This travelogue follows a 2020 trip traveling from Rochester, New York, up the Genesee River to the headwaters near Ulysses, Pennsylvania; then downstream along the Alleghany River to Pittsburgh. From there I traveled east over the Allegheny Mountains to Altoona and onto Duncannon, PA. After a side-trip to Lancaster County, I followed the Susquehanna River upstream to end at O'Brien's Inn in Waverly, NY.
Log messages come from the daily updates I sent out via e-mail to family and friends during the trip.
- 1. Ridge Campground, Mount Morris, NY
- 2. Short Tract, NY
- 3. Trout Run Campground, Wellsville, NY
- 4. Mid-Town Motel, Port Allegany, PA
- 5. New Lantern Inn, Allegany, NY
- 6. Red Oak Campground, Norman, PA
- 7. Clark's Campground, President, PA
- 8. Gaslight Campground, Emlenton, PA
- 9. Gaslight Campground (same place)
- 10. Nautical Mile Campground, Templeton, PA
- 11. Foxy & An's house, Creighton, PA
- 12. Days Inn, Blairsville, PA
- 13. Quality Inn, Ebensburg, PA
- 14. Wright's Orchard Station, Duncansville, PA
- 15. Comfort Inn, Huntingdon, PA
- 16. Quiet Valley Campground, McVeytown, PA
- 17. Budget Inn, Mifflintown, PA
- 18. The Doyle, Duncannon, PA
- 19. Harrisburg East Campground, Steelton, PA
- 20. Friends' house, Conestoga, PA
- 21. Ferryboat Campsites, Liverpool, PA
- 22. Splash Magic, Northumberland, PA
- 23. Bodnarose Campground, Berwick, PA
- 24. Skyline Inn, Tunkhannock, PA
- 25. Riverside Acres Campground, Towanda, PA
- 26. O'Brien's Inn, Waverly, PA
- 27. O'Brien's Inn, again
- 28. Back-Achers Campsite, Himrod, NY
- 29. Home!
- 30. Cue Sheets & Resources
- 31. Maps
Today I woke with the light and got an early start. Paul made pancakes to ensure I was properly prepared for the ride ahead. After saying goodbye to him and Huberta (the cat) I started out at 6:20.
Instead of following my prepared cue sheets, which took me along a route west of the Genesee River that I've traversed many times before, I went my own way through Brighton and Rush to East Avon, where I stopped at Henehan Law to say goodbye to David.
I expected to pass Avon's 5-arch bridge, but missed that and instead went past what looked like old mill buildings along Conesus Creek. Staying on the east side of the Genesee, I went through Geneseo where I got second breakfast at Cricket's cafe at about 10:00, then continued on to Mount Morris, passing the American Rock Salt mine—that's a lot of salt.
I made Mount Morris at about 11. The last 7km were up the hill to the hamlet of Ridge and the campground. I arrived at noon, taking breaks when I encountered occasional shady spots on the hill.
I have a quiet little tent site at the back edge of the campground, beyond which is a field that's been manured, thankfully not too recently. There's a nice view of the far side of the river valley, though I can't see the river itself.
Tomorrow I'm on to Fillmore, NY, a short 30km ride, where I'll be staying with friends for the night.
Today I was again up with the light. After breakfasting with mosquitoes (I had oatmeal and hot chocolate; they tried to have me), I packed up and continued on.
Thinking of second breakfasts in Nunda, I went a little off route, but since everything is shut down that was a waste of time and elevation. I did find out the Genesee Valley Greenway skirts Nunda on the way to Portageville, and got to see some old canal lock footings along the way. No matter where you go in this state, you're not far from a dead canal.
The weather was warm and humid, especially for the hills heading up to Short Tract. There were some good views, but none photographed well. On the positive side, it was a short day so I arrived early and had time to spend with my friends Andy and PJ, who moved out here last summer. It's been nice to reconnect with them, and to see how they are adapting and integrating with the rural community. Not many are as adventuresome as I am; their decision to abandon city life and risk moving out here strikes me as risky but amazing, and I respect them for that.
I had a lovely stay with my friends yesterday. Andy and I talked tech a bunch and all 3 of us commiserated the problems caused by liberal government safetyism in the wake of coronavirus (not to exempt Trump & Co. from their bungling, more to bitch that both sides have fudged it in different ways). I got some rest and we had Beef on Weck for dinner.
This morning I got a later start than desired, but it was worth it given the excellent sausage and pancake breakfast my hosts provided.
The ride was overcast, hilly, and rural as far as Angelica, with a few Amish farms along the way. Leaving that village, I crested a hill and saw the rain coming, but had time to don my rainjacket and put the cover on my backpack. It was a wet ride for the next half-hour into Scio, where I stopped at The Store, a general store that has everything from groceries to ammo. I got a banana and a delicious meatball sub.
By the time the sandwich was ready, the weather was clearing so I ate on the curb, drying and warming up in the sun. From there to camp was an easy ride, with one stop at a park in Wellsville to look at a labyrinth flower garden and play with the musical chimes installed in in one corner.
Trout Run Campground is nice and quiet; I stayed here last year the penultimate night of my trip. They have ice cream, too, of which I have already partaken. The weather is lovely: a nice breeze, patchy clouds and pleasant temperatures.
Tomorrow I'm on to Allegheny River Campground in Roulette, PA, a longer day comparable to Tuesday. I'll be reaching the headwaters of the Genesee, and begin the week-long trek down the Allegheny.
After a cold night, I rode the 28km from Wellsville, NY to the headwaters at Ulysses, PA. I got started a bit late, around 8, owing to hiding in the less-cold-than-outside of my sleeping bag when I woke up. Perhaps I should have brought the heavier bag; the one I have is rated for 40°F (4C), but that rating is questionable. I think last night was around 50°F (10C), and even adding layers of clothes, it got chilly. I've asked Paul to bring the warmer one when he and Dave visit me this weekend.
