The bus pulled off the road at the Deal trailhead and parked, disgorging cyclists ready to hit the trail.
We moved our luggage from the bus to the truck that would carry them on to that night’s campground, located our bikes, and walked over to the trail, mounting up to start our first day of the tour on the Great Allegheny Passage (GAP). We’d be joining a couple hundred folks on this Rails to Trails Sojourn, six days of riding to the last stop back in Coraopolis.
This day’s ride would be short, just sixteen miles, riding first towards Cumberland, MD up to the Eastern Continental Divide, then down a bit to the Mason Dixon Line, turning around to ride back over the Divide and down into the small town of Meyersdale, our stop for the night. We visited here in 2013 when we last did this tour.
That version had us riding from Pittsburgh to Cumberland; this time around we’d be doing it in reverse, a bit of a boon as the trail ascends about 2,000 feet as you head to the Divide. So, for the first few days we’d be pedaling slightly downhill.
We arrived at the old train station in Meyersdale and were warmly greeted by town volunteers, an encounter we’d also experience the next day as well, showing how much this trail has sparked the economies of the small towns that run along its course. From there we rode downhill to the park where we would camp, got our gear and quickly set up the tent.
With some time to kill before dinner we walked over to a nearby Subway to split a foot long that would tide us over. About an hour before supper, we walked a couple of blocks up the hill to a bar and restaurant we’d spent time in our last trip and which had live music that day, Morguen Toole Co.
There weren’t any seats at the bar and so we settled at a table for four not far from the stage where a talented guitar player would entertain us with popular songs during our stay. Joanna asked our very friendly waiter for his suggested cocktail while I got a local craft beer. Hers arrived, a bubby citrus infused concoction that went down so easily that not ordering a second one required a supreme act of will. Refreshed we walked the block or so down to a large meeting hall that belongs to the volunteer fire department for a hearty meal of lasagna, green salad, and garlic bread.
Rain was forecast for the next day, so we covered up the bikes, battened the hatches on the tent and as predicted, awoke to rainy conditions in the morning. Breakfast, again from the volunteer fire department was robust, local sausage, pancakes, and small pitchers of real maple syrup produced nearby.
We hit the trail for what would be another relatively short day at thirty-one miles, a break for us as it was in wet conditions, raining off and on, making bikes and riders a dirty mess. The GAP trail, built on abandoned rail beds, is composed of packed crushed limestone, making for a mostly smooth ride in dry conditions. When it gets wet, the tires throw it up and after a bit of riding, the bike and the rider get covered in it, a big mess that is not fun to be a part of.
As we pulled in to our campground for the next two nights in Confluence, we were again greeted by volunteers from the town, this time a couple of young ladies dressed in pioneer style dresses, handing out bottles of water. Just inside the entrance to camp we noticed a group of fellow cyclists at the RV dumping station, using the hose there to wash off. We joined the line and managed to effectively get the grit off of the bikes and ourselves.
After we set up camp we gathered up a load of laundry, particularly the biking outfits we’d worn in our two days of cycling, in order to have enough cycle gear to see us through the rest of the tour. Laundry done we returned to camp and hung out, then pedaled back into town for dinner, one of two we’d have while there, this one catered by a restaurant we’d eaten at before, the Lucky Dog Café.
The meals we would experience in Confluence would be the least impressive of the tour. This night it was a mediocre burrito, cold tortilla wrapped around ingredients of your choice, appealing at first, filling, but nothing you’d spend your own money on. One change from our first time with the Sojourn in 2013 was starting tonight there would be beer at each stop. Tonight, it was from Sierra Nevada but required a long wait in line to get your glass.
Our food the next night would be even less appealing, this time from the volunteer fire department, canned green beans, boxed scalloped potatoes, and ham of dubious quality. Knowing the drink line would be long, we’d stopped in at the Lucky Dog on the way over to have a beer or two sitting outside on their deck, the Youghiogheny River, one of the three rivers that join to give Confluence its name, floating by in front of us.
Finished with eating we rode back to camp and read for the rest of the evening, preparing for our rest day the next morning and the two activities we’d participate in, a river raft run for Joanna and for I, a visit to the Frank Lloyd Wright designed Kentuck Knob. We were off to a good start. The coming days would increase in mileage and be challenging, but for now we’d have some fun.
Great Allegheny Passage: https://gaptrail.org/
Rails to Trails Sojourn: https://www.railstotrails.org/experience-trails/sojourns/2017-ride/
Morguen Toole Co.: http://www.morguentoole.com/