There are stories scattered all over Lancaster County. Stories of escaping to freedom, fighting for racial justice and forging a path to the White House.
These spots are everywhere but they’re hard to notice from a speeding car. Slow down a bit and the stories are easier to find.
On Saturday, June 15, The Story Ride will string together stories at eight spots throughout Lancaster County on a bike route and end the afternoon with a meal served on a farm. In its second year, the ride is a way for organizer Michael Charles to combine two of his passions.
“I love learning about places and history. I also love riding a bike and the social element of doing it with other people,” he says. “And when you’re on a bike, it’s a great way to get to know a place. You’re going slow, you’re taking it in, it’s multi-sensory.”
Charles’ father, Jonathan, helped organize a similar bike ride for Lancaster Mennonite Historical Society. At each stop, storytellers shared tales about Native Americans and European settlers.
“We just had a blast,” says Michael Charles.
Why not take the idea, make the ride longer and organize it annually, he wondered. So he created The Story Ride. Last June, about 50 people signed up.
People started at the same spot and rode at their own pace. At each stop, they heard a short story. One story in Washington Boro explained a conflict between fur traders. Another in Columbia introduced poet Susanna Wright.
Charles likes how biking helps people connect with a place more than if they were looking on from a bus. Also, pedaling along at a slower pace is similar to the speed of our 19th century ancestors.
Brock Miller of Manheim Township signed up for last year’s ride because it mixed two of his interest: “One is history and learning locally and the second is the outdoor adventure or exercise,” he says.
Miller was daunted by the 40-mile route, so he went on a few longer rides to prepare.
He kept up and one of his favorite stories was about the beaver trade wars among Native American groups and settlers along the Susquehanna River.
“It matters that a lot of blood was shed, innocent blood, in a power grab,” he says.
Knowing this history helps us understand struggles that exist in our country hundreds of years later, Miller says.
After the tour ended, Miller didn’t stop biking. He logged about 2,000 miles last summer.
The first ride was so much fun, Charles decided to go for round two this year. Working with local historians, he picked eight new sites. Most of the stories are connected to the Underground Railroad and African-American history. That’s a coincidence, but as more Underground Railroad history is uncovered, it’s a great time to explore, Charles says.
There’s also a 20th century stop in Conestoga about First Lady Florence Kling, wife of Warren Harding. Kling’s family has roots in Conestoga before they moved to Ohio.
After the ride, everyone will gather at a farm overlooking Washington Boro to share a meal catered by Himalayan Curry and Grill.
Charles wants people to leave the tour with a better understanding of where they live.
“When I’ve done these things, I’m always amazed how little I knew about the place where I’ve lived my entire life,” he says.