The Heart of Pennsylvania

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The Heart of Pennsylvania

Postby Rick F. » Sun Jun 28, 2009 9:30 pm

Say, what's this? Another ride report, finally, from the elusive Rick F.?? Well, not exactly Image, but read on...

As most of you will remember, I took a spill on my 2005 R1200GS way back in July 2008, breaking 5 ribs in the process. My poor GS, although mechanically fine, had over $9,000 in cosmetic damage, and the only practical option (from a financial standpoint) was to let Progressive Insurance total it. For the last 11 months, I've been waiting for my ribs to finish healing and trying to decide whether and (if so, how) to continue motorcycling.

When my ribs continued to cause a lot of discomfort, my doctor suggested a bone density scan "to be on the safe side." It turned out that I have osteoporosis, which was an unwelcome surprise. With a high risk of bone fracture, a return to riding became an extremely unwise action. (A shame, too, since there was a 2007 R1200GS for sale in Baltimore with 4,500 miles and an attractive price. I'd already made arrangements to take a look when I got the bone news...)

So, what to do? I've missed the back-country touring, exploring, and historic and scenic sightseeing a tremendous amount. And I've missed the photography and writing up the trip highlights for my BMWBMW friends. Well, feeling a bit depressed about the medical news, I called up an old friend at Tischer BMW-Porsche-Audi and soon drove home in a 2006 BMW Z4 3.0i roadster. It's intended to be a motorcycle substitute, even though it comes with training wheels and a roll cage (which, after my spill, seemed like a good idea...)

With that preamble, here is my first official ride/drive story in nearly a year. I'll rely on your feedback to let me know that either (i) you welcome more reports, even though they're car-based, or (ii) such car reports have no place in a BMW motorcycle club forum. I report, but you decide!

For the inaugural tour in the Z4, I turned--once again--to Dale Coyner's great book Motorcycle Journeys through the Appalachians, Second Edition, and selected his "Pennsylvania Heartland" tour. Dale does an excellent job of finding and describing scenic routes with interesting things to see and do. This trip was no exception.

