McDONALD, Pa. - My heart raced and legs burned the faster I peddled down the Montour Trail in Washington County. I wanted to see more of the countryside the farther I biked down the trail, although I had no clue where it would take me. By the time my trip had reached nine miles, I began to see familiar sites, beginning with a trestle bridge near this quaint borough that straddles Washington and Allegheny counties. Just down the road, I could see the Robinson Township Municipal Building where I covered numerous meetings and broke a few stories.
As I rolled farther down the trail, I came upon the putrid smell emanating from the Reaxis chemical plant off Route 980. Local residents were concerned that the plant could expel dangerous chemicals into the community -- it did during one leak several years ago that caused a few problems -- and they wanted warning sirens to alert them in case of another emergency.
A couple miles more and I could see the towering coal refuse dump owned by the Bologna family. Robinson Power Company, which is operated by the Bologna's, plans to build a mid-sized power plant using the thousands of tons of waste-coal dumped on the site over the years. It has been met by major resistance from local residents, although the township supervisors approved the power plant in 2006. The project has been bogged down in permit challenges with the state Department of Environmental Protection since and the future of the power plant is in question as financial backers hedge due to the economy.
This area is still beautiful, however, and the crisp autumn afternoon made it better. I went a little farther to U.S. Route 22 to mark the end my journey. The path re-entered Allegheny County in North Fayette and it felt like it was time to return home. The excursion was fun and challenging, but I should have been thinking ahead a little bit before enduring the 14 miles back to my car. That one hurt, just a little bit. From now on, I'll leave the 28-mile bike rides to Lance Armstrong and Greg Tarr.
5 months ago