Rolled down to a local cafe for a hearty breakfast, then across the street to check out OhioPyle Falls. Stunningly beautiful. I can see why so many outdoor enthusiasts gravitate to this little Pennsylvania town.
Spent the day pedaling the trail, first along the beautiful Youghiogheny, then Casselman, Rivers. Feeling strong and ripped off some serious miles this morning.
Near the little town of Garrett, was excited to spy a large wind turbine on the horizon through the trees.
Saw a few more turbines as I came to the town, so headed up a country road in search of the project. The hill was so steep I had to push the trike up part of it, but I was determined to get closer. Pedaled a few miles further and made a good guess on a side road which took me right smack into the middle of the project. Surrounding me were 30 megawatts of wind projects, all I believe developed by Florida Power & Light, including one sited on land reclaimed from a coal strip mine. It was a beautiful sight to behold.
Turning around to pedal back down the hill, I was met by a dozen or more turbines a few ridges away. Was graced by a regal-looking hawk alighting on a branch above me as I pedaled towards the project. I’m guessing it was the same one who flew close to me again near the same location on my way back.
About an hour before sunset, rolled into Meyersdale with 49 more miles behind me. Hadn’t run into a single biker all day until one mile outside of Meyersdale, which was kind of nice. There were no campgrounds in town, but lucked out finding an affordable room. Best not to camp tonight anyway, with my core body temperature dropping so low. Riding in the low 40s is comfortable enough, but when you stop, soaked in sweat, your body really feels the cold. A hot shower quickly cured that.
Given the weather forecast for tomorrow (cold and rainy), think I may hole up here for Thanksgiving and spend some time reflecting on everything I’m thankful for in my life. I’m particularly grateful to have a roof over my head tonight. Poked my head out the door just before going to bed and saw the rain had turned to sleet. Definitely sticking around tomorrow.
Only one other bicyclist on the path the entire day today. The reason: the season is definitely late. Starting to feel a sense of urgency to make DC before the weather starts turning for the worse. From what I’m hearing, the trike may not survive the C&O Canal Path, some of which is deeply rutted singletrack, so may need to shift course for the final leg of the trip. Regardless, am focused on being here now and enjoying this beautiful trail running along the Youghiogheny River. The further upstream I go, the cleaner the river is (pollution-sensitive river otters have been successfully reintroduced) and the prettier everything gets.
On this video, I tried to capture the beauty of water flowing, like blood through the veins of the earth.
Rained most of the morning, so rode with the ragtop on until it finally cleared up. Then came across these cool wooden bridges.
One thing I didn’t count on was how the rain on the soft limestone trail really slowed the trike down. Despite my best efforts, was only able to get in 42 miles. Ended the day at Ohio Pyle around sunset, where some hard-core kayakers were taking out of the river (there’s some really nice whitewater that loops around the town). Thought I was rugged, still peddling in shorts and sandals this late in the season, until I saw them. Checked the rates of a few local guest houses, which seemed awfully high for this late in the season, then happened upon a local on Main Street who offered to let me pitch my tent in his back yard.
Kevin Ravenscroft later invited me in for some homemade vegetable soup, cold beer and good conversation. Oh, and can’t forget the cherry pie. Really liked the cherry pie. Thanks for everything, Kevin!
After getting breakfast in McKeesport, made my way to the Great Allegheny Passage bike trail, which runs 132 gorgeous miles through rural Pennsylvania. Very excited to be back on a bike trail with a front porch river view. No more cars for now.
Early in the day, saw lots of evidence of the lingering effect of generations of mining in the region. One stark example was the Red Waterfall, a beautiful little waterfall on the side of the trail that runs over rock stained red from acid mine drainage.
Here is a creek that runs rust red.
A little past the town of Van Meter, I was told to watch for a large chunk of coal on the side of the trail (looked more like black granite), commemorating one of the worst mine disasters in history. In 1907, an open flame lamp set off a massive underground explosion in the Pittsburgh Coal Company’s Darr Mine, killing 239 miners. I was told by locals that the victims included a number of children working the mine. A lightly trodden path through the woods behind the stone takes you to the mine opening, so I walked through the falling rain to honor the dead.
