Pittsburgh to Mount Vernon - Great Allegheny Passage and C&O Canal Towpath

Preface - Pittsburgh to Mount Veron

04/24/2003 13:53:54 by Administrator

A great adventure which we linked the Great Allegheny Passage, a 152 mile bicycle and walking trail connecting Cumberland, MD with Pittsburgh, PA (almost) to the C & O Canal Towpath; which is a 184 mile continuous ride to Washington, DC. Almost all on a bike path!

Pittsburgh to Mount Veron - Day 1

04/25/2003 14:29:18 by Administrator

From: McKeesport, PA
To: Ohiopyle, PA
Mileage: 63

We started by picking up Mary after work at 4:00 pm on Friday April 25. Dustin drove from Milford until Manchester CT where we had dinner at Country Buffet. If you dine there, watch out for the extra baking soda in the carrot cake. While I slept for about 2 hours, Mary drove to New York until I took over and drove the remainder of the way to Greenville PA. We arrived at the Greenville Walmart (no thanks to the mapquest instructions) at about 4:00 am. Mary cat napped and Katelyn kept me company until about 3:00. We found a nice quiet dark corner of the large parking lot, and slept until 6:30. I was ready to go. After a quick shopping trip (batteries, map, and newspaper) we headed for the starting point at McKeesport PA and had breakfast. Dustin and I left at a little past 8:00am to travel to Dawson (39 miles) via the Youghiogheny river trail. It was gray and cloudy. We had a couple of downpours and the temperature was in the low 60s. Mary and Kate took the motor home on an adventure through PA. Passing through rural coal towns which were very clean but not very prosperous. We were to meet at O'Neil's pizza at 120 Garry road. . No matter if it was an empty parking lot or not, for lunch. Well it was an empty parking lot so we agreed to meet downtown in Connellsville, PA. Dustin and I finished the morning ride at 46 miles averaging 12.5 MPH.

For lunch we had pizza and a steak bomb at Pepper's Pizza (Great food!). Then Katelyn and I rode 17 miles from Connellsville to OhioPyle RR station. Averaging 10 MPH. Both rides were full of wild life (hundreds of bird-> cardinals and robins being the most popular.) rabbit, muskrat, groundhogs. The cherry blossoms where out along with dogwoods, and wild orchids, blue bells, violets, and multitude of other wild flowers. So many colors and smells ( like wild onions). Waterfalls, long trains, rock formation, kyackers, white water rafters, and fishermen were some of the sights. We met about 40 people on the 64 miles of trail. Hard packed crushed limestone surface about 6 feet wide in most areas. Dustin and I came across a large sinkhole near the beginning, which we had to steer around. Mary rested her leg for another day. Putting macho man stuff aside, I feel very good. I have a little soreness in my left side of my back, but stretching at all breaks, and a mixture of orange Gatorade and magnesium tablets keeps the energy level high. We camped at Scarlet Knob campground (private) in Ohiopyle because Sammie was not allowed into the state campground. At 38 dollars a night, it was a rip-off with nasty restrooms and cold showers. The Long trestle bridge right before the Ohiopyle RR station was a lot of fun to cross on bikes.

Pittsburgh to Mount Veron - Day 2

04/26/2003 14:31:59 by Administrator

From: Ohiopyle, PA
To: Rock Gap State, MD
Mileage: 43.5

Sunday started out on the cool side but the temperature rose to 65 degrees during the day. The sky was blue blue with no clouds. Mary joined me for the morning stretch. We started at the Ohiopyle train station where we left off on Saturday. Across the street from the train station was a hotel (for future reference) and a bike rental store that had 3 of Clyde's brothers. Since 1998, I have only seen two other green MT800 Cannondale tandems; so seeing 3 lined up next to each other was pretty neat. The trail surface from Ohiopyle to Meyerdale (except for the last 1.5 miles) was in the best condition of the Allegheny trail system. Although, the trail was great all the way from Pittsburgh with wide crushed limestone as a base. The wild flowers and flowering dogwood, ash, cherry, and apple trees were not as prominent on this stretch of the trail however. This was the mountain/forest section of the trail. We rose almost 1000 feet as we traveled to Meyerdale, but you could hardly notice. Mary did great, we stopped and stretched every 5 miles, but the soreness in her leg was not a problem. The only concern I have is still my back on the left side. It is really just a pesky pinging feeling, in preparing for this ride I sould have done more work for upperbody strength. My legs are great, and my touchie, although a little tender, is in great shape. Lots of rhododendrons lined the path. We stopped in Rockwood for lunch at 2 Sister's pizza. It was on Main Street. Another highly recommended choice. We had fresh baked raspberry lemon cake (yum). Dustin and Katelyn drove the motor home from Ohiopyle to Rockwood, and walked most of town of Rockwood.

