The Mileposters made their seventh ride from Pittsburgh to Cumberland, MD July 7-10, 2016. Making the trip were our blind stoker, on her own tandem, and her youngest son, along with her captain/trail mom and three of her kids. The oldest of them captained another tandem, and the triplet was, as usual, piloted by the group leader--three bikes for seven riders. The trip was for the sake of our blind stoker, and also to raise support for the Mileposters general fund and the provision of a tandem bicycle for our most active trail mom.

As we have done a couple of times in the past, we left from the Buena Vista trailhead. Despite strenuous efforts, we managed to leave no earlier than 11:10 a.m. We might have done better, but the front brake clevis pin and yoke for the triplet fell off somewhere between West Mifflin and the starting point, and when the rear brake on one tandem was being adjusted, the cable clamp bolt snapped. Plans were made to visit the bike shop in West Newton.

Since we were so close to our customary stop for ice cream at the Yough Twister, it seemed like a good idea to skip it this time, but that was unpopular with the younger riders. Besides, it was time for lunch when we got there.

As if to tell us that buying brake parts in West Newton was not enough, the front phantom chainring on the triplet came off and split in half. Since both the triplet and that tandem use ordinary V-brakes, and since one had a front brake problem and the other a rear, only one set of brakes was purchased--one arm for the front of the triplet, and the other for the rear of the affected tandem. Despite some grumbling by the seller about the "Frankenstein" nature of the half-and-half replacements, they worked well for the rest of the trip. The phantom chainring was another story. The one that split was a 52-tooth. The closest the shop had was a 53, but that just wouldn't fit--too big. Next closest size was a 48, which was a very relaxed fit, but it came out only once for the rest of the ride, and survived. We surmised that the 52 might have been too big in the first place.

It was the first long-distance trip for our blind stoker and all three of the little kids. Although our teenage captain had one under his belt, and the trail mom had many, no one complained as we stopped at Industry, Blythedale, Douglas Run, West Newton, Whitsett, Slush Run, Furnace Run (photos), River's Edge, Connellsville City Park, and several other places. It was probably a new Mileposters record for the availability of many different kinds of snacks for the kids. The favorite on the triplet was Star Crunch. Despite the forecast of rain, there was none, for which we were all thankful. After starting on mostly level ground, we started to go uphill at the Phantom Milepost (44) and kept at it the rest of the day. Arrival at Wendy's in Connellsville was at 6:45, and we had plenty to eat.

Furnace Run, Youghiogheny River Trail (Great Allegheny Passage), July 7, 2016

Wildflower at Furnace Run

After supper we struggled up the long hill toward Melody Motor Lodge. The charming hostess and central air conditioning were as pleasing as ever, and after a round of showers in the cozy rooms, we passed out--34 miles will do that to you! The first day is usually the hardest.

After ten hours in the sack, we stretched, yawned, and headed around behind our motel to Ed's Diner for a hearty breakfast; we knew we would be traveling uphill for almost all of the next three days. As we were finishing, we got an amazing surprise! After eleven years of eating at Ed's, we were speechless after an anonymous benefactor picked up the tab! So we thank that person and God!

Departure was at five minutes to eleven. A much-anticipated feature of this ride was the first-time use of the Wheeler Shortcut, something that was heard of almost as a rumor, but was later verified. We were still a little nervous about it, and almost went the wrong way at one fork, but in the end it was so much shorter and easier than going all the way back into Connellsville.

We didn't go as fast up the hill to Ohiopyle as we did on our practice day, but we made it in good time. After an extended rest at the train station and multiple visits to the facilities, we continued toward Confluence. Although it seemed to take forever to make it to the rest stop at Ramcat, the mileage was actually less than indicated on some of the signs. And then it was not much farther to our destination, where we arrived at 6:45. Supper was at the familiar tables of the Soft Freeze (pictured). After 27 miles, our blind stoker enjoyed it as much as anyone else.