A United Press Dispatch reported on December 20, 1907: “Superintendent Black, who was in charge of the mine, recently resigned, as did David Wingrove, former fire boss, on account of the gaseous nature of the mine. It is said they notified the officials the mine was unsafe for the men to work in.”
In addition to learning about tragedies like the Darr mine disaster, I learned other things about the history of mining in Pennsylvania while pedaling the trail. Like how Pennsylvania coal was instrumental in producing the coke (in brick ovens still in evidence along the trail) that was needed to produce steel in Pittsburgh’s famed steel mills. This same steel helped fuel America’s industrial revolution, making Pittsburgh, and coal miners, instrumental in advancing modern civilization. So Appalachia has a proud heritage that demands respect. Few have worked harder, or under more difficult conditions, than our nation’s coal miners (coal company CEOs are another story) to keep the lights on for the rest of us. But times change. We now know that coal burning poses the single greatest threat to our continued existence on this planet. So the mining and burning of coal must end, but not at the expense of hard-working coal miners, who have earned guaranteed retraining and reemployment in the green jobs sector, if not guaranteed pensions for life.
Rode down the trail 33 miles, before coming across a campsite in Cedar Creek Park with a half-cabin overlooking the scenic Youghiogheny River that was just too perfect to pass up.
Was as good a place as any to so a little show and tell on the rocket trike.
The campsite also had a fireplace, and I haven’t had a campfire this whole trip, so tonight’s the night.
On a reflective note, today marks the 47th anniversary of one of the darkest moments in U.S. history: the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. By happenstance, I had the opportunity to visit Dealey Plaza in Dallas earlier this year. I walked up the grassy knoll, stood behind the picket fence and saw the “X” on the street marking where the president was shot. But you cannot kill a dream. President Kennedy’s bold call to land a man on the moon before the end of the decade was successfully achieved.
Another great legacy of President Kennedy is how many people he inspired, and how many continue to be inspired by his leadership today. I chose the 48th anniversary of his historic “moon shot” speech at Rice University to launch my ride because we need a modern day, green energy moon shot today to revive our economy, put unemployed Americans back to work and protect the planet for future generations.
If only we had a president today with the kind of vision embodied in President Kennedy, who famously said on September 12, 1962 at Rice University: “We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too.”
We can choose to green our energy grid, but that would require extraordinary political leadership to rally the American people. It would also demand the rarest of traits, exhibited only by our greatest presidents: the political courage and personal strength to stand up to the powerful and wealthy special interests, in this case, the fossil fuel and nuclear lobbies. The easy choice is to keep doing things as we always have, while unemployment lingers; the economy stagnates; China claims the mantle of world economic superpower; and the climate continues to deteriorate. The hard choice, and the one that will “organize and measure the best of our energies and skills,” is for President Obama to boldly challenge the nation to renew America with renewable energy by the end of the decade.
Will end my post with this poignant June 28, 1963 quote by President Kennedy: “The problems of the world cannot possibly be solved by skeptics or cynics whose horizons are limited by the obvious realities. We need men who can dream of things that never were and ask “why not?“
Some bicyclists I ran into yesterday told me where I could get a map of the bike route I’d been hearing so much about that runs from just south of Pittsburgh to Washington, DC, so rolled by the local REI store on my way into the city this morning to pick one up. The Great Allegheny Passage is the first leg of the bike path and runs 132 miles over abandoned rail lines surfaced with crushed limestone. But the fun doesn’t stop there. It then joins up with the 184-mile C&O Canal Towpath, which runs the rest of the way into Washington, DC. So I’m entering bike heaven for the final 316 miles of my ride.
Have been to Pittsburgh before for Steelers games, so knew which tailgates I wanted to swing by. Along the river walk, near the stadium, is a long boat dock where boats start arriving days in advance to set up boat-gates for Sunday home games. Was warmly welcomed by several parties I pedaled past. Earth-friendly bike taxis were doing a swift business, transporting fans to and from the stadium.
The best part of boat-gating is you can vicariously enjoy the stadium experience (hearing the roar of the crowd and even seeing into the stands), without having to purchase a ticket or be jammed into a small seat in a crowded stadium. Plus, the several second time delay between the stadium noise and a play showing up on the television screen ensures you don’t miss a big play.
