Sunday, November 30, 2014

The Great Allegheny Passage

I set off on an Adventure.
Wind in my curly Puerto Rican hair.

Mmm. Alcapurrias.

From Pittsburgh the GAP runs to Cumberland MD and joins with the C&O Towpath trail to D.C. forming over 300 miles of bike trail. Usually people ride it when it isn't winter. 
It'll be fine. 

There is great weather the first two days. Happy Davey.
Camping out is great, my down sleeping bag keeps me warm at night.
Unless I lay in my hammock just the right way and squash the sleepingbag flat with my butat. Then my butt gets cold.
But otherwise I'm content. 

There are a lot of free campgrounds, so my only expense so far has been food.
I once had an "Outdoor Vacation" with some friends here, at Kentuck Campground in Ohiopyle.

Look at how cute we are.
I was busy riding my bike on the trail while all my friends were hiking and exploring.
I regret that.

A tunnel I'm not allowed in. Pssht.

My internetphone warns me of impending snowstorm doom.
I spring $30 for a hostel.

This place is rad. For $30 I get an entire six person room and bathroom to myself.
I'm gonna spread out, pardner.

I'm actually the only person in the building.
Except for the ghosts. This place is definitely haunted.

The snowstorm happened.

I look stylish in that Jandd helmet cover, don't I Stuart?

I climbed to the top of Mt.Savage in the snow. It was exhausting.
It must really be big if even the Pennsylvanians call it a mountain.

On the other side is Maryland. The land of no cell reception. So much for my computerphones. The roads weren't really that bad though. They were plowing and salting and such. 
And I'm an "expert" winter commuter, remember?

See? They got better.

I finally make it to Cumberland, MD. The halfway point to D.C.(

This is where the two trails meet. Eh. I didn't hang around.

After Cumberland I began the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal Towpath Trail.
Everyone warns me that it is much rougher than the GAP.
Wild. Untamed. 

What it is, is flooded. Not ideal for riding. 
Despite wet conditions, I wheel my Wheeler a good bit of mileage to
The Tunnel.

Now, my good buddy just did this trip earlier this summer. He said the PawPaw tunnel was spooky, despite the silly name. I didn't quite know what he meant, so I took it with a grain of salt. Nonetheless, as I approached the tunnel the hair on the back of my neck stood up. There is definitely something foreboding about it. To make matters worse, I haven't seen a soul on the path in days. I'm alone. 
But I have to go through.
 I can't quite describe with accuracy the feeling of going through the tunnel. The tunnel is super long, and you walk along a narrow path above the canalway. Its pitch black except for your flashlight and the far off entrance, which looks minuscule. The air feels different, warmer. Its otherworldly.
It's spooky as shit.

Still alive.
Like all the other weird parts of this tour, there's light on the other side.
Check out this rad campsite.

You wish your hammock game was this tight. I set up for the night in the foundations of an abandoned lockhouse. They're almost 200 years old. Sleeping here also creeped me out.
Something about ghosts this trip.

The next morning I found a cave.

Zero bears.
 I want my money back.
And also I found this very old shack. I like to pretend Moonshine was made in it.

There were old abandoned houses and ruins along the path too, looking at me with their empty windows. 
I didn't feel like risking a peek.

All in all, I only took about half the total trail, and went on the roads for the other half. The C&O especially was almost impassible due to the snow, ice, puddles, and mud. I lost count of how many times I had to carry my bike over fallen trees.
The roads were much better for traveling, if hillier. Also, the area around the GAP is a warm showers desert, and I wasn't always lucky enough to be traveling to towns where there are great cheap hostels.
I had to spring for a b&b.
It hurt.
But I made it out more or less alive, and I am happily typing this for you on the computer of a super generous Warmshowers host family.

I'm right outside DC, soon to visit another Coop.

Pittsburgermeister Meisterburger

I'm going to tell you a story.

So I ride my bike to Pittsburgh. 

And Pittsburgh was good.
Actually, just about everything in PGH was great, and I'm sure my CLE people
will hurt me for saying it.
It seems like the two towns have a very similar story.
Cleveland might have beaten PGH in this years
But I don't see how, because the Burg has all the infrastructure.

Protected bike lanes. Dedicated.
This one did end abruptly and left me hanging in traffic
but at least it was there.
And they were all over the place.
They make me happy.

Progress in Cleveland is slow.
 So slow that some cyclists just
There's a strong cycling culture in PGH in general
which leads me to the whole point of me being there.
I am on a mission, remember?

I went and visited Pittsburgh's bike Co-Op

They have a great workshop where, for a small fee
you can work on your bike yourself, cutting expensive bike shop repair $$$.

Here is a wheel sizing rack, which tells you what size your wheel is,
 saving much time confusion and frustration. 
There's about a million wheel sizes and they can get you into trouble.
The Ohio City Bike Co-Op has known about these for years,
 but still has you compare rims side by side.
Come on guys.
Also, check out that titanium bike.

They also did a great job using signage to explain Co-Op processes.
Some of it is slightly passive-aggressive.

Can you fix My Bike?
No, but you can use our tools to do your own repairs.
Sound good?

The Passive-Aggresor would be Tom.
Tom was kind enough to let me follow him around and generally be a nuisance.
He answered all of my questions with tact and grace.
What a guy.

This place was great,
 they seemed to have their share of roadblocks like any non-profit
but while I was there the shop was busy full of people fixing their own bikes.
It felt like home.
After my visit, I got to spend some quality time with my hosts.
They live in a beautiful old home at the very top of all the hills in America.

They also have chickens.
I could fill the rest of this page with pictures of chickens.