6/12/15: 78 miles, Ohiopyle, Pa., to Pittsburgh, Pa.
John was gone by the time I got up, around 7:30. He mentioned he had to get to Pittsburgh by mid afternoon to catch his ride back home, so I wasn’t surprised he was gone.
I rolled from Ohiopyle, down the steep path to the GAP, and rode to Connersville, Pa. Found myself at the Hometown Diner, I believe it was called, where I noshed on biscuits and gravy, fruit, coffee, and apple juice. Reloaded at the grocery store, and from there, it was a hot one all the way into Pittsburgh. I resolved to hit up the REI on the city’s southside strip along Carson St. for a new sleeping pad, since I’d had trouble getting comfortable with my Thermarest foam self-inflating pad.
The GAP along the Youghiogheny River became more of a lush, emerald green tunnel due likely to the heavy rains that had come through lately. Plus, there were a fair amount of downed trees like on the C&O.
Around mid-afternoon, my legs weren’t feeling great. B-bu-bu-but, I had biscuits and gravy! And Gatorade! At least that’s what I told myself. It was likely a case of not-enough-water, a hunch remedied by a chugging a bottle, soaking myself at a water pump, and popping a couple Advil.
Fatigue does set in at times, no matter how strong day after day of riding will make you.
Ice cream helps.
As I reeled Pittsburgh in, I was debating whether to ride the Montour Trail around the west side of town, or head straight through the city and take it from there. I had ridden in the Dirty Dozen, a freak show of a bike race that takes you up the 13 steepest hills in the city, back in November. As painful as it was, I wanted to get back to Pittsburgh and ride around town. When I reached McKeesport, the head of the GAP trail where it connects with the Steel Valley Trail that goes downtown, I decided to head downtown. It was Friday night, and the food+cold ones on Carson Street were calling.
Pittsburgh’s Steel Valley Trail led me downtown just as an angry line of storms were blowing in. I mashed to REI, some 13 miles from McKeesport, and beat out the rain. I locked up my bike, ran inside, and watched as blinding sheets of rain came down. When it stopped, I left with a new pad and some Honey Stingers, and headed over to Over The Bar, Pittsburgh’s bike-themed joint with superb chow, similar to Chicago’s Handlebar.
And there, as I expected, I met a motley bunch: Denny USAC official, John, Patrick, Jon, Kate and a few other good souls who summoned the whiskey gods. Halfway through my burger and bender, I realized I wasn’t going to make it the 20-some miles back out to camp on the Montour Trail. I ended up finding a $60 room nearby on Airbnb in Oakland. Only a mile away! Sweet! But in Pittsburgh, the saying is, “You can’t get there from here,” a nod to how difficult it is to find a direct route anywhere because of the city’s layout. I rode down Carson, across the Hot Metal Bridge, and up the Bates hill. Holy God, that was steep. Granny gear all the way up for the mile climb. I found myself on the sidewalk for most of it, since traffic was heavy, the road was wet and dark, and after a few drinks, my risk tolerance was low.
Eventually, I made to Catherine and Jason’s house, my Airbnb hosts, where I was greeted with a cold Yuengling and a friendly Westie named Abby. We chatted for about 45 minutes about my trip, about Cleveland where Catherine was also from originally, and our experiences as Airbnb hosts (my place is listed in Chicago on most weekends). Good folks. I had a bedroom and bathroom to myself, and a secure spot downstairs for the bike. That beat forking over $130 for a hotel on that short of notice.