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?“