Katelyn and I rode the afternoon trip, which went by very fast. We averaged almost 13 mph; I think Katelyn was feeling good. The first highlight was the large windmills that dotted the mountaintops gathering electric power. I thought that it would be really neat if you could live in one. Imagine, everyday from out your own windmill windows you would see a different view because the tower is always turning to face the wind. The second highlight was the very long, and very high railroad trestle bridge that we crossed . It covered two farmer's fields, a river, and a 4-lane divided highway. All about 20 stories above the ground. Midway on the ride, while trying to talk to a fellow biker, I hit a gatepost with the back handle bar. Not a big thing because we kept going and there was no damage (it moved my seat a little to the right). But I had been bragging that these gateposts were no problem for me. After the afternoon ride, we drove the motor home from the train station at Meyersdale PA to Cumberland MD. The trail ends at Meyersdale, and you must follow the roads. We have been told not to ride it since it went over busy routes and narrow hills. I'm glad we didn't. We spent the night at Rocky Gap state park, just west of Cumberland MD. This state park had a lake, a 36-hole golf course, a 15-story resort/hotel. It cost us 23 dollars without hook ups and we camped in site 120 (backed up to the lake). Rocky Gap State Park is a definite 10 as far as campgrounds go.

Pittsburgh to Mount Veron - Day 3

04/27/2003 15:16:20 by Administrator

From: Rock Gap State, MD
To: Hancock, MD
Mileage: 56

Monday we started out at the Cumberland train station the northern terminus of the C&O canal trail. It was a GORGEOUS day, blue skies and the temperature around 76 degrees. Mary and I did the first 28 miles of the trip. I really like the C&O and was really juiced to be on it. We saw osprey, red tail hawks, kingfishers, woodpeckers, turtles, snake, groundhogs, cardinals and golden finches just to name a few things. The trees were in full green and the lilacs, dogwoods, cherry trees, and mountain ash were in full bloom. What an awesome day. Katelyn and Dustin drove to the entrance of the Paw paw tunnel, where we had lunch in the motor home. Mary's leg felt great after the ride. We did a lot of stretching and it seems to help.

For the second half of the trip, Katelyn took up the stoker position on Clyde and Dustin rode the Schwinn. We made it through the Paw paw tunnel (about half a mile tunnel with no lights) riding the bikes, quite a feat! Katelyn held the flashlight up and I steered. Dustin stayed close behind. The rest of the trip was more of the same as the first, perfect. We camped at Happy Hills campground in Hancock MD, at 25 dollars. It's a nice campground, a bit of a parking lot but shower house is ok. We head into town for dinner. Dustin decided that he would try to hit all the puddles on the trail, so I now have to go clean up the Schwinn -> since he is asleep. We had dinner in Hancock at the Park and Dine dinner. The chef salad was superb!

Pittsburgh to Mount Veron - Day 4

04/28/2003 15:18:46 by Administrator

From: Hancock, MD
To: Harpers Ferry, MD
Mileage: 78

Tuesday, after a great breakfast of Mary's pancakes, Katelyn and I took off from the campground. We rode on the paved trail next to the C&O into Fort Frederick State Park (about 15 miles.). It rained for 25 miles, a steady downpour. It was a GREAT ride even with the rain. Katelyn was a real trooper. We averaged around 15 MPH on the paved path, in the rain. We found out the name of the purple flowering tree from a man walking on the path. It is called Ridge bud. It finally stopped raining when we pulled into the Williamsport Visitor Center, 33 miles from the campground. With a couple of Luna bars and some more Gatorade, Dustin took on the stoker's position. We saw our first deer on the trail and I saw my first bluebird (no not a blue jay!). Dustin and I took our first and only spill on the trip. We were going a whopping 2 mph, so the dump was not too tragic. But a spill is a spill. We were trying to get over a small stream, when Clyde wanted to go sideways, and we wanted to go straight. Clyde won. This was right before the 5-mile detour around to Dam 4. We traveled a total of 17 miles in glorious sunshine!

We meet up and had lunch at Dam 4 and Mary rode the final 28 miles of the day. This part runs past Big Woods, Antietam National Battlefield, and Harpers Ferry. If you can only do a 20-mile stretch of the C&O, I would tell you to travel the portion near Harpers Ferry. Wow, what a glorious ride. The wild flowers and wild life are abundant. You travel along the Potomac near the falls and white water. A yellow jacket flew in under my shirt sleeve, and before exiting decided to sting me. Mary rolled the sleeve back, and the bee flew away. I didn't even get to sting him back! The total today was 78 miles. This is my first 75+ miles trip since I swore I would never do one again back in 1989. I was riding a rails-to-trails in Wisconsin, and "hit the wall" at 65 miles , with 10 miles left to get back to my car. I feel very good, a little tired, but everything feels really good. The kids had a tough time locating our rendezvous point at lock #31 but they did it! Which believe me on some of these twisted back country roads is quite an accomplishment. They really are becoming extremely capable adults. We stayed at the KOA across from Harper's Ferry at $45, thank you! Expensive but all things considered the showers made the cost tolerable, well not really.