I left Catonsville in a light rain (okay, a motorcycle substitute does have certain advantages) and drove to Gettysburg to begin the tour. Once on the official tour, I immediately put the top down, despite the occasional sprinkles--after all, I couldn't wimp out all of the time. Following Dale's route, I proceeded west along Robert E. Lee's retreat path following the battle and soon ended up on South Mountain Road. While it's tempting to call this road the highlight of the trip, in fairness I can't--there were lots of highlights. As always, I kept an eye out for interesting old houses, such as the following:
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The dilapidated house reminded me a lot of my West Virginia tours. But right around the bend, Pennsylvania revealed its high-class heritage with this mammoth abandoned building, lurking behind a narrow strip of forest. Having no idea what it had been, I decided to investigate.
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Soon enough, I found the main entrance, drove on in, and looked around. Subsequently, a little Internet research revealed that this was unit 2 of the South Mountain Sanatorium (now known as the South Mountain Restoration Center). The sanitarium dates back as far as about 1901, although the abandoned building was built in 1938. It was originally a "preventorium" for children (a scary concept for sure) and later served as a tuberculosis hospital, among other things, before closing in 1985. Ironically, this impressive view was actually the back of the building; the front side, which I didn't trespass far enough to discover, is even more imposing. As it happens, the 7-story unit 1 of the Restoration Center (seen here in the background) was built at the same time but is still being used today, as a nursing home. The Center also includes a home for repeat juvenile offenders. But it was a pleasant surprise to find such a stately group of buildings in the middle of nowhere in Pennsylvania. More info on the history of this place is available at South Mountain Restoration Center.
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Near the entrance to Caledonia State Park, I passed by this attractive--though apparently man-made--waterfall.
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Not much farther on, I located the original Chambersburg Reservoir, constructed in 1933 and holding almost 400 million gallons of water in its 52' depth and 53 acre area. Or at least it did. Now there's only a narrow stream flowing through the valley. Anyone know what happened?
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I made a quick pass through Pine Grove Furnace State Park, having been there previously on the GS. This is the iron master's mansion, which is now a youth hostel.
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So far, my 4-wheeled motorcycle substitute was working just fine. Fun to drive, easy to turn around and backtrack for pictures, strong performance, etc. When I passed this road, however, I longed for the GS so that I could find out what lay just over the horizon...
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Before long I arrived in the town of Landisburg. It had many interesting old houses--and in the case of this one, I had to wonder whether the wiring inside was as chaotic as the wiring outside...
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Just outside of Landisburg, following Dale Coyner's directions, I found Rice's Bridge at the confluence of Sherman and Montour Creeks. A nearby resident told me that it had been restored very recently--and promptly damaged by floods resulting from the prior week's heavy rains (see damage to lower part of the bridge's side).
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The nearby resident's son decided to try his hand at creating a flood in a puddle left over from the morning's rain. Judging by the splash, I'd say he was successful.
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Just outside of Loysville, I encountered this one-time stately mansion, now in a state of significant disrepair. I couldn't find much information about this place, except that it might have been a retirement home. I fervently hope that the pick-up trucks are there as part of a restoration effort--as opposed to an impending demolition.
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Good ol' Dale led me right to Adair's Bridge many miles upstream on Sherman's Creek. Pennsylvania does a nice job of taking good care of its covered bridges, I must say. Nearly every one I saw showed fresh paint and solid wood.
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The many rural farms were not so lucky. Even when being actively worked, as this one was, many of them had a best-years-behind-us atmosphere.
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I forgot to mention that I couldn't get my Zumo GPS to acquire any satellites to save my life. While Dale's route guide was fairly precise, it was less than 100 percent so, and I ended up backtracking several times in the search for more covered bridges. Eventually I found the Bistline Bridge...
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...and Enslow's Bridge, in its unrestored glory. (Sorry Mike, that's Enslow, not Enloe.) For reasons that weren't clear, there was a very nice ford immediately next to the bridge. I might have been tempted with the GS, but not with a roadster featuring less than 6" of ground clearance...
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After tracking down all these bridges, it was well past lunch time. I eagerly looked forward to the town of Blain, where I was sure there would be a restaurant. What I found was one of the sleepiest little towns ever, full of intriguing houses but not a restaurant (or gas station) in sight. In fact, it was the kind of place that you could stand in the middle of the road to take pictures (and not be in any hurry, either). Looking more carefully, however, I found the Blain Hotel & Restaurant, which looked rather like a closed carry-out beer place. But it proved to be an open, quite decent little restaurant. A ham and cheese sub later, I was back on the road in search of Boundless Adventure and more Cool Stuff.
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It had long since stopped raining, but the sky was still somewhat threatening. All of which made for the occasional scenic farm picture...
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...and the occasional sight of a full-bore Army tank, with its main barrel pointed right toward said scenic farm. There's probably a story here.
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Back in 2008, my GS was running on fumes, showing 15 miles left on its fuel computer, and I barely made it into Spring Run to buy gas. Ironically, the warning light on my Z4 had been on for some time, the computer showed 15 miles left--and I had 7 miles to go to reach Spring Run! The sole gas station was open (again), and I happily filled up and pressed on toward Shade Gap and Orbisonia. On the way, I encountered St. Mary's Bridge (my favorite of the trip and the last remaining covered bridge in Huntingdon County) plus the picturesque St. Mary's Church in the background. The bridge over Shade Creek was built in 1894 (which predates even me) and featured open sides.
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Orbisonia, PA is home to the East Broad Top narrow-gauge railroad. The station was easy to locate...
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...but the rest of the depot looked pretty deserted.
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The roundhouse looked in good (if rickety) working order, however, and seemed to have a supply of rolling stock.
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Sure enough, before long a steam-powered locomotive arrived with a complete set of passenger cars. Stopping at the station, it picked up a load of sightseers and off it went, trailed by a thick cloud of coal smoke. Environmentally friendly it's not, but it made a great sight.
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This little vintage RR speeder was arguably the cutest thing I saw on the entire trip.
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By now, the clouds were largely gone, the sun was out in full force, and it had turned into a beautiful day. I even began to see some motorcyclists on the road. Up to this point, I'd seen more horseback riders (and for that matter, red foxes) than bikers. So which looks better, green fields, with blue sky, and a farm in the distance--or all of the above with a BMW Z4 in the foreground? (I acknowledge that Ron P.'s K1200S would have looked even better.)
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The nearly nonexistent town of Burnt Cabins proved to be worth the visit. It got its name in the 1740s because a number of settlers had built cabins on Indian land, prompting the Governor of Pennsylvania to order them burned (the cabins, not the settlers or Indians). There wasn't any sign of these cabins, but a grist mill was still in evidence, along with a greater-than-average number of abandoned homes and farms. (Note the apparently abandoned vehicles that accompany the abandoned stone house that is quickly becoming lost in the trees.)
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On the way to Mercersburg, I discovered the James Buchanan Birthplace State Park, commemorating (naturally) the birthplace of the country's 15th President. It featured a stone monument and various historical signboards about this President. Well worth a visit and free, to boot.
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Contrary to appearances thus far, not all of the houses I encountered in rural Pennsylvania were falling down or abandoned. These two examples, in Cove Gap and Waynesboro, respectively, were shining examples of places that would be fun to move into tomorrow:
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I concluded the trip by traveling through Emmitsburg and Taneytown, MD, both familiar from my teenage years. All told, I spent 11 hours and 330 miles trying out my motorcycle substitute. In the end, I decided that the Z4 isn't a full-fledged substitute--but it will do until I can replace the missing strength in my bones. I thoroughly enjoyed getting back out on the road and exploring new places again. It was a good reminder of the wealth of scenic, historic, and interesting places that are within a stone's throw of Baltimore and Washington. And anywhere that stone lands, there's a high probability of finding beauty; all we have to do is look.
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Rick F.
Last edited by Rick F. on Mon Sep 14, 2015 3:40 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: The Heart of Pennsylvania

