Friday, October 23, 2009

Take Me Home, Bicycle Trails, to the Place I Belong!

Hot Diggity Dog Diggity!

A New York Times story today about my old pedal-stompin' grounds, and possiblities, possibilities, possiblities. The story, Biking Coal Country's Tracks and Tunnels, is the tale of one writer's bicycle travels on a 132-mile trail from McKeesport, Pennsylvania to Cumberland, Maryland. The photo above and the graph below are from the NYTimes.

How do I connect up? First, I was born and raised an easy spin from McKeesport, and my mother (Hi Mum!) still lives in the area.

Second, I spent a few weeks in McKeesport in 2008 during the Primary Election season knocking doors for Barack Obama, sent there by my union (the first union to endorse President Obama, thank you very much). We didn't exactly win that Primary, but we won when it counted in PA!

Third, my sister and her husband (Hi sister Nancy and Wayne!) took my friend and I to Cumberland, Maryland in 1972(?) from whence we began a round trip on the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal Towpath to Washington, D.C. and back at the ripe old age of 15 or 16.  This was the trip that changed my bicycling life.

We stayed in Youth Hostels, toured D.C. for our first time, rode through the Paw Paw Tunnel, skinny-dipped, caught a snapping turtle (Whoa! To be clear, the skinny-dipping and snap-turtling were two SEPARATE events. DartreDame can confirm I've still got all my parts, right lover?), and cycled with about 80 pounds worth of Dinty Moore Beef Stew, canvas tent, and wet cotton sleeping bag on our Schwinn Continentals. Oh, and we nearly got hit by lightning (Hi Mum!).

Paw Paw Tunnel

More on that trip of a lifetime some other day. For now, check out the NYTimes article about cycling through old train tunnels and such. You just might want to make the trip, but as every randonneur knows: take reliable lighting!

Oh, another connection to the story. In my college days at Penn State, my pals and I had a strange fascination with aboandoned tunnels. I think this was usually when we had had some of the libations that give Penn State's college town, State College, its nickname: Happy Valley (with a name like State College the town deserves a good nickname, right?). Let's just say we liked to visit abandoned tunnels when we were "Happy" (Hi Mum!).

Here's the route for the coal train trail.

But the best connection is the one that's yet to be made. Adventure Cycling Association is planning the United States Bicycle Route System. It needs your donations and help to keep it on track. More on that later too, but just think of the cyclo-touring possiblities! One piece of the eventual national route is the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal Towpath. Go Adventure Cycling! The graphic below is from the Adventure Cycling Association.

Keep that (Bicycle Route) train a comin'!