Larry Walsh on biking: Beneficiaries cheer ride for charity

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Joseph Murphy of Somerset used to bike as much as 100 miles a day in New Jersey before an armored personnel carrier rolled over, broke his neck and fractured his skull.

Sandra Edwards, also of Somerset, grew up in the "boondocks" of Bucks County, where the only transportation options for youngsters were "a bike or our feet."

Although their extensive health problems have prevented them from bicycling for many years, they will be cheering on the cyclists who participate in the 13th Annual River & Wind Challenge June 7.

"God bless them," said Murphy, 51, a father of eight and a former Marine combat squad leader.

"They do so much for us," said Edwards, a 62-year-old cancer survivor and former credit investigator who is raising two teenage grandchildren.

The challenge, a fundraising event sponsored by The Salvation Army-Somerset Service Center, offers two rides:

■ A 62-mile scenic round-trip from Confluence to Meyersdale along the Great Allegheny Passage in southern Somerset County and

■ A 22-mile round-trip along the passage from Confluence to Ohiopyle. It includes the first 9-mile segment of what was to become a 150-mile trail from the tip of Point State Park to Cumberland, Md.

Those pedaling to Meyersdale should leave at 8 a.m. and give themselves 7-8 hours to complete the ride, said Holly Beckner, director of the service center. "It will test their endurance."

The Meyersdale riders will find the Casselman River on their left, their right and again on their left as it flows under five bridges and snakes its way through the Laurel Highlands. The most spectacular span is the 1,908-foot long Salisbury Viaduct near Meyersdale.

Lunch will be served at the restored Western Maryland Railway station that overlooks the maple syrup capital of Pennsylvania.

The Ohiopyle riders will eat lunch in Confluence before setting out at noon. Their ride overlooks a popular section of the Youghiogheny River enjoyed by anglers, canoeists, kayakers and rafters.

The cyclists will have time to pedal through Ohiopyle and visit the Western Maryland Railway station.

In addition to lunch, both rides include refreshments along the passage, dinner in the Confluence Community Center, a T-shirt and an award for finishing.

Each ride costs $50. The Salvation Army will use the proceeds to help feed, clothe and provide other services for the less fortunate in Somerset County, including Murphy and Edwards.

"I don't know what I'd do without the Salvation Army," said Murphy, the father of eight whose wife, Susan, 48, died of cancer in 2012. "I'd be lost without their help."

"They see that we receive fresh produce and a variety of heat-and-serve meals every two weeks" Edwards said. "That means a lot to us in so many ways."

Information: www.salvationarmy-wpa.org; 1-814-445-9232.

Library Viaduct

The Montour Trail Council will have a ground-breaking ceremony at 2 p.m. Sunday to initiate a $2.15 million rehabilitation project on the Library Viaduct, an imposing 506-foot-long structure spanning Route 88 in the Library area of South Park Township.

The ceremony will be next to the Rite Aid Pharmacy at 6375 Library Road. Spectators will be directed to suitable parking from that location. Light refreshments will be served.

Although the viaduct has been abandoned for nearly 40 years, Council President Dennis Pfeiffer said an inspection determined that its structural integrity is sound.

Pfeiffer said the "extremely strategic" restoration project will enable the council to "close the last significant gap in our 47-mile [trail] and offer tourists a bicycle-friendly route from Pittsburgh International Airport to the Great Allegheny Passage."

Information: www.montourtrail.org

Larry Walsh writes about recreational bicycling for the Post-Gazette.


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