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The Greencastle Great Escape – Still Great!

In June we held our fifth annual Greencastle Great Escape, and I’m happy to report that it is...still great!  Especially this year.  Temperatures never got above 81, the humidity never above 50 percent, and – except for a bit of cloud cover Friday morning – the skies were mostly clear.  And, best of all, despite a forecast suggesting otherwise, there wasn’t so much as a hint of rain the entire weekend.

Some new routes were added to this year’s ride list.  One of them, the 50-mile “Monterey Pass”, climbs Old Route 16 to Blue Ridge Summit – familiar territory for many in the BBC, but with a new twist:  it goes through the Monterey Pass battlefield.  Never heard of the Battle of Monterey Pass, you say?  Neither have most people.  That’s because historians consider it a skirmish rather than a full-fledged battle, part of the Union harassment of Lee’s army as it retreated from Gettysburg.  It was fought mostly along Old Route 16 and Charmian Road, at the time part of the Waynesboro-Emmitsburg Turnpike, and resulted in the capture of more than 1,300 Confederate soldiers and a Confederate wagon train stretching over nine miles.  The core of this route was joined with an older one – the 54-mile “South Mountain” – to create the 67-mile “South Mountain Combined”, giving riders a second climb up South Mountain.

Also added were a series of routes called “Villages in the Valley”, which gives riders options to ride five routes ranging between 37 and 53 miles while visiting five to nine villages on the eastern side of the Cumberland Valley, enjoying spectacular views of South Mountain along the way.  All five routes converge on Windy Knoll Farm Market and Creamery for lunch.

We gathered at the ride start at Antrim Township Community Park at 9:30 on Friday morning and quickly sorted ourselves into three groups.  One group, consisting mostly of riders attending the Great Escape for the first time, opted for one of the venerable “Strawberries and Cream” rides with a lunch stop at Trickling Springs Creamery, which features ice cream from “happy, grass-fed cows raised on family farms.”

 Another group, mostly returnees from previous years, wanted to ride the new, longer version of “Fort McCord”, which also has a lunch stop featuring a dairy product – this time raw milk cheeses – from happy, grass-fed cows.  Unfortunately, the Cheese Haus at Whispering Brook, despite on-line reviews crediting it as having the best hoagies in Franklin County, no longer serves lunch (although they still sell raw milk cheeses, plus jams, honey and other items you’ll find in a country store).  Fortunately, for those who wanted a sandwich for lunch, there was a UniMart less than four miles ahead.  And the ride still has the best scenery in this breathtakingly beautiful area.

Finally, three of us decided to ride the new “South Mountain Combined”.  We ate lunch at the Sheetz in Rouzerville; not exotic or fancy, but they have good sandwiches and clean restrooms.  Another rider, who had come up for the day, joined us for the “South Mountain” part of the route and the first of the two climbs up South Mountain.

 Saturday morning saw a larger-than usual crowd at the ride start.  The largest group chose to do the “South Mountain Combined” ride.  Those of us who did it the previous day were looking for a different (and longer) ride, so I dug out the 67-mile Shippensburg ride from the on-demand file and turned it into a more challenging 76-miler by adding an optional nine-mile extension that climbs Baltimore Road to Big Flat on top of South Mountain – a climb that was about equal in vertical gain to the combined climbs on the other ride.  We ended up with six people riding to Shippensburg, with four of us riding the extension, and met  up again when we stopped at Windy Knoll for dessert.

As in previous years (and as they also do at the Washington County Getaway) Michael and Evie Reinsel hosted a happy hour in their room at the Comfort Inn, after which we all headed to town for our evening meal at the John Allison Public House and our traditional dessert at Mikie’s Ice Cream.

The weather forecast for Sunday had been kind of iffy, resulting in several participants deciding to leave early.  As it turned out, though, the weather favored us.  Some riders decided to do one of the “Villages in the Valley” routes as a recovery ride despite Windy Knoll, the designated lunch stop, not being open on Sundays, while the rest of us headed west.  Of the latter group, a few rode the 30-mile “Just in Time”, with a stop at the One North Coffee & Bake Shop on the square in Mercersburg.  The rest of us rode the 44-mile “Foot of the Mountain”, swinging by the Blue Spring Buffalo Farm to ogle the newborn calves before heading through Mercersburg enroute to lunch at the Foot of the Mountain Restaurant in Cove Gap.

All in all, a great weekend!  See you next year.

Phil Manger

Photo credits:  Jim & Becky Matsakis, Mary Menne, Susanne Morsberger, Wendy Moskowitz, Cristina Truica


Special thanks to Michael & Evie Reinsel for their hospitality.

Greencastle 2019