We Burn Up the Interstate!

Today’s weather was excellent. It helped us cover 63 miles, after two windy, rainy, 50-mile days. It also helped that we abandoned Bike Route V, which seems to have been chosen for its lack of traffic rather than for its rideability or the availability of services, like food and lodging.

Jack and Jane, our gracious hosts at the spotlessly charming and gourmet-provisioned Aaronsburg Inn, generously gave us an atlas to replace the Pennsylvania road map we lost. Jack pointed out that when Jeffrey describes how lost we’d be if forced in a Chinese court to seek asylum without a lawyer, a listener could think Jeffrey is equating the American legal system with that of China. Jack is right. Jeffrey henceforth will make clear that the hypothetical is to demonstrate the bewilderment of a stranger in a strange land. It’s to show how important it is for Human Rights First to continue to find and train volunteer lawyers for persecution victims seeking refuge in America.

From Aaronsburg, we proceeded on the Purple Heart Highway through the Penn Valley to Boasburg, where we passed a big display of military hardware outside the Pennsylvania Military Museum. Next was State College; the bike path through town was serpentine and bumpy.

Just past State College, we saw a sign for Route 322 and I-99. What a find! Rt 322 goes straight to Clearfield, the day’s destination. At the top of the on-ramp, Jeffrey saw the highway below had a 55 mph speed limit, and there were no signs limiting the road to motor vehicles as there had been (and as Jack in Aaronsburg had predicted) at an earlier entrance to 322. Jeffrey figured the Interstate (where bikes are forbidden) and a tamer version of 322 must split just around the bend. He started us down the shoulder of the on-ramp.

SURPRISE! The ramp was steep, littered with broken glass and dead birds, and ahead, Jeffrey saw another sign: 65 MPH! I-99 and Rt 322 coincided! There was a split . . . in six miles!

Holy Moses! We were bicycling on I-99, flying down the shoulder, worried that we’d hit a dead bird (we did) or get a flat (we didn’t) and spin into the path of a tractor-trailer. There was no way back, so we forged ahead, watching for a blue light on our tail (none appeared).

The shock of Jeffrey’s mistake wore off, as shocks do, and we began to enjoy the experience. Aside from the blasts of sound and wind from passing vehicles (the 65 mph limit is merely theoretical), the road was great. There was a 2-mile upgrade, but in the manner of Interstates, it was a gentle slope; ascending was slow but not painful. The views were fantastic. Once past the on-ramp, the shoulder was almost debris-free. This beat riding on small, circuitous local roads with narrow shoulders. What fun!

Then we got to the top and saw the 3-mile downhill run. Uh-oh. We worried about going too fast and taking a spill. We worried that the brakes would overheat. We worried — never mind the details, we kept worrying until we came to the exit for Rt 322 and its 3.6 mile continuous uphill. Jeffrey pedaled us up the entire way. After a short dip, the road rose again. Then we rocketed down into Phillipsburg, and from there to Clearfield, where we’re staying across the street from a National Guard building.

We were treated to many thumbs-ups and friendly horn toots today, particularly as we hammered up those long mountain inclines. Drivers continued to be patient about passing. It was a day of happy trails, even if we now are Interstate interlopers.

A tank by a rural VFW lodge.


We paused for the brakes to cool and to document our I-99 adventure.


One of the rock cuts along Rt 322 on its 3.5 mile rise.


The skeleton of something that died at the top of that mountain. Maybe the climb was too much for it. But not for us!


Signs from the heartland: ham pot pies, pig roasts, the drive-in, how trucks deal with steep descents, the placemat at the restaurant at which we dined for under $9 plus tip.