Day 6: Harpers Ferry WV to Georgetown, then to Capitol Hill in DC – 66 miles, Journey Completed!

I have to put a disclaimer here – I am completely worn out and can barely keep my eyes open.  So if there are lots of typos and poor grammar, it is to be expected…

Last night was one of the most relaxing evenings I have had in a while. We hung out in the rectory at St. Peter’s in Harpers Ferry, washed our laundry, listened to the trains go by, popped some popcorn, watched Field Of Dreams, and promptly passed out. I slept so well.

After dinner, we found out that one of the local B&Bs stocks a fairly large room with various goods for hikers and bikers coming through.  We went in search of breakfast items. We bought some milk and a large blueberry muffin for the morning.

After our breakfast, which consisted of lucky charms, milk, a blueberry muffin, and an energy bar, we packed up at a leisurely pace and set out. Our first stop was a little shrine to Mary behind the church. We asked for her intercession for safety and good weather. 

 The weather report for today predicted rain at some point.  I am happy to say we saw no rain at all!  However, we saw a lot of mud.  It rained overnight and soaked the trail.  There were stretches of decent conditions, followed by areas with lots of puddles and mud.  My legs and bike were absolutely covered within the first hour of the ride.

There are not very many towns along this stretch of the C&O, so we planned on riding a bit and eating energy bars until we found a place to eat.  About 20ish miles, I began to notice that I was needing food badly.  We came across Whites Ferry and stopped at the snack bar, hoping to find something to eat. It was still pretty early in the day, so the grill wasn’t up yet.  We settled for some prepackaged snacks and moved on.

Whites Ferry has the only working ferry boat on the Potomac river.  We contemplated taking the boat across and back, but decided against it since we wanted to get to DC soon. 


You’ll notice on the building, there are flood markers.  Check out how high the water has gone in the last few decades.

Without any decent meal, we continued on, hoping to find something to eat.  We had no luck for a long distance.  When we finally reached the Great Falls, we stopped at the snack bar and each grabbed a Nathan’s hot dog. I really needed the food, and boy was it a good hot dog.  My outlook on life improved significantly. 

We then walked out on the pathway over the Great Falls.  It is really amazing to see that the same glassy-calm Potomac from a few miles back is choked down to a very small and rocky passage.  The roar of the water is pretty neat. 

At this point, we were only about 20 miles from our destination and we were anxious to get there.  So we packed up and pointed down the trail towards Georgetown. 

The trail was very congested at spots, but we were able to navigate well and made good time. Along the way, we saw several blue herons and a couple more turtles.  We also saw a jet-black squirrel.  I’ve never seen a black squirrel before.

Outside of Georgetown, we decided to jump on the Capitol Crescent trail because it is paved!  We missed out on seeing a few pretty neat historical things, but after feeling like I was going to rattle my brains loose for the previous 350-ish miles, pavement looked pretty awesome.

We rode all the way to the Thompson Boat Center and found our way to the elusive Mile 0 marker.  It is very hard to find, but I had done a little digging on the Internet and knew where to look.  It is located at the original gate between the Potomac and the C&O canal.  This non-imposing little gate is tucked away in a corner behind the regatta raft garage.  However, this gate holds modern significance, too.  It was known as the water-gate of the canal.  And immediately across the road is the hotel named for this unassuming little trench: The Watergate Hotel. 

After a couple of pictures, we set about trying to get to our destination: St. Peter’s on Capitol Hill.  We slowly picked up some trails and sidewalks to get to the memorial area.  We briefly stopped in front of the Lincoln Memorial to snap a quick picture and then started weaving our way through pedestrians eastward to the mall.  There were a lot of people in town and it was slow going. We traveled up next to the WW II memorial and then stopped in front of the Washington Monument to take a celebration picture. 

We kept on dodging and weaving along, slowly making our way up the mall.  Near the end, we happened across some sort of festival.  Some people were eating a mango. Some of you know that fresh mangos are one of my favorite things in the whole world. Combine that with 60+ miles of riding and I became single minded!  I found the fruit seller who graciously cut a very large mango up for me and put it into a plastic bag. I ate about half of it in record time as Joe watched.  I saved some for a little later after dinner.

 We made the climb up Capitol Hill, and turned down the street to St. Peter’s.  Two minutes later, the rectory manager greeted us, helped us get our bikes stowed away, and showed us to our rooms in the rectory. 

