This bike ride came together in a hurry. A group of us, friends from high school, had ridden the Great Allegheny Passage (GAP) and the C&O Canal together in 2016. It was a 300 mile bike ride from Pittsburgh to the Washington, DC, area over six days. Earlier this year, there was a documentary about this trail produced by a PBS station in Pittsburgh. It was called The Great Ride. It was quite inspiring, and reminded us of the wonderful time we had had in 2016. I said that I was prepared to do this ride with the same group once again. Koushik immediately took me up on the the offer, and proposed that we ride this year, without waiting too long. The others agreed almost immediately after that.
It took just a few weeks for the plans to come together. We decided that we were going to do the ride at a more relaxed pace this time. Instead of covering 300 miles, we would just do the 150 miles of the GAP. We would spend a day exploring Pittsburgh, and 5 days doing the GAP itself. This is how it came together.
Arrival in Pittsburgh for Bike Ride
Seeing Pittsburgh by Bicycle and Boat
Riding to Smithton, PA
On to Ohiopyle. PA
A “Rest” Day in Ohiopyle, and then on to Confluence, PA
In the Rain to Meyersdale, PA
Destination Cumberland, MD
This was a special ride. The more relaxed pace of this ride allowed us to enjoy each other’s company much more. We were not rushed in any way. And as we rode, I could feel a deeper and simpler level of connection emerge. Another layer of my inhibitions in the company of friends slipped away. This ride was especially good for the spirit.
Just as for the previous ride in 2016, not all details of the ride where completely figured out ahead of time. We did know where we were staying – the towns and the establishments in those towns, but the particulars of the places we would stop at during the day, and what we were going to do at any particular place, or where we were going to get food and water during the day, were fluid. We were flexible. It worked out well. We saw some great things, and ate some great food (there was the one clunker for me, but that’s all I am going to say about that!). The boat tour of Pittsburgh turned out to be unexpectedly special.
All the establishments we stayed at along the way this time were different from those we stayed at in 2016. We also stayed at more Bed and Breakfast establishments, and only one motel. The owners of all of these places were great in their own ways. They all made us comfortable, and also spent some time with us. We got to know more about each other. One of the owners was the mayor of the town! All of these places had a character of their own. The experience was not about staying the night at the most luxurious place available, but was about something deeper than that. We were staying at places that represented the local town in some way, and we were getting to know some of these places better. We lived in some of the really old buildings that had been renovated. We met the locals and talked to them. We were getting a flavor of the real America.
One would think that rain would ruin a bike ride. Not for me! Even though the rain did change the nature of the experience on the one day that it poured, it brought out a different kind of joyousness. I became a child once again, riding in the rain. I could hear the sound of the rain through the trees, and on my poncho. There was the dirt thrown up by the wet tires. My glasses were getting wet and my shoes and socks soaked. But, somehow, all of that did not matter that much as I was riding. We just rode on through the rain to the next stopping point while others stopped for shelter. We were able to dry out and warm up nicely finally, at the end of the ride. The rain gear did help!
Something different this time was that towards the later half of the ride we encountered some people over and over again in different places along the trail. And we met all of them again at the end of the ride. We were all people on the same mission. I do not remember anything like this from 2016.
The nature of the end of our ride in Cumberland was simply awesome. It could have been anticlimactic – a slow ride to the end line in a plaza in Cumberland in the middle of a hot day. But, no! We had a cheering squad awaiting us. Our families, and even classmate who was visiting from India. The garlands and the awards were a bonus, but I would have been happy enough simply seeing their smiling faces at the finish line. That was special, and unique to this particular bike ride.
A few days have passed since the end of the ride, and I have had time to ponder the richness of the experience of the week that we rode our bikes. It is going to be a hard act to follow.