Postby Hello Kitty » Mon Jun 29, 2009 5:23 am

=D> =D> =D> =D> =D>

I don't care if it's a car, bike, BMW, non-BMW. All good stuff, Rick!

I think of you every time I see a dilapidated building. No, no, not saying YOU are dilapidated, silly. Just that you find these places, and then often find out what they used to be in their glory days.
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Re: The Heart of Pennsylvania

Postby DogHouse » Mon Jun 29, 2009 7:07 am

Hello Kitty wrote:=D> =D> =D> =D> =D>

I don't care if it's a car, bike, BMW, non-BMW. All good stuff, Rick!

I think of you every time I see a dilapidated building. No, no, not saying YOU are dilapidated, silly. Just that you find these places, and then often find out what they used to be in their glory days.


What she said. And great photos. BTW some of your images are just screaming for HDR
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Re: The Heart of Pennsylvania

Postby wiredcur » Mon Jun 29, 2009 7:30 am

Glad to have you back "reporting" again! :D

I think you'll find roads in your Z4 that will be quite enjoyable on two-wheels.

Loved the picture of between the depot buildings with all the rusty wheels, btw.
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Re: The Heart of Pennsylvania

Postby Maria V » Mon Jun 29, 2009 8:13 am

wiredcur wrote:Glad to have you back "reporting" again! :D

I think you'll find roads in your Z4 that will be quite enjoyable on two-wheels.

Loved the picture of between the depot buildings with all the rusty wheels, btw.

What they ALL said! Great to have you and your ride reports back on the boards. :D
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Re: The Heart of Pennsylvania

Postby Chiba » Mon Jun 29, 2009 8:27 am

Rick F. wrote:The bridge over Shade Creek was built in 1894 (which predates even me)

:lol: =D>

It's nice to see a new trip report from you Rick.

Here's some ways you can make your Z4 experience a little more like a motorcycle ride:

-- wear a helmet (and ear plugs, of course)
-- stop every 200 miles for gas
-- put a magnetic tank bag on the hood
-- only carry what you could fit into standard BMW side cases
-- make vroom-vroom motorcycle noises

:)

--chiba
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Re: The Heart of Pennsylvania

Postby Deano » Mon Jun 29, 2009 8:43 am

chiba wrote:
Rick F. wrote:The bridge over Shade Creek was built in 1894 (which predates even me)

:lol: =D>

It's nice to see a new trip report from you Rick.

