Success! Pittsburgh to Washington Ride Completed

Our last riding day, from Leesburg to Georgetown was along the Washington & Old Dominion Railroad Trail, a 45 mile paved trail through northern Virginia and then connecting to the Curtis Trail into Georgetown. Luckily, the rains from the day before had moved on and the early part of the ride was cool and partly cloudy. By the time we reached DC, it had warmed up and the sun and humidity were making for a little uncomfortable ride.

The ride was 38.8 miles through Virginia rolling hills and after the flat C&O riding, we felt the 1,400 feet ascent.

Along the trail, we passed through Herndon, VA. We took a moment to photograph one of the old W&OD rail cars and the Herndon passenger station.

A few miles after Herndon, we made our way to the Curtis Trail and rode parallel to its eponymous freeway all the way to the Potomac. We made quick work of the five miles to the Francis Scott Key Bridge, which would take us into Georgetown. Of Personal interest to me, just before crossing the bridge, we passed the oldest surviving Marriott hotel, The Key Bridge Marriott. The first Marriott hotel, was the Twin Bridges Marriott, just down river from Key Bridge. That hotel was demolished in 1990.

Once in Georgetown, we rode along the Capital Crescent Trail to the symbolic end of our ride, C&O Mile Marker 0. Much as we had 332 miles earlier in Pittsburgh, when we took a photo at the GAP Trailhead, and again in Cumberland, at the GAP mile 0, we wanted to document reaching our goal.

The C&O Towpath actually ends at its intersection with the Rock Creek Trail, a quarter mile away.

The last few hundred feet have brick pavers, quite unlike the remainder of the trail’s 184 miles

Back at Mile 0, we photographed the last integral part of the canal, with Bill standing on the edge of the Tide Lock.

Here is a little info on the lock and adjacent water gate. The famous Watergate Complex, which is on the Potomac, just across Rock Creek gets its name from this water gate.

After leaving Mile 0, we rode to the Westin Georgetown, dropped off our panniers and headed to Big Wheel Bikes to return our rental bikes. We were done! After a night at the Westin, we will fly home with sense of accomplishment.

Well Done!

C and O – Day 5 – Harper’s Ferry to Leesburg

This was the day that we hoped would not come. We woke up to rain and we would have rain of varying intensity throughout our ride to Leesburg. We had prepared for rain, so had rain gear on the bikes. After breakfast we started our 30 mile journey to Leesburg.

First up, we had to cross back to the Maryland side of the Potomac to reach the trail. Bill rode his bike across the bridge, even though you are supposed to walk them. The surface is some kind of polymer composite and more slick than I liked, so I walked it.

Just before stepping onto the bridge, I noticed this sign. The Appalachia National Hiking Trail, a 2192 mile trail from Maine to Georgia also crosses the Potomac here, and, in fact, shares the trail with the C&O into Washington. Even on this rainy day, we saw hikers with their huge backpacks.

Once we were on the C&O we experienced many what previous riders and internet comments had warned about. Although the rain was not heavy, it was steady and quickly the path began to have flooded potholes, ruts and slick places. But, we persevered and took it slow and steady and eventually got through it. Here are some trail pictures from our wet ride.

We did pass a lockhouse, that is available for rent. Not all of them are in good enough condition to rent, but some, particularly those closer to DC can be rented. Although, you have to bring your own linens, towels, etc.

Our destination on the C&O for today was White’s Ferry. Unlike Harpers Ferry, where there is no longer a ferry operating, White’s Ferry is the last of the many ferries that used to operate on the Potomac and still operates 365 days a year.

I will admit, I had a little mishap boarding. I was walking my bike on and when I reached the slick metal bridge between the pier and the ferry, I went down. I didn’t hurt the bike or myself, but it was embarrassing. After leaving the ferry we had only 4 miles to our hotel, the Colonial Inn, in Old Town Leesburg. We were escorted to our room and this waiting for us.

We had a nice Chinese dinner and called it a night. On our last day’s ride, we will not return to the C&O until Georgetown, near the end, and instead, will use the paved Washington & Old Dominion and Curtis trails back to Georgetown.

C and O Towpath – Day 4 – Antietam Battlefield to Harper’s Ferry

I mentioned in yesterday’s post that today would be a long ride. Well, that did not turn out to be the case. I had mentioned to our host Selena that I didn’t think it would be possible for us to visit Antietam National Battlefield. It was going to be a long riding day and adding the extra miles, plus the time necessary to tour the battlefield would make it a very long day. She offered to drive us the Eight miles to the battlefield and suggested we could tour the site and take country roads back to the C&O.

