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!