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WORDS: Daniel Wakefield Pasley | PHOTOS: Daniel Wakefield Pasley
Often, because of their size, shape, and the nature of the roads the topography will insinuate the pace of a ride. Rouge Roubaix, for example, demands a race, while the aptly named 86-mile Centre Ramble, suggests an easier less frenetic approach. Here, emanating from State College, Pennsylvania a small university town tucked into the Nittany Valley in the Allegheny Mountains is a five-hour ramble through time as much as distance.
Depending on your orientation ramble connotations may be idle or even aimless. The word is used to describe a course with many winding turns and can imply a leisurely pace. The truth is, as far as Centre Ramble is concerned, they all work well enough to depict the route and it’s character. Even if you ride it faster than it implies, and we did, this ride has style. It is a cruise.
Centre Ramble begins and ends on rural roads gently bending from one wide-open hill to one forested ridge and on to another. And let me just take a minute at this point to say, this is where I will start to ramble, just to give you the full feeling of the ride:
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 angle 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, while wooden barns and burbling brooks tremble by. A lone farmhouse sits near littered clumps of redneck split-levels and trailers. All this is seen through the strong, earthy-organic smells of livestock and agriculture. And yet, the route winds on.
But the heart of this ramble lies between miles 22 and 45 and starts with a trip to Burkholders Country Market for bulk everything — like Whoopie Pies and free samples of cold, crisp watermelon. After which and a few miles down the road and 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 along the hills on the way back to State College.