We took her up on her offer and she shuttled us to the visitors center of the battlefield. The end result was a drastic reduction in mileage for the ride. What was to have been a 39 miles ride turned into a short 16 mile day. The actual miles she drove us was 10, not 8 she mentioned and, most importantly, it cut out several big bends in the towpath trail. We were driven to the battlefield on highways 63 and 65. If you look closely on the green line along the river, you can see all the loops we missed. That totaled 30 miles of C&O path distance. With the extra five miles we road around the battlefield and to the C&O, the net change was 25 miles less than planned.

But, this gave us the opportunity to visit one of the most important Civil War battle memorials. I feel it is important to disclose, that although I am in the minority and certainly contrary to most. I do not believe, and have never believed that preserving the union was worth the lives lost. I also acknowledge that the issue of slavery further complicates my rather simplistic view of the war. But all that aside, it was a sobering visit to this important site. Most historians consider the battle itself a draw, but it did force Robert E Lee’s forces back across the Potomac and was, at the very least, a propaganda victory for Lincoln. The fact that less than a year later, at Gettysburg, Lee was once again across the Potomac undercuts, somewhat, the significance of Antietam to the war, but in no way diminishes the significance of the sacrifices of those killed and injured on September 17, 1862 at Antietam Creek.

After leaving the battlefield, we had a short five mile ride back to the C&O and then only 11 miles on to Harper’s Ferry. After the rolling hills and very sunny ride down to the trail, it was very nice to be back on flat paths under the dense canopy. It made for a much cooler last 11 miles.

As we approached Harper’s Ferry, the Potomac River became very shallow, with lots of small rapids, making for perfect kayaking and other water activities. We saw several groups of kayakers and even one group body riding the rapids.

Once we reached the bridge over the Potomac leading into Harper’s Ferry, it was not so simple to cross. There is no ramp. One has to take the bikes up a winding staircase to the bike/pedestrian path on one of the two CSX rail bridges. The online C&O guide suggests removing the saddle bags before attempting this, so we did. We took all four bags up to bridge level and then each of us went back down to retrieve our bike. As we were doing this, what seemed like hundreds, but was probably only 20 or so pedestrians were also using the stairs. Once up on the bridge, 3 trains, 2 CSX freight and Amtrak, were crossing at the same time. I wanted pictures of the approaching trains, the bridge, the town, the two guys scaling the cliffs above and the river valley. Well, the train pictures didn’t really work, too close and the fence got in the way. The guys scaling the cliffs are almost impossible to see. The river picture is OK and the framing of the town picture just doesn’t work. So, all in all, a not very successful start to the visit to the picturesque town of Harper’s Ferry.

We made it across the bridge into Harper’s Ferry. It is a very popular day trip from Washington, DC, so on a Sunday afternoon there are people everywhere, the restaurants are full, but we manage to find a place to eat lunch.

After lunch, we walked our bikes up High and Washington Streets to our guesthouse, high on the hill on Henry Clay Street, a cute place with a nice view down to the river.

View from the deck at the guesthouse.

Amazingly, the restaurants all close early on a Sunday. Since, we had lunch at 2, we decided to go down to the. town, have a beer in one of the restaurants before it closes, buy something to go for dinner, and eat later back at the guesthouse. It all worked out. Our waitress even suggested they send the baked brie home with us unbaked and we could bake when we wanted to eat. So, that is what we did, had a later dinner, watched a little football and enjoyed a nice quiet evening in our guesthouse. Tomorrow, our last day on the C&O: Harper’s Ferry to Leesburg, VA. Until then!

C and O Towpath- Day 3 – Hancock to Williamsport

After a great breakfast of baked southwestern eggs, fruit and muffins, we said our goodbyes to Bill and Darlene. Although our first 10 miles would be on the Western Maryland Trail, there was a C&O Park sign that I wanted. So Bill snapped a quick picture.

Shortly after getting underway, we passed this classic rock overpass. I thought it made a nice photo frame of Bill.

As I mentioned, the first 10 miles were on the paved WMRT. At mile 0 of that trail there was sign about the National Road. This was a term I had not heard before, so took a picture to remind me to do some research. Those that live, or have lived in the east, may be familiar with the National Road, but I was not.

