Getting Lost and Finding Things

McKees Rocks bridgeThe versatility of the bicycle never ceases to amaze. On a weekly basis, I use my bicycles for hauling groceries, commuting to the office, escaping into the woods, and for my one concession to an organized ride—a weekly "city ride" with my pals Kevin and John Paul.

Our city ride involves the three of us meeting late Friday afternoon at a rail-trail parking lot on the north side of Pittsburgh, and then proceeding to get lost on our bicycles. Sometimes we rope a few friends, or out-of-town visitors, into joining our folly.

The process begins with a parking lot discussion, the purported purpose of which is to select a few "landmarks" or "events" or "scenic viewpoints" that we’d like to visit. Then we chart a very rough route that just might possibly link the night’s targets together. Rather than sweating the details of the route in advance, we plan to get lost on purpose.

mt washington

Not that we try and get hopelessly lost, rather we venture into new neighborhoods and explore routes that we haven’t taken before. Certainly, we carry maps and occasionally rely on my iPhone to get our bearings, but we mostly rely on dead reckoning and instincts—not to mention a "devil may care" attitude. Hey, as long as we’re riding, and exploring, we’re happy and never "really lost." Getting off track, and then back "on" track, is part of the fun.

Mountain bikes are the weapon of choice for our "city ride" as we tend to get adventurous, and don’t mind occasionally romping on city parks trails and/or bouncing atop railroad ballast (for short stretches.) I’ve used touring bikes with fatty tires, and that worked out just fine. Ed from Brompton visited and rode a folder, but we took it easy on him and stuck to the pavement.

brompton ed

With its abundance of hills and rivers, Pittsburgh is blessed with countless scenic overlooks, and ferreting out the hilltop viewpoints is a favorite game of ours.

We also like to roll by sporting events, outdoor concerts, art galleries, murals, cemeteries (which often occupy prime hilltop real estate). The slower pace of a bicycle, as compared to an automobile, allows us to learn the lay of the land in various neighborhoods, and to sample the local flavor.

Dinner is part of the plan. When it starts to get dark and/or our stomachs start growling, we start looking for a place to eat. Rolling though neighborhoods on bike is a great way to scout for eateries. Or sometimes we’ll pick an "old reliable" restaurant in advance, and work it into our route. We like eating good food and lots of it; therefore, we try and pick a restaurant that’s near our start/finish point, so we don’t have far to pedal back to our cars (yes, we live in widespread areas, so we drive to our meeting place).

Our typical ride covers is around 30 miles. The whole enchilada is a perfect blend of pedaling, socializing and discovery. It’s a great way and to wrap up the work week.

Enjoy the "city ride" photos below:

west end overlook

View of downtown from the West End Overlook.

troy hill

An empty lot on Troy Hill, across the Allegheny River from donwtown.

40 acres

In Pittsburgh’s "South Hills" at a spot overlooking the Monongahela River.

kevin igloo

We ride year round…

rain

…rain or shine.

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