BY KIMBERLY WARPINSKI
Arlington, Virginia, October 13, 2011 – Being my first long bike excursion, Ride Allegheny surpassed my expectations of a challenging, yet beautiful experience. The group that organized the annual 320 mile bicycle ride from Pittsburgh to Gaithersburg, Maryland did an amazing job of organizing logistics. Through the ride, they brought riders together under the common mission to honor and aid wounded soldiers on their long journey to recovery.
A group of about 55 riders, traveling from across the country, came together October 6 to experience the famed beauty for which these trails are so well known. Our four-day route followed the Great Allegheny Passage rail-to-trail route, which transitions into the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal Towpath at Cumberland, Maryland. The trails along the course are extremely diverse. They range from paved rolling hills to muddy beaten paths hidden deep within the forests of the Appalachian Mountains.
Mornings on our ride were a time for inward reflection as our group steadily cycled its way through thick fog along the winding maze of corn fields and railroad tracks – setting a perfectly eerie scene similar to something out of Sleepy Hollow. As the miles passed, the chilly mornings transformed into warm energized hours of fast cycling; ripping through trails that oftentimes unexpectedly open up into wonderful vistas of rolling farmland framed by the turning colors of the season. The history of our nation revealed itself as we passed through old industrial railroad towns and historic sites along the trail; Pittsburgh Coal Seam, Meyersdale Train Station, the Eastern Continental Divide, Fort Frederick, the Mason Dixon Line, the Big Savage Tunnel, Antietam, and Harpers Ferry.
Representing World T.E.A.M. Sports along with Paul Bremer and Amanda Puskar, I had the added responsibility of scouting the route to determine whether it would be suitable for an event where disabled riders can also participate. There were sections of the route that looked promising, but the majority of the trails were extremely isolated. Often, 20 miles of rugged terrain would unravel without any means of vehicle access. Such isolation would raise numerous complications working with recumbent and hand-cycle participants, particularly in the case of a medical emergency.
Despite this unfavorable revelation for future disabled events, Ride Allegheny has been going strong for 11 years under its existing leadership team and has grown into the amazing operation it is today. I highly suggest this ride to any cyclists looking for a challenge, particularly one complimented by the natural beauty and rich history of America.
Ride Allegheny is an annual non-profit ride benefiting Operation Second Chance, a Maryland-based non-profit providing support for wounded warriors in Washington’s Walter Reed Army Medical Center. Since 2005, Ride Allegheny has raised over $410,000 for Operation Second Chance, including over $130,000 this year.