Monday, 24 June 2013


I've gone and done it again.  What a tough life that I'm too busy to maintain a decent blog.  So with the hope that I can have a pizza delivered to my room, with a few cold beers and some music through meagre amplified devices I will sacrifice a meal at some sports bar outside the Holiday Inn express in Breezewood, PA just to keep you cyclelist junkies (Hi Mum) abreast of my last few days adventures.

Stubenville to Pittsburgh

Leaving Stubenville - which apparently had the most severe depopulation of any town in the US from 1980 to 2000, it showed a little, but we only zipped through.

  • Diversions to check out industrial wastelands from the highways
  • Crossing the bridge of steel - pretty horrible really, well in terms of cycling at least, but nice to look at.
  • Made a quick skip through West Virginia, the panhandle part.
  • Some pretty sweet hills, lovely ups and downs and curves and twists and turns.
  • Punctures
  • Can't believe I've been slugging a mountain bike tube all the way cross the country!

  • Trails
  • Meeting Scott
  • Lunch
  • Hairy roads into the city
  • Courthouse
  • hotel
  • Bus to dinner
  • Free dinner
  • beer
  • back to hotel
Water feature in Allegheny County Courthouse

It was my full intention to expand on these notes, but as you will see below was a busy weekend, and no let up as yet.  On friday we wee treated to a meal at the OTB Bicycle Cafe on the South side of Pittsburgh.  I'm not sure how it came about, but what a treat: great beers, great food, great service, and great fun.  That nice de-mob happy feel after 10 days riding and being in another very welcoming city.

A day in PGH

  • Up early
  • Swim

Bike PGH
Pittsbirgh Bike lane

  • "Full rapha"
  • Breakfast 4 miles away
  • hot & sweaty
  • amazing breakfast
  • Meetings
Bike PGH
The Porch

So we went and had a really good round table meeting with the guys from bike PGH, also from the city and other organisations with an interest in city cycling in the area.  Was a really good chat.  I was pretty much in the background, but have some good notes. The same themes are coming through.  There are similarities in Pittsburghs development to that of London in the 'modern era', at least on an American scale where the original city was defined by pedestrianised and horse and cart transportation, with a hilly topography, but though this was raised a lot, I didn't feel it to be any worse than Bristol or Brighton, apart from the heat and those lovely Paul Smith Wool socks!

I've been considering compiling a bingo card of the phrases that crop up in all these meetings.  Things like Infrastructure, Funding, Political Will, Re-urbanisation.  The themes are showing through.  It's also interesting that I neglected to really appreciate how much those that we meet want to learn from what's happening in London, and if nothing else this trip is opening up more direct ways of international cities to learn from each others best and worst practice.  

  • bike chat
  • stickers
  • bike ride
  • Beers at the Porch, Schneley Plaza - Eric the bartender with a bit of banter and local knowledge
  • Benches
  • Walking to the museum
  • Getting caught in another conversation about bikes with Diane (I think) Curtin.  Dammit I just want 5 minutes not talking about bikes.  But was a very pleasant intervention nevertheless.
  • Riding down the hill to the CBD
  • Bumping into Grant
  • Market Square
  • Big noisy harley bike
  • PPG Building
  • Fountain
  • Kids playing
  • dinosaurs
  • Bumping into Sarah & Antonia
  • Over the river to see the tailgate party
  • Preperation for Kenny Chesney gig
  • end of days
  • No one even complimented my socks
  • but at least woke me form a riverside nap to ensure I wasn't dead.
  • riding back  through the melle
  • back onto point park
  • getting lost in the underpass
Tailgate Party Riverside
Pittsburgh Underpass

One of the major things I rediscovered this weekend was the joy of exploring a city by bike.  My mind is so fixed on what the infrastructure is like - and I am growing almost as fed up with the phrase 'bicycle infrastructure' now as I was with 'sustainable development' a little over a year ago - that I forgot that the bike is such a great way to discover a new place.  In some instances even more so when there isn't anything set up specifically for bikes as you have to ride through the fabric of the city, and ask people for tips of how to get places.  All in all I had a great afternoon riding around, with highs and lows, and not a full picture, but a remaining fondness for the city.

  • Out to Devonshire
  • The most spectacular hospitality and food.  Lots of good company
  • fireflys
  • still hot
  • being a bit overwhelmed again
  • trying to avoid talking about bikes, but being dragged back in

Pittsburgh to Confluence

Quite honestly after such a packed weekend my head was awash with the ideas of bicycle infrastructure  federal funding, changing landscapes, brilliant intelligent company, societal ills, planning regulations, faliure of the state, freedom and expression. Where am I going? where is the world going? Where the fuck are we going... oh New York, in a week!  Yus... sorry, anyway, mind was so awash that the last to days have just flown by with me trying to concentrate on 'more important' things than just riding acorns the country.

P2P leaving PGH
Great Allegheny Passage

It's shameful that I've let the last couple of days riding pass by as a chore.  We came out of Pittsburgh on the Great Allegheny Passage, a trail that has recently fully opened all the way from Washington D.C. to Pittsburgh .  That's over 330 miles of dedicated cycle way (and other non motorised traffic).  Riding on a Sunday we were in the company of probably hundreds of leisure riders  making the most of the trail, the river and the early summer weather.

Youghiogheny River
Great Allegheny Passage

At Ohiopyle we turned off to visit falling water after Ice Cream.  Architectural mecca that it is.  A hot ride up was well worth it.  It is a strange situation to be visiting such places with people far more knowledgeable on matters of architecture and understanding of it's significance within the practice, but doesn't make my understanding or appreciation any different, which I feel is probably quite important.   Over 5,000,000 people have visited falling water.  My overwhelming feeling was just that it is a shame that it isn't still able to be used as a holiday home and party house, as that is what it was built for after all.  And how much I would like to live there.

Falling Water
Just the Architects

But anyway, on we went....

Swimming Spot

  • Detours
  • Directional Issues
  • A dip in the river
  • Off to dinner

Confluence to Breezewood

This is today...
It's hot
It rained
We started late after a cafe breakfast (at least there's real Maple Syrup here now)
First 20m along the trail
Then some lovely stuff through various Pennsylvania towns, many of which are blatantly just copying British place names (Somerset, Bedford, and so on).
Quite frankly with some navigational issues, but more so the sweat and heat and all irritations that brings with it are really meaning that I can't concentrate on much more than where to go in the evening, getting my picture at the top or the Rocky steps in Philadelphia and getting to New York!

Morning RIde
Before the Storm

But a note on Breezewood.. It's appalling  another junction on the freeways of America.  From where I type I can see neon signs advertising Shell, McDonald's, Denny's and Holiday Inn express.  Not inspiring.

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