DILLTOWN, Pa. -- Word that a bike trail would be built on the former right-of-way of the Cambria & Indiana Railroad through this Indiana County town prompted three friends to pool their resources and convert an old wooden house and a building dating to the 1800s into a bed and breakfast and multipurpose store.
After a year of renovation work by Tom Hess Construction of nearby Vintondale, the Dillweed B&B and Trailside Shop opened for business in 1993. Bicyclists riding on the 36-mile Ghost Town Trail -- it derives its name from numerous mining towns that once existed along the railroad corridor -- and others have been visiting ever since.
The founders, Cindy Gilmore, the town's retired postmistress, and David and Penny Russell, both of whom taught in the Quaker Valley School District, today are celebrating the 20th anniversary of their decision to invest in the community co-founded in 1768 by Col. Matthew Dill of York County.
The festivities start at 10 a.m. Irish music performed by "TREE, the band" will begin at 4 p.m. in the Dillweed's herb garden. There will be food and refreshments for sale.
Billy Jacobs, a popular self-trained folk artist from Ohio, will be on hand to meet and greet and sign copies of his artwork. "Billy's collection of primitive American landscapes have made him one of the country's most recognized folk artists," said Corey Gilmore, manager of the B&B and Cindy's son.
Although one-third of its guests are trail enthusiasts, Gilmore said the remainder consist of business travelers, family celebrations (anniversaries, birthdays, reunions and weddings), university parent/student retreats and those seeking a "weekend escape."
The B&B, 10 miles north of Johnstown and 18 miles south of Indiana, has four air-conditioned guest rooms with two shared baths and a garden suite with a private bath. There is a central parlor with cable TV and Wi-Fi and a large covered porch.
The Trailside Shop, a former tavern and hardware store, offers seasonal giftware, antique items, gourmet food items, snacks, refreshments and a self-service café for trail users.
The café is where we sat down after completing the first 20 miles of the trail recently. We enjoyed three of Cindy Gilmore's homemade chicken sandwiches, a macaroni salad, cold drinks and dessert. It's the only food stop between Ebensburg and Blairsville.
We left a van at Saylor Park in Blairsville, drove our bikes in a pickup truck to the trailhead in Ebensburg and started down the crushed limestone trail. My companions kept me moving.
The generally flat trail has a few downhill segments, as much as a 3 percent grade in some places, en route to Blairsville. We were disappointed to find that the Niner-Diner in Nanty Glo had closed since our previous visit. It was a favorite stop for rejuvenating milkshakes.
After stopping at the impressive Eliza Furnace, we rode the nearby 4-mile-long Rexis Branch of the trail. We visited the walk-on map of the Vinton Colliery and the sobering miners' memorial at the portal of Mine No. 6.
The Ghost Town Trail is well-maintained and worth a visit.
Mike Brown of Maestro Frameworks on the North Side, a master bicycle frame and wheel builder, will assemble a bicycle and offer maintenance tips at noon and 3 p.m. today at the Carnegie Science Center.
Larry Walsh writes about recreational bicycling for the Post-Gazette.