Rides We Like: A Procrastination Met
(2017) It’s hard to find fault in a day that includes finishing a classic book, the eve of the Paris-Roubaix, beginning to overcome a lingering cold, and getting in a diverse ride in beautiful weather. It’s days like today that are pined after when winter has prevented numerous longish rides. There’s not much that could make a ride on a day like today better. Perfect, except our hero Mike managed to clear his schedule for a touring ride, propelling the ride into euphoria. It will be hard to encapsulate how great today’s tour was, but I’ll try.
When I commute to work everyday, I make a list of places to visit via bike ride. Consider just how historic the area is I pass through; the list continues to lengthen as I struggle to cross things off the list. Today’s ride was thrown together rather hastily, including old roads to access new passages. When I met Mike at our typical arranged meeting place, we pointed the steerer tubes southeast to access the first stop I requested.
When I attended Gettysburg College, the battlefield took great pride in two trees referred to as ‘Witness Trees.’ I’m sure I hardly need to go into detail what a witness tree means, but in case I do, there are two trees (though I think one has recently succumbed to the elements) that stood during the battle. They were trees we would seek out to photograph as a portal to the past. If only those trees could speak. Here in Bucks County, we have a theoretical witness tree that has been commemorated. I say theoretical because the tree has since been removed in 1999.
A craggy oak tree once occupied the location off of Squire Lane in Solebury Township, just south of New Hope, PA. According to soleburyhistory.org, the oak tree, called the Columbus Oak on account of being present when Columbus parked his three boats in the Caribbean, took seed in circa 1482 and grew for five hundred years. The tree served as a trading spot for Native Americans as well as Continental soldiers. After the tree had fallen, an acorn from the original tree was planted at the site of the original tree. It was named the Piestewa Tree, after Lori Piestewa who was an American soldier in Iraq who lost her life in combat. Descendants of the Lenni Lenape/ Delaware tribe were present for the dedication of the new tree that hopefully stands longer than the original.
Mike and I accessed the road via a traverse on Aquetong Road that descended the back side of the ridge. It’s how I’ve come to glance the plaque in front of the sapling each workday. Only once have I gotten out of the car, walked the grassy approach, and read the dedication cemented to a granite boulder at the base of the tree’s trunk. Our visit today was peaceful and sunny. The wind provided the only disturbance of peace, which was a welcome attribute in the presence of such history. I suggested to Mike we cross River Road to our next location.
As we accessed the canal path, a flat gravel trail that extends for sixty miles, I orchestrated our next couple turns. It was then we were met with a slight obstacle. Over the past few days the area has seen remarkable rainfall. The canal’s spillway was flowing with water moving over to the Delaware River. Mike expressed hesitation, but I decided to ride right over the forty-foot distance of a shallow waterfall. I found myself giggling at the fording of a waterway on a road bike. In a strange sort of way I asked Mike if cyclocross racers would have been impressed. Doubtful I’m sure.
As we approached the Revolutionary War cemetery, I was conflicted with capturing the moment. The bike was dismounted, the masonry steps were ascended, and the helmet and cap were removed as I walked up to the Unknown Soldier graves that greet any visitor in this easy-to-miss gravesite. The American flag was caught up in itself and half of a tree had fallen in front of the gravestones to the left. Despite these concerns, the peacefulness was still present. These soldiers had passed away in the Thompson-Neely House, a structure part of the Washington Crossing Park tour. They lost their lives during the winter of 1776 when Washington prepared to cross the Delaware River into Trenton. Their names are known only to eternity.
We decided to cross the spillway a second time and head north on the canal path into New Hope. I had mentioned to Mike how I’d like to get a picture of a locomotive in New Hope after hearing the train’s whistle. After several meanderings through the town, we found ourselves trackside as a locomotive passed us by. Add that to the list of great experiences today.
As we continued on our way, our homes were now the destination, we learned why the outbound trip was so simple. Heavy headwinds now made climbs over multiple ridges difficult. The sun, previously overlooked, now baked exposed skin. Considering it was midday, traffic became more prevalent. Motorists were getting out in the perfect weather too. Our return trip took us over a couple of roads quite old by Bucks County standards. We continued to add to our total of rider sightings, as we got closer to home.
Mike and I eventually split up to head to our respective houses. This is usually the hardest part of my ride as I grind over at least two ridges in the final ten kilometers. I’d like to think climbing at the end of lengthy southern rides adds to the preseason fitness. Though today the headwind proved to be too much.
I sat down on the couch after changing out of the team cycling kit finding no fault in today’s ride. As I sunk deeper into the pillows, the relaxation was partly due to the ride’s effort. The remaining portions of the fatigue could have been blamed on the discovery of calm out on route involving roads and canal paths that haven’t been pedaled over until today. It’s a good feeling to cross off items on a list I’ve been putting off for quite some time, especially on a riding day as beautiful as today.