Leg Nine – Tunneling Through the Eastern Divide


We made 73 miles today, from Frostburg to Connellsville on the Great Alllegheny Passage. Frostburg lived up to its name with a chilly and drizzly morning, and we slept later on our BNB beds that in our tents the previous night. Between finding a cafe for breakfast, packing the gear we had left out to dry, and trying unsuccessfully to find raisins for homemade trail mix in walking distance, we got a late start on the trail – 10:30.

The bike trail climbed gently again for the first eight miles to the Eastern divide. The first highlight was the Big Savage Tunnel – 3900’ long, but lighted. The divide was not much farther on – at 2300’, it’s the highest elevation I will see until I get to the Great Plains. From the divide, we started down the longer and gentler grade towards Pittsburgh. We soon fell into a family draft pack. We let the 30 year old on the light road bike with skinny tires lead and pull his parents along, and we were soon making 12 mile hours. I rode cleanup since one wanted to draft behind my bike with the guitar neck sticking out beyond the wheel.

Our lunch stop was at the Rockwood Opera House and Mill Shops. One of the pleasures of bike touring is finding quirky little eateries along the way. This one had a model railroad set running around the wainscoting. The counter woman wore an engineers cap.

After Rockwood, the spectacular Salisbury Viaduct brought us into the Cassellman River gorge. The Pinkerton Tunnel was a little further down the way with a trestle over the deep gorge, leading to the 850’ (very dark in sunglasses) tunnel, followed by another trestle over the gorge.

This was beautiful riding through a lush symphony of laurels and hemlocks, and occasional stands of tall straight spring-green trees (sycamores?), with a bass note of the churning Casselman River down the steep bank to the right, and occasional tenor notes of the waterfalls cascading through rocks and laurels to the left. I don’t know if I have done a pleasanter ride through the woods. This is the landscape that inspired Frank Lloyd Wright; his Falling Waters house is nearby.
By the time we reached Ohiopyle, Justin”s rear tire was losing air. The bike shop was closed though (the sign on the door said it was usually open until five or six but sometimes closed at four). We kept stopping to pump air in the tire until we were stopping every mile, with fifteen miles to go. So we finally broke down and got out the patch kit. Fortunately the patch was successful, since we didn’t have proper size spare tube for Justin’s bike.

With the flat fixed, eager to make Connellsville before dark, we picked up the pace and through the evening woods at a fifteen mile per hour pace. We are staying at the Connelsville BNB because the 43 degree forecast is too cold for our sleeping bags. It’s great to see all the businesses that cater to bike tourists along the GAP trail – a long distance bike traveler feels welcome here, not the oddity


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