New Friends and a Neat Little Area Called the Hopewell Trails
Drew’s plan was not for us to ride the Hopewell Trails, but some better ones he had found a mile or so away.
Where to Ride
While we were in the Sheetz Gas Station, Drew was pointing across the street telling me about Hopewell, which our group was not supposed to be riding that day. Just then a vehicle pulled into the Hopewell Trailhead and a bunch of guys hopped out. Drew immediately protested, saying, “Hey, that’s Joe Kadelak (pronounced like the Cadillac car) over there and I told him we were not riding there.” He then got out his phone, dialed, and went on to say, “I organized this ride and I say we go back over to the Black Bear Trails.” But Joe and his buddies just kept getting out of their cars, taking bikes off the racks, and starting to prep for the ride.
Length: 6.31 miles
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Well, I guess the majority ruled, so we ended up on the Hopewell Trails.
The drive from Montoursville (where Drew lives) to Danville was quite interesting. I saw my first Amish buggy heading down the road. At one point Drew said to look at the roofs of all the houses. I said they all looked new, to which Drew responded, “They had a really bad hail storm here last year. Most roofs were ruined and many places had their siding dented.”
Drew also pointed out the Geisinger Medical Center. He had explained earlier in the week how they had built this huge medical center in the middle of nowhere and how developments began to surround the hospital … high class developments built and/or bought by doctors and other affluent people associated with the hospital. Wikipedia had this to say about the situation:
“Danville resident Abigail Geisinger, widow of iron magnate, George Geisinger, used her fortune to build a hospital intended to be a regional medical center modeled on the Mayo Clinic. The Geisinger Health System enjoys national recognition as a model for high quality integrated health service delivery, has been listed in Best Hospitals in America, and its physicians have been listed in The Best Doctors in America.”
Drew had warned me ahead of time we would be riding with this Joe Kadelak guy. He told me Joe would have the cleanest cassette I had ever seen … and would get on him about having a dirty cassette. I thought about what he had said and began to formulate a plan for when I met Joe Kadelak. This is what happened.
The Clean Cassette
After shaking hands with Joe and telling him what a wonderful (first) name he had, we both started to get our stuff ready for the ride. Joe had taken his bike off his rack and laid it down right behind Drew’s car, while I had stood mine to the side of the car. When I saw Joe wasn’t looking at me I hunched over his bike, looking the entire bike over. When I noticed Joe had begun looking at me I asked in a real serious voice (while still looking at the bike), “Hey, is that a brand new cassette?”
Joe responded like I figured, saying, “No, I have done many rides on that cassette.”
“Avoiding eye contact I countered with, “How did you get it so clean? It sure looks like it is new! ” Joe hesitated, and as I glanced up he looked right in my eyes and said, “I just use a little soap and water. ” I kept up the act by commenting, “I have never seen a cassette so clean!” At that point I lost control and started laughing, and then said, “Drew told me you would have the cleanest cassette I’d ever seen, and I think he may have been correct!”
After passing the Hopewell Trails sign we began by dropping down a short little ramp, crossing through a wet, mucky low area, and climbing up the mirror image ramp, into a grove of trees and a trail junction. All six of us congregated at this junction, trying to come to a consensus on whether to go right, left, or straight. Finally someone decided we would go right and we started down the flat 2-track to the west.
“Down and Dirty,” started out as a flat doubletrack. About a quarter mile down, the trail turned into a single track and abruptly climbed about 30 feet to a grassy meadow. Shortly after, we were forced to make a sharp right turn to avoid riding across a corn field. At that point, Down and Dirty became more interesting as we dropped down some switchbacks into a thick forest to a stream (Sechler Run) below.
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As we approached Sechler Run we turned back to the east and followed the stream back to the junction. At one point we had to ride through some tire-sucking slime and eventually climb up a bank that nobody made astride their rig … and found ourselves back in the same spot we had been when forced with our previous decision.
