Before getting into Pittsburgh, I'd like to reflect on the C&O Canal and Great Allegheny Passage. The C&O/GAP is a gift that everyone in DC and Pittsburgh should treat themselves to. It is rare for two major cities to be truly connected by a bike path. If you're in either of these cities, visit the trails for a quick little getaway. You won't regret it.
If you're in DC, this is how you can do it. Since us Washingtonians are so reluctant to take a day off of work, do it on the weekend. Take a half-day on some Friday when the weather is good. Meet your friends at the Georgetown waterfront and go! Ride about 30 miles to one of the hiker/bike campsites that show up on the trail every five miles or so. These sites don't require any reservation. Just arrive and camp out. Spend that evening roasting s'mores and pretending your a boy scout/girl scout again.
Then on Saturday ride another 30 miles to Harpers Ferry. Spend the day hiking around this historic town. In the evening you can stay at a hostel or camp out. The town caters to young, outdoors-oriented tourists. There are plenty of dining options in Harpers Ferry, so treat yourself to a nice meal.
On the last day, challenge yourself to a 60-mile ride home. You can do it! Wake up a bit early to get a head start. Break the day up into two 30-mile rides. There are zero hills along the way, so the ride will be mellow. When things get tough, just distract yourself by enjoying the nice scenery. Once you get back to DC you will feel refreshed. I'm sure.
My main suggestions for the ride are to be sure you hydrate plenty, ride a hybrid or mountain bike (no road bikes) and plan it around nice weather. The trail is very safe. The main risk you face would probably be getting distracted by your smartphone and veering off the trail (I may possibly be speaking from experience).
And now, Pittsburgh. My brother, Ryan, and friend, Manny, met me there. Over the ensuing days we got a good taste of the city. We bowled in Lawrenceville, wandered about Polish Hill, enjoyed amazing views from Mount Washington and even caught a Pirates game.
Everything about the Pirates game was fun, even the ride there. Our driver routed us to PNC park using his phone's GPS. There was something weird about the voice his phone used to give him the directions. It sounded like some sort of tough guy. We asked who it was. The driver responded, "I had Morgan Freeman's voice, but this one sounds harder. It's Colonel Sanders." I did not know you could do that. I think I'm going to change my phone's default voice so I can have Colonel Sanders bark instructions at me while I ride. That would be satisfying.
Anyways, the game was great. The highlight for me was the pierogi race that took place during the fifth inning. Yes, the pierogi race. Pierogi mascots raced around the bases for all to enjoy. To top it off there was an excellent fireworks display at the end of the game. Pittsburgh has boat loads of charm.
On my last day in Pittsburgh I stayed with my first Warm Showers hosts, Steevo and Amy. These two are a rad couple. I don't know any other way to put it. Both are hardcore cyclists who have an impressive history of transcontinental rides under their belts. In addition to the bike stuff, Amy is in a local band called Reign Check. I told you, this couple is rad.
In DC we have these people called "political insiders." They are low-profile individuals that become rather powerful by amassing an extensive network of people in the game of politics. I felt like Steevo and Amy were "bicycling insiders." They knew every route I had ridden on, helped to build trails throughout Pittsburgh, were competitive BMXers and had a crazy network of cyclists. My mind was blown at dinner when I began telling them about this article I read in the New York Times. It detailed the crazy story of some guy who rode a stolen Citi Bike from NY to LA. They looked at each other with a smirk, then turned to me and said, "He stayed with us during the trip." What?!?! I spent the rest of dinner listening to the awesome stories these two have of wild, eccentric cyclists.
After dinner I focused my energy on preparing for my upcoming rides. Making my way North to Erie would be full of rolling hills and challenging situations. My brief time in Pittsburgh was fun. It would soon be time for me to get back on the road.