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Riding the Ohio River from Cincinnati to Pittsburgh

September 4th, Cincinnati

Riding across the USA, one week at a time. This report chronicles the 7th week in such a series. The plan is to follow the Ohio River from Cincinnati to Pittsburgh.

All of today was consumed by travel. Left my home at 3:30am Mountain time to go to the airport. I took a 7am flight to Pittsburgh where I rented a minivan and drove to Cincinnati, arriving a little after 7pm. Put the bike together at the airport and found a nearby place to stay.

Initial impressions, mostly from driving include: 1) higher humidity here 2) so-so road conditions, not much in way of shoulders and moderate amounts of road construction 3) reasonable hills here. We'll see how much of all three applyduring the next week of cycling.

3 miles today.

September 5th, Maysville

Pleasant cycling today following the Ohio River. Traffic was surprisingly light, making for a nice ride despite narrow shoulders.

I left shortly after sunrise, though the sun was obscured by a light fog. The first mile descended rapidly on a narrow road that went through a canopy of trees. At the bottom was an intersection with KY 8, which I followed for most of the rest of the day. While fog obscured most of any views, it started as a rural ride through Villa Hills and then through Cincinnati suburbs of Bromley and Ludlow. I passed underneath I-75 and more urban areas. It seemed like I was hitting red lights 3/4 of the time, so slow going. Shortly after crossing I-471, I stopped for breakfast at 10 miles.

The road went through Dayton and then became very rural. I crossed my last interstate, I-275 at 17 miles and considered myself out of the Cincinnati area. Several local cyclists came past and I asked about the road ahead. Most said it should be a good road without too many hills.

The fog finally lifted after 24 miles, making it nice to see surroundings and also no longer requiring me to stop every so often to clear my glasses. This next stretch was nice rural riding through trees with occasional rolling hills and light traffic. At 38 miles someone set up a produce stand. I passed a few industrial places including limestone quarry and some power plants. Apparently the Ohio River serves as good transportation for such businesses.

At 53 miles was the first real town, Augusta, birthplace of Heather Renee French, Miss America 2000. They had even named a street after her. Augusta was holding a heritage festival, so I went back walked through town and also had lunch. There were many vendor booths and also a car show so many people were out and walking around.

This is tobacco country. In the countryside are large barns for drying the crop. Restaurants have many smokers and few non-smoking sections. From Augusta a few more industrial businesses and then rural roads on into Maysville.

Downtown Maysville had similar historic buildings to Augusta, but was much more deserted. I found a nice motel downtown but they explained that the only places to get food on this Sunday were "up 68 Hill", so decided to go there as well. It was a slow, hot ride up the hill, but found a nice place to stay near intersection of US 68 and KY 9AA.

The local yellow pages lists 74 Beauty Salons and 0 bike shops.

75 miles today.

September 6th, Huntington

Another nice day of cycling along the Ohio River. In Kentucky, I experienced both excellent cycling roads and some fairly poor routes.

I had slept at top of the hill, so I started out on 9AA. While this was a major road, it had a wide six foot shoulder and gentle grades and hence was an excellent road to bicycle on. I was out of the trees, and skies were mostly clear so could see off to the distance. Some gentle hills but nothing too bad. I made a brief stop at 8 miles and another at 15 miles.

At 28 miles was a turnoff to 3037. After winding through some hills I came to Vanceburg. From here I was back on 8, and along the river. Some more trees and also open fields. At 41 miles another brief stop in Garrison where I tried asking the clerk at the mini-mart about upcoming hills. She thought all was flat. Based on this advice, I followed 10 to the right away from the river. Some longer grades here but nothing too bad. This road was part of the AA and had signs "stay alert on the AA".

I came back to the river at mile 60. Here was a small mart catering to the Ohio traffic. They even had a drive through for cigarettes. One could also buy lottery tickets. From here the route went southbound along US 23, one of the worse roads I've cycled. The road was two lanes each way and even had a two foot wide shoulder. Unfortunately, that shoulder contained an 18 inch wide rumble strip so I was in traffic.

It was warm as I slowly traveled down to Ashland. Several large smokestacks along the way and a large steel mill in Ashland. None of the motels looked particularly exciting, so I kept going.

At 86 miles I crossed the bridge and cycled into West Virginia. Hooray! This means I've now bicycled in all 50 US states. It was flat cycling from here through Kenova and then into downtown Huntington. A nice end to a long day.

95 miles today.

September 7th, Parkersburg

A long ride today on a roads that varied in amount of hills and traffic. I left downtown Huntington just as it was getting light. This is a long skinny city, so it took a bit to pass Marshall University and get to the end of town. From here I took WV 2. The road was narrow and busy, but fortunately a majority of the the traffic was inbound.

After 12 miles the road widened. This lasted until Mason County when it became narrow again. This road followed the river and it was fun to see barges being pushed by tugboats. Several chemical plants including a Plastic Polymer plant in Apple Grove at mile 28.

