Sunday, September 14, 2008
WE MADE IT!!!
Today started out warm and humid, soon to become hot and humid. We left Emily's at 7:45, after she graciously fed us a hearty breakfast. We were looking forward to arriving at home but not looking forward to getting there. There were a number of steep hills just getting out of Elizabethtown and we knew there were more to follow. We went through Mount Joy and then hit the spot where we always have trouble finding our road. This time DeLorme's Street Atlas had us going a slightly different way that looked a lot better and easier, but when we got to our turn, we once again found that the road they wanted us to take wasn't where they said it was. That is, it didn't connect to the road we were on. However, with a minor detour we managed to get to the road we wanted so it went much more smoothly than normal. This took us through the little towns of Salunga and Landisville, the latter having some historic buildings and markers which were interesting. We then went through more farmland and saw more interesting old stone houses.
Our major town of the day was Lancaster. We didn't go through the very center of town this time as we have in the past, which was a shame since it is very lovely, but we did see some nice old neighborhoods and elegant houses. Coming out of the city on Rt. 30, we were in a large commercial area with outlet stores and wide streets with lots of traffic. The weekend traffic along 30 was very heavy, what with the tourists and shoppers. There were signs everywhere for tourist sights in Amish country - farms, woodwork, quilts, and other crafts, as well as the famous Pennsylvania Dutch hex signs and shoofly pie. We saw a few Amish buggies here and there and wondered how the horses could stand all the car noise. It was a relief to be back in the farm country after all that. The road narrowed here, however, and was a bit rougher as we went on through the smaller rural towns along Rt. 30.
We reached our 9,000 mile mark in Gap and stopped at a diner there for our ritual photo. Pat still didn't quite get the 0's right, but he was more enthusiastic about this one, so that made up for it. Then we went up the long Gap hill that we were so looking forward to. The fun didn't stop there, though, there were plenty more climbs to come. We were drinking much more water than usual, trying to make back all the sweat we were losing. We started getting back into towns at Sadsbury, then Coatesville and Thorndale, getting into SEPTA (the local train system) territory at the Thorndale train station. I was surprised to notice that Rt. 30 is still called the Lincoln Highway all the way through Downingtown; I had thought it was called Lancaster Pike well before that. We had a nice flat stretch between Coatesville and Downingtown, which we appreciated. Pat's brother, David, lives near Downingtown and we've come through here several times on our bike, so we knew well how many hills lay ahead. We'd come about 50 miles by now and were certainly not looking forward to the remaining 25 hilly ones. By the time we got up the hill into West Chester, though, with only about 15 miles left, we started getting excited again and had a new burst of energy.
We had called home at West Chester as instructed, wondering (somewhat suspiciously) why we were supposed to let them know that we were about 2 hours away. We rode along Rt. 3 and had a few friendly honks and waves as we went, including one car-load of Hispanic guys who cheered us on very enthusiastically. Then we turned onto Rt. 352 which goes by the retirement home where Pat's aunt, Helen, lives. Another car passed us whose passenger also was cheering us, but this time the person looked familiar. I said to Pat, she looks a lot like your aunt Helen. Our suspicion stirred again, but then I thought, she's probably just being driven home from somewhere, and our paths just happened to cross. Finally we were on Baltimore Pike and we stopped for a brief rest before the last spurt home (there was still one more big hill into Media). A car pulled up behind us to find out if we were all right - and it was one of Helen's daughters, her husband and the husband of another of her daughters. We knew for sure now that something was up. We arrived home at 6:05 pm, climbing up our last hill (our driveway) to find a little welcoming party including Helen and her two daughters and their husbands, Pat's dad and brother, and our house sitter. They had some snacks for us, champagne and sparkling cider, and Congratulations banners. It was very sweet and such a nice way to end our long trip. Our final day was a hot and sweaty 75 miles in a little over 7-1/2 bike hours. We were pretty pleased we almost managed a 10 mph average on such a long, hard day. It's good to be home!
Our welcoming committee took lots of pictures of our arrival, which we will upload when we receive them. We'll also put up an epilogue to our journey in a few days when we've had time to sort out our thoughts - stay tuned!