On Your Left

Bicycles, Travel, and Photography

Team Lighthouse 2014 part 2

Thursday morning, we left Cumberland Maryland to begin the Grand Allegheny Passage (GAP) trail. The GAP is 150 miles of crushed limestone, partially parallel to existing rail lines but mostly on abandoned rail beds.

First part was to climb the easy 1.75% grade to Frostburg MD, cross over the MD and PA border on the Mason Dixon line, and then the eastern continental divide finally ending at Rockwood, PA, about 50 miles ahead. We had lunch in Frostburg.

It was easy, but slow. Riding on dirt (like the C&O) or crushed limestone (the GAP) is much slower than riding on the road. It seems to take at least 50% more effort or maybe even 100% more effort to go similar distances. It was late afternoon by the time we crested the divide and headed downhill and we knew we were in trouble. I think my exact words were something like Holy **** when I realized we had 25 miles to go and we were concerned about our ability to make it there before dark.

My riding companions knew we had to cross the Salisbury Viaduct and that I had no clue what we were facing. The viaduct is 101 feet in the air and 2000 feet long. Lets just say they surrounded me and we shuffled across the bridge. Word is that I was breathing quite heavy. I don’t remember any of it other than facing a cyclist coming from the other way with fear in his face too.

We hustled into Rockwood looking for the Husky Haven Campground. We searched the campground just as it got dark and found another camper who let us know that the office was across the river and we had another mile or so to go. We arrived at the office to check in, and noticed our bags had arrived safely and perfectly. The services organized by Bike the Gap worked each day and was flawless.

Given the late hour, we asked permission and were allowed to camp in the back yard of the office (which happened to be very close to the showers).

Friday we awoke, had a great breakfast at a train themed coffee shop near the campground and then left for Connellsville. This day was beautiful, we rode through the Ohiopyle State Park a beautiful park of 19000 acres along the Ohiopyle River. One could spend a week at the park.

We arrived in Connellsville PA late afternoon and discovered that our accommodations for the evening were the other side of town, in fact were beyond the city boundaries, on a highway about 3 miles from the trail. The Melody Motor Lodge is everything you would expect from the name. Pink and lime green tiles in the bathroom of this strip motel with lots of trucks parked out in front. While it was well worn, it was very clean and perfect for our needs. Although the 3 women shared a room, there was not room for the 3 of them and 3 bikes so I inherited another bike for the evening.

It looked like dinner was going to be a problem. The only apparent choice was Subway at Walmart. The café next door was closed. The owner of the motel referred us to a supper club about 3/4 mile further down the road with the words “bicycles seems to like this place” and she was correct; we had a nice meal.

Saturday morning we awoke to heavy rain. After considering our options for quite a long breakfast at the café next door, we decided to just ride slowly and especially carefully. We definitely were very wet until it cleared around 1PM. We had a final lunch together at a pub near the trail around 1PM. They day was spent riding from one small town to another: West Newton, Buena Vista, Boston, McKeesport, Dravo and arrived back at Homestead around 5PM.

The last 15 miles or so were spent riding past closed factories (US Steel and more); next to the rail lines which carry freight into Pittsburgh. There was one more bridge I had to muster across, but managed to walk quite safely on the shoulder of the bridge.

Our luggage arrived just as we arrived at the Pump House, where our cars were parked for the week. The luggage shuttle worked perfectly all week and Bike The Gap is recommended by us based on our experience.

We managed to ask another cyclist to take our photo ( I’m not in any of my photos but this one) to celebrate the completion of our ride.

I drove to just past Toledo Ohio that night and arrived home mid-day on Sunday. The rest of the group had a longer drive and arrived home Sunday evening.

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Posted on: Monday, October 20th, 2014 at 9:00 am

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