The 2016 KVIITM75 Bike Ride – Day 2

Typing this early in the morning before daybreak.  Everybody is asleep (I think), and Parker House is quiet, expect for the whistle of the freight train in the distance.  This is Confluence, PA, where the Cassleman river meets up with the Yough.  This is my blog for the ride from Perryopolis to Confluence.

We left the hotel at Perryopolis early.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe following picture is taken on the road that we biked from the town back to the Yough river. The tunnel takes you to the bridge across the river. We did not cross, but took the road that you can barely make out on the right before the tunnel. This took us to the trail head.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAnd then it was time to ride once again!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThere had been a spectacular storm late the previous night that we had observed from the front of our hotel rooms. Fortunately, the trail was not too wet. This was the only place where a tree had fallen across the trail.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis chap is trying to get down from the trail to the river.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis is an abandoned railroad bridge across the river that we encountered. It appeared to be falling apart.  You had to watch where you were stepping.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERACrossing a gorge on a trail bridge. The GAP trail that we have been riding is a rail trail which was built where the railroad tracks once used to run.  This bridge would have been carrying train traffic in the past.

A picture opportunity.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThere was steady freight train traffic on the other side of the river.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe section of the trail that we covered today was just amazing.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe Yough river seen from one of the trail bridges just outside of Ohiopyle.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOne of the bridges over the Yough carrying the trail into Ohiopyle.  The river meanders in a U-shaped loop in this section, and there are two bridges over the river.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAt Fallingwater, PA.  This house was built by Frank Lloyd Wright in the the 1930s.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe house is spectacular, both inside and outside.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThese are the folks in Ohiopyle who provided us with the shuttle to Fallingwater.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt was quite late in the afternoon after the trip to Fallingwater, and had another 10 miles to ride to Confluence.  We were hungry and got a snack to eat at a waterfall.  We never found the waterfall, and ended up eating in the woods.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe made a few rest stops during the ride, including this one betwen Ohiopyle and Confluence.  The bike being examined was making some strange noise.  We will try to get it checked out in Cumberland, our destination for tomorrow.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis is Parker House, the place we are staying in Confluence. It is a beautiful place with lot of space.  We are getting ready to go out for dinner.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe crew was famished!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt was dark by the time we left the Lucky Dog Cafe.  The sky was spectacular (due to the absence of light pollution) and folks were identifying the stars and the planets.  We walked back to Parker House using the faint light from a smartphone to show us the way through the dark streets of Confluence.  Went to bed after a night-cap.  Goodnight from Confluence, PA.


The 2016 KVIITM75 Bike Ride- Day 1

Four middle-aged dudes, former graduates of Kendriya Vidyalaya High School, IIT, Madras, in 1975, set out on a multi-day bike ride from Pittsburgh, PA, to Gaithersburg, MD, today.

Waking up in Homestead, in Pittsburgh, PA.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOur bikes arrive at the hotel.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWith his proud family!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe riders are ready to depart.

Riding over the railroad tracks near the Monongahela river. We see the old industrial side of Pittsburgh while riding through its outskirts. The city has seen better times.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERACrossing the Monongahela river.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe Youghiogheny River in McKeesport.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAClimbing the hill!  This is after they returned back to the bottom of the hill after the initial attempt. They wanted to start the ride back up the hill in first gear!


OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAlong the Youghiogheny river.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHe had to get his feet wet in the river.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAEnjoying theplas made by Kalpana.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe red waterfall, which is basically waste water from an old mine. This is an unfortunate part of the legacy of industrial development in the area.


OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABridge at West Newton. We crossed the bridge over the Yough into town for kicks, led by our fearless leader.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAUnder Interstate 70 on the trail.


OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABridge over the Yough.


We are the champions!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAKoushik goes to the Byzantine church in Perryopolis on Sunday.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAChinese food for dinner at our motel.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAGoodnight from Perryopolis, PA!


Baking on the W&OD

The dogs days of summer have hit the Washington, DC, area.   The combination of the temperature and humidity makes the heat feel quite intense when you are in the open areas.  I have still been riding my bike regularly.  I start earlier in the day if I can, and ride through the hottest parts of the day.  It is usually not too bad under the trees, although I have gotten the strangest pattern of tans on different parts of my body because of my exposure (enough said!).

But the ride last Friday was particularly brutal.  I had decided to go further out on the W&OD trail in Virginia.  The ride started off easily enough with my crossing the Potomac on the Key bridge into Rosslyn in Arlington early enough in the morning.  I stopped on the bridge to watch the planes on their way into National Airport.


I rode the short distance on the Mt. Vernon trail along the river towards National Airport, passing the Arlington Memorial Bridge along the way.


