Rides We Like: Tohickon Hill Descent
(2016) According to an informative commercial on History Channel, the term “Balls to the wall” doesn’t have the connotation some people think it has. Considering commercials are hardly informative, it certainly grabbed my attention. It also explained one of the strangest idioms I’ve ever heard.
I thought of the strange phrase as I managed to get a one-hour ride in after work. The one-hour mark has been a curious one for me recently. Now that it’s possible to ride after pulling in the driveway, the sixty-minute mark has been crammed full of fury, signifying nothing. Today I was racing to meet our infamous cycling hero, Mike who was torturing himself on some of the punchy climbs in the area.
In order to meet him I had to hammer. I wanted to get there in fewer than thirty minutes. (See Mr. Vonnegut? I’ve provided my character with a want.) I had a wonderful tailwind for many of the roads I needed to take. We were to meet at the bottom of Tohickon Hill; we would decide where to go after that.
Those who ride in this area of Bucks County will certainly recognize the imposing existence of Tohickon Hill Road. Going up it is a minutes-long struggle. Actually it’s around three-quarters of a mile in length and averages seven percent. Its steepest point is midway at fifteen percent but mostly the hill continuously hits a rider with shallow, steep, shallow, steep, shallow, steep. Must keep looking up.
Those who go down this roller coaster negotiate several technical turns at the top with a sobering view of the drop off on the other side of the guardrail. I’ve hit some of my fastest speeds on this descent. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t consider the outcome if a car pulled out of a driveway. The Bucks County Classic road race navigated this hill over ten times. The one year I watched their passing through I cozied up to a telephone poll. Just in case. The sound of over one hundred professional cyclists plunging down to the river town of Point Pleasant is difficult to describe, but it’s a sound I won’t forget.
Having met with Mike in fewer than thirty minutes, we climbed a neat road out of Point Pleasant. Swagger Road feels like it will slide off the side of the bluff with anyone unfortunate enough to be on it. In some portions the road is only one car wide. The eerie sound of gunfire from the gun club provides a soundtrack to this climb. This road is roughly the center option to going up from Point Pleasant. One could choose the long and shallow Point Pleasant Pike, if punishment is being sought, Ferry Road is a wall of a climb with a bit of length added in. For those who want to go galactic with suffering, Old Ferry Road is a bit farther down. It is steep for its entirety. The devil waits for any desperate cyclist who rarely comes along. He’ll gladly trade a soul to make the pain subside. Each climb comes back to the same basic area. Take your pick.
As the sun’s intensity traded for softer light, Mike and I kept altering the return trip. We took the wind from the front trading efforts. We linked back up with Point Pleasant Pike and put the balls to the wall. This road is a tiny bit busy during rush hour, hence the hard effort. I was beginning to get my legs under me despite being in the final five miles of riding. That’s the downside to a one-hour tour.
We passed the Gardenville Inn, the place I celebrated the finish of the Festive 500. We passed the Plumstead Friends Meetinghouse, which has something to do with the Gardenville Inn. Mike and I would part ways at Old Easton Road where I would grind back home. It is here I’ve suspected the old farmhouse belonged to the Doan Brothers so quietly famous in these parts.
For fighter pilots who begin tracking an unknown aircraft on their radar, the leader can call out an order. According to History Channel, back in the old days of fighter jets the throttle was in the shape of a ball. When the squadron leader wanted those in his/ her charge, s/he would order the “balls to the wall” indicating to push the throttle ball all the way to the edge of the cockpit wall. Going full throttle to make it home within the hour mark led to a full gas assault. When I got in the door the Missus asked how the ride was. All I could think was that we went balls to the wall.