The three youngest riders enjoying their supper at the Soft Freeze, Confluence, July 8, 2016

Our blind stoker enjoying some water with supper

When we arrived at the laundromat, we were dismayed to find that it had closed three hours earlier than it used to, so we were shut out. In the end some of us washed uniforms by hand, but our enterprising trail mom took note of the opening time and got up early the next morning.

Our place for the night was Confluence House, where Mileposters have stayed many times before. We were not disappointed. Our hostess was most gracious. We had three rooms on the second floor, and breakfast the next morning was a lavish affair.

Clover blossom spotted by a sharp-eyed stoker the morning of July 9

Even though we had only 19 miles to go for the third day, we somehow managed to get an early start at 10:30 (even squeezing in a picture of a clover blossom, as suggested by our 8-year-old stoker), which allowed us an easier day despite the steeper grades. Another Mileposters first was the passage through Pinkerton Tunnel (pictured)--another couple of miles saved, and thanks to the trail people and everyone who made donations to the rehabilitation effort! For one of our last rest stops, we paused at a trailside bench for a brief worship service, led by the group leader, former principal of St. Matthew Lutheran School.

Triplet and two tandems emerge from Pinkerton Tunnel, July 9

Arrival in Rockwood at 4:15 brought us to pizza in the Mill Shoppes (Opera House). Our kind hostess helped us carry linens down to the hostel, and, after a trip to the store on Main Street for next-day supplies, we ensconced ourselves for the night. It was marvelous to have laundry facilities right there in the building, and with free detergent. We split the private rooms between the front for the blind stoker and her son and the rear for the train-accustomed trail mom and her crew of three. The group leader enjoyed staying in the main room and swapping stories with several other guests--one father-and-son team turned out to be railfans, and helped him nail the time to observe the Capitol Limited passing by, bound for Pittsburgh and Chicago (he has ridden it many times, and used it to get back to Pittsburgh after leaving his van in Cumberland). The folks in Rockwood have made a major effort to arrange for that train to make a regular stop there, but it hasn't happened.

The morning of the fourth day, July 10, we ate breakfast in the cheerful kitchen, making sure to take in enough sustenance to keep us going for the better part of 44 miles. Due to our careful preparations, we were not able to depart until 11:30, but we knew that the last part of our day would be downhill.

Salisbury Viaduct, outside Meyersdale, July 10, 2016

It was a struggle to make the climb to the top of the big hill--it was even steeper than before--but everyone enjoyed the stop on the long Salisbury Viaduct (pictured). Lunch at the train station in Meyersdale reinforced us, and the kids enjoyed seeing the model trains inside. An encouraging note was seeing the Mileposters name on the Big Savage Tunnel monument at Deal (we made a donation for its restoration), but the penultimate moment was at the Eastern Continental Divide (pictured). It was a realization of accomplishment--a tangible reward for the days of pedaling uphill--there were more smiles after that! Touching the elevation diagram, someone guided our blind stoker's finger over the long ascent from our starting point, and then the jagged, sudden descent to our destination! Hers was the biggest smile of all!

Cresting the Eastern Continental Divide, July 10

The 23-mile downward plunge toward Cumberland was a blast--it always is. But it is still work, and there are still stops to be made. There seemed to be a few mileposts missing, and we sometimes wondered if we would ever make it, but as the massive tower clock in Cumberland chimed seven, we paced off the last few feet and gathered at the mule statue in front of the Western Maryland station for pictures. Then everyone knew we had done it--the first long ride for our blind stoker and three of the kids.

At the mule statue, Western Maryland station, Cumberland

We thank Tim Palmer of First Trinity Lutheran Church and the trail mom's dad, for transportation to the initial trailhead, Tim Kloss for the ride home, Beth and Moriah Kloss for providing that extra degree of assistance needed by our blind stoker, our anonymous benefactor for breakfast the second day, and God for watching over us and giving us a rain-free trip!

The Allegheny Trail Alliance Web site has maps and many links to information on trails in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Maryland, and West Virginia.

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