Sunday, October 11, 2009

Day 1 Riding the GAP--Coraopolis to Connellsville PA

Apparently the long drive from Greenville OH to Coraopolis PA exhausted both Ned and me because after eating breakfast at the best motel free breakfast bar I had ever been a part of (the sausages were devine) we laid back down in our beds like a couple of old boar hogs and watched an old Clint Eastwood movie (Coogan's Bluff) until noon before driving over to the trailhead. Also it was raing like hell and neither of us wanted to go outside under those conditions. About the time the movie ended (Clint/Coogan got his man )it stopped raining so we loaded up and found our way to the starting gate.

As I was getting ready to take off we met a neat guy named Van Weaver who actually helped build this part of the GAP (Great Allegheny Passage) called the Mountour Trail. Van works as a volunteer on the trail keeping it is shape for all who use it. He told us that when Hurricane Ivan came thru the area several sections of the trail was washed away leaving holes several feet deep that had to be filled in. Since the surface is mostly crushed limestone any large rain has the potential to wash away part or at least cut some nasty groves as I saw later on down the trail.

This is a pic of Van and me and Mountour Trail mile marker 0 . That is me on the left.

After Van went on his way I got loaded up and hugged Ned goodbye, mounted my bike and took off. This first leg of the journey was basically over before it began because about 25 feet into it my chain broke. Normally this is a minor problem because I always carry a quick link that makes it easy to fix a situation like this. However when you drop one of the quick link pieces in heavy grass in the process the easy part of the situation becomes problematical and very frustrating.
One of the reasons I really like Ned is that in situations like this he is the idea guy to have around. He remains calm and unlike me does not utter words that would make a Teamster's hair curl. We methodically searched the area for the missing piece for an hour with no luck and were just about ready to go look for a bike shop when I said "ok , one last look and then we go", and as expected the quicklink finds us. I should have said those words right away and we would have saved ourselves a bunch of crawling around in wet muddy ground.

Well the bike trip finally started around 2 which was about 2 hours later than the carefully laid plans called for. This would have serious repercussions later on because we still had the same 7 hour destination in the works and did not figure that it would get dark in 5 hours as well as start raining like hell again in about 2 hours.
The plan was for Ned to drive on to Connelsville and find a motel and I would meet him there between 6 and 7. Ned did his part well and found a great place. The problem was that there was no way in hell I was going to make that distance in the time allowed because I started so late, and it got dark earlier than normal because it was raining strong from about 4 o'clock on.

So about 7 or so when I could not see to ride anymore I call Ned for a pickup which seemed simple enough but me not knowing exactly where I was after asking 4 different local folks plus the fact that entire state of Pennsylvania has nothing but "Mae West" roads--full of curves combined with the fact that there is a tremendous shortage of road signs in the area which makes it crazy to navigate --made it an interesting trek for Ned. Without going into all the details I can say it was exciting and at 10 p.m. we were in the Connellsville motel room wondering what we were doing in this place, and if wew ever going to be able to get out.

The Mountour Trail isn a wonderful bike trail. Perfect for a casual ride in nature so close to the city. It goes by the Pittsburgh airport and it is amazing how removed the trail is from all the noise associated with the airport and the surrounding highways. The trail follows an abandoned railroad route and the original bridges and tunnels are still used. This one was well lite and fun to ride thru.

There is a section of the trail that is not exactly crushed limestone but still very ridable even after and during a rain storm. A rider just has to go a little slower and be focused on the path directly in front. This was beautiful and I can only imagine how much cooler this will be in a week or 2 when all the leaves are turned. What a great place to walk or ride.

This is a bridge that is mostly new built on top of the original railroad structure. Again, check out the foliage and imagine in in a week or 2, the leaves are just starting to turn now.
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