I stopped at Gravelly Point to take some pictures of aircraft coming in for landing at the airport.

After I passed National airport, I had to turn off on to the Four Mile Run trail and ride a few miles to the start of the W&OD.  Things became more difficult once I got on the W&OD.  There was minimal tree cover over the trail and the sun was beating directly down from on high. The asphalt that formed the surface of the trail was also increasing the intensity of the heat.  As I rode out of Arlington, and past Falls Church, Dunn Loring, Vienna, Reston, and finally into Herndon, tackling the numerous ups and downs of the trail, and with the rhythm of the ride being constantly interrupted at the many busy road crossings, my energy levels dropped.  Two bottles of water (one with and the other without dissolved electrolytes) were being consumed quickly.  I managed to find a section of the trail with a little bit of shade just outside of Herndon, had my lunch to try to build up my energy level once again, and started on my way back home.

It was now getting to noon-time and the heat was really slowing me down.  The number of other people I was seeing on the trail was dropping.  Have you heard the song about mad dogs and Englishmen going out in the midday sun?    Since I am not an Englishman, I must be a creature of the other sort!

I determined that I could not do the ride all the way to the turnoff for the Custis Trail in one stretch without a break as I had originally planned.  Back at Vienna I plonked my tired self on a bench outside the old station building where there was a little bit of shade and tried to recover.  I was fortunate to also find a water fountain to replenish my drinking supply.


I got back on the bike and did make it to my next stop, which was the start of the Custis Trail, without incident.  I parked myself under the shade of the trees in the park and re-energized myself with a fruit and more water.  All of my appetite had vanished at that point because of the heat.  I was gulping down the water.   The mixture with the electrolytes was gone, but I was able to refill the water bottles.

The ride from that point onward was easier because of the shade of the trees that covered the trail.  Once I got back on the towpath I stopped at Fletchers Cove to get a bottle of Gatorade, something that was not a part of my original plan.  That bottle did not last too long either.  I made it back successfully, and the recovery process that evening was actually very good, although I decided that I was going the spend the next day, which was also going to be super hot, indoors!   I am hoping for better conditions during our ride from Pittsburgh.

Take it Easy

Take It easy, take it easy
Don’t let the sound of your own wheels
drive you crazy….………………………..The Eagles

The constant jangling of the metal handlebar basket as I bounce along on my bike on the towpath is something that I have gotten used to. The sound is fading into the background as if I were wearing some noise cancelling headphones, but it is only what is left of my middle-aged rattled brain doing its thing!  With regular six to seven hours of steady biking all by myself day after day, starting in the relative cool of the early mornings, and continuing through the middle of these hot and humid summer days; with the legs beating a regular rhythm on the pedals without end; with the steady concentration of the ride and your thoughts only broken up the occasional scenic stops, the snack breaks, and the infrequent interaction with folks you come across on the trail;  it is all something that is becoming second-nature to me.

It has gotten to the point where I can recover from my long rides and do the same thing the next day without feeling the ill-effects of the previous days’ efforts.  It does not matter if I had been riding on a flat surface on the towpath or if I have overcome some challenging slopes on the Virginia side of the river or on the Capital Crescent Trail the previous day.  So I think I am about as ready as I can be for the long ride at the end of August.

I have biked all the way to Reston, VA, near Dulles airport, on the W&OD trail.  This picture was taken at the place where I stopped for lunch and turned back to return home.
IMG_20160729_115353475I would eventually like to bike to the end of the W&OD trail.  It is 45 miles long.

The picture below shows the scene at Lock 7 in the morning during a different ride.  It is still cool in the morning at this point and I am riding towards DC. I eventually crossed the Potomac on the Key Bridge and took the Arlington loop.
IMG_20160804_093216941This is Swain’s Lock later the same day as I was returning to Riley’s Lock.   The heat had built up by this time.
IMG_20160804_134013227The picture below was taken at the end of the same ride. The kids are on Seneca Creek near Riley’s lock.  As I mentioned in another blog, there are kids everywhere!
IMG_20160804_143022126This picture was taken early in the morning the next day at the start of another ride.  The location is north of Taylor’s Landing near Sharpsburg, MD.
IMG_20160805_084512557As I was getting my bike out of the car, a few vans full of kids and equipment drove into the parking area.  When I inquired if I could help by moving my car out of the way, one of the adults told me not to bother.  They were simply dropping the kids and their bikes off so that they could ride the trail, and the vehicles were going to pick them up at the other end of the ride.  I like kids, but I did make sure to  start my ride going in the opposite direction of where they were headed.