This time we took the middle trail and almost immediately began to climb. As it turned out we would be going counter clockwise around a mountain on parts of trails with names like the Up and Out Loop, Kitchen Sink Loop, Ridge Connector, occasionally having to hike-a-bike.
We were consistently engulfed in a dense forest, with the feeling of being in the back woods … a wilderness far away from cars and buildings … in the middle of nowhere. Then seconds later we would come across the edge of a cornfield, or catch a view of a housing tract.
At one place, after we had all come to stop, I interrupted the sounds of strained breathing by trying to name all of the riders (I had met them all at the cars but wanted to check my notoriously bad memory for names).
At another break point Drew asked me to tell Aaron the story behind my broken neck. “Aaron works in the field of neuro-physiology,” he informed me. After I told Aaron some of my story, he, like so many professionals that knew my case, told me I had been real lucky in how it turned out. Aaron said he dealt with neck and spine injuries all the time, and had seen many people who had been paralyzed or died when they broke their C2 vertebra.
We spent the majority of the ride climbing so at the end we could enjoy some real good downhill. I had been looking forward to some stretches of trail where I could get some speed up. So far I had found the Hopewell Trails to be mostly tight and twisty, with many short ups and downs … little chance for some out-and-out acceleration.
Well, right near the end we came to the steep downhill part of the trail which Drew called, “Nick’s Big Banana.”
This was going to be the place to get some speed going, get the adrenaline flowing a little. Drew was one of the first to go. He quickly headed around the first bend, and disappeared into the trees. A few of the others went next, and I heard all kinds of hooting and hollering after they vanished into the foliage. I went last, not knowing exactly what to expect.
As I navigated the first turn and entered the trees I glance up and saw Drew slowly pacing around holding his side, with a look of pain on his face, his breaths coming in gasps, and his bike laying off the trail on its side. When I asked what happened he said his tires has washed out and he fell over the logs lining the curve. He said he thought he was going to be all right until he hit a standing tree with his side. After a few more gasps he started to control his breathing and told me to continue.
Nick’s Big Banana did turn out to be the best of the Hopewell Trails. As I rode I felt like a pin ball … coming down off one side of the canyon, shooting across a short flat stretch at the bottom, and then abruptly gliding to the top of the other side. This went on for at least three cycles until I plummeted out into a grassy field, made a few more sweeping turns back into the trees, then joined the others (except Drew) at the same junction that had started our ride.
“How did you like that?” someone asked as I pulled up. “That was fantastic … while it lasted! I wish we had come across more of that earlier in the ride!”
All of a sudden it became quiet. I think everyone began to worry since Drew had not yet come out of the trees.
“How was Drew when you rode by him?” Someone else inquired.
“He was hurting pretty bad, but said he could still ride. He told me to go on,” I responded.
Just about then Drew emerged from the trees and was obviously in agony. When one of the guys mentioned doing the short Down and Dirty Loop again he said he was going to pass. When I mentioned I would go with him (so he wouldn’t have to wait for me in the car in pain) he insisted I join the guys … so I did.
Down and Dirty … Again
Down and Dirty was fun again, but the second time I did great honor to the person who named the loop. I had stopped to take a photo (at the edge of the cornfield) and was rushing to catch up when I found myself riding right through a big, boggy area … an area I had avoided the first time I’d been there. When I didn’t make it all the way across I had to put my foot down … which sunk well over the top of my shoe!”
Little did I know, I would find the central Pennsylvania mud almost impossible to remove.
When I got back to the car Drew was still hurting and showed us the bruise that was beginning to develop. I knew he would most likely have more severe pain later that night or the next day. But he is a pretty tough dude.
We proceeded to ride those next two days and not once could I tell he was suffering (except for when he sneezed or coughed).
I tried to rinse off the bikes and Shanna (Drew’s beloved) washed our riding clothes. Except for Drew’s fall, I thought we had had quite a fun time at the Hopewell Trails in central Pennsylvania.
A month or so later I received an email from Joe Kadelak with two photos attached.
“You know what they say … a clean cassette is a happy cassette. Haha.. Hope all is well JMK.”