This past Saturday – April 27, 2013 – I participated in the 8th Annual Pennsylvania State Police Benefit Bicycle Ride in the Sweetest Place on Earth – Hershey, PA. Now, the “Annual” part of the name is a little misleading – as it did not occur last year; however, it is the 8th time they’ve had the ride.
I’ve been fortunate enough to participate in this ride a number of times over the past few years – and I always found the event to be well organized and a lot of fun. The number of different courses offered lets cyclists of all levels ride:
- Family Friendly 6.6 Mile Course
- Hershey Highlight 14.3 Mile Course
- Hershey Countryside 15.8 Mile Course
- Memorial Lake 32.5 Mile Course
- Mt. Gretna 40.2 Mile Course
- Few Optional Courses to mix it up
The start time is at your leisure from 8:00 – 12:00 with finish time to be 4:00 p.m. Riders are typically treated to a light lunch upon completion of the ride (usually Subway subs, Turkey Hill beverages and ice cream).
This year’s ride was a little bit of a letdown compared to years before. I’m not sure if the year’s hiatus caused the organizers to get a little lax – or – if that year’s hiatus occurred because no one took the reins last year. Maybe there were brand new organizers this year.
The attendance seemed lower this year, too. And for such a fantastically beautiful day, there was no reason for it. The winds were low and there were very few clouds in the sky. The morning was crisp, but not uncomfortably cold. Truth be told, it wasn’t advertised too well. I heard it was being held this year from my brother – and had to ask him if the ride was planned for the day. Even a Google search brought up the 2010 event before the current one.
Arriving to the starting point on Saturday morning, there were very few signs directing riders into the parking area. Had I not participated in years’ past, I would have had a hard time trying to figure out where to go.
The check-in staff wasn’t too well-versed in the courses. My brother and I weren’t sure which course we were going to take – but finally decided on the Mt. Gretna course. When I asked which length that was, I was told it was the 32 mile ride. As I picked up the cue sheet and returned to my bike, I noted that it was actually the 40 mile ride (which was A-OK with us!). My point is that they should have known.
The road markings along the way (on the Mt Gretna course) were ok. A few intersections that should have been marked had none – prompting us (and a few other riders we spoke with) to stop to make sure a turn wasn’t missed. Coming out of a rest area, it was not clear which way to go – causing a confusing few minutes and some doubling back.
As we came to the end of the ride, we looked forward to the light lunch that was typically served. The Subway subs and Turkey Hill beverages were available – but that was about it. I think there was a little more offered in the past – and I definitely remember the Turkey Hill ice cream (ice cream is one of the reasons for riding, isn’t it?). No such dessert treat this year. Now, truth be told, the food really isn’t that important – but it’s a noticeable difference from years past.
Also notably missing was the support at different intersections by the State Police. In years past, heavy traffic intersections were staffed by police – who made sure it was safe to travel by bicycle. There was no traffic support this year. Maybe it’s the budget cutbacks in the state government….
The $35 fee (day-of-event registration – which I always do in case the weather is lousy or I’m just too lazy to ride) is fair. Most participants of organized events expect a payment in that range (unlike the flyer I received on my windshield for a separate future event asking for $50-$75 registration fee – no thank you).
As this event rolls around again next year, chances are pretty good that I’ll ride it again. The roads are in great shape and it is some beautiful countryside. And it gives me a chance to be an Inappropriate Competitor – and that’s reason enough to attend for me.
If you attended this year (and in years past), I’m curious to hear what you thought.