Team Rustbucket decided to take the show on the road. We had heard a lot about the GAP (Great Allegheny Passage) and C&O Canal Trail, the 335-mile biking and hiking trail system from Pittsburgh, PA to Washington, D.C.
So Team Rustbucket went to the Rust Belt. We drove the back roads of Virginia, through Front Royal, where we came upon the Bing Crosby Baseball Stadium. Yes, that Bing Crosby – look it up.
We arrived in the ‘Burgh on Saturday afternoon, with enough time for a Primanti Brothers sandwich. We then headed off to PNC Park to watch the Pirates play the Phillies. The park is an ideal location at the confluence of the Ohio, Allegheny, and Monongahela Rivers. Then, dinner at one of the many craft breweries downtown.
On Sunday, we took a walking tour. Pittsburgh has done a great job of reinventing its downtown area. There are many bike/pedestrian paths and a large number of cyclists.
We headed out of Pittsburgh on Monday; our guidebook suggested a six-day trek, so we took its advice.
Day 1: 60 Miles – Pittsburgh to Connellsville, PA
A gradual gain in altitude and a very modest grade with some blacktop, but mostly a well-maintained crushed gravel surface made for a good first day on the trail. We saw lots of woodland scenery and the biggest excitement of the day came when we thought we saw a black bear lumbering along side the trail. It turned out to be big, black dog, but it startled us all the same.
We arrived in Connellsvile and ate dinner at a small diner with a tapestry of local landmarks. One of these was an oak tree from Germany brought home by local gold medal Olympian Johnny Woodruff.
Day 2: 47 Miles – Connellsville to Rockwood, PA
There was more climbing, but a slight grade. Plenty of cyclists: some road bikes, recumbents, an e-bike, and two guys pulling Burley trailers loaded with their dogs. We stopped in Ohiopyle, a great place for white water rafting and waterfalls.
Day 3: 44 Miles, Rockwood to Cumberland, MD
We were still climbing until we reached the Eastern Continental Divide (elev. 2,392 feet).The day was cold and rainy, and when we exited the Big Savage Tunnel, the fog was so thick we could hardly see.
Thankfully, the day was short because the last 22 miles were downhill. It ended in Cumberland and so did the GAP.
Day 4: 60 Miles – Cumberland, MD to Hancock, MD
This is the start of the C&O Canal Trail. We had heard that the C&O Trail was not as well maintained as the GAP; the stories were true.
It rained all night the previous evening, and the trail was a challenge. It turned into a cyclocross event – 50 miles of mud, an uprooted tree blocking the trail, and a locked gate.
We had a few offers from people at a restaurant who wanted to hose the mud off of us.
Day 5: 50 Miles – Hancock, MD to Shepherdstown, WV
More rain, more mud. We started the day on pavement by riding the Western Maryland Rail Trail that parallels the C&O. Then we were back to the mud. We met a great group of cyclists from the St. Louis area. Now that they are cyclocross veterans, they were invited to the next Rustbucket Races.
Day 6: 66 Miles – Shepherdstown, WV to Vienna, VA
Our return plans changed, so we did not complete the C&O to D.C. We rode the trail to White’s Ferry, where we crossed the Potomac to Leesburg.
We then took the W&OD (Washington and Old Dominion Trail) to Vienna. The W&OD is a 45-mile paved rail trail from Arlington County to Purcellville.
Thanks to the Wingenfelds for hosting us for the night!
Where should we ride next?
Please post any 2018 Tour suggestions in the Comments! Thanks for following along, and check back soon, because ‘cross is coming, and so are the