Beginnings of the GAP trail

One day you will wake up

And there won’t be any more time

To do the things you’ve always wanted

Do it now

Paulo Coelho

Ok a great week visiting friends in New England. Rented a car and we drove about visiting old friends and reminiscing. But a week in the car, still eating out. Ready for some bike time. Perhaps not the high adventure kind but literally a ride in the park.

Arrived Pittsburgh and returned car to 5th floor of bus station parking, grabbed our gear onto the elevator, packed, and off we rode into downtown Pittsburgh.

Bus station parking lobby
Separate bike lane in downtown

Pittsburgh definitely impressed us with its bike friendliness. We rode about a mile and were in the heart of it with separate bike lanes and cars were not overly intimidating.

Arrived at start of Great Allegheny Trail next to river confused by all the bridges, seeming to go everywhere. Somewhere we read Pittsburgh has more bridges than anywhere else in the world, with two big rivers there. The Allegheny and the Monongahela joining to form the Ohio River.

Bridge descriptions
Bike paths even amongst freeways

Finally on our way stopping at the waterfront of the town of Homestead for lunch. Quite the development and way too much lunch, but the beer was good.

Interesting developments though. Guide Book said reservations for hotels were recommended, but not my style. I prefer to wing it and have somehow convinced Jeanne it can be fun to see what happens. In this case we started looking and options were limited. Only one b&b located 30 miles along and when called it was totally booked. Uh oh closest next place is 5 miles (7 k) further along. A regular hotel which turns out is next to interstate highway. And 2 miles up the hill from bike path. Turns out we got its last room. We arrived and started calling along the trail. No motels but b & b’s and not spaced the 30-40 miles (40-65 k) we like. Today’s ride was 22 miles (35 k) as is tomorrow’s, but discovered places are booked as numerous places already full. We are now booked nightly for the next 9 days, whether we like it or not.

The riding is great though, as it seems to usually be, on a bike. After leaving Pittsburgh, again met our old friend the crushed stone dirt surface which is great. Cannot help but compare last weeks Erie Canal ride with this one and first noticed lots of bikers and many through riders. On the Erie Canal only saw maybe 5-6 the entire 380 mila(680 kilometer). Here we easily see that many in an hour.

As noted by the bike shop mechanic on Erie Canal it is not advertised much and not a huge amount goes into its development. No restrooms or water or camping facilities. Motels are along the way, certainly not specifically for bikers, but spaced about. But a great trail along a very historic canal system.

Here, have not met a single person who does not know of the trail. The gas station attendant miles before Pittsburgh questioned, why this time of year, but knew the trail.

This trail apparently was only completely done in 2013. It began in the 1970’s when the P&LE railroad, which had run since the late 1800’s, quit due to declining coal production. This has become a theme on this trip, every rural town appeared dying and every one said it was thriving in the 70’s.

Jeanne mentioned today it seems here people have had to rally for a living. And the bike trail obviously helps. There are little shops along the way. Towns have built bike paths through town and campgrounds are plentiful.

Old steel mills I guess
Rest along the Youghiogheny River
Great side creeks but occasionally one coming from an old coal mine with its sulphuric acid and nasty chemicals
Crushed stone and dirt trail rising
Whitsett, an old coal mining company town
Mileage markers
Rest in shade with high humidity
Old coke kiln for turning coal into coke , then transport to the steel mills
Our B & B for Saturday night in Collinsville

And so it goes another day on the bike and wondrous riding. A rails to trail, so grade is flat, although we are riding supposedly up a 1.5% grade. Whew.

nice to just cruise along but realize I have become afraid to step off trail into brush or grass as keep hearing about ticks and Lyme disease. One person noted it is now routine for anyone living in the east to check daily for ticks. Give me bears and moose. Whatever I am having a grand time

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