Thanks to Terry, Bill, Steve, Derek, Heather and all their friends for welcoming me to their boat-gate party. Appreciated the beers, food and great company. And a special thanks to David Hughes, head of Citizen Power, for his generous hospitality during my stay in the Steel City.
Up with the sun this morning in the hopes of making Pittsburgh by sunset. Before leaving, walked down to the campground host trailer to pay, but it was padlocked, with frozen ice on the deck. They’re probably in Florida. So rolled on down the highway, where I saw this great combined solar/wind system being used by the state Dept. of Transportation.
Rolled on to Steubenville to meet a reporter with the Herald Star (thanks, Connie & Tasha at Kwik King for the hot chocolate on the house). He seemed stunned by the number of people who walked up to ask about the trike as we conducted the interview.
Then pedaled across the bridge spanning the Ohio River into West Virginia.
Got several miles down the road before I heard police sirens behind me. The two squad cars didn’t pass me, they pulled over right behind me.
The first officer informed me that bikes were not permitted on Hwy. 22. This was news to me and I explained that I had avoided Interstate 70 for that very reason. The second officer smilingly told me they had received a call that a “kid on a go-cart was riding down the highway.” Not too far off the mark. When they heard my story, and that I was trying to make Pittsburgh by dark, they graciously gave me the go-ahead to continue riding on the shoulder. Thanks, officers!
About 22 miles outside of Pittsburgh, was pulled over by another patrol car. This officer also told me bikes were not allowed on Hwy. 22 and that I would have to exit and take the windy, mountain roads into the city. Being told I had to pedal through “extremely difficult” terrain was not what I wanted to hear this late in the day, especially being so close to my destination. Even with the electric motor providing a little help up hills, my legs were still about shot and my battery nearly dead. I made my case, but he just asked for my license. Just when it looked like I might not make Pittsburgh by tonight after all, he came back from his patrol car, handed me my license said I had clearance to pedal on the shoulder into the city. A huge relief, and much appreciated.
A few miles later, the incessant rumble strips finally took their toll, causing my iPhone to shake loose. Still attached by a cord to the solar charger, it took a bad bounce and fell through one of the “Fred Flintstone” holes in the bottom of the trike, dragging along the pavement until I could pull over. I fished it up through the hole and discovered the glass had been badly chipped on two corners, including the one with the camera lens, but it still worked. So now you know: the iPhone4 can take a licking and keep on ticking.
Got the usual honks and looks today, but even more as I got closer to the city. Maybe the Steelers colors of the trike have something to do with it. Was delighted to find a Primanti Bros. on the edge of town, where I devoured one of their famous sandwiches and knocked back couple of Iron City Lights. Pedaling back up the steep hill to the motel, a hawk alighted on a tree directly above me and watched my slow progress. Thanks to Mike for helping me get the trike into the motel room.
Big ride day today: 65 miles, and my legs are feeling every mile of it.
Got an early morning call from NBC news affiliate WHIZ (which Paul had emailed in advance of my arrival) wanting to do an interview. So rolled down the old National Highway and met them at the historic “Y Bridge.” You can watch the video and see a photo slideshow at these two links:
Learned from the WHIZ reporter that one of the nation’s largest solar farms is being developed in Zanesville. This popular project, fittingly called “Turning Point,” is expected to bring up to 600 jobs through local manufacturing of the solar panels needed for the nearly 50 MW solar farm. Even more fittingly, it is being sited on a former coal mine. The project is slated to go online in 2012.
Also learned I had arrived just in time for Zanesville’s 52nd annual SERTOMA Pancake Day, a fundraiser for local charities. Followed the news van there for some breakfast.
What a scene. The cavernous basement was packed with people. Later learned they served 6,500 people pancakes and sausage over the course of the day. When the servers heard I had biked all the way from Colorado, Jim Drake (thanks for the contribution) stacked several extra flapjacks onto my already full plate. After devouring those, went back for seconds. Have never eaten so many pancakes in my life. Really enjoyed meeting Scott & Robin Obenour, Cindy, Chuck and Dee Dee. Before leaving, was approached by a local radio reporter who had heard I was there and wanted to set up an interview for tomorrow. Gotta love small, friendly communities like Zanesville.
