Biking from Pittsburgh to Leesburg | Day 1
June 8, 2009
On Friday, May 29, 2009, Kasy and I, with our friend Matt, boarded an Amtrak train from Philadelphia to Pittsburgh. Our touring bikes and panniers were already waiting there for us. Arriving late in the evening, we reassembled our steeds and rode to Matt’s sister’s house for dinner and some shut eye, knowing that the next day would be the first day of our awesome bike tour. The first few days would be on The Allegheny Passage and in Cumberland, MD we would switch to the C&O Trail, which would take us the rest of the way to Leesburg, VA. (The C&O actually goes all the way to D.C., but we were headed to Leesburg for Le Cirque du Cyclisme, a vintage racing and touring bicycle show/event)
Day 1: East End Co-op in Pittsburgh —> Roundbottom Hiker Biker Site [approx. 35/40 mi]
Early Saturday, May 31, 2009, Kasy and I woke up and rode to the East End Co-op to meet with our friends, in order to get on the Allegheny Passage and begin the adventure.
We stocked up on snacks and dinner supplies for the next couple of days, packed it all in our panniers, and made our way to McKeesport, PA. As you get closer to the trail head, bicycle emblazoned banners begin to appear along the road. We made it to the beginning of the trail, said goodbye to traffic, cars, and civilization as we know it, and left the pavement for the gravel/dirt path.
The Allegheny Passage is a rail to trail project that extends through south western Pennsylvania, old coal country. It’s no surprise when we saw AMD on the trail, with signs explaining the history of coal mining in the region, and the environmental issues related to it. Every time something coal related appeared beside us, I made sure to point it out to Kasy, as the coal history in Pennsylvania is something that is now near and dear to my heart.
Taking in the beauty of the trail is easy to do, especially when traveling by bike (or foot, I suppose). The colors and the smells fly past and you feel an incredible sense of being a part of everything. As your legs pedal, and your heart races, there is a connection with everything around you. It’s something you really can’t experience traveling by car. With a bike, it’s just you and the surroundings. Nothing in between.
We made it to our first campsite, at the Roundbottom Hiker Biker site, by 5pm. Set up our tents and started cooking dinner. After hours of biking, a nice warm meal is one of the best things imaginable.
Feeling pretty pooped from the day’s ride, it being my first day of bicycle touring since last fall (!!!), after dinner I grabbed my book (Odysseus’ Last Stand. A bicycle touring memoir. Totally recommended for bicycle enthusiasts, tourists, and those who love a great tale of adventure!), read for a bit, and then turned in for the night. After 40 miles of riding, and reading about the possibilities that lie ahead for me and Kasy when we tour the world, I managed to get a solid, great night’s sleep, for the first time in a long time. Funny how the stress of work and grad school will ruffle a person’s sleeping patterns, eh?