Riders are unique individuals. They may ride the same scooter or motorcycle, or dress according to a code or style, but when you look closely, they’re different in small ways, and big. Thinking about riders I’ve known, I’ve not met two who are the same.
Recently I had the opportunity to ride again with my friend Paul Ruby, and with fellow blogger and Vespa rider, David Masse, who had ridden his scooter from Toronto, Canada to have a closer look at the sticks of Pennsylvania.
There’s a special magic in the mountains and forests of central Pennsylvania that can cause even the most even tempered riders to succomb to a sudden onset of riding madness — that temporary giddiness that results from flying through the world on two wheels. And when it happens, it’s hard to tell where it will lead.
It’s not often that you meet a Canadian lying in the road.
Our day began at Saint’s Cafe. The air was cool but the clear sky promised a warm day of riding. Some rides start early with focused attention on speed and miles toward a preset goal.
Or so I’ve heard.
My own experience is more mellow — things unfold organically with only a hint of a plan. I knew David wanted to visit Saint’s Cafe having seen it appear so often on my blog. The photograph reminds me of a street cafe in Paris or Munich. The conversation was relaxed and easy in a way that doesn’t happen often. Later, after David returned home, my wife commented on how perfectly relaxed it felt talking to him; as if we’ve known him for a long, long time.
I was trying to think of interesting roads for someone coming from the relative flatness of Ontario with it’s straight road grids. Our early route wound along wooded creeks, over ridge tops and up onto the Allegheny Plateau where we made a stop to look at the Rattlesnake Fire tower in Moshannon State Forest.
Paul had his serious photographer hat on — revealed by the use of a tripod — while David was busy getting his video gear together.
Pennsylvania is blessed with thousands of miles of secondary, or perhaps tertiary, roads that snake through the hills and valleys with little traffic and exceptional scenery. Perfect for riders unconcerned with making time on the road.
Our Vespa scooters are perfect for this travel. Additional power and weight serve no purpose other than to complicate stops in the gravel or making quick U-turns more challenging. As I’ve always believed, the real riding challenges occur below 10mph.
One thing I noticed about David — he’s a serious guy. I pushed him later in the day for a smile.
There are two kinds of rides you can make in Pennsylvania — those that lead through a rich collection of human inspired constructions and enterprises; and those who feel desolate and devoid of those elements. I chose the latter for the day’s ride through the sticks.
Riding north through Sproul State Forest is one of the emptiest places to ride in Pennsylvania. No power lines or cell coverage for 25 miles with only an occasional passing car or truck. A few years ago this area was a hotbed of shale gas drilling but most of that work is now complete.
We stopped at a place where David could take in the expansive landscape and the places in the distance that were cut by the Susquehanna River.
David Masse is the author of the Life on Two Wheels blog. I’ve followed him for years and had the opportunity to meet him four years ago when he and two other moto-bloggers passed through town.
You hear lots of crazy stories of people connecting through the internet. My own experience, with moto-bloggers and photographers, has been across the board positive. I’ve found a supportive and friendly community of people and knowledge and experience that would be impossible to access otherwise.
I feel grateful to be able to call David a friend.
A quick stop for gas in Renovo from pumps I assumed would mix rust with fuel and then lunch at Yesterday’s Restaurant and Hotel. Since January of this year, David has been making videos for his blog. Video has long been an interest of mine though the work involved has kept it at arm’s length. As we waited for lunch David set up his equipment to do an interview. It was easy to see how the conversation between Paul, David and myself would get in the way of any serious video work.
From the time we headed north toward Renovo, I was thinking it might be nice to ride to Hyner View. It offers a brilliant, sweeping view of this part of Pennsylvania as well as a wonderfully winding road to get there. But our wandering ways ran into the clock as I had an appointment to get to back in State College. If felt wrong to make that decision but the sore butt conversations when we returned home confirmed it as the right choice.
For new riders, remember, it’s not how many miles you go, it’s how many hours the butt is in the saddle…
For those not familiar with Hyner View, this photograph was made during another September rider seven years ago.
The ride home from Renovo took us along the West Branch of the Susquehanna River, over ridges and through the Amish area of Penns Valley. The temperature was in the mid 80s when we stopped for this picture not far from Penns Cave. All of us were tired and sated as we neared home.
Late in the evening, after a dinner of take out from Kelly’s Steak & Seafood at my house, and a fine round of conversation, I sat down at Paul’s house for an interview with David Masse. I’ve not seen it yet, but I bet I need a shave and a haircut.
And so ended the trip to the sticks. David would have further adventures on his own as he headed back to Toronto — not the least of which was blowing a head gasket just over the Canadian border. But that’s a story he can tell himself. Check out Requiem for a Vespa.
I suppose it’s my turn now to ride to Canada. That means I’ll have to renew my passport…