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A Welcome Addition to the Business of Bike Tours
By Colin Maddix
Editor Note: This article first appeared in Cycling Circular, the magazine of the Western Pennsylvania Wheelmen Bicycle Club. Capri Cycling Tours can be reached at 412-697-5460. Another company that hosts tours of Southwestern PA is "Allegheny Valleys Bicycle Tours," which can be reached at 412-824-3844.
We all admire people who take a risk to start up a business and then work hard to make it succeed. When the business involves cycling and the people are local WPW members it is even more gratifying.
Tim Townsend and Debbie Capri have hit on a great formula for their new company, "Capri Cycling Tours." The formula is to provide affordable tours limited to a maximum of 12 riders, pampered by a bike mechanic patrolling the route, a mini-bus sag wagon in case you get tired, all-you-can-eat lunches, highlighted by an overnight stop at an historic inn. In addition, cue sheets, maps and road marking are laid out by Tim, the WPW Northeast Quadrant ride leader for the past four years.
I was fortunate to be on their first tour on May 31, when Capri Cycling Tours hosted an overnight trip to Punxsytawney, PA. We left the small town of Avonmore on the banks of the Kiskiminetas River at 9 a.m. The first 54 miles took us through the quiet, rural landscape of Indiana County to the unique Amish community of Smicksburg. Tim had chosen routes that combined the most scenic spots with enough hills to make the ride comfortable, avoiding the "killer" hills that make most Western Pennsylvania rides famous. We passed Amish communities, stopped to admire two covered "Kissing Bridges" and lingered at the secluded Blue Spruce Park lunch, having extra portions of the bicycle-shaped pasta salad.
The overnight stop was a the historic Pantall Hotel in Punxsytawney (where Bill Murray stayed in the movie Ground Hog Day). The rooms and in-suite bathrooms were big and clean with comfortable beds. The meticulously restored Victorian bar seemed suspended in time. After dinner, we walked across the street and took a photo session with Punxsytawney Phil in his "natural" habitat, complete with video introduction of the traditions of Ground Hog Day. Our bicycle mechanic worked on our bikes in the hotel's restored stable area, now used as a garage, then locked them up for the evening.
Sunday's ride was more of the same great countryside. One rider pulled a muscle and in order to prevent further injury, opted not ride the rest of the tour. The support team sagged her back to her car without any fuss.
You can see why I am excited about the success of this enterprise. Tim sweep the route, helps anyone who needs it, and chats about the local history. Any "C" (on levels A-D, with A as the toughest ride) rider who is able to do 50 miles a day would enjoy this tour. "B" riders would enjoy an optional 17 extra miles on the first day, and can speed ahead as the route is clearly marked.
Tim and Debbie organized "The Smicksburg Century" (fifth anniversary) on August 9, and will do the Punxsytawny tour again on October 18 and 19. These are two events not to be missed.
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