Tuesday, November 5, 2013

GAPCO - Ohiopyle to Rockwood & Fallingwater Detour

36 miles

Tired of my annoying front fender, especially after the previous days fiasco, Andy removes 1.5" of forward curve with wire cutters so it clears the tire. Gosh, wish I'd done that myself many months ago. It doesn't look pretty, but it's hidden beneath the rack. I can trim it later at home.

After a leisurely breakfast, we slowly pack a few items for the detour to Fallingwater.

I'm not in shape for climbing hills. Photo credit: Patty
Leaving the rail trail behind, we climb for two miles through fog. I struggle in my lowest gear for most of what I think is the first of many hills before dismounting and walking the last 50 yards. It turns out to be the only ascent—at least in one direction—and we coast for the next 1.5 miles to Fallingwater's entrance. Pennsylvania's reputation, at least for cycle tourers, is that it's landscape is a series of endless hills—and big ones at that—traversed from east to west and vice versa. Thank goodness the detour was much shorter than predicted, and we'd soon return to gentle grades.

Visiting Fallingwater has been on my mental list, ever since enjoying Taliesin in Arizona 20+ years ago. I've always loved the prairie style and Craftsman houses. Frank Lloyd Wright's simple functionality of design, especially after the gaudy Victorian era, was attractive to me, and continues to be to this day.

Main entrance, hidden on purpose as if entering a cave.
What is surprising is how Mr. Wright designed Fallingwater as a retreat for the Kaufmanns, incorporating the woods and creek into almost every room; it became one of Wright's crowning achievements. Of special note: indoor pictures are not allowed and visitors are asked to refrain from touching anything, but are encouraged to walk around as though a guest in the Kaufmann's home—thus the informal tours. The Kaufmann's son, an architect himself and heir to Fallingwater and it's 5,000 acres, left the building and grounds to a conservancy, stipulating it's use for public enjoyment. The Kaufmann's art collection is amazing. There are a few Picasso's behind glass, but everyone can inspect each piece in detail.

A horizontal sliding glass door reveals stairway to stream, which doubles as air conditioner, letting cool breezes inside the house.

We follow a path to capture our own famous view of the building.

Collecting the rest of our baggage at the cabin, we set off once again. The trail continues climbing. It's late September. It's cool. The trees are changing. The sun filters through hazy sky.

We are lucky. With one day of rain behind us, there is no sign of any more precipitation for several days.

In Confluence we stock up on groceries. I watch our bikes while Andy and Patty try to buy wine at a Bed & Breakfast.

It occurs to me, with Pennsylvania liquor laws preventing us from purchasing a bottle with our groceries, that this must be what the Prohibition was like. If you wanted alcoholic beverages you would discreetly knock on someone's back door. Andy and Patty come back empty handed though. It's too early for the B&B to open.

Approaching the Pinkerton Tunnels. Trail takes a sharp right before unused tunnel
at end of bridge.  Photo credit: Patty
At the Pinkerton Tunnels, a train travels by, the sound echoing loudly through a 19th century tunnel, now daylighted because of collapsed ceiling. Cyclists, however, travel a roller coaster trail 1.5 miles around the horseshoe-shaped bend in the river, called the "horn".

Bike shop in Rockwood. Photo credit: Patty
In Rockwood, the late afternoon chill promises another cold evening. We planned to stay at a private campground, wanting a hot shower, but the place had bad vibes. The sites were completely covered with huge trees, dirt ground, plus the showers and water were located on the other side of the river. With the help of a friendly lady in an information booth—trailside no less—we locate a hostel in town. 

Hostel on Main, in Rockwood. Photo credit: Patty
The place was perfect.

The hostel was a former store. Green painted wooden floors, tin ceilings. Storage rooms
 were once refrigerated coolers
We got to stay indoors, had our pick of 34 beds because we were the only guests that night. We joked that we each had our own bathroom, which we actually did, preferring to use "our own" for the remainder of our stay.

And, we bought wine next door, from the Rockwood Mill Shops—a warren of rooms, selling everything from pastries to pizza to t-shirts, dolls, and even towels from Provence.


  1. You probably know that there is a FLW house in Fairfax County. The Pope-Leighey house is located at Woodlawn Plantation about 3 miles from Mount Vernon on US1. Well worth a visit. Glad to see you like the GAP.

    1. I didn't know that. Thanks. There was also another home near Ohiopyle, should we ever return to GAP. It sounds like there are quite a few in PA., but I didn't know about the one in your region.


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