Type 2 Diabetic. Clydesdale Bicyclist. Pittsburