June 5, 2015 - Day 1
After driving to Pittsburgh International Airport the ride began . . . slowly as loading gear on the Co-Motion was burdened by working in the “black hole” rental vehicle return area. No one was certain of how to reach the beginning of the Montour Trail, a trail permitting bicycle access to the airport. Joanne, a helpful Avis employee working in the black hole, tracked down Officer Tony of the Allegheny County Police Department and the burly Marine (there are no former marines) arranged for Officer Cervone (former Army) to lead us to the beginning of the Trail. As difficult as getting ready was, the courtesy of these people made the start more pleasant.
Actual departure was delayed when the NCOIC (that’s me) could not find his knee brace, so let’s make this more personal. I had strapped my recently acquired replacement ACL brace to one of the front panniers and as we were about to follow Officer Cervone I noticed it was not there. Cursing my stupidity I limped back to the Avis black hole. The Dodge Grand Caravan had already been taken away to be prepared for another renter, but after a couple of radio massages was returned; unfortunately, no brace. As I returned to Đại úy Chuck I realized I was wearing the damn thing! The Đại úy agreed to not mention my faux pas.
|Tunneling the Montour Trail|
|Nearing the end of Montour Trail|
Montour Trail was a pleasant surprise with its varied terrain, fragrant flowers and friendly riders and pedestrians. Unfortunately, the Trail got us only as far as Coraopolis where we could find no one able to direct us to a trail that would avoid very urban, very hectic Pittsburgh. We asked for help from the guys at PAVE-RITE, but their knowledge of bike trails was lacking. They did know the terrain of the area and recommended a route that was not overly physically demanding. They also shared their Pittsburgh humor and Gatorade, both were greatly appreciated!
One downside to following a route suggested by pavers was the heavy truck traffic. The second was (OMG) several miles of one-way road construction; Route 51, West Carson Street. Urban riding is tedious and demanding requiring focused attention to traffic and traffic control and I like the challenge . . . for a while! One downside to following a route suggested by pavers was the heavy truck traffic. The second was (OMG) several miles of one-way road construction; Route 51, West Carson Street. Urban riding is tedious and demanding requiring focused attention to traffic and traffic control and I like the challenge . . . for a while! Đại úy Chuck has an entirely different perspective. Traffic sounds, shifting balance avoiding obstacles, stops and starts and the vibrations of numerous passing dump trucks create negative sensory overload. Đại úy Chuck has an entirely different perspective. Traffic sounds, shifting balance avoiding obstacles, stops and starts and the vibrations of numerous passing dump trucks create negative sensory overload.
|Stop for photo opportunity and . . . oops!|
|Heinz Field from Three Rivers Heritage Trail|
Much of the early parts of the Trail leaving Pittsburgh is a physical mashup traversing parking lots, ducking behind warehouses and circling behind restaurants and other commercial properties. Soon after stopping for a water and bar break at Waterfront Bike Rental we reached what seemed to be “the real trail.” Soon after, reality of another sort caught up with us in the form of thunder and lightning. Don’t stand under trees. Seek cover. Uh huh. Only trees around and nothing resembling cover so what do you do? POR; press on regardless while Đại úy asks “How close was that?” meaning the one that lit up the sky. “Not too close” say I.
|Near the beginning of the GAP|
|Make a left and go that way!|
If there was a sign indicating we’d reached the GAP I missed it, but somewhere south of Homestead we’d met one goal; survive PBG and ride the GAP. Our next goal was to reach Boston and get some rest at Yough Shore Inn (or Manor if you read the sign), an eclectically decorated B&B. Our hostess, Lin, was great and the accommodations quite satisfactory. Her facility is used almost exclusively by bikers and by hikers who can pitch their tents on the lawn behind the building. It is also one of the stops for rides led by Adventure Cycling. Bikes are kept secure on a deck accessible only from inside. She provides a wide variety of useful food; bananas, yogurt, cereals, muffins and bagels and puts you to bed on one of her uncommonly decorated rooms. Lin offered a ride to Woody’s, a nearby Italian/American restaurant, where Đại úy Chuck turned shrimp and scallop risotto into alfredo because he wanted their made-in-house pasta and I did fast work on spaghetti with meatball. If we spoke at all it was single words. Lin spared us the ride back, too.
|Chuck and Lin|
|Not The Magnolia Room|
|Another of Lin's rooms|
Fifteen of the first fifty miles were difficult, but the Montour Trail, Three Rivers Heritage Trail and the GAP made-up for everything difficult. Day two should take us to Connellsville or Ohiopyle, forty or fifty miles. Already it is obvious that even the most stressful part of the ride was getting through PBG. We'll worry about DC and Balto when we get there.