McMurray, PA to Steubenville, OH: - Mackinac Island after abandoning the USBRS (US Bicycle Route System) - CycleBlaze

April 30, 2019

McMurray, PA to Steubenville, OH:

It was the best of routes, it was the worst of routes ....

Starting point in front of Dave’s childhood home.
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After a wonderful visit last night with my sister and brother-in-law (Deb and Jim)we got to see our new grand nephew. We’re claiming we saw his first independent standing attempt. Jim transported us to my childhood home where we loaded the bike. First stop was at the site of my Elementary school which is now a park because a coal company mined out the coal underneath resulting in subsidence. One of our classmates was the Principal at the time and the story is that her first duty in the day was to measure a crack with a ruler. If the crack had not lengthened, then they could have school that day.

I believe this tree may have been planted at the school on Arbor Day in 1963. I remember it because I got in trouble during the ceremony for saying “shit”. It cured me of saying that word at least.
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We started on the Montour trail which had a nice crushed limestone gravel surface. At least it did until we encountered the construction site for the new aTurnpike extension (I think Rt. 576). A worker had to escort us through the mud.

Friendly guy.
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After the mud we turned onto the paved Panhandle trail. In Burgettstown we lucked into lunch at Walden’s Trailside Restaurant.

The restaurant is tucked behind the Statue of Liberty.
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It’s in a nondescript looking building but is a must stop for any touring cyclist.

We learned after finishing our meal that the restaurant has a policy of feeding cross country touring cyclists for free. They refused to take our money although we were only 24 miles into our tour. We ended up making a donation to a scholarship fund for the recently deceased brother of the owner.

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Vickie, Our waitress was a hoot.

Rhona liked the crocheted chair leg “cozies”.
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Vickie came from Texas in 1973 where she was a lonely Steeler fan. She started working at Walden's then and never left. Last year retired Steeler linebacker Jack Hamm came into the restaurant and asked why she had never gone to a Steeler game. She said she couldn’t afford tickets working for $2 an hour. The next week Jack gave her his four tickets to the game. She took three of her customers and they were thrilled to turn around and see Steeler greats Joe Green and Dwight White. Dwight White died in 2008, but it was still a good story.

After lunch we had a slight downhill grade for 8 miles enabling 18-20 mph cruising speeds. But it was not to last. As soon as we hit the WV border the pavement ended and the surface reverted to crushed limestone...correction... make that mud and puddles as it poured for 45 minutes until we reached Weirton, WV along the Ohio River. We passed on the first motel opting to continue riding into Stuebenville. The USBR had us pass by the first modern bridge across the River. My hands were so wet I couldn’t use my phone to photograph the beautiful suspension bridge. A few miles south we started across on the recommended two lane bridge with no shoulders but immediately had to stop because the steel grating was so slippery. We then saw a sidewalk but there was absolutely no way to access it over the barriers with the tandem. We ended up walking across on the bridge on the left side as pedestrians forcing traffic to steer around us. This bridge was by far the most dangerous bridge for cycling that I have experienced in 40 years of cycle touring. Even a pedestrian without a bicycle would have had to clamber over barriers to reach the sidewalk from the WV side.

A view of the bridge from Steubenville. At least this side had stairs which would have been a challenge with a loaded tandem.
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Of course leaving the Ohio River valley to our hotel involved climbing a steep hill with a lot of traffic. We chose to go to the right of a fence and ride on a path. Mistake!

Looking down the steep hill we lugged the tandem up. At least we were no longer cold.
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It stopped raining when we arrived at the Super 8 in Steubenville. The staff were quite friendly and readily loaned some old towels to clean us, the panniers and the bike. The room was clean and the hot shower was great.

The Montour and the Panhandle trails were great ways to get out of Pittsburgh. Signage and road surfaces ranged from great to good in spite of the rain. However, we are 44 miles into the trip and have yet to see a single USBRS sign. Signs would have helped in Weirton and Steubenville*. Fortunately I loaded the route onto our Ride With GPS app so we didn’t lose the route. Hotel staff noted they see many touring cyclists come through, but perhaps they are only funneled through here because of the bridges not because of the alleged USBS route.

* I later realized West Virginia has not participated in the USBRS system which explains the lack of signs in Weirton, but not Steubenville.

Today's ride: 44 miles (71 km)
Total: 44 miles (71 km)

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