A Ride of Contrasts: On Again, Off Again

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I took this pic of the Howard tunnel in 2008 during my first check out ride of On Again, Off Again.

I rode alone, beginning the ride in darkness and ending in darkness. The high for the day was 26 deg. This tunnel startled me out of my misery that day. So beautiful- a hole through a mountainside, lined with a careful arrangement of carved stones, just to allow a train to roll through. Trains don’t use that tunnel anymore. If you stop near the entrance and look up you’ll see a very steep rise. It’s obvious that a train could never climb that hill, however if you paved a road over that hunk of rock I bet a bicycle could get up there. It would be very difficult, but with the right gearing and enough time it could be done. It certainly would take a lot less effort than building a tunnel. Luckily, we inherited the Howard tunnel to use for the On Again, Off Again ride. It will allow us to omit one tough climb for the day- but, only one. 

The On Again, Off Again route is the result of a silly idea I had one day when I was thinking of riding the NCR/Heritage rail trail all the way up to York, PA and back. The trail is secluded, very straight and has slight grades. The problem was that I couldn’t imagine handling the vibrations and boredom of that many hours on the same trail. My solution was to break up the route into 10 mile or less trail sections connected by equally spaced sections of the surrounding roads. All the trail parts that were skipped on the way up, we hit on the way down so nothing is repeated. 45 miles of trail and 50 miles of road. Indeed, like many of my rides, this is another hilly one. I’m guessing it’s about 6,500 feet of climbing (four sections are above 15%) and almost all of those feet are on the 50 miles of paved riding. Every time I’ve ridden it, I get a smile on my face rolling down the fast descents and grinding up the corresponding summits, but soon enough I’m hoping that around the next corner is the trail entrance, where I can recover, ease up and chat with a fellow rider riding side by side. Then slowly but surely, I notice the slowness of the trail and I look forward to relief from the bumps and the next road section. A ride of contrasts. 

THE DETAILS:
Start: Sunday, April 10th, 2011. Meetup at 7:50AM. Push off at 8:10AM (firm)
Place: SE corner of York and Ashland rds. Hunt Valley. start location
Bikely map of route: Bikely map
Cue sheet: On/Off_CueSheet
Note: I will be riding up to the start from Balt. City (Hampden). If you want to hook up with me leaving around 6:30AM, please email, or comment to the blog.

This ride is best ridden on a bike with frame and tires that are able to soak up vibration as well as efficiently climb on paved surfaces. We’ll make rest stops (25, 75 mile points) in New Freedom and lunch is in York at a great Italian restaurant, Genova’s.

It is difficult to gauge weather and temps this time of year. Bring some warm clothes that you can easily peel off. Lights would also make sense, just in case mechanical problems slow you down. Please read this before coming: ramble notes. Feel free to ask me any questions you might have about this or any of the rides in the Ramble series.

To the regular Ramblers: apologies for beating you up with another hilly one this month, but if you can conquer this ride, you’ll feel like you’re sitting on your sofa for Monument to Monument- May 1st. 

Hope to ya this Sunday.  

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About randoramble

long distance bike rider
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One Response to A Ride of Contrasts: On Again, Off Again

  1. Milesstoneman2006 says:

    Cool trail. We, too, have a reclaimed rail trail with a fabulous tunnel. The tunnel is long enough, and therefore dark enough except for the circle of light at the end, that you experience vertigo in the middle and I have crashed into the wall a few times. Our trail is also about 50 miles long, but I love riding the whole thing out and back. The boredom and bumpiness is more than offset by the lack of traffic which wears on my nerves on the road sometimes.

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