After hosing off my bags and shoes, I took a very much needed shower.  We walked up to Pennsylvania Ave and looked for food. We wanted a nice celebration dinner, with the no-fries rule strictly enforced. Dinner was at the Hawk and Dove.  We ate, recalled some funny moments of the trip, and celebrated. I capped off my dinner with a slice of cheesecake.  Everything went down so easily.  It was very tasty and I was very hungry.




When we got back, Fr. Bill was cooking himself some very delicious linguini with shrimp. I know it is delicious because I had a small serving and it was very good!

After second dinner, Fr. Bill and I took a very nice walk around the Capitol and Supreme Court, through the surrounding neighborhood.  The air was beautiful and the sky was blue. We chatted and got to know each other a bit.

Now, it is time for bed.

I’ll put together a final installment with some thoughts about the trip.  Until then, peace! 

Day 5: Hancock MD to Harpers Ferry WV – 65 miles

Today started with a simple breakfast at the B&B. We got out early knowing our longest ride day lay ahead.  We wished Ben good bye, and chatted with Chris and Sarah about the trip to Harpers Ferry since they were heading there, too.


We began the day continuing on the Western Maryland Rail Trail for a few miles. Near its end, you can (should?) jump off and rejoin the C&O canal path.  We decided to go to the end, which takes you to a road that runs to the north side of Fort Frederick.  This was a really nice detour, but involved a pretty long and steady climb.  By the time we got to the top of the climb, we were out of breath.  However, we turned right and this took us on a long descent into the Fort Frederick park.

We didn’t intend to really spend any time in the park, we were just going to pass through on our way back to the C&O which passes by the southern park entrance. We parked our bikes and wandered into the fort to snap a quick picture.  A minute later, a park ranger came around the corner and enthusiastically gave us a quick tour and told us a lot about the fort.  He then asked if we had five minutes, and we said we did. He jogged off and grabbed some keys to open one of the barracks rooms.  He pulled aside the “don’t touch anything” gate and invited us in.  He gave us a really awesome overview of everything from the beds to the weapons.  He clearly enjoys his job and shared that joy with us.  What a nice surprise for us today! 




We jumped back on the bikes and pedaled on. Some beautiful scenery and many locks to see. It is very pretty, with a dash of history added in.  The C&O follows the Potomac river the entire length from Cumberland to DC.  You are never very far from the river, and for most of the trip, you are only a few feet away.




There are several dams along the Potomac.  They create large slack water areas and allow for water-power to be harnessed. In the past the water turned various kinds of mills.  Today, there is some hydro electric power being generated.  The most obvious impact, though, is that these slack water areas create huge recreation areas for boating and water-front parks and homes.

We stopped at dam 5, which was the scene of several attempts by Stonewall Jackson to destroy it during the civil war.  Watching the water spill over the dam, you get a real sense of the power behind the river. 


Our next stop was Williamsport MD for some food. We stopped in the Cushwa Coal building to look around.  Not really much to see.  However just before, I had stopped outside to eat a banana and snap a picture.  As we left, as if by divine intervention, Chris and Sarah showed up and hollered over. They had found my phone that I had set down.  Wow, that would have been a disaster if they had not shown up.  I am so thankful for good people whom God has sent my way.

We pushed up into town and grabbed lunch at The Desert Rose cafe.  It was really good!  Simple sandwiches and really friendly people.  I ordered a grilled cheese and tomato sandwich and Joe got some red beans and rice.  It tasted so good and the wonderful people working there made the meal even better! 

We looked at the weather and decided to push on quickly to try to get to Harpers Ferry before too late in the day to avoid rain.

The trail conditions today were pretty good, mostly. A few squishy spots and puddles, but it was easy to dodge most of the messy parts.  Shortly after passing Shepherdstown, we ran into a crew working on the path.  They had scraped it up and were probably preparing to lay down a little bit of gravel.  It was such a mess.  It was like riding on cookie dough. The tires sunk in and bogged us down terribly.  At one place, there was about 10″ of muddy gravel we had to slug through.  We nearly didn’t make it without falling over.  Next, we caught up to the dump truck for the project that was chugging its way down the path, making huge tire ruts and bumps in its wake.

