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November 04, 2008

Election Day Bike Ride

It's election day, when we all need to focus on priorities, so I took the day off work and rode my bike. I started in McDonald, PA, kind of south of the PIT airport, and rode a newly opened section of trail to a favorite coffee shop in Peters Township.

The new trail section removes the need for an on-road detour that included hills that made me want to weep and call for my mommy. I love the new section because it's much much flatter (as railroad beds tend to be) but also because it's quite beautiful - bridges, tunnels, creeks, it's got it all.


Here's a GPS plot showing the old detour in purple and the newly opened trail route in yellow. EDIT: colors corrected /EDIT (I have more technology on my bicycle than most airplanes had in WW2.) You'll see I79 on the left side, and Route 19 on the right side to help you get oriented.

You can download the GPS file here. The next two charts compare the GPS elevation profile of the old/new routes. I hate climbing hills, I hated that detour, and I love the new route.

Note the distance on the detour is 4.0 miles, and the distance of the new trail is 3.6 miles. The altitude range on the detour elevation profile is from 850' to 1150', while the altitude range on the new trail profile is 875' to 1050'. GPS altimetry is not very accurate, but the profile trends are valid.

I had a few treats along the way. I fell into conversation with a rider going in my direction and it turned out to be Charles Beaumariage, who is a major player with the Montour Trail (which means, he does a lot of work and gets sniped at for it) - I believe he's a member of the Board Of Directors. I told him how cool the new trail segment was and thanked him for his efforts. Nice guy, it was good to meet him.

I had planned to stop at Farmhouse Coffee which is trailside in McMurray, PA. Excellent indie coffee shop, bike friendly, cool little seating area out back, WIFI and all you could hope for inside. Today I tried the special: a "Cubano", which is 2 shots of espresso, 2 sleeves of raw sugar, for $2. WOW. I had a Cubano and a cheese danish and it was like somebody pressed the Turbo button on my bicycle when I started back.

I had forgotten that since the time zone change, it would get dark earlier, and I was riding in the dark for the last half-hour. Fortunately I had my Planet Bike Alias HID light with me. I turned it on as I approached the (newly paved) National Tunnel and it really lit up the reflectors in the tunnel.

This new section IMO is the best few miles on the Montour Trail. I saw other improvements: the newly paved and marked National Tunnel, new trailhead placards, more mileposts, dispensers filled with doggy-doo bags, and a lot of "regular" people out enjoying the trail.

Stats for the day, for the numerically-obsessed: 33 miles, average moving speed 10.0 mph. I drove home in the dark, dropped my bike off at home, and voted. Life is good.


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