Great Allegheny Passage Trail

Tuesday, September 1

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Today, I departed West Newton and rode to Connellsville, PA. I rode of total of 27.49 miles, gained 571 feet in elevation.

The day started at Bright Morning B&B in West Newton, operated by Mary Lou and Robb, who have been running the B&B for 20 years. They started with one house, located directly on the trail, and over the years, acquired four houses - all in a row. Breakfast was from 7:30 to 8:30 am, and there was sufficient outdoor seating for all except one group, which had an indoor dining table to themselves. Breakfast was a serving of scrambled eggs with a few sausage crumbles and topped with shredded cheddar, some fresh watermelon chunks and a toasted English muffin. It was more than sufficient.

After breakfast, I went back to my room and started the process of getting everything back in the two panniers and double-checking to make sure that I left nothing behind. My laundry was dry, so I folded it into one of my packing cubes, and it will be my bike outfit for tomorrow's ride.

Today's theme was sounds.

I wanted to dilly-dally a little bit because I had a relatively short route (25 mph) planned for today, and the visitor's center in West Newton was going to open at 11 am. I wanted a peek inside, and I wasn't in a hurry since check-in time at my lodging at today's end town is not before 3 pm.

It was muggy and very humid today. Everything on me was drenched with sweat, and I was dripping wet. And this was before I pedaled away from the B&B. Just down the trail - next to the restaurant where I bought my dinner the night before - was a bike shop, so I thought I'd stop there and ask them if I might use their floor pump and make sure my tires were at the proper pressure. They were just opening up and were happy to let me use the pump.

I started with the rear tire, and immediately there was a problem. As I put the clamp on the stem, I heard more hissing than usual. I tried again, made sure I had the pump seated correctly on the valve, and began pumping. But I just couldn't reach the appropriate pressure. I stopped and listened. Hissing. Apparently, I had damaged the valve stem, and the tube needed to be replaced.

Well, I thought. Lucky me. I'm at a bike shop, so I'll just go inside and ask to buy a tube and have it replaced.

Welcome to 2020. Bike shops are doing a great business right now, selling bikes (if they have them in stock) and doing tune-ups for bikes that everyone is pulling out of their garage after neglecting for years. But because of the pandemic the supply chain for many items has been disrupted. This was why the bike shop in West Newton did not have a tube in the size for my tires (26" wheels, a little bit unusual but not unheard of). Fortunately, I was carrying two extra tubes, and the repair was accomplished quickly. I asked the mechanic if there might be a bike shop in Connellsville where I could get a 26"x1.5" tube, and he was doubtful because other riders who needed the same thing a few days ago reported that they were having a hard time finding them.

Yikes. So my tire's good to go, but I'm down to only one spare. That should be fine because this is the first time (in six years) that I've ever needed to replace a tube on this bike. Then again.... I'm down to one spare.

After I left the bike shop, I pedaled a short distance into town to find the post office so I could mail post cards to Steve and Mom. By then, it was just after 11 am, and I knew the visitor's center would be open, so I went back there and looked around for a few minutes. I decided it would be silly to get any souvenirs now when I would be coming back through in a few days.

Outside the visitor's center, I talked with two other bicyclists who were heading the opposite direction, and they gave me a few tips on the route ahead. They mentioned that there was a nice little park about halfway into my route near Whitsett Junction and then after that, the trail is in the forest and without any water stops all the way into Connellsville.

Finally, around 11:15, I headed down the trail for my day's ride. I kept hearing another noise that I didn't like. I heard it yesterday, too, and it was annoying. Something was rubbing. I figured it was the front fender. I had just put new tires on the bike before this trip (the ones I removed were at least 6 years old and were starting to show cracks). The new tires were just a little bigger, so the clearance between them and the fenders was less. And because I am now riding on a trail with packed pea gravel, I'm picking up a little more debris, and perhaps some of it just makes more noise before it clears the fender.

After riding about 5 miles listening to that noise, I couldn't stand it anymore and pulled in at a trail service area to make adjustments. After about 15 minutes of fiddling with the front fender and getting even sweatier, I felt satisfied and got back on the trail. Dang noise was still there. Not only that, but my hearing aid - which I had carefully wrapped in plastic before starting out - couldn't handle the rivers of sweat pouring down the side of my head, and it started screeching an error tone and gave up the ghost. I stopped and took it out and stashed it in my handlebar bag.

By this point, I had not even ridden 7 miles, a pathetic effort for the time of day - nearly noon. Despite the continuing annoying noise, I resolved to head on and not stop again until I had ridden 15 miles.

I passed the location of a former coal mine of the Pittsburgh Coal Company, the which suffered one of the worst mining disaster in the U.S. in 1907 when a gas and coal explosion at the Darr Mine killed 239 miners. Three years later, the mine was in operation again, and it closed in 1956.

Before my odometer reached 15 miles, I arrived at that nice little park near Whitsett Junction, with a sign that this was the last chance for water before Connellsville. Okay, I'll stop. It was nearly 1 pm, and I might as well enjoy the sack lunch from the B&B before I head off into the forest.

But first I unloaded everything from the bike and looked again for the reason for the noise. Another cyclist there suggested the rear fender could be the source, and I also find that the rear brake rotor was rubbing slightly. I fixed them both, ate my lunch, filled my water bottles and then headed on.