The history buff in me had to find out more. Apparently the idea originated with George Washington, but it was left to future administrations to build it.

Once leaving the Western Maryland trail, we chose a short detour to Ft. Frederick State Park, rather than getting back on the C&O immediately. Ft. Frederick, built by Maryland Colony in 1756-57 and named after Cecil Frederick, 6th Earl of Baltimore, was used in the French and Indian war as a refuge for nearby settlers. During the Revolutionary War, it was a POW camp, particularly after the battles at Saratoga (1777) and Yorktown (1781), housing up to 1,000 British and German prisoners. Later, during the Civil War, it was used to protect the nearby C&O Canal and B&O Railroad. The only battle it played a role in was on Christmas Day, when Confederate raiders attacked the garrison. By 1862, the war had moved south and the military usefulness of the fort had ended. It was allowed to deteriorate until the State of Maryland acquired it in 1922, established their first state park and restored the fort, using original plans.

Back on the C&O, we headed toward Williamsport. One the way, a curious thing happened at one of the locks, the path switched sides. We had been on the right side of the canal since Cumberland. At that moment we didn’t know why, but were soon to find out.

Now, with the canal on our right, we rode only a short distance and the canal dropped away and the Potomac River was on our right. Apparently, the cliffs on the left were to close to the river on the right, so the canal empties into a dammed section of the river. This was only for a couple of miles, then the canal reappeared on our right, with lock 45 in place to control canal water levels relative to the river.

Just before reaching Williamsport, we passed an important Mile Marker.

Only 100 Miles to Georgetown

As we arrived into Williamsport, there is an area of the canal that has boat rides. It can only be a mile or so, but for this short distance, it is a working canal again.

Our B&B in Williamsport is a bit off the canal and our hosts suggested that we use their shuttle rather than negotiate a bike unfriendly road. So, just before our pickup point, we rode past the aqueduct over the Conococheague Creek. (no idea how to pronounce that)

The idea of the aqueducts was to separate canal waters from rivers and creeks, which could be raging waters filled with debris during heavy rains. The idea was sound, but the aqueducts, structurally unable to withstand those raging waters and debris, were subject to damage and could and did collapse entirely. I guess the builders should have studied the Roman aqueducts for ideas. They are still around after 2 millennia.

We were picked up by our hosts and driven to our stop for the night, Elmwood Farms Bed and Breakfast. Until 6 years ago, the farm had been a working dairy, in the same family for 5 generations. But, like many family owned diaries, the economics no longer made sense to continue. So, the family sold much of the acreage to developers, converted the farm house to a bed and breakfast and one of the barns to an event center. The only livestock now are the two dogs, a couple of barn cats and 16 llamas. But, it sure is picturesque.

And my favorite part of the farm is the Tavern, a two room bar like space in the basement, complete with fully stocked bar and pool table.

Today we have a long ride ahead of us, 40 miles on the C&O. That is entirely different mater than 40 miles on a paved trail. We expect a ride of over 5 hours, and with rest stops along the way, it will late afternoon before we pull into Harper’s Ferry. Until then!

C and O Towpath – Day 2 – Paw Paw, WV to Hancock, MD

Before I start the Day 2 blog, I will finish the unfinished Day 1 blog. As I mentioned in the last post, there are 74 locks along the canal. These locks required a lock keeper. This usually was a family who agreed to staff the locks 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. The keeper was paid around $200 a year and provided a place to live. Sometimes, if the locks were close to one another, the keeper would be responsible for more than one lock.

Here are the pictures of the first lock.

In addition to the locks, there were other equipment necessary to keep the canal running. As we encounter these, I will post pictures and comments. Shortly after the first lock, we came upon a Steam Pump. Steam pumps were used the regulate the water level of the canal. As you can imagine, too much or too little water adversely impacted canal operations. So the steam pump could pump either direction, either taking water from the Potomac or pumping water to the Potomac.

After leaving the steam pump, we rode along the path until we were about 7 miles from the bridge across the Potomac that leads into the small town of Paw Paw, WV. At that point we were met by our Airbnb host for the evening. His name is Dan, and he is a canal park volunteer. He rides the trail every day, meeting trail riders, answering questions and just being a presence on the C&O. Minutes after meeting him and heading on toward Paw Paw, it started to rain. Although it didn’t last long, it was enough for us to put on our rain gear. We rode, together with Dan, to the cutoff that took us into Paw Paw, and then across the bridge. Dan’s place was only a couple of blocks from the bridge.

