An Introduction

I am not a cyclist, but I love travel, new experiences, and adventure...

I'm Sarah, the Program Manager for Friends of the Riverfront, a nonprofit in Pittsburgh that has been building trails and restoring the region's riverfronts for over 20 years.

The 25-mile Three Rivers Heritage Trail has helped transform Pittsburgh from an industrial city to a green one. We work to build, maintain, expand, and promote this riverfront trail system for cyclists, walkers, runners, commuters, and rollerbladers. The Three Rivers Heritage Trail is also a Pittsburgh hub, connecting to larger trail systems.

This year, we celebrate the completion of the last link in the Great Allegheny Passage - the final mile to form a complete trail connection between Washington D.C. and Pittsburgh.

In anticipation of the official grand opening Point Made! celebration on June 15, I'm joining the grand opening ride to pedal 335-miles from D.C. to Pittsburgh on the C&O Canal Towpath and the Great Allegheny Passage.

Count down the days -- and miles by taking a virtual tour with me from the Capital to the Burgh! I hope you'll enjoy following me on this amazing ride!

Saturday, June 15, 2013

An Almost Homecoming

Day 7: Dunbar, PA to Homestead, PA on the Great Allegheny Passage

Today we began our charge toward Pittsburgh on the Great Allegheny Passage. I couldn't quite piece together in my mind how we were going to ride from Dunbar, near Ohiopyle, to Homestead all in one day. It seemed too far.

We started off where we left off near the Dunbar Historical Society, back down the Sheepskin Trail, and across the big red bridge where we followed the GAP into Connellsville. There, the Fayette County Cultural Trust had wonderful breakfast waiting for us at a pavillion in the park. Muffins and coffee cake, fresh fruit, coffee, juice, and yogurt, were the perfect start to our last long day of riding.

Breakfast in Connellsville, PA

Mileage signs on the trail at Connellsville
Today's ride was much different than yesterdays, and instead of tree-lined trail and wilderness, we spent most of the day passing by houses and small towns. There were signs of industry past and present everywhere, including a newer industry: the trail.

When we stopped for lunch about halfway through the day's ride in West Newton, The Trailside was the first thing we saw. A charming restaurant with a nice outdoor patio, had taken the bicycle theme and made it their own. Menu items featured names from neighboring trail towns and locked bikes lined the railings near the entrance.

The Trailside, West Newton, PA
After lunch we continued towards Pittsburgh, and for the first time, I was not counting down the miles to the end of the day's ride -- I just wanted to keep going. As the scenery became more familiar, I became more nostalgic and thought of what a wonderful trip this had been.

Near Boston, the rain and storms had caused a rock/mudslide on the trail, and when we arrived, the crew was just finishing the clean up.  There were still some ruts and sticky mud on the trail, but it was passable and really nothing compared to the C&O.

Remains of a mudslide near Boston, PA
Today, Dave and I were the honorary "sweeps" at the back of the pack on the trip since most of our crew had headed back to D.C. to take part in the 24-hour relay. At Boston, we had planned to grab ice cream at a place we'd heard was right off the trail, but when we arrived, it was closed for the day.

We continued to McKeesport, and everything was familiar again. Although I had never been on this section of the trail, I had a good sense of direction, and knew where to go. Here, we had a brief section of share the road trail, some bends and turns and bridges, and then a nice final section of the day - a series of fly-over bridges that would bring us to The Waterfront.

First, we crossed over the Riverton Bridge, which was beautiful, and what I had known was an important part of finishing the trail to Pittsburgh. The few fly-overs that passed over the train tracks along the Monongahela River, were similar in steep inclines leading up, and like an amusement park ride going down.

Riverton Bridge, McKeesport, PA

Fly-over bridge, Duquesne, PA
Then we came to Kennywood Park, a memorable part on the trail into Pittsburgh, with two of the park's coasters - the Phantom's Revenge and Thunderbolt coming close to the trail. When riding by, it is almost as if you are in the park with the screams of riders rushing towards you all at once.

Kennywood Park, from the Great Allegheny Passage
We continued riding, and soon we were passing through the fields and beneath the Rankin Bridge with the signs to The Waterfront right in front of us. We knew we were within a few minutes of our final destination for the day, and although this was our second longest day by mileage - 55 miles, I did not want it to end.

Entering The Waterfront, there is a well divided share the road bicycle lane with marked pavement and directional signs. Then, you hop back along the river, behind the plaza housing and past the restaurants and businesses to the hotel.

Entering The Waterfront
We arrived at The Courtyard Marriott, where we had set out towards D.C. just a week ago, now ALMOST victorious bicycle travelers of the C&O Canal Towpath and Great Allegheny Passage - Washington D.C. to Pittsburgh in 8 days.

Victory at Homestead, with Susan, Mary Jane, and Dave
After stopping in our rooms, we met for drinks in the hotel bar and headed to Mitchell's Fish Market for a big celebratory feast and toasted the completion of a great adventure. After dinner, a group of us stayed out for drinks and then returned to the hotel to prepare for tomorrow morning's festivities.

Part of our group at Mitchell's Fish Market

Please join me to celebrate the completion of a wonderful trip and the milestone completion of the longest continuous bike trail in the United States! There will be a ribbon cutting ceremony at 10am at Sandcastle at The Waterfront, followed by a group ride to The Point led by our fearless and tireless 24 hour relay team!

At The Point, the final mile marker of the Great Allegheny Passage will be unveiled at 1pm, and from 2-10pm back at the Pump House at The Waterfront, there will be a Pop Up party with music, beer, and food trucks to continue the celebration.

Please join us to celebrate, and if you see me, please stop and say hello!  Tomorrow, I will post the conclusion to our ride, and later I'll share comments and suggestions about the trip.

I hope you'll continue to follow along -- the ride's not over yet!


  1. Looking forward to seeing you tomorrow at the Point to congratulate you on the completion of your first (of many) touring adventures!

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    1. Congratulations on your first great bike adventure. Now that you have caught the bug, may you have many more.

  3. Like my comment to an earlier post - reading along has been the next best thing to being on this ride. Thanks for all of your efforts to allow us to "come along" by printed word and pictures!

  4. You are a very talented writer, Sarah. Thank you for documenting your trip and congratulations on your endurance and bravery allowing you to progress through rain, mud and a scary cliff encounter. And you accomplished it with an admirable grace and dedication too. So glad to have met you.

    1. Thank you, Chere! It was wonderful meeting you and Don! Without your heroic help in getting me to Walmart, the blog would not have been the same. I definitely need to make another trip to Cumberland soon to go back to that Italian restaurant!

  5. You did it! Great job riding and writing this amazing journey!