Monday, August 13, 2012
Taking down camp when all we had were the things we could carry on our bikes proved to be much more efficient than when we had a whole car full of clutter and food. From the hiker/biker campground, the three of us left while the church group sat for a bible reading. These boys were riding from Pittsburgh to Cumberland in six days, an impressive feat for teenagers. My mom headed north to pick up the car while my dad and I headed south toward DC.
We were on the northern part of the Great Alleghany Passage (GAP) Trail, a rail trail erected on the former tracks of railroads intended to connect the Mississippi and the Atlantic through the Chesapeake. It runs from Pittsburgh, PA to Cumberland, MD where the C&O Canal Towpath picks and runs all the way to Washington, DC. It has become popular among cyclists to ride car-free between DC and Pittsburgh along these trails.
Our plan was to stop in Buena Vista, a town south of our campground, for breakfast. We arrived there at mile 2 and left the trail in search of food. My dad poked his head in an auto body shop inquiring about a local restaurant and received instructions to ride up a hill, by a school, past two gas stations, etc etc. With rumbling stomachs, we had no choice but to follow these instructions. The hill turned out to be extremely challenging on our hybrids packed down with tents, sleeping bags, and clothes. At that moment, more than ever, I missed my road bike for the way it holds my body hunched over and strong. On a hybrid, I kind of felt like I'd topple over backward as I rode up the steep hill.
We were a little confused when we didn't find any gas stations and wondered if the guys might have been playing a dirty trick on us. The only place selling food was the golf course so we rode in and hoped they'd seat us. It was clear that the two waitresses were avoiding dealing with us as they chatted quietly behind the bar but one of them eventually came over and lead us into a closed section so we could sit alone, hidden from most of the more decent golfers. I felt a little discriminated against but my short shorts and I had the lovely privacy that they always wanted.
I had a veggie omelet and home fries which was delicious aside from the american cheese inside. That is one thing that I will not miss about this trip- the american cheese all over america. It is gross and processed and I wholly believe that it isn't cheese.
We rode into what my dad called the enchanted forest with corridors of trees all around. They were tall, thin and beautiful.
We met my mom at a town at mile 35 for lunch. We had some form of peanut butter sandwiches, sat in the car, and then resumed riding. One of the cool things about the trail is that they have signs along the way telling you about history and landscape. We saw one pointing to a 12,000 year old rock. Then we saw another telling us about coal mining and the presence of coal seams in the cliffs along the trail and Youghigheny River. Above our heads, we could see a clear black seam and pieces of coal were crushed on the ground.
After we left the enchanted forest, most of the riding was high in the mountains and we had many pretty views of them. We crossed a river and arrived in Ohiopyle, a small town well-equipped for bikers on the trail. They had bike and boat shops, rental shops, an old train station turned visitor center, cafes and ice cream shops, and a park/beach along the river. We sat for a little while but decided not to ride down the hill and put our feat in the water.
My mom, who had parked in our overnight town of Confluence, PA rode back to meet us about six miles outside of town. The three of us passed another sign and learned that we were standing on the site where George Washington had camped in 1754 eight days before starting the French and Indian War.
In town, we were camping at Youghigheny Dam Campground but we stayed only a short time before heading to the long-awaited restaurant I'd found on yelp that afternoon. It was a small place called Shepherd's Farm and their specialties were lamb raised on the farm and home-made ice cream. I shared a "health nut" salad and a Greek lamb pita with my dad. Then I had a warm rhubarb and nut sundae for dessert to which I added strawberries. We sat by a plug so that we could charge phones and computer so we missed a dinner by the windows overlooking the farm but it was still a cute place and I will surely sit by the windows next time I'm back.