Day 2

After a quiet evening in Paw Paw we had breakfast with Dan. Dan was very considerate and made sure the eggs were cooked to my satisfaction. After breakfast, we said goodbye to Dan, crossed the Potomac bridge, turned right onto the C&O and headed toward Hancock.

The highlight of Day 2 would be the Paw Paw Tunnel. This important section of the canal was a challenge to build. Here is the Wikipedia entry on the tunnel.

We reached the tunnel shortly after rejoining the towpath trail.

We had told Dan that we planned to ride the paved parallel Western Maryland Rail Trail from Little Orleans into Hancock. He told us that an additional 4 miles of the trail was complete before Little Orleans and gave us instructions on how to reach the new segment. This involved actually walking across the mostly dry bed of the canal and up a steep embankment, in order to reach the new pavement. Bill and I aren’t sure it was worth the effort. But, following Dan’s directions, we found the unmarked beginning of the WMRT and we would be on this paved parallel trail for a total of 32 miles, 22 on Day 2 and an additional 10 on Day 3.

After reaching the paved WMRT, we rode the 22 miles into Hancock. With brand new pavement, we made quick work of the 22 miles. From the front porch of our guest house, we could see both the C&O and the Western Maryland trails just a couple hundred yards away.

We had a nice evening, enjoying wine, cheese and crackers on the porch, followed by dinner at a highly rated local restaurant, that was having a bad day. They were out of virtually everything we ordered, the place was packed and service was slow. But once we did get our order, it was very nice. Our hosts, Bill and Darlene are up there in years. In fact, Bill, who cooked our breakfast is 90. They are looking to retire, so if you have ever wanted to run a bed and breakfast, check out 1828 Trail Inn, Hancock, MD.

So that is about it for day 2. I am still having issues, but, it appears that the version I was using that permits pictures in circles, tiles, etc., is not functioning properly. So, I have switched back to the version that posts one picture at a time. I began writing this post in one version and switched to the other midway. I will try to find a solution before tomorrow’s post.

C and O Towpath – Day 1 – Cumberland, MD to Paw Paw, WV

After completing the first part of our bike trip, we had a nice overnight Cumberland. But it was time to hit the trail again, this time on the C&O Towpath. I think a little history might help, so here is an excerpt from Wikipedia:

The canal towpath trail, along with the Great Allegheny Passage, combine to make a 330+ almost traffic free recreational path from Pittsburgh to Washington, DC. And that is the path that Bill and I are having the pleasure to ride. With the GAP behind us, we set off for our next stop, Paw Paw, WV.

As we departed Cumberland, there were a few opportunities for photos. First, we stopped for breakfast and parked the bikes in the downtown pedestrian mall. This gave me an opportunity to take a picture of the bikes loaded for the road. My friend, Patty, from Oklahoma wanted to see what we packed for the trip.

As you can see, we have two saddle bags each and both of have a small additional bag. During the bike trip we plan two laundry days. Luckily for us, that is a need the guest houses and inns anticipate, so we don’t have to find a public laundromat.

Once underway, we passed the beginning of the C&O, a restored canal boat and a great view of the Cumberland Narrows, which I mentioned yesterday. That gap in the mountains, created by the North Fork of the Potomac River, allowed rail, wagon and later automobiles to cross the mountains easily.

Shortly after leaving Cumberland, the trail reduced to a single track. The C& O is not paved! It can vary between single and double track, or can be a wider dirt path. There will be roots, ruts, gravel, grass, and now, in the fall, lots of leaves. Here are some of the path conditions we encountered.

After just a couple of miles we arrived at our first lock. There are 74 locks on the canal, most looking like the next. So here are some pictures. Unless I see something very different, I am not going to photograph every lock. Note: this blog is incomplete, but I am having some internet challenges and cannot upload pictures with the speeds. We are already in Hancock, MD, after completing day 2 on the C&O Towpath. I will finish Day 1, starting with the lock pictures and post Day 2, as soon as I can resolve the posting issues.