I passed the Dam 4 cave, and then Dam 4 itself, a couple of miles north of Taylors Landing.
IMG_20160805_090541930During this ride I biked all the way to Williamsport, MD, before turning back.   There is a lot of work going on in the park in Williamsport and I had to navigate my way past a dump truck that was blocking the trail.  The National Park Service is trying to get the canal in that section set up so that they can give rides to visitors in replica canal boats.  On my way back, at Taylor’s Landing, I did come across a group of four older women who were riding from Cumberland to Washington, DC, over five days.  They had actually roughed it out the previous night by staying in one of the lock houses.  It was unusual to see such a group on the trail.

Here is a recording to the song mentioned in this blog.

The Great Allegheny Passage (10/24/2009)

As I get ready to bike the Great Allegheny Passage and the C&O Canal between Pittsburgh and the Washington DC area with my high-school friends at the end of the month, I am reminded of this letter that I wrote in the year 2009.

Many of you have been reading about my experiences on the C&O canal for the last few years, and you might still not get a sense as to why this has become a part of my life.  Truth of the matter is that most folks who live in this area are not even aware of the existence of this jewel in our backyard.  The C&O canal is just not a major topic of conversation in these parts.  But there is also another small dedicated group of people that is aware of this resource, and there are news-groups on the Internet where people like me visit to share stories and get information.

I have only traveled about 125 miles along the canal so far, and the towpath eventually ends at Cumberland, MD, at mile 184.5.  Beyond the C&O canal, to the northwest, lies the Great Allegheny Passage (GAP), and a trail that runs all the way up McKeesport, PA, the place where Mona did her residency a while back. The combination of the GAP and the C&O canal runs over 300 miles from McKeesport (near Pittsburgh) to Washington, DC.  There are many people who walk and bike these trails for recreation these days, and the experience is awesome.  There are villages, rivers, mountains, canals, railroads, bridges, viaducts, locks, aqueducts and tunnels to see.  There is Nature. There is even a sense of history on the trails, with the stories of the civil war battles along the Potomac, and the stories of the little old towns that used to exist in the early days of the country, and a way of life that has almost completely disappeared.

I have never biked the trail for any long distance, and when I read the stories of people who have gone through the experience of doing the entire stretch I feel inspired.  I am having a hard time describing why one feels this way.  It is not that one is doing something that is important and will make a difference to humanity.  I think this could be the purest form of entertainment and adventure. You experience nature in an unadulterated form, at your own pace, and without the benefit of any sort of motorized assistance.  These days you do not even have to rough it out on the trail during the nights, since there are little towns with little bed-and-breakfast facilities and restaurants along the way.  It appears that the popularity of the trail could be reviving some of the old villages in a little way.

Will I get a chance to ride the entire trail myself?  I do not know, but it would not take much for something to tip the scales and for me to make up my mind to set out on my bike one fine day.  Of course, it is not that simple.  One has to be prepared.  You have to carry supplies when doing such a trip.  You have to be ready to face the unexpected.  But if somebody out there wants to share the experience with me, I am ready to set out on this adventure!  Any takers?

The link below is to an article written about the GAP in The New York Times.

Side story – Early this year, I got an e-mail from the President of the Allegheny Trail Alliance asking if they could use one of my pictures in the 2009 trailbook.  I said yes.  I had a hard time finding my picture when the trailbook came out.  It ended up in black and white in a tiny format in a corner of a page.  But that was good enough for me. One of my pictures has now been published!

Postscript: It is hard to believe, but many years later I am about to embark on the trip I talked about in 2009.  I have to thank my good friend Koushik (who is riding with me) for motivating me to get off my butt and finally do something about it.

Also, I was approached once again this year to donate a few of my pictures to the 2016 edition of the trailbook for the GAP.  A couple of my pictures appear in the guide.



Weekly Photo Challenge: Narrow

This week’s response to the challenge is a tale of three travels.

We saw a “Close” for the first time during our most recent trip to Edinburgh in Scotland .  Basically, these are narrow passageways between buildings, or small streets that are dead-ended.  A lot of the closes in Edinburgh are found on the Royal Mile.  Here are pictures of a couple of closes.

Last year, my sister, older daughter, and I, hiked the Little Haystack-Lincoln-Lafayette section of the Appalachian Trail in the Franconia Ridge section the White Mountains of New Hampshire.  The trail running along the mountain ridge looks narrow enough to be scary, but they are OK to traverse on a day with good weather.  This hike was one for the ages, at least as far as I was concerned, and something that I realistically hope to able to revisit at least a couple of more times while the body is still able.

Finally, these pictures are from a hike in Ditinn during our trip to Guinea in 2012 to meet up with our daughter (who was a Peace Corps Volunteer in that country at that time).  I think every picture in the sequence below talks to the theme of this week’s challenge, perhaps in different ways.