Day Trips—Spotlight Johnstown, PA
by Rocky Marks
Ahhh, spring is finally here! I can see it in the trees, on the lawns, and on the faces of the guests that come into our shop. They are beaming with excitement about what is awaiting them while they stock up on do-it-yourself bolt-ons and cleaning supplies before taking to the roads.
Curiously I’ll ask “Where ‘ya headed?” to start up a conversation. The answers are as different as the riders themselves. I love hearing about the cross-country road trips and the “destination” locations, but I really love talking about local day-trip rides.
At this point in my life day trips are a quick-fix for getting a piece of the road. I don’t get a lot of time to ride with a newborn at home, so I squeeze in what I can when I can.
Fortunately, Western Pennsylvania is home to some of the most beautiful riding in the country. If you travel a few hours in any direction, you’ll find some relaxing winding roads, and discover the little towns of yesterday that made our region what it is today.
One of my favorite day trips is a ride east along Route 22 all the way out to 56 in Johnstown, which is very rich in history. For whatever reason, I wasn’t much of a history buff in high school or college. Now, as I get older, I’ve grown to really appreciate it.
I like to think of Johnstown as a mini-Pittsburgh. It is a tried and true steel mill and coal mining town that helped bring Pennsylvania into the industrial age and has survived some of the most amazing floods of the 20th century.
Johnstown has many museums, look-out points, quaint restaurants, and they own the bragging rights to the World’s steepest inclined plane with enough room to carry a full-sized automobile (or several motorcycles) up 896 feet of track to the top of the city at a 35 degree angle.
Johnstown also plays host to Pennsylvania’s largest motorcycle rally, Thunder in the Valley. This year, the event will take place June 25th-28th. According to their website: www.visitjohnstownpa.com/thunderinthevalley, the first rally took place in 1998. This event happened thanks to a twenty-one person committee that put the rally on with only six months to prepare. With over 5,000 bikers in attendance, the rally was deemed a success.
Ten years later, the rally is very much alive with 125 vendors and over 200,000 in attendance. It has been compared to a smaller version of Sturgis, Daytona or Laconia style atmosphere.
Johnstown also hosts Folk-Fest which is a free music event that takes place every Labor Day Weekend. Even though the festival showcases various musical acts, my favorite thing to do is to sample as much ethnic food as I can in a 3 day weekend. It’s hard to walk more than a block without being tempted by several food vendors.
This is a ride that I highly recommend. Whether you’re heading to Johnstown for an event, a rally, or something new to explore, it’s definitely worth a Saturday ride and it’s only just a few short hours from Pittsburgh.
The writer is Operations Manager at Hot Metal Harley-Davidson located in West Mifflin and Host of the radio show: “On the Road with Rocky” which airs Saturdays at 7AM on 1250 ESPN