A few miles later, he departed and we were back to cranking our way towards Harpers Ferry.  Around 2:30PM we arrived at the bridge on the Potomac that crosses over to Harpers Ferry.  There is a trick, though. First you have to take your bikes and gear up 43 steps of a circular metal staircase before getting to the bridge deck. After cycling 65 miles, carrying everything up stairs takes not just physical determination, but some mental determination too.  We survived the staircase and walked the railroad bridge into town.  

I had made arrangements ahead of time to stay at the rectory at St. Peter’s church here in Harpers Ferry.  So we had to get there first. This involved some short, but steep, climbing.  It was a nice exclamation point on today’s great day of cycling.  The view from this little house is really great, looking over the river, train tracks, and local historical architecture. 

       After a shower, we set out in search of dinner. The “no fries” rule is still in effect, so we looked at a couple of menus and decided on a hamburger at a local place, whose name escapes me at the moment.  I had one of the very best hamburgers ever made.  Perfectly cooked, thick, with crumbly blue cheese and a garlic aioli on it.  Some chips, great cole slaw, and a soda finished it up.


Incidentally, in the middle of dinner, who should walk into the restaurant?  Chris and Sarah, of course.  It is becoming kind of interesting to anticipate where we will see them next.

So we are hunkered down tonight at the rectory, washing our clothes and relaxing a bit.  We are ready to finish our journey tomorrow.  We will go find mile marker 0 of the C&O, then take some other bike trails into the National Mall of Washington DC.  We have about 60 miles to the end of the canal, then another 4-5 miles to get to the Capitol. So it will be a long day to finish.  The weather is supposed to rain overnight and hopefully hold off for most of our ride tomorrow.

It’s been a great journey, but I am looking forward to getting home to my family soon.

Day 4: Cumberland MD to Hancock MD – 60 miles

Last night, after dinner in Cumberland, it stormed.  It really stormed.  It rained a lot.  The good news is that we were safely in the Fairfield Inn watching the chaos from the window.  The bad news is all that rain was soaking the C&O Canal Path that we were going to be riding in a few short hours.

 We woke up early and got our first breakfast downstairs at the Fairfield.  I ate a couple bowls of cereal and some fruit to get started.  We were on the trail by 7:15AM.  The first 10 miles of the C&O were muddy – real muddy.  Puddles everywhere, and thick mud.  Fenders were definitely helpful, but my legs were still completely covered with mud, and our bikes were coated in mud.  I hit one puddle that perfectly hit my leg, ran down, and into my shoe, then out the vents in the front.  By that time, I was so wet, it no longer mattered… from there forward, embrace the puddles!

 This part of the canal is a little sparse for services, so we carefully looked over internet maps for places to get food and water.  There are really only two good spots to stop for food: The Schoolhouse Kitchen in Oldtown, and Bill’s Place in Little Orleans.  We decided to stop at both because of the distance we were covering today.

Our first stop was at The Schoolhouse Kitchen in Oldtown for our second breakfast.  We were both hungry already, and this was pretty much the only choice for another 20 miles.  This is an old high school which is now a vocational school.  At one end is an automobile shop and the other end is a kitchen.  We went in and enjoyed some local company.  The people there were super friendly.  The food was very basic, but reasonably priced.  I had a couple of eggs and Joe had some pancakes.  Nothing super great, but it filled us up for the next stretch.

This part of the C&O is very rural.  The canal has patches that still hold water, but most of it is an empty ditch with trees growing in it.  The path is not maintained, it is packed mud with a little gravel here and there.  There was a lot of debris on the path from small twigs to some 2-3″ branches.  And of course, the puddles of doom.  The towpath is also very bumpy.  My arms were pretty sore, my hands were numb, and I think I probably rattled a filling loose somewhere along the way.  I would also say this is a mentally taxing area to ride because you need to be ever vigilant to avoid hazards.

      The next major landmark on the canal is the Paw Paw Tunnel.  This 3,118 foot tunnel was carved out without the use of power equipment, to allow the canal to pass through a hill.  It took the team nearly 14 years to blast and chip their way through.  It is lined with 6 million bricks.  There is no lighting in the tunnel, so you have to dismount your bike and walk through on the very uneven surface of the old towpath.

       After exiting the tunnel, we kept up a decent pace.  A while later, we finally arrived at Bill’s.  I’ve been to Bill’s once before in 2012 on the Rails To Trails’ Greenway Sojourn tour.  Joe had not.  Two very good reasons to stop at Bill’s: there isn’t anywhere else for another 20 miles to get water, and Joe had never been there.  We walked in and ordered our lunch – a fish fry that was not too shabby.

