Allergic to Pennsylvania

A week ago, I signed up for a bike ride with the cycle club. It was the first official club ride I had done since the ride to the Peekskill Brewery for the Pig Roast back in late June. That ride was on the second day of summer, but last week’s ride was most certainly a fall ride. Not only had the temperature dropped almost 20 degrees from the day before, bringing a distinct chill to the air, but it’s also leaf peeping season.


The ride started and ended in Trenton, New Jersey. From there we went crossed the Delaware and headed north along the west bank of the Delaware to tour some covered bridges before finishing at a brew-pub in Yardley, Pennsylvania.

NYCC Covered Bridges ride

Our first stop was in Washington Crossing, about ten miles from Trenton. It was a familiar sight because I had been there in July as part of my ride to Philadelphia.

George Washington Crossed Here

It was a bit after leaving Washington Crossing that I began to feel as if my eyesight was a little off. I couldn’t figure out why, either. It felt as if my eyeglasses were crooked or something. I also noticed that my hands were really warm and itchy. At that point, I took off my long-fingered bicycling gloves, but then I got really cold so I put them back on. The itchiness returned, and I remembered that last summer, Bike Snob NYC broke out in mysterious case of hives as he rode on Long Island. I wondered whether I was having a similar allergic reaction. When we arrived in New Hope, about twenty miles into our ride, I looked in the mirror and noticed that my eyes were swollen.

Swollen Eyes

I was indeed having an allergic reaction. Finding the cause was the least of my concern at the time. I needed to stop the swelling. We stopped at a general store, and I bought a pack of antihistamines. I was so worried about the swelling that I doubled up and took four tablets and continued the ride in search of covered bridges.

We found one, which was as quaint as you would expect.

Van Sandt Covered Bridge

And then as we approached the second, we found that it was missing. The bridge was, as they say, out.

Covered Bridge #2

That threw off our whole ride because we were to ride over that bridge to the other side. We considered detouring but found that it would add about seven miles to our ride. We were already collectively discouraged because we had lost two of our riders earlier in the day, and I was still swelling up like a balloon. We felt that our best bet was to find the most direct route back to the main road, PA-43, and continue towards our lunch stop.

Along the way, we saw some very pretty signs of fall, such as the canal that runs parallel to the Delaware River outside of New Hope.

Water Like Glass

There was also this majestic tree that caught my eye.

Autumn Riding in Pennsylvania

And, in observance of Halloween, someone put some “witches” in the field. Or at least I hope that someone did that.

Witches in the Field

But my favorite colors of the day were these beers from the Vault Brewing Company in Yardley, as that meant that our ride was essentially over and I could stop freaking out about my allergies.

Flight at the Vault

As far as allergies go, I’m a total rookie. I have never been allergic to anything in my life so I didn’t know how to handle an allergic reaction. Apparently, taking four antihistamine capsules was kind of a bad idea because one pill can make most people drowsy. Four should have rendered me unconscious. And then I had that flight of four beers.

Needless to say, there were no more photos for the day. After coasting for five miles from Yardley to Trenton, I boarded a New York-bound train and didn’t wake up until we arrived at Penn Station, an hour and a half later. I rode home after that and proceeded to sleep for the next eleven hours.

A week later, I still never figured out what caused the allergies. My therapist, which I know is the wrong kind of doctor, suggested that I likely inhaled some exotic pollen on the ride and that I just reacted to it. That’s the best explanation because I am not sure how I am going to live if I am allergic to bicycling. And that seems more plausible than being allergic to the bagel with cream cheese and lox I ate that morning (or the cheeseburger I ate the night before).

I’d much rather just be allergic to Pennsylvania.

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  1. I come and go.. spent time in Florida.. Puerto Rico.. Chicago.. and only in Pennsylvania do I get allergies.. I’m trying to look up if there’s a specific plant here.. but I can’t find anything.. at the moment I’m in Reading.. and stepping out side means runny nose and itchy eyes..

    1. I’m sad to report that I now get the runny-nose-and-itchy-eyes allergies at home in NYC too. But thankfully, I’ve not encountered swelling-and-itchy-skin allergies that I got on that trip to Pennsylvania. It was like what someone with a shellfish allergy gets when they accidentally eat a shrimp.