As a born and bred Pennsylvanian, maybe I’m prejudiced, but in my opinion, Lancaster County = the best riding in the world. On the way to what was to be our inaugural ride of the season, the votes were coming in (from certain quarters) to bail, just because some sprinkles of precipitation were appearing! But I exercised my veto power. The green and rolling Pennsylvania countryside and its promise of fun and fresh snacking options beckoned me onward. Fortunately those few drops (and a few more when we were already on the way home) were the only signs of rain all day.
It takes an hour and a half out of Philadelphia to find open roads and wide open spaces, but it’s well worth the trip. We parked the truck at Green Mountain Cyclery in Ephrata, and my brother Aaron, my father Steve, fiancé Justin and I attached our wheels, put on our helmets and set out. Immediately upon making the first turn off the main road, we had wide vistas of farmland all around us. Breathtaking!
I almost passed on the first hill, but convinced myself not to wimp out. I have a reputation to protect!
“Hey, didn’t we see that guy a while back, going the other way?” I asked as a strangely familiar-looking cyclist came into view- again.
Thanks to famously unreliable GPS and incorrect cartography (of the paper kind), it took us 18 miles to go 10 miles because of all the circles—it turns out all roads out there are named Farmersville Rd.
We shared the road with buggy drivers, traditionally-garbed kids on bikes and scooters, and horseback-riding teenage girls, with their long dresses bunched up to reveal jeans-covered legs.
Exhausted and depleted we pulled up at a fruit and vegetable stand that was just about to close up for the day. All they had left was one lonely box of strawberries and some tomatoes. We bought and devoured those strawberries in a matter of seconds. Justin bought a tomato; I thought he was going to bite into it like an apple, but he carved it up with his pocket knife and gobbled it in pieces.
The proprietress must’ve taken pity on our obviously famished state.
“I just made a strawberry pie,” she said.
“How much?” said Justin.
“We’ll take it!”
She then brought out what was probably the most delicious pie ever created. We had inhaled half of it before I looked up to see the woman’s children all in a row peering out the window at us lycra-clad crazies demolishing what I then realized must have been their intended dessert.
The post-strawberry experience is hard to describe, but for those of you who hit the wall regularly, it needs no explanation.
Justin, on the other hand, is new to cycling,
“That’s how come Bina has been through five fiancés,” my father said.
I laughed even though that isn’t true, and Justin was too overwhelmed to be shocked. However, I must say that riding with the Bilenkys might be our version of the Asian tradition of “wedding soup”. This is where the prospective bridegroom proves his worth by willingly consuming a dish containing an array of items that range from sickeningly sweet to out-and-out disgusting. (Salted bugs, anyone?)
Our test involves being compelled to ride ‘til you drop, and then eating whatever.
Hmmm, how to transport the half-eaten pie? Fold the pie tin in half and put it in my father’s handlebar bag! Genius, right?
I should have been an engineer!
I should have known, though, that neither the pie nor the inside of the bag nor its other contents would fare well after we resumed our ride. We even have a name for this phenomenon, the state of soft food items carried for extended periods in panniers, messenger bags, backpacks and the like. “Ortlieb”: as in, “Yeah, my banana got ortliebed.”
When we got back to the truck, the pie, or what was left of it, was removed from the bag along with the map and a rear taillight now covered in warm strawberry filling. Which brings us to the quote of the day, pronounced by my brother, and so classic it just had to be the title of this column.