From Zanesville, pedaled down the road to New Concord, home of Muskingum University and boyhood home of astronaut John Glenn, the first American to orbit the earth. John Glenn’s historic achievement helped unleash the best of the American spirit. We need a new generation of earthnauts today to unleash that same American spirit to achieve a modern day, green energy “moon shot.”
From New Concord, rolled down the road to Cambridge, which I easily made before dark. Beautiful day for riding. Low 50s and sunny. My buddy Paul had located a campground for me in Cambridge, right off Interstate 70, which was a real score (thanks, Paul!). With the late start getting out of town, only logged 38 miles today, but looking forward to a good night’s sleep. If it rains tomorrow like it rained yesterday, I’ll need it.
Started the day by biking with Harvey over to Capital University to sit in on a couple of his classes and talk with his students about the ride. Learned some fascinating information sitting in on those classes. Here’s one I didn’t know: the gay rights movement in America was launched during the Stonewall riots – when gay men from Greenwich Village, tired of getting beaten up during police raids, decided to fight back. I hope these students look back someday and realize how lucky they were to have him as a professor.
It had started drizzling by the time I left, so affixed the ragtop rain cover and hit the road. Been incredibly blessed with good weather this entire trip, this being the first day I had to ride in the rain. Not yet having had breakfast, and needing to carb-load up for the miles to come, I lucked upon Rubino’s, an Italian restaurant that looked like it had been around for awhile. Turns out they’ve not only been in business since 1954, but also serve some of the tastiest pizza on the planet. Had spagetti for breakfast and a not small pizza for lunch, all in one sitting. Ended up powering me the whole day.
Didn’t think I would make it as far as Zanesville, with all the rain, then happened upon a campground a few miles out, but it was closed. Kept on riding and actually made it to a motel on the edge of town just as it was starting to get dark. Was relieved to be in a dry motel, as my “waterproof” Ortlieb panniers were anything but, and I needed to dry out all my gear. Knocked out 49 miles today. Not bad, given all the rain.
Getting out of my wet clothes, was surprised to see blood on the bathroom floor. Must have happened when my foot slipped getting out of the trike, hitting the hard edge of one of a floor vents. Never even felt it.
After being treated to breakfast (thanks, Parker), headed out of town past Wittenberg University, then onto Hwy. 40, which I was told was relatively bike-friendly. With almost no cars on a Sunday, it made for a nice ride to Columbus, until I hit another construction zone.
U.S. Route 40, which used to be called the National Road, was the first federally planned and funded interstate highway in America, linking the older eastern communities with the emerging frontier settlements of the Northwest Territory. In the early 1900s, it was known as the “Main Street of America,” making it a fitting route for my ride.
Pedaling into Columbus, saw lots of activity at the Veterans Memorial where it turns out they were having an annual WWII veterans tribute. So stopped in to share the trike with some of the “greatest generation.” Before leaving, noticed the luggage rack in the back was off kilter. Upon closer inspection, discovered all the weight I’d been lugging had finally taken its toll. The screws securing the rack to the body of the trike had shaken loose and one of the posts was now rubbing against the rear tire. Just hoping the threads inside aren’t stripped. Made it 53 miles today, but won’t be riding much further until I get this fixed.
My friend, Harvey Wasserman, credited with coining the phrase “no nukes,” had been laying the groundwork for me in Columbus and hooked me up with his friends, Bob Fitrakis and Suzanne Patzer, who offered me a room in their beautiful, historic home. Hung out at a local sports bar till they got home, then rolled over to their house and settled in for the night.
Parker Buckley took Mike, Connie, Tim, his wife (Carol Young) and me out to breakfast in downtown Yellow Springs (everything in this progressive little town is mere blocks away). Afterwards, pedaled down to Main Street to see what kind of interest I could generate in the 100% by 2020 goal. Almost everyone I met (thanks for the contribution, Ray Owens) wants to see this happen for America. Dropped into a great environmental shop, Eco-Mental, where the owner, CJ Williams, was so into the ride she not only donated an upgraded solar-powered charger for my iPhone, but offered to mail my old one home. Thanks, CJ!
Learned more this morning about the beautiful bike trail I enjoyed yesterday, and will be riding on again today. Between Connie and Mike (who’s been a dedicated biker for the past 42 years), they sit on the boards of several bike trail advocacy groups, including Friends of the Little Miami State Park (www.flmsp.org), that make it possible for people to bike safely from Cincinnati to Springfield and beyond. Every state in America needs a bike network like this, so please support your local bike advocacy groups!
