Day 52. August 4
The home stretch! The final countdown! It’s on like Donkey Kong! Our day started out a little slow because it was hard to leave the hotel knowing that we had several days of camping ahead. But we also had a little over 300 miles of bike trails between us and our final destination in DC. Yippee! No cars, no annoying hills. Just us, the trees, the monkeys and the bees.
The trails are the Great Allegheny Passage (GAP) and the C & O Towpath and they go all the way from Pittsburgh to DC. We’ve been looking forward to this for quite some time and have heard really great things from others we’ve met who have biked them. The GAP is an old railroad bed and the C&O is along a canal. This means that the maximum grade is 1.5%, which we’ve heard is barely noticeable. Anyway, I’m overjoyed that these trails exist because I’m not sure I could handle the Appalachians.
Ok, back to our morning. We left the hotel and headed to McDonald’s for a quick breakfast. After that it was all downhill to the bike path. We shouted victory chants when we got there. We’ve been on nasty roads for far too long. The first 20 miles are paved and we cruised along looking down at the river as we went. We passed lots of bikers and it felt good to finally see other people biking. Right before we got to McKeesport we met a threesome who were going from Pittsburgh to Cumberland, but at a much slower pace than us. We continued on and eventually the pavement gave way to crushed limestone. We’ve been on trails like this before and sometimes it can be hard to ride through the stone, but this path has be great so far. Mostly hard packed dirt with a thin layer of tony stone on top. It makes for pretty easy riding.
We crossed over the river a couple times on some cool bridges and we also had to cross over some railroad tracks a couple times. It was a little hilly in that area, but eventually we got on the old railroad bed and it was flat, flat, flat. Sometimes the rail trails are straight and flat, which is awful, but since were in the mountains the railroad was built along the river. It follows the river and twists and turns which is much more pleasant. This also means that we are actually riding more miles than we would if we were on the roads. At one point Ethan figured out we could save 4 miles by going on the road, but we’re in the mountains we didn’t want another DWM incident (see previous posts for reference).
We chugged along and were getting passed by some regular bikers, but they slowed down to talk to us. We didn’t catch their names, but they rode with us to our lunch stop in West Newton. It was nice because they helped us keep our pace up, which Ethan loves. We talked about our adventures and the guy riding next to Ethan had some advice about the bike trails. We said goodbye when we got to West Newton and headed to a Rite Aid that was right off the trail. We got some Powerade and chips to accompany or pb&j’s and ate them at the old train station turned visitor center.
The trail is pretty popular so some of the towns have capitalized on this and they have businesses and campgrounds right next it. Pretty convenient! After lunch we biked along and listened to music to keep us going. We had my sister bring our portable speaker to Chicago, so we’ve been using it on quieter country roads to help keep us occupied. I got to listen to Taylor Swift all day one day. It was awesome. Ethan hates her music though, so we mostly listen to the Beatles and we’ll put all the songs on shuffle and listen to random things. It’s been fun trying to get Ethan to listen to the songs I used to love in college. Hehe.
We rolled in to our stop in Connellsville at 6 and stopped at our camp site first. It’s a free campground right off the trail that has these little open sheds you can pitch your tent in. They’re pretty neat and we’ll be extra glad they are there if it rains tonight. Right now we are at a pizza place really close to the camp and we just ate a gigantic 16″ pizza AND chicken wings. Lord. They’re gonna have to roll us outta here. It was really good though. Totally worth it.