Anyhow, Pennsylvania welcomed me with rougher roads, some yahoo flying a confederate flag in his yard, and Potter County's "God's Country" declaration. Still, I got up the hills to Ulysses okay, and stopped for second breakfast, a western omelet. From there I headed west on PA-49, leaving the Genesee watershed behind me.
Ulysses is interesting geologically: A bit to the east, rains drains into the Cowanesque, in turn draining to the Chemung river in Corning and the Susquehanna near Waverly. The village itself drains north to the Genesee, Great Lakes, and Saint Lawrence; the culvert with flowers picture is the Genesee River. A bit to the south, not far from there, is another ditch that drains southward into Pine Creek, and from there into the West Branch of the Susquehanna--a much more direct route than the Cowanesque. And a few miles west of town, the Allegheny river flows out of a wetlands and on to the Ohio, Mississippi, and eventually Gulf of Mexico.
It got hilly for a while after leaving the village, but PA-49 was in nice shape for riding, and once it joined the Allegheny I got much more downhill, and the uphills tended to be rolling, easy grades rather than steeper, slow climbs.
At Coutersport (pronounced kowders-port, not kooter-sport or kohdersport), they had a lovely courthouse with a clocktower and a shiny Justice on top, complete with scales and sword. It seemed out-of-place given the various Trump propaganda and other assorted bullshit I've been seeing since entering Pennsylvania. I'm accustomed, upon entering a town, to seeing some combination of Lions, Rotary, Kiwanis, Elks, and/or Mason meeting info; occasionally a church or two post service times. Down here, there's a dozen churches and, sometime, a community service organization.
While stopped and looking around, a cop came up and asked (politely) about the bike. The moment struck me, though: I can do this because I'm white. If I was black, I'd probably have been suspect: "What the fuck is this darkie doing in our town?" or "Who is this, why are they here, when will they be leaving?" But as a white person, I'm just an interesting person, exploring around on my bike. I get a default of curiosity, rather than suspicion. Our country is fucked up and unfair, and it really is high time, 150 years after the civil war, that we goddamn well fix this. A great country can and would fix racism now; if we don't fix it, then we are either acquiescing to mediocrity or actively being malicious; neither of which compatible with being great.
Given my sleeping bag and a forecast of 40°F (4C) tonight, I considered a hotel in Coudersport, but decided to press on and get one in Port Allegany. (Yes, spelled different than the river.) It's an older place but was recently rehabbed, with new beds and nice warm comforters. I'm gonna sleep well tonight.
I ordered some Chinese, got an ice-cream while waiting for them to make that, then had the Black Pepper Chicken for dessert. I even watched a little tube while eating dinner; I'm glad to hear New York State is making it harder for shady cops to hide their records.
Tomorrow is about 50km up to Allegany, NY where another motel awaits me, this one complete with David, Paul, a warmer sleeping bag, and a dress in case we want to go to a nice place, although it may be that the area is in the Western region, which won't enter Phase III reopening until Tuesday. Eh, maybe we can drive across the PA border if we want a sit-down meal.
After a good night's sleep and a hearty breakfast at The Little Red Diner, I continued following the river downstream to Allegany, NY. Trying to make time so I could see Dave and Paul, who drove down to visit, I didn't get any pictures.
When I stopped at one point, though, I noticed a strange squeaking from what seemed like my rear axle. It only happened when I wheeled the bike, not when I was on it. It concerned me enough to make a stop at Upcycle in Olean, NY, where the boys met me after I texted them. The shop was busy but gave me a 1PM appointment, so we grabbed lunch at a little bistro downtown that had service at outdoor seating. I had a delicious chicken parmesian sandwich.
Back at the bike shop, the bike was refusing to demonstrate the problem for the repairfolk, as so often seems the case. (In tech, we sometimes call these "Heisenbugs".) They poked and prodded, decided a few things needed tightening, found the brake calliper squeaked and lubricated that. They advise the axle seems fine, which was my worry; a bad axle could be disastrous. Other possibilities might be annoying, but not so dangerous. The most likely possibility seems to be the brake rubbing, although I'd never heard the brakes make that sound, and I'm pretty peculiar about knowing all the different noises. But, my recumbent is strange in that the brakes rotors intermittently go in and out of true, a behavior I didn't realize was atypical, but they found very odd. Perhaps they got into a very subtle alignment that created an unusual noise.
I insisted on giving them a tip, since they didn't want want to charge me. From there it was a short ride to the motel with my men. We drove into Bradford, Pennsylvania for a proper sit-down meal at Beefeaters.
And now we're getting ready for bed. It's nice to have someone to snuggle with.
Tomorrow I'm on to High Banks Campground in Steamburg, NY.
I was more challenging than the short-and-easy day I expected.
After a quick breakfast with Dave and Paul, we said our goodbyes and went on our ways. On the road about 8, I think, I soon entered the Seneca Nation, through which I passed. It was a fairly easy ride to Salamanca, NY, where I arrived around 10. With time to spare, I stopped at a laundromat and was back on the road about 11.
I followed NY-417 to the "End" sign before it merged onto NY-17/I-86/Southern Tier Expressway. Stopping to review the route and maps, I was interrupted by a UPS driver from Rochester who recognized me as he drove by. He stopped to chat, and was amused to see me so far from home.
I followed the map, which took me down a nice road which eventually came to a "no outlet" sign, and a little further, a "Road Closed" sign where the road went to hell. But, it being the only way through, I gave it a ride. It turns out it's the old, pre-interstate NY-17. When the Kinzua Dam was built for flood control on the Allegheny in the 1970s, the town of Red House was imminent domained and eliminated, and an 8 mile section of route 17 abandoned. It's all located within the Seneca Nation.