Great Allegheny Passage – Day 4 – Meyersdale, PA to Cumberland, MD

While walking around Meyersdale Tuesday evening, we noticed the lack of breakfast spots, so Bill and I decided to buy a couple of Jimmy Dean breakfast bowls. In the morning, after packing up, we heated the bowls in the microwave, had a quick breakfast and headed out. Luckily our guest house was just across the street from the old train station, so we didn’t have far to go to get to the trail.

Our room was on the second floor of the guesthouse and the train station was just across the street. Of course, with no trains passing through, it is a trail visitor center these days.

Not long after leaving Meyersdale, we reached the Bollman Truss Bridge. Built in 1871 by Wendal Bollman, a B&O Railroad carpenter, who was a self taught engineer. He patented the process for building iron bridges. He built several iron bridges including this one.

This Bollman bridge has an interesting history. Built in 1871, a few miles east of Meyersdale to carry the B&O Railroad over Wills Creek. Then in 1910, it was moved, all 30 tons of it, a few miles West of Meyersdale to carry a country road over the B&O. Scheduled for demolition in 2006, it was saved and moved to its present location to carry the GAP trail over yet another county road. Wendal Bollman, designer of this bridge was an interesting character. He was a carpenter for the B&O and a self taught engineer. He designed wooden bridges for the railroad and in 1858 patented the design for iron truss railroad bridges. He formed his own company and built bridges for the B&O and other railroads. Today, most of his bridges have been replaced with steel bridges given steel’s ability to carry more weight.

Shortly after departing the bridge, we arrived at the Keystone Viaduct, a 910 feet span across Flaugherty Creek and another road.

This viaduct, along with the Bollman bridge and the Salisbury Viaduct that we crossed the day before as we entered Meyersdale are destinations themselves. One can drive to Meyersdale, park your car and head out either way, ride to the Viaduct, then reverse direction, pass through town and ride to the other viaduct. In less than 10 miles riding you can see all three. But we had far more to see, so we kept heading east.

Only a short 8 1/2 miles after leaving Meyersdale, we arrived at one of the highlights of the entire trip, the Eastern Continental Divide. At 2,392 foot, it is the highest point on the GAP Trail. Right at the summit there is a small tunnel with signs indicating the significance of the spot. I particularly liked the mural depicting the logos of both GAP railroads and images of a train engine, coal miners and coal production facilities. All were integral to the development of the area.

Shortly after leaving the summit, we passed a panoramic valley photo op.

Once on the bikes, we didn’t have far to go before we stopped again. This time for another highlight of the trip, The Big Savage Tunnel. The Big Savage tunnel is 3,294 feet long and was just wide enough for a single train to pass through. Originally opened in 1912 and was in service until the rail line was abandoned in 1975. Today the tunnel is once again in service as a part of the Great Allegheny Passage.

Just a couple of miles farther, we reached the Mason Dixon Line, border between the North and South and stateline between Pennsylvania and Maryland. Named after surveyors, Charles Mason and Jeremiah Dixon, who, from 1763 to 1767, surveyed the area to settle a border dispute between Pennsylvania, Maryland and Delaware. The term Dixie comes from Dixon, and means south of the Mason- Dixon line

And finally, just before reaching Cumberland, we rode through the Cumberland Narrows. Much like the more famous Cumberland Gap, south of here, the Narrows, created by the North Branch of the Potomac River, allows rail and road traffic to cross the mountains

And finally, we arrived at the end, Mile 0 of the Great Allegheny Passage. We have logged 159.38 miles on the bikes along the Monongahela, Youghiogheny and Casselman Rivers amd traveled over former rail beds of the Pittsburgh & Lake Erie and Western Maryland Railroads. Although, we are not halfway on our planned journey, we have finished the first part of our trip. Next up, the C&O Towpath and on to Washington, DC.

This posting was delayed a bit by spotty internet service at our Cumberland hotel.

Great Allegheny Passage – Day 3 – Ohiopyle to Meyersdale

Day 3 was a gorgeous riding day, cool temperatures but clear skies. Although, we did not see much of the skies because of the thick forest canopy. We did experience rays of sunshine breaking through the tree cover.

Before we hit the trail, we had breakfast at a little bakery cafe. I ordered a bacon and egg sandwich on wheat berry bread. Well the bread was fantastic, but the egg, not so much. It’s a good thing I also ordered some oatmeal, because the eggs went into the trash bin. Bill, who does not share the same egg issues as me, ate his egg, but not enthusiastically. Well, enough of that.

