GAP for Commute – a three day opportunity

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ejwme
Participant
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For three days next week, I may have the opportunity to use the GAP as part of a commute…

I’ll be at all day training at Waltz Mill (just north of the exit off 70) on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. Google maps says if I biked from my house, I might make it in 3 hours, 4 if I GAPed. I have to get there anyway, and I’d rather not drive the whole way.

But driving to Duquesne is not a burden I can’t bear. Duquesne is where the GAP “starts”. West Newton is where I’d get “off” the GAP and head East for 6 miles or so (on something called Mt. Pleasant Rd which sounds like exurban highway, I’ll scope it out on Monday).

My question is – does this make sense? I have to arrive by 8:30 AM, I’ve never ridden the GAP. I’m not opposed to doing bike prep in reverse the day before or maybe forward on day one and only using it for real on day three.

It just seems a waste of being so near such a lovely sounding trail not to attempt to use it, especially when I hate driving that far. Where would I get on (google seems confused)? Off? If my average time cycling in the burbs is 10mph, will it be similar on GAP? Anybody have any tips about biking in West Newton? (I’m headed halfway from West Newton to New Stanton, I think Waltz Mill has a population of 15 if you count the deer, there’s a big Westinghouse facility there is the only reason it’s an address).


JZ
Participant
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Consider lighting. If you have to arrive at 0830, then you’re doing most of the trip in the dark. The trail from Duquesne to West Newton includes a couple of shared-with-cars stretches (that fortunately aren’t very busy even in the middle of the day), a couple of bridges, and a bunch of time in the woods. Except for a little bit around McKeesport, it’s all unlit. You’d need lights not just to make yourself visible but also to illuminate your path.

Dress warm.


Shawn
Participant
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Wow. The GAP will be easy – nice flat trail, but I don’t know about the road part. There are some pretty big rolling hills, especially the one coming out of West Newton (rt 136). And remember, the drivers you encounter are NOT used to seeing people on the roads.


Mick
Participant
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You might want to park at Boston, rather than Duquesne. Duquesne is not a good neighborhood. The ride between Duquesne and Boston isn’t scenic.

With appropriate tires on your bike (fairly large, with some tread, but not knobbies), I think the GAP will be faster and easier than riding in Penn Hills. Not as fast as the Shadyside flatland streets, though.

Shawn’s right about hills when you get off the GAP. My impression is more “big, honking river bluffs” than “rolling hills”.

There aren’t many options going out of West Newton, but a mile or so from there, google shows some small roads like Bell’s Mill Rd and Turkey Town road. Hard to tell if those are better than the main roads or not.

I would want to wear a flourescent vest and have a bright tail light. People who know the narrow roads tend to make their tires squeal when they are late for work with a hangover.


ejwme
Participant
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I’m feeling pretty ok on the light issue, I’ve got a decent headlight and will add a maglight to the helmet for good measure.

There’s also the option of getting on the GAP in McKeesport rather than Duquesne, but I don’t see what that would save me.


JZ
Participant
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I disagree with Mick about Duqueusne -> Boston not being scenic. The Riverton bridge is one of my favorite trail features. On the other hand, if it’s dark, scenery probably doesn’t matter so much. :-)

I’ve never had a problem parking in Duqueusne. I usually park up near the library or the church. I’ve left vehicles there all day. The neighbors there are pretty nice- they smile, wave, say “hi”.

I rode that stretch this weekend and the trail was in good shape. I turned around a few miles short of West Newton because I had some time constraints.

I’m assuming you’ve ridden that stretch before. If not, I suggest doing it once in daylight before doing it in the dark. I also suggest that when you hit the “loop choice” in McKeesport, that you hang a left and go over the bridge. When I took the right-hand path outbound this weekend, there were a couple of stretches with lots of holes and large ballast, which I would not enjoy encountering in the dark. Maybe I’m just paranoid because I have poor eyesight to begin with.


ejwme
Participant
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Oh god – “loop choice” sounds designed to get me inescapably lost, wandering the wilds of Port Vue and trying to subsist off berries and grass clippings until someone finds me, clutching a bikepgh map and mumbling something about “the city”. Looking at the map it seems straightforward though (and was one of the options I’d considered… JZ – I’ll take your advice! thank you!)

