After the whirlwind of packing and a restless night of anticipation-filled sleep, we woke early, shook Honorable Son #1 out of bed and headed to my Dad’s. They were going along to get the car home from Pittsburgh. Newly licensed #1 Son not only got driving help to get the car out of Pittsburgh, but also a history lesson when the drive home took a detour through the neighborhood of my Dad’s youth and tales of cars, fast driving, and girls were shared. Thanks, Grumpy!
Our feet and bicycles finally landed not under a house, but under the 31st Street bridge on Washington’s Landing. We had found this area when we did a trial run the previous Sunday. After assembling our stuff and saying our goodbyes, we picked up the Heritage Trail for the 4 mile ride to the starting point of our journey on the Greater Allegheny Passage Trail in Point State Park, Pittsburgh, PA. The official trail beginning point is at the sidewalk marker next to the park’s fountain. My excitement level was through the roof. After having spent all summer preparing and planning, I was filled with joy that finally we were on our way.
After leaving Point State Park we traveled several blocks through the streets of Pittsburgh before arriving on the trail path.
The GAP trail through and around Pittsburgh is fun to ride with a mix of urban and rural landscape. After riding several miles on the walking/bicycle only trail that lies between busy Pittsburgh highways, the GAP trail crosses the Hot Metal Bridge.
“Built in 1901, the Hot Metal Bridge allowed for the movement of hot iron from the blast furnaces on the northern side of the Monongahela River to the open hearths on the south side, and, in turn, the movement of steel ingots back to the rolling mills on the northern side.” Trail Book 11th edition
After crossing the bridge, the trail turns left, follows the Monongahela River and enters a more wooded setting. Around mile 139(counting backward from 150) you find yourself in the Waterfront area. It would make a great day trip to ride from Pittsburgh to the Waterfront shopping area, have lunch and browse the shops, then head back to Pittsburgh. But for today, we kept pedaling.
“For over a century, the massive Homestead Steel Works Symbolized Pittsburgh’s dominance as the steel-making capital of the world….Today the mill site, now the Waterfront, and surrounding communities are reinventing their economy around retail, entertainment and tourism.” Trail Book 11th Edition
It was in this area that we met another rider going our direction and also headed to Washington DC. His pace was a little different than ours so throughout the day we passed each other along the trail.
After riding through the Waterfront area we crossed the Riverton Bridge, another of the many bridges on our journey.
“Built in 1890 by the Pencoyd Iron Works which also built the Upper Steel Arch Bridge across Niagara Falls, it provided the rail connection to haul molten iron to the National Tube Works at McKeesport from the Duquesne Steel Works and now connects these communities.” Trail Book 11th Edition
When we reached McKeesport, PA, at mile marker 130, we stopped for a quick snack. We had already traveled 20 miles and the reality that we were officially on our way was finally sinking in, breakfast had been very early, so this little turn in the trail made for a great place to take a break and take in the surroundings.
Dear Husband thought this might be the place that husband’s whose wives drag them on bicycle trips end up….
Our next stop was 16 miles later in West Newton where we had lunch at the Trail Side Cafe.
It was a perfect afternoon to sit on the patio enjoying a hard earned McKeesport sandwich made of grilled chicken, Swiss, bacon, lettuce and tomato on a pretzel bun and a Coke(mmmm!)…sitting in a chair with a back was much appreciated too!
After enjoying lunch, we set out for our last stop of the day, mile marker 99, Roundbottom Campground.
This is a free camping site for hikers and bikers of the trail. When we arrived day was quickly coming to a close. There was one other tent in the open area already set up. We chose to set our tent inside a shelter because there was rain in the forecast and if it came during the night our tent would stay dry and we could pack up a dry tent in the morning. We could have just set our beds up in the shelter without the tent, but the tent gave us a little more privacy and some added shelter from the damp evening air.
One other camper showed up after we had finished setting up our tent and it was the bicycler that we had met along the way. He left before us in the morning and we never saw he again in our journey.
We were still full from our late lunch at the Trail Side Cafe, so after 52+ miles and 5+ hours of pedaling, we took off our shoes(Ahh!) and crawled into bed. Dear Husband remarked, “We are going to bed with the chickens,” and that was our pattern throughout the whole trip, “early to bed and early to rise,” I can’t speak to the “wealthy and wise part…”
It was a perfect 1st day, great weather, hard work, good food, beautiful surroundings, and a good night’s rest. No, “lions and tigers and bears,” in sight!