After breakfast, we rode down to a park along the Youghiogheny River. At this point in the river, there are a series of falls, making for some very nice photos.

We are glad, we had the opportunity to check out the river. The previous day was a little rainy and we were tired, so we planned to check it out the next morning.

Shortly after getting underway, we passed this sign that relates how Otters have been reintroduced into the river.

For over 75 years, the river was unable to sustain the fish and insects necessary to support the otter population. But, in 1992, after years of cleanup efforts, otters were reintroduced to the area and continue to thrive. For me, it is a reminder that humans can destroy the environment, but also, with enough time and money and, most importantly, commitment, can fix the problems.

Here are a couple of pictures from the trail. You can see the sun shining through the canopy.

So during the ride, all the way from Pittsburgh, we have seen evidence that it is fall, with leaves ever present on the path, but what was missing, were the fall colors. We are hopeful that, as we get closer to Cumberland Gap, we will see some color. Today, we saw a little glimpse of what may come.

We had planned to stop for coffee in Confluence, named for the two rivers that merge there, the Youghiogheny and the Casselman. Well, that plan fell apart, when we couldn’t find a coffee shop or cafe open. I did take a pic of the town map. I wondered what Mae West had to do with this little town, since she has a road named after her, but did not find anything on the internet to suggest she passed through.

After leaving Confluence, we did experience a break in the forest canopy enough to take some pictures of the Casselman River.

Just a few more miles up the river, we arrived at the highlight of the day’s trip, the Pinkerton Tunnel and the two adjacent bridges, the Low Pinkerton and High Pinkerton bridges. Since the GAP trail opened in 1999, the path had to detour around the closed Pinkerton Tunnel. This 1.2 mile detour is a scenic ride along the river, but rail supporters had been wanting to restore the tunnel. The reconstruction of the nearby CSX rail tunnel gave rail supporters insight into how the trail tunnel might be economically restored. Finally, with funding in place, the tunnel restoration was scheduled for 2015, and the tunnel opened for trail use in September of that year. Riders now have the choice to take the tunnel or the scenic bypass.

One thing Bill and I have enjoyed on the ride, is the abundance of wild flowers along the path, most frequently, goldenrod, purple asters and sweet peas.

After over 40 miles on the trail, we approached our destination for the day, Meyersdale. We rode out from the forest canopy and had the first glimpse, for the day, of wide open fields and hills. You can even see some wind turbines off in the distance.

It had been a long day, we we enjoyed every moment. We arrived at our guest house, took a little nap and then went into town for a nice dinner at the Bistro operated by our hosts.

view from the deck of our guesthouse
Mural honoring Meyerdale’s history

Today we will make our way to Cumberland, Maryland. It should be an exciting ride up through the Cumberland Gap, over the Eastern Continental Divide and across the Mason Dixon Line into Maryland.

Great Allegheny Passage – Day 2 – West Newton to Ohiopyle

Today’s post is going to be a short one. We biked from West Newton to Ohiopyle. Most of the ride looked like this:

The dot in the background is Bill

It was a beautiful ride through the forest, which we enjoyed immensely. As you can see, fall has arrived, but we aren’t seeing much color, just leaves on the ground. But, how many trail and canopy pictures can I post. There were a couple of stops that I can mention. Remember, this is a former rail line that served mines along its tracks. So, it is not surprising that we would see evidence of the mines.

This is the entry to Banning mine No. 2. The owner is a mosaic artist and has added her own touches to the mine. As we rode, we passed several similar mine entries, none with the artist’s enhancement. Most with a sign, “ dangerous, keep out.”

We had lunch in the town of Connellsville. After leaving the restaurant, we rode by by a restored train station.

This station was for the Pittsburgh & Lake Erie Railroad. During the height of passenger rail service, there were actually 6 stations in Connellsville. This is the only one still standing.

After leaving Connellsville , we continued along the trail, which follows the Youghiogheny (pronounced Yach a gainey) River all the way to our destination, Ohiopyle. Most of the way the tree cover obscured our view of the river. But, I did get a couple shots in.

But, as we approached Ohiopyle, we crossed the river twice and we took a couple of pictures from the bridges.

Bill and I were somewhat amused by the grandiose sounding name.

The Gorge is, indeed, picturesque. But as gorges go, it isn’t quite so great, but Great Gorge is its name.

