After Alumapalooza ends we are usually looking for a couple of days of recovery time. This year our route was taking us to Pennsylvania, so we figured it was a good opportunity to visit the famous Frank Lloyd Wright house, “Fallingwater”. We’re kind of FLW fans and have toured several of his works already, including the Welztheimer-Johnson House” in Oberlin OH; the Dana-Thomas House in Springfield, Illinois; and the Lowell Walter Residence in Quasqueton, Iowa.
While Fallingwater brings in the crowds, the real gem of this area is Ohiopyle State Park. This large park is known mostly for rafting, but the entire area is verdant with rolling hills and forests and a scenic view around almost every corner. The little town of Ohiopyle sits at the intersection of the Youghiogheny River and the Great Appalachian Passage (GAP) rail trail, which makes it a recreational hotspot. You can float down the river or ride your bike on the GAP all the way to Pittsburgh (77 miles) or 335 miles to Washington DC.
The original plan was to tour Fallingwater and then head onward the same day, but we liked the area so much that we decided to extend our stay to two nights. That gave Emma and me a chance to take our electric unicycles for a ride on the GAP trail and around the center of Ohiopyle, while Eleanor took a tour of another FLW house, Kentuck Knob.
Being an old railbed, the GAP trail is very flat with a maximum grade of 2%. The six miles or so that we explored was all hard packed dirt, easy riding, and sprinkled with little interpretive signs along the side. Those signs talked about the natural features and the early settlers who had cleared lands and piled up stones to make orchards and small homes.
A few cyclists passed by, mostly making the long trip from Pittsburgh to Washington DC over a period of 5-6 days with camping stops along the way. They were all rather intent on completing their mileage for the day so they missed all the interpretive signs. We kept our speed to about 10 MPH most of the time and stopped at every sign, since we were in no hurry at all.
This was the first chance to prove to myself the value of hauling around these unicycles. Mine was very useful during Alumapalooza for personal transportation around the event (saving me miles of walking) but that’s a once-a-year thing. I was wondering if I’d find other uses for them.
I discovered that the unicycles (or a scooter) are perfect for places like this. I think our two unicycles and the scooter (which Eleanor rides) will be permanent equipment in our Airstream. We don’t need them often, but when we do they are very handy and open up places that we might otherwise not explore.
The scooter, by the way, is simple to ride so there’s no real learning curve. I recommend it for most people who want to be able to go 12-15 miles on a lightweight & packable vehicle, without needing a bike rack. (There, that’s my sales pitch for the day.)
After the ride we met up with Eleanor and checked out the excellent state park Visitor Center, then a quick tour of Ohiopyle and a visit with Tonto the cat, who hangs around the bridge and greets people. Tonto is a young kitty but he already knows how to work the tourists for affection. We later ran into his owner, who is starting a local fund to get the stray cats of Ohiopyle spayed and neutered.
If you can’t tell, I was somewhat enchanted by the many attractions of Ohiopyle. There are a few waterfalls, swimming holes, lovely picnic spots, and much more. It’s a small place but a very relaxing one. We may stop there again on a future trip through Pennsylvania, or at least in the surrounding area.