It was time to cross what would likely be the toughest terrain of the USA so far and probably the hardest days ride for about 5 weeks until we reach Glacier National Park. We slugged up and over a few appalachian ridges climbing then descended a couple thousand feet before then reach the Allegheny mountains. With 20 miles to go I had completely ran out of water, I felt weak in need of liquid and sugar. Pausing halfway up a climb I couldn’t even rest on my handlebars as the sweat and sunscreen pouring out my arms made it impossible.
An Ice cream sandwich and a few soda fountain refills saw me good to Rockwood where we camped for the night. Joining us that evening for a chat was Dani currently heading south towards Washington DC. Me an Eal tried and failed to get a fire going with the damp wood so we ended up just sharing touring tips for and hour to come and she handed us a todo list for when we get to Pittsburgh, nice evening.
I was so excited to jump on the rail trail known as The GAP the next morning. It runs from Pittsburgh all the way to Washington DC, switching to another canal trail from Cumberland, Maryland. It didn’t disappoint, each town has an information board with trail maps and leaflets for the current town, previous town and next town with all the information you would expect, campgrounds, restaurants, attractions etc. I can hardly remember being so happy to be on my bike. The trail itself has an excellent solid flat surface following the river as it weaves inbetween the Allegheny mountains, no climbing and no cars!
It was great to see how all the towns along the way had really taken to being a trailtown, with local businesses adopting names like “Trailside Cafe” and banners on each street corner advertising local walks and rides, not only does it bring tourists like us but it has clearly had a powerfully positive impact on the lives of the people who live here.
That day we cruised a short 35 miles too Ohiopyle and setup camp at the state campground, ramen noodles for tea and marshmallows by the fire for dessert. We are staying with my friend Joe in Pittsburgh for a few days but aren’t due until Thursday so we had a few 35 mile rides on the trail ahead of us, smart casual riding I call it, I’m glad though because we get to enjoy these cool towns a little more along the way.
Back on the trail the next morning we were joined by another rider, Tom from Delaware. He had arrived late at the campsite the previous night and pitched on the next plot. He caught up with us the next morning and we talked a little, he told us in the early hours of the morning when he woke up he saw a bear out of his tent window walking between our plots. Just after telling him we are really trying to space out the days ride so not to arrive at the next campground too early he managed to get a rear flat. We pulled over and helped him fix up, he replaced his old worn tyre with a spare folding tyre he had brought. About 30 minutes later and ready to go again I looked down at his wheel, it was flat again with the new tube and tyre just replaced!
We started again with another new tube checking the tyre and rim for gravel and sharp edges. Another half hour passed and we eventually set off, not half a mile down the trail though and his tyre did not look like it was holding air. Something was seriously wrong with the folding tyre. Eventually after several flats and about 3 hours passing he managed to get his rear tyre solid. We got into Connellsville at 2pm just before a huge storm. We stopped and shared a pizza with Tom as the sky turned black, the rain picked up and the lightning started to crack. The storm was so bad you could hardly see down the street so we dipped in a bar for an hour to wait it out.
Tom had planned on an 80+ mile ride that morning as he heads up towards Michigan, he scrapped those plans and decided to join us at a primitive volunteer maintained campground further down the trail. It was great talking with Tom, particularly about football. Unlike most Americans it was his number one sport which he plays and one of his sons. Unfortunately he was an Arsenal fan but we got to talk transfers and the upcoming season.
Tom left early the next morning but I had told him to give me a shout when he was going so I could say bye. Me and Eal managed to hit the trail pretty early ourselves, today I was buzzing more than ever. This afternoon we would arrive in Pittsburgh where we are staying with Joe for a few days. For those of you who did not read my last blog, I met Joe at the start of Kentucky and we rode together all the way until Pueblo Colorado, reducing each other to tears laughing so hard on a daily basis. Me and Joe have remained good friends for the past 2 years and chat on a regular basis, looking forward to this reunion for a while.
He had a lunch meeting so we agreed to arrive around 3pm but with afternoon thunderstorms forecast again we decided to arrive early and just hit somewhere for food until he was finished. We had barely gotten onto Carson street where he lives and crossed some lights and there was Joe walking right towards us, a little cleaner shaved then when we departed but same old Joe trying to pick up phrases we are coming out with and laughing at our choice of words, sentence order and pronunciation. Daft as a brush.
We spent a couple of days watching Workaholics, too funny, drinking and eating at just about everyplace along Carson street in Pittsburgh, such a good time. Friday night was a particularly big night. We had made Joe some bangers and mash to line the stomach and headed out bar hopping. The next morning me and Eal had heavy heads, Joe went for a five mile run! Later me and Joe went to a place called Church Brew Works for dinner, you can probably figure from the name and pictures what the place used to be. Then we took a ride up mount Washington (in the car, this area claims to have the steepest street in the world) to get an amazing overview of downtown Pitts. Thanks for the awesome stopover Joey, just like the Transam days, can’t wait until next time.