Miles to Date: 1,281
May 27, 2015 – Rainy then sunny, 75 degrees
I woke in The Flood City to learn about extensive flooding in Texas and Oklahoma. I called my brother in OKC to make sure everyone was okay and then tucked into my favorite budget motel breakfast: flip waffles! Actually, I had two. Since I was facing 72 miles plus 4,500 feet of vertical rise plus a forecast of rain, I also downed a few other carb intensive treats. I rolled out of Johnstown by 6:30 a.m., which meant pedaling up, up, and up; five miles of steady rise. The higher I went, the nicer the towns. Westmont PA has an interesting mix of contemporary and traditional houses, and incredible trees lining the main road.
The first twenty miles of my ride were long climbs and dives through deep forests. Rain was sporadic, then steady when I went through the attractive town of Ligonier. The rain slowed down as I merged with U.S. 30, which proved a poor road for cycling. The combination of narrow, sometimes grooved, shoulders, inpatient drivers, road construction and Pennsylvanians’ love for Dodge Ram pick-ups made the stretch to Greensburg nerve wracking. I stopped at the Americans for Prosperity Foundation to ask my question, but no one was in their office. Out making money, I guess.
I made a wrong turn in Greensburg and wound up back on 30, when I wanted to be on 130. I wound up in maze of big box stores before navigating to 130 West; a better road, though drivers were no happier to share this road with me than the others. Nearer to Pittsburgh, the number of declining hillside towns and immense industrial shells is amazing. A gigantic former factory at Turtle Creek advertised an interesting concept: indoor storage for RV’s, boats and other big things.
My starchy breakfast gave me the stamina to persevere, but I craved something fresh and crunchy. I discovered a vintage green grocer, bought a banana, apple, and bag of grapes; and sat on a crate enjoying my juicy lunch and trying to engage the clerk about tomorrow.
I had one other direction snafu closer to Pittsburgh and wound up scaling more hills than I cared, yet still arrived at Rivers of Steel Heritage Site in Homestead just after two. Corinne Bechtel, Director of Tourism, gave me an overview of their mission: to preserve a few remaining steel related structures and celebrate the variety of Pittsburgh attributes that resulted from the steel industry; immigration, architecture, food, and culture. After our interview and reviewing exhibits at the Bost Building, Corinne toured me through the Homestead Steel Works Pump House and Carrie Furnaces. The scale of the enterprise was mammoth, the remnants incredible, and Corinne’s tour a delight.
It was after five by the time I climbed up, up, up yet again to get to my warmshowers host’s home for the evening, a bit frazzled and tired, but satisfied. Simon and Melanie fed me delicious Mexican food while their 4-year old son Elliot induced me to log roll down their lawn before he went to the bed and the adults discussed tomorrow.