Roth Rock Ride
State College, Pennsylvania
While Joe Paterno's Nittany Lions rule State College, Pennsylvania, there is more to this town than pigskin and pilsner, namely, mountain biking.
Pausing for some water and a bite to eat four hours into the legendary R3 ride, I'm mesmerized by the ancient hemlock forest. The steady rain has drenched everything and heightened the trees' pungent aroma. The country's oldest stand of hemlocks, protected here in the 90,000-acre Rothrock State Forest, are a defining highlight of the Roth Rock Ride.
Another is the rocks. "Tombstones," as they are called by some, are the awkward-shaped stones that stick a few inches out of the ground at all angles. Bike-handling legend Greg Herbold, who rode R3 in 1999, recommends getting your weight back, spinning an easy gear, keeping your momentum, and letting the front wheel wander a little as it searches for the path of least resistance.
At the end of the ride, be sure to hit the go-kart track across the road for some more thrills. Later, cruise back into State College for a three-course meal featuring the local cuisine: beer/pizza/beer.
Location: The Roth Rock Ride is located south of State College in central Pennsylvania. Interstate 80 is just 10 miles away.
Length: 30 miles
Elevation: 1,000 to 2,400 ft
Climbing: 4,500 ft
Terrain: Mix of dirt roads and technical singletrack
Season: April to November
Highlight: Oldest and largest grove of hemlocks in the country
Details: Purple Lizard Maps, http://www.purplelizard.com
Club: Nittany Mountain Bike Association, www.Nittanymba.org
Shops: The Bicycle Shop, State College, 814-238-9422, http://www.thebicycleshopinc.com
Freeze Thaw Cycles, State College (814) 272-0178
Lodging: Centre County Convention and Visitors Bureau, 800-358-5466, http://www.visitpennstate.org
Brew: Yuengling Lager, oldest brewery in America (1829)
Coffee: Saints Cafe
History: Rothrock State Forest is named for Dr. Joseph Rothrock, the father of Pennsylvania forestry
Famous former resident: Susan DiBiase, champion mountain biker
Must do: Go to a Penn State football game.