Just a quick jaunt to Toronto from Philly

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Once again, the B4B boys found themselves navigating unknown territory on the ride from Philadelphia to Toronto. After spending a few days exploring Wilmington, Delaware and the City of Brotherly Love, we were back on the bikes towards Canada without knowing what to expect from the 5-day trip. We gathered inspiration from one Rocky Balboa and forged ahead.

It was beautiful riding leaving northern Delaware as we quickly crossed into Pennsylvania. Staying far away from the Philadelphia traffic on the outskirts of town, we discovered many of Pennsylvania’s roads have very small shoulders. GULP! We’ve got several more days in Pennsylvania, and small shoulder means not much space for us bikers from traffic. We were able to find the Schuylkill River Trail, which is a rails-to-trails that is more or less completed for a portion of our ride on the route towards Toronto. Unfortunately, more or less completed means the trail just suddenly ends for a few miles, like this.

It takes a lot of effort to keep finding the trail after it disappears for a few miles, but it is usually worth it to stay off the narrow shoulder roads. It’s usually a much slower day when we have to continually try to find a trail, but we make it work.

We camped at the Blue Rocks campground near Lenhartsville, PA, which might have been one of our best camp spots. Our site was right next to a huge glacial rock deposit flowing down the mountain. At the top of the mountain was the famous Appalachian Trail. For the last few weeks of the trip, we were talking about how good or bad of running shape we would be in when we got home. With the AT a ½ mile from our campsite, we wanted to put our running fitness to the test with a morning trail run.

It turned out to be a lot slower than we anticipated because it was mostly a climb up the mountain. We definitely got our heart rates up while running/hiking to the top. We were rewarded with a great view of the valley and the vast distance of central Pennsylvania.

We enjoy sampling the local beer in each region we visit. One beer that we found that has a very cult following in the central east part of the country is Yuengling. Yuengling is known as America’s oldest brewery, and I think many people identify with that and enjoy the beer as a reminder of the past. We’d had it several times, and all we knew is that it was brewed in Pennsylvania. When we were getting on the road after the morning Appalachian Trail run, we saw a sign for Yuengling.

LIGHT BULBS, “I wonder were they brew Yuengling.”

It turns out that Yuengling is brewed in Pottsville, PA, which is just a quick 25-mile ride from where we were. We decided to make that our mid-point stop for the day, and it was a great idea. We were able to take a tour of the brewery that opened in 1829. It was one of the best brewery tours I’ve been on. They took us 50 feet below street level to the caves were they brewed, and you got to see the bottling line up close. Most places definitely don’t allow that! The tour guide was very knowledgeable, and we left impressed.

Luckily our ride to Toronto wasn’t that long for how many days we were allowing for it, because this day turned into a wash very quickly. We stayed at the brewery for a while, and ended up having pizza at a place in town. After all was said and done, we spent a good chunk of the day in Pottsville. We found a campsite another 20 miles away, and we got back on the bikes and finished right before dusk fell on Pennsylvania. Great day of Appalachian Trail and Yuengling!

Central Pennsylvania is also home to Bucknell University in Lewisburg and the Little League World Series in Williamsport. Bucknell’s athletics are best known for upsetting the Kansas Jayhawks in the 2005 NCAA tournament first round, and Williamsport has hosted the World Series since 1947. If only we were there a week earlier, we could have caught some of the Little League games.

We stopped in Williamsport for lunch, but we knew the ride from there to our end point was going to be dicey. We were fully in the mountains at this point, and Pennsylvania gets very remote north of Williamsport. Little cell phone service and narrow windy mountain roads is what we were dealing with. After ending up on multiple gravel roads, encountering multiple gas company/construction workers on the road we came to a gate and a guard. We had climbed all the way to the top of the mountain, but the gas company people wouldn’t let us past. They were very secretive too. We had to go back down the gravel mountain road and go around the mountain. Whatever, when we finished we were rewarded with a huge festival with tractor pulls and fireworks near our campground. Sweet!

There’s a song by the Talking Heads called “Once in a Lifetime” that we find ourselves quoting the lyrics on a regular basis. The lyrics of the song present different situations that you may find yourself in, and then David Byrne so eloquently says, “You may ask yourself, well, how did I get here?” The campground in rural New York was the perfect example of us asking ourselves, “Where the heck are we, and how did we get here?” The place was unassuming enough, but there were a lot of people. This was the Sunday before Labor Day; so many people were out celebrating the unofficial end of summer.

As we were setting up camp and hanging out before it got dark, we saw a PA system and lights being set-up by the main office. What was going on? We thought maybe a live band was going to play, so we immediately became excited to take the stage as the B4B Band. Rex plays guitar, Chase is a drummer, and Steve has some mad singing skills. It turns out, the PA system was for a DJ who was playing music for a kind of strange, quasi-dance party at the campground. It was an odd mix of little kids and old people dancing to an even more interesting selection of music. Sort of like a wedding reception, but at a campground in rural New York. And the “Cupid Shuffle” was following by a country song. Weird.

The following day we took a detour to stay with Rex’s family in Rochester. They were great, and it was very nice to hangout like normal people and BBQ for Labor Day. Good food and good company in Rochester before making our final push into Toronto.

We crossed the border uneventfully at Niagara Falls on the Rainbow bridge. We had heard from so many people that the Canadian side of the falls was more beautiful, and they were right in that the view of the falls was much better from Canada. The Canadian side also has more flowers and stuff, but that is countered with the extreme amount of touristy stuff like Ripley’s Believe it or Not, and wax museums, and stores that sell Niagara Falls t-shirts.

We snapped some pics in the mist of the falls, and biked towards Toronto. The rain and our inability to use data on our phones made it slow going into the city. But we made it! Toronto, fifth most populous city in North America.

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