The old 17 is still there, surprisingly intact, a tribute to concrete's longevity when not exposed to salt and plows every winter. The joints were lumpy, some spots the concrete had chipped down to the reinforcing mesh, but it has held out against plantlife and roots for 40 years or so.
The Red House Bridge over the the Allegheny is still there, and I crossed fine, although in 2012 someone fell through a hole in the bridge and died. The state has occasionally talked about fixing up the right of way and improving the bridge, but it sounds like the Senecas have mixed feelings on this, so for now, it all sits there in decay. It would make a lovely multiuse trail if fixed up.
I made it to my planned campground around 1, but it turns out they're closed because of COVID. I continued south along the Allegheny Reservoir to the next campground on my list, which for 10km was a nice, easy, pretty ride, then made up for it with 10km featuring 2 nasty hills with a brief, super-fast downhill between them.
The Red Oak Campground is atop the second hill. I think tomorrow starts with a bunch of downhill, and I suspect I will encounter a bunch of uphill before getting back to flatter terrain.
Despite the tribulations, it was a lovely ride and I'm feeling good. I think I'll go make second dinners now.
Finally, an early start today. Probably a good thing, too, because there was more campground trouble.
I departed about 7. The giant downhill I was a nervous about never appeared; I had some rolling hills for a while, but no monsters. When I got to Hatch Run Road, though, I got a nice, gentle, steady 6km downhill, payoff from yesterday's monster.
I passed through Warren, PA, a modest-size city whose claim to fame is having built the steel components of the St Louis arch. They have a small-scale reproduction at the tourist info center.
The area is also well-known for logging (the whole Allegheny River corridor, really—anywhere near a river they could float the logs down), so they had a statue of a lumberjack to commemorate.
I cycled down the expressway (PA Bike Route Y) and got off at US-62 south, and followed that to Tidioute (pronounced tiddy-oot, not titty-out), where campgrounds and lunch awaited me. The campground wasn't where I expected, so I grabbed a burger and researched while I ate.
The campground's address on Google matches the Post Office. There's a second instance of the business several miles off-route, which is probably the real one.
But that was okay: I went to my alternate campground, about 2 miles past Tidioute. That was, in fact, a campground—but one that caters exclusively to annual campers, no walk-ins. They mentioned President campground, which I was planning to visit Wednesday, although I hadn't been able to clarify an address and they hadn't returned calls. But hey, the locals probably know what they're talking about.
So I cycled another 40km south. Thank goodness I was going with the river flow; I got a little help from some downhill. But it turns out that one is also annual campers only.
Right next door is Clark's campground. The owner lives across the way, but wasn't home when I knocked. I was regretting passing by a sign about 4 miles back about a campground a little off-route on the other side of the river, eating some trail mix to power me to wherever I was going, which I was contemplating because I was getting tired, when the owner drove in with his lunch. Err... probably dinner, actually.
He rented me a little grassy knoll for $10. And then, while I was beginning to set up, he showed up with the other half of his "ham wedgie" and a can of soda. I like ham.
So everything, finally, turned out okay. The campground is older, I can see signs of age and wear: pit toilets and no showers. Probably not much call; these days most people have their own in their campers. I sponge-bathed away as much sunscreen as I could manage in the river.
There's a rodent down by the water. My first impression was a groundhog, but second thought made me think beaver. But I don't see any trees nibbled, so maybe it was just a groundhog getting a drink. Maybe if I get lucky I'll get a picture.
Tomorrow, onto Marlowe's Scenic River Campground, though when I pass through Oil City, I think I'll call ahead to make sure it is what it's supposed to be before I get there.
Today was spectacular, but with a grueling ending.
I got up around 6; there was a fog over the Allegheny River. The first 10 miles were hilly, with some quite fun downhills. When I got to Oil City, I stopped and got some hot chocolate mix and a banana. The town seemed poor, worn, although I think that was just the piece I was in.
I made my way to the Samuel Justus Recreation Trail and began a beautiful journey along the river on the paved trail. Only one brief section detoured to a gravel road for about a kilometer, otherwise, it was smooth sailing. Parts of it reminded me of the Pine Creek Trail, although none of that is paved. It culminated in the Kennerdell tunnel, a 1km tunnel built in the early 1900s to replace 6km of track the followed the river snaking.
After the tunnel, I missed South Tunnel Road and had to double back; a pile of dirt obscured the path that lead to the road. The road itself was 3+ kilometers, dirt and often gravel, with a sign that it was a private road for residents and their guests only. When I made it to the main road, though, it was a quick trip to the campground.
Which is closed Mondays and Tuesdays. Fucking Pennsylvania.
I tracked down the owner's house, but no answer. A seasonal there suggested some options; the best seemed one of my fallback campsites, Gaslight, that was somewhat off route.
Despite being exhausted to the point of emotional fragility, I trekked on, taking roads rather than returning to the lovely path. At least I was able to restock my water at the closed campground, or I'd be in a hospital.
As it is, I made it to Gaslight, but with my mask on to register and pay for the site, I could smell ammonia on my breath, an indication of severe dehydration and/or excess protein catabolism (using protein for energy instead of sugars) and a warning for heat stroke.
I immediately got some ice cream to replenish sugars, and some potato chips for electrolytes. I've made sure to drink plenty so I rehydrate, and I'm taking a zero day tomorrow in hopes I'm able to recover some. I had a decent dinner, too.
There are two travel days remaining to Pittsburgh, where friends await. I'm pretty sure I can make it there, where I can take a few days more to recover.
I talked with both Paul and Mom about what to do; my unawareness of how close I was to trouble before I smelled it on my breath because I had a mask on, leads me to doubt the sanity of continuing on my own through unfamiliar areas of this ass-backward commonwealth.
