Day 76: Pittsburgh to West Newton, PA (November 13)

I picked up a trail (Three Rivers Heritage Trail)  downtown behind the PNC bank building. Being a Sunday there were a bunch of other cyclists on the trail — most on nice road bikes.

The downtown and riverside seems to be having a bit of a renaissance. The Carnegie Mellon center for studying media technology is there. Seeing the building reminded me of Randy Pausch who taught there, and his lecture on fulfilling your childhood dreams. I guess riding cross country was not one of my childhood dreams, but has been something I have wanted to do for a number of years. In a few days I will have fulfilled that dream. So what is next? Not sure, but I will think of something.

The riverside further down south out of the city gets run down again with derelict industrial dinosaurs. Their skeletons are still there but the life is extinct.

After crossing over the pedestrian Hot Metal Bridge — named for the railroad cars carrying the crucibles of molten steel that were carried from the smelters on one side of the river over to the steel rolling plant on the other — I met a cyclist Matt who rode with me for a couple miles.

We talked a bit about the route ahead for me on the Great Allegheny Passage, as well as my trip so far. He said the route through Pittsburgh is almost complete but not quite. There is a mile or two that I have to navigate on the roads after walking along the active CSX tracks for a couple hundred yards. I would have been able to take a short cut through the Sandcastle Amusement Park parking lot during the summer, but the park closes for the winter and was closed now.

He mentioned some of the urban, industrial decay along the way. The last working steel mill in Pittsburgh would be coming up on the other side of the river. An abandoned amusement park featured the film Adventureland would be coming up in a few miles. I’d be able to see the roller coasters. He turned around when the trail ended, and I took to walking along the rails.

I walked my bike over the bumpy rocks and then turned onto the city streets. Not exactly sure where I should be going from the directions I had gotten from some other people so when I saw a couple of cyclists I waved them down, and asked, “Which way to Homestead?” They said to follow them as they were going to the Great Allegheny Passage too.

We passed by Nancy B’s Bakery on West 7th Ave on the way into Homestead. Apparently it has the best cookies around, but is only open 9-5 on weekdays so I was unable to judge. These cyclists said that Homestead has come up a bit because of the ‘marina’ concept and shopping that was put there, and the general improvement has spread out a bit from there.

He had ridden the Great Allegheny Passage and then the C&O towpath to Washington DC. He said that services along the GAP trail are better spaced at about 15-25 miles apart. The C&O services are farther apart, and besides the cities that are right on the trail, they are up steep hills.

The Great Allegheny Passage starts in Homestead, and soon rises up above the Youghiogheny River, and the path goes into the trees. Some of the trees still had their leaves. The bright yellow leaves were beautiful on an overcast day. On the other side of the Youghiogheny River the active CSX line had trains chugging north and south fairly often.

Not far down the trail, I stopped in McKeeport for lunch. The service was slow, and I wolfed down a full Philly cheese steak sub and then got back onto my bike riding so I’d get to my destination of West Newton before dark. Dark was coming earlier and earlier — now before 5 PM. I rode slowly in an attempt to digest and ride a the same time. It was not the most comfortable ride but I was moving.

Start point: Pittsburgh, PA
End point: West Newton, PA
Today’s mileage: 38.5 miles
Total miles so far: 3104 miles
Average speed: 10.8 mph
Max speed: 21.8 mph
Riding time: (10:00 to 14:45) 4.75 hours
Total riding time: 379.5 hours
Weather: partly cloudy, 55-60 F

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