Day 1: Pittsburgh to West Newton - Fall Colors Bike Tour on the GAP - CycleBlaze

October 12, 2021

Day 1: Pittsburgh to West Newton

Everyone wants a happy ending

Three Rivers Heritage Trail view
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Now that I got your attention, you have to wait for the happy ending.

I will start by saying it was a perfect cycling day. The mid-70s, sun, no wind, and super touring companions. Fall colors were bright as we descended through the convention center onto the Three Rivers Heritage Trail. The distinctive yellow Pittsburgh bridges lay ahead of me reflected in the Allegheny River. It was a short cycle to Point State Park and the beginning of the Great Allegheny Passage (GAP).

Start of tour group photo
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Every tour needs a start of tour group photo. It is a valuable thing to have should one of the group become lost or sacrificed to the Gods of the GAP. The Point State Park fountain is quite impressive with the Pittsburgh skyline as the backdrop. The journey east through downtown was made easier over the past few years with the addition of a switchback eliminating an on-street ride.

Pittsburgh Skyline from the Hot Metal Bridge
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The 10:00 am departure had us cycling through a cool morning breeze and bright sun. A shot back towards the Pittsburgh skyline from the Hot Metal Bridge was picture perfect today. It was a short four-mile cycle to the Waterfront at Homestead from the Southside. It was time for an early lunch at Eat and Park. I passed on the smiley face cookies which at this time of year are transformed into Halloween monsters and jack-o-lanterns.

Heading into McKeesport
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I pedaled through the active steel valley to the far end of McKeesport. It was time to climb onto a more natural GAP trail. The miles from McKeesport to West Newton are stories in lost industry and communities struggling to survive. It is a slice of America that many urban people do not see or understand. Community pride is evident in these towns that once prospered during the age of steel. 

Plumer House B&B
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West Newton is a common overnight on my GAP bike tours. It has many things going for it. There are a couple of bed and breakfasts, a brewery and distillery, a well-equipped bike shop, and a small selection of dining options. It's a good example of a steel valley town transitioning from a neglected company town to an adventure tourist destination.

Gary's Chuckwagon
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Tonight’s accommodations are the Plumer House, a beautifully restored early 1800s home with many amenities. The location is convenient with the backyard facing the river. I will be making this my go-to overnight in West Newton.

Gary of Gary's Chuckwagon with the group
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Now for the happy ending! Gary’s Chuckwagon was the sole dining option on Tuesday evening beside pizza and Subway. It was only a two-block walk to the other side of the tracks. I walked into this small-town diner where comfort food was on the menu. The gingerbread man and woman wall art set the tone for a fun quirky atmosphere.

Tom at the Chuckwagon
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The real treat was Gary as our server as well as the chef. The guy was entertaining with a super sense of humor. He dished out comments that rivaled those heard at Dick’s Last Resort. The happy ending for the day was Gary. The table was laughing. Gary gave everyone a complimentary piece of cherry pie. Two happy endings!

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Today's ride: 36 miles (58 km)
Total: 36 miles (58 km)

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Wendy BeaudoinI am really enjoying the great descriptions of your ride, Tom. You obviously enjoy this trail. It makes me want to give it a try sometime.
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1 week ago
Al BurnardMakes me want to ride the GAP again. It was so hot and humid in August I feel like I missed complete sections of the trail. Reading your blog is like opening up all the new places I'd like to visit!
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1 week ago