Last night I spent the evening reminiscing with my old friends Earl and Anne. We worked together while going to college so we’ve known each other over 40 years. Somehow Anne looks 35. They must have wayback machine in their basement.
After acquiring chamois cream and a belt for me, we ate dinner at a Mexican place called Mad Mex in Shadyside. I had my first beers in over 5 months. And the waitress looked like Brandi Carlile (even before the beers).
Earl took us on a magical mystery tour of his hometown. Pittsburgh was once thick with ultra rich industrialists and financiers. The remnants of their wealth are all over the place. After a few decades of rebooting to a health care and tech economy the joint is jumping once again.
After they dropped me off I stayed up for a while talking with people at the hostel. I slept well and woke up to more coffee chatter with Paul, one of the owners. The Southside Traveler’s Rest turned out to be a terrific find. Paul and his wife Mary Beth are anxious to build their bike tourist clientele. I think once word gets out they’ll be wondering where to put all the grungy bike people.
I lingered linger than usual and hit the road about 8. I started following the Adventure Cycling New York to Chicago route. A brief ride near the river turned into a serious climb away from the city. As I ascended I was passed by club riders out for their weekend spin. I figured if they’re riding it, it can’t be that bad. It wasn’t. I never was wanting for a breath. After some rolling miles on the roads I picked up the Panhandle Trail. The first 7 miles were unpaved and bumpy, but in Washington County PA it became paved which helped with the gradual uphill.
After a crest the trail began a gentle downhill slope. It felt pretty darn good. I stopped at a trailside cafe in Burgettstown. The owner said that if I wanted a proper breakfast I should go to Walden’s restaurant next store. It was hard to walk away from the awesome blueberry muffins on display but I needed calories big time.
At Walden’s I ordered a kind of hash that they included home fries, mushrooms, ham, bacon, sausage, and veggies with sausage gravy on top. Sooo perfect. All of it washed down with several cups of coffee. As I was eating a woman sat down and asked me where I was biking from and to. When I told her she said “Your meal is free.” Walden’s has a policy of feeding long distance bike tourists on the House. I had stumbled upon some amazing trail angels.
She handed me a guest book and asked me to write a note about the trip, which I did. I thanked her and the owners who were sitting across the room. In the rest room I saw this notice on the wall.
I’ll bet they get plenty of donations from bike tourists (and their blog readers).
The trail took me downhill for about 8 miles then, after getting briefly disoriented, I got the roads to climb over the mother of all hills. The climb was about 500 feet in a mile. It took everything I had to get over that beast, but I am happy to report that my lungs held up fine.
The downhill was great fun. So much fun that I missed a turn and had to back track a bit to finished the descent to the bank of the Ohio River.
After riding WV 2, a bit so busy highway, for a few miles I stopped for lunch at a scuzzy Dairy Queen. I switched over to the Yanked Trail (despite it being against my religion) and the Wheeling Heritage Trail, both of which were and improvement over the highway. Views of the Ohio kept my spirits up. This is s dam with a lift lock for boats.
Once in Wheeling I took the lay of the land. Wheeling is one beat down place. The only hotel downtown has a reputation as less than wonderful (one bike tourist disliked it so much he left and back tracked 8 miles over a mountain).
I was feeling fine after about 70 miles so I decided to go off route and climb US 40, the National Road, to a hotel in St Clairsville Ohio. I had done this climb on Big Nellie during my 2005 tour to Indiana. It was brutal then and it lived up to my memory of it.
Did I mention the temperature had risen to 86 degrees? Big fun.
I put my head down and did the deed. It wasn’t as hard as the climb to the river but you could have put a fork in me at the top because I was DONE.
The first hotel I came to was a Comfort Inn. Yeah babee.
I am a few miles off route and about 10 further west than I planned. The worst of the climbing is behind me.
Total miles for the day: 77.5
Total mikes got the tour: 410
Oh, and about a mile into the ride the odometer on The Mule hit 46,000 miles. Dang.