Here's some ways you can make your Z4 experience a little more like a motorcycle ride:

-- wear a helmet (and ear plugs, of course)
-- stop every 200 miles for gas
-- put a magnetic tank bag on the hood
-- only carry what you could fit into standard BMW side cases
-- make vroom-vroom motorcycle noises

:)

--chiba


Just don't try to counter-steer....
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Re: The Heart of Pennsylvania

Postby wiredcur » Mon Jun 29, 2009 8:54 am

chiba wrote:
Rick F. wrote:The bridge over Shade Creek was built in 1894 (which predates even me)

:lol: =D>

It's nice to see a new trip report from you Rick.

Here's some ways you can make your Z4 experience a little more like a motorcycle ride:

-- wear a helmet (and ear plugs, of course)
-- stop every 200 miles for gas
-- put a magnetic tank bag on the hood
-- only carry what you could fit into standard BMW side cases
-- make vroom-vroom motorcycle noises

:)

--chiba


If he drives it like it's a bike, he probably has to stop for gas every 200 miles.

Tank bag on the hood? only if there's a camera port in the front for the video. :D
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Re: The Heart of Pennsylvania

Postby griffin738 » Mon Jun 29, 2009 12:44 pm

Good to see you back and reporting Rick! And thanks for taking us along. Frankly, there's a bit more room for us all on/in your new ride than there was on the GS, so I vote that you keep up the good work!

. . .and to pile on to the other good treat-it-like-a-motorcycle comments, I'll note that it would set a good example if you were touch a toe to the ground each time you stop. . .
these roads don't move, you're the one that moves
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Re: The Heart of Pennsylvania

Postby Blaster229 » Mon Jun 29, 2009 12:50 pm

What kind of bags you gonna get for the Bimmer? I am sure George can fashion some sort of mount out of scrap metal for ya :D
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Re: The Heart of Pennsylvania

Postby MrE » Mon Jun 29, 2009 1:22 pm

Rick F. wrote:
...and Enslow's Bridge, in its unrestored glory. (Sorry Mike, that's Enslow, not Enloe.) For reasons that weren't clear, there was a very nice ford immediately next to the bridge. I might have been tempted with the GS, but not with a roadster featuring less than 6" of ground clearance...
Image


Hehehe... I am not sure whether Enslow and Enloe have a common history but for some reason I think they do (you know how many names were changed by census takers misspelling and it was easier to adopt the new name than to get it changed). I'll have to ask my dad.

Great report and photos. Always enjoy hearing from you.
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Re: The Heart of Pennsylvania

Postby JimVonBaden » Mon Jun 29, 2009 2:47 pm

Beautiful as always Rick!

Glad to have you back in ANY capacity, though I am sad for you that you will miss the freedom of two wheels!

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Re: The Heart of Pennsylvania

Postby websterize » Mon Jun 29, 2009 5:06 pm

It's great to scan Ride Stories and see "by Rick F." again. I'm new to the club and look forward to meeting you someday.
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Re: The Heart of Pennsylvania

Postby Rick F. » Tue Jun 30, 2009 10:03 pm

Hello Kitty wrote:=D> =D> =D> =D> =D>

I don't care if it's a car, bike, BMW, non-BMW. All good stuff, Rick!

I think of you every time I see a dilapidated building. No, no, not saying YOU are dilapidated, silly. Just that you find these places, and then often find out what they used to be in their glory days.

Kitty,

Thanks! And no apology needed for the fact that dilapidated buildings remind you of me--I knew what you meant. (Although the alternative interpretation isn't far off the mark...) Stay tuned for more reports from the Z3000RS with training wheels.


DogHouse wrote:What she said. And great photos. BTW some of your images are just screaming for HDR

Rick,

Thanks for the compliment and for the reminder on HDR photo composites. I've been meaning to dig into this (and the Z4 can lug around a tripod a bit better than the GS).


wiredcur wrote:Glad to have you back "reporting" again! :D

I think you'll find roads in your Z4 that will be quite enjoyable on two-wheels.

Loved the picture of between the depot buildings with all the rusty wheels, btw.

Tim,

I'm definitely hoping that my two-wheeled brethren (and sistren) will be interested in trying these same routes and places. The East Broad Top Railroad depot was fascinating. I forgot to mention that it's also right next to the Rockhill Trolley Museum. At the depot, I was welcome to wander around--despite the numerous access pits, presumably used for working underneath a locomotive or rail cars. I wouldn't call it a safe place for the unwary or absent-minded, but it was great fun to look around without everything being roped off.


