Page 44

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DAY 140

Freeland, MD to Lancaster, PA 

The rainy weather has found us already. It was threatening us this morning with thunder and a few drops of rain while we were having a picnic breakfast and before long the deluge started and continued for several hours.

Meanwhile I had set out, riding with Judy again, when only about 5 miles from camp I had to stop to wait for a SAG wagon. My brakes were stuck on the front wheel so that it wouldn’t turn. My brand new gears wouldn’t shift to the smallest chain ring so I had no granny gear and this was a hilly day. I told Judy to go on without me. I waited for 30 minutes or so for a SAG wagon, taking pictures of the riders passing by while I waited. It had just started to rain heavily when a sag wagon stopped. Three sag wagons and a couple of hours later I reached Checkpoint and a mechanic. Meanwhile the downpour had continued. But by the time my bike was ready the downpour had become just a drizzle. I rode the rest of the way to camp without incident. Other people weren’t so lucky. Else slipped on gravel and fell cracking 3 ribs and partially collapsing a lung. Biker Al was going too fast for a corner and crashed into a garbage can losing some skin and maybe some dignity but otherwise is okay. Wet roads, steep hills and sharp curves are a recipe for crashes.

We are camping at the Old Mill Bridge Campground, a pretty place with lots of attractions. A tour of the old buildings on the grounds is offered and there is a continuously running movie about the Amish people. There’s a snack bar, a gift shop and even a laundromat. Unfortunately it is very windy and cold and we are sitting in the open as there is no other place to be. A number of riders have called for taxis and are headed for hotel rooms. Not even half of us are riding this stage of the Odyssey. There were only 104 riders today, everyone else is off route. Twenty or so stayed in Europe, the others have gone to visit their families somewhere in the states.

Dinner was old fashioned and delicious: chicken and noodles, cole slaw, pickled vegetables and shoo fly pie. We watched a movie about the Amish which explained that they strive to keep their lives simple and do not let technology or convenience change their ways. They use telephones but do not have them in their homes. They use tractors but the wheels have to be steel, not rubber. “Too much mobility would make the pace of life too hectic.” The children ride old-style push scooters to school instead of bicycles. The Amish strive to live humbly and simply. There are many Amish in Pennsylvania but no more space for their farms. Farms have to be split between children, or the children have to find another way to make a living.

We had a tour of a model Amish home after dinner and learned that they have most of the modern conveniences that the rest of us have. Since they do not use electricity they run their appliances on propane. The Amish way of life is intended to keep families together and it works. Not only that but the families prosper too. The 25,000 Amish of Lancaster County are doing very well. By the time a young couple in their early twenties marries they move into a big well furnished home.

Goodbye, Alice

DAY 141

Lancaster to Worcester (Valley Forge) 

Rain, rain, go away! It was raining when it was time to get up and it rained, no, make that poured, all day. It was hard to see clearly and the road for the first 30 miles, SR 340, was very poor. Rutted, cracked, a sharp ridge in the middle of the shoulder, water streaming and flooding the road,  a certain recipe for an accident. And  it did happen, poor Dickie fell and suffered 2 broken ribs and a separated shoulder. Others were luckier, Dennis came close to crashing because of that ridge but somehow righted the bike, went through the ditch and into a field without falling or injury. That stretch of road was so poor and so dangerous for cyclists, it was stressful riding there. It is a crime that it is left that way. It is that road that the Amish have to travel with their horses and buggies. The buggies have very narrow steel wheels. While cycling I was thinking how treacherous it has to be for them. The one advantage they have is that the two wheels on the buggies are widely spaced.

There were many Amish buggies on the road early this morning, maybe they were driving their children to school just like other parents do when it rains. I saw one young girl scooting to school on her scooter. I passed her scooting up a hill, she made it look easy but I wondered if it was faster than walking. When she reached level ground she really picked up speed. She was lovely and said good morning when I passed.

We learned from our guide at the Mill Bridge Campground that the Amish children go to school full time until they are 14. Their teacher is a young person, almost always a girl, who has just finished school herself. They study the 3 R’s, reading, writing, and arithmetic. The reading series is the old Dick and Jane to which the Amish bought the copyright and it is still published for them. ‘See Spot run. Look, Jane. Look, look.’ That is the reader I had in first grade! The children are taught phonics and become voracious readers. They become fluent in 3 languages, Pennsylvania Dutch which is the language they learn to speak at home, German because the Bible the Amish use is the German King James version, and English. There are no discipline problems because the children are well trained at home. All ages, from 6 to 14, go to school in one room. Amazing! The year the children turn 15 they go to school 3 hours a week at the home of an older woman to satisfy the state of Pennsylvania requirements. The Amish support their schools completely on their own and at the same time have to pay taxes just like everyone else to support the public schools.

Today we cycled through Valley Forge National Historic Park. It is a large park, maybe 2 or 3 miles square, almost entirely green lawn with a few trees here and there. There is a visitor’s center, a memorial arch, and some historical buildings. I wish I had stopped but it was near the end of the ride. I was tired and just wanted to reach camp, but now I regret not stopping. I had some fun enroute though because I came upon 4 deer grazing in the park. One had a bright orange tag in each ear and a radio collar.

Just for the record, Valley Forge was not a battle site, but the place where George Washington’s Revolutionary Army spent a dreadful winter in 1777-78. It was cold, the snow was deep, many men were without shoes and their clothes were in tatters. There was little to eat, sometimes they had only bread made of flour and water which they called firecake. About 2,000 men died that winter of disease. The Army was hardened by that ordeal and well trained by the time they marched out to defeat the British army in June at the Battle of Monmouth.

It’s nearly dark and Elbert is missing. Elbert is our oldest rider, 79, and is out there every day, rain or shine, to do the best he can. He is amazing. I hope they find him soon.

Goodbye, Alice

France             Spain


Carcassonne                          Gaudi Sculpture

    Odyssey Riders





Today's Music "I Could Write a Book"

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