I’m actually more concerned about the tire reccommendation… I’ve got slicks on, no knobs. And I’ve never ridden the trail there, but am planning on doing a scoping ride on Monday at the latest, maybe Tuesday after work. I may be able to fanangle a daylight ride by swapping a lunch for an evening (may have to, given access limits on space at work, good luck for once).

I may think a little more about whether I can fanangle a ride from West Newton over to work, or whether this should be a “fun after work” thing rather than a “look I don’t have to drive it all” thing.


Shawn
Participant
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I ride between mckeesport and West N with smooth 32s and no problems.


StuInMcCandless
Participant
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This could be fun, but rather than spend hours on river trails, I’d just drive out to somewhere around there and bike all over the little backroads N and E of Waltz Mill. I used to live on Arona Road (parallels the Turnpike from Irwin to New Stanton). Seanor Church Road would be an ideal road to explore, and Seanor Church would be an ideal place to park the car for a while… maybe all day. Tiny little country church waaaay back in off of the main drags.


Mick
Participant
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@ejwme … wandering the wilds of Port Vue and trying to subsist off berries and grass clippings until someone finds me

It’s Halloween! What better place to be than Dead Man’s Hollow?


ejwme
Participant
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Alright, I’ll bite. Dead Man’s Hollow?

(Thanks Shawn – I’d heard my tires were ok for this trail in theory, but after the recent flat I’m… nervous. nerves never stopped me before, no reason to now I guess)


Mick
Participant
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Dead Man’s Hollow

http://www.alleghenylandtrust.org/properties/deadman/overview/index.html

How to get there?

…when you hit the “loop choice” in McKeesport, that you hang a left and go over the bridge.

No, really.

PS – the Dead Man’s Hollow section of the loop is a lot easiter to find if you do it first from the Boston to town side, where you just need to keep going straight, than from the McKeesport side, where you need to follow a truck road to the end and go up through a utility clearing.


ejwme
Participant
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Deadman’s Hollow looks cool.

Is there something wrong with parking at the Food Bank? They’ve normally got tons of spaces… Looking at the driving I’d do, it makes more sense to park in the spaces along Water Street, near what looks like a marina – unless that’s a feed the meter or get towed type place? or private for boaters?


Shawn
Participant
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Did you happen to notice “Poverty Hollow Road” when looking at the map for the general area??? What a depressing name for a street!


JZ
Participant
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I ride the trail all the time with road 28s. I did Duquesne all the way to DC on those tires this summer, no tire-related problems.

For parking in McKeesport, I’ve always parked for free under the bridge by the Marina and never had a problem. I don’t know what the officiality of that is, but I see other people park there and load/unload bikes. You miss the Riverton bridge that way, though.

I think the loop is pretty well signed at this point. (That definitely was not the case in the past.) Last weekend, there was a brand new sign *explaining* the loop where it forked outbound from McKeesport, which I thought was a nice addition. (Alternatively, it’s been there for a while, and I never noticed it.)

Basically, just follow the “YRT” signs – you’ll start seeing them at the Marina. If you’re facing the river, go left. You’ll hook around behind what I think is a retirement home. You cross a road, and the trail is not-so-great in pieces along there, but some of it is brand-new asphalt. You turn right, go up a rise, and you come to the loop fork when you’re at a bridge. For the left hand path that I’m recommending, uh, go left. That means going over the bridge. That’s one of the few bridges where I use the sidewalk, because the signs say that bikes should do so. I ride down the sidewalk across the bridge, then stay on it as it bends left, and take it a short distance to the end (watch the bench!). At that point, there’s a crossing to another trail section which is super nice brand new asphalt. That merges onto a road for a short section, then bends off to the right again for the one thing that resembles a hill that you’l encounter. From there to West Newton, you’re on a really obvious trail, and you don’t need to think too hard about which way to go. I think the rest of it is pretty obvious if you see the signs, but I’m not sure how well the signs show up in the dark, particularly the blue&white “YRT” signs.


