Essay: On the Oft-Ridden Route
(2015) There’s a fashion in photography that takes one to the same location among all four seasons. Typically it’s of some antique oak tree that’s seen a few things. The panels involve the subject in its full array of summer, it’s retirement and dormancy in the fall, its hibernation and uncertainty through winter, and the magical rebirth in spring.
Interestingly, I have a short loop that departs from my house that I resort to when time is short. I’ve ridden it in all four seasons. It features some of Bucks County’s best tertiary and back roads. And it contains one of the most peaceful places of any ride.
The ride itself heads down Elephant Road. It’s a strange name for a road. It has everything to do with its terminus/ name change through a cluster of houses and an old hotel that’s forever under construction under the same name. Why the hotel itself or the hamlet is called Elephant seem elusive. But its original sign has ties to one of the more famous residents: Dr. Henry Mercer.
The route turns before the punchy climb up to Elephant. It splits two cornfields down Sweetbriar Road (segment goes in the opposite direction), a road that must be taken if ever in the area. Leisure riders and time trialists alike can be found on this road. One streak last fall I ran into the same rider three days in a row on Sweetbriar. It’s an artery that links numerous scenic route options.
It’s at the intersection of Sweetbriar and Kellers Church Road that one can find one of the most peaceful spots. I’ve stood at this intersection soaking in the relaxing sounds of the season. Tonight the sounds of summer losing its grip on the area could be experienced. The extended solos of insects singing could lull one into a peaceful existence. A cyclist passed by while I snapped the photograph of the rolling hillside. I wonder if his ride was as wonderful.
It is where many of my rides have changed. There have been times when I’ve gone out because of frustration, another race did not work out, life gets in the way, or the current ride itself doesn’t feel in tune with expectations. Almost all the time though, that changes at this intersection. Three corners are natural. The fourth has a tech bunker with a horse pasture behind it. Except for cars passing through, the area’s traffic cannot be heard or felt.
Fall is coming. With it signifies the soon termination of the road race season and the start of ‘cross season. Low areas of routes turn into pockets of cool refreshing air. Shadows get longer sooner. Rides start at the same time but turn around closer to home. Paces come down. While I’ve met people who might get frustrated with a regular fourteen-mile route, this corner makes it all the more enjoyable to come back, and it beats not getting out at all for a day. Perhaps I’ll photograph this spot for the next three seasons.