Great something or other," or "So-and-so the Great," and the list goes on. But, the Great Allegheny Passage, well, it really is a step above good. I joined the trail yesterday about 54 miles from Pittsburgh after departing California, PA from my visit with Tim and Nicki. After almost 500 miles of sometimes challenging, but frequently entertaining navigation (I once used the address on a tag sale sign to confirm a turn in the absence of an actually street sign), no turns!
But really, it is much more than a lack of intersections. I am finding the trail one of the most relaxing times I have ever spent on a bike, and I am pretty darn comfortable on a bike. It's not just the 1,600 feet of elevation gain in 60 miles (Did I actually climb?), or dappled sunlight on shaded trail, or actually regularly seeing other touring cyclists, nor the entertaining spur trails and swim holes. It is all that and more.
Probably the biggest surprise is my reaction to the lack of turns. Justin rode the full length of the C&O and this trail earlier this summer, and he did comment that at times, it does get a bit mundane, and believe me, I get that. I'd had a similar reaction to the stint I rode on the Erie Canal Path once west of Schenectady, but something about this trip in general, and maybe the distance I've covered thus far has me loving the tedium. I wander, I stop, I lose myself in some thoughts, then find myself again splashing across a calm pool of water between sections of rapids. I have no hosts and therefore nowhere to arrive, and if I like, no need to stop. Ahhhh!
Also, the path is quite well organized. For example, I am in Meyersdale. At the old station, there is a standardized sign with a map of the town and all points of interest and business. So, without the need to rove, I headed directly across town to the supermarket for lunch fixins, then retraced my route to the public library where I now type. Once back to the trail, I can fill my bottles from the spigot, bid the town farewell, and continue my climb up to the eastern continental divide, roughly 300 feet above my current elevation. Easy as can be.
Not that the riding before I reached the trail was unpleasant, oh no! I made the crossing from State College to California in two full days of riding. That made for 75-80 miles days, which I'm finding is a, oh heck with it, "great" no-rush pace. I particularly enjoyed winding along the river that took my to California. It truly started to feel like western PA, complete with agriculture replacing forests, flaming vent towers, and even a hint of mid-western drawl.
Once in California, I was reunited with my old chums from Hartford Food Not Bombs. Tim and Nicki were always game to experiment with whatever food we received as donations, and they have only expanded on that in the couple years they've been away. I was treated to Seitan Phillies complete with homemade vegan cashew "cheese" sauce. I managed to shed one my habanero for the mix-up, and while I adore hot food and have managed to almost completely desensitize myself, these peppers are still amazing me. When Nicki started to cook the next day, she couldn't stand over the pan from the capsicum that had leached into the pan. That's one pepper, no seeds!
Of course, I've been so fond of Tim and Nicki ever since first hearing him tell his H20 too joke (I'll refrain here), and seeing them again was such an unexpected treat, having learned of their return north just a few days before my departure. The impetus for this trip and its direction was reunions, and I'll admit, there's something so very personally encouraging about being able to just hang around with friends in their mid-twenties and not feel at all old. Sure, I have 15 years more experience but we both appreciate that, and I would never trade it. Also, and this might be a hint of the cranky curmudgeon, it is the twenty-somethings with whom I can relate this way that give me hope for the future.
So, as I continue my amble down this road, this path, even this life, and I reflect on my reaction to the Great Allegheny, I've taken to pondering the question: Am I here for the riding, or am I riding for the here. Especially given my background, it is easy to get caught up in the riding, but I'm blending in a lot more "here" this go round. I still love the ride, no doubt there, but I'm finding variety a very blissful spice!
And if I were out here solely for the images,
I'd probably have to call it a wrap after finding this one.