Mom is looking at her schedule; she may come out on Monday and meet me at Loyalhanna Lake Bush Campground, and SAG for me through Duncannonn. It'll be good to see her, and it's nice to have her share in part of my stupid adventures. I hope she will indeed be able to join me.
I went for a short, unloaded ride today to check out a waterfall and tunnel on the trail.
The waterfall was pretty, and there were the remains of an old water-powered blast furnace nearby.
The tunnel was cool (literally and figuratively). Along the walls, there are little alcoves so railworkers can get out of the way of oncoming trains.
When I passed through town on my way back to camp, I stopped for a sandwich--err, hoagie--and they got the toasting right, which Rochester often seems to have trouble with. I got some bananas, too, then walked the bike back up the hill to the campground.
After a shower and a dip in the pool, it's been a idle afternoon, reading a little of the fanfic Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality, and submitting some corrections and reviews to Google Maps.
Tomorrow I'm on to Nautical Mile Campground in Templeton, PA. Most of it is on-road, the last few miles will be bike trail.
I was up by 5:30 today after a pretty good sleep. I got on the road around 7, and since Gaslight Campground was up out of the valley and today I had a section of missing trail to go around, I just stayed up there until the trail resumed. I still hit a few valleys, one pretty deep; I walked several of the ascents.
I would have stopped in East Brady for second breakfast when I passed through about 9:30, but there wasn't much open and nothing that appealed. So I ate crunchy bars and trail mix before embarking down the Armstrong Trail.
I must have farted around a bunch after that, because the campsite is only 15 or 18 miles downstream, but it took me 3 hours to get here. Maybe it was all the interesting train stuff: there was a turntable some folks were restoring, the Brady Tunnel's entrance was being worked on (it's the third of the 3 original tunnels, and has been off-limits because it needed work), and there was a coaling tower from the late 1920s.
I also saw dam & lock #9, which allows for navigating up the Allegheny to East Brady.
And here in Templeton, they have a power plant with one grand erection. No purple footballs needed in this town. Railroads running to it indicate the Armstrong Power Plant was a coal plant prior to its retirement.
I'm a little tired but doing okay. I had a healthy-size (at least for the calories I'm burning) chicken teriyaki for lunch. I haven't decided what dinner is yet.
Tomorrow I'm on to my friends' house in Creighton, PA.
Afraid of forecasted rain, I got up early and was on the trail about 6:30. I was in Kittaning a little over an hour later, where I learned the rain's arrival was moved back, so I stopped at a laundromat and did some wash.
I continued onto Ford City, where I had to leave the lovely rail trail. A local said it once went through to Pittsburgh, and talked about how nice it was when it did, but alleges Pennsylvania sold a segment to a mining company. So I went over some big hills to Freeport, where I got a turkey-bacon panini for lunch, then walked & pedaled the hill out of Freeport to continue south. From there it was mostly downhill, and I made good time—except for some ice-cream gravity to whose vortex I succumbed.
I even made it all the way in without rain, other than a few very light sun sprinkles.
After staying with these folks for the weekend, I'll head east on Monday and meet up with mom.
Today I said good-bye to Foxy and An and headed east with a belly full of Foxy's delicious French toast. The route took me up a long gentle slope of PA-366, then to the more hilly but not monstrous PA-286 and into the village of Saltsburg, named for the salt they used to extract there. I found a delightful cafe, GG's Gourmet Cafe, and had a scrumptious second breakfast. If I had a way to carry some of the treats from their display cases, I would have taken some of those for the road.
I took the West Penn Trail out of town, following an old canal route, although I think some of it got repurposed as a rail grade somewhere along the line. As I neared the Conemaugh River Dam, the trail moved to old forest roads that weren't as flat, and I bypassed a bit of trail by taking some road.
Crossing the river on a repurposed rail bridge, I came to Bow Ridge, where trains used to pass through the hill via tunnels. With the building of the flood control dam, the tunnels were plugged up, so I instead got to cross over the ridge and down a tretcherously steep path on the far side. I followed advice posted to walk my bike, and toward the bottom, I ended up unloading the bike, carrying gear down separately before wheeling the bike down.
Before reloading gear, I mixed up some electrolyte drink; it was hot and sticky and I was sweating hard. But, the trail got easy, flat, and paved, so I had a pretty good ride into Blairsville, arriving around 1PM. I stopped at Ravaila's for lunch and had an amazing stromboli while a storm came through and rained buckets.
By the time lunch was over, the rain had stopped, so I had a quick, dry ride over to the motel I'm staying at with mom tonight. Mom arrived just after I checked in about 2PM. After we got settled and caught up a bit, we went out to dinner at a nearby diner with okay food. We've been eyeing an ice-cream shop across the way from the motel that may get our business before the night is over.
Tomorrow it looks like afternoon rain again, so we're probably going to nab a motel in Ebensburg, PA. The rest of the week looks like better camping weather.
Following in a theme of abandoned stuff, I rode central Pennsylvania's Ghost Town Trail today.
After breakfast at the motel and loading most of my crap into mom's car, keeping just one bag of rain gear and a few snacks with me, I took roads and the Hoodlebug trail from Blairsville to Blacklick. There I met the Ghost, a stone dust trail following Blacklick Creek upriver all the way to Ebensburg. The first 6 miles had the most ascent, but being railroad grade, even that wasn't bad. Much of the trail was quite isolated and quiet.
In fact, I learned that the noise level determines steepness: when the brook is babbling, I'm on an upgrade. When it's quiet (i.e., slackwater), the trail is more flatish.
Along the way, there were several abandoned towns. In the 1850s, there was a rush on iron, and several furnaces were set up to produce pig iron. That only lasted a few years, but later coal came into demand.
It seems companies would move in and construct and own whole towns for their workers, and when they closed down, sell the assets to other companies who would strip the dead towns of anything of value, including lumber and metal. Other times, people moved on and nature moved in to reclaim.
