Cycle 18 miles through the unspoiled Lancaster farmland? Here’s why it’s worth it [photos] | Outside


There comes a point in every long bike ride where your legs start to communicate that you’ve made a mistake.

This error could be the force with which you pedal, or maybe even the fact that you pedal in the first place. Either way, nothing will stop those pain receptors in the brain from screaming out neurotransmitters, even if you are on a nice back road in the Lancaster County Hills.

Lancaster Farmland Trust has worked with a group of cyclists to create a sporting tribute to the many acres of farmland that dot the county. As of October 5, the Trust had preserved 536 farms in Lancaster County, totaling 32,960 preserved acres as part of the 117,780 acres of preserved farmland in Lancaster County. The additional acres have been preserved by the Lancaster County Agricultural Reserve Council.

The bike lanes serve as a sort of placeholder as the Trust suspends its long Pedal to Preserve bike rides due to COVID-19. This year’s routes include an 18-mile hike through New Holland, a 27-mile ride around Mount Joy, and a 30-mile trip that takes cyclists from the town of Lancaster to the Strasburg Rail Road and vice-versa. versa.

Each ride is designed not only to see the patchwork land, but also to stop at farm stalls and quaint shops along the way. While the rides themselves are appealing, the stops are just as captivating for someone who, out of charity, isn’t in great shape.

I have been a long-time cyclist, but I wouldn’t qualify as a cyclist per se. I would think of myself more as an “AB racer,” that is, someone who rides around town with a specific task in mind. Of course, I have hiked many trails in the county, and when I was enrolled in Temple University I once rode from North Philly to the Navy Yard in South Philly on a lark, amazed I could do 14 miles. .

Inspired by the summer talk of ‘ordinary people’ realizing the feats Olympic athletes regularly accomplish, I thought I’d take a long, enjoyable bike ride and see some of the best Lancaster has to offer. However, even though I live in the city, there was no way I would go the 30 miles for fear of drowning in my own sweat.

Start an adventure

On the first day of fall, I set off from New Holland Agriculture on Orlan Road to begin my journey, with help from the Ride With GPS app (Note: the route has since been updated to start at the park New Holland Community). When you start a bike ride, whether predetermined or freestyle, there is an inherent sense of adventure. You are moving faster than you could run, but slower than you could drive, and the wind passes and passes through your body, creating a silhouette for miles in the breeze.

Driving through farmland is fun, of course, but you can’t live the little moments – a butterfly fluttering to keep the pace, the twisted wood of a fence probably built in the 1800s that looks like it could fall down at any moment. , signs proclaiming products at prices that make you want to buy them from Wegman’s. It’s all there for you, but you have to go through it to better understand it.

Dale Johnson knows this very well. Through his service as a volunteer with LFT, Johnson was called upon to create the city route from Lancaster to Strasbourg. The organization discovered his love of cycling from his resume, where he detailed his work creating a “meal on two wheels” program in Baltimore.

Johnson estimates he has created nearly 30 custom routes in Lancaster County.

“One thing is if you’re out there on your bike you’re so much more attached to your surroundings,” Johnson said over the phone. “You smell the wind, the smell and you go slower. One thing I have found on these back roads is that the people are so polite. I’ve never, ever had a problem with someone yelling at me or something while driving. I am also a very polite cyclist, but I find that very pleasant. There isn’t a lot of traffic, but there are buggies there.

Although this is the shortest of the three routes, the large rectangle that forms the shape of the New Holland route manages to squeeze nearly 20 unspoiled farms throughout the trip, according to Stephanie Denton, associated with development and LFT communications.

According to the LFT website, nearly 1,200 acres of unprotected farmland is lost each year. Beyond the idea of ​​”beautiful farmland leads to more tourism”, preserved farmland helps offset greenhouse gas emissions and provides stable habitat for wildlife. Each year the county creates more sprawl to keep up with the burgeoning population, at the cost of unspoiled farmland. Also according to the website, Lancaster County’s population is growing at a rate three times the state average, resulting in more traffic, construction and noise.

The first five miles went by without too many complaints from my joints, but it was after I left the Countryside Roadstand for a brief pick-me-up of lemonade and pretzel that my legs started sending warning signals. The mistake was not to take the panoramic lap, but that I was having too much fun to notice how hard I was pedaling at the points. The New Holland route is almost deceptively tricky as there are several points where the downhill roads lead to long straights which made me pedal harder to keep up with that downhill movement.

What can I say ? The wind and stillness can almost be intoxicating with prolonged exposure.

If there’s one part of the ride that might give amateur riders a break, it’s when farmland briefly gives way to a three-mile stretch of Old Philadelphia Pike around AmishView Inn & Suites. From the point of view of where you are heading it looks like there is no shoulder, but fear not there is, you just need to quickly cross the pike to get to it.

As an urban cyclist, the thrill of speeding cars (at a safe distance) gave me the jerk I needed to get down the freeway at a comfortable pace. At this point, there was no longer any distinction between where the sweat started and where my body stopped – just a happy, helmeted drop of liquid running down the road on two wheels.

Experience an easy calm that you cannot find elsewhere

It may be pitiful to hear the ironbikers who spent their weekends getting stung by 50 mile tours for fun, but those last two miles affected me a lot.

There isn’t much elevation along the way to the end on Mentzer Road, from an elevation of 457 fishing feet to 579 feet over the course of a route. If my average speed was around a paltry nine or ten miles, I think this road might have cost me a single, meager mile an hour. Luckily soon after that it was one of the most thrilling downhills I’ve been on in a long time, going from Summitville Road to Maple Grove Road. A man wearing a trucker cap standing in front of a garage burst into a quick laugh as I speeded past, perhaps wondering how many fools he had seen doing the same thing.

It wasn’t until the end, as I mercilessly skidded my bike in the vast parking lot of the Ag Center, blinded by sweat, that the allure of the ride was felt.

Simply put, it wouldn’t be as fun to walk 18 miles of shopping malls, auto garages, and ugly city sprawl. I wouldn’t have had so much direct eye contact with the horses and cows. I wouldn’t have learned quickly to treat bountiful road apples like ad hoc orange cones to weave in between.

I believe there is a difference between the easy stillness you can receive by closing the door to the inner world and the stillness you can experience in the world. When you find that last example, you don’t want to let it go.

“I think we have a great cycling community in Lancaster,” says Denton. “Just get on the gravel and take some of those country roads that maybe aren’t as accessible by car, or you don’t necessarily drive on your way to work or where you’re heading that day, I just think it’s a really a great way to experience the hills turning into such beautiful colors this time of year and welcome the changing fall air from your bike.

Ostensibly designed to celebrate welcoming another beautiful fall, Denton says LFT will host these routes for everyone’s enjoyment for the foreseeable future.

I promise you that if you are not in shape, or if you are an amateur cyclist, or even if you inherently hate the idea of ​​sweating and breathing hard for a few hours, you will find a new part of the country to enjoy on. one of these rides.

The real mistake is not to try.

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