I’m back! This time my challenge is the A to Z Blogging Challenge. This is to create a blog post daily (except on Sundays) suggested by the letter of the alphabet. This challenge has been around since 2010-Most of the time if you subtract Sundays from April, you then have 26 days–one day for each letter of the alphabet. When April 1st lands on a Sunday you begin on that day which will be the only Sunday you would post during that month’s challenge.
I’ve been very writing challenged, due in part to be being out of work in 2018. Gainfully employed again, things are starting to settle down with an entirely new routine, both home life and work life. I’ve missed writing. I’ve been doing more art journaling-off line.
A to Z Challenge Versus NaBloPoMo
What’s the difference between the April A-Z Challenge and the November NaBloPoMo-aka National Blog Posting Month? The November Challenge is to simply post a blog post daily in November. The A-Z Challenge is a bit more difficult. Most writers will have a theme, and craft their blog posts around the theme.
What’s My Theme?
My theme is “Out of the Comfort Zone”. The idea is to inspire people to try new things, drive to work down a different road, go to a meeting or coffee shop or bike shop by themselves-or with new people. Stretch a little. You might be uncomfortable at the beginning. You might not like what you are doing. But maybe, afterwards, you find yourself proud of what you did, or you learned something, or maybe you even had a GREAT TIME without even intending to!!
Adventuring-is that a verb?- in 2020. Here are some of the adventures I have planned out for 2020. I have small plans and big plans. Some are occurring on set dates, others are wide open to time frames.
Bike Route north of Steubenville
This is a 26 mile route. This would be good to ride to get out of my comfort zone and off the rail trail.
Erie to Pittsburgh Route
It’s not that far. I don’t think I would do it as a loop. If I did it as a loop, I would do something like this route and take different roads. That is some hilly country in western Pennsylvania. I have a friend interested in riding with me. More planning needs to happen for this route.
270 mile race in Virginia. The date changed from April 18 to May 2. I’m already signed up for the Outrun 24 Hour Race. Since I paid the registration fee for the footrace, I will probably be sticking to that event.
Outrun 24 Hour Race
This is a timed event, a one mile loop May 2. I plan on walking a 50K. I would like to complete 50 miles in 24 hours. I need to start walking more to train for this!
Wabash Cannonball Trail
I found out about this rail trail in my program planning for Buckeye Trailfest 2019. I’m planning on biking this in the spring in time for the bird migration. This is a 63 mile rail trail. The trail follows two former rail lines forming a North Fork and South Fork, which converge at Jerome Road in Maumee, near the Fallen Timbers Battlefield.
Biking the Buckeye Trail
50 percent of the Buckeye Trail is on roads. I mapped out the first 200 miles of the BT on the Ride with GPS app, from Lake Erie to Salt Fork State Park. This is looking extremely do-able. I could start at Lake Erie and bike home.
Allegheny Mountain Loop
This is the BHAG. I don’t know if I will be in good enough shape to bike it this year.
The Allegheny Mountains Loop is a 400-mile bicycle route created and mapped by the ACA. The route begins and ends at Virginia Tech’s War Memorial Chapel in Blacksburg, VA. A “Grand Depart” of Individual Time Trials is proposed each year on the last Friday in APRIL at 6:00am EST. The April date doesn’t work for me. I’m actually thinking of tackling this in sections, then go for the big enchilada at a future point.
These are just some of my plans. When you declare your goals out loud-or on a blog post-you are far more likely to go out and do them.
The Buckeye Trail crew successfully took more of the Buckeye Trail off road and back on trail-trail that they BUILT.
Trail Building is Hard Work
Other than some mechanized tools such as the Dr Mower and chain saw, trail building is done by hand.
Tools of Trail Building
There are several steps to trail building. The first step is the mapping out of the trail. There there is both art and science involved in trail building. (The first step is actually getting all the permissions to move/build trail from all the involved regulatory entities, but that’s a blog post all by itself.)
There is consideration of the slope, you don’t want to exceed a certain grade. You want to the trail to be fairly level, the hiker doesn’t want to walk on a cambered area. There might only be a limited area that the trail can be built.
