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Stage - Position Bike, Gear, and Car

I need to move my bike and gear to a bike shop near the start south of Pittsburgh, take my car to Woodbridge, VA, then return to the bike shop to start the ride. I also want to check out how to get to the trail from the bike shop, and how to ride from Lincoln Memorial to my sister's in Woodbridge, VA. This will take just over 3 days.

Tuesday, July 6 from Laingsburg to Beyond Pittsburgh

The drive from Michigan to Big Bang Bicycles was uneventful. My bike and gear were placed in a room just off the showroom.

Glen Pawlak, the bike shop owner, said there were a couple routes to get onto the (future section) of the Great Allegheny Passage, but the one with the least traffic was the one I wanted to check out.

The route to the first turn choice was a moderate downhill with a couple signal lights included. The turn was a quick right leading to a railroad underpass, then a trip the wrong way down a factory drive, a zig, a zag, then a turn to the west entrance of Sandcastle Water Park. But wait; there's more. Go through the entrance, down the drive, right around the edge of the parking lot, past the attraction and out the east entrance. Still with me? Now go left onto Waterfront Drive to the Fish Market just past Fuddruckers. A piece of the Great Allegheny Passage was just behind the Fish Market. As I would discover, the next mile is the only finished part of the Passage until you get to McKeesport, over 6 miles of busy roads ahead.

With that checked off my list, I would drive on for a couple more hours to take a room at the Hillcrest Motel, a favorite of truckers at Bedford, PA. As I left my car, I could hear a number of semis with their engines running. The desk clerk promised me a quiet room on the other side of the building, and that's what he delivered.

Wednesday, July 7 to sister Alice's (Woodbridge,VA)

Someone once said the interstates were constructed so that you could drive from one coast to the other without seeing a damn thing. I was on the Pennsylvania Turnpike where the scenery did change from time to time, but I was basically a passenger with the aid of cruise control.

Then I saw it, and my alertness went up several notches. Coming into sight a ways ahead of me was a small car with a stalk rising above the roof. My first thought: Google Car ! Just in case the cameras were rolling, I slowly crept up on it. As I got closer, it looked like they were running a different configuration of cameras. I'm even closer now. Ironically, it looked like, yes, very much like ... a bicycle. Oh drat! It was time to leave fantasy land and go back to lack-of-adventure land.

As I was making my transition from the Pennsylvania Turnpike to more normal roads, I pulled off to the exit shoulder. It was time to flip a map page and see what the next hour would hold for me. As it turned out, the first thing would be a personal introduction from a uniformed officer of the Pennsylvania State Police. I checked my speed, and immediately felt relieved as it still read zero mph. He just wanted to be sure I was OK.

Talk about excitement, it just didn't get any better than that, unfortunately, until I got into Washington, D.C. I wanted to check out the tail end of my ride to my sister's in Woodbridge, VA., 30 miles away.

I entered the D.C. area on the scenic George Washington Memorial Parkway along the Virginia side of the Potomac River where the speed limit is 45mph, but far from safe for bicycle travel. Good thing I was in my car. I crossed the Potomac on the Theodore Roosevelt bridge and went to loop around Lincoln Memorial was easy; actually looping was impossible as traffic was directed up the road along the National Mall. I wanted to get across the bridge that goes to Arlington Cemetery, and the police didn't want to help me with instructions, so I turned the way he wanted and looped around, and ended up going down a busses-only street.

Now I thought this would be a good situation, hoping to be pulled over by a cop that would talk to me. No such luck, so I challenged fate again and parked in a bus-only parking area and walked over to a building containing public servants that tell people where to go. The nice lady (who it turned out, must have come to work on public transportation), gave me specific instructions, the third turn of which was to take a road that was blocked off for construction.

I finally got across the bridge on my own, then got back on the scenic George Washington Memorial Parkway - but going west. It seemed like forever before I found an exit that would get me back on the Parkway going the way I wanted.

I checked out my route down along the Mt. Vernon Multiuse Path, as much of it as I could see from the Parkway, all 15 miles to Mt. Vernon, and then the remaining 15 miles to my sister's house. It was a viable route for a bicycle, but not entirely so for a motor vehicle, having a pedestrain-only gate to go through a park.

I proceeded to my sister's home, and we visited that evening.

Thursday, July 8 to Comfort Inn (Pittsburgh,PA)

I had two choices to get from D.C. to Pittsburgh:
1. Leave in the morning and get into Pittsburgh about 10pm, including a 2-hour layover part way there.
2. Leave at 4pm, roughly follow the C&O Canal, and get into Pittsburgh about midnight.

I took the later (and latter) option. This gave me time to visit the Smithsonian Museum in the early afternoon.

I got to Union Station in D.C. an hour before departure with my computer-generated ticket in hand. Swiping my ticket at the self-service computer got me a rejection, so I had to join the line being served by humans. The nice lady took my ticket and read it into her machine.

"Your train has already left" said the nice lady, "yesterday". Apparently, when I ordered my ticket on-line, I had the wrong day.

"What can I do?" said I.

"I can give you a voucher for the value of the ticket", she told me, and did.

"Now, when would you like to use your voucher?", she asked.

"RIGHT NOW", I softly shouted. She could sell me a ticket on my same train for an additional $15. I took the deal rather than open another suitcase, and headed for my train. Before it got out of the metro area, it was a half hour behind. There was a slow Metro train ahead of it with a higher priority.

The ride was great, with much of it following one side of the Potomac or the other, with glimpses of what I would be seeing from my bicycle.

When I arrived at the station in Pittsburg, I called the taxi company for a cab. They eventually sent one, but the driver took the scenic route, insisting it was the shortest way. I'd called them in my planning process; the dispatcher said it should cost about $12.50. I'd planned on giving the cabby $20, and did, but his way was $19.50, so there was only fifty cents left for his tip. I was, of course, devastated.

It was after midnight when I presented myself at the desk of the Comfort Inn. They couldn't find my reservation. I was too travel weary to realize I'd made the same scheduling error as I did with my Amtrak ticket, so I assumed it was their fault. The nice lady disappeared for a few minutes, then returned to tell me they were giving me the whirlpool room. When the paperwork showed it to be an additional $20, I complained. She said she would fix it, and gave it to me for $5 less than I had originally expected.

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