Maria V wrote:What they ALL said! Great to have you and your ride reports back on the boards. :D

Maria,

Merci beaucoup, mademoiselle! Maybe we can still do our long-postponed ride together, albeit in a 6-wheeled manner.


chiba wrote:
Rick F. wrote:The bridge over Shade Creek was built in 1894 (which predates even me)

:lol: =D>

It's nice to see a new trip report from you Rick.

Here's some ways you can make your Z4 experience a little more like a motorcycle ride:

-- wear a helmet (and ear plugs, of course)
-- stop every 200 miles for gas
-- put a magnetic tank bag on the hood
-- only carry what you could fit into standard BMW side cases
-- make vroom-vroom motorcycle noises

:)

--chiba

Chiba,

I'll go for the easy laugh every time... And I love your thoughts on making a Z4 more like a motorcycle! At the minimum, I now have some extra photo ideas in mind--stay tuned.

(Uh, I was already doing the vroom-vroom noises. Did you have to tell everyone??)


Deano wrote:Just don't try to counter-steer....

Dean,

Thanks for the advice. It took me a while to remember to use the steering while and quit grabbing ahold of the turn signal and windshield wiper levers for control...
For all my tour articles, check out rsftripreporter.net.

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Re: The Heart of Pennsylvania

Postby Rick F. » Tue Jun 30, 2009 10:18 pm

wiredcur wrote:If he drives it like it's a bike, he probably has to stop for gas every 200 miles.

Tank bag on the hood? only if there's a camera port in the front for the video. :D

Tim,

Actually, the Z4 gets surprisingly good gas mileage, despite the relatively large engine and short gearing. On easy highway trips, it's 32 mpg. It does drop off, however, when rorting around back roads in lower gears. Either way, nowhere near the 46 mpg I routinely achieved on the GS.


griffin738 wrote:Good to see you back and reporting Rick! And thanks for taking us along. Frankly, there's a bit more room for us all on/in your new ride than there was on the GS, so I vote that you keep up the good work!

. . .and to pile on to the other good treat-it-like-a-motorcycle comments, I'll note that it would set a good example if you were touch a toe to the ground each time you stop. . .

Paul,

Thanks, I'm glad you enjoyed the report. (I certainly enjoyed your last one about your Canadian trip / Griffin remembrance--just super.)

I'll start working on putting a foot down at each stop. Am I allowed to open the door??


Blaster229 wrote:What kind of bags you gonna get for the Bimmer? I am sure George can fashion some sort of mount out of scrap metal for ya :D

Mike,

I'm thinking that the car needs a rear luggage rack and a triple-size Vario top case mounted on it. The trunk lid is made of aluminum, so drilling holes through it shouldn't be difficult...


MrE wrote:
Rick F. wrote:
...and Enslow's Bridge, in its unrestored glory. (Sorry Mike, that's Enslow, not Enloe.) For reasons that weren't clear, there was a very nice ford immediately next to the bridge. I might have been tempted with the GS, but not with a roadster featuring less than 6" of ground clearance...
Image


Hehehe... I am not sure whether Enslow and Enloe have a common history but for some reason I think they do (you know how many names were changed by census takers misspelling and it was easier to adopt the new name than to get it changed). I'll have to ask my dad.

Great report and photos. Always enjoy hearing from you.

Mike,

I thought that bridge would catch your attention. I'm glad you enjoyed the report. But we're overdue for a report or two from you!


JimVonBaden wrote:Beautiful as always Rick!

Glad to have you back in ANY capacity, though I am sad for you that you will miss the freedom of two wheels!

Jim :brow

Jim,

Thanks--it's good to be back and reporting again. I would much prefer to be doing this again with a go-anywhere GS (or Triumph Scrambler!), but I'll take what I can get. And you're overdue for more reports, too, even if your schedule is limiting your riding these days. (More, we want more.)


websterize wrote:It's great to scan Ride Stories and see "by Rick F." again. I'm new to the club and look forward to meeting you someday.

Bill,

Thanks very much--it's always great to discover a new reader. BMWBMW is a first-rate club, and I'll look forward to meeting you, too. (Start planning for the annual summer picnic at Summit Point.)


And thanks again, everyone, for the positive feedback and warm return welcome!

Rick F.
For all my tour articles, check out rsftripreporter.net.

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