Wednesday, July 5, 2017

2nd day 2017

Just riding the rails!! I have not been on a passenger train since I was a kid, some 45-50 years ago. I was excited to give Amtrak's roll on service for bikes a try. The roll on bike service is offered on the route I needed, Washington DC to Chicago with a stop in Pittsburgh, PA, my destination.

To pick it up from my last entry I negotiated the ten blocks or so from the mall to Union Station. It was city riding but this area looked to be mostly government offices and since it was Sunday afternoon not all that busy. Union Station in DC is a remarkable beautiful building. I rolled into the station and it literally took my breath away. Soaring and majestic with the gold leaf on the roof. I regret that I took no photos. I was a bit apprehensive about the task in front of me to get myself and bike on to the train I focused on that instead of soaking up the experience. I left myself time but I also did not have extra time to burn. It all felt a bit weird folks, rolling a loaded bike right through the station and up to the check-in desk. The lady behind the counter was very helpful and explained the process. I was ready to pack my Panniers, tent, and sleeping bag in a separate bag. That got checked as a bag and then I rolled my bike through the line to get out to the trains and down to the baggage car. They have a small room set up for bikes. They go on a rack that has the front wheel up against the wall and then standing the bike up, there is a support arm with velcro strap to secure it all. Good design. They have room for seven bikes so if you want to use this service make your reservations early. It was a $20 fee over the price of the ticket. You load it yourself so it makes for a good feeling that your bike is OK and taken care of.

So here I am with my first Amtrak travel experience and I have to tell you folks, this is a superior way to travel!! It was such a contrast to being wedged into a tiny seat with no legroom, the airline experience that I just had getting from Denver to DC. You get a nice wide seat with all the legroom a 6'4" guy can want. Reclines back and you are not invading the person behind you space, plus a foot rest. There are outlets to plug in your computer and charge your devices. You can bring your own blanket and pillows. Basically anything to pass the time. When you get tired of your seat you can wander up to the club/snack/observation car and get a beer and snack and sit and watch the world go by and socialize with other people there on the train. I did not go to the dining car for a meal, but it is there when needed. I guess the only disadvantage is the time factor. You have to not be concerned about the time it takes with delays on the routes due to freight trains having priority. Seriously people, I could skip the whole airport, airlines, TSA hassles to travel on a train with my bike!

Enjoying a Pennsylvania Beer on the train!!
 I caught a few cat naps on the train before we got to Pittsburgh, unloaded my bike and got my checked bag. Then it was a wait for it to get light out. This was the part of the trip I had no real plan for. The train delivered me to Pittsburgh station at 2:00 AM and after re-packing the bike I was looking at about two hours to cool my heels in the station before first light. Oh well, I dozed as best I could in the station chairs. After a complete google search for a 24 hour or early morning breakfast place I had to settle on a Burger King, it being the only place that opened at 5AM. You see those 0.89 cent pancakes they offer??? Yeah...they should give you 0.89 cents to eat them. A very lacking breakfast but enough to get it light enough to get rolling.

Here is the Point and the start of the GAP or Great Allegheny Passage Rail Trail.
There was some construction on the trail so I promptly got lost in the streets in Downtown.
Got this picture of the Pittsburgh Paint and Glass Corporation, we sell PPG paint in our Lumberyard.
I found the trail again and had the chance to read some of the history of the bridges that cross the river. Old Pittsburgh Steel and many design engineers and their work some 100 to 80 years ago still standing!!

After getting lost one more time heading out of town I finally reach the end of the paved portion of the trail and started the crushed limestone trail. This was my only complaint of the trail in Pittsburgh, it was not marked very well. The bridges and some of the old industrial buildings kept your interest going as you pedal out on what is really just a city paved bike path.

Starting the dirt trail they have a stretch of original track.

 They have built these nice table benches to take breaks on for the well maintained trail. Smooth and wide and a gentle upward grade. The upward grade will continue for me the next two days until I reach the Eastern Continental Divide.

Some pretty things to look at as I roll along
Coal mining is of course a big part of the history here and the main reason for this RR to have existed. Moving coal to the smelters in Pittsburgh. The combination of water, coal, and the exposure to oxygen creates sulphuric acid. It bubbles to the surface and creates this rust water spring runoff.
The day at this point started to catch up with me and I just worked on grinding out the miles to get to my campgound, a KOA that is close to the town of Connelsville. A 64 mile day on not much sleep in the last 24 hours made my campsite very welcoming. A shower revitalized me to enjoy my campsite as the sun went down I crawled in for a nice sleep!!
We'll it pick up tomorrow for day 3.
Thanks for reading along!!


  1. I love taking my bike on the train and have done the Seattle to Portland trip many times, once in Portland I was heading back to the luggage car to retrieve my bike and I hear the familiar sound of a crane bell, when I got to the car the baggage handler had my bike in hand, having taking it down for unloading, and a sheepish look on her face, I said "the bell's fun isn't it?" and she laughed and smiled. Looks like you have an excellent trip going there Jim. I look forward to more reports.

    1. It's my new favorite way to travel

  2. That PPG...haha, they have tried to take over the Dutch AKZO-NOBEL company. FAILED ! Money can't buy this case.

    1. Henk, PPG did buy up the part of AKZO-NOBEL that had the Sikkens brand of wood stain. We sold the product before and now it is all being re-branded with the PPG name. I hope they will not cheapen up the formula because it was/is a great product.