It was misting as we arrived, but we had resisted putting on our rain gear, so we were a little wet and a little muddy. Our Airbnb for the night was a couple blocks off the trail, easy to find and, a big benefit, it has a washer and dryer!

We did a little laundry, had dinner at the local bar and grill and made it an early evening. Today, next stop Meyersdale, a slightly larger town than Ohiopyle. I know there was not a lot to this post. But rest assured, we had a great ride and are having fun. The little bit of rain, yesterday, did nothing to dampen our spirits.

Day 1 – Great Allegheny Passage – Pittsburgh to West Newton

Point State Park Fountain

Bill and I began our 330 mile trip back to Washington on Sunday Morning. Much like Dorothy, we had to begin at the beginning, only our road was not yellow. Our beginning was the beautiful fountain at Point State Park at the confluence of the Allegheny, Monongahela and Ohio Rivers. We decided to start the ride and then, before leaving Pittsburg, find a place for breakfast.

The first few miles were on The Three Rivers Heritage Trail weaving its way through downtown Pittsburgh and threading through a series of elevated highways before settling down on a path along the north bank of the Monongahela. After a few miles, we crossed the river using the Hot Metal Bridge, with a great view back toward downtown.

On the south bank of the river is an area called Southside Flats, a mix of 19th Century residential and new modern multi unit apartments and condominiums, which replaced the steel mills that once lined the Monongahela. The name Hot Metal Bridge refers to the fact that the bridge carried crucibles of molten iron in ladle cars across the river to the open hearth furnaces of the J and L Steel Mill. During WWII, it is estimated that 15% of all US produced steel crossed over this bridge. Today the two spans have been converted, one for automobile traffic and the other, a dedicated bike/pedestrian path.

After crossing the bridge we deviated off the trail for a few blocks and had breakfast at Waffle INCaffeinated. We must have been just in time. We were seated immediately. But, in just a few minutes, there was a long line.

After breakfast, we were back on the bikes heading east. This first day ride, was only to be around 36 miles and, quite frankly, will be the least scenic day of the trip. But we managed a few moments of note.

About 12 miles into the day, we encountered this sight.

These 12 smokestacks were part of Andrew Carnegie’s Homestead Steel Works, the largest steel facility in the world. The stacks off vented heat from the red hot ingots, waiting to be milled into 45 inch steel slabs. This was the location of the 1892 Homestead Steel Strike and Lockout between Carnegie Steel and The Amalgamated Association of Iron and Steel Workers which was a pivotal moment in American labor relations. Today, these towers stand sentinel over a Loews Theater, Costco and Courtyard by Marriott. They are a reminder of what once was. Although, throughout the day, we saw these reminders of the former great mills. We also saw evidence of the land being repurposed into various uses. I think that was the surprising take away for me. Yes, the mighty steel facilities are gone, but the land remains and is being used in a variety of ways. It is not as I had expected.

Up until we reached McKeesport, we were using the long existing Three Rivers Heritage and Steel Valley Trails. But, after going up and over a hill near the river’s edge, we finally reached the converted rail trail that will make up the remainder of the GAP trail portion of our ride to DC.

The trail is on the former path of the Pittsburgh and Lake Erie Railroad. Formed in 1875, the railroad, known as the Little Giant, because of its huge payload volumes, carried both coal from the mines to Pittsburgh and finished steel to main line rail corridors in Youngstown, Ohio. Although Lake Erie was in its name, it actually did not make it to Lake Erie. Becoming part of Conrail in the 1970s and later CSX, the rail was finally abandoned in 1992, due in large part to the declining steel industry.

After leaving McKeesport, we passed two reminders of the environmental challenges the mining industry creates Long after the mines have closed these two waterfalls still flow.

The white fall, on the left is caused by aluminum sulfate and the red/rust is from iron. Both falls have high concentrations of sulfuric acid traveling downstream into nearby creeks and rivers.

After another 10 miles, or so, we arrived at our destination for the night, the little village of West Newton and our guesthouse, Bright Morning B&B.

Diner was at the Trailside Pub, watching the 49ers defeat the Pittsburgh Steelers. I had to keep my cheering very quiet. Then off to bed. Day 2 will find us on the trail to Ohiopyle.


Just a quick post before we get on the bikes and begin our ride back to Georgetown,Washington, DC.

