The Great Allegheny Passage

5/12/22

What a day! Wow. I hope I’m not overwhelming you with photos, but there was just so much to see along the GAP trail today.

Even just leaving Pittsburgh, I noted the Rachel Carson Bridge, the Andy Warhol Bridge, and the mural of prominent Black current and former Pittsburghers, including Billy Porter. This city has seen some interesting residents.

Then I made my way around Point State Park again, and unfortunately soon found myself pedaling through some pretty serious muck from recent flooding as I made my way through the urban part of the trail. (Fortunately I was able to rinse off some of the worst of it much later, when I found a drinking water tap along the trail that gushed forth with enough force to clean the fenders and tires a bit.)

Before long, though, the urban space gave way and I found myself in a lush riverside paradise. There were benches and shady trees. There were geese and cute furry creatures sharing the path, and even an eagle nesting nearby. (I did get a little nervous to pass that mother goose, and she did hiss at me—in both directions—but fortunately didn’t attack my bare legs, as I had feared.)

I encountered a large and deep puddle, and my heart briefly sank as I imagined having to pedal through it, but fortunately I soon saw another cyclist deftly swerving off the path into the wide rail right-of-way to avoid it. I later learned from my hosts that this puddle is affectionately known as “the lake,” and exists for several months each spring.

But this is Pittsburgh, so there were plenty of industrial views as well. I saw long, full coal trains chugging along adjacent to the trail. I also saw several old, dilapidated industrial buildings that hearkened back to an earlier age.

And I saw a water park, with many colorful slides… and soon afterward, a roller coaster from Kennywood, right next to the path! No one was making use of either of these attractions when I went by, but it was cool and fun to see them.

I made it out to McKeesport before turning around and heading back into town, for a total of about 30 miles of trail riding today. At one point, on my way back in, an older couple passed me and smiled, and I smiled back. I thought they looked slightly familiar, like maybe they reminded me of someone I knew, but I didn’t really think anything of it.

But when I stopped at a picnic table to rest and call a friend, what should I receive but the following text:

Whoa!! You might recall the wonderful time I spent with Ken and Liz in Houston. I don’t think we talked about Pittsburgh or the GAP when I was staying with them; if we did, I would have said I wasn’t going to be visiting here, because at the time I didn’t think I would.

What a small world.

When I got back into town, I stopped for dinner at a venerable southside vegetarian restaurant (19 years in that location, the server told me) called The Zenith. It is an eccentric place: a large vintage shop that also contains the restaurant. I ordered the vegan lasagna, and was shocked by the ample portion. (Not pictured: the included “side” of a large bowl filled to the brim with vegetable soup, and another bowl of tortilla chips on the side, since the server had overfilled the soup and couldn’t add the chips into it, though it was supposed to be tortilla soup.)

I ate the whole thing, and probably won’t need to eat again for another few days!

Afterward, I enjoyed a frozen strawberry margarita from a nearby Mexican restaurant and bar, which was a lovely way to wind down the day’s adventure.

Then I cycled back to my hosts’ neighborhood—through gorgeous evening light—and when they got home from a community garden gathering, we took the opportunity to chat some more, since I’ll be leaving at an ungodly hour in the morning and won’t see them then.

What a wonderful time I’ve had here in Pittsburgh. I’m looking forward to whatever magic may unfold in Philadelphia next, starting tomorrow!

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