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Riding to Big Hollow

Perusing Steve Williams’ Scooter In The Sticks blog, I came across this line from Lao Tzu: “A good traveler has no fixed plans, and is not intent on arriving.” This is similar to the idea of “pashal,” which I’ve explored in two poems.

The quotation and the concept are apt descriptions of today’s ride. I was sitting on the couch around 5:30, listening to the Red Sox and playing Triple Town, when I suddenly realized that I wanted to be on my scooter. Five minutes later I was out the door with no idea where I was headed.

I drove north on North Atherton, heading toward Park Forest and beyond. Wound through some neighborhood streets till I ended up on Valley Vista Drive. Because I seldom know where I am or where I’m headed (I’m stilling learning my way around), I ended up crossing back over Atherton, onto the expressway. I got off at College then took a random right onto Puddintown Road. And that led to the adventure.

Click for a larger version of today's route.
Click for a larger version of today’s route.

Eventually, after exploring a few small, newly built neighborhoods, I took a left onto Rock Road. The name sounded familiar, but I couldn’t place it. Later in the ride, I figured out why I knew it. I zipped around the curves and up and down the rolling hills. As I came around a turn, I passed Big Hollow Road to my left. I decided on the spot to try it, so I turned around.

It’s a paved road with trees close in on both sides. I love this kind of riding. I was minutes from home but the densely packed strip malls of my neighborhood were hard to even imagine in this setting. And then, not to far along, even the pavement was gone and I was on a narrow dirt road.

Looking ahead from the start of Big Hollow Road.
Looking ahead from the start of Big Hollow Road.

Same spot, looking the other way.
Same spot, looking the other way.

As you know if you know me, I never wanted to live in Central PA, but having a scooter has given me a greater appreciation for the countryside here. I can leave work or leave home and within 10 minutes be in a dense forest with turkey vultures lumbering through the air just above my head. I saw three of them on Big Hollow Road, both as I was going out and coming back. They were in the same spot both times — a rocky dip beside the road. I couldn’t see what they were eating.

My Aprilia Scarabeo 150 has two things that make it especially fun: a Rotax engine and big wheels. The former means it goes much, much faster than a typical 150cc engine. The latter means it handles dirt roads with relative ease.

Down the dirt road we sped, passing even smaller side roads, most of which were probably private roads leading to a single house. Eventually, even the dirt road ended. There was a nice house with a big yard at the end. Just to the left of the road was a path leading off deeper into the woods. The path was two sets of mostly overgrown tire tracks. Of course I took the path.

Here endeth the path. At least on the scooter.
Here endeth the path. At least on the scooter.

Eventually I came to a gate. I had absolutely no idea where I was, or where this path might lead. I now know it’s the Arboretum To Spring Creek Canyon Trail (PDF brochure). I walked up the trail just enough to realize that bug spray would be essential to any enjoyment of this path. I’m not ashamed. I’m more of an indoor kid.

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Click for larger versions.

Then it was back to Rock Road, which winds along Spring Creek, hugging the water tight. Water is very important to me. This is one of the few times in my life I haven’t lived near a big body of water, usually either a Great Lake or an ocean. I get a thrill each time I spot a creek or a pond. And I’m still excited by the feeling of cruising along on Zaphod beside running water.

Geometry is wonky in Central Pennsylvania. Or maybe it's the panoramic photo.
Geometry is wonky in Central Pennsylvania. Or maybe it’s the panoramic photo.

I stopped at a wooden bridge across Spring Creek that served as the entrance to someone’s driveway. I-99/Route 220 passed overhead like two massive contrails. I thought about how people had probably used Spring Creek for transportation hundreds (thousands?) of years before anyone thought to mar the landscape with highways.


I continued down Rock Road till it met up with Fox Hill Road, which runs past the airport. It was then I realized why I knew Rock Road — I use it, briefly, when I take the back way to Bellefonte. I watched a single-prop plane land as I passed, headed for home and more baseball.


Published in Pennsylvania Scooter Travel


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