In 2009 I traveled to Harrisburg to ride with the local bike club on their “Running of the Goats” ride to see goat races south of the city. We left my friend Ben’s house at 8:45 AM on Saturday, expecting weather like the lovely 70 some degree day Harrisburg had experienced Friday. Instead it was cold, overcast, and windy. I wore shorts and a short-sleeve jersey, and hoped to warm up later. My only sign of good sense was wearing wool socks. Had I realized how the weather had changed I might have tried to borrow a jacket from Ben, but as he’s both shorter and lighter than me, and I’m as stubborn as a goat, I ignored the cold.
The first leg of the ride was two miles of rollers, including one steep climb, to get to Karn’s Market, where we waited for the ride leader” She was to be there at 9:30. By 9:45 we and another cyclist went on to the next stopping point, City Island, and waited there for the leader, wondering if the ride had been scrubbed because of the weather.
The ride leader was running late, but she arrived, and soon enough we were under way. I borrowed a jacket from another rider; it was too small, and I couldn’t close it, but it did provide some added warmth.
Our course led us on Harrisburg’s Greenbelt, past the PENDOT building, through a couple of small river towns, and onto Rt. 441. My usual problems with club rides came up – I needed to stop more often than the group. And when I did stop, I was rushed and couldn’t take photographs. Even though I repeatedly told him he could ride ahead, Ben stuck with me much of the ride. I found out later some club members had been questioning him about me – “has he been training for this? can he ride this distance?” and the like. My friend was upset, partly because he knew I took riding seriously, and partly because he thought the club was being rude to me, his guest. I knew none of this, only that the group seemed to be riding fast for a casual, no-drop ride.
I missed taking photos. Sunday morning I went back to shoot some objects along the route I didn’t have time for on Saturday. That included Three Mile Island. The cooling towers were more impressive-looking on Saturday, when there was no rain. As someone who spent hours riveted to KWY Newsradio’s continuous coverage of the 1979 accident, I was excited to actually SEE the towers myself.
Past Middletown and the cooling towers the climbs became tougher. I managed them all except the last one, where I cramped halfway up. Fortunately I was almost at the goat races.
There were three goats in each heat. The goats and their owners run from one end of the track to the other. Presumably losing goats get made into stew or something.
In addition to the goat races, there was a dog ball-chasing competition, a kiddie tractor pull, and a midway with live country music, ice cream, hot foods, t-shirts and other goat-themed merchandise. I downed two burgers to stay warm, and had some ice cream because it was ice cream and made fresh. Ben found a gnat in his bowl.
“I can’t believe you are passing up a free protein snack” I said.
“Ok.” And Ben ate the bug with ice cream.
I made a face that I was told had to be seen to be believed, and quietly said, “I’m putting this incident in the ride report.”
I was already feeling ill, and watching Ben eat a bug didn’t help. The temperature was dropping, and the guy I borrowed the jacket from wanted it back. Since there was a bike club member there with a van, I asked for a ride.
As I settled into the front seat, the temperature gauge on the dashboard showed 64 degrees. As it started to rain ten minutes later, just as we passed Ben on the road, the gauge read 59. The rain picked up into a steady drizzle by the time I reached my car and Ben’s house. I called him, offering to pick him up, but he said he was only 20 minutes behind me. His average riding speed must have been near 20 MPH on the way back.
Once I was inside, I changed and dried off. It took about an hour or so to warm up. I said goodbye to Ben and his wife and headed to my campground across the river. I stopped off at a Target to buy some warmer clothes, getting a track jacket and pants. (Note to self – on car camping/riding trips ALWAYS bring cold weather gear.)
Harrisburg East Campground and Storage was nice for what it was, a speck of pine trees five miles outside the capital. However, it was very damp. Once I had the tent set up under a nice pine, I drove out to find warm food and drink. They made me a little less cold. I went to sleep in my damp tent, listening to the rain on the fly and feeling the occasional drop of water inside.