Big Stuff Out
First you clear big trees, and logs. Yep, the volunteers dug that tree completely out of the trail.The area might need to be brush hogged. Loppers are used to cut away vines and brambles. A leaf blower may be used to blow large loose debris and leaves off the area to be worked.
McLeod or Fire Rake
The fire rake is to rake all the vegetation off the area. We want to get down to dirt! You can also turn the fire rake sideways and hack away roots with the rake.
Some areas of the trail may need to be benched. A bench cut is the result of cutting a section of tread, or shelf across the side of a slope.
Diagram from http://traildesign.tripod.com/benching.htm
If you look at the side profile of this cut it looks like a bench, hence the name. Every rock, stump and woody plant must be thoroughly dug out, and the ground leveled off, with just enough slope that water can drain off.
What is everyone doing? Digging out every root and rock in our way!!
Our new section of trail leaves the woods and goes thru the power line. In this section, we were removing the heavy vegetation to get down to the dirt. This was harder than benching! We quickly became aware of a certain plant that grew in clumps that would require several whacks with the Pulaski or mattock to get it out of the ground.
The finishers are the volunteers who follow the benchers and rakers to you guessed it “finish” the trail. They rake any big berms of loose soil off the trail so the water won’t pool on the trail. They might remove roots and rocks. There are many different opinions on what the “finisher” should do.
What Do You get for your Effort?
A few of the Sunday volunteers who stopped working long enough for a picture snap! Others were still working!
Besides tired legs and an aching back? The satisfaction of seeing trail that you created, you built! A sense of pride when you hike through the woods, knowing this trail would not have existed without your hard work.
Next time you are out hiking in the woods, pause and admire the trail that volunteers built!
I was lucky enough to have Sunday free to join Jerri and Karen on their hike on the Buckeye Trail in southern Ohio. This was on the “Whipple” Section. The Buckeye Trail is divided into sections, and it always feels good for a hiker to complete an entire map! (News flash: Karen and Jerri finished the Whipple Section on this hike!)
Circuit Hiking the Buckeye Trail
Karen and Jerri have less than 50 miles to go to complete circuit hiking the Buckeye Trail. What is circuit hiking? It’s another word for section hiking. Few hikers have the time to complete the entire 1440 mile Buckeye Trail in one effort-in fact, less than 20 hikers have done so.
How to Circuit Hike
One of the best ways is to find a friend who wants to hike with you! That way, you can stage a vehicle at each end. Shuttle one car to the end of your planned section, then drive back to the other. Sometimes there will be planned hikes. . The Buckeye Trail Association usually has some circuit hikes going on, you can check the website or on the Meet Up website. A group just finished up their circuit hike of Ohio, which took place on one weekend a month which took about five years! Sometimes you can get a shuttle from a “Trail Angel”, someone who may live in the area, and be willing to give you a ride to the trail head, eliminating the double car shuffle
Electronic Maps Available
It’s becoming easier to follow the BT these days! The Buckeye Trail maps are available on paper and electronic versions, two of them! We hiked with both. I was using the Avenza application, Jerri and Karen had the Guthook guide. (I actually didn’t take mine out of the backpack this day.) Between “following the blue blazes” and double checking with the Guthook app, we were easily able to follow the Trail.
Scenes From the Trail
A criticism I hear about the Buckeye Trail is: “There’s so much of it on roads.” Yes, about 50 percent of the current BT is on roads. But here are some views of the road hiking:
Have you hiked the roads of the Buckeye Trail? What’s your favorite section?
Day Two starts at 9am. I wanted daylight and rush hour traffic to be over. Grand Avenue was not a bad road to ride. Neville Island seems to be the recycling and pallet center. Turning on the busier Neville Road,
I hoped I would not pick up a flat from all the debris in the lane. It turns out I did have a bike lane more or less to ride in.
Fleming Park Bridge
The Fleming Park Bridge loomed. This was the bridge that was closed for about one year. It was now open, with a dedicated bike lane across the bridge-much appreciated!
My route now follows Route 51, or Island Avenue, over to the McKees Rock Bridge. It wasn’t a bad mile or so. I’m sure it could have been a worse bike ride. In any case, no worries, I made it across the McKees Rock Bridge on a sidewalk.
Next turn, down California Avenue, left turn on Eckert Street which would link me up with the Riverfront Trail.