StuInMcCandless
Participant
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That hill out of West Newton on 31/136… Yeesh. I haven’t biked it, but any hill that requires trucks to stop at the top and read the sign, must qualify as a Serious Hill Indeed.

But hey, if you want to…

M’self, I’d drive 48/130/993 to/through Irwin and park in the plaza by Payless Shoes, and bike from there. Barnes Lake Rd, Clay Pike, Irwin-Herminie Rd, Madison Rd, and Waltz Mill Rd, looks like something I might attempt on the first day, anyway.


salty
Participant
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I think Waltz Mill is technically part of Madison, which is where I grew up. I haven’t really been back there in a while but I certainly remember that hill out of West Newton. I’ve never biked it but it’s pretty long and pretty steep and would definitely be a challenge.

Right up the street from the sign stu posted is another sign that says ‘TRUCKS AND ALL TRAILERS PROHIBITED’ – IIRC they are not allowed to go down the hill at all. I think there was a terrible accident in the 70’s (or earlier?) where a truck lost its brakes and collided with something at the bottom (either a building or a train). But, my memory about all this is fuzzy… and I can’t find any details on the net.


salty
Participant
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BTW, I biked from Pittsburgh to my parents house once and did similar to what Stu said – 130->993->(have fun crossing 30)->arona rd, probably something like this (except coming from Penn) but I don’t recall all the details. Doesn’t involve the GAP but it’s not a bad ride.


ejwme
Participant
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Thank you salty, stu, et al, for all the advice!! I’ve devised a plan and was able to scope out the likelies based on your pointers…

The hill out of West Newton is steep (I’m guessing I might make it up a third the way before hopping off and walking, if I were fresh and optimistic) but it’s not mega long, and it’s one hill. Having driven both ways (down from 30 via Clay Pike, and also 136 over from W Newton) twice (accidentally). I’m thinking 136 has way too many hills and down from Clay Pike is just too rural – I was going 40 (the speed limit, 35 in places) and getting passed on solid double yellows – three times. No way I’m up for that nonsense on a bike. Not only that, but there are no street lights there EITHER, so the only benefit over the trail is… direct? short?

So I’m scoping out this: http://maps.google.com/maps?f=d&source=s_d&saddr=Unknown+road&daddr=40.3252416,-79.8470455+to:Unknown+road&hl=en&geocode=FZqwZwIduEs9-w%3BFXlQZwIde6E9-ymD6udi0OU0iDFgzJrDIJOlCQ%3BFVylZQIdMWxA-w&mra=dpe&mrcr=0&mrsp=1&sz=14&via=1&dirflg=b&sll=40.325019,-79.857473&sspn=0.041421,0.090723&ie=UTF8&ll=40.199855,-79.698515&spn=0.041498,0.090723&t=p&z=14 after work this evening to see if it’s any better. What I could see on googlemaps street view looked much quieter (most connecting roads are gravel), and the sight lines are good. If I get TO work at 8:30, I should be on roads only during the first daylight hour, added bonus.

I’ll have to leave my house at 5:30AMish to leave enough time for a flat/getting lost/walking out of WNewton, but I think it’s totally worth it. We’ll see.

Thursday I may try Arona rd down from 30, or tomorrow, if I don’t like what I see today. But if I’m going to be riding in complete darkness, I’d rather do it on the trail where cars are less likely to hit me. And there’s less driving, which I’ve had quite enough of for the week.


StuInMcCandless
Participant
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Seanor Church is at the corner of Seanor Church Road and Glenn Fox Road. Glenn Fox Road is a right turn off of Arona Road. (S.C. Rd no longer connects to Arona Rd., thank you PA Turnpike.)

I lived on Arona Road for 8 years and went to church here.

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