 Describing Bill’s place can’t do it justice in words, nor pictures.  But I’ll give it a shot.  Imagine a small bar, small restaurant, small grocery store, and jukebox joint wrapped in one.  Then place it in the middle of nowhere.  That’s Bill’s in Little Orleans MD.  Without Bill’s, I think Little Orleans would probably lose at least half of its population.  According to 2010 census, the population of Little Orleans is 42 (Wikipedia link).


At Bill’s place, one thing you can do is examine the dollar bills stuck to the ceiling.  Back in 2012 when I came through Bill’s place, I gave him a dollar bill with my name and date on it.  I was quickly able to find my 2012 dollar bill in the entertainment corner over the not-working pinball machine. Joe also gave them a dollar to put up, so if I come through here again, we’ll have to look to see where they put it.

 With the obligatory stop at Bill’s out of the way, we turned our attention to arriving at Hancock, MD, our stay for the night.  There is a converted rail-trail, the Western Maryland Rail Trail that parallels the C&O for 22 miles of glorious, mud-free, puddle-free, butter-smooth pavement.  After the rattling of the C&O, we gladly jumped on and rode this into Hancock.  It was spectacular to have a nice paved path for a while.  It is so much easier pedaling, and your body seems to forget what it is like to be able to coast a little.  Joe and I were comparing and decided that our century 100-mile ride earlier this season was probably easier than the 65 miles on the C&O today.

After about another hour on the rail-trail, we arrived at Hancock MD.  We stopped in the C&O Bicycle shop at the edge of town.  In there we ran into Ben – a guy we met at our first night’s stay in Connellsville.  We swapped some recent stories about our travels and discussed possible dinner plans.  He’s staying at the same B&B tonight with us.

Our home for the night is the Riverrun B&B in Hancock.  I really like this place.  Nothing fancy, but very well laid out and very clean.  Certainly check it out if you need to stay in Hancock!  We pulled in and got our keys.  We also got something equally as critical: a hose.  We were covered in mud from the waist down, and our bikes were so caked that the gears weren’t quite shifting properly.  We hosed off ourselves, our bikes, and our panniers before stepping foot into this nice lady’s immaculate B&B.  We set our shoes out to dry and went about getting settled in.

      After a hot shower with lots of soap, we went in search of dinner.  One pre-requisite for dinner: it must NOT come with fries!  It has been a little challenging to eat as healthy as I’d like along the way.  You sort of have to take what you can find in a lot of cases.  Tonight, we decided to strike out in search of pasta.  First we walked back to the bike shop and bought a T-Shirt, then walked about a mile the other way to the Park and Dine restaurant.  Although the interior looks like a time-warp to the 70’s, the food was very good and the service was also good.  I had spaghetti and Joe had linguini.

 On the way back we stopped in at “Buddylou’s Eats Drinks & Antiques” for a beer.  We ran into a guy named Mike that we met at the hostel in Rockwood.  One of the things I’m really enjoying about this particular tour is that we keep intersecting our journeys with other people’s journeys.  I didn’t think I’d ever see Mike again, but here he was.  We gathered at the bar, ordered our brewskies and talked for about an hour.  Mike is heading to DC for his daughter’s wedding.  He told us about the 4,200 mile trans-america tour that he and a friend did in 1982.  It was a lot of fun getting to know him a bit.  I dropped him my email and told him to give me a shout if he ends up in Lexington some day.

When we arrived back at the B&B, we ran into yet another acquaintance: Chris and Sarah, the man and his daughter we’d talked with in Rockwood, and again at the Continental Divide.  We chatted with them in the kitchen.  Again, it is really neat to know others are on a similar journey, and to intersect lives a little for a few days.

So tomorrow is another day of riding.  60-ish miles to Harpers Ferry WV.  We will start with a few more miles on the paved rail-trail, then back to the C&O for the duration of the trip into DC.  The weather is supposed to be good in the morning and chances of storms later in the afternoon.  Our objective is to get to Harpers Ferry before any storms hit.  Keep the prayers coming, we’ve had super riding weather (ok, add some prayers for mud to dry up overnight, please).

Day 3: Rockwood PA to Cumberland MD – 46 miles

We wrapped up our stay in Rockwood and got out very early today, hitting the trail at 7AM.  The weather forecast looked like storms in Cumberland and we wanted to get done before they hit.

