Day One – Cincinnati to Ithaca - 563 miles


We blasted up I-71 and our traditional tack into northern Ohio; Ohio Route 11.  We bailed out onto US 322 headed west.  We made our first official stop at the Pymatunig Reservoir (KMZ) on the OH-PA border.  The weather was very hot and the Midwest was on the front end of a weather front that would bring some unseasonably high temperatures in the triple digits.  Where we were going we would not see anything close to those temperatures.  We stayed on US 322 until we picked up US 6 in Conneaut Lake PA (KMZ).  Route 6 in Pennsylvania enjoys a storied past.  The route can be traced back to 1807 when state officials mandated a road be cut through the Moosic Mountains to enable easier travel to the western parts of the state.  As the state and nation grew, so too did the road.  Carved out of hundreds of miles of wilderness, the road eventually united all of the county seats in Pennsylvania's northern tier.  The fledgling highway quickly became a vital link between the industry of the west and the railroads in the east.  Along its length sprung up charming villages, plentiful farming communities and thriving towns.  Our destination was the historic Kinzua Bridge (KMZ) that once spanned the Kinzua Gorge carrying coal mined south of the gorge to areas in the north.  When built in 1882, Kinzua Viaduct was the highest railroad bridge in the world. It was constructed as an alternative to laying an additional eight miles of track over rough terrain along the line leading to McKean County’s coal, timber and oil lands.  Built of iron, the original viaduct was 301 feet high, 2,053 feet long, and weighed 3,105,000 pounds.  By 1900, it became necessary to rebuild the entire structure with steel to accommodate heavier trains.  That May, about 100 to 150 men working ten-hour days completed the job in 105 days.  The new steel viaduct had the same measurements, but now weighed 6,715,000 pounds.  Freight traffic discontinued in June of 1959.  In 1963, Governor William Scranton signed a law that created Kinzua Bridge State Park.  The park officially opened in 1970.  In 1977, Kinzua Viaduct received national recognition when it was placed on the National Register of Historic Civil Engineering Landmarks.  Beginning in 1987, excursion trains traveled from Kane, PA through Allegheny National Forest, stopping on Kinzua Viaduct before returning to its point of origin.  Although the bridge received periodic inspections, it was not until a February 2002 DCNR inspection that engineers decided that the structure needed a full-scale inspection.  In June, DCNR barred excursion trains from the bridge.  As the inspection continued, engineers found that sections of steel were rusted through.  In August, the bridge was closed to all traffic, including pedestrians.  Engineers determined that high winds could create lateral pressure on the bridge.  The wind hitting the bridge could shift the center of gravity, increasing the weight on one side. Such an event could send the whole bridge crashing to the bottom of Kinuza Gorge.  Beginning in February, 2003, W. M. Brode Co. of Newcomerstown, Ohio, a national leader in railroad bridge construction and repair, began working to restore Kinzua Viaduct.  On Monday, July 21, 2003, at approximately 3:15 p.m., an F1 tornado (wind speed 73 – 112 mph) struck the side of Kinzua Viaduct.  Eleven towers from the center of the bridge were torn from their concrete bases and thrown to the valley floor.  Fortunately no one was seriously injured.  We had stopped in Mount Jewett to grab a bite to eat (KMZ).  Once through town there is a well marked road that took us to the park.  After visiting the remains of the bridge we continued on Lindholm Rd and caught PA59 (KMZ) to Smithport where we reconnected with US6.  We had spent a fair amount of time and the bridge so we picked up the pace as we headed toward Coudersport.  Once there we had to don our rain suits as it had started to rain.  It was nothing heavy but as we traveled further east the rain increased.  We decided to go north on PA 287 toward Tioga where we would pick up US15 and be able to make up some time.  But as we traveled north on PA287 the rain really began to pick up and by the time we made Corning we were smack in the middle of a gully-washer.  We stopped at a strip mall to gain some cover while we readjusted our rain suits and decided what we wanted to do.  It was completely dark at this point and we still had a good hour to get to Ithaca.  We contemplated stopping and getting a room despite having already paid for the one in Ithaca; it was that bad.  We called the motel in Ithaca and they said it was not raining there so we decided to press on.  After maybe 20 miles the rain did indeed stop and we reached our destination around 10:00.  The rooms were not that great, but we were plenty tired and made good use of the room. 
Day One – Cincinnati to Ithaca