We have been eagerly awaiting our next big adventure all winter. Jeremiah is now fully vaccinated and I am 80% after my first dose of Moderna a few weeks ago, perfect timing for a bike tour. Jon (also fully vaccinated) was also ready for an adventure so he jumped on board.
We rented a minivan for a one-way drive to Pittsburgh with our bikes and left early this morning. Despite construction and an overturned gas tanker, we made the drive in decent time. There was just enough time to meet my manager for the first time in person at Sly Fox. After a drink and some pierogies, we rode across the street into Point State Park and to the western terminus of the Great Allegheny Passage. It’s 150 miles to Cumberland, Maryland, where we’ll get on the C&O Canal Towpath and ride another 185 miles all the way to Washington DC.
We got rolling right around 4pm. The trail was easy to follow out of the city and it wasn’t long before we were away from the traffic noise and enjoying a scenic path. Sometimes near the Monongahela River and sometimes not, we seemed to be riding faster than the nearby car traffic and trains, which goes to show just how slow they were moving.
It had been cool and breezy but once out of the city, the sun came out, it warmed up, and I got rid of some layers. There was a strong headwind for a bit right before McKeesport, where we jumped on a detour to Buena Vista due to some trail construction near Boston. There was a big closure sign at the beginning but then the detour signs disappeared. I had already mapped out the route in Gaia GPS so we followed that.
We rode the McKeesport-Versailles Loop Trail for a bit and then had a road ride. It mostly took us on low traffic roads but there was a long, steep uphill. I had to get off and walk at the very top. It was a relief to finally start the downhill portion and get back on the trail at the bottom. We finally stopped for a break at a little league game before the final few miles to camp.
Crossing a road in Sutersville, we saw an ice cream stand and decided it would be bad luck for the trip if we didn’t stop, so we pulled over for dinner and ice cream. It was starting to get chilly as the sun went down, and the ice cream didn’t help, so all my layers piled back on. It was just a few more miles to the GAP Trail Campground, which I had booked already online.
I was surprised to see no one else here, especially since it’s a Friday night and only 32.3 miles from Pittsburgh. The campground had a beautiful pavilion with nice seating and bathrooms and hot showers. We set up our tents down by the Youghiogheny River, showered, and hung out for a short time before bed. It was a long day but a great start to the trip!