One Day Vacation

We took yesterday off. After a couple of stressful weeks for me and a couple weeks working overtime for Ray; and after he worked overtime again on Saturday, then mowed yards while I cleaned the house and did a mountain of laundry; after all that, SUNDAY we took off.

With the bike rack loaded on the back of the old Saturn, we headed to our favorite one-day vacation spot. Ohiopyle.

For those who aren’t familiar with it, Ohiopyle is a small town nestled in the Laurel Highlands through which runs some of the most popular whitewater in this part of the country. It’s also a state park.

The Youghiogheny Trail runs through Ohiopyle. People often question the fact that we frequently drive two-hours each way just to ride for little more than an hour. Ray prefers riding there than driving ten minutes to the most local bike trail access. Why? Lots of reasons.

First, the drive itself is beautiful. Route 40 is also known as THE NATIONAL PIKE. It was the first national highway and originated back in the day when the French were still battling for Fort Pitt (occasionally known at that time as Fort Duquesne). Route 40 meanders through quaint villages and towns, past historic landmarks and monuments. The views from the ridge tops are breathtaking.

Though we definitely hadn’t planned it, yesterday we found ourselves in the middle of a motorcycle rally. Harleys. Thousands of Harleys. Loud Harleys. But what amazed me were the people lining Route 40 with cameras, waving to the bikers. I’d seen rallies before, but never like this. I felt like I was in the middle of a parade. I don’t know what the ride was for. Where they raising money for a sick child or other worthy charity? I don’t know. If you do, please enlighten me.

Our second reason for driving that far to ride bikes is the trail itself. There’s the river on one side of it and mountains on the other. There are water falls and mountain laurel and spectacular vistas of the river and the rafters.

Reason number three is the Firefly Grill. Ray loves their grilled chicken sandwich. I love the variety of vegetarian offerings on the menu. My favorite is the Thai Tofu Wrap. Very messy, but delicious.

But it’s the town itself that really draws me. Ohiopyle: half mountain back-woods small town, half tourist trap. People and bicycles fill the streets. On the lower end of town there are bike rentals and white water tour businesses. Restaurants are small and locally owned. Except for a Fox’s Pizza, you won’t find a franchise. There used to be a Dairy Queen, but it’s been converted to a place that sells photographs of rafters. There is a motel, the Yough Plaza, made of logs.

Further up the hill there are bed and breakfasts. Not huge operations. These are old houses that the owners have opened to guests in the true entrepreneurial spirit.

And as you progress up the hill, the houses become more small townish. Old, weather-beaten structures with either a tangle of television antennae in the yard or the more modern satellite dish. No cable out here.

Ohiopyle is isolated from the rest of the world by the surrounding mountains. There is a general store that provides all the creature comforts including a restaurant in one corner. I suspect that in the middle of winter, when snow falls by the foot in these mountains, they become more isolated. And the tourists become rarer. Personally, I like the cool days of fall and early spring in Ohiopyle when the only rafters or kayakers are the true hardy souls.

There is one house in town that Ray and I dream of owning. We call it our retirement house. It’s a handyman special right next door to the motel, across the street from the Firefly Grill. We have visions of some old man or woman living there, although we’ve never seen them out in the nice-sized yard. We’d like to buy it from them. They could continue to live there the rest of their life. The house’s roof sags and holes in the ragged siding are patched with tar paper and rolled roofing. But there’s a garden and a hand-made gazebo. We love that house, rickety as it may be. If you happen to know the owner, tell them to contact me.

Of course, being right in the middle of the touristy part of town, we’re talking prime real estate. Ah, but one can dream.

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