Sunday, August 12, 2007

Days 42 & 43--Bye Bye Buckeyes, Hello Penns-hill-vania

At 6:30 am on Day 42 (August 5), we left New Waterford, OH for Washington, PA. The ride was fairly short that day (59 miles) but quite varied in a number of ways.

First, we had been riding through the agricultural heartland of midwestern America for several weeks--mile after mile of corn, soybeans, other vegetables and fruits, and dairy cows. Eastern Ohio was no exception as we continued through the rich and rolling farmland. We even passed the renowned agricultural icon "Manure Acres" (pictured), listed as a must-see in all the Fodors and AAA Guidebooks.

The previous day we caught our first real glimpse of America's industrial heartland, passing through once-bustling Warren, OH. Warren was once the home of the Packard Motor Car Company. Statues of the recognizable Packard hood ornament were well placed along the main drag, a symbol of an era long gone by. Just out of town we rode by an industrial area (pictured) featuring a Coke Plant (no soft drinks) and a steel mill. Today, following a long, steep, descent through a pretty wooded area, we rather abruptly found ourselves in the depressing industrial milltown of Midland, PA.

As we discovered at the Illinois-Indiana state line, there was no "Welcome to Pennsylvania" sign at the Ohio border, as the pavement condition changed on the descent. So, as a lame surrogate for a state line welcome sign, I offer the facade of the Midland, PA Post Office (pictured).

Leaving Midland, we crossed a bridge over the Ohio River that is closely flanked by two massive cooling towers of the local nuclear power plant. Our team was warned by the local police that we had better not take any pictures of the bridge or nuke, else our cameras would be confiscated by Homeland Security. Hence no pics here--please use your imagination.

Shortly thereafter, the terrain became much more hilly, and weather changed from warm and overcast to rain. Soon, lots of rain. Many of us spent some time at a local watering hole in Burgettstown (just 10 miles from camp) waiting for the heavy rain to let up a bit. It didn't let up much. The intensity slowed momentarily as I arrived in camp outside Washington, PA, and pitched my tent in the drizzle.

Day 43 was intensely humid and hot--almost tropical. The morning was warm and moist as we left camp and rolled through the town of Washington, up Beau Street (a street as steep as many in San Francisco), and out of town to join PA Bike Route S. We went through a beautiful county park complete with a postcard-quality covered bridge (pictured).

After rolling through the homely town of Monongahela and over the river of the same name, we soon hit the junction with the Youghiogheny (pronounced Yawk-a-genny) Regional Trail. We followed this bike trail, an old railroad right-of-way that hugged the pretty Youghiogheny River, for 52 miles. Over that distance we gained elevation from 769' to 1,353' above sea level--a very gradual rise.

We concluded the 92-mile ride that day at our camp at Confluence, PA. The air was hot and as laden with moisture as it could possibly be without raining. There wasn't a dry eye in the house...or a dry anything for that matter.

More to come,


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