Thursday, November 21, 2013

Post #18: Bikeography Part XIII -- A Passage To Pittsburgh

Here I am starting one of the great treks of my Bikeist career --  Georgetown to Pittsburgh via the C&O Canal and Great Allegheny Passage (GAP) Trail.  This is me dipping the back wheel of my Bad Boy (equipped with indestructible 26 x 1.5 Armadillo tires) into the Potomac before heading West . . .

I left as the days started to get longer in May, but had to contend with some tough and slippery trail conditions all along the canal -- first day of about 70 miles brought me to Harper's Ferry in West Virginia, which still looks about the same as it did in the mid-1800's:

The second day found the same conditions as I continued gradually and constantly uphill toward Cumberland:

Heading out of Harper's Ferry:

These working water pumps were handy for the long stretches through the woods where I didn't hit a town or store for forty or more miles, but my stomach paid the price on day 3:

The scenery was worth any mild discomfort endured, though --

End of the C&O Canal -- thank God. Uphill the whole way, with lots of ruts, mud, and gravel. Beautiful ride, but it took a toll.  70 miles a day in those conditions was exponentially more difficult than my 60 - 80 mile training rides on pavement.  I strongly recommend keeping it to 50 or less for the C&O portion of this journey.

Progress!  Best part of completing the C&O was the shift to a well-maintained crushed limestone surface on the GAP Trail.  Many prefer to go Pittsburgh to DC, but I liked getting the tougher trail out of the way first and then breezing to Pittsburgh.

Turtles --the only wildlife slow enough for me to catch on camera while trying to cover 70 miles every day. Wish I could have caught the wild turkeys, great blue heron, owl, goldfinch, blue-birds, deer, fox, cardinals, beavers, turkey vulture, hawks, snakes, one red crossbill, and lots of butterflies as well.

This is me with Harry Beale, a member of the Navy's first SEAL Team (had the ring and card to prove it). He was waiting for me at the overlook just before the Continental Divide. He's 83, and used to run the 15 mile round-trip from his PA house every day until his knees started bothering him two years before. Now he bikes it. Yes, that is a holster on his right hip, and yes, it holds a large revolver. He said he started carrying it when a dog got after him on the bike. As I was pedaling off, I said I'd keep my eye out for the dog. Harry: "You ain't gonna have to worry about that dog, Commander . . ."

Big Savage Tunnel -- previously abandoned and impassable, it's renovation, complete with lighting was the final step connecting DC and Pittsburgh by trail --

Hill profile for Day 4.  Should have pointed my bike the other way -- I came up from the left side of the graphic on morning 4, and rode down the other side in the afernoon, to Ohiopyle. Next time, I'm going the sane way.  It was all downhill from the Divide to Pittsburgh, though . . .

Love, love, love biking across old railroad bridges!

Last stop before Pittsburgh!

Heading out of Ohiopyle on Day 5 --

After five days in the woods, it was going to be weird to be back in a big city --

Connellsville likes Bikeists!

My reward for 340 miles of biking through the DC, Virginia, Maryland, West Virginia, and Pennsylvania woods -- an evening enjoying one of my other big passions at one of my favorite Stadiums -- PNC Park.  Pretty much had the place to myself as the Pens were playing a Playoff game and the Bucs still stunk.  However, they did manage to beat the Cards that night.

Completing this ride was the culmination of a dream I had since college when I rode portions of the GAP trail in and around Ohiopyle, reading about the plans to connect the trail to the C&O Canal, making the DC to Pittsburgh through-ride a reality.  My present fixation is completing the entire Pacific Coast Bike Route, but it's hard to beat the GAP and C&O for the car-free wilderness experience they provide.  Here's a good place to start in planning your own through-ride:

Do it -- you won't regret it!

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