The land left behind varies... The village of Claghorn, for example, seems to be entirely gone, other than a 3-arch concrete bridge spanning the creek. Other places—near the Buena Vista Furance and a few others—there were black piles of dirt left behind, I would guess tailings of coal mining. In some of it, grass and low scrub was taking root, but much of it didn't seem very fertile, leaving a sort of scar in nature. Just west of Vintondale was an area where it was evident something had been done—grassy scrub, with patches that weren't growing but lacking the black piles—but I couldn't tell what had happened. In time, though, I suppose nature will recoup the land in these places too, it'll just take longer.
Tomorrow is down the hill to Duncanville, on the outskirts of Altoona. It's nice having mom visiting to spend time and travel with her. I'm glad she came out.
Today was a lot of downhill, coming down from Ebensburg.
I must have got started around 7:30. My first stop was at a cemetery with a great view of the Blacklick Creek valley to the west, and Ebensburg to the northeast. From there I got back on the rail-trail where I stopped yesterday and rode that to the end of the line.
I stopped briefly to admire Lake Rowena, where a number of folks were out fishing.
From there it was up-and-down some worthy hills through Munster and Cresson, where, near the top of a hill, I hopped onto a trail following the Allegheny Portage Railroad, which connected two sections of the Pennsylvania Canal.
From there, it was a long descent, passing through the hamlet Foot of Ten, whose name comes from being at the foot of the 10th inclined plane of the aforementioned railroad (rather than portable locomotives, the railroad used stationary engine houses with ropes and pulleys).
The campground we're at is small but centrally located. We've got a cozy little tent site, nicely shaded, with beautiful weather so far today.
Mom is taking a nap; in a little bit, we're going to take a drive up through Altoona to the railroad horseshoe and whatever else might be interesting around her. And tomorrow we're on to Alexandria, PA.
Today mom and I left Altoona and headed into the Juniata River region. After some ascents thorough suburbs and quiet farmlands with some nice views for the first 10 miles or so, I got onto the Lower (rhymes with power) Trail and took that to the other end in Alfarata.
Meanwhile, mom determined that our primary and fallback campgrounds were both not accepting tent campers, and had ascertained that our best bet was to look for hotels in Huntingdon. After a bit of fiasco trying to get spotty phone service to work in rural Pennsylvania, we got together at Paesano's Italian Restaurant in Alexandria for lunch.
Then I pedaled over the big hill to Huntingon... well, I pedaled up the big hill, then drafted a tractor trailer down the far side of the hill, although I missed breaking the 45mph speed limit by 4mph.
After the so-so "breakfast included with your stay" at the hotel this morning (waffles, eggs, and anything else that's not individually-wrapped servings are off the menu, so slim pickings), it was an easy and fairly fast ride to the campground at McVeytown. It was downhill or flat from Huntingdon to Mount Union, then rolling hills from there into McVeytown. There were beautiful farms and landscapes, especially in the second half. I averaged over 20km/hour, unusually fast.
The one hill on route, Google successfully avoided by routing me on side roads through Mapleton and past the Mapleton Riverside Park, where I stopped for snacks.
The campground's name is accurate. It really is very quiet and peaceful here, mostly just the noise of the river and birds. Occasionally I hear motors in the distance, and once in a while a train goes by. The campground is small (20ish sites) and simple (no showers), but the bathrooms are clean and I was able to take a dip in the river.
Rain is moving in tomorrow, so hopefully we'll be able to get a motel room in Mifflinton.
Yesterday featured an afternoon of relaxation, cribbage, and the occasional train. Overnight, there were more trains and some rain, with a pretty good rainstorm near dawn. But the rain stopped for breakfast and breaking camp, which was nice.
It was still foggy and threatening to rain when I got on the road, but rain held off the first half of the trip. In the middle, though, there was a brief rainstorm; thankfully, I only had a few miles left into Mifflintown.
After settling into a motel, we ran into town and did laundry and got pizza for lunch. It's another idle afternoon, reading a little, getting stuff organized for being solo again tomorrow. It's been nice having mom traveling with me for the last week.
Tomorrow I'm on to Duncannon, PA, and the notorious Doyle Hotel.
After a night's odd sleep, I got up about 6:20 and packed up the bike while mom packed the car. At 7:05, we went to the Burger King next door and grabbed some breakfast, then went our separate ways.
Mom's route home is taking her through both US-11 in Shamokin Dam, and I-84 in Danbury. It's only 305 miles, but I hope she gets home before sunset.
Meanwhile, I headed to Duncannon with my heavy load. It was humid this morning, so it felt warmer than it was, especially when I stopped. I went through a lot of agricultural areas along the way. There were a few barns with interesting louvred garnishes; my guess would be they were built as tobacco drying barns.
At Newport, I stopped for a hoagie (that's Pennsylvania for sandwich) and found a park to eat it at. I also stopped at a grocery for more toothpaste and mouthwash.
There were only about 10 miles left on cue sheets, but on Lower Bailey Road I encountered a "No Outlet" sign, and chose to reroute. It may have been one of those deals where it's closed to cars but a bike can get through, but that usually involves beat-up dirt trails that aren't pleasant, so I just looked at maps and found another route that looked good. (Maybe I'm gaining wisdom.)
Tonight I'm in The Doyle (f/k/a Hotel Doyle) in Duncannon, PA. It was built in the early 1900s when trains were a big deal and this town was happenin', today it caters to Appalachian Trail hikers who pass through town. It's an odd mix: there's a lot of original gumwood trim, antique chests of drawers that are worn enough they have no value, yet they are serviceable. The electrical panel on my floor has cloth-covered wire disappearing into what what looks like knob-and-tube.
And the crowning achievement? If the bottom of my shower broke, I'd replace the enclosure with a new one. But not here at The Doyle, where it looks like they've rubber cemented it repeatedly as the damage has expanded with continued use. You really have to try to get a repair where I look at it and comment, "I really don't think that's sufficient."
