Adventures in Sports: An Authentic Outdoor Experience
By Elyse Stefanowitz
Dave Pryor hails from Emmaus, Pa, and has spent his life immersed in cycling. He worked as art director for Bicycling magazine, and more recently organized Monkey Knife Fight and Pennsylvania Perimeter Ride Against Cancer events.
Mike Kuhn is a Bucknell graduate who fell in love with the landscape as a member of Bucknell’s cycling team. He has organized the Transylvania Epic Stage and Iron Cross races and helped launch the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Cycling League.
Together, the cycling enthusiasts created unPAved Susquehanna River Valley in 2018, a high-adventure bicycle ride and race for all ages and abilities. The overarching goal is to provide participants with an authentic experience that combines everything that’s great about rural Pennsylvania: outdoor recreation, family fun, wildlife and hospitality.
Planning for the first unPAved Susquehanna River Valley began in 2013. The Buffalo Valley Rail Trail was gaining popularity and The Miller Center was under construction at the head of the trail. “All these puzzle pieces started coming together really quickly but we took a few years to plan it out to make it a premier gravel event,” said Dave.
In 2018, the event sold out, with 600 rider-participants. This year’s event will be capped at 800 riders who can choose from four distances: Full (120 miles); Plenty (90 miles); Half (54 miles); and FUNpaved (30 miles). The course, a reprise of last year’s, “mixes both beautiful scenery and well-kept gravel roads,” according to Dave.
Salvatore Filannino, a cycling enthusiast from Sayreville, NJ, affirms Dave’s sentiment. “The route is spectacular,” he says. “The Buffalo Valley Rail Trail was a great lead-out to the forest. The views were amazing. It’s my favorite ride of the season.” Sal completed the Full course and is signed up to ride in this year’s event.
“The riding was tremendous and truly showcased what the area has to offer” adds Matthew Curbaeu, a Boston native who placed first overall in the men’s Full course. “I’m really looking forward to the 2019 edition. I had a fantastic weekend in Lewisburg.”
Alison Tetrick came in first place in the women’s Full course division. “It was incredible to soak in the views, hospitality and gravel at unpaved,” she recounted. “The course offered the perfect combination of challenge and beauty. I am excited to return to the Susquehanna River Valley to participate in this stellar event again. It is a gift to be able to ride your bike on roads like these and make new friends along the way. It is a place that just makes you want to explore more, yet you feel like you are home.”
All skill levels are welcome and encouraged to participate. “FUNpaved is for cyclists who just got into riding but want to push themselves a bit,” notes Dave. “You’ll ride 9 miles of the rail trail, do some farm roads, climbing and gravel roads. Then you’ll return to Mifflinburg and take the rail trail back.
“The Half,” Dave continued, “is just a great bike ride. There is one substantial climb, two great descents and two vistas.” The Plenty is for folks who train for the race. The Full is for the serious cyclist as it boasts long climbs and technical descents.
“I don’t precisely remember when we hit it, but somewhere around the 48 to 50-mile mark we hit some of the gnarliest terrain out there,” recalls Matt, “complete with giant rocks, huge ruts and washed out sections from the rain.”
The top-three finishers in male and female divisions of the Full course are rewarded, in true Pennsylvania fashion, with whoopie pies, a Pennsylvania Dutch treat comprised of devil’s food cake rounds fused together with white cream.
Chris Ganter, an ex-Pennsylvanian and third place finisher last year, is eyeing the sugary prize. “After just barely eking out a podium spot, I’m super pumped to come back to my home state for another go since whoopie pies are on the line!”
The weekend surrounding the event will include activities to allow participants and their families to become better acquainted with downtown Lewisburg. Friday night will include the Get un(G)raveled pub crawl so riders can let loose and mingle.
On Saturday, the Lewisburg Fall Festival will be the setting for race registration and many family-friendly activities. The Wooly Worm Prognostication in Hufnagle Park will return as well as a kid’s bike rodeo.
The Miller Center and Lewisburg Children’s Museum will provide childcare, so parents can get in a quick bike ride to loosen up their legs for the big event. After the race on Sunday, the DONEpaved party will allow riders to celebrate their accomplishment with Rusty Rail beer.
Dave and Mike chose the Susquehanna Valley to stage the event because of its many high-quality attributes.
“People should be proud; people from all over the country are coming [to this event]. Even someone from Alaska signed up for FUNpaved. We are hoping to make this a special weekend for the region to show itself off.”
unPAved Susquehanna River Valley takes place October 13. Sign up at unpavedpennsylvania.com.