Events: The 2016 Festive 500 Day Three
(2016) Ride Distance: 43 Miles / 246 Miles Remaining
I had the whole event planned out ahead of time. The route would be flawless, the weather pristine, maybe even a few fans with flares on some of the steeper climbs to propel me to two-time Festive 500 status. For day three, nothing had gone to plan.
That’s part of the allure of the Rapha Festive 500. It’s challenging on so many levels despite sounding easy on paper. Average 39 miles per day? No problem. Miss a day? Yellow alert. Miss two? Doable, but getting a bit concerning.
I didn’t see any riders on Christmas Day during the commute to family visiting. As a matter of fact, the day’s ride would see my first cyclist in three days. If people are doing the Festive 500, they’re not picking roads I’m using.
Under cloudy skies and low forties air temperature, I rode toward a Doylestown bike shop to meet our old pal, Mike. He graciously accepted to ride for today’s Festive 500 stage. If he wasn’t part of the ride, I’m sure at some point I would have changed tack and headed home.
Our goal was to meander down to the old village of Wrightstown. It’s where the Walking Purchase started. For those who haven’t been following along, the Walking Purchase was the demarcation line for regional settlers and tribal land. William Penn’s sons pulled a fast one over the local tribes by stating to have found an old agreement that the Lenape/ Delaware tribe would sell land as far as a man could walk in 18 hours. The Penns then found some runners who covered nearly 70 miles in that amount of time. The “walk” was to start in Wrightstown.
What was interesting to think of during the ride south was that we were approaching from Native American land. We were west of the Walking Purchase line that granted the commonwealth of Pennsylvania approximately 1.2 million acres. Despite passing old farmhouses on our way to Wrightstown, the houses weren’t as old as they could be on the way back.
One aspect that’s enjoyable about riding these parts is revisiting old roads. It had been years since I last rolled down Swamp Road, a road that leads into Wrightstown. We wound along shale outcroppings to catch a glimpse of a mighty Wrightstown Quarry digger parked out front for show.
We spun around and linked up with Mill Road, another road not visited in a while; and on and on we kept revisiting old miles. Though the legs did not respond, riding with Mike in this area was enjoyable. Without stopping I remarked how impressive the Wrightstown Village Library looked, no doubt an old school building. The cemetery I was looking for revealed itself on our right, and I announced we needed to get up close to find the starting point for the Walking Purchase.
At sunrise, on September 19, 1737, three men set out from near the spot we parked our bikes and headed north and west to swindle the Delaware tribe out of large amounts of land. The men, with their hands on a starting tree, took off at 6am, 45 minutes before sunrise, and ran up the cleared trail. Despite protests with the Native witnesses, the men continued on. They would run until 6pm, sleep, and then resume at 6am the next morning. From this spot, all that drama started. It was humbling to think that to our left was wilderness and to our right was an ever-populated tract of Pennsylvania bursting at the seams.
While a major road follows the Walking Purchase, Mike and decided to parallel it back north. Riding on route 413, even on lighter trafficked days, is not prudent. We rode up Eagle Road and then turned for Pineville where we would bounce away from 413 again by going over Holicong hill.
My goal was to ride as far as the Solomon Jennings Historical Marker, but that would have to wait for another day. The legs were already showing signs of fatigue and the temperature strangely dropped. No sooner did I get home than the skies opened up for several hours. Perfect timing indeed.
There are numerous markers and sites around here that add to the story of the Walking Purchase. Considering the Festive 500 attempt is happening on a bike and not by running should be an indication of how remarkable the accomplishment of Edward Marshall was. Luckily the next few miles of road are familiar. Should the Festive 500 still be in reach toward the end of the week, some daring new roads would have to be ridden. And Mike will rejoin the Walking Purchase as well.