Without warning, the clock radio fires a loathsome pop song wreathed in static across the room, piercing my harmonious dream state like a perfectly targeted broadhead arrow burying itself in a dusty hay bale. "Oh Britney, you're frighteningly 'Toxic' at 7:00." But thankfully, the brilliant, blue sky and soothing breeze flowing through the open window quashes my groggy grumbling and spares the offending timepiece a second, unusually heavy-fisted jab at the snooze button.
Despite the rude awakening, I arise surprisingly motivated. The Holiday Inn Express in Harrisburg boasts a nice breakfast spread and I'm ready to do some riding. Having just returned from a week at the annual Americade rally in Lake George, New York, I'm happy to be away from the madding crowds and ready to enjoy some coveted alone time. While rallies are enjoyable, invigorating experiences, I have to admit that a good dose of central Pennsylvania's quiet back roads is just what the doctor ordered.
A Day Of Coal and Cattle
With cinnamon rolls and coffee downed, I fire up the Dyna Super Glide® and romp off into the light, Sunday morning traffic heading toward the Commonwealth's capital. At the broad, rocky Susquehanna River, I bear north on Route 22/322 and the city fades in the rearviews. Peeling off on Route 443, I discover a great road for a morning ride. Smooth pavement and breezy curves lead me through long, wide valleys brimming with fields of corn and grass. The immature maize is barely out of the ground, but with Mother Nature's help, the stalks will soon stretch skyward, making this lane a winding asphalt furrow through an elephant-eye-high sea of green.
North on Routes 125 and 209, the broad expanses give way to forest and steepening hills. At the last minute, I opt for a Pottsville pilgrimage to pay drive-by homage to my favorite sudsy treat, Yuengling Lager. The Yuengling family has been brewing beer here since 1829, and their red brick facility at Fifth and Mahantongo Streets, the oldest brewery in the United States, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. But of course, on Sunday, I won't need to fight temptation: the brewery is closed.
Forging east on Route 901, I begin trailing deeper into coal country. Glimpses of tipples, mounds of quarried stone, and massive mining equipment begin to appear through the trees. The small towns are grittier, a little rougher around the edges. There's no artificiality here, and those who have ridden out the good and bad fortunes of the coal industry wear their calluses with pride. NASCAR and Pittsburgh Steelers flags fly high. My kind of place.
Turning south on Route 125 in Shamokin, I stumble across one of those "WOW!" roads that no motorcyclist should miss. Undulating wildly downhill into a steep vale, the serpentine esses suddenly thrust me back into mountain roads full of peg-scraping switchbacks that tax my mettle and metal. Having no desire to push the Super Glide's® envelope, I happily ease over and wave a small group of antsy sport-bike riders by. They all nod appreciatively, screaming past, and quickly disappear around the next curve. I guess I've reached the age where coming home in one piece trumps an adrenaline rush.
Closing in on Klingerstown, I'm loping along on another pastoral, valley road. Wide-eyed calves, not quite knowing what to make of the thumping Harley, clumsily bound away to their mothers' protection. It's best to play it safe and slow down in this area, along Route 25, where Amish buggies routinely share the road. Plus, if you speed by, you'll miss seeing the happy children waving from the rear windows.
Reaching the Susquehanna, I stop for a couple of sloppy but tasty chilidogs at Williams French Fries in Millersburg. I can tell from the confused look of the teenager behind the counter that he's suffering through his first day on the job, a situation made all the worse by several of his buddies who've dropped in to razz him. I slide out snickering after one of the young interlopers loudly proclaims that he has been served the worst raspberry ice cream he has ever had - just as the manager walks in. I remember dishing out and receiving such treatment as a youngster and chuckle over the incident all the way back to Harrisburg.