4,516 miles
188,389ft climbed

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Ithaca to State College

Ithaca is a pretty college town surrounded by wonderful waterfalls. Sara and Kal had taken me to Cascadilla falls right in downtown the evening before and chastised me for cycling past the (apparently very beautiful) Taughannock falls without stopping that day - I’d even turned off to take a look but the hill was steep and I was lazy… I promised to make up for it the next morning and turned off into Buttermilk Falls on the way out of town. It was stunning. A few miles further on I pulled off the highway into Treman state park to see another set of spectacular falls and to bump into Sara and her school group again!

Cascadilla falls

Cascadilla Falls

Buttermilk falls

Buttermilk Falls

Treman Falls

Treman Falls

As I pulled out of Treman state park I pulled over to one side of the road to check my GPS and find out how long it was before I had to start paying attention and look for a turning. As I was doing this a car pulled up in front of me and a gentleman jumps out the car - I tensed up a little having read other cyclist’s reports of random people getting irate at them having the temerity to ride on a public road. I couldn’t have been more wrong! The guy had seen me and loved cycling so much he wanted to stop and find out what I was up to - we chatted about the ride for a few minutes then I asked about the t-shirt he was wearing [Aids ride for life] (http://aidsrideforlife.org) it looks like a great organization that has an annual cycle with lengths to suit all comers in the finger lakes region. As we were saying goodbye I find a $20 note being pushed into my hand saying he’d like to buy me dinner. What a nice thing for him to do and what had started with me being slightly fearful turned into an incredibly nice encounter.

Coming back to those waterfalls again, there is something that waterfalls need for them to be waterfalls, and that is sudden changes in ground level. As I soon discovered, there is plenty of this around Ithaca. It was the first set of proper climbs since I’d crossed Green Mountain National Forest and I began to notice that my legs were much stronger than they had been and I was able to get up the climbs in one go often without resorting to my lowest “granny gear”. Previously when I’d come across a climb I’d often get a feeling of dread - oh god can I make it up this one? will this be the one that beats me and I have to push the bike up? I began to find this feeling happened a lot less when I saw a climb coming up and I began to, dare I say it, enjoy them. Well not always, there’s a fine line between enjoyment and hatred when you’re on a bike…

A pretty house overlooking Ithaca

A pretty house overlooking Ithaca

Top of a climb
Top of a climb

Top of a climb

The next day took me from Elmira into Pennsylvania and over to the top of Pennsylvania’s Grand Canyon - the ride was fairly hilly but uneventful with a very pleasant lunch by some lakes before spending the night in an incredibly busy campsite in Morris, PA with lots of families using the long memorial weekend to get away. The size of some of the RVs suggest that some people bought more with them than they left at home but as they say “bigger is better”.

Bigger is better

Bigger is better

The next morning I set off for the 40 mile descent of Pennsylvania’s Grand Canyon - it was a very pleasant traffic free ride down an old railbed which criss crosses the river over red rusting hulks of railway bridges. I was excited to see this mini-grand canyon and despite hints that some canyon walls might appear at some point I came to the conclusion that the person who came up with the moniker has never been to the grand canyon as I couldn’t see any real resemblance.

Pennsylvania's Grand Canyon
Pennsylvania's Grand Canyon
Pennsylvania's Grand Canyon

Pennsylvania's Grand Canyon

The trail spat me out into the town of Jersey Shore and into the distinctive topography of northern Pennsylvania - I had a look around the town and it seemed pretty run down to me so either I’m missing something or the TV series is about somewhere else? While the town was disappointing the topography is spectacular: long wide valleys running northeast/southwest are shouldered by 1800ft heavily wooded ridges. The valleys, which are full of farms and arable fields, seem flat when traversing them but can undulate quite sharply when riding down their length. The spectacular wooded ridges have huge cleaves in them every few miles where you normally find a tangle of roads and railways vying for space in the natural cut into the next valley

Northern Pennsylvania
Northern Pennsylvania

Northern Pennsylvania

I spent the night on the edge of Lock Haven. Jodie, whom I’d met by Lake Cayuga, had suggested I check out Penn’s Cave, I’d also heard hints of there being an armish area nearby which was one of the many things I’d wanted to see while on the trip.

The route to Penn’s Cave took me through one of these cuts where I got very excited coming across my first armish buggy and nearly rode myself off the road into a ditch. I crossed the next valley keeping my eyes open for more armish but didn’t find any. There wasn’t a convenient cut into my final valley so I had to climb up over the ridge. The temperature was a little over 30C as I dripped my way over the 1800ft crest. I was very happy to reach Penn’s cave a further 10 miles down the road. An enjoyable underground boat tour in a very nice and cool 11C cave.

Climbing to Penn's Cave

Climbing to Penn's Cave

Penn's Cave
Penn's Cave

Penn's Cave

The final part of the day led me into State College where I was due to stay with Stephanie and her family. She’d given me her address a few weeks ago and we’d exchanged a few emails about staying but unfortunately due to a miscommunication she wasn’t expecting me until the Tuesday. As I cycle up and Stephanie is outside their beautiful house pulling weeds so I say hello and get a blank look - who is this hobo who has turned up on my doorstep - before Steph figures out who I am :)

Ed, Stephanie and their two lovely boys Aiden and Ira took me out to a local restaurant for a great evening before I headed on my way again the next day for the 3 day trip down to Shenandoah and the start of the Skyline Drive.