Firefighter 50:  Pleasant Valley, MD 

For the second year in a row, my wife, a friend, and I rode the the Firefighter50 near Westminster, MD. We chose the 35 mile route.  We arrived Sunday at the fire station, unloaded the bikes, registered, and were riding before 7am.  We wanted to finish before the heat set in.  The morning was cool and damp.  Fog hung in some of the valleys as the country roads meanered passed farmhouses and fields.  I rode my Rivendell Romulus which I converted to a 650b.  It superbly handled the rolling hills.  

By mid-morning the sun burned through the low layer of clouds and fog. This is a lovely area in Maryland to ride and a well-organized event supporting a worthwhile cause.  After the ride everyone is treated to a delicious lunch buffet prepared by family and friends of the volunteer firefighters.  It’s a real community event!  The make your own ice cream sundae bar was my favorite!   Next year we will try riding “The Dirty 30”-the 30 mile dirt road route.  Promises to be equally fun!

A few more photos from the morning:

GAP Trail July 2017

A good friend and mentor, enjoying retirement, asked if I’d be interested in a summer adventure.  We settled on biking the GAP trail from Pittsburg, PA to Cumberland, MD.  Since my friend doesn’t cycle too much, we planned a four day credit card tour which would give us time to explore some of the towns we passed, while not overdoing things.  I wanted my friend to enjoy the mini-tour in the hope he’d be interested in doing another in the future.

Day 1 dawned and found us in Cumberland awaiting our shuttle van to Pittsburgh.  Arriving in Pittsburgh, we attached our bags and departed about 11am.

Within a few blocks we found the route closed which necessitated navigating a poorly labeled detour, but we were soon on our way.  This first stretch of trail paralleled a busy highway before crossing the hot metal bridge which offered beautiful views of Pittsburgh!

After meandering around suburban Pittsburgh the trail winds through McKeesport.

After 20 plus miles we stopped at Dravo Cemetary for a long break. This is a favorite spot; cemeteries are a not so subtle reminder to live fully each day, and we were doing that!

After 34 miles we arrived in West Newton and enjoyed the hospitality at Bright Mornings B&B.

Day 2 found us traveling 42 miles through beautiful scenery to Ohiopyle. 

Rhododendrons were blooming all along the way.

McKenzie house was home for the night in Ohiopyle.

On Day 3 we rode 41 miles to Meyersdale.  When I last rode the trail in 2014 the Pinkerton Tunnel had not been renovated, and we had to ride the bypass.  I was thrilled to find the tunnel open.

Another highlight in this section is the viaduct just west of Meyersdale that carries the trail over the river, a highway, and CSX railroad tracks.

An old family cemetary lies near the viaduct.

The Levi Deal Mansion in Meyersdale provided a comfortable night’s sleep in beautiful surroundings.

We began Day 4 with a final climb to the Eastern Continental Divide.

This was followed by an awesome 1800 foot descent over 22 miles into Cumberland.  In this section the trail crosses the Mason-Dixon Line and runs for a while next to the Western Maryland Railroad line.

Overall, the trip was fabulous.  The trees along much of the trail provided shade that sheltered us from the sun though not the humidity.  We met and chatted with many friendly people on the trail and in the towns.  The trail itself is a gem.  While we experienced no rain, during the prior week several areas had been pummeled by heavy storms.  We frequently encountered freshly cut-up trees removed from across the trail and freshly repaired trail sections where washouts had occurred.  The care given to maintaining this trail is remarkable!

In conclusion my friend said it was a “wonderful experience,” and we discussed future bike tour ideas.  Overall quite a success!!