For several years , my friends and I do a annual long distance bike ride . The whole process was started by Mike and he has christened this ride as the Bear Paw Soap Company (my that’s good soap TM) . This year we decided to do the 147th 8th Annual bike ride from Pittsburgh to Washington DC . Happily the two cities are connected completely by bike trails , a rarity by any standards.
Pittsburgh is connected to Cumberland by the Great Allegheny passage and it is 150 miles of gravel /crushed limestone . I prefer wider knobby tires on trails like these
We started early and headed out to Pittsburgh where Mike’s brother had left us a bike for me to ride . Then we headed to West Newton where I drove off while the other 3 rode . West Newton has a great bike shop and a restaurant and a CVS in case you decide to do some last minute shopping .
We planned to meet in Connellsville. As I reached Connelsville , I found out that today was the historical re enactment of Gen Braddock’s crossing of the Youghigheny river. Before the colonies were free , General Braddock was summoned from England to help in the French- Indian wars. The campaign ended in a disaster with General Braddock ending up mortally wounded.
After everybody showed up , we decided to go check out Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater which is in a town called Ohiopyle also on the trail but it was 20 miles away from Connelsville. We needed to be there by 2:00 PM because they close at 4:00 PM and it takes an hour for the tour of the house, so we ended up driving to the place.
He designed the building so that the waterfall would go through the house , just mind boggling . One of my favorite books “The Fountainhead” written by Ayn Rand, had the lead character, Howard Roark supposedly based on Frank Lloyd Wright . I personally dislike Ayn Rand intensely and more so for her bigoted views but the book delivered an unmistakable message to me when I was all of 16 years old and something that I strive to , even now . Shakespeare puts it more eloquently “This above all: to thine own self be true”. Her message in the book was simple , that one must be original in their thinking. If you happen to be in Ohiopyle and not had enough of Frank Lloyd Wright , you can also go check out Kentuck Knob. Also Ohiopyle is a fair sized town to do any shopping / eating if you need to . I have managed to make some friends in Ohiopyle who inform me that they have some white water rafting tours . They drive you to a point upstream and let you loose and then drive down to meet you downstream after you have had your fill of white water .
But moving on , my friends were done and I had not ridden any yet so I decided to ride the 12 miles from Ohiopyle to Confluence by myself .
At Ohiopyle in the Youghiogheny river , I see people playing water volleyball
So I start riding and this is what the trail looks like for the most part
but since we were riding alongside the Youghiogheny and then the Casselman , it is punctuated by scenes like these
I saw this owl just chilling . Unusual to catch an own during the day .
I noticed a board which proudly declared that the Casselman river was healthy enough that fish , worms , insects and snakes were coming back so the Pennysylvania game commision had re introduced the American river otter into the Casselman after 75 years and the otters were thriving . I was gladdened to see that . I reached Confluence in less than an hour and we ended up staying at the Rivers edge cafe . It is a small cafe right on the rivers edge and one can hear the river bubbling by at night , it is a soothing rhythm that I could probably listen to and never get bored. Rivers edge cafe is a delightful place for dinner as well .
We had a sumptuous breakfast at the Sisters Cafe early morning and and got an early start on the ride and our first big sight was the Pinkerton tunnel
After that we stopped briefly in Rockport , PA where you see this beautiful bicycle sculpture. The smoke rings are bicycle wheels . There is also a bike shop nearby and a bed and breakfast which serves lunch.
Our next sight of wonder was the Salisbury Viaduct, an engineering marvel by any standards . The viaduct now runs across rail lines , a river , a freeway and fields and it is 2/5 of a mile long and 101 feet tall
Our next stop was Meyersdale , for shopping for biking merchandise and for lunch
For some reason , this church caught my eye . In California , the churches tend to be oriented towards the Spanish Mission style so the Gothic architecture is a pleasant change.
Our next sight to see was the Eastern Continental divide . This is the dividing line for water going to the Chesapeake or to the Gulf of Mexico
This picture gives us a good idea of the elevation involved.
The next sight after the continental divide is the Big Savage Tunnel . Scary movie makers , take notice!!! here are two dark dungeony tunnels , the Pinkerton and the Big Savage Tunnel, that hare brained cyclists routinely enter without lights , I see a wealth of opportunities for Slasher flicks .
But just outside the tunnel is this
Tim tried to fly here (or fall off the cliff )
It was barely 5 miles before we ended up hitting the Mason-Dixon line
and a super inquisitive deer that would not take its eyes off us
From here Cumberland was a mere trifle away (it is all downhill )and there ends our sojourn on the Great Allegheny Passage.
The Great Allegheny passage is a wonderful bike trail with a wealth of sights to see including wildlife and landscapes , experience riding on an viaduct , alongside rivers and in at least two dark and scary tunnels . It is generously dotted with bicycle shops , places to eat and stay . If you are a bike aficionado , obviously add it to your bucket list
Don’t forget to collect your certificate
To check out the remainder of the trip on the C&O , go here