Pennsylvania with it’s ups and downs


Brandon dropped us off late Thursday afternoon at the trailhead to the Pine Creek Rail Trail.  We changed in his van and started to piece it all together again.  A week off the road after only starting a week prior was making it feel like another beginning.  It was cool with dreary overcast skies.  Here we go, back out in to it all.  The trail lay before us like a red carpet as we started pedaling.  Brandon ran alongside us for about a half mile as a send off.  It was fun to see when he was going to turn back….we laughed the whole time.  Thanks Brandon and Jennifer for hosting us in your wonderful little cabin.  It felt like a retreat for us and it was so nice spending time with you. Nice to meet Mina and Charles as well.

Brandon seeing us off

To start with, the Pine Creek Rail Trail was just amazing.  Teeming with wildlife, endless waterfalls, and a grade that took us downhill for 60 miles-we just kept on smiling the whole time.  It was a blissful start to riding in PA.

No cars allowed

One of three porcupines spotted on the same day!

Waterfalls peeking through the foliage around every corner

Separate but equal

Grey skies and beautiful leaves on the trail

We've witnessed flood damage from Irene all along the way, here we saw a whole field of tomatoes rotting on the vine

After Pine Creek we stopped in Woolrich, PA to  buy some socks.  Just before we got there we spotted the CONAN blimp in the sky.  We wonder if they saw us?

Yeah Conan O'Brien!

We’ve had a love hate relationship with Pennsylvania.  We’ve biked on some of the best rails to trails and we’ve been on the sides of some of the toughest roads.  Perhaps it’s Halloween, that we seem to be ghosts on the main roads.  Drivers have cut us off dangerously and repeatedly, even staring right at us and pulling out.  Not sure what to make of drivers in PA, we hate to generalize, but we may have to.

Common sight on PA roads, even by a recreational town park!

We abandoned our effort to ride into Pittsburgh due to impending weather, lack of safe routes and general unease about drivers in these parts. We picked the best route we could muster between Pine Creek Rail Trail and The Ghost Town Rail Trail.  We love riding on the rails to trails so we are trying to connect  them in our travels.  In between these two trails we went through Altoona and up and over the Cresson Ridge, where we came upon the Allegheny Portage Railroad.  A National Park site with wonderful exhibits. The railroad used to pull canal boats over the mountains.

Lunch Break at Allegheny Portage Railroad site

Old Portage Railroad

High Point of the day

We loved riding the Ghost Town Trail from Ebensburg to Black Lick, PA.  We met some terrific people in Indiana County! One fellow told us it’s like Vermont, but without the hype.  We agreed.  We found the Ghost Town Trail interesting in the fact that halfway through it we crossed a county line.  The first county had neglected their kiosks, benches, and general infrastructure.  When we crossed in to Indiana county the difference was astounding-clean restrooms, maps were stocked, info on  local businesses….we could feel the pride and there were happier people as well.  We had a wonderful stop in Dilltown at a cute store + cafe.   Finishing the trail we headed on to Blairsville where we decided to head south and get on the Great Allegheny Passage (GAP) sooner. We got on in Collinsville some 60 miles south of Pittsburgh and have now been picking our way along the GAP in some really wet weather. We are so thankful that we decided to invest in tough jackets for all conditions-the Patagonia Piolet.

Nice sign

The leaves crunch beneath our wheels

Indiana County, PA

Remains of Iron Furnace on Ghost Town Trail

Currently, we are in Rockwood, PA with our first chance at internet in days – no cell service through this stretch either. We stayed at a hostel last night that is connected with some great shoppes.  It’s called the Hostel on Main, and we were excited to find affordable lodging in this region.  All the other towns on the trail have rooms starting at $100, one even quoted that rate if you bring your own sheets! We haven’t seen any other cyclists yet and have found some of the towns to be closed for the season. We are going to continue our ride to DC and then we’ll pick up an Adventure Cycling route down the coast to get to warmer weather ASAP.

We are heading into Cumberland, Maryland today as we cross the Eastern Continental Divide on the GAP.  Once we reach that highpoint it’s all downhill to Washington DC-yay!  Beginning in Cumberland we’ll start on the C&O Canal Towpath, 184 miles of off road biking!  We did a portion of this back in 2009, you can read about it here.

As we travel we are often asked “How can you do this? How do you have the money?”.  Honestly, we try to live as simply as possible with our money mostly going to food and occasional shelter.  We are going to address this, and how we do it in a coming post.

Thanks so much to all of you for your support thus far!  See you soon.

Bryan and Debi


16 Responses to “Pennsylvania with it’s ups and downs”

  1. Beautiful. Just beautiful! I miss the fall back east :)

  2. 3 leslie seery

    beautiful pictures. stay warm in the rain and snow. love ya

  3. 5 George

    I enjoy following your trip! (and the RR tickets)

    EMS Saratoga

    • 6 thrubike

      Hi George!

      Thanks for following along – glad the tickets made it your way!

      Enjoy the season!

  4. 7 Kate Cross

    Stay happy and healthy, you two! Thanks for the gorgeous photos!

    • 8 thrubike

      Thanks Aunt Kate!

      Hopefully, we can get to visit you sometime in the future – maybe on our return trip.

  5. 9 Jason

    Hope you took some pictures of Altoona for your dad. It’s the heart of his favorite railroad!

    • 10 thrubike

      Hey Jason,

      We chose to not ride the curve but man there is a lot of railroading going on in these parts. I think I have seen more trains in one day than I have living 11 years in northern VT!

      Take Care

  6. 11 Jake

    Great pictures! Greetings from Jake and Steph in Lock Haven, PA! It was nice to meet you guys, albeit briefly.

    Sorry to hear about your bad experiences with PA drivers. On secondary and smaller roads most drivers can tend to be courteous and usually have given us a full-lane width as they pass (aside from the occasional sociopath). However, on larger state routes like PA44 and most of 150 (both PA bike routes), our experiences have been similar to yours with people driving too fast and with little regard for the well-being of cyclists or even other drivers on the road.

    We’ll be following your trip, good luck with everything, stay safe and have fun!

    • 12 thrubike

      Thanks for following along!

      It was nice to meet you both as well.

      Take Care

  7. You guys look so cold . Looking at you reminds me that in 2 weeks I will be back in a cold and wet NJ.

    Frank, Bike cop (ret)

  8. Yay Brian and Debi! We LOVE you guys! Awesome post and pictures! We got your card this evening and we really enjoyed it!
    We hope you are staying warm. Brother, Super Buddy, Ashes and Pearl say “Hey” and we all miss you! Stay simple and….ride on!

    With warm furry kisses and hugs!

    The Smithville Gang!

  9. 15 Gretchen

    Glad to start following you again. We miss you. Great shot of the leaves. Peace and good vibes be with you. We’ll catch up soon I hope.

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