Nevertheless, the bar on the first floor makes a pretty good ham and cheese sandwich.. Hopefully I won't die in a blaze related to 115-year-old wiring tonight. But if I do, it was a good life, and my final meal had ham in it.
Tomorrow I'm on to Harrisburg East Campground on the south side of Harrisburg, near Steelton. For the second time in my life, I get to ride The Gauntlet: US-22 just after it crosses the Suquehanna, where it's a limited access highway and also Pennsylvania Bike Route J featuring a tight squeeze under a railway overpass. If the campground has space for a second night, I may take a zero day there.
I woke around 4 this morning, and couldn't fall back asleep, so when birds started up I decided to get up and get on the road before traffic got bad. Nevertheless, US-22 was busy when I got on at 6:10, and still busy when I went through the gauntlet at 6:40.
When I got back to regular roads, I stopped at Fort Hunter Park, previously a museum, a gentleman's farm, an estate, and a pre-revolution British fort. There were some interesting old buildings there, and a covered bridge that had been moved from Newport.
Harrisburg's Capital Area Greenbelt makes a loop around the city. A few years ago, I took the leg that went down the Susquehanna, so today I took the other way. I went past some wetlands, a community college (HACC), and some industry before abandoning the trail in favor of Cameron St, encountering a number of interesting overpasses.
At the south end, I hopped on the Spring Creek section of the greenway, which was quite pretty and had a memorial to Martin Luther King along the trail.
The campground is another urban one, like in Altoona and Port Jervis. There's a background of road noise, but it's centrally located and has a nice little pine grove for tent campers. The campground has a pool, too, and there's a lovely breeze so it doesn't feel attrociously warm.
Nearby is a Harbor Freight, so I picked up some parts and am trying to improvise a replacement part of my improvised chain guide guide where the chain goes through a hole in the frame. The drivetrain runs smoother with my improvisation, but I need to work on the longevity/durability.
I haven't yet decided if I'm going to stay here another day, or head on to Conestoga. It may not be quiet, but it is kind of peaceful.
Since I was retracing a route from a few years ago, I thought there might not be much new today. But in 2018, the Susquehanna was at flood levels, so some of the Northwest Lancaster Rail Trail was closed. There was a bunch of interesting stuff along the way, including the Shocks Mills rail bridge over the river and the White Cliffs of Conoy.
The cliffs formed from the waste dump of a limestone & dolomite quarry, although I am unable to find details of their composition or the precise process that created them. There are bits of metal sticking out here and there, broken things the company buried in their slag heap and are now sticking out.
The bridge was interesting in that it was stone arch on either end, with steel spans in the middle replacing spans damaged by a hurricane in 1972.
The townspeople of Conoy went out of their way to post signs here and there about how they are not a gun-free zone. Odd: the gun nuts are usually the anti-spending nuts, and these were really useless signs. Perhaps they think it's worth violating their principles and be hypocrites if they're "owning the liberals".
I stopped for a snack in Columbia, fuelling up for the climb up Turkey Hill. After a stop to admire another bridge over the river, I headed south and up the hill, and to my friends' house.
Denny has been busy refurbishing a small, dilapidated building on the property; it's to become his new honey shack for his bee-keeping. Paul and I have been assigned that for the weekend (it comes with a quite nice air mattress).
Paul is scheduled to return to Rochester on Sunday. Things here are breaking up Monday... I need to think about which day I want to depart up the Susquehanna and back to Rochester.
Meanwhile, have a good Independence Day, everyone. In the tradition of some of my Rochester friends, consider reading the Declaration of Independence over the weekend.
After spending the holiday with friends, I began my way home today. Paul had a flight at 4, so I shared his ride up to the airport in the early afternoon and embarked from the Highspire area. On the positive side, that saved me about 35 miles; on the other hand, I was riding during the heat of the day. I took care to rest and cool down periodically, and stopped several times to replenish water.
US-22 was not as busy as Wednesday morning. I did okay getting through that craziness.
The campground I'm at is on the Susquehanna, so after checking in (and before even setting up) I jumped in the river to cool down. There's a ferry to Millersburg, located on the others side of the river, that docks in the campground on this side.
I got up at 7, late for a cycling day, and got on the road about 8:30. Most of the trip was going north up US-11/US-15, which is a big ugly 4-lane along the Susquehanna to Selinsgrove, then turns into strip mall hell through Shamokin Dam. I travelled this way 2 years ago when I bicycled to camp, so not much new.
After stopping for an early lunch and a few sundries in the aforementioned strip mall hell, I crossed the West Branch of the Susquehanna River into Northumberland and continued on US-11 into unfamiliar territory.
I'm camped in a "camping resort," a campground where sites are packed in like sausage, but they have multiple swimming pools, a hot tub, a water slide, and other amenities. I have a site right on the river, although it's all gravel.
There was some rain overnight, but I think it stayed very light. Things were damp, but not really wet, in the morning.
I got up around 5:45 and got on the road around 7:15. I was on US-11 much of the way, but between Danville and Bloomsburg I was on quiet, parallel side roads.
When I got to Bloomsburg, I took a side trip to a Wally-mall to get Shoe Goo, a clamp, and some bagels. Later, I stopped at an Ace to get a new spring clip for my bear line; one of the existing ones got gummed up with pitch from a pine tree back at Harrisburg East.
I'm tenting tonight at Bodnarose Campground. When I got in, I did some maintenance on the bike and one of my shoes. After a shower, I got a pulled pork sandwich from the camp store, which was ok but a little fatty. They also had ice cream.
I took a walk around the campground. Down near the camp store, the owner has made a series of little ponds in a stream, and has a couple of big-foot statues there. Cool, if a little weird.
