Good Life

Cyclists build a community in Millheim

Bob Vernon looks at the map for the evening’s 18-mile ride with Penns Valley Pedals and Pints bike club on June 30.
Bob Vernon looks at the map for the evening’s 18-mile ride with Penns Valley Pedals and Pints bike club on June 30.

Wednesday is bike night in Millheim.

The members of Penns Valley Pedals and Pints Bike Club have been spinning their wheels since May — but that doesn’t mean that they aren’t going anywhere.

Every week, a group of more than a dozen cyclists gather in the gravel parking lot behind Millheim Fire Company where they review the road map for the roughly 18-mile bike ride they are about to embark upon.

On this particular Wednesday, the club’s founder, Roy Rupert, has drawn out the route in great detail on a small white board hanging from the back of his truck.

Nobody in the crowd seems overly concerned with getting lost. Most are wearing the garb of a seasoned cyclist — helmet, bike shorts, jersey — plus, there’s safety in numbers.

“It’s very flexible. People can decide if they want to turn around halfway,” Rupert said.

Every Wednesday, riders kick $3 into a group pot, the price of admission and an act of altruism all rolled into one.

At the end of the season, the cyclists will bestow that money upon one from a long list of local charities that includes Penns Valley Hope Fund, East Penns Valley Library and Centre County PAWS.

“Some people throw more (money) in. It’s really nice,” Rupert said.

Rupert was struck by inspiration after reading about a similar club in Kentucky.

He said that many of the cyclists present in Millheim on Wednesday were acquainted well before last May. The bike excursions just give them an excuse to socialize in a completely different environment.

“The camaraderie and the rides here are fascinating,” cyclist Frank Vergamini said.

For Vergamini, the main draw of the club is Millheim itself. He enjoys the diversity of the landscape, an intermingling of hills, valleys and trees.

Of the several 18-mile routes the club has circled so far, Vergamini can’t even come close to picking a favorite.

“I tell my wife ‘that was the best ever.’ She says, ‘you say that every week,’ ” Vergamini said.

Among Vergamini’s fellow cyclists is Tim Bowser, co-owner and manager of Elk Creek Café and Aleworks.

Bowser appreciates having a little bit of company while peddling the roads of Millheim.

“I ride by myself most of the week so it’s nice to have a riding group,” he said.

Those friendly feelings remain once the kickstands are popped at the end of the night. Each week, Bowser gives group members a token for a free post-ride beverage.

“We built a little community. A bicycle community,” Bowser said.

The group will continue to meet at 6 p.m. every Wednesday through Sept. 14.

Frank Ready: 814-231-4620, @fjready