Day 7 - May 10 - West Newton to Hendersonville - Two Old Guys Take On A Continent - CycleBlaze

May 10, 2023

Day 7 - May 10 - West Newton to Hendersonville

Tunnel Vision

John’s Story

Another chilly morning at 42 degrees, but it felt like the coldest one yet. Even though we were camped under a party tent we still got dew on the rain flies. It was really nice to have a place to cook and clean up. It was a beautiful morning with the sun rising over the river.

Time To Get Up
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Somewhere on the other side of that river was a train track that carried trains all night which insisted on blowing their horns for several minutes as they passed us. It honestly didn’t really bother me that much but the first time it happened it was quite startling.

Looking from the river back up to the camp structure.
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We parted ways with our new friends Patrick and Uli, thinking we might see them again once our routes converge between here and Missouri.

Farewell Pat and Uli!
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Ed passing through the portal.
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As we approached the civilization known as Pittsburgh we started looking for a coffee shop for either our second breakfasts or our elevensies. Found a very quaint one with fresh baked scones.  Back on the trail we found ourselves on the wrong side of the river in McKeesport trying to reroute to the correct road. Who did we run into again?

The reconvergence with Patrick and Uli happened earlier that we expected. And this time Adam ran into us as well. [Editorial corrections to yesterday’s journal: Throughout yesterday’s journal I called Adam Andy. That has been corrected without Adam having to change his name.]
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GAP be no more. On to the Montour Trail, which arcs around south and west of Pittsburgh. We started at the eastern end at mile marker 46. We’ll leave it tomorrow at about mile marker 22.
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Nothing says Pittsburgh like iron bridges and railroad tracks.
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“Stop!” said Ed.  I turned around.  What are you doing, I asked.  “Adjusting my dongle.” I didn’t ask any more questions.

“Dongle” adjustment. Everyone avert your eyes.
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We stopped at a neighborhood Italian place in Clairton for lunch. Very much a hole in the wall.  I didn’t notice until we had already ordered a pizza (it was great) that on their chalkboard they were advertising a pierogi dinner for $8.99.  Not Italian certainly but that’s what I’d have ordered had I known. The name Chimahusky isn’t Irish, ya know.

I appreciate the cautionary guidance. If only I could get this bike up to 15 miles an hour on average so that it was some meaningful advice!
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 At about mile marker 34 we came across several trail volunteers working on resurfacing part of the Montour Trail. One of them warned us that at mile 28 1/2 the Greer Tunnel is closed. He painted a dire picture of our alternatives for going around the closure. Steep hills. Heavy traffic. No shoulder. Gloom, doom, death, destruction. To quote him at one point, “You’ll never be able to push those bikes up the hill. We’re not advertising any alternatives to the tunnel passage on our website because we’re afraid someone might take our advice and sue us.” With the pall of imminent destruction hanging over our heads we pressed on.

On the way to our demise we caught up with Steve, a local biker. I had a chance to have a lengthy conversation with Steve about the tunnel and our alternatives as we went along.

Steve didn’t have any better news for us, but decided to ride along with us all the way to the tunnel to see if somehow we could find a way through.
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We arrived at the gate closing off the trail leading to the tunnel. You could see and hear heavy construction equipment working. Certainly did not look like we were going to have a chance to sneak through. We turned around, backtracked a mile and a half and parted ways with Steve.
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We left the trail to start our detour around the tunnel. At first all seemed well . There was actually a narrow rideable shoulder in places, and the hills weren’t too bad. Then we crossed the “purple bridge” (part of the end-times scenario presented to us), rolled under the overpass and were presented with a very steep hill and the sudden onset of very heavy traffic.

We both immediately dismounted to start walking, when a commanding voice from above hollered, “Don’t go that way!” It was a man calling down to us from the backyard of his home on the hill to our left across the road. He told us to back up a few feet and turn right into the private driveway we had just passed and to follow it until we got to the town’s back streets. We took his advice. It got us off the road and away from the traffic. We still had to climb the same hill, but we didn’t feel like we were on the firing line anymore. We walked our bikes about halfway through the small town and ground up the lesser hills. After we got to the top of the hill we returned to the highway and made our way back to the trail, albeit without walking some more hills.

Once back on the Montour Trail we came to the Tandem Connection bike shop, where one of the guys was kind enough to refill our water bottles. 

