Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Cumberland to Pittsburgh & The Great Allegheny Passage

We have arrived in Pittsburgh after 1 really hard day and 3 pretty good days of riding.  We left Cumberland after a wonderful stay!  We had the great host of Heidi Gardner who hooked us up majorly with her friend’s empty house that was in between renters, so we had a whole empty house to ourselves.  It was great and we were so grateful!  Heidi gave us a wonderful driving tour of Cumberland. (Man it felt good to be in a car! haha).  We went to some of the highest points and got a great view of the village-like city. 

Rachael’s friend from college, Meghan, lived in Frostburg (about 15 miles away) and Meghan and her mom, Susan, were so generous that they picked us up from Cumberland and took us to their house and made us a wonderful homemade dinner!!  These women were truly amazing telling us old stories about their family and the people who live in rural poverty in Appalachia.  Please take a look at our tweets for more information about all of that!!  

After two wonderful days in Cumberland with amazing people we headed onto the Great Allegheny Passage to march towards Pittsburgh.  Unfortunately, the first day of the ride was a rainy and uphill for 25 miles.  From Cumberland to the Eastern Continental Divide we went from 600 feet above sea level to 2300 feet.  It wasn’t too steep but it was long.  Did I mention it was also really rainy and about 45 degrees outside?  As we were going along the trail we couldn’t wait to get to that high point because then, we would be going “down hill”.  Once we hit that divide, our hopes were devoured, as the crushed limestone felt like quick sand and we couldn’t go faster than 4 MPH. Personally, after been so calm on the C & O, I started to curse and yell like crazy as It felt like we were going nowhere!!  

As the rain started to come down harder we decided to shorten our day and stay in Meyersdale, PA at a really cute, cheap motel with an awesome diner!!  We dried off and as Rach would say, “vegged” out watching crappy TV and showering. Pancakes bigger than the size of our heads were what we called dinner for all of $3.  Meyersdale is also known as the Maple City, so those babies were drenched in goodness.

The next day seemed to bring better weather and a better trail.  We went about 40 miles and stopped at the Ohiopyle State Park.  It was an absolutely amazing ride. As we biked we had the Youghieny River on our right and random waterfalls on our left.  So far this was the most beautiful part of the ride.  We stopped to camp in the state park and got off the trail around 3:30—an early end for us. But of course, there was a twist! We had to lug our fully loaded bikes up a very steep and rocky hiking path for a quarter mile only to find out we had to go on the other side of the campground, up some more hills, to register and get to the sites that were actually open.  Yeah--it’s weird that primitive campsites can be “closed”.  What more do you need than a bench and a fire pit?

We were so excited for the next day because it was supposed to be sunny and hot and finally, NO RAIN!  We biked our way out of the park into Connellsville, PA, where we stopped at a Wendy’s and got into a great conversation with an old railroad worker and his wife.  He spoke to us about our trip, the state of our economy and how we need to change EVERYTHING.  The conversation was highlighted by his comment when referring to Governor Walker of Wisconsin, “I’m surprised no one has shot that guy yet.”  It’s quite amazing to see where our conversations with people go.  I am a political guy who is an activist but I’m by no means steering these conversations—the people we talk to are!! 

We reached a free camp ground at Cedar Creek Park, PA and we were so surprised at the amount of amenities that this campsite had, with running water, good bathrooms, flattened spaces for tents, the works.  It was so nice not to sleep with the rain cover on our tent.  We of course got into plenty of conversations with people when we got to the park.  One person took our picture to put on the Great Allegheny Passage flickr account, while another warned me about wearing my Packer’s bandana in Steelers country.  We noticed that everyone wants to talk to you if you have a lot of crap on your bike and everyone is extremely nice!! 

Our final day of riding into Pittsburgh was going to be great as long as we’d be able to beat the scattered thunderstorms.  We got an early start and reached McKeesport, PA by 11:00 am for a big lunch.  Getting closer to Pittsburgh we saw a lot of old shut down steel factories that used to employ most people in the towns.  McKeesport had boards up on almost every building. 

After lunch we headed to Duquesne, PA, where the trail ended about 15 miles outside of Pittsburgh.  As it was about to rain and the road wasn’t really good for biking, we decided to take one of the Port Authority public buses into the city.  It started to rain as we were waiting for the bus, and the ride was long and crowded.  We got off the bus at the University of Pittsburgh where we immediately met a fellow bike enthusiast, Louis, who was planning a trip from Pittsburgh to Raleigh, NC.  Got his number and looking forward to getting a beer with him during our stay. 

We biked to Market Square where we rested and got 3 offers from fellow bikers with places to stay.  It’s really amazing how people in the biking community really take care of each other.  We are staying with this wonderful woman, Alania, and her housemates in a beautiful house with guitars and art everywhere. It definitely already feels like home and I can’t wait to enjoy Pittsburgh for the next couple of days before we head to Columbus.  That’s all for now!!

Love and miss you each! 
-Bri & Rach


  1. Love the updates! Glad you're finding great people! :)

  2. I miss you guys and i'm so glad to hear about the support you're getting. And I think the trip will get easier and easier!


  3. What did you get at Wendy's?

    Please write mare posts about: food your eating and dogs you see.

    Brian "Hawkeye" Averill

  4. Haha we have been making food a lot like torillas wrapped with peanut butter banana granola and nutella. I did have a fish sandwich at Wendy's. I'll try to put more up about food :)

  5. I love that having fully loaded bikes is such a conversation piece- did either of you anticipate this? Both of your personalities are great for exploring not only the places, but people of the USA on your trip!

  6. Thanks for updating, it's wonderful to see how far you guys have already come!

    Rachella-- Ahreej subbed the other day and I mentioned that y'all were in Pittsburgh and she was like, "oh I know. I follow her on Twitter".

  7. Hahaha that's hilarious!! Rubes.. We kee thinking of all the things we'll tell ya.. Took great notes! Xo

  8. My college is right next to PPG in market Square The picture you took of PPG is where I used to study. Safe Travels Rach!