Off to the north, there are 2 cooling towers for the Susquehanna Steam Electric Station, a nuclear plant with two 1.35GW units. Talking with some folks who are living here, apparently a fair number of folks at the campground are nuclear industry specialists who move from plant to plant, doing overhauls or consulting. They'll live here for a few months, and when the work is done, move on to another plant.
I was supposed to be at Susquehanna Shores campground in Falls, PA tomorow, but (a) rain is looking likely and (b) their website now says they aren't offering tent camping this season; so I've booked a cheap room at the Skyline Motel on the outskirts of Tunkhannock.
I am glad to be in a motel tonight.
This morning I got on up a little later than usual, a little after 6, and was on the road a few minutes before 8. The route took me northeast on US-11 a few kilometers, then I shifted onto a canal towpath and then onto the Warrior Trail, which seems to be a rail trail. It mostly paralleled the road closely, so I eventually abandoned the trail in favor of the road, thinking of the long day today.
Near Plymouth, I noticed the skies darkening; it was around 10. A few more kliks up the road, I stopped atop a hill to take a picture; I could see the rain down the valley and was starting to feel sprinkles. From there, I booked it north, sailing down the hill, scanning for a place to stop to eat and wait out the storm.
In Kingston I spied a Burger King and pulled under their awning just as the rain picked up. By the time I had parked the bike and gotten out my purse, the rain had gone into high gear.
It turned out, however, the Burger King was drive-through only at the moment. So I checked messages and called mom while waiting under the awning. Eventually, the King's staff noticed I was there, and gave pity on me and let me sit at a table inside, after checking my temperature and ensuring I had a mask. Alas, they wouldn't serve me.
After about a half-hour, the heavy rains passed so I donned my rain coat, covered my pack, and headed on. Another few kliks up the road, in Wyoming, I found Booyah Burgers that was open properly, so I stopped for lunch. They have deliciously spiced french fries.
When I got out of there it was nearing noon, and I only had half my distance down, but the rain had stopped. It wasn't bad up to Falls, where I had originally planned to stay. But the extra 12 miles to Tunkhannock (rhymes with mechanic) were tough; they started with a big hill, ended with a big hill, I was tired, and the heat was on high.
A nifty train passed me though. Two ages-old Reading & Northern diesel engines pulling a short consist. The cars were rocking hard side-to-side on the jointed rails as it headed downriver past me.
When I got into town I stopped for another meal (including more salty fries and this time, a milkshake), then made the final ascent to the motel. I walked a bunch of it.
Skyline Inn has an older and a newer section. I'm in a cheap little room in the older section. It has paneling that looks recent but based on a style from the 70s, and the bathroom has gotten a makeover. It had an odd scent on arrival, a kind of chemical smell; I figure it's disinfectant because of COVID.
While showering, the rains arrived and it's been thundering and downpouring since and the radar shows more coming. So I'm happy; the building is more waterproof than my tent (which, sadly, is develping a smell like the rainfly's waterproofing is at the end of its life) and much less confining.
Tomorrow I'm on to either Endless Mountain Campground or Riverside Acres, depending on how energetic I feel.
I'm closing in on New York State!
I got a good sleep at the Skyline Inn, sleeping in until after 6. I made breakfast in the room (running hot water and a microwave to make it hotter, wow!). It was foggy out when I got on the road around 8.
It was hilly today; if Route 6 wasn't going up it was going down. There was a bunch of construction, too: the first crew was putting down lovely new pavement, then in a span beyond them, another crew was milling and the road was rough. And a few miles after that, a third crew was fixing bad cracks and potholes where damage extended into the deeper layers.
I took Old Route 6 Road through Laceyville and spotted Wiser Choice, a diner. I stopped in for second breakfast, then went up the next hill. At least there was a nice few at the top of that one.
At Wyalusing I crossed the river and started up the last hill and into the township of Asylum, a nutty little place. Thankfully the hill was gentle and I was able to pedal it, and once I went around the twist it was all downhill, so I arrived at the campground a little after noon.
When I spoke on the phone to Susan, the owner, she said to just grab a site and she'd catch up with me later. I think she expected me to take a riverside site, but I opted for one with more shade.
Tomorrow, Paul is coming down after work, and Saturday is a day of rest. I'd been hoping for O'Brien's Inn, a place I passed last year with a spectacular view of the Chemung valley. Unfortunately, although they have a nice website, their booking site is offering porn and STD meds instead of hotel rooms, and Paul has had trouble reaching them via phone for the last 2 days. If O'Brien's doesn't work out, I guess we'll end up somewhere generic.
I escaped Pennsylvania! Not that they didn't try stopping me.
I got up a little after 6, had my usual instant oatmeal, hot chocolate, and Tang breakfast, and the sometimes add-on of a P&J bagel. The motorcyclist who had come in Thursday evening was already up; he packed up, said good-bye and headed off to home in Cromwell, Connecticut. He had been touring all over New York and Pennsylvania, many places I've biked over the years. We talked for a while about our respective adventures after he'd arrived.
Last night I also got talking with the campground owner, an older lady who may not be able to keep up with the place since her husband passed, but continues out of habit. We got talking politics, and it turns out she's a conservative, but one of the all-to-rare these days sane ones. She's born again Christian, but thinks church/state separation is good. We agreed on somethings (often the problems), disagreed on others (depth of problems, some solutions), but she didn't start quoting Alex Jones or spouting "deep state" conspiracies.
I used to be able to do that with some of my conservative friends. It's become increasingly difficult as sanity has been replaced, bit by bit, with bat-shit crazy.
She was able to explain some of her positions, and I respect them; when I talked about things I'd seen in the city, I think she respected where my views came from. You can't do that with the bat-shits and the Trumpets—they don't want to listen, they just want to win the conversation, whether or not it's right or true or good for the country.
