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Monday, March 26, 2012

Connellsville Ohiopyle Confluence

03/26/12 241# 59m 44F

Rode 59 miles on the Great Allegheny Passage from Connellsville through Ohiopyle to Confluence and back, a great ride. This is sort of a "showcase" route with a lot of great and varied scenery, good towns with lots of support available - it's a destination ride rather than spending the day in a "green tunnel" that takes on the attributes of an "endless swimming pool'.

S,S, and I rendezvoused with B at the Connellsville Bottling Company trailhead, and rode through the amazing barrier-protected bike boulevard they've built, stopping at the only traffic light on the GAP between Pittsburgh and Cumberland, and then joining the trail. Connellsville's commitment to the bike economy is unquestionable, as shown by their signature artwork representing the transition from coke ovens to bike wheels.

It had rained the three previous days, and I was apprehensive that the trail might have been soft but it was in excellent condition. There was quite a lot of waterfalls, more than I've seen there before, probably resulting from the rainfall. The combination of no leaves and lots of water combined to good effect.

The scenery was wintery: the trees were stark and bare, there was a lot of visibility through the woods, it was a view of this trail that I had not seen before.

In the photo above you'll see a tree on the right that started to fall across the trail until it was caught by the trees on the left. If you were able to look closely at the base of that all-but-fallen tree, you'd see the photo on the right. IANAN (I am not a Naturalist) but that looks like the work of either a critter with sharp teeth (a beaver?) or a very patient person with a Dremel tool.

We rode into Ohiopyle, known as the second-best rest stop on the GAP (after West Newton Station, of course) and made our way to the general store for a snack. Cups of wedding soup were just what the day's temperatures called for, it was very good. When we got back to the trail B departed our group to return to Connellsville for other obligations.

We continued to Confluence, trail conditions were great. As we pulled into town our first attempts at lunch were unsuccessful; River's Edge doesn't open for the season for a few more weeks, and Sister's Cafe was closing for the day.

We did meet two bicyclists travelling from DC to Pittsburgh, one had a Surly and the other was riding "rack-free" using a frame rack in the triangle, a wedge pack, and a backpack. She said the space constraints forced continuous attention to economy, and that she was riding with a backpack in order to rring her sleeping bag along, but she enjoyed riding the bike without the parasitic weight of the racks.

Stopped at the most excellent Confluence Cyclery to look around and ask advice, and they recommended we go to Sweetie's Bakery and Cafe for lunch which was very good advice. It's about six blocks off the town square, there's a surprisingly large bakery with a dining room and an adjacent pizzeria, and if you get pizza you're welcome to use the bakery dining room. Very good food; I had two slices of pizza and a cocoanut almond biscotti, delicious.

When it was time to go we reversed and headed west and into the wind. On the first leg we were climbing with a tailwind, and on the second leg we were descending with a headwind. While we were eating the overcast had cleared away and the sun was shining, which was very nice. The conditions on the second half, with the sun shining and a slighter higher temp (45F) later in the day, were almost ideal and preferable to the morning.

We rode to Ohiopyle and saw more people on the trail this time, either because of the time of day or the warmer temps. Back to the general store and this time I fortified myself with an ice cream cone (overly generous) and a Starbucks in a bottle, figuring to load up on sugar, fat and caffeine for the last leg.

We had a nice ride back to Connellsville and got a bit of headwind practice in. We had taken an unhurried ride and unrushed stops, so this took most of the day and it was a very nice ride.

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