uphill), I decided to take a longer, more strenous, but also much more scenic way to Spencer and then take 34 on the way back. On my newly installed Vittoria tires, I headed out of town towards Buttermilk Falls State Park and then up Sandbank Road. From there I took the very quiet country roads towards Danby, from where I followed NY-96B for a few kilometers. Had it been summer I probably would've taken Michigan Hollow Road but I knew that it was a dirt road and I was worried that it might be too snowy. Instead I turned right onto S Danby and the continued on Fisher Settlement Rd. It turned out that most of Fisher Settlement Road is also a dirt road, and a pretty hilly one at that. The road surface was mix of snow and wet dirt but aside from slowing me down it was okay. Just outside of Spencer, Fisher Settlement Road merges with NY-34 and in Spencer Downtown I turned left onto NY-96 towards Candor.
On an FLCC Sunday ride earlier this year, I had ridden on Halsey Valley Road, but going the opposite direction. Today I followed Halsey Valley Rd South and then continued on Oak Hill Rd. Oak Hill Road leads all the way into the Susquehanna Valley. On small roads running parallel to the river and NY-17C I finally got into Waverly and after crossing the Southern Tier Expressway I was in Pennsylvania. The part of Pennsylvania I ended up in turned out to be a rather unexciting mix of warehouses, strip malls and lots of scary sounding warning sign about dangerous drivers. I took a longer rest stop at the Sayre McDonalds and refueled with a large coke and fries. I knew that the way back would be shorter, but I still had about 50 km to go. I followed NY-34 out of Waverly, heading north, until after 10 km I turned right unto Dean Creek Road. This turned out to be a very quiet country road, gradually climbing and then descending towards Spencer. In the meantime the sun had set and because the moon wasn't visible, I rode in almost complete darkness. I've really come to enjoy riding in the dark a lot -- at least as long as it is on quiet roads.
Once in Spencer I quickly contemplated stopping for a cup of coffee at the gas station but the prospect of the rest of the ride being almost all downhill made me continue. Traffic on NY-34 was light but still too much to make the ride in a starry night as pleasant as it could've been. After a quick stop at Taste of Thai Express in Ithaca to pick up dinner, I finally arrived back home after seven hours of riding time. A strenous but very enjoyable seven hours.