This has been a really fucking strange walkabout. Usually, in a short time I disconnect from everything; my thoughts are my daily routines, and sometimes some reflection on my future, my place in the world, how it all fits together. I regain my connection to the world, to nature.
This year I couldn't get away from it all. The lockdowns from Coronavirus. The harm done by overblown safetyism of the liberals, and the callous disregard for the pandemic by conservatives because they think it's no big deal, or it's all just a conspiracy to wheedle more control, or it's a plot by someone using biological warfare and that this is actually World War III.
It's been impossible to hide from the politics. All thorugh rural areas, there have been Trump promotions; "Keep America Great", "Fuck Your Feelings" (I'm not even sure what that means). They're happy he drained the swamp, but failed to notice he's replaced it with a cesspit and a garbage dump with a tire fire. Just tonight, he pardoned another one of his crook friends... err, commuted his sentence, I think.
And being immersed in these folks, I can see and perceive some of what they're responding to. Foolish liberal movements spout slogans to "Defund the Police", which the conservatives interpret as equivalent to "Abolish the Police", because cops aren't going to do their job as just a labor of love. And when this is pointed out to liberals, they claim doing such pointing out is just another form of blaming the victim, instead of considering that the critique might be an attempt to help them communicate the message more effectively.
I weep for the state of this country. It frustrates me that both sides are crazed, ideological zealots who are so far down their respective ratholes that finding common ground is impossible; both sides, I think, see less and less humanity in the other. And it scares the bejesus out of me that the conservatives are the gun nuts, and the liberals avoid them, because that imbalance ends badly.
Anyhow, the humidity was already warm early in the day, but I got my miles in. Towanda had a pretty walkway near the river, then there was farmland as I progressed north toward Athens. It was there I came to a rather abrupt stop, when a lady opened her car door as I passed. She claims she checked; I presume she just did the quick check that's adequate to detect cars, but not anything unusual, like a bike. I am banged up, but so far seem to be okay; the bike is rideable, although Paul has suggested we take it over to the manufacturer (not far from here) to have them inspect it.
I am glad that earlier this year, I got a really good quality helmet that fit well. I felt the blow when it hit the pavement; the first thought through my head afterward was, "The helmet just saved my head."
I called 911, got scene photos, and moved the bike out of the road; cops came and took reports, EMS came and checked me over, made sure I didn't have a concussion, and had me fill out forms to decline further care.
It appears she opened the door at just the right time and distance that it caught on the seat and stearing on the chain-side of the bike. The door must have acted like a lever, taking my forward momentum and turning it into a shove to the left. A deep, large contusion (I think it's one of those that'll be yellow in a week or two) on my right hip (lateral thigh, the upper femoris) suggests that took the brunt of my body weight.
But I'm able to limp away; there was nobody right behind me, or passing me; I wasn't moving at high speed. This pales in comparison to the fiasco that could have been crashing while drafting that tractor-trailer into Huntingdon at 41.6 MPH.
The police released me on condition I'd get something to eat and rest a little at a nearby conveniece store. After that I went to a laundromat for a while (I'd been planning to go there anyway). At around 1, I continued on to Becky's diner where I remember a really good sandwich last year. I think it was probably the cordon bleu sandwich, which I had again, and was once again delicious.
Then I rode up the damned hill, and after the GPS crapped out until I rebooted the phone, then I crossed somebody's property because Google has it listed as a public road, I came to the nice hotel with a beautiful view, on the top of the hill. And Paul has joined me here, so all is well, at least within our private little 6*6 meter cubicle with a private bath and a lovely balcony. There's been a warm rain falling as I write, the sun setting; lights have come on in the Chemung Valley, and there's a steady stream of white and red lights going to and fro on NY-17, the sky reflecting off the river as the last of the light fades in the west.
The views of the valley from our balcony this morning were stunning. When we got going, we went back to Becky's Diner for a mini breakfast.
We then disassembled the recumbent, loaded it into the car, and drove out to Alfred. We wasted a few minutes exploring Alfred's campus, then had proper breakfast with a friend.
By then, BicycleMan was open, so we brought the bike in and had its builders look it over. Other than minor adjustments, they report it as still serviceable.
My body, however... while I could go on, I am badly banged up; the big bruise is gradually blooming and there are other aches and pains showing up. It seems prudent to abort, go home with Paul, and take time to convalesce and recover.
We'll stay the night here as planned, and tomorrow head back, taking a scenic route through the finger lakes rather than the expressway. Perhaps we'll stop to get some delicious steaks for tomorrow night.
It's been a weird, weird trip. Thanks for listening, and I hope you enjoyed this adventure's pictures.
Yesterday evening Paul and I drove to O'Briens inn, where things ended in July. After a nice supper and sleep, we had breakfast at Becky's Diner, then back to the inn. After putting my bike together, we went our separate ways.
Continuing the planned route took me through Elmira, Horseheads—they have a nice library there, the mafia always makes sure to do good public works—and onto Watkins Glen. Most off today's photos are from the finger lakes area.
I stopped at a diner for lunch, then headed on another 20 miles to the campground, 93km total.
Temperatures were cool, tonight will be cold but I have my good sleeping bag. And no bugs to contend with.
Tomorrow is another long day to make it home to Rochester, as I work Monday.
I made it home. Today was a long 115 km, I'm very tired. Cool again, but no rain so it's good. I had lunch at a meat place in Geneva, a pre-dinner in Farmington, then real dinner with Dave and Tim at McGregors, which was at 4 and I just made it there in time.
There was a lovely moon out at 2am when I got up to pee. I didn't take a picture though. I did get the sunrise over Seneca lake.
- Cue sheets: metric (km) or imperial (miles)
- Route sheets: metric (km) or imperial (miles)
- Route resources (campgrounds, bike shops and grocery stores)
- Resources booklet with centerfold calendar—for printing double-sided, using short edge/flip binding