Losing the Route
Hmm. I do remember “Ride with GPS” cautioning the planner on “penciling in” a route. It turns out, as I blithely traced a line from California Ave to Eckert Street, I ignored the fact that California Avenue was OVER Eckert Street. (Note: my current Ride with GPS files still shows this. Don’t follow this! You would need to follow Antrim Street to McClure Avenue to Eckert Street.)
Finding the Trail
I knew the Riverfront Trail was beside the river, I needed to head toward the river. I went down California Avenue the wrong way (it was a one way street) passing a police car that didn’t care. I saw the Route 19 sign that pointed toward downtown, which had a sidewalk. I biked down that way, saw a sign for the Riverfront Trail, and was back to where I needed to be!!
Pittsburgh has a very nicely developed waterfront. There are numerous museums, ballparks, eateries, plenty of activities. It was a bit strange that not many people were about, since it was noon when I got to the area. Maybe everyone was having a Halloween party at lunchtime.
Point State Park
This is the beginning of the Great Allegheny Passage Trail, usually referred to as the GAP. I got my picture taken at the water, then headed down the GAP/3 Rivers Heritage Trail toward Homestead.
You can cross over the river on a bike or as a pedestrian, in multiple places. Today I stay on the north bank to follow the GAP, since my last tour in we covered the Southside Riverfront.
It might not look like the greatest view, but I will point out it’s a safe passage between two highways.
On my way to Homestead, I came across Alf. As he looked like he might be ready to have lunch, I didn’t want to disturb him, just got a quick pic and moved on. It was surprising how little traffic on the trail there was today.
Chik Fil-A for lunch! I made my lunch stop rather quick. I was nervous inside even with the bike locked up outside, I’ve heard tales of bikes stolen (even locked) in five minutes. I consumed about 5000 calories and biked on.
After Homestead the area becomes more industrial with less views. I cross the bridge that tells me I am into McKeesport.
McKeesport is where I part from the GAP and follow the Steel Valley Trail toward Clairton.
There is good signage for the Steel Valley Trail, where it separates from the GAP, pointing me on toward Clairton. I bike across the West 5th Avenue Bridge, then follow signs for the SVT. This is a break from my planned route, but I can see I am just running parallel to West 5th Avenue which is a far busier road.
There is very little traffic through the burgh of Glassport. It is my last bridge of the day! There is no sidewalk. On my side. BUT I do see a sidewalk on the other side to use. It is then a short bike ride on roads, back to the Montour Trail!
It’s back to well maintained trail- hardly any walkers, runners, bikers out on this late afternoon. I am on trail, which then switches to Peters Creek Road, which has very light traffic. I’m getting a bit tired, so I stop and eat another wonderful Chik Fil-a sandwich before biking on.
The Montour Trail folks have done a great job with signage. I think you could follow the Trail even without a map of sorts. The Trail on the south end does have some road sections, which I was happy to get through and get back to plain rail trails.
The rain started about four o’clock-while I was still on the roads.
I knew from my route planner that I would have a bit of a climb right toward the end of my trip which I was okay with-since I knew about it!
When I encountered the Green Tunnel, I knew Tandem Connection would be coming up soon-and before I knew it, the Steel City Tour was a wrap!
82 miles around the city of Pittsburgh. My next post will be both route planning and some gear failures. This was a pleasant ride-especially taking two days.
What is the Steel City Loop? It’s a bike route around the city of Pittsburgh. I did not make up this route, I found it courtesy of the Ohio River Trail Council. It’s been on my To Do Bike List for several years.
The route consists of using the Montour Trail, Riverfront Trail, Great Allegheny Passage, and the Steel Valley Trail around the city of Pittsburgh.
The Fleming Bridge closure put this on hold for most of 2019. The bridge reopened in August, and a few free days in my schedule appeared, the weather looked decent, so off I went! There will be another blog post on planning the route, but here’s how the trip went down.
Two Day Trip
On my planning post (to follow) I go over my planning details and why I rode the route I did. The route is 82 miles, easily done in one day, but why push it when you don’t need to. I rode 30 miles on Day One, 52 miles Day Two.
