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  • Writer's picturePatrick Baechle

An angel gave me a ride

This morning, when I left Hamburg, I followed a beautiful route along the Schuylkill River. Note that I am now spelling it correctly, as opposed to my previous spelling two weeks ago when I was under Garmin duress.

Anyhow, I did not know this river was so long and that I would be joining it a second time to ride a trail, again, along it. Pennsylvania has many very long rivers passing through it.

Eventually I made my way into the stunning farming landscape of the southern part of Lebanon County. These great farms are so big you can visaluslize the curvature of the earth.

The corn was so high that it created shade over the entire road late in the day. These were Amish farms. They are massive and robust. These people know how to grow things well here.

About 5 pm I find myself in Wyomissing. I am following the route but, as usual, I need to detour to find a place to crash. After a half hour of researching campsites, already closed for the evening, or with 'no tents' - 'RV Only', restrictions; I choose the Pinch Point Family campground, directly south of Mt. Gretna, 22 miles away. Easy. I've done this before, I have 3 1/2 hours of daylight left. No problem.

About ten miles out I get a flat on the front tire. I stop to fix it. I find a pinch puncture, meaning the tube got under the tire bead. It takes about 30 minutes to fix and get going again. Getting the bead onto the rim properly, is a continual challenge.

I look up and the sun is going down faster than usual today. I start to get apprehensive about riding in the dark to the campsite. I don't like it and I don't want to do it, even though I do have all the proper safety illumination.

I am back on the road again and cruisin. I get about a mile or two, somewhere in the area of Newmanstown, and bang hissssssssss, wump, wump, wump. Front tire goes flat again. Duh! Boom! Dead in the water. I lay the bike down on someone's front lawn, in the side of the road and sit and contemplate. I am not going to make it. I am not riding to Pinch Point Campground on this road in the dark.

I sat there frozen for a while, weighing my options: find a hotel and walk my bike to it; maybe 5 to 7 miles to Lebanon or; call an Uber; which probably does not exist; or Call a tow truck to take me to the nearest hotel; or ask the local resident, where I sit, If I could camp here in their front yard; or just sit here in a state of dumfounded stupidity, until morning.

I started with looking up tow truck service phone numbers, when I heard a voice say. "Do you need help?" I looked up and there was a young woman, in a black SUV, stopped, on the opposite side of the road asking me if I needed help. "This can't be happening", I said to myself. This only happens in the movies.

"YES!" I jumped up. "I need help"" awkwardly falling all over myself, yelling across the road between the passing cars, talking unintelligible too fast. " I need to get to a campground, I've had two flats. I've run out of daylight. I can't make it there before dark" She offered to take me there.

Then, while standing on the side of the highway she asked 'me' if I felt safe with her doing this. Can you imagine, A woman, in this day and age, picking up strange man on the road and asking 'him' if 'he' felt 'safe" traveling in her car with her. I immediately returned the same question to her. She identified herself as a fellow cyclist and wanted to help. We were both in agreement that cyclists help each other out and we proceeded to load my bike into the back of her SUV, were she then drove me to my campground.

Now, I don't know what you read in the news or, see on TV. And I myslf have a certain level of skepticism about some of my fellow human beings, but, I have to say that, when something like this happens to you; and you are at the very bottom of your wits; and a perfect stranger comes along and lends you a hand, and pulls you out of a jamb, in the middle of nowhere, when you least expect it; you gotta say that, there are still some hope for humanity. There is a guiding force out there keeping us all together in some mysterious way.

As we were driving to the campground Ashley turned down her hip-hop music and asked me if I wanted to listen to something else, such as 'classic rock'. I thought to myself "Do I really look that old?" After a brief tour of the town of Mount Gretna, all illuminated and bustling with visitors, she dropped me off at my campground.

It was closed but, I had my site paid for so I walked around the gate. The store was closed so, no ice, or snacks this evening. I set up camp in the dark, ate some instant spagetti then retired early.

As I layed in my cozy sleeping bag, listening to the sounds of the night, I thought about the days events and felt grateful to be alive. Then I thought about all the quiet, peaceful and serene wooded places in the world, next to sparkling cascades or, babbling brooks, where you could hear the birds singing and the footsteps of deer prancing through the brush; and I said to myself "Why in God's name did they put this campground next to the Pennsylvania Turnpike?" And then it started raining.

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