Team Laser Cats

Folks in Philadelphia who love bikes, cats, and snacks.

Erica’s Dirty Double Cross Report


At some point last winter, Lancaster-based Laser Cat Erica posted a link to our team race chatter about this very long ride she was thinking about doing. While there were a few curious parties, including the team’s resident Great Divide finisher Meghan and Dirty Kanza finisher Elisabeth, only Erica was bold enough to embark on the journey at the end of May…

Tom Oswald of Oswald Cycle Works describes his Dirty Double Cross gravel ride as “a 200-mile no-fee, no-frills, you’re-on-your-own adventure on the fabulous dirt forest roads in the Wilds region of north-central Pennsylvania.” What an adventure it was!

I had been tempted to join the maiden Dirty Double Cross event in 2017, but decided against it as I was wary to sign up for 200 miles with 15,500+ elevation with a single speed. Good call, past Erica! In February, after purchasing a geared cross bike, I knew I had to think seriously about making the trip to Mansfield, Pennsylvania, for the 2018 ride.


30 miles in, already eating bear scat (ok, it’s a bar)

As with any monumental adventure, it feels difficult to properly summarize the experience with words. If this report leaves you with questions, I encourage you to make the trip to Mansfield in 2019 for the Dirty Double Cross event. You will not regret it, unless of course you do. 

Northern Pennsylvania is wild and beautiful! Fourteen of us left Oswald Cycle Works at 5:00am in a light rain. Our spirits were high and my nervousness faded as I started to pedal. It is remarkable how one can go from feelings of impending doom and inadequacy to absolute joy and excitement when you start to move your legs in tiny circles. Also, how perfect does mud splatter feel on your face while riding bikes in the woods?



The morning rain made the very, very green forests absolutely SHINE. The weather forecast called for rain showers all morning and then thunderstorms all afternoon and evening, which could have made for an extra long day. However, the sun broke through sometime after noon, giving us the brightest blue skies filled with large, white puffy clouds. It was unbelievable. Our good fortune did not go unnoticed.


An unexpectedly beautiful afternoon of sun

The vast majority of the route was dirt and gravel roads, with paved roads used primarily as connectors. I smiled up most of the climbs and yipped down the descents. Lancaster has mainly short, punchy climbs, while the climbs in Tioga, Lycoming, and Potter counties felt unending, as they were several miles long. The corresponding long descents were breathtakingly fun. We would zip down winding dirt and gravel roads at 35+ mph. Many corners were even banked, leaving room for creativity.

What do you do when your knees are feeling fiery and you’re only 50-60 miles in? You channel your teammate Lindsay and write an embarrassingly short song parody about it to the tune of Ms. Alicia Keys’ “Girl on Fire.” The first 60 miles were challenging, but as I ate my breakfast in Slate Run, I knew I would only continue to find my rhythm and strength as the ride continued. The first 60 is just a warm up anyway. Right?

We rolled out of Slate Run to begin the 40 mile segment to Cross Fork, the halfway point and our second food/water stop. This segment kept us all on our toes by including some very punchy climbs and some snowmobile tracks/trails. The dirt and gravel surfaces were still wet from the morning rain and it was immensely entertaining to keep an eye out for the bright orange juvenile Eastern Newts. I really regret not having a photo of one of these little friends to show how cute they are.

We stopped briefly in Cross Fork to refill water bottles and buy food. It felt great to have 100 miles behind us! At that point we were averaging just under 13mph, which was better than I had hoped, although I fully understood our pace would slow as the day progressed. With 100 miles remaining, there was still so much fun to be had!

Thirty-some miles later, we entered the very appropriately named Hungry Hollow thinking we were nearly at our third food/water stop. There is nothing like the emotional whiplash of believing the next food stop is around the next bend to realizing you have a 6+ mile winding climb before you will arrive at said food stop. Sheila was certainly a welcomed sight at mile 140, as she offered good cheer, encouraging words, PB&J sandwiches, and green tea! Without her support, the afternoon would have looked quite different.

The climb out of Hungry Hollow and the climb up Route 44, two sequential, long-ass, demoralizing climbs, sucker punched me between miles 130 and 145, leaving me more tired than I had hoped to be at that point. However, sharp, close thunderstorms rolled in at 8:00pm, mile 155, giving me the focus necessary to push hard for the next 20 miles. With the heavy rain, the tire tracks on either side of the dirt roads turned to streams, causing us to take the descents a little more cautiously. Toads were loving the rain and were out in numbers on the wet roads, while the Spring Peepers’ chorus was so loud that it easily shadowed the sounds of the heavy rain, the thunder, and the buzz of our tires.


Elk Run Vista, just before the thunderstorms

During the final 25 miles I would alternate between being very stoked and feeling proud of myself to being very ready to be done. It felt like a cruel joke to roll past Hills Creek State Park, where my hammock was patiently waiting for me, to continue on back into Mansfield. Blaire Campbell–my very strong, rad, bad-ass, new Vermont friend–and I finished at 11:43pm.


How are there only 14 people riding this incredible route?

A Short Summary of Food Consumed, in Chronological Order, for Curiosity’s Sake

  • Blueberry Crisp CLIF Bar (Breakfast)
  • Dunkin’ Donuts Iced Coffee
  • 1 Tall Water Bottle
  • 2 handfuls of almonds (food of the gods)
  • Strawberry Apple Cherry Chia bar (Pressed by KIND)
  • 1 Tall Water Bottle
  • 1 Tall Water Bottle with Skratch Labs Orange
  • Ham, Swiss, Egg Croissant (Second Breakfast)
  • Glazed Doughnut (Third Breakfast)
  • 1 Tall Water Bottle
  • 1 Tall Water Bottle with Skratch Labs Raspberry
  • Banana Nut Muffin
  • Packet of Welch’s Fruit Snacks
  • 1 Tall Water Bottle
  • 0.5 can of Coca-Cola
  • Apple Pie Larabar
  • Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwich (Thank you Sheila!)
  • 1 can of Green Tea (Again, thank you Sheila!)
  • 1 Tall Water Bottle with Skratch Labs Orange
  • 6 Fig Newtons






2 thoughts on “Erica’s Dirty Double Cross Report

  1. Great write up on the DDC Erica, I will be doing part of the loop this year with a few friends. Found your story inspiring….


  2. Erica – thanks for a colorful and real overview of this ride. I’ll be escorting a budding who’s doing the entire 2019 ride, meeting up with him at 61 miles and riding through the finish for a total of 140’ish miles. This will be my longest ride ever. I think the packet of Welches Fruit Snacks is essential, IMO. Hope to see you out there again this year!


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