Category Archives: Pennsylvania

Day 40: Pittsburgh to Connellsville, PA

Today was one of the easiest days of bike trip.  I did 80 miles primarily on bike trails.  It was very easy for a couple of reasons.  First, I had pedaled much of today’s route five years ago.  Knowing where you are going and what is coming up makes anything easier, including biking.  Second, I only pedaled 10 miles yesterday so even though I drove over 600 miles yesterday my legs felt fresh.

During much of the morning I thought about possessions.  In economics there is a unstated assumption that “more is better.”  For example, all politicians around the world want to boost their countries GDP.  Boosting GDP means more stuff for all the people.

For the last five weeks I have  existed with very few possessions.  For example, I have three pairs of socks with me and I contemplated taking just two pairs to keep down the weight.  When I went home for the weekend I walked into a house full of possessions.

When I was home I spent a couple of minutes staring at the top of my dresser.  Before leaving on the trip I purchased a half-dozen pair of socks.  I had not even opened the packaging.  They were still sitting there on the dresser in a large pile, clean and unopened.  Just below the brand new socks was a large pile of a dozen clean but slightly used socks.  I wondered did I really need 18 pairs of socks?

By the end of pedaling this morning I began to realize how few possessions I really need to survive and have begun to question one of the key underlying assumptions in economics.  I don’t know if this realization will change my buying habits or my lectures in the future, but it might.  In the short term I definitely will not be buying more socks.

In the afternoon I met up with another long distance bicyclist named Greg from Colorado.  He had been pedaling since mid-June and is also going to Washington D.C.  on the bike trail.  We are splitting a hotel room tonight.  It is always interesting to have someone new to talk with about their life’s experiences and makes the pedaling less lonely.

Tomorrow it is expected to rain.  It rained on the trail this afternoon before I got there.  The trail partly turned to mud and my clothes and bike are covered.  Oh, well.  In a few days I will be home and no longer have to worry about mud and rain.  Instead, I can spend my time contemplating what to do with my large pile of clean socks.

Days 37 to 39: The “Rest” Days

From Friday afternoon August 3rd to Monday afternoon August 6th I took a couple of "rest" days.   Rest is in quotes because I needed to be back in Boston on Sunday August 5th and the drive each way from Pittsburgh's Airport to Boston was almost 12 hours long.  Twenty four hours of driving covering 1,200 miles in three days is not really a rest.

On the way to Boston I had my son help do the driving.  He did about two-thirds.  On the way back to Pittsburgh I did the entire drive alone.  Going to Boston it rained very heavily while we were driving through the Pocono Mountains.  In the Poconos the rain came down so hard cars put on their four-way flashers and drove around 45 mph on the highway instead of the usual 65 to 70 mph.

The weather was fine going back to Pittsburgh, but there were quite a few road construction crews out.  Numerous parts of the highways were being fixed and this slowed traffic in parts to a crawl.

I arrived home Saturday morning at 2 AM, which meant I did not pedal for two days!  Not much happened during Saturday.  I spent most of the time sleeping, eating and doing laundry.  Laundry was the key activity since my clothes were so filthy they were starting to bother even me.  It is a shame the weather forecast for Tuesday is rain, which will just get my clothes filthy all over again.

I made it back to the Pittsburgh Airport about 7 pm on Monday afternoon.  I reassembled my bike in the rental car return lot and started pedaling again.  I didn't do a lot of miles late Monday.  I only managed about 10 miles.  However, it felt good to be back on the bike and getting a bit closer to Washington D.C.

For those of you who are looking at the photos on this page, you will notice I swapped bikes while in Boston.  I left the new road bike at home and am riding an older bike that does better on gravel and dirt.  The older bike's tires are wider (37 cm) than the new bike's tires (just 32 cm).   Plus, the older bike is not as fragile, so it is easier to ship home from Washington.

Tomorrow is an exciting day!  I start the final push to the USA's capital.

Day 36: Pittsburgh, PA (Aug. 3, 2018)

A number of years ago I went with my family to Beijing. I had heard that traffic in that part of China was terrible and the best strategy was to use the subway system instead of taxis. I looked carefully at maps and picked a hotel a few blocks from a subway station.

When we left the hotel the first day to look for the subway station we could not find it. We walked for what seemed like miles in various directions but no subway was found. Finally, we found a policeman and one of my sons took the map over to him and asked in Mandarin where the station was located. The policeman laughed a lot and said that station was not yet built. It was just a proposal. The map showed where the station will be.

