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Biking With The Basses Updates and Blog

Day 1


So, today we kicked off Biking With The Basses by flying to Pittsburgh in preparation for an early start tomorrow morning. Seems weird—one hour to fly here, and six days to bike back. Guess that’s what inspired bike mechanics Orville and Wilbur Wright to invent aviation!


As a special treat before getting started, we dined at the TGIFridays near our hotel because, well, that was the only place we could walk to (don’t have our bikes yet!). The waitress swore we’d been there before, but we assured her that must have been an alternate universe as this was our first trip to Pittsburgh.


Tomorrow morning we pick up our bikes at Golden Triangle Bike Rentals, then head out the GAP trail 59 miles to Connellsville, PA. Can’t wait to get started!


Day 2


Today we officially started our Biking With The Basses trek. We got outfitted with our fine rental bikes at Golden Triangle Bike Rentals in downtown Pittsburgh, then hopped onto the adjacent GAP trail a little after 10 a.m.


After 60 miles, I cannot say enough nice things about the GAP: well marked, well maintained, mostly level (NO steep hills at all), scenic, plenty of interesting places to stop (including to eat). We were also fortunate to have excellent weather—sunny, low humidity, temps in low 80’s, light wind.


Still, 60 miles is 60 miles, and we were whupped by the time we finished. Along the way we saw the Monongahela River and some of Pittsburgh’s suburbs, including industrial McKeesport with its steel mills. We took a turn, and next thing we knew we were paralleling the lower Youghiogheny River. We lunched in West Newton, about halfway through the day, at the Trailside, a restaurant conveniently located on top of a bike shop.


The tail end of our trip took us through many camping areas, and had us jealously looking at the people floating lazily down the river below us.


The Connellsville B&B offered us a chance to rest our weary rear ends, and to rinse away the trail dust that eventually coated everything. A fine repast at O’Donnells (pretty much the only restaurant open on a Sunday night) further brought us back to life.


Tomorrow should be a scenic day as we head into the Allegheny mountains on our way to Meyerdale.

Day 3


What a great day today! Perfect weather as we road 60 miles of mostly shaded trail from Connellsville, PA to Meyersdale, PA. Meyersdale is about 1200 feet higher in elevation, so we spent most of the day going uphill, but on a steady railroad grade that minimized the pain.


Our journey took us through Ohiopyle, the center of the Youghiogheny River rafting experience, and then to the town of Confluence (because three rivers converge there) for lunch at the Lucky Dog Cafe. 


We crossed a number of river gorges as we climbed into the Allegheny mountains, along with one shortcut through a dark old railroad tunnel. An ice cream break in Rockwood gave us the energy boost to finish the last dozen miles, including the beautiful ride across the Salisbury Viaduct.


Tonight, we’re staying at the rather creepy Morguen Toole Co. hotel, which features a casket in the lobby with a sign that says “looking for a place to rest?”


Tomorrow we cross the Continental Divide in our way to Cumberland, MD, and get a nice 25 mike downhill ride as our reward. Only problem is rain in the forecast—hoping we can schedule our ride to dodge the storms.


I’ve never ridden two back-to-back 60 mile days, much less with full panniers, so proud of the boys (and myself) for making it through today. Until tomorrow...


Day 4


Nothing like 25 miles of steady downhill riding to make the day go by fast! As you can see in the GAP Trail elevation chart below, once we passed the Eastern Continental Divide a few miles into today’s ride, we had nowhere to go but down!


Today was our “easy” day—a mere 32 miles from Meyersdale, PA to Cumberland, MD. The morning started overcast and drizzly, then turned to light rain before we decided we would just have to deal with it. I mean, why bring rain gear if you don’t use it?


About seven miles into our trip, we crossed the Eastern Continental Divide, at a gap some 2400 feet high in the Allegheny mountains. Shortly thereafter, we shot through the more than half mile long Big Savage Tunnel, which for a claustrophobic like me was no fun. The air was so cool we could see our breath in the misty tunnel.


After that, we crossed the Mason-Dixon Line from PA to MD, and soon found ourselves in Frostburg. I generally advise against Mexican food while riding, but the boys insisted, and I’m glad they have their own room this evening!


A fast 15 mile jaunt had us finishing in Cumberland, the terminus of the GAP trail, and, starting tomorrow, the beginning of the C&O trail. Cumberland is the biggest town we’ve been in since leaving Pittsburgh, so we’re looking forward to greater food options tonight.


We’re halfway there!


Day 5

Word of the day: mud. We went from the smooth, dusty crushed limestone of the GAP trail to the bumpy, muddy soft clay of the C&O trail. We also traded low humidity for mugginess as we transitioned to the eastern side of the mountains.


Today we rode another 60 miles, from Cumberland, MD to Hancock, MD, with a lunch stop in Paw Paw, W. Va.  It felt more like mountain biking (albeit flat) because the trail was so rough and narrow.


Nonetheless, there were many sights to see, including some of the 75 locks along the C&O Canal (see photos). The Canal, and its towpath, are quite a wonder. Built in the early 1800’s, the canal was built without benefit of any machinery, and also operated entirely on people and animal power. It’s hard to imagine the life of a laborer leading a mule along 180 miles of trail from DC to Cumberland!


Among the amazing features of the canal that we saw today was the Paw Paw tunnel, stretching 3116 feet (more than a half mile). It is a giant brick vault, whose construction ended up bankrupting the canal’s owners. We had to walk our bikes through, lest we slip up in the dark tunnel and fall into the canal!


You’ll also see a photo here of a lazy butterfly on my back, who hitched a ride for at least five miles.  We saw plenty of deer, several kinds of turtles, many birds, a couple snakes, and a beaver.


If you’re ever in near Paw Paw, take Oldtown Rd. (inspiration for the hit song?) over to Amanda’s family restaurant, which I believe is number one of one  on Trip Advisor for places to eat in that town.  In Hancock, eat at Buddy Lou’s—great music (surprisingly, 60’s and 70’s R&B), good food and friendly service.


More of the same tomorrow as we work our way down to historic Harper’s Ferry.


Day 6

It’s a wrap—333 miles later, we arrived in DC today, weary, but proud of our accomplishment.


Along the way, we crossed the 500 foot aqueduct across the Monocacy River, had an early lunch at White’s Ferry, and zipped through the outer suburbs of Washington. I easily spotted my old golf club across the Potomac—Trump National—because it is the only spot the entire 180 mile trip without a single tree along the river. Someone decided to cut them ALL down. (We also passed by Trump’s fake “River of Blood” Civil War monument, along with quite a bit of real Civil War history.


At the end, we accidentally found the C&O Canal Trail milepost 0 marker, which must be one of DC’s most carefully obscured pieces of history.


Anyway, it felt good to be in a car for the first time in a week, and it will feel great to be home by the end of the weekend.


So proud of Aidan and Danny to finish this trip with me. It will surely be a lasting memory for all of us!

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