Sunday, 15 May 2016

Taking a ride around Pittsburgh...

The last time I returned from Pittsburgh, one of my colleagues asked me if I'd taken a bike ride. My answer was a rather shameful 'no' having cycled around San Antonio and Indianapolis as well as other places, such as Berlin, Amsterdam and Essen in Europe.

That's the bike I rode on the left of the shot...
Now that I'm back in Pittsburgh I felt I ought to take a ride and, just by a stroke of luck, while out walking this morning I stumbled across Golden Triangle Bike Rentals and, having recently discussed with Andy how we rarely see any Kona bicycles on the road, this little outfit down by the river had a selection of rides all made by Kona. I was made up as you can imagine. It cost US$8.00 for an hour ride or US$30 for the day so my colleague Paul and I decided to take a ride – and it was well worth it, I can tell you.

This contraption probably transported hot metal from the furnace
Apart from the fact that the bikes were incredibly well-maintained (ours seemed brand new) the route was all mapped out and it was all off-road on paths that were once railroad tracks. In other words, no danger from cars and with that came a tremendous amount of freedom. We were told to pay when we brought the bikes back and that we did.

On the Hot Metal Bridge heading south...
The path followed the north bank of the Monongahela River along what was known as the Eliza Furnace Trail towards Hot Metal Bridge, which we crossed and headed west through the South Shore Riverfront Park on what was now the South Side Trail. Along the way we passed Birmingham Bridge, then 10th Street Bridge, Liberty Bridge and the Smithfield Street Bridge. We had a brief look at Station Square and then, somewhere along the route, encountered a dead end. We had been told about this, but it still confused us momentarily until we found a route across the Fort Pitt Bridge back to the North Bank of the Monongahela where it meets the Ohio River. We could have followed the Ohio River along it's northern bank on what was called the Chateau Trail or the Allegheny River's Strip District Trail on its south bank, or crossed the Fort Duquesne Bridge and followed the North Shore Trail, but instead we headed back along the Monongahela River towards the Golden Triangle rental shop where we started, although things didn't go 100% as planned. Once over the Fort Pitt Bridge we lost our way and ended up on the riverside looking for a way up to the trail level. Eventually we had to carry our bikes up a flight of concrete steps and eventually found ourselves back on the trail and yards from the rental shop*. We'd been out for just over an hour and had enjoyed an invigorating ride in threatening weather. It was bitterly cold.

The guy in the rental shop told us that the Great Allegheny Passage leads all the way to Washington DC, 345 miles away, and that just before we had arrived to hire our bikes, a party of cyclists had headed out on that very journey, described as 'a multi-day adventure'. To go to DC you cross the Hot Metal Bridge, but instead of turning right, as we did, you turn left and keep going. If you don't cross the Hot Metal Bridge but keep going you come to the Panther Hollow Trail that borders Schenley Park and stops close to the Phipps Conservatory.

An old slag pot...
The trail we took was full of Pittsburgh's steel heritage as the photographs illustrating this post testify.

What the cycle trail looks like...
There are 25 miles of traffic-free riverside trail in Pittsburgh and, in addition to the city's steel heritage, you might stumble across the odd homeless person asleep in a sleeping back or in a tent en route. I'm not mentioning this for any underhand reason, just saying that there are homeless issues wherever you go in the world and one thing I know is that in the cold weather, being homeless can't be any fun.

Pittsburgh's iron and steel heritage is recognised on the cycle trail.
The guys at Golden Triangle will also provide a map that not only details the routes of the trails, which are fairly easy to follow, but also list various restaurants, museums, ice cream parlours, bars and restaurants that can be found en route, and you don't have to ride alone as guided tours are also on offer.
The Canadian-Pacific Railroad – a never-ending goods train...
I'm not sure how many of my readers will find themselves in Pittsburgh, but here's the details, should you need them:-
More of the Hot Metal Bridge...
* On Thursday I hired another bike and revisited Sunday's route, but this time I managed to stay with the trail once over Fort Pitt Bridge – it meant a little time on Pittsburgh's roads, but it was fine.

Golden Triangle Bike Rentals and Tours
Downtown Pittsburgh
600 First Avenue
Pittsburgh PA 15219
Tel: (412) 600-0675

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