Day 0: Getting to Pittsburgh to Start the GAP/C&O Tour

Well, the moment finally arrived!!!! Whether I liked it or not, I was going to ride my bike from Pittsburgh, PA to Washington, DC (yes, I liked it but that the same time, what the hell am I doing?). As I highlighted in my previous post, I was doing this ride with my friends and #bikedc members, John (@rootchopper) and Kevin (@bicyclebug). While I was pretty excited, I was also a bit anxious. I wasn’t sure how my body would hold up during back-to-back-to-back….(you get the idea)…..metric centuries on gravel. My right elbow has not been in the best of health for the past year or so as well. While it has really improved since some additional bike fitting, the healing has been slow going. However, the timing to do this ride was right and….well….bucket lists and such, so I went for it.

After consulting with my John and Kevin, we decided we would do this trip with very little planning. Only two things needed planning: how to get there and where to stay in Pittsburgh. The “how to get there” part was the most difficult part. Initially, we were just going to rent a car. However, finding a one-way rental car/van large enough to fit three full sized bikes and three men was a challenge especially considering we couldn’t use a bike rack (unless we want to bike it back to DC or toss it in the garbage) nor could one remove seats in a one-way rental. I even considered renting a small moving truck but those didn’t have room for us to sit.

Eventually, through various Great Allegheny Passage (GAP) websites, I discovered Get and Play Outfitters. They offer shuttle services from anywhere along the GAP and C&O Canal. It turns out there a a number of companies which offer shuttle services. After getting price quotes from a couple of places, I called Get and Play and made a reservation. While this service was more expensive (a little over $500 for three people and three bikes) than renting a car (if you can find one large enough as a one-way rental), the convenience factor was so high it was completely worth it. Next, I reserved a room at the Wyndham Grand Hotel located conveniently across the street from Mile 0 of the GAP. As entertainment for the evening, Kevin bought us tickets to see the Pirates and the Cardinals play at PNC Park.

With the packing complete and the kitchen sick loaded, Saturday morning arrived early. Kevin met me in front of my house for the trip to the Columbia Island Marina to meet John and our shuttle. Upon arrival, I discovered that the shuttle was driven by one of my former co-workers at the Maryland Department of Planning. Turns out he likes to run these shuttles on the weekend with his wife. The bikes fit perfectly inside the large van and we were officially off!!!!! 

Our bikes fit snugly in our Get Out and Play shuttle van to Pittsburgh. Photo by DCyclist

Our bikes fit snugly in our Get Out and Play shuttle van to Pittsburgh. Photo by DCyclist

During the drive, we were discussing our arraignments for the trip with Dave, our shuttle driver. We told him we had a hotel in Pittsburgh but that was it. We were just going to wing it since we all had camping gear We were completely untethered. Dave was all for the “no plan” option especially this early in the spring. Our plan was “no plan” so there was “no wrong plan”. Alas, the hashtag for this bike tour was born. We were #nowrongplan.

Our shuttle rolled into the hotel and dropped us off at the front door. The hotel staff has obviously seen a lot of “thru-riders” stay there because they has absolutely no issues with bringing our bikes up to the room. Upon entering our room, we discovered this:

The view from our hotel room in Pittsburgh overlooking the starting point for the GAP Trail

The view from our hotel room in Pittsburgh overlooking the starting point for the GAP Trail

Now that we were in Pittsburgh, we had the afternoon to kill before we headed over to PNC Park for the baseball game.What does one do when you have an afternoon to waste before a baseball game on a beautiful spring day?

Answer: find beer!!!!

We left of hotel bound for Penn Avenue where we were told beer of the semi-artisanal variety could be found. Upon reaching Penn Avenue we discovered one of Pittsburgh’s protected bike lanes. Notice that Pittsburghians (thats probably not a word but it is now) sure know how to jaywalk across the streets. On the upside, #nowrongplan walked a good portion of this protected bike lane and never saw a car driving or parking in it…so progress. Do you hear me DC!?!?!?!?!

Penn Avenue Cycletrack in Pittsburgh, PA

Penn Avenue Protected Bike Lane in Pittsburgh, PA

After wandering around and ogling Pittsburgh’s bike infrastructure, we reached what we were looking for. Sharp Edge looked inviting and met our beer snob requirements. We grabbed some much needed food and “hydration” before continuing to walk down Penn Avenue.

@rootchopper enjoying a beer at Sharp Edge during a #nowrongplan tweet storm

@rootchopper enjoying a beer at Sharp Edge during a #nowrongplan tweet storm. Stay thirsty my friend. Photo by The DCyclist

As we walked over the Roberto Clemente Bridge toward PNC Park, we realized that either Pittburghians like to blow stuff up or they really hate bike lanes. However, I suspect its how they get people in Pittsburgh to come out for events across the city. You provide fireworks and they will come.

Possibly a war on bike lanes or just a massive amount of fireworks. Photo by The DCyclist

Possibly a war on bike lanes or just a massive amount of fireworks. Photo by The DCyclist

PNC Park is one of the nicest baseball stadiums I have experienced. I see it as the perfect combination of vintage baseball nostalgia and modern appointments. Before the game started, a local bike blogger, Red, came by to meet us and say hello. It was great meeting a member of the local bike community. John knows all the bike bloggers.

Now back to the baseball game.

The Pirates put on a pretty exciting game. There was lots of scoring, some via home runs, some not. The highlight of excitement was a 4-5-4 triple play. After the game, they announced it was the first 4-5-4 triple play in baseball history but ESPN’s Sportcenter that night noted it was the first one of the season. I am not sure which was correct but I do know it was an awesome play!!!! After the utter domination of the Cardinals, it was time for the firewalls display which beat the displays of many cities I have seen on the Fourth of July. Maybe, the great citizens of Pittsburgh are on to something with this fireworks thing.

Fireworks over PNC Park after the Pirates victory, Photo by The DCyclist

Fireworks over PNC Park after the Pirates victory, Photo by The DCyclist

On Sunday morning, the pedaling begins…….

Continue to Day 1

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3 thoughts on “Day 0: Getting to Pittsburgh to Start the GAP/C&O Tour

  1. I followed along reading rootchopper’s daily posts. You guys had a great time. Brandon and I begin our ride on June 2nd. We are also going with minimal planning.

    • Good luck, definitely recommend staying at Yoder’s in Meyersdale. The owner was so nice to us. I would make a reservation though. Not too many other options in that town.

  2. Excellent article! I like the baseball reference. In 1973 Brooks Robinson ot the Baltimore Orioles initiated two 5-4-3 triple plays. I have been to many baseball games but have never seen a triple play. It is a real feat to witness a triple play in a major league baseball game. Congratulations!

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