Sorry, but that's classified - Can I Join You? - CycleBlaze

September 24, 2016

Sorry, but that's classified

We decide to get breakfast sandwiches at the hotel instead of going out and trying to find a diner. It was convenient and gave us a chance to keep our room until the last possible moment before we departed. Remember, the idea behind this tour was to enjoy the trip as much as possible. We each packed up a pannier in the hotel room, racked them onto the bike, rolled them into the elevator, and just like that, we were on the street.

Here we are, just outside the hotel, beginning our adventure!
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The official start to the Great Allegheny Passage (GAP) is at the Point Park Fountain, but to get there, I find a riverside path which takes us along the Allegheny River to get to the fountain. The temperature is low-50's in the morning as we make our way to the fountain.

We're all "thumbs up" at mile marker 0 of the GAP
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The trail travels about 4 blocks in the middle of the city before breaking off to its own bike path. The paved path goes along the Monongahela River as it makes its way south. We pass under automotive infrastructure and beside a homeless camp on the other side of a highway. It appears the homeless camp is quite well entrenched in its location, as it was there when I rode through here in 2015. My guess is it's a necessary convenience. So long as they don't harass anyone, they live under the overpasses and it solves the housing problem for them. Not much of a solution, however. And though I may live in a tent, it's a temporary abode.

The GAP rolling under automotive infrastructure
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Crossing over the Hot Metal bridge
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We make our way to the south side of the Monongahela River, and into the local REI we go. I'm so happy to have Kath along on this trip and show her the sense of adventure that is a tour. She doesn't have nearly as many miles on her bike this year as I have so we ride according to her pace and take stops when she needs them. In the REI, we chat for a good 30 minutes with a green-vested gentlemen about the GAP and bike touring in general.

We roll into the site of the 1892 Homestead Steel Strike. This was quite a bit of unpleasantness between workers and steel company management back in the day. The end result was a failure on the union side since ultimately they had to agree to the Carnegie Steel Company's terms in order to be able to return to work.

Site of the Homestead strike
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Lunchtime finds us in McKeesport, PA. We roll into a Subway to get a 12" to split along with some chips. It's located in the middle of town with the sandwich shop, a mobile phone outlet, a vapor shop, and a takeout pizza place. We park the bikes outside but keep one of us standing guard as the other goes in to order the food. It's not that we don't trust, but better to trust and verify than end up with a stolen bike or two. The area is rundown in a way that many cities relying on one industry have fallen on hard times when that industry has been overtaken by foreign competition. We never feel physically threatened during our time in the city, but feel it's not one of the more "aesthetic" places we've passed through.

Kath rolls through McKeesport, PA
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Abandoned Steel works, McKeesport, PA
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Further on into the afternoon we pass by a familiar sight on the GAP - the red waterfall. The color of the water is due to the acid runoff from the mining operations.

The "red" waterfall
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Just across the river from Sutersville, we run across the "Youth Twister" - one of the soft-serve ice cream places from the 60's. I mean, it looks like the building was built during the 60's and hasn't changed in the intervening time period. This is one of those places where you stop and remember why you're riding along the GAP in the first place; why you ever wanted to tour on a bicycle to begin with. If you were merely flying from your origin to your all-inclusive-resort destination, this is one of those places which you'd completely miss. We're served a single-serving of soft-serve ice cream which is a little large than the size of an adult fist, on a cone, for $1.25. Can't beat that with a stick!

An absolute "must stop" on the GAP outside Sutersville
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We roll into the Bright Morning Bed & Breakfast in West Newton about 3:15, which is plenty of time to pull the panniers off the bike into the room, take a shower, and then head off to the patio. Kath beat her single-day cycling record with 38.5 miles on the odometer, which was a great achievement for her; I had a great experience seeing my wife ride her first day on a bike tour.

Bright Morning B&B cocktail patio
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When we put away our bikes in the secured garage, I saw another custo bike in there, which turned out to be a bike owned by a rider who joined us on the patio. It turns out he was a former US Navy submariner who has gone on 20+ years of service and has interesting stories. He shared some of his submarine experiences and tours of duty, and others led to the dead end of "Sorry, but that's classified information" so we could proceed no further on the subject. Still, it's interesting to speak with someone whose experiences are vast and who has seen things in their career they are still bound to keep a secret. 

After the cocktail, we walk to the only dinner place in "town" and have hamburgers on the decks overlooking the only road through town. Kath beat her single-day riding record of 31 miles by over seven miles today. And after a nice hot shower, a glass of Chardonnay, and a full dinner, she slept like a baby.

Tomorrow we make for Ohiopyle.

Today's ride: 39 miles (63 km)
Total: 39 miles (63 km)

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