On Friday, we used Uber to drive to an Airbnb like baggage storage to leave one bag that we didn’t want (or have space for) on the bike ride. We checked out of our Airbnb studio and headed to Union Station to drop off the bags we are taking with us. At that point we still had 3 1/2 hours before our train departed. So, we killed time by a scenic bike ride.

We stopped by the National History and Narural History Museums, had lunch at a kiosk on the Mall and headed back to

Union Station and boarded our 4:05 train to Pittsburgh. So, a 4:05 PM departure from DC meant a 11:30 PM arrival into Pittsburgh. We then had to bike (at midnight) to our Airbnb apartment.

Luckily for us, there was very little traffic and the ride was only 2 miles. We did have to dodge some drunk partiers in the Strip District, Pittsburgh’s downtown entertainment area. We really only had the one day in Pittsburgh, so we took it easy. We dined in nearby restaurants, did a little shopping and had a quiet evening . Because today is a big day: Day 1 of our Pittsburgh to Washington, DC, 330 mile, 10 day bike ride. 1st stop, West Newton, PA. See you there!

Washington, DC

On Monday , Bill and I were scheduled to fly to Washington, DC to begin our Great Allegheny Passage and C&O Towpath bike trip from Pittsburgh back to Washington, DC. We chose to fly Alaska Airlines non-stop from LAX to Dulles. Since we had an early flight out of LA, we drove to LA on Sunday morning and had brunch with Bill’s brother, Bob and celebrated his birthday.

With Bob, at Fairmont Miramar in SantaMonica

Monday’s flight to Dulles was uneventful and we arrived at our Airbnb studio near Logan Circle near 5 PM. We have really enjoy the architecture of the grand old houses in the neighborhood.

The house on the left was Senator John Logan’s home. logan was a Union General during the Civil War and later a US Representative and US Senator from Illinois. When he built it, the area was called Iowa Circle. It was renamed in honor of Logan in 1930 and a fountain in the middle of the circle was replaced by an equestrian statue of Senator Logan. The white brick house was built as an investment duplex by Ulysses S Grant, Jr. Son of the 18th President. The home was later owned by Henry Lechter, a decorated Tuskegee Airman and 1st cousin to Duke Ellington, who was a frequent visitor.

I finally got a picture without the birds perched on his shoulders and hat.

On last building that I will mention, is the Old Korean Legation Museum. The buillding was built in 1877 and from 1889 to 1905 it was the Legation Building for the Joseon Dynasty, and after 1897, the Korean Empire. In 1905, Japan annexed Korea, and subsequently sold the building. It was not until 2012, that the Korean (South) government was able to reacquire the property. The building was restored and is now a museum.

Also important to Bill and me, is the building at 1515 Vermont Ave, NW, right off Logan Circle.

Our home for the last few days. It is a very nice ground floor studio, perfect for our short stay here. We would definitely come again. On Tuesday, we went to Big Wheel Bikes, in Georgetown, to pick up the bikes that we will take with us on Amtrak to Pittsburgh and then use to ride the 330 miles back to DC. While waiting for the bikes to be set up, we walked down to the water front. On the way, we passed over the last bit of the C&O Towpath Trail. I thought a picture was in order.

The little dirt path just behind my head is the C&O towpath, and you can see just a sliver of the actual canal.

On Wednesday, we planned a circle trip using the Rock Creek, Bethesda Trolley and Capital Crescent Trails . Well, what was planned and what we rode weren’t exactly a match. Construction on the last couple of miles of Rock Creek Trail, without particularly useful detour signs left us hanging. But, we made it, with a few more hills than planned and using trails we didn’t even know existed and we never found the Bethesda Trolley Trail. But, if you look at the ride map from Strava, it looks like a perfect executed ride.

in the end, we felt like we had ridden much farther than the 25+ logged miles.

Today, we used our bikes, but not for a trail ride. We participated in a Bike Tour of the Washington Mall Memorials. We were a small group of 7 and most of us knew how to ride a bike. It was a fun 3 hours stopping at the Jefferson, Lincoln, FDR and MLK Memorials, as well at the Korean, Vietnam and WWII war Memorials.

So, tonight, we are going out for Ethiopian Food, having a quiet evening in and packing for Pittsburgh and the bike trip. We have enjoyed our quick stay in Washington. We realize, it had been 20+ years since we visited DC.

I hope to post small daily blog entries on the bike trip, subject, of course, to having some kind of internet service.