Abandoned Turnpike


I told the 4K for Cancer Team Portland team that I would probably meet them on the abandoned Pennsylvania Turnpike. I think I told them that.

I drove to Bedford then biked on US 30 to Breezewood. I did this, in part, to see if it was scarier than hell. It wasn’t although getting through Breezewood was no treat. Curb to curb and uphill, I chose to go in and out of service stations and then wait for traffic to break before riding on ahead.

The western entrance to Pike 2 Bike is just over the first rise on US 30. There is a small sign marking the entrance and a trail that leads to the turnpike.

Western (Breezewood) entrance to Pike 2 Bike
Right up that dirt path

Once on the turnpike one is on 50 year-old (at least) pavement. It’s all ridable but some sections are better than others. I came to the first tunnel and felt the cold air coming from the entrance about 100 yards away. Once I entered I thought my headlight wasn’t bright enough. And it is spooky in there if not downright scary.


I thought any moment I would meet the 4K as I was running late. I came to the second tunnel and still no signs of the 4K. This tunnel was much longer than the first. It took a while to be able to see the light at the end of the tunnel (literal).


At the end of the tunnel and still no 4K, I went to the end of the turnpike. Nothing. This was my first time at the western end. There are no signs or markings to show where this begins. Just a driveway. Actually, 100 yards away is a driveway with a sign stating private but that trail is 100 yards away.

Western Entrance to Private Drive
Actual entrance which looks similar is 100 yards south

I tried to call Mary Natoli, a rider on the 2013 ride and alum who helped this group on Sunday, to see if she had anyone’s contact information. Getting no answer, I started to look up the 4K office to see if they had contact info when the 4K van pulled up followed seconds later by 3-4, then 7-8, then 15-18 riders.

Source: Joanna Wang

I asked them how their ride had been and they said very hard. They had been on miles of gravel and I asked who’s cue sheet did they use. One they made. Oh kids, don’t deviate from my maps. Sigh.

Source: Joanna Wang

We came to the first tunnel and too many riders climbed to the top of the tunnel. It was hard to watch. I have the fully developed risk gene – they don’t.

We rode out together to Breezewood. I gave them my three rules for riding in (western) Pennsylvania.

  • Always stop at Sheetz
  • Know that Pennsylvania has a 4 foot law (passing)
  • No motorist knows about it

We were only about three miles from the end of the turnpike trail and Aaron said the team reported from the support van that it was raining very hard at the end. And we weren’t in it. That would end. It really was raining hard at the end.

I rode with Aaron Hoxworth, Helen Smith, Jamie Roberts, and Jocelyn Godlberg to Sheetz in Breezewood. After a restroom break, we rolled out, still in the rain. A car pulled up, rolled down the windows and the driver yelled “Go 4K Team Portland! Our son is with Team San Francisco.” They had Iowa plates. (They were the parents of Jeffrey Robson.)

Jocelyn, Aaron, Helen, Jamie
My 4K Teammates for the Day

Crossing the Juniata River we ran out of the rain. And we had a flat. I was riding with Aaron and Helen, having passed Jocelyn and Jamie on the descent over the river. Then I noticed we were missing the two girls. I doubled back and found Jamie and Jocelyn changing a tire.

When I arrived I used my tube and changed Jamie’s flat because tubes are precious commodities to riders on the 4K. Either that because I was so impressed she knew how to pronounce Juniata. She also told me she liked coming up here, Juniata College in Huntingdon, Pa., and described in detail eating at Panera in Altoona. Panera was where I took my friends on my first recovery ride after cancer and it holds a special place for me.

Jamie was conscious not to leave any waste behind. Rather than try to put her tube back in my bag, she wore it around her neck. I told her up ahead about 1/2 mile was a “trading post” which surely would have an outdoor trash can. We rode there and she offloaded her spent tube. Then the five of us rolled on into Bedford where I said goodbye for the night knowing I’d ride the next day with them.

Bedford, Pa.

2 Replies to “Abandoned Turnpike”

  1. The bike trail is in trouble! They need help restoring it, and recently held a community clean up. There are also endangered bats nesting in one of the tunnels, but the areas are still open-ish to visitors during their hibernation season. The same kind of brown bat lives in Kentucky, where I am, and two idiots ran in and slaughtered them.

    I’m trying to put together an online history of the tunnel, the early sources are eroding faster than the tunnel is. Hopefully we can generate enough interest in the turnpike to make something happen, right now things don’t look good.

    Here is my introductory post on the tunnels, but I am still looking for very early online sources (pre-1998) and scans of newspapers 1968-1999.


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