We started the day at the Giant Eagle grocery store about 3 miles from Evan and Sumi’s apartment. They dropped us off just past the difficult roadway interchanges and we hugged goodbye. We bought a couple bananas and some granola bars before starting our day. It was only supposed to be a 24 mile day, so we knew we could make it!
The first town was Braddock, an old steel town with lots of interesting sights. As we passed through downtown, a couple of men standing in the organic farm (literally right in downtown) called out to us across the street. We stopped to talk a bit, but the day was getting hot, so we headed to the post office to mail postcards after a short conversation.
The town was interesting and made us both miss the Chicago area a bit. Old industry has a charm to it, and the farm reminded Rebecca of her volunteer gigs back in Chicago. Just around the corner from the farm was the steel mill. The size of it made us feel so small, and the comparison to the theme park/roller coaster in the background made it a little comical.
The workers parked across the street so there were many signs warning about pedestrians, but no actual sidewalk or crosswalk. We walked carefully along the wall whenever we could, but luckily there wasn’t much traffic. As we rounded the corner we had to navigate around a tight shoulder on a bridge, but we’ve figured out how to be as visible as possible, so we were safe for the short (maybe 1/4 mile) stretch.
We started climbing into the Appalachians. But the climbs revealed some small towns that were an exciting change to the open road.
We passed a stone works store that sold headstones and talked to a worker there. He said he was so happy to see people doing something with their lives. After talking with him we were reminded that we’re on our adventure and that we risked what we had in Chicago, so we should enjoy it. Sometimes we forget that we are out on the road to really see the country and enjoy it, instead of just cross it. If we can inspire a few people on the way, we’ll also be inspired by their encouragement.
The day, even though it was short, was difficult. With the hills, the heat, and the many obstacles (guard rails, “no ped crossing” signs that we ignore, construction fences, overgrown bushes, fast cars, blind corners) the day felt long. We were both getting exhausted by the time we reached Greensburg.
The town itself revitalized us just enough to get us to the motel we’d decided to stay in for the night. It was a cute (though really quiet) town and we knew we were getting into the east. We checked into the motel after grabbing salad at the grocery store and collapsed onto the bed, ready to wake up for our second interview on WJOB in northwestern Indiana.
We interviewed with the radio station in the morning, ate some cereal provided by the motel, and started out for the day. Both of us were a little nervous about how the day would go because the first day out of Pittsburgh had been so hard.
We tried to raise our spirits by climbing stairs to nowhere and joking about signs outside of businesses. We were getting down to the end of the trip and we are both worrying about the post-trip lives we’ll have. Luckily, the road was much easier today, the highway divided, so it was quieter and provided a nice break area.
As the highway meandered along a river we reminisced about the Sierras and Rockies. It’s great to be back in the mountains again.
As we passed through Ligonier, we were able to find postcards again. It’s been surprisingly difficult to find postcards since Iowa.
But our day led us farther into the trees. We had planned to stay with friends of Rebecca’s aunt or a friend’s parents, but both of those options fell through. Luckily we found a trail that we could hike out a bit on to camp. When we crested a hill to see the restaurant just before the trail head we both were excited to have a day where we pretended to be trail hikers. We found the map at the Laurel Highlands trailhead and discovered that there was a shelter area less than a mile in from where we were. We marched toward the shelter area with the sun (it felt like quickly) setting behind us. We made it to the shelter, set up (with Tim hitting his head hard on the angled roof) and then settled in for one of our most comfortable (temperature wise) nights in a while.
As we crept out in the morning for a long day, we paused to appreciate the beauty of the land around us. It’s a trail Rebecca definitely wants to come back to explore one day! We were able to count ourselves as hikers instead of just pedestrians for one day!
There were lots of hills, but we made it over plenty of them. We knew we’d have to hitch about 6 miles to make it to the campground in a reasonable time in the evening, so we tried to enjoy what was ahead.
As we looked at the route for the day, we realized we’d pass the Flight 93 crash site from 9/11. Unintentionally we will be reaching New York right around September 11th and we’re passing the Flight 93 site. Thinking about everything that’s happened since that day gave us pause. Every person is small in the world, but our lives are each important in our own way.
We passed a few small towns and planned to step off the main highway onto the old Lincoln Highway just past a junk yard.
The old highway was abandoned because it climbs one of the steepest hills we’d crossed in Pennsylvania yet. We complained as we crawled to the top, but once we got over the peak the views of Pennsylvania made up for it.
As we joined the new highway, we decided we should hitch a ride while the shoulder was wide. We set up, assuming we’d get a ride to the next town and save ourselves about 15 miles instead of the necessary 6. A man passed us and pulled a u-turn to pick us up. He drove us about 7 miles to the top of the mountain (we were both so happy to have not climbed that mountain! We didn’t know it was even there). We walked down the mountain into Schellsburg where we stopped at the only grocery store for dinner and ice cream. Three miles down the road we made our way into the campground. The owners weren’t there so we filled out an envelope and set out to find the primitive sites. We set up the tent, showered in the (not bad) showers. The walls were awkwardly short in the shower, but at least the water pressure was ok.
The next day we climbed the hill into a new town. Bedford had a giant coffee pot building that used to be a coffee shop and a visitors’ center.
We stopped in the visitors’ center to buy some postcards. While we were there we discussed the trip with Adam, who worked there. Adam suggested we take an abandoned turnpike outside of Breezewood on our way over. Apparently the road is open and legal to walk on, but isn’t officially a Pike to Bike trail yet because they haven’t received funding to maintain it. He warned us we’d need flash lights because the tunnels are still there. We thanked him, and a man over hearing our story offered to pay for our post cards, and we headed on our way. The route looked like it would lead us a little off track, but we decided to look into it. An abandoned turnpike could be an interesting road to add to our list.
The rest of the walk was hot and humid, but luckily Highway 30 split again for a while and we got a break from the noise in both directions. We got lots of encouraging honks and found a random port-a-potty along the way. Tim always says if you want a bathroom bad enough one will show up, Rebecca just depends on trees (or corn fields, or orchards, or whatever).
We made it through the meandering valleys, past some cute towns (including one with a giant quarter) and into Breezewood. Adam warned us that Breezewood wasn’t much of a town, but rather a really big truck stop. The interstate, turnpike, and highway all meet there and that’s about it. We dangerously crossed into town and checked into one of our cheapest motels yet (as the country gets more populated it’s harder to find places to hide). We’d review the route and decide on that turnpike later, food came first.
Today(s) we walked through:
Tim: 58,904; 58,787; 58,122; and 55,005 steps
Rebecca: 63,431; 63,245; 63,926; and 58,448 steps
2889 miles finished