108 miles - Total: 413 miles
Another solid day of 100+ miles. I am pushing hard because I never lose sight of the cause and I never lose sight of the support you are giving to this cause.
Yesterday was a day spent meandering through the lives of Mason & Dixon, taking a course in American history and perusing through the little jewels of the late industrial revolution period. The GAP made an important setting to ride in, it was historically poignant and naturally charming and provided several little towns and valleys which I fully enjoyed. Today I am out of the “mountains” and into the low hills which will pave the way for the plains of Ohio. This morning I leave set off from a large town: Pittsburgh. I sleep like a log and I wake up very late when the housekeeping people knock on my door. Last night my legs hurt and felt like two slobs of concrete and could hardly walk. By some incomprehensible miracle in the morning I am as strong as new. I barely make it to breakfast before the restaurant closes. I run to the hall and the complimentary breakfast at the hotel is abundant and my appetite is equal to the offering. Waffles, bread, cereals, bananas, milk. 8 hrs of sleep and stacks of energy food later I am back where I was yesterday morning, on the bike! The sky is clear for the first time since I have left DC. There is no wind and with a spotless sky, a beautifully warm Ohio morning and with clean clothes - after a midnight visit to the hotel laundry last night - I could not ask for better conditions. I check out and I steer my way downtown where I spend a bit of time riding through the heart of the city. It is lively and colorful and I enjoy the motley architecture. Pittsburgh seems like a hip and happening town. Before I know it it's noon and it is time to finally hit the road.
It takes me a while to get out of the city, I negotiate several short but incredibly steep hills and through a large suburban area I finally make it out of the traffic. Just out of Pittsburgh, I cycle through old, decaying farms and rusting buildings that convey a message of desperation of a black and white silent movie which will never be redeveloped. It's gone and it is over. This is the stagnant decay of present days for the sprawling infrastructure of one of the most powerful industries in the world. It is the reminder of a fading light that went out too fast. Was there any plan B? And most importantly, where is the sweep of progress going to come from? After three hours of constant up and down, I reach a bit of a milestone: I cross the Ohio River, which is the largest tributary of the Mississippi. Yep, this is clear evidence of my progress.
More history for me today as this is the river that had great significance in the history of the Native Americans, as numerous peoples settled and developed along its valleys. Way before the white settlers came the Natives were extremely apt at using the river as a means of transportation. They were then wiped out or forced to move farther West. Many street signs have names that evoke a long gone past. By the way, the first map of the river was created by an Italian cartographer. The river was the first waterway that made significant advances to the West possible, Charles Dickens went on steamboat trip and was not impressed, he found it:” a breeding place of fever and death . . . an ugly sepulcher, a grave uncheered by any gleam of promise." Well, this was back when the communities that could not drag their heavy belongings across the land out West or prosper in the East, stayed and squeezed a living out of what the shores of the river had to offer. I share one snippet of Dickens’ sentiment; there isn’t a deep sense of life around here; it used to be teeming and energetic when the steel industry could supplant everything else and would provide these communities a real sense of the future.
As I cycle past East Liverpool, the first town in Ohio, I stop for a rest. The place looks like a ghost town where villagers have been evacuated because of a plague. There is not a soul around and as I sit on a wall sipping my water and looking at the sweat dripping down my arms I kick my clip-on shoes. The clinking noise echoes in the streets and that's the only sound I hear. I quickly get back on the saddle and I climb some serious hills, which I had erroneously thought I had put behind. Shortly after, after about 350 miles of wading up and down the Appalachian steep ridges, the grades ease up and the hills shorten and the terrain flattens out. At East Liverpool I take Highway 30 and I cycle all afternoon on this Lincoln Scenic Byway which is well signposted. This highway isn't as well known outside the USA as Route 66 but it was the first coast to coast road, predating the widely recognized and iconic route 66. I bump into several riders, whizzing past me on their strident Harleys, beer bellied, head shaved hulky men and in the back seats leather pants and big-bosomed women. The appraoching roaring of the engine doesn't diminish the fear the moment they pass me, they scare the hell out of me! There are still a few gentle rolling hills but nothing like the steep hills back in Pennsylvania. Thick forests give way to corn fields and glorious flower beds. The aroma is delicious, reminds me of spring in my childhood, it is just a wonderful setting to ride in. I keep pushing on thinking how wonderful it is to ride in these rural areas away from traffic and pollution. The only traffic that I have to deal with comes in the form of Harleys and occasional truck. In addition to being light, traffic is very respectful when they pass me leaving ample space between us. There are also some Amish communities judging by the share of road signs showing a horse and trap. I haven’t seen them yet.
The Lincoln Highway has a succession of small towns along it. I stop several times to tank up on water, Gatorade, ice-creams, you name it. I eat to my heart's content. I love these tiny towns which are inhabited mostly by old people, wrinkled faces and steely eyes, tough skin and unassuming demeanor; these are the people that live around here where time stands still. Farmers, retired workers, veterans, former steel workers. Life is tough because they have to make a living out of difficult conditions and life is simple because it is all about making a living.
It is almost 7pm when I enter the mid-size town of Canton and I long for a shower. I ride through downtown which, with its large buildings and staid vibe does not appeal to me, and I finally come to a stop at a Comfort Inn. A very good day indeed. Time to write the blog, eat like a pig and sleep.
"Pitt", University of Pittsburgh, it is a massive campus, I liked this building
Pittsburgh, familiar skyline
Pittsburgh, the cabled cars. The city has one of the most extensive transportation services in the world
And it has fifteen steel bridges
Crossing the Ohio river!
Defining moment, entering Ohio
East Liverpool, not as welcoming as hoped
Historic Lincoln Highway
From the road. (With love)
Fragrant flower bed
Typical scenery of today's ride