July 27, 1999 - Day 47 - Coraopolis to Connellsville, Pennsylvania
75 miles - 3205 total miles (Trip computer is now officially dead. Tried to splice wiring on day off - no go)
July 26 was a nice day of rest. I was interviewed by Sarah Sonnett, staff writer for the Coraopolis Record (a Gateway Publication). Sarah went to high school with my nephew, Jeff.
I always like to turn the tables on the reporters and take their picture, but in talking with Sarah I feel like I turned them verbally, too. I was wondering what happened to the tens of thousands of steelworkers who lost their jobs over the past several decades in Pittsburgh. I figured they didn't just become computer technicians overnight. Sarah told me that her dad had been laid off from Jones and Laughlin. She gave me his email address, so I will be able to write him and ask him some questions. Thanks a lot, Sarah.
Sarah Sonnett of the Coraopolis Records
When I got my bike out so Sarah could take some pictures, it had a front flat tire. There are so many dangerous things that can happen if your front tire blows on the road. Mine went flat in the garage.
The adults, from left to right are Keith and Jennifer Willson (Jennifer is my niece, daughter of my sister in Philadelphia), Jeffrey Dennison (who was out with his girlfriend the night before), my sister Lee (Ginger) Dennison, and Stephen Dennison.
The two little girls are my grandnieces, daughters of Keith and Jenn. This is Rebekah. Rebekah knows how to turn on the charm to get her way.
And this is Abigail. None of that sweetness crap for her.
Thinking about the upcoming Steelers season
This is a better picture of my nephew, Jeff. He's just realizing the Steeler's chances of winning the Super Bowl this season after their first day of pre-season.
Jeff and his Mom
I hate to admit it, but isn't this a great picture? (Jeff will be attending grad school in theology at Wheaton College starting second semester this coming year, and he's going to live with us. We're really looking forward to having him with us, but don't tell him, because if he thinks you like him he becomes pathetically sycophantic.
Jeff and Stephen and I went to a late showing of "The Haunting". Don't bother - trust us.
Jeff works here for the summer. He left for work early, so after goodbye hugs I stopped in to see him since it was right on the way out of Coraopolis.
Never heard of Svedala? You will, you will. They're taking over the world. They're a Swedish corporation that makes huge machines that move materials, like...
Continuing our theme
...this coal dumper. Sorry it's dark. It's a picture of a picture in the lobby at Svedala and its as bright as we could get it. That dark thing in the middle is a rail hopper full of coal. It's being lifted off the tracks by a Svedala coal dumper and rotated 360 degrees. It takes about a minute to empty a coal car this way. It must be VERY cool to witness this in person (at least the first few times).
So, if you're bringing in thousands of rail hoppers full of coal every day, you've GOT to have a way to drop that coal quickly. And this is it.
And so, into downtown Pittsburgh, down Ohio River Boulevard, past Three Rivers Stadium... Saaaaay, you don't suppose... Nahh. Impossible.
Pittsburgh came into existence because of its location. On your left is Point Park. This picture is taken from the Allegheny River Bridge. At the point (out there to the left), the Monongahela River joins the Allegheny and you have are looking at the beginning "point" of the mighty Ohio River.
This, of course, is perhaps the most important CONFLUENCE of American history. Originally, out there on the point, was Fort DuQuesne, meaning the French ran the show. But in 1759, General Forbes (of later field fame) and an underling by the name of Washington, captured the fort and it was Anglo-Saxon from that point on. The Brits, of course, then built their own fort about 200 yards farther back, not being able to occupy any fort that had been occupied by the French (see 'Monty Python and the Holy Grail' for explanation of this), and named it after their current Prime Minister, William Burgh.
Three Rivers Stadium is just out of the picture to the right. (But MIGHT it be possible? Maybe they left a gate open or something.)
Ok, is it just me, or is this coal thing getting out of hand. OR... do we just move an incredible amount of this material across this country?
I'll be frank, it's a little scary to stand on a bridge (over the Monongahela) and see this mass of barges moving toward you with that wheelhouse about a quarter mile behind the first barge. It would take the bridge down in about five seconds, I think. I put my faith in the captain and got the picture.
(Monongahela - another great river name. Go ahead, try it. You'll be a better American if you repeat it five times. See, don't you feel better now?)
After heading through the wonderful ethnic neighborhoods of south Pittsburgh (lots of Slovaks), and past the old Homestead Steel Mills, site of the most famous (and violent) of all the great strikes, I worked my way south toward McKeesport where the Youghiogeny River (pronounced Yock-a-gainey - Indian word) has its confluence with the Monongahela (pronounced Mon-on-ga-hela - Indian word). And just south of there, after the traffic and potholes of Pittsburgh (Anglo-Saxon word), I hit...
... The Youghiogeny River Trail (YRT)
The YRT is a rails-to-trails that follows the railbed that followed the Youghiogeny River as it winds southeast of Pittsburgh.
As you ride on it you enter small towns and go right through the center of town. When you were in the engineer's seat of a steam locomotive, you knew your mode of transportation was king of them all because you ran right through the heart of towns. Towns scrambled to have you do just that. No wonder those guys were "jaunty".
I rode about 45 miles on this trail. It's beautiful. Good crushed limestone surface, well-maintained. Bike is now filthy.
And... I've ridden all the way to, through and southeast of Pittsburgh without hitting any killer hills. This will change.
(I mean, Lincoln, Nebraska was a small town compared to Pittsburgh. You mess around here, they set out the Pitt bulls on you.)
The river is extremely low. Pennsylvania, and most of the East, are experiencing an extremely serious drought, the worst in over 30 years.
It was hot and humid again today (what else is new?), but this totally surprised me. I just didn't think this existed anymore. This is on the outskirts of Connellsville, where I'm staying tonight. The old trestle foundation is called "The Pier" and the other bank over there is called "Paint Rock".
(And Husker Stadium is just a college stadium. This is the PRO'S, man. Clemente, Harris, Wagner, Noll, Mean Joe Greene. You don't mess with those guys! Forget about it.)
Paula was out power walking when I flagged her down to ask if there was a restaurant in town. She's my Samaritan of the Day. She walked right into town with me to show me the best restaurant, and she's the one who explained the swimming hole. She said she used to do exactly the same thing when she was a teenager.
Home to Pitcher's Mound - What is it, 60 feet, 6 inches?
Well, lookee here. The infield is covered, of course, since the Pirates are playing at Shea Stadium tonight, but you can see the pitcher's mound out there, can't you?
I was a little disappointed that I couldn't get the bike down on the playing field (you know I tried every which way, don't you), but I WAS able get it box seats.
Tomorrow: The Alleghenies!!! I think Wednesday is going to be a difficult day. No way to escape the hills now. I don't feel up for this.
NOTE: In the July 25 journal, I asked how West Virginia became a state and forgot to give you the answer at the bottom. West Virginia was originally a part of Virginia. Slavery flourished in Virginia on the coastal plain and the tidewater, but not in the mountainous western part of the state, where large plantations were not economical. So when the Civil War began, the "Mountaineers" found themselves more of an anti-slavery mentality than their tidewater brethern. Lincoln was looking for anything he could get, and the new state of West Virginia was admitted to the Union in 1863.
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