Roundtrip Tour: Circling Pittsburgh

Text: Chris Myers • Photography: Chris Myers

The bar in the sports-crazy college town of Morgantown, home to West Virginia University, had one of their televisions tuned, oddly enough, to the Weather Channel. Gnawing away at the wing of some unlucky flightless fowl and sipping from a stein of suds, I found myself paying more attention to a wind-battered reporter trying to relay a firsthand account of the summer's latest hurricane. I had hoped it would turn west, but she was heading north and, like it or not, it looked like I was going to be spending some quality time with Katrina.

Strolling back down High Street towards the Hotel Morgan, I was captivated by the beautiful summer night. The students had just returned from their summer break and the energy in the air was palpable. A warm, August breeze whipped between the office buildings carrying aromas of pub food and head-shop incense, and the sounds of laughter and music. I could make out the whoosh and smack of distant skateboard wheels going airborne and returning to concrete. Guys lacking the bravado to vocalize their admiration honked their horns at the pretty girls. But despite the warmth of the night and all its carefree resonance, a cold shiver of uncertainty crawled up my back.

The Joys of Summer
Televised images of the storm-battered Gulf Coast flickered across the darkened room in the morning. Some wake-up call that was, watching the hammering those folks were taking. Radar images showed the system's outer bands closing in, but the local commentators didn't think the impact here would be as bad as first anticipated. Still, they warned everyone to be prepared for heavy rain and possible flooding. Just the thing a traveling motorcyclist wants to hear. The sickly shaft of morning light that sneaked around the curtains indicated a clear sky was not in the offing. Oh, well - as they say, "a bad day on the bike beats a great day in the office."

The hotel's generous continental breakfast and a Starbucks red eye (java spiked with a shot of espresso) from the coffee shop in the lobby had me zinging and ready to face any impending gloom. I've always enjoyed visiting Morgantown. The Myers' Mountaineer roots run deep around here: My parents are WVU grads and I was born in the medical center on the other side of town. If not for the weather, I'd gladly while away a few hours just soaking up the college vibe. But it was looking like today would be a race with a storm whose clouds had already flopped over Morgantown like a damp mattress. My first stop was in New Castle, Pennsylvania, about two hours north, but that's certainly not the real ride time elapsed when using the back roads. So, the sooner I left the better, if I stood any chance of outrunning the impending deluge.

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For the complete touring article, including facts & information, map(s), and GPS files, please purchase the July/August 2006 back issue.