By Roger Barbee
It is a well-known fact that anyone riding a bicycle needs to be mindful of traffic.
Cars and bicycles are potentially a costly mix for the driver and the rider. That fact is even more relevant for me as I ride a three-wheeled bike, and I sit about 3 inches off the pavement in an inclined position, pedaling with my arms. Therefore, I am careful about where I ride and have an orange flag on my bike.
Over the years, I have come to enjoy four courses that I have found to be as safe as possible for me, and I ride each often. One of these courses is in Hamburg, an area west of where I live. I park at the Bethel Lutheran Church and make a mile circuit along Hamburg Road, Headquarters Road, and back to Bethel Lutheran Road
Any person who exercises outside by walking, jogging, running, or riding chooses favorite routes because of many factors. As mentioned, safety is one important component, but so are others such as convenience, terrain (hills hurt but reward), or scenery. This last one abounds at the Hamburg route. First of all, Bethel Lutheran Church is a well-maintained older structure that is surrounded on two sides by its cemetery and is enclosed by one of the most beautiful and intricate wrought iron fences I have ever seen. The steep slate roof protects all and is decorated at the ridge. The slate steeple, with its bell, rises as if to pierce the sky. One day I hope to enter the church to see the stunning stained glass windows from the inside. (Did you ever notice how stained glass windows and people are alike -- they both show their best from the inside.)
Yet I must get my ride in and so I am off to turn on Hamburg Road, where I will be watched by three or four beautiful mules from their pasture on my left. They will be there for each lap, looking and wondering, I am sure, about my sanity. Pulling up the rise, I will be aware of G.B.'s entrance and on the lookout for heavy equipment, but I still will take notice of the beautiful old house that sits alone on the right. Its large front porch tells of family footsteps long since gone, and its green shutters have begun to sag. Passing it, I change to a higher gear in preparation for the great downhill on Headquarters.
I make the turn and begin to crank with the downhill, but I don't want to go too fast. If I did I would miss the view of Great North Mountain off to my left and Wolf Gap. The field next to the road had been mowed and the smell of fresh hay rises to greet me. Cirrus clouds drift across the azure sky, and as I pass the Heischman's house I dodge a dead bird in the road. Then I begin the steeper downhill, but must slow to make a sharp right-hand turn back onto Bethel Church Road. Coming down this hill I carefully negotiate the turn onto Bethel Church Road and huff up the last hill to complete the mile loop.
I enjoy the loop, the people I meet here, and the history of Hamburg.
Two weeks ago, Randolph and Jane came to visit. He and I shared much conversation about the valley, as his wife Jane patiently waited. He told me of growing up in the Hamburg area and attending Hamburg School before joining the army. I mentioned a house on my Hamburg route that I had come to like, especially the small rectangular building behind it. Well, that was, Randolph told me, the house he had grown up in and the small building that I liked so much had been the first store that his father had opened during the depression. His father had managed to borrow enough money to build and open the store and while he was at work in the feed mill, Randolph's mother ran the store. They did so well that they later built a larger store, and moved the first one behind the house for storage -- all of this during economic hard times.
With the conversation with Randolph I was given more history. The next time I slow to make the turn onto Bethel Church Road, I will see that small building differently. It now has a history that I know -- the history of a man and his wife believing in themselves enough to borrow money and to make something. All during hard, economic times.
Roger Barbee is a retired educator who lives in Edinburg with his wife Mary Ann, four dogs and five cats. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.