PITTSBURGH-CUMBERLAND 2009: Our original plans were to make this trip during the summer, but that fell through. It seemed like there would be no long ride for '09, but then it became apparent that there would be no school during the G20 summit in Pittsburgh, so we scrambled to get a trip together! The ride was made to support the Pittsburgh Campus Ministry of the Lutheran Church--Missouri Synod, and was planned to take place over four days, September 24-27. Our two top stokers were slated to join the group leader on the triplet. On our final practice ride September 19, a record was set climbing from Connellsvile to Ohiopyle. It was difficult to shoehorn the ride in between school days, and we were pleased as the last bits of supplies were purchased. But before we could unload and begin to pack, our tail gunner complained of a headache, and began to groan loudly. He proved to have a fever of 102.2 degrees, so that was the end of his hopes--he has not yet completed a big ride. We set out from the Buena Vista trailhead on the 24th with only two riders on the triplet. The weather was fine, and we practically flew on our way to Connellsville, setting a record as we arrived on time, despite being two hours late because of the tail gunner's illness.

At Wendy's in Connellsville after a fantastic first day

After the successful experience of running the triplet straight through to Washington, DC last year, regardless of the number of riders aboard, it was decided to take it to Cumberland this year. The two riders on the first day set a record to Connellsville; after that, the first stoker went home, and the group leader finished the original four-day trip by himself. When the time came to drive to Cumberland and pick up the triplet, it was decided to take the tail gunner along so he could have his first ride on the C&O Canal towpath. This turned into a 20-mile extension of the trip, turning Cumberland to Lock 73, giving a total of 150 miles. That fifth day is described at the bottom of this page. The second day, after a restful night at the Melody Motor Lodge, rooming next to a tandem couple who were also riding to Cumberland, the group leader set out for Confluence. The weather was a bit cool, but it was not raining. Even though he was riding the triplet alone and with a load, the leader broke the record set on the 19th, and paused for lunch in Ohiopyle.

The triplet at Ohiopyle

The night was spent at the beautiful Stepping Stone Farm outside of Confluence, with Larry and Vicki Rempel, where five kittens were born three weeks ago. This time the farm was reached directly, via Hogback Road and the bottom of the lane.

Kittens at Stepping Stone Farm

The forecast said there would be rain the third day, and it was correct. Morning arrived to the sound of water gurgling down the gutter. It was just a mist going down the lane, but before starting up the grade toward Big Savage Mountain, it had increased, and there were long intervals of downpour. Although the rain never stopped all day long, there are at least a few shelters now, and one of them provided a bit of respite for a soggy lunch. At least there were no tire problems in 2009, like those that cut up our ride to Cumberland in 2007--it had to be made in three sections.

Despite fears that riding the triplet alone up the big hill would be too much, the distance flew by at a crisp nine miles per hour, past the high and low trestles at Pinkerton's Neck, granny gear remaining untouched, without visiting the store at Rockwood, and a record was set for the ascent, with an early arrival in Meyersdale.

Soggy lunch stop

High trestle at Pinkerton's Neck

Unfortunately, the washers in the laundromat were only giant ones, taking eight quarters apiece, but a helpful gentleman who was using them pointed out that the change machine would take $20 bills, and even donated some of his detergent to the cause!

The triplet had to have a lot of attention because of getting so wet and muddy--the car wash next to the laundromat came in very handy--and later the chains received a much-needed cleaning and lubrication.

There were three other people staying at the hostel that night, all with interesting stories to tell. One had started in Savannah, Georgia, on his way to Pittsburgh, but was hit by a car along a road, blacking out for four hours, and had to spend some in a hospital before resuming his trip.

Group leader taking a picture of the "three musketeers" at the hostel

The next morning there was again only a mist starting out, which became heavier during the final few miles to the Eastern Continental Divide, but never so bad as the third day, although the short tunnel beneath a road at the Divide was a nice place to take a break. The profile diagram inside the tunnel shows why the ascent to this point has always been difficult; it also shows what a joy the ride becomes, eastbound, after exiting Big Savage Tunnel!

At the Eastern Continental Divide, just past Deal, PA, elevation 2392 feet

Profile diagram of the Great Allegheny Passage, inside the little tunnel at the Divide

True to form, emerging from Big Savage Tunnel into the rain shadow on the east slope of the mountains brought relief from the rain. There was a brief shower around Frostburg, but that was it. A quick trip down the steep grade and through Borden and Brush Tunnels brought the triplet into the Western Maryland station in Cumberland, the end of the original four days, once again arriving early, as on each of the last three days. With going back and forth to overnight lodging, the total was 130 miles. But the campaign wasn't over! An extension was added on a fifth day, October 3, boosting the total to 150 miles! Those pictures are below--keep scrolling down!

On the platform at the Western Maryland Railway station in Cumberland, September 27

Meeting the train on October 3

Since the tail gunner didn't get to ride at all, he was invited to come along on a fifth day, and joined the group leader on the triplet, headed down the towpath of the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal. Their destination was a group of locks ten miles away: Locks 75, 74, and 73. They paused for a break at the Evitts Creek hiker-biker campground. Their return to Cumberland added 20 miles, for a four-day total of 150.

Tail gunner and triplet at Evitts Creek

Tail gunner with the triplet at Lock 75, Chesapeake & Ohio Canal, October 3, 2009

Our special thanks to Pastor Eric Ruble of Trinity Lutheran Church (LCMS) in Cumberland, who arranged for us to keep the triplet there until it could be picked up. It was this fact which made the fifth day possible.

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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