Cycling Amongst the "Falling of the Leaves"
by David Goodyear
It is hard not to feel mournful for the passing of Summer’s warmth and blue skies. The sweet smell of grass and the verdant fields full of growing plants and crops soon grow distant in the rear view mirror called time. Autumn signals the arrival of grey skies, cooler temperatures and a kaleidoscope of colors on the trees. A unique camaraderie of scarlet, mustard, pumpkin orange, burnished brown and topaz are part of the palette called Autumn. The first frosted breath belongs to Autumn; as does the “falling of the leaves.” The wearing of extra layers for a ride belongs to Autumn; specifically merino wool and wool hats. Rides through covered bridges; once known as “kissing bridges” for the lovers who would steal a kiss in the shadows of the bridge, are indeed a signature Autumn experience. In case you are wondering, Bucks County has 12 covered bridges, each as beautiful as the next.When it comes to scenery and color in Bucks County, all of the seasons stand in the “Hall of Fame.” The transitions between the seasons provide some of the most beautiful moments in nature. Blessed with four “acts” of seasons courtesy of Mother Nature; Bucks County boasts unparalleled beauty throughout the year. As a cyclist, riding through the changing of the seasons is an exquisite experience.
Pumpkins, mums and scarecrows greet the cyclist as they travel through the Autumn countryside. Farm stands filled with every kind of gourd, squash and pumpkin come to life with the arrival of Autumn. Apples, cider, cornstalks and hardy fall mums are part of the fabric of the new season. Festivals with pies, cakes, sweet goods and warm delicious drinks await the cyclists who generally love to eat and they sure can eat a lot! The wonderful odiferous emanations of Autumn are not limited to pies, coffee, cider and mums. Autumn is the time when the first wafts of wood fires begin to fill the air with their sweet aroma. Their blue, hazy smoke fills the forest as it lazily moves with the wind. Caressing the trees and silently flowing over the open fields; the opaqueness of the smoke creates a nether-worldly experience.
Autumn also has it’s own very distinct sounds. The sound of rustling leaves rise and fall with the wind; oftentimes aided by scampering squirrels. In their never ending search for tasty nuts; squirrels (who moved silently across the green forest floor or grassy lawns in the Summer) now create a cacophony of sound as they prepare for the cold winter months ahead. The sound of nuts dropping on the road or the trail makes a distinct pitter patter sometimes accented by a loud pop! While the last harvest of corn awaits the reaper; you can hear them whispering amongst themselves, lamenting the change in seasons. Vibrant and green only a few weeks earlier; they begin to explore the many hues of yellow and grey as the color slowly wains from their leaves.
As the “sentinels of the forest” release their leaves to the whims of the wind, new vistas or panoramas are created. An abandoned barn hidden from view by Summer’s camouflage of colors slowly comes into focus as the forest turns from green to grey. Stone walls, worn down by time remind us there were others here hundreds of years before us. Streams, who previously could only be heard now reveal themselves. Old abandoned cars; rusted hulks from a bygone era remerge from the forest to show off their ever increasing level of decay. Autumn also lays bare the topography of the land, in essence enhancing the cycling experience of moving across the Earth while appreciating where you have been. This is especially true for mountain bikers. Their connectedness to the trail is increased when they can see the surrounding “lay of the land.”
Falling leaves also bring an additional level of caution for the Autumn cyclist. Dry leaves and pine needles can cover road hazards like seams or potholes. Wet leaves become as slippery as ice. Turns and corners once carved cleanly in dry weather now become a ballet on wheels when wet leaves are on the road or path. Tree nuts, sticks and bark increase their presence during the Autumn months. Nature has created a most mischievous set of obstacles with walnuts and horse chestnut pods. These Tam-O-Shanters can take down a cyclist as easily as if the rider was on ice. Increased awareness is always a good copilot when riding during the Autumn months.
Autumn is all about new colors, new smells, new sights and sounds. Her vibrancy is evidenced in her foliage and sunsets. Autumn eases the transition to Winter with grace and subtlety. All you have to do is get out on your bicycle to experience it. On the trails, road or bike path; Autumn has beauty best experienced with all of your senses. Anyone who regularly throws a leg over a saddle can tell you where to find the most scenic roads in their area. In Bucks County, a scenic and memorable ride is never far from your doorstep. Autumn is a great time to go out and explore the unexplored; to find those hidden gems sprinkled throughout central and upper Bucks County. In my next article, I will share with you some of the most beautiful roads in central and upper Bucks County. Come along for the ride!
David Goodyear is a husband, father and avid cyclist. As someone who rides his bicycle through all four seasons and even at night, his favorite time to ride is Winter.