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Sunday, September 16, 2012

Four Visitors from Northern Virginia

09/16/12 #229 55m
I have felt a "gap" (sorry) in my own local area knowledge so I set out today to learn the trail segments and detours and workarounds on the unfinished southern sections of the Montour Trail between McMurray and the GAP in Port Vue.

I drove to the new trailhead between the two new bridges at Morganza Road and Georgetown Road, and stopped in the new bike shop (Tandem Connection) to purchase a new inner tube. New, new, new, new everywhere.

I stumbled across found the Arrowhead Trail and explored it to Peterswood Park, then took the right fork along the Empress Arabian stables and continued east along the detours. I completely flubbed my chance to get on the new trail segment at Stewart Road across from the mini-golf, but I won't miss it again because it's soooooooo much better than the road segment. I did find my way to it eventually and enjoyed riding the trail to Triphammer Road, it precludes a pretty big road climb that you used to need to make on the detour.

Further along the trail, near where I'd planned to turn around, two cyclists waved me down (literally) and asked for some assistance. They were riding to DC and found the local detours confusing and the nav support woefully insufficient. They were tired, frustrated, and a little bit pissed off.

I rode with them to the Large Hotel, which is a small hotel in Large, PA on Route 51, where we found the rest of the party. Then Bill, Bob, Don, and his niece Denice and I rode the rest of the way to the GAP, through Clairton, Glassport, McKeesport, Port Vue, over the Durabond Bypass and finally to Dead Man's Hollow.

I was surprised that they had chosen to begin their Pittsburgh-DC bike trip at the PIT airport and that they chose to ride the Montour Trail and the GAP all the way to Connellsville on the first day.

They'd been dropped off in vehicles and had complete discretion as to their starting point. After some discussion, it seems like the misbeggotten plan was the brainchild of a Trek salesman in northern Virginia, and I suspect they're going to offer him some feedback when they get back home. I think they were given bad advice. When we got to Port Vue, they'd ridden 50+ miles to get 22 miles from Point State Park.

FWIW, if you're planning to ride from Pittsburgh to DC, the Montour Trail is not complete from the Airport or Groveton through to the GAP. It's just not finished yet. Even the GAP to downtown is still an unfinished trail. If you want to build in a positive experience, start in Homestead.

My own advice is: plan on starting at Point State Park, and advertise what you're doing on the BikePgh web forum and on the GAP web forum and solicit a local rider to escort you out through the city.

These four riders were nice folks and it was fun to ride with them. When we parted ways at Dead Mans Hollow, they had 35 miles to go to Connellsville and the lodgings that they'd already paid for, and only 2 hours until sunset; it didn't seem likely to all fit in the same story. I hope they made out okay, they were nice folks and they'd done a lot of work in a frustrating situation.

I was running my 'droid phone's GPS with the Endomondo App to get a ground track of the southern trail segments, and I was also using the G-Map to see the Montour detour overlays, and I managed to drain the phone battery at the Durabond Bypass. Forunately, I connected my AA-battery mini-USB charger and in a half-hour I had a 60% charge in the phone, I love that little gizmo.

Seen: As I returned through Clairton one of the bicyclists I saw riding opposite direction was, I think, Danny Chew (the million mile man).

I got back to my own destination at 8.30 pm after seeing a beautiful sunset and watching the first-magnitude stars come out. On the way home, I stopped at Burgh's Pizza to bring home a pie; they're huge supporters of the Montour Trail and I'm rarely driving out this way.

It was a very nice ride, I met some nice people. I continue to meet otherwise normal, intelligent cyclists in the target demographic - educated, bright, high-net-worth - who find the Pittsburgh trail wayfinding and navigation systems very frustrating. The region should be able to do better at this, and we should stop frustrating visitors.

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