Tanya Campbell talks butts on bikes, East Coast gravel, and the gemstone of Rothrock State Forest.
When Tanya Campbell was a little girl, her grandmother walked her dogs on Charcoal Flats, a trail in Shingletown. Tanya, her mother, and her daughter also enjoyed hiking along this same trail. The trail, just past Pine Grove Mills near the small town of Shingletown, is known for its series of four charcoal flats — large, circular flat areas where logs would be piled and allowed to smolder to create and one that was used to make iron ore. Or, in the words of little girl Tanya, it’s a place that is “rocky and awesome.”
“I remember walking with my family and seeing people riding mountain bikes. I can recall watching mountain bikers ascending off the lower rock trail, thinking no way, I could never! How do they ride those rocks? ” she says. “But now I can do that. I was riding that trail just before this interview with friends and two fifteen-year-old junior racers from out of town. It took a lot of consistent practice and passion, and now it’s one of my favorite places to ride. It’s an amazing progression.”
Not only did Tanya conquer the ‘rocky and awesome’ trails in her own life, but she’s made it her mission to bring that joy to women in Happy Valley through Happy Valley Women’s Cycling and Seasons of Rothrock race series that tackle gravel and mountain trails in the Happy Valley region in competitions throughout the year.
Why here, and why biking? It’s an emotional answer for Tanya, but one that’s remarkably easy to answer. Read on.
"Learning confidence and believing in yourself on the bike directly transfer into your everyday life"
- Tanya Campbell
Can you tell me your Happy Valley story?
"I was born in Centre Community hospital. In my younger years, I was up in Goss Hollow. Yes, that's right, a Hollow. Not many people can say they live up in a hollow. Although at the time I loved nature and playing outdoors, the time came that I turned into a social butterfly. I longed to have neighbors and more community; I took for granted what a beautiful, secluded area I lived in. Intact with my free will and independent nature, I moved to Happy Valley when I was seventeen and attended The Pennsylvania State University before settling in as manager and lead hairstylist at For Men Only Hair Salon. I have earned a living in State College for the past twenty-three years with my daughter Chloe. I am HAPPY to call myself a townie.
Can you tell me about the women’s biking organization that you’ve started?
Six years ago, Happy Valley Women’s Cycling was founded. Although initially formed as a women's road cycling team, we quickly pivoted into a women’s gravel and mountain bike race team. The mission is to advance women’s cycling in State College, PA, and beyond. Our vision is to mindfully inspire strength in our community through bike events and races. At the same time, we are getting more women riding bikes recreationally and competing on the race course.
The five pillars that HVWC stands on as an organization are strength, inspiration, mindfulness, community, and perseverance. Our entire mission and vision thrive with those pillars in mind. We are very focused on the benefits of biking for women and kids — it produces feel-good hormones, mental awareness, mind-body connection, reduced stress, heart health, fighting depression, better sleep, being connected to the outdoors, and finally, disconnecting from our phones.
"Our vision is to mindfully inspire strength in our community through bike events and races. At the same time, we are getting more women riding bikes recreationally and competing on the race course"
- Tanya Campbell
When I talk to ladies who are brand new to cycling, I often hear ‘I can’t do this’ or ‘I’m not strong enough, fast enough.’ I'm not ENOUGH is a common theme that ladies tell themselves repeatedly. The truth is they are exactly where they need to be to start. Ten times out of ten, they have more power and talent than they believe they do. They are more valuable to themselves and others than they think they are relating to being on the bike in fitness, skill, finesse, or in life to family, work, and personal development.
Learning confidence and believing in yourself on the bike directly transfer into your everyday life. Women know they have POWER they didn't yet realize was inside of them. Then the conversation's tone changes to empowerment, persistence, and excitement. They go from the ‘I can't’ to ‘I can’ to ‘I did,’ and ‘I will do it again’!
Once a woman shows up for a ride or comes to one of our educational clinics, they come away with strength and mindfulness connection to the community of women around them.
HVWC is a bunch of happy women, some have said. We are a female race team and we host other events and clinics throughout the year. We have regular Monday night Gravel and Mountain Bike rides. Where we meet, ride together at a friendly, fun social pace, and then hang out for some snacks and conversation. These are not training rides but rides that any level of cyclist can attend and connect with other women.
Jules Jackson hosts GET A GRIP, a bike retreat designed to inspire growth in an intentional environment where women feel renewed and more purposeful in their approach to riding, and life as a whole through the amazing sport of cycling.
GRIP stands for grow, renew, inspire and purpose, and those pillars guide our retreat programming that comes from Happy Valley Women’s Cycling resources to ladies around the northeast. Programming includes things like strength training, group rides, bike maintenance, and skills training. In this way, we give them a taste of what we have as a team: community, connectedness, and new levels of confidence on the bike. This 3-day event is May 5-7, 2023 at Camp Blue Diamond near Petersburg, PA.
Mary Ann Hanlon hosts a Girls Rock! The summer program is a foundational single-track program for girls to learn how to ride mountain bikes. It’s specifically for ages 11-13 and builds self-confidence in ways they may not get in other areas of life. They bond, and they ride. Honestly, it’s a magical connection. Think Unicorn...
Can you tell me about racing at Rothrock? What’s so special about the location, and how can cyclists get involved?
Three years ago, we started Rothrock Grit Gravel Grinder, a race over the rugged ridges of Rothrock State Forest. There are three distances — GRITTY 25 miles, GRITTIER 49 miles, and GRITTIEST 65 miles — with both competitive and non-competitive tracks. Historically, women have represented less than 25% of races and cycling events. Our team wants to change the status quo in the cycling community by having an equal number of men and women represented at GRIT. The race series is non-profit and raises money for the local cycling community. Since 2021 we have donated $44,000 to those initiatives by allocating 100% of the net proceeds from GRIT entry fees to community cycling initiatives programs like the Nittany Mountain Bike Association, Harvest Fields Community Trails, National Interscholastic Cycling Association, Girls Rock, YMCA, High Point Skate Park, PennsValley Pedals and Friends of Rothrock.
"We all deserve to have a healthy lifestyle, have connections and believe in each other. I love imagining something in my mind and then having the opportunity to create it in the physical world. People, adventure, energy, projects, bikes, communities connect together and come to life. We all need more LIFE and living"
- Tanya Campbell
The Grit Gravel Grinder is Session II of Seasons of Rothrock Race Series, four races with final awards to the King and Queen of Rothrock. To become eligible to earn the title of Series King and Queen you must compete in all four races at the longest distance offered in each race.
The races series was created in 2022 and highlight what we have here. We have Happy Valley, a thriving economic town that is ready to support and accommodate our guests. Then have a hidden gemstone, Rothrock State Forest. We provide local racing with a national-level vibe. We don't skimp on quality, categories, awards, podiums, or food and beverage. The mountain biking here is super technical and challenging. We feature part of the IMBA Epic East Coast rocks. Seasons races have something really special here for gravel and mountain bike community.
What's your WHY -- why are you so passionate about what you do in cycling in Happy Valley?
Wow, this question made me more emotional than I thought it would. I love my community and I love my ladies here. They deserve this. We all deserve to have a healthy lifestyle, have connections and believe in each other. I love imagining something in my mind and then having the opportunity to create it in the physical world. People, adventure, energy, projects, bikes, communities connect together and come to life. We all need more LIFE and living.
"You want to make your home the greatest place that you can. If you want something to change, then be the first to do it"
- Tanya Campbell
What makes Happy Valley so one-of-a-kind for you?
It’s my home. You want to make your home the greatest place that you can. If you want something to change, then be the first to do it. I love the people here, and there are people in leadership who are building a grand community.
What’s something every visitor should see (or eat, or experience) while they are here?
You need to go hiking in Shingletown. It is something that everyone can do. I work in a men's salon on Beaver Ave, and people ask me for recommendations. I tell them to get off campus and go to Rothrock Forest! Visit Shingletown or Musser Gap. It’s just so beautiful. Then go to Greenwood Furnace State Park, or Tussey Mountain, or Whipple Dam State Park. Get out of town. Nature has healing properties that we all need in this fast pace life. Get outside, it is free, and anyone can do it.