I thought a lot about that story today. Last night we stayed in a hotel in Beaver Falls which is on the outer edge of Greater Pittsburgh. Our goal was the Pittsburgh Airport, just 30 miles of pedaling away. Google Maps wanted to send us down route 51, which for many miles was a divided highway, two lanes in both directions, with no shoulder. Not the type of road I really wanted to pedal down.

Looking at the map closely showed a bike trail running parallel between the highway and the river. I was a bit surprised that the mapping program did not put us on the trail, but after all the errors and problems I have encountered with the mapping program I was not overly concerned.

We left the hotel and pedaled over a number of bridges until we reached the start of the bike trail. There was a large "no trespassing" sign. In Montana one of the signs suggested trespassers would be shot. In Pennsylvania the sign said trespassers would be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. I am not willing to be shot at but arguing in front of a judge doesn't concern me as much. We started pedaling down the road.

To make a long story and pedal short, the bike path was a proposed bike path. We pedaled a number of miles of rough gravel through rail yards, by coal dumps, beside junk yards and decrepit industrial sites. Then, near the county jail the way seemed blocked with real fences and more serious security. There was "luckily" a bridge that seemed to connect the rail yard we were in with the highway we didn't want to be on. My son pedaled on ahead to look at the bridge. He came back with a good news-bad news story. The good news was the bridge went where we wanted to go. We didn't have to retrace our steps. The bad news was the bridge had a locked gate at the end and part of the gate was topped with barbed wire.

For a brief time we stopped being bicyclists and switched to being climbers. Luckily, there were two of us. I don't know how I would have gotten the bike over the fence if there wasn't someone on the other side. Once we were safely over the fence we pedaled about two miles down the highway. At the end of the highway there was a small sign that stated the highway was part of Pennsylvania Bike Route A. If that was their "A" route, I really don't want to pedal the state's B or C routes.

We made it to the Pittsburgh Airport about 2 pm. There were other adventures, like pedaling through a road paving crew, sliding around on a brick road that had been laid down over 100 years ago and pedaling on the airport roads but these were relatively minor compared to the proposed bike path.

We went to the Pittsburgh Airport because this weekend my family is having a big affair and my son needs to go back to work.  We will drive from Pittsburgh in a rent-a-car back to Boston and spend two days at home.

Then I will drive back to Pittsburgh alone and start pedaling again either Monday afternoon or Tuesday morning. Yes, it is about 1,200 miles of driving to go with all my pedaling. The two days at home will be "rest days." I don't know how much rest I will get, but at least there will get a chance to do laundry before pedaling the last 400 miles.

Day 35: Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio to Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania

Wow, I made it to another state! Tonight I am in Pennsylvania.  This means there is only West Virginia and Maryland left.  Once I pedal about 400 more miles I am done going from coast-to-coast.

Today,  my son and I pedaled about 80 miles.  It was a hard but relatively uneventful day.  To give you a sense of where we are, today's ride took us through the north east corner of Ohio.  We went through Kent, Ohio, which is where Kent State is located.

The day was hard for three reasons.  First, we spent a lot of time on gravel or very rutted roads.  The roads were not in as poor a shape as Michigan's, but they were in bad shape  My left hand and wrist were bounced and jarred a lot.  During one part of the afternoon I could not use my left hand to brake or shift because it hurt so much.  Luckily, shifters and brakes are on both sides of the handlebars so I didn't have to stop riding.

The second reason the day was hard was due to the day ending with a very long and steep climb.  After biking all day the last thing I wanted to see was a giant hill.  Google Maps counts down how long to your destination.  The count down timer is not very good.  It just assumes you are pedaling at 12 mph.   I was stuck at 18 minutes to go before reaching the motel for what seemed like forever since I was not pedaling up the giant hill at anywhere near 12 mph.

Third, we got rained on.  After we ate lunch a large black cloud filled just part of the sky.  I was not very worried because I could see blue sky around all parts of the cloud.  The cloud soaked us and then moved on.  Unfortunately, the cloud was moving slowly and in the same direction we were pedaling.  We quickly caught up to the cloud and got soaked a second time.  We decided to outrun the cloud so that we didn't get soaked a third time but getting really wet twice was not a lot of fun.

The problems of pedaling all disappeared from my mind after a warm shower and a great meal at "Sal's" in Beaver Creek.  I look forward to tomorrow and its new adventures.