This time, Earl (that's my bike's name) was reassuringly silent. I could hear the crickets again and no more "hiss-hiss-hiss" of a rubbing fender. That's when my left hearing aid gave me the tone that means its battery is depleted. I kept riding. In silence.

It was so quiet, and I was in the forest, on a beautiful trail, hearing pretty much nothing. Ahead on the trail stood a small doe. I slowed down, and she let me ride a little closer before she stepped off the trail into the woods. But she didn't bound away up the mountainside as I thought she would. She just stood and watched me as I rode by.

Just before I entered the heavily wooded part of the trail, it was sunny and hot. I remembered to put on some sunscreen. But now, I was under a full canopy of shade, and the temperature was at least 10 degrees cooler. Occasionally, I caught a glimpse of the Youghiogheny River on my left, and once or twice saw people in rafts, drifting lazily down the river.

I arrived on the outskirts of Connellsville shortly before 4 pm. The trail passed directly in front of my lodging for tonight - the Comfort Inn - but I felt the need for a cup of coffee. Just on the edge of town, I stopped to ask a couple of young people where I could get a good cup of coffee, and they could think of only one place - the gas station - Sheetz. (Yes, the same one I stopped at on Sunday.)

So I cycled past the Comfort Inn and went a few blocks into town when I spotted a bike store. Aha! I'll ask them if they have a tube in the right size. As it turns out, they did, so I bought it. Then I asked where one could get a good cup of coffee. They said Sheetz or Valley Dairy.

"Oh?" I asked. "That sounds like a place which might also have some ice cream," which sounded good to me right now. And indeed they did have ice cream. A small dish of ice cream and a cup of coffee later, I was fully rejuvenated.

I had noticed as I left the bicycle shop a marvelous aroma of garlic, and I spotted a tiny Italian restaurant. I decided to come back there for supper and ask about outdoor seating.

At the Comfort Inn, I was pleasantly surprised at a practically new facility. And - luxury of luxuries! - a guest laundry (i.e., a washing machine)! No washing clothes in the sink tonight.

I took a shower and went downstairs to do my laundry. Once my laundry was finished, I hung the sweet-smelling clothes up to dry in the bathroom and headed back to Ruvo's, the Italian restaurant.

They did have outdoor seating, but it was all spoken for, and only one or two tables inside remained. I asked if they served wine. No, it was all BYOB.
"Where can I buy some?" I asked.
"The gas station down the street....Sheetz."

So I accepted the offer of a tiny table away from their main dining area, tramped off to get my wine, and came back.

I was glad I did. This food was world class! I don't know how the cook did it, because his kitchen is smaller than my own, and he was cooking pasta in two pots boiling on hot plates.

But he knows what he's doing. The trail cuisine is pretty much burgers and pizza, and I felt in the need of pasta. A few RAGBRAI-style church dinners would be a hit on this trail. Most menus I see are burgers, pizza, and fried stuff.

But tonight, I dined on lobster ravioli and a small side salad. I know it is impolite to lick one's plate in a commercial dining establishment, but this was one time that I was sorely tempted to be rude.

Fully fueled with pasta, I walked back to my hotel and started making plans for tomorrow. The planned ride is only 5 miles longer than today's but the weather could make things interesting. The forecast high temperature is 80 degrees, with an 80 percent chance of rain.

The trail has reached the foot of the Chestnut Ridge, the western range of the Allegheny Mountains. I'll start climbing and cross the Eastern Divide before I reach Cumberland. From what people tell me, this and Thursday's ride are the prettiest parts of the route. I'm looking forward to it.

Today's lesson: If it ain't broke, stop trying to break it.
Silence is golden. (Or it might not actually be silence if your hearing aids quit working.)

Banning No. 1 -site of a mining disaster in 1907

Banning No. 1 -site of a mining disaster in 1907. For better readability, see Or for more details, see

sack lunch

Sack lunch from the Bright Morning B&B - turkey wrap, fruit, raisin bread, and chips

Bridge across the Yough to a picnic spot

Bridge across the Yough to a picnic spot

Sign at the entrance to Connellsville

Connellsville - gateway to the Laurel Highlands

Sign about Chestnut Ridge and the American chestnut trees

Sign about Chestnut Ridge and the American chestnut trees

Entering Connellsville

Decorative arch over the trail as it enters Connellsville, a home to an opalasecent glass factory (Chestnut Ridge visible in the distance)

Historic marker noting that General Braddock camped at Connellsville

Historic marker noting that British General Braddock (with his aide-de-camp, George Washington), camped at Connellsville

chocolate chip mint ice cream

Recovery food - chocolate chip mint ice cream from Valley Dairy

Room at the Comfort Inn

Earl shared my room at the Comfort Inn. Do not expect to be allowed to take your bicycle inside your B&B guestroom. Most of them provide a locked storage area for their guests' bicycles.

Bike shop in Connellsville

Bike shop in Connellsville

Ruvo's Italian restaurant in Connellsville

Great food, friendly people - get a reservation. This place doesn't have much seating, and the people on the trail know that it has great food.

Salad a Ruvo's Italian Restaurant

Salad at Ruvo's Italian Restaurant

Lobster ravioli at Ruvo's Italian Restaurant

Lobster ravioli at Ruvo's Italian Restaurant

Next - Tuesday, September 2
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