Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Bike America Day 61: Car-Free

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Day's distance: 67.41 miles
Overall distance: 3,193 miles

Since Josh was there, we were staying in a motel, and we expected a short day ahead, we agreed to a late start Sunday morning. Our late start turned even later and we didn’t actually begin riding until noon. It took some time to adjust things on our new bikes and to get used to the upright position after 8 weeks on road bikes.

I would be riding my mom’s old Schwinn which she bought in 1992 and which I have a long history with. It is the bike I rode in high school when I first decided that biking might be fun again. The first time I remember riding it was to see the Cherry Blossoms in DC in April. From then on, I spent many weekend and summer days zooming down the capital crescent trail from my house in Chevy Chase to Urban Outfitters in Georgetown. That was my thing: bike ride and shop. Clearly, I've always been a fan of sweating in style. I would leave the helmet hanging off the handlebars so it wouldn’t mess up my hair and sometimes, I even planned to shower right before my ride (twisted, I know) because I thought that the wind in my hair from a bike ride gave me the perfect ‘do. I was a teenage idiot but was happy to have all the memories brought back at the sight of this bike. It was purple back then, my mom has since painted it blue and uses it as her metro bike, but it still holds a special place in my heart.

We began in a neighborhood but our official start was at the Montour trail head. This trail circles Pittsburgh and would drop us in McKeesportPA where we’d catch the Great Alleghany Passage trail. It would have been much more direct to ride through the city but that is said to be very dangerous and everyone advises against it.

My sunscreen is creepy.

Sweet contraption to walk your bike down the stairs.
Thanks for the warning. I'll beware.

Since it was Sunday, the trail was very crowded with people which was fun. We stopped for lunch beside a pretty bridge and enjoyed the people watching as others rode, ran and walked across.

View of a golf course from the bridge.

We sat on the left bench for lunch.

At mile 37, when we were expecting to meet my mom, who was riding back from the end, any minute, we came to a dead end on the trail. We knew that the trail, especially toward the end, wasn’t complete and that we should expect to take several detours on roads to catch back up with it. We expected we’d missed the turn for a detour. We rode back 3 miles and picked up a map only to discover that we’d taken a side extension of the trail by mistake. On my phone, I figured out a way for us to get on the road where we were and cut back over to the trail so that’s what we did. It added about six miles, and an hour, and then we found my mom.

I learned this weekend that Pittsburgh is the city of bridges.

We rode the rest of the trail, with a few more detours, and then we rode a few miles on roads to McKeesport. We bought dinner refreshments in the only cafĂ© and loaded our panniers with a night’s worth of belongings. Then we headed out for what we thought was seven miles into the woods. It was well after 7PM and we were entering a race with the sunset.

The initial ride was pretty but also remote and scary. My dad said that it would make a perfect scene from Deliverance, a comment which I was not at all fond of. After about nine miles, we arrived at a hiker/biker campground where a church group of about 15 teenage boys and chaperones were already setting up. We put up our tents as it got dark and ate dinner on a bench. I had a Reuben and a Yoplait key-lime yogurt for dessert. For the first time in a month, I went to sleep wondering if we might be surrounded by bears but I was still cozy and happy in my warm sleeping bag in the woods.

My mom at our dinner bench.

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