At the Rockwood Hostel on Main, the railroad tracks run right behind the building about 40 feet away. Last night we put a few coins on the tracks to get some CSX made souvenirs.  Joe had never smashed a penny before.  We found most of them, but looked a little this morning before leaving to try to find the rest.  No luck.  I’m guessing somewhere west of here is a boxcar with a curious copper smudge stuck to its wheel.

This section of the Great Allegheny Passage has some great things to see: bridges, tunnels, and the Continental Divide.  After leaving Rockwood, we very gradually climbed a few hundred more feet as we took the picturesque route east.  More beautiful water falls. More scenic wooded areas.  More gentle cool breezes.

The first great thing to see is the Salisbury Viaduct.  It is an old railroad bridge that spans 1908 feet, over 100 feet above the valley below.  It crosses over route 219, the Casselman river, and the CSX rail lines. It is one of my favorite parts of this route. You get a spectacular view of the surrounding countryside and the thrill of being so high above the ground.


A short distance past the viaduct takes you to Myersdale and the old train station, now a visitor’s station.  We decided to skip the visitor’s station in favor of heading into the town of Myersdale to look around. Joe really likes his morning coffee and so we decided it was a good opportunity for us to see some new things and get him some java. 

   To get into the town, you go downhill about a half mile.  We found the G.I. Dayroom.  What a terrific find that was!  The nicest people in the world were all gathered for breakfast.  We sauntered up to the counter and decided a second breakfast was in order after seeing the food being served. Several different locals all chatted with us about the world and our bike trip.  I ordered a plate of home fries and watched as the cook prepared them right on the other side of the counter.  No exaggeration, these have to be some of the best home fried potatoes I have ever had.


I find something beautiful about these little towns. Everyone is friendly and genuine. The pace of life isn’t about fancy cars and style.  Family is important and conversation is more important than the latest cell phone.

After a few minutes of conversation, we signed their guest registry and climbed back up the hill (ouch!) to the GAP.  After the last two days, my legs were pretty rubbery climbing up a prime example of one of Pennsylvania’s steep hills.

A few miles more took us to the highest elevation point of this whole ride, the Eastern Continental Divide at 2392 feet. We ran into Chris and Sarah, a dad and daughter whom we have been leapfrogging for the last two days.  After the obligatory pictures, we kept moving towards Frostburg. 


The nice part of reaching the top: it is all downhill for the rest of the day, sort of.

The next big iconic part of the trail is the Big Savage Tunnel.  Built in 1911-1912, and abandoned in 1975, this is former railroad tunnel that had fallen into severe disrepair.  It was converted for bike traffic and restored with some fancy drainage system to keep it from caving in again. It is about 3,300 feet long and really chilly inside. It is pretty well lit inside but still requires some careful riding skills due to the darkness. 

Upon exiting the tunnel, you are treated with one of the best views anywhere.  It was a bit overcast today, but on a good day you can see really far. 




Next stop was the Mason Dixon line, separating PA from MD.  There is a nice monument there with the actual state line.  We met a nice young family heading to Pittsburgh.  We stopped and chatted for a while and pushed on to Frostburg, MD.  Their daughter had a ride mascot too, so we snapped a picture of Mr. Hamster, Leo (Joe’s mascot), and Fluffy the Penguin.


We decided that when we reached Frostburg that we would go up the switchbacks into the train depot area in search of the elusive ice cream.  After making the climb, nothing was open.  Not a peep.  Like a ghost town. The train only runs some days, and today wasn’t one of those days.

The last 22 miles from the divide are all down hill.  It felt good to have a gentle pedal down. The last two days of gentle climbing were taking their toll on my legs.

We arrived in Cumberland a little after lunch and stopped by mile 0 of the GAP, which then begins the C&O canal path which will carry us into DC over the next 185-ish miles.

It is customary to kiss the mule’s behind when you arrive.  So we did. 


We checked in at the Fairfield in Cumberland, scrubbed up, and went in search of food.  The Crabby Pig has been good to me in the past, so ribs it was.  And 22 ounces of frosty coldness to wash it down. 

Joe and I walked down to the Queen City Creamery to get some long sought after ice cream. Well worth the wait. 

Back at the hotel, I took advantage of the washer and dryer to clean our clothing.  It will be nice to have all clean gear tomorrow.

