Day 71 - Connellsville, PA to Ohiopyle, Pa - Sep 24, 2015 (GAP - Great Allegheny Passage)
12 - 27
The wooden shelters in Connellsville guaranteed a fairly quiet and bugless night in my tent and in the morning I noticed that the middle aged person who had been sitting in a wheelchair near another sheltering building was still there with his dog. They had obviously spent the whole night there, him sitting in the wheelchair with a sleeping bag pulled over his body. I had met Uwe and his son Gunter the night before and the three of us could only try to guess as to his fate.
It was quite funny how we three met. I was standing at an information board in Connellsville where I had found WiFi when sudddenly these two cyclists stopped and the older one called out in German: "So finally there a German in this place!" Taken by surprise, I was taken aback and really wondered what had given me away. I was still puzzled when Uwe got me into the usual discussion of where, when and how.
Later I asked him how he had meant his remark and he was still pulling my leg when he said: "Well, you just look like a German!" Only a couple of hours later did his son give them away: they had stopped at the same bike shop I had and the bike shop owner told him that a German had just passed through ...
We had decided the evening before to ride together for a while and we set off, once again on the Great Allegheny Passage in southerly direction. The route along the Youghiogheny River (pronounced “Yogeny”) is densely wooded and the leaves are starting to turn color. Soon this path will be running through a wonderful yellow and red forest. Along the route you can clearly see the geological formations that led to extensive coal mining in the area over the last two hundred years. But nature is quickly gaining dominance over the manmade impacts on the landscape.
I planned to ride about 60 miles or 95 km to the larger town of Meyersdale on Casselman River but Uwe Eickert told me that Ohiopyle was very high on their list of trailside activities because of the whitewater rafting that was done there. It did not take much persuasion for me to join in on their plan and so we met at a café in that little town and found the rafting store.
Our bikes were locked up in the canoe shed, I donned water shoes because I definitely did not want to wear my cycling shoes in the raft and with a whole group of people we were talked through the necessary instructions given to us by Barth, an energetic young man. I enjoyed Barth’s little jokes and it didn’t matter to me at all that the middle aged man from Ohio next to me said, “when those jokes were scripted, my dad still went to college!”
Of the four boats that floated down the river ours was the only one without a guide on board so we had to learn to properly steer the raft as we went along. The guides did give us general instructions about what to do in case we hit a rock or got stuck or fell into the water. “Lean in!”, “Get on the floor!” or “In the water, lie on your back, keep your feet up downstream and pray!” …
I was declared “captain” by Uwe and Gunter only, I guess, so they could blame me for all mishaps we would encounter on our 7-mile or 11-km trip downstream. We joked about Germans feeling best when they could give orders until I pointed out that Uwe was German, too, but just didn’t admit it 😉
The rapids were really exciting! This was a wild, bumpy and very wet ride and we managed to work well as a team after a while and even did a really good stunt towards the end in the last rapid. Barth had instructed us to go past a huge rock which looked like a huge bear, then turn right fairly sharply and, following the outside bend of the river, go straight between two rocks which were so narrow that we could only get through forwards but not sideways and that we might “have a problem” if we messed up the entry. Well, he was wrong with the “forwards” part. We got to the point where we were to head for the narrow gap but hit a huge rock that started to spin us around and we didn’t have enough time to get back on course. I decided to finish the turn and we sailed through the narrow gap backwards for which we were applauded by the guide and the other crews! That was fun!
We spent the rest of the day relaxing and talking and spent the night in a guesthouse organized by the rafting company.
What an enjoyable day.
Uwe Eickert and his son Gunter. Both engineers, Gunter is getting ready to join his dad in the strategic and historical game board company called "Academy Games".