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.

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