A mostly flat road meant I made good time to Point Pleasant at mile 43 for late brunch. A large bridge crossed the Ohio here with a smaller bridge across the Kanawha River.

Locals told me conflicting stories here about the hills ahead. I took a "shortcut" here along WV2 and across several multiple hills. A nice descent into Mount Alto at mile 60 and then flatter into outskirts of Ravenswood.

Locals had told me the only motel was along I-77, so turned at Ravenswood to go towards the interstate, where I stopped at mile 73. The Scottish Inn looked ok. However, the manager told me I wouldn't be able to take my bicycle into the room. Based on that, I decided to continue on to Parkersburg.

The road from Ravenswood started flat with light traffic. As I got closer to Parkersburg the traffic kept getting heavier and the hills also increased. I slowed as it was coming to end of a long day.

Close to Parkersburg, WV68 detoured past construction. I stopped in at a local mart at outskirts of town and asked directions to a motel. They directed me along the southern edge and to a motel at WV14.

I checked in for two nights. The remnants of Hurricane Frances are passing through and forecasts are for over two inches of rain and flood watches until Thursday 5am. Rain also forecast for Thursday, but I'll see how things look then.

107 miles today.

September 8th, Parkersburg

Steady rain all day today. It started sprinkling last night and continued throughout the day. Weather forecasts call for continued rain tomorrow morning and then showers in the afternoon. Some school closings and local flooding on the roads. May leave a little later tomorrow.

0 miles today.

September 9th, New Martinsville

A shorter day riding along the Ohio River. Yesterday's rainfall total in Parkersburg was 3.16 inches. Surrounding areas had up to six inches of rain and some local roads were flooded. Fortunately only light drizzle when I left.

First three miles brought me to the center of Parkersburg. From here a slow climb away from town towards I-77. From here there was less traffic. The road also went through a few hills and eventually back to the river.

The town of St. Marys was at 26 miles. This town had a nice town old center. Lots of trees along they way, so I suspect this area has beautiful autumn colors. Signs pointed to "Don't pick up hitchhikers" and 3.9 miles later I passed the correction center. Mostly flat from here to mile 39 and Friendly.

Another nice town of Sistersville. The ferry here has been going since 1848. Stopped here for early lunch at mile 43. After New Sistersville, four miles to Paden City and then six more miles to New Martinsville. A nice bridge and lock here. Busier traffic and several motels. The first motel I tried wouldn't let me bring in my bicycle, so I found another a little further.

56 miles today.

September 10th, Washington

Today I crossed from WV, back over to PA. The first half of the ride was mostly flat along the river, the second half had many short steep hills.

I was on north side of New Martinsville and four miles later I crossed the Mason Dixon line. This was historic dividing line between MD and PA and particularly slave states and free states. However, here was a county line and still in WV.

At start of Marshall County, were four miles of industrial plants. Several chemical plants with sulpher smells. At 13 miles a large coal power plant, with tall smokestack hidden in the low clouds. The road was two lanes, but still had light traffic.

The ride to Moundsville at mile 24 went quickly. Shortly after this point, the road became controlled access with specific on ramps and off ramps. Shoulders were intermittent depending on whether a merging lane was needed.

At 34 miles I passed the exit to I-470 in Wheeling and shortly thereafter went to surface streets through Wheeling. A short sharp hill went as I followed signs for US 40.


US40 follows the route of the former "National Road". This road was completed to Wheeling in 1818 and was an early road opening to the Ohio River. After a sharp descent, I stopped briefly at AAA to get maps for Pittsburgh. Folks at AAA told me to expect some hills but nothing extreme.

The first miles from here through WV followed a drainage and had reasonable grade. I slowly climbed up and through Valley Grove and Mount Echo. At mile 50 I crossed over the border to PA. Just after the border, the hills became more numerous. Many short sharp hills both up and down as I came through Claysville, Buffalo and then into Washington. Found a good place to stay at 66 miles.

September 11th, Pittsburgh

Nice ride back to Pittsburgh today. The hills were better than I expected. I started with rolling terrain into center of Washington. I had gotten a local map, so tried following 18 and then roads along I-79. Got lost a bit, but came past a trolley museum on way via Houston and Canonsburg. Typical east coast houses that remind me a bit of MA.

From Canonsburg, followed 980 as it slowly wound up and down over hills to Venice at mile 16. A local cyclist here told me about a local "rails to trails" path, the Montour trail. I followed him to get on the path. It wasn't paved, but sand was reasonably hard, so good travels. This path mostly followed 980, over a big trestle and then across 22. At this point, the path was closed for a local marathon, so I was back on surface streets.

Followed US 30 (the Lincoln Highway) again and then on Clinton Road. The main road that goes to the airport (60) is a major freeway and the shoulder was closed off by a construction zone. No construction on Saturday, so I went behind the barriers and came into the airport by 11am or so.

A nice ride and the rail path made things flatter than otherwise would be. Found a spot at the airport hotel to await a Sunday return to Colorado.

37 miles today.