County Exec Leads Six-Day Bike Trip Through Region

By Jason Togyer | Posted in: News

Lucy McNee, a bicyclist from Scotland who is traveling across the United States, jokes with state Sen. Jim Brewster on Wednesday morning outside McKeesport's trailside hostel. (Tube City Almanac photo)

Bicyclist Lucy McNee slept Tuesday night in McKeesport's trailside hostel and expected to hit the trail Wednesday at about "half past seven."

The audiologist from Sterling, Scotland, didn't know she and her bike, Bertie, would have to wait for an official welcoming committee.

Just after 9 a.m., Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald, former U.S. Attorney David Hickton, Westmoreland County Commissioner Ted Kopas, and a delegation of other local leaders, philanthropists and their families, arrived on the first leg of a six-day bicycle tour from downtown Pittsburgh to Washington, D.C.

For McNee, who is keeping a blog of her experiences, it was only the latest unexpected pleasure of a coast-to-coast American bicycling trip that is taking her from the Pacific Ocean at Coos Bay, Oregon, to West Quoddy Head Lighthouse in Maine.

(Above: Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald leads a delegation into McKeesport Wednesday morning as part of a six-day biking excursion to highlight economic development along the Great Allegheny Passage. Tube City Almanac photo.)

"I've met a lot of super people, seen some wonderful scenery and a lot of wildlife," McNee said.

She learned about the McKeesport overnight hostel --- a comfortable four-bed facility, with shower and toilet, created in 2016 from an old concession stand --- from another bicyclist, and called Linda Brewster of the McKeesport Trail Commission to make her reservation.

Fitzgerald is leading the 335-mile trip to show off the McKeesport hostel and other trailside attractions in order to stress the importance of the Great Allegheny Passage, and its connecting trails, to economic development in southwestern Pennsylvania, and to meet with local leaders in trail towns.

(Tube City Almanac photo)

The group departed from Point State Park at 7 a.m. Wednesday and stopped for breakfast in Homestead, where they met with representatives of the Steel Valley Trail Council as well as headquarters personnel from Eat'n Park Hospitality Group, which is headquartered at the Waterfront.

After the water stop in McKeesport, they departed for lunch in West Newton, and were planning to stay overnight in Confluence, Fayette County.

Besides Kopas (who said he's only doing one day of the trip) other participants include Lawrence County Commissioner Steve Craig; Cindy Dunn, secretary of the state Department of Conservation & Natural Resources; former state representative and former Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board president Greg Fajt; Saleem Ghubril, executive director of The Pittsburgh Promise; Dr. Karen Hacker, director of the Allegheny County Health Department; Paul Hennigan, president of Point Park University; Ellen Mazo, director of governmental affairs for Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC; Pulitzer Prize winning photographer Annie O'Neill; Bryan Perry, executive director of the Allegheny Trail Alliance; Leslie Richards, secretary of the state Department of Transportation; John Rohe, vice president of the Colcom Foundation; and Davitt Woodwell, president of the Pennsylvania Environmental Council.

(Above: Greg Fajt of Mt. Lebanon, Caroline Fitzgerald of Squirrel Hill, Don Carpenter of Houston, Texas, and Ray Villwosk of Ferndale, Wash. Tube City Almanac photo.)

The group picked up several people along the way, including McNee, as well as Don Carpenter of Houston, Texas, and Ray Villwosk of Ferndale, Wash.

McNee left Oregon on July 19 and said she's planning to reach coastal Maine by the first weekend in October, when she intends to participate in a marathon.

The U.S. trip is so far only her third-longest bike tour, said McNee, who has also biked the east coast of Canada and through France and Italy.

The lowlight of her trip so far, McNee said, was being struck by a passing truck in Twin Bridges, Montana, just west of Yellowstone National Park, during August. McNee ended up in the hospital with a badly injured left arm, and lost three days of travel.

The McKeesport stop --- and the excited group of local leaders who met with her Wednesday morning --- was definitely a highlight, she said.

"And I realized I'd been pronouncing the name of the town wrong," she said. "I kept saying McKee-SPORT, and now I've learned it's McKees-PORT."

(Above: Westmoreland County Commissioner Ted Kopas with state Sen. Jim Brewster. Tube City Almanac photo.)

(Above: Fitzgerald, second from left, with McNee, third from left; Brewster; and McKeesport Mayor Mike Cherepko. Tube City Almanac photo.)

(Above: Cycling advocate Ed Quigley of Monaca, Beaver County, explains the next portion of the bike ride to the delegation. Tube City Almanac photo.)

(Kopas, Cherepko, Fitzgerald and Brewster. Tube City Almanac photo.)

Originally published September 13, 2017.

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