Like everyone else, this year has turned out quite differently than I had been planned.

In early March I was on a small book tour of “outfitter” shops and was enjoying interacting with readers and sharing about the Camino de Santiago and the five-hundred mile journey that I took there in 2018, which I wrote about in my book, The Walk of a Lifetime.

I was starting on book #2, which was going to be about a walk in Italy. Last year my wife and I did part of that walk–the Via di Francesco–which goes 350 miles or so between Florence and Rome, through the Umbrian Mountains. I was making plans to return to Italy this summer to complete the walk and then complete the book.

All that changed in late March.

Italy, of course, became the world’s “hot spot” for the current pandemic and travel there looked unlikely, at first, then impossible, later on. While I still plan to return there, I am not planning it for at least another year.

This has meant that my travel/adventure itch was getting hard to scratch. But I had another book idea on the back burner, and that has been moved front and center.

My Specialized Sequoia, all loaded with about 30 pounds of gear. A perfect trail/light touring bicycle.

I have had the idea for many years of riding from Pittsburgh to Wash. D.C. along the Great Allegheny Passage (GAP) and the C&O towpath. It’s 335 miles and is completely off-road, following a rails-to-trails (Pgh to Cumberland) and the old C&O canal towpath from Cumberland to Washington. I have ridden four times from Cumberland to Pittsburgh (three times leading tour groups) but never from Pittsburgh all the way to Cumberland and then on to D.C. The time has come, and I begin tomorrow. I will take one day riding around in Pittsburgh and then another 5 days riding to D.C., averaging 65-70 miles per day. The route is nearly flat, with the only major grade (2%) before Cumberland and I’ll be riding down when I get to that.

I grew up in Pittsburgh for the first 10 years of my life and had lived somewhere in the vicinity of western PA for another 20 years. I watched the GAP develop from its first 10-mile stretch in Ohiopyle to its current length, 150 miles in total. I have ridden sections of it numerous times, alongside the four times I have cycled its length.

On Friday I’ll be spending the day in my old Pittsburgh neighborhood and riding the city, doing some photography and research. Saturday I’ll start bright and early from The Point, the place in the center of the city where the Allegheny and Monogahela Rivers meet to form the Ohio River.

Besides the joy of riding, I’ll be gathering material for my next book, tentatively titled A Ride of Passage which I hope to publish next Spring.

Keep an eye here on my blog as I progress!