Day One: Hendersonville to Neville Island
I started the trip off from Tandem Connection in Hendersonville, where I had permission to park overnight. Thanks Tandem Connection! I headed off, north on the trail. I was familiar with most of this section, having biked to Coraopolis on a previous bike trip.
Great Day on the Trail
I picked great weather for this day! It was in the sixties and a bluebird day.
I got to mile zero on the Montour Trail. The route to follow would be bike to Route 51, or State Avenue to the Coraopolis Bridge. Which is a very busy road. OR, I could take the rather unofficial trail like route along the Montour Run…which leads over to the bridge. Rumor has it that this will be made into “official trail” sometime.
You bike under the Coraopolis Bridge, and there is a ramp leading up to the street.
Coraopolis Bridge has a Sidewalk
I was very relieved to see the bridge had a sidewalk. I had used Google Earth to check out all my bridges. The last thing I wanted was to have to bike in traffic, on a busy bridge. Google did not really show a sidewalk, so this was a bonus on my last mile of riding for the day.
Fairfield Inn and Suites
Fairfield Inn and Suites was one mile down the road on Neville Island. Nobody blinked when I rolled my bike inside and up to my room. There is a convenient Kings restaurant next door, and a gas station across the street in case any necessities are needed.
After working all night, a three hour nap, and a thirty mile bike ride, and two IPAs later, it was time for lights out!
I was so happy to wake up alive in the morning. I was happy to roll into Marlinton, and have breakfast at the Dirt Bean Cafe. The Cafe is both a coffee shop and a bike shop!
I made it up to Cass! It was a very hot day. I got to see the Cass Train. It was small. I guess I was remembering the Silverton/Durango Train. I felt sorry for the engineers shoveling the coal into that engine on this hot hot day. I didn’t stick around Cass very long, I was too eager to ride some miles back down the trail and get camp set up for the night.
Campsite Mile 70
How far can I bike today. I biked 40 miles to Cass, how much farther can I go? The further I go south, the less I will have to bike on Saturday. But I don’t want to kill myself either. I decided to stop at Mile 70, at 615 pm. I biked about 50 miles. Again I am exhausted!
Saturday Day Three
I wake up kind of refreshed. That’s a lie. I was sore and tired. Ugh. Maybe I’m not cut out for a Tour Divide ride when I can’t even handle a flat little rail trail. Shut up Kimba, and drink some coffee, you got 70 miles to go.
My breakfast this day is a Mountainhouse spicy mac and cheese. This isn’t exactly my first choice, but I surprise myself by eating it all down. I get on the trail about 730am and resolve to not make any extended stops.
I am a 1/2 mile out of Marlinton when I feel it becoming harder and harder to bike. Guh!! A flat! BUT I am a 1/2 mile to Marlinton-and the Dirt Bean Cafe, which is also a BIKE SHOP. I resolve to just add air to the tire and let the bike shop fix my flat. I can fix my flat, but I know a bike shop pro can do it quicker.
Back to the Bean
The proprietor of the coffee/bike shop is able to fix my tire. She shows me the tiny brad that I managed to pick up on the tire. Yes, I said SHE. I regret not getting her name. Thanks Dirt Bean Cafe for the yummy scones and my tire fixed!!!
More Food for the Road
I got more food for the trip south. 3 scones, a chocolate chip cookie. I know I am going to stop again at Seebert, at mile 45, for more drinks and food.
A hot day. I buy Payday bars, Sour Kids, potato chips. I’m debating buying a beer but then I see the Code Red Mountain Dew-yes, that has the caffeine and calories that I need! The last 30 miles were a bit of a slog. All I wanted to do was finish. Ugh. And bathe. And get a hotel room.
I did it! I coasted back into the parking lot at 615 pm Saturday. I felt much better!!
The Greenbrier is a great little trail. It is not as secluded or remote as I thought. You do have to plan your water and food supplies. But the trail is *only* 78 miles long, you could bike it all in one day. Or you could meander up and down the trail, stop to swim or fish. There are nice locations to stop and camp out on the trail. I did notice there are now cabins and Airbnb’s available. I’m sure there are rentals in Marlinton. Cass has lodging available in case you don’t feel like camping in a tent.
Fall would be a great time to bike the Greenbrier River Trail!