Pittsburgh to Mount Veron - Day 5

04/29/2003 15:20:12 by Administrator

From: Harpers Ferry, MD
To: Mount Vernon
Mileage: 60

Last day on the C&O started off at lock 31 with Katelyn as my stoker. Sunshine was abundant, and so were the wildflowers! We saw deer, red tail hawks, heron, egret, turkey buzzards, and Kate and I spotted a very large brown barn owl! Mary took over the stoker position at White's ferry. This part of the trip was mud puddle filled, but very enjoyable. Mary's leg felt very good. Not 100 percent, but close. We stopped three times for some stretching, and made it into Great Falls Tavern Visitor center where Kate and Dustin (and 4 bus loads of elementary school students) greeted us. We had lunch and Dustin and I headed out for the last 14.5 miles into Washington D.C. At milepost 13 you have to carry your bike around some rocky terrain, but after that it was smooth sailing into Georgetown. We took our time, and I enjoyed the last few miles. I was sad that this part of the journey was over, but glad that I was able to share so much time with three great riding partners. They are finishing the trails end at Georgetown and from the looks of it, they will be at it for a couple of years.

Kate and Mary found a parking space under the overpass where we joined her. Very proud of their navigation skills in the city. Perhaps their overconfidence led to a major misdirection as we began heading south out of the city, and accidentially got on route 110 south. Totally missing the sign that said "six wheeled vehicles prohibited". This is a restricted area, where only cars are allowed. Vehicles with 6 wheels are not allowed to drive passed the entrance to the Pentagon. There are no signs, and we had no idea. We were trying to get near Mount Vernon to camp for the night at Pohick Bay Regional Park. We were stopped and pulled over by a Virginia State Police Trooper near the entrance of the Pentagon's main entrance. He asked for my license and registration and told me that we were not allowed on Route 110 (we thought we were on 395 to boot) with 6 wheels. I was asked a number of questions, photographed, and then had to wait (while Mary counted the other 6 wheeled vehilces passing us, 3 buses and a dump truck?) until 2 other State troopers came with a bomb sniffing dog. We were asked to step out of the camper while the dog went to work. Sammie was a little miffed so the trooper had to move us a little further away while the sniffer dog did his thing. We must have passed the test (Proof that Dustin's Stinky socks are not a bio hazard) because we were escorted past the Pentagon by our not so friendly State Trooper to route 395. After that excitement, it took us about 2 hours to travel about 15 miles. We were caught in the exciting D.C. traffic, and encircled the campground because BOTH camping books gave false directions which was a good thing as the directorys put the campground right outside of the Lorton Reformatory which Katelyn was not too thrilled about.. At one point, I was within 2 miles of it, without even knowing. It's a GREAT campground. We will be here 2 nights at a total of $40 for both nights. The showers are hot, and there is plenty of spacious wooded sites with many open spaces.

Pittsburgh to Mount Veron - Day 6

04/30/2003 15:21:37 by Administrator

From: Mount Vernon
To: Mount Vernon
Mileage: 37

Last day of biking. Dustin has to get home for the SATs on Saturday morning. He has been studying pretty hard during this vacation. It was nice to be away from all the distractions of being at home. Mary and I left the kids at Mount Vernon, George Washington's home. They were done with biking, and wanted to spend the day exploring Mount Vernon. This is the second time they've been there, but they were just toddlers their first visit. They visited everything except the house itself because of the very very long line to get in. Mary and I left (directly from the parking lot) on the Mount Vernon trail to Washington D.C. It links up to the C&O near the Key's bridge and Georgetown University. It was partly cloudy, but turned to all sunshine around 11:00. The temperture was in the 80's. The paved trail winds around for 18.5 miles along the Potomac river and through Alexandria VA. We passed many people jogging, walking, and biking. But the trail was not crowded at all. We past Jones Point Lighthouse, Ronald Regan National Airport and Lady Bird Johnson Park. We crossed the Arlington bridge instead of going down two bridges to Keys bridge so that we could park on the National Mall in front of the Lincoln Memorial. We saw a red tailed fox on the side of the Lincoln Memorial's lawn! This paved trail is a must do for any biker. It reminded Mary of a ride in an amusement park, with natural beauty. She puts it in her top ten rides; I kid her because she has so many top ten rides. What a great way to end this biking journey. Clyde was very happy on this stretch of trail, and strutted his stuff. He needs a bath, and some TLC. He was a really trooper with no problems except once a day the large tandem chain would fall off due to a stick getting caught in a crank cog. Mary's leg feels very good after this trip of 37 miles. After 6 days at about 56 miles a day, I feel great. Today my back did not hurt at all. Next time, I will prepare a little differently. I would do more upper body strength building. The trails take more arm and back abuse then I thought that they would. I think the next adventure will be doing the Erie canal!