Smile for the camera, Colin!
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Finally arrived at the Cecil Henderson primitive campsite. It’s right on the trail. The formal campsites are covered with a thick coarse mulch, but along the trail there’s very nice soft green grass. We decide to pitch the tents on the grass instead of at the campsites themselves. We chose wisely. A trail volunteer came by to chat with us and was perfectly happy with our decision.

Once all the walkers and hikers and bikers pass by and the parking lot here clears out of the day trippers it should be a fairly peaceful place to camp.
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Chuck and John. Two of the folks who keep trails like this open for people like us. Thank you!
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Ed’s Story

It was a great night despite the trains - little to no dew on the tents; a real bathroom; breakfast under a roof.

As we headed north I had to say a short prayer. Some poor biker ran off the side of the trail and was never found. All that was left was a rusted bike.

Even the bones and clothes decayed away.
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We stopped near a construction area to shed some of our clothes. It turns out they were preparing a new little league ball field. I’m the one who found the coffee shop (no bragging, just fact. John was ready to go across the bridge to a McDonald’s).

I hope the kids enjoy the new ball field when its done. Only mud there now.
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The Betsy Shoppes and Bistro.
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Rebecca ChimahuskyThat is a super cute breakfast spot! Good catch!
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1 year ago

It turns out there is a Hostel in McKeesport or there was at one time. It’s hard to tell if it’s still active.

A hostel or a brick prison?
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Traversing our way through McKeesport was a bear. We ended up going over two bridges needlessly because we did not see the route shown on our GPS devices. The bike walkways were so narrow we had to walk our bikes across.

We stopped at a Rite Aid to find some canned beans and canned tomatoes for my dinner. We saw a can of luncheon loaf on the shelves. Look at the ingredients and you can decide if you’d eat it.

This can contains the whole pig.
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Rebecca ChimahuskyWhere's the vomit emoji on this thing??
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1 year ago
Ronald WoodsProduct of Denmark!
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1 year ago

We had lunch at Garletto’s pizzeria and diner. The vegetarian pizza was great. Hats off to the entire crew, especially Jason (otherwise known as Hook).

Highly recommended by Belinda from the O’Reilly’s auto parts store next to the Rite Aid.
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We got spoiled by relatively flat trails. Hook told us he grew up in the area and the trail was flat. It may have been flat where he walked but a little west on the trail it started climbing and climbing and climbing. We started at the end of the trail around mile marker 46. When I was working and traveling to Pittsburgh for business I rode from the head of the trail in different sections between marker 0 and 20.

Although trails are a nice way to travel, the one thing that really irks me are the barriers where the trail intersects with roads. Most of the time these barriers are not very wide. If you are not riding carefully enough, you can hit these barriers causing your pannier to be knocked off your bike. Did this happen to me yesterday?  I’ll never tell and it can remain my secret and John’s. 

I consider these a hazard to bikers. The trail where I live used to have them, but they were taken down.
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Kelly IniguezA local bicycle underpass was there for several years. Then I rode through and it had jersey barriers (concrete barriers of the type they use on highway construction) placed so closely together that I couldn't even walk my bicycle through, I had to lift it over.

I called the city, and was quickly routed to the man in charge of streets. He said that the barriers had been placed there because ATV users had started using the bicycle underpass after the town had approved ATVs as street legal vehicles.

I told him that I appreciated the city's action - I certainly wouldn't want to meet an ATV roaring through the tunnel. I requested that the barriers be placed appropriately for bicycles to pass through. The next time I rode that direction, the barriers had been moved further apart. With concentration, I could ride through.

This spring, they have been moved even further apart. I think they are still close enough together that an ATV wouldn't be able to get through.

BTW, that is one thing I love about living in a small town. You can talk to a live person who will fix your problem!

The point of all of that story is perhaps the posts are that close together to prevent ATV's from using the path.
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1 year ago
Ronald WoodsThey are a pain but what ever it takes to keep motors off the trails I’m ok with!
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1 year ago
Tandem Connection - the water bottle fill spot.
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My daughter told me that when she saw John’s photo of the campsite, that the tents had deflated. This is to let her know that we reinflated them before we went to bed.
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It’s going to be another cool night tonight. I have determined that the 25 degree sleeping bag I bought is not living up to its expectations. Even at 48 degrees with a liner and extra clothing, I am cold. It is time to look for a new bag.

We have 54 miles and 1800 ft of climbing tomorrow as we head to Wheeling, WV. Planning a rest day in Wheeling and already have hotel reservations.

Until tomorrow, happy biking!

Today's ride: 47 miles (76 km)
Total: 3,698 miles (5,951 km)

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