GAP ride 2016

gaptrail_mapupdate-01The Great Allegheny Passage is a 150 mile rail trail that runs from Cumberland Md, to Pittsburgh Pa. It’s largely flat, as rail trails usually are, and improved with cinder, although some small sections of it are asphalt.

Mike Roon of Michigan Coast Rider’s (MCR), America by Bicycle and Alger Bikes fame has been leading a ride on this trail during October for the last several years. It’s been a “friends of Mike Roon” type of ride, so maybe you haven’t heard about it, until now.

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The short bus – somewhere in Ohio

I was honored to be invited (well Mike told me I should go, that I would enjoy it, and that I needed it) this year. We left Thursday, October 6th about 6am and drove to Cumberland in a pair of MCR’s vans. Upon arrival, four of us took off on a short ride just to get rid of that car ride sluggishness that develops. Then we met the rest of the group for dinner and a cocktail, wouldn’t want to miss out on that.

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Cumberland, MD – Thursday eve – on the C&O Canal Towpath – yes 3 of us rode our fatbikes.

Friday morning we were up early and hitting the GAP trail at mile 0.

This group spanned from the very experienced to folks who were worried whether or not they could finish this ride. All in all a nice group of people, most of them better riders than they thought they were. Day 1 starts with 27 miles uphill to about Frostburg and the Eastern Continental Divide. Then lunch in Meyersdale at this great little restaurant that we totally overwhelmed, and on to Confluence to our hotel – yes hotel – I’ve camped, it’s great – I like a hotel. If you’d like to ride this trail sometime on your own and camp, there appeared to be plenty of nice facilities for that along the way. Day 1 is about 65 miles. Rain for part of this ride made a pretty big mess of our bikes, as much as I hate using a hose to clean my bike, it was our only option – fortunately the hotel was willing to let us use their water to hose off – suppose they don’t want that mess in the rooms though do they?

 

Day 2 was Confluence to Smithton, just over 50 miles, and almost all downhill, very slight grade – almost can’t tell – my Strava segment shows 737 feet of elevation – almost all of it in the last 2 miles where a few of us left the trail and rode to the hotel. We delayed our start in the hope that the rain would subside, and it did, for a while. Several of us stopped in Ohiopyle for a sandwich and a cocktail, kind of hoping the rain would subside. Ohiopyle is a cool little community established along a bend in the river, lots of kayaking and sights here. It’s beautiful all along this section, we saw a lot of the river and had better access to it than day 1. Our official lunch stop was in Connellsville. Several of the participants changed clothes, I just kept warm as much as I could while eating lunch, knowing that riding would warm me back up. Rain kept us on the trail most of the day. I stopped early and snapped a picture of the river because it seemed a shame not to appreciate the beauty of the area just because of rain. Did I mention it rained?

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The Youghiogheney river

Day 3 was Smithton to Pittsburgh. Got up to dryer but cool conditions. Rode the hill back down to the start of the trail, always enjoyable. We stopped to look at a few waterfalls along the way. As we got into Boston, PA, I made the group stop – my foot was freezing – shoe was probably still a little wet from the day before. The riding became much more urban as we got into the suburbs of Pittsburgh. Small towns give way to bigger towns, then small cities – some of the towns look like they haven’t really recovered since the steel mill days. As you get into McKeesport it starts to look a little nicer, but still abandoned factories… As we got near our destination I was really impressed with the city Pittsburgh has become. I’ll admit I’d envisioned an old town I’d probably not want to visit, but it’s really quite interesting and I would like to go back. Day 3 ended up being a little short of 40 miles. Mike took us to the top of Mount Washington (in the vans) for a view of Pittsburgh – gorgeous. There’s also a really pretty Catholic Church that overlooks the city up there.

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view from Mount Washington

This was a great trip.

Mike has decided to make the trip next year into an official Michigan Coast Rider’s event. You’ll be able to visit the MCR website and sign up. Price is $375 including transportation and food, you buy your own lunches, deserts, and drinks with dinner.