Sunday, July 3, 2016

Trail, the conquering heroes!

Listen, my children, and you shall hear
of a misadventure of spoke and gear...

Pittsburgh from across the Monongahela River

As luck would have it, I got a three-day weekend for the Fourth of July. My Awesome Parents were in town and staying at the Waterfront on the south shore of the Monongahela River, so we decided to bust out our bicycles and go for a ride along the famous Great Allegheny Passage (GAP) that runs all the way to Washington, D.C. (with the help of the C.&O. Canal Towpath). I proposed the eastern route to McKeesport, PA, which Google Maps predicted would take 45 minutes to go 8 miles. There's not much to do in McKeesport, but I thought it might be nice to stop and snack in Renziehausen Park, whose rose garden is supposed to be one of the top 10 public rose gardens in the country. Thinking it wouldn't be much of a trip, I suggested we ride along the edge of town, for a grand total of about 12 miles and 1 hour in each direction. The only hindrance might be the mile-long hill at the end, but we could always walk that if necessary. The best laid plans...

In the background, the blue Duquesne Bridge into McKeesport, PA.
First, Dear Husband discovered that his bicycle tires wouldn't hold air. But he could rent one next door to my parents' hotel. He couldn't find his helmet, but they would have one of those, too. And I needed to adjust my brakes, but they would surely have wrenches. Mom needed a refresher on how to change gears, and after that we were off!

Unfortunately, it soon became apparent that Google Maps had calculated our trip based on my usual cycling speed, which is twice what DH and Mom can tolerate. The weather was warm but not oppressive, and the bike path alternated between railroad/industrial areas and a cool green tunnel. After an hour we were still riding. I had to pull out my phone with increasing frequency to check the route through McKeesport. I missed the last turn, we doubled back, and the route led us to a major street with businesses (most closed on Sunday). By now we were tired and hungry and still one mile and a large hill from our destination. Mom and I reasoned we could find someplace to sit and eat before turning back, but Dad and DH campaigned for attempting the incline. We got about three fourths of the way up before we had to stop to wait for DH to walk his bike to us. We sat on someone's raised garden bed to snack while we debated how to proceed. Unfortunately, there were no cross streets on this road. Our choices were to go down the way we had come and ride the long way home or, if we could crest the hill, take the shorter way back. We decided to walk the rest of the way up, and boy are we glad we did.

We actually weren't that far from Renzie Park. I snapped the shot above of the fountain on our way to the rose garden...which we almost didn't get to visit. The main gate was closed and locked (despite an optimistic sign to the contrary). Dad finally found an open side gate, which let us into this charming garden. It was a little past the high season for roses, but enough were still blooming.

The ride home was a comedy of errors, from an incredibly steep incline through town, to having to ride on the sidewalk along a major street without a bike lane, to inconsistencies on Google Maps. The piece de resistance was the rear tire of my bicycle popping flat 3.5 miles from the hotel. Mom and I walked most of the way back, until the path intersected with the road, and Dad and DH could pick us up with the car and put the bikes on the rack. We paid the guy at the bike shop to change the tire, but he put it on backwards the first time. We decided we had earned burgers and shakes from Burgatory, but we waited half an hour for a table, and then half an hour for our food, while MUSIC BLARED IN THE BACKGROUND and someone turned down the air conditioning to "freezing." Our little 2-hour jaunt turned into a 3.5-hour (mis)adventure, but we'll always have the stories and the pictures. 

No comments:

Post a Comment

Your comments let me know that I am not just releasing these thoughts into the Ether...