Also saw something really cool in Yellow Springs that I’ve never seen before: a strip in the pavement where you can trip the stoplight by rolling your bike onto it.
In the afternoon, Mike and Connie rode 12 miles with me up the trail to Parker and Carol’s house in Springfield. On the way out of town, visited some beautiful straw bail houses being built, which are starting to pop up all across America. They’re elegance is their simplicity.
In the houses Andy Holyoke builds, he adds what I believe he called a “truth window” to each house so anyone can see the actual straw that is behind the stucco walls. Really neat.
Then we rolled over to the state’s first passive house, currently under construction. Passive House is the most rigorous energy standard in the world and a product of decades of German engineering (how fitting, given that I’m riding a German-made trike). For every $100 an average house spends on heating and cooling, a Passive House will spend only $10. That alone should be enough to create a mass market for these kinds of homes in America.
Near our destination, a stream of crows suddenly appeared in the sky, and kept going, and going, and going. There were thousands, possibly tens of thousands, of crows all headed towards downtown Springfield. Mike told me they do this every night this time of year, attracted by the “heat island” effect of the city. I’ve never seen so many crows in my life. It was really astounding. If I had the time, I could have filmed them for probably an hour.
Later, Parker and Carol treated me to dinner, a chance to clean my clothes, and some quiet time to catch up on my blogs. Parker’s beautiful dulcimer playing made the evening complete. Pedaled a mellow 17 miles today, including side trips.
When things don’t go according to plan, as has often happened during this ride, I’ve learned to just roll with it, for I know there are larger forces at work here. Made it a few miles further east in the morning, but not without extreme effort, as the bike chain kept slipping, making it next to impossible to get any leverage. It soon became apparent it was about to snap again, so I called roadside assistance for another tow, this time to a bike shop back in Newport, KY that someone had casually mentioned to me yesterday. As it would take awhile for the tow truck to get to me, I decided to gingerly pedal back to the truck stop where I had started the day. Along the way, got some great footage of the to-be nuclear turned coal power plant across the river in Moscow, OH, which I otherwise wouldn’t have gotten, but that wasn’t the half of it.
Right after pulling into the truck stop parking lot, a woman and a little boy walked over to me. Saundra Buckler said her 11 year-old nephew, Brandon, who is not easily excited, was very excited to see the trike. So I showed it to him and his family. I asked Brandon, who was wearing a Star Wars t-shirt, which was his favorite. His answer: “Darth Vader.” Loved his choice of the dark archetype who was ultimately good at heart and chose redemption in the end. I could tell little Brandon was struggling with some kind of serious disease, which Saundra proceeded to tell me about. She explained the effects of Gaucher Disease and all the close calls Brandon had already had and how he was “fighting really hard” and “doesn’t to need to be breathing all that nasty stuff in the air.” Here we have an 11 year-old child, already struggling to breathe, yet just a few miles away was a coal plant belching toxic emissions into his air. There’s something deeply wrong with this picture. Saundra asked that we not make Brandon’s fight for life any harder. Who will join me in fighting for little Brandon Buckler?
Wasn’t able to get Brandon out of my mind during the ride to the bike shop, and I don’t intend to, until we’ve secured his future.
Matt Baker’s reaction to seeing the chain told me I had problems. But the bike repair meister was on the case. After removing the seat, Matt went to work on resolving a whole host of lingering issues, including but not limited to a failing derailer, a failing (very long) chain and a failing shifter cable. A few hours later, the rocket trick was shifting beautifully and ready to roll again. Thanks Matt and Jason at Reser Bicycle Outfitters for getting me back on the road so quickly.
By now it was getting late, so walked down to Dixie Chile (had never tried this one) for one last Cincinnati 4-way. Had a great conversation over dinner with Stu and Nancy, both Harley riders. Then walked the trike down the street to a nearby motel. This time, it wouldn’t fit through my door, so thanks to Linda and Margie at Travelodge for letting me store it in the laundry room! Best part of staying here was the sound of horse carriages clumping down the road outside my window on the street.
Two miles forward and 30 miles back (to where I started) today. And that’s OK.