Not sure what activities we have on tap for tonight but I expect it will be very subdued. I am super tired and ready for bed already.

Next stop, Hancock MD. 

Day 2: Connellsville to Rockwood PA – 48 miles

After arriving in Connellsville yesterday night, we got cleaned up and went to The Paintroom for dinner. We had some very tasty wings, most of a pizza, and two cold Blue Moons.  Along with some conversation and a few hearty laughs, we refueled and relaxed.  We returned to the B&B and tried very hard to stay awake. By 9:00, it was clear I was losing that battle and I turned in.  I slept like a log, tired out from our long day’s journey. 

Our accommodations at The Connellsville B&B were really great. Lucy and John have a super-clean place and the breakfast is the best B&B breakfast going.  Well prepared, well presented, and oh so good.  I definitely recommend their place if you are cycling through.   

Over breakfast, we talked with a new friend, Ben.  He lives in southern West Virginia and is riding solo on nearly the same itinerary as we are. In fact, we will run into him again at our B&B in Hancock.

We made it out in time for 8:00 AM mass at St. Rita’s church. Fr. Bob gave us a nice blessing as we left and pedaled towards our destination.  What a great way to start the day.  

The weather today was very beautiful and a touch on the hot side.  No clouds to block the sun, but at least the skies were pretty and blue.   

We arrived in Ohiopyle a little before lunch, about one third of our day’s distance.  We stopped by the brand new Visitor’s Center which has a lot of information about the area, the wildlife of the region, a little about its history, and some great views of the falls.        
Next up was lunch at the Firefly Grill.  A club sandwich, some hand-cut fries, and a bottle of Gatorade did the trick.  I hate to think about the number of calories I am eating … but I am very certain I am burning nearly all of them.      
Back on the trail and we hit a lot of bike traffic coming towards us. The Rails to Trails Conservancy had their annual Sojourn with 350 riders coming our way. It made it a little hard to navigate around sticks and branches, but we managed.

As we approached Confluence, we had planned on taking a little detour into the town.  I really enjoy these little towns along the path. Simple places with friendly people.  At the edge of town, some young ladies met us, wearing old-time dresses and encouraged us to head into town.  They told us of free ice cream to be had.  I’ve been craving ice cream, and haven’t been able to convince Joe to stop and get any so far.  Yay, free ice cream!

We detoured into town and went to the local bike store.  Joe bought a very, uh, cute bell to put on his bike. He says he is going to give it to his daughter when he gets home.  I promised not to tease him or ask for his man-card.  The bike shop was also giving away freebies.  I won a band-aid dispenser. Joe got a discount on a pizza – which we didn’t use.

With the local bike shop checked off the list, now for that free ice cream!  We finally found the distribution place only to find that they had already stopped giving it out.  Sadness.  I decided to go across the street to the tiny grocery store that advertised ice cream. I found an off-brand “Nutty Buddy” cone.  It sufficed but left me still wanting more.

The heat was picking up and we headed out of town, trying to get to Rockwood as quickly as possible.  I didn’t realize how low I was on water.  A little while later, Joe was able to share his with me.  One of the blessings of riding with a friend is watching out for each other.  I am thankful for such a great riding buddy.

We arrived at the Pinkerton tunnel and stopped to grab an energy bar and take quick look. The last two times I have been here, the tunnel has been completely blocked off because it was unsafe to go into. The ceiling was caving in and it was not safe.  The tunnel is pretty short, and to bypass it adds about 1.5 miles around the “Pinkerton Horn”.  They are making great progress at restoring the tunnel and it looks like they should be done pretty soon!   

A few more miles of beautiful scenery, runoff water falls, and a gentle climb brought us into Rockwood. We had about 900 feet of gentle climb today, and our legs were beginning to feel it.  It was nice to see the edge of town and know we were about done.  We checked in at the Rockwood Mills shops for our room at the hostel down the street.

We asked about places for dinner and the lady said “it is Monday, so, um, this is it.  We have pizza and sandwiches here.”  Pizza it is (again).  Last time we were here we stopped at the Rock City Cafe, and had some funny memories, so we thought we might go back. It is closed on Mondays.  Bummer.

After a shower, we returned to the shops and found Ben.  We had some nice conversation as we waited for a couple of Stromboli (what is the plural of Stromboli?).  We decided to buy a few pastries for our breakfast tomorrow so we can eat at the hostel and get out very early tomorrow.

So, after a great day, we are resting and making plans for our ride to Cumberland tomorrow.  Weather looks good early with storms late afternoon.  We hope to be in Cumberland by lunchtime to avoid the heat and rain.

The ride tomorrow has a lot of great stuff: tunnels, bridges, a steam train, the Mason-Dixon Line, and of course, the eastern Continental Divide.   Cumberland, here we come!

Day 1: Downtown Pittsburgh to Connellsville PA – 62 miles

We got going pretty early, grabbed a little breakfast at Carol’s place and headed out to The Point.  This is a park at the confluence of the three rivers: The Allegheny, Monongahela, and Ohio.  There is an iconic fountain there that I have always wanted to see up close… So we started there. This is officially the Mile 0 of the Great Allegheny Passage.

Stephanie and Carol dropped us off near the park and watched as we rode off to the fountain.  A little sad to ride away from my wife for the week, but I am glad she was there to say goodbye. 

We had a spectacular surprise as well. My friend Mary, who I met in 2011 riding this same trail, came to see us off at the point. She is one of those people who just makes you happy to be around.  We talked a little and snapped a few pictures. She will be moving to the west coast, so I don’t know when we will see each other again.

We rode out and had to find our way to the Avenue of the Allies, which is the best way to get to the GAP trail.  A few blocks on this downtown surface street took us to the GAP trail on the north side of the Monongahela river.  A few miles later we crossed the Hot Metal Bridge to the south side, near the strip district.

The Hot Metal bridge is named because it used to carry molten steel in crucibles across the Mon river to the rolling mills on the opposite side.  According to Wikipedia, during World War II, 15% of America’s steel making capacity crossed over the Hot Metal Bridge, up to 180 tons per hour.  The bridge now carries cars and has a completely separate bike path not on the roadbed. Very safe and a great view of downtown.

We then went through Homestead, the site of some famous strike-breaking confrontations between labor and steel mill owners.

We wound our way through homestead, McKeesport, and Boston, and the city started to fade away.  The path becomes a crushed limestone path, canopied with trees and really nice rock formations.  Many small waterfalls dot the southern side of the path. Cool breezes and shade were our companions for much of the ride.

We found our way to the Trailside Bar and Grill in West Newton.  I got a nice fajita-style wrap and a lot to drink.  The only rain we saw today happened while we were eating lunch. It poured for about 5-10 minutes and then stopped.  So we didn’t get rained on at all today!  Much better than the weather forecast had predicted.

A little while later, we joined up with a couple from Michigan who are riding to DC as well. We rode about 10-15 miles with them and chatted.  A few miles in, we had a slight mishap.  A tree had fallen completely across the trail during the recent storms. I saw it and had to stop… Joe was right on my wheel and locked up his brakes, skidding into me.  He fell over, but we were fortunate that it was just a soft grassy area next to us.  Nobody got hurt.

Another few miles and we arrived in Connellsville and checked into our room.  I find it amazing how good a shower feels after a hard day of riding.  Next priority: food.  Lots of food.  And a cold beer.

Tomorrow: through the beautiful laurel highlands, and on to Rockwood.


Friends and Acquaintances 

Yesterday we drove to Pittsburgh and stayed with a friend I made while hiking the Camino de Santiago last month. Carol and her husband Greg put on a marvelous feast of burgers, chicken, salads, and more … with pie for dessert.  Ah, why not, I’m about to burn a zillion calories this week!  Put the ice cream on!

We arrived in time for mass at their parish right down the street. It was a beautiful church and we felt right at home.  I love how friends we meet through Christ become family so easily. 

After a great dinner, great conversation with her lovely family, and a little re-packing, I hit the bed and slept well.

On to day 1… From The Point.  Stay tuned!


8 days to go to the 2015 trek!

Well, it is getting close, so it is time to test out the blogging gear.  For last year’s journey, I didn’t really write much or post any blog entries.  This time, my trusty iPhone will be coming along.

This year will be a self-supported trip with my riding buddy, Joe, from downtown Pittsburgh to downtown Washington DC, right on Capitol Hill over six days. And, of course, my trusty mascot Mr. Hamster will join us as well.  It is just us, no SAG wagon or food truck.  I’m looking forward to being out of pocket for a few days.

8 days to go!