Often because of the shape and nature of the landscape, topography will dictate the pace of a ride. Rouge Roubaix, for example, demands you to race, while the aptly named 86-mile Centre Ramble, suggests an easier-paced and, well… rambling kind of approach. Beginning from State College, Pennsylvania, a small university town tucked away in the Allegheny Mountains, the ride is a five hour ramble through time as much as distance.
Depending on your viewpoint, connotations of ‘ramble’ may be idleness or even aimlessness. ‘Ramble’ could describe a course with many winding turns and implies a leisurely pace, or perhaps even getting slightly lost. The truth, as far as Centre Ramble is concerned, is that ‘ramble’ should depict a great route with a unique character. Even if you ride this route faster than its name implies, and we did, this ride has style. It is a cruise.
Centre Ramble begins and ends on rural roads, gently bending back and forth between wide open hills and forested ridges. And let me say at this point that this is where I will start to ramble as well, to give you a feeling of the ride itself:
You’ll start past massive oaks and fields of flowers and crops. You may see, along low wooden fences; cows, horses, llamas and goats. Past wet, plain cotton garments in basic shapes and solid, prudent colors hanging at angles in the wind. Separately, a lawnmower graveyard sits on a hillside, littered with rusting blue, black and red shapes. Ancient silver capped silos dot the landscape, whilst wooden barns creak and brooks babble near by. A lone farmhouse sits by littered clumps of redneck split-levels and trailers. All this is viewed as the strong, earthy-organic smells of livestock and agriculture permeate the air. And the route winds on.
The heart of this ramble lies between miles 22 and 45, starting with a trip to Burkholders Country Market for bulk everything — whoopie pies and free samples of cold, crisp watermelon. After which, a few miles down the road on the far side of Milheim, the road turns to dirt and begins to climb in earnest into the woods. The top at Penns View is the perfect place for a second lunch or simply to rest on a rock and stare at the river valley below. The view is covered in trees and romping into the distance as far as the eye can see. The descent is gradual but demanding and eventually brings the ride back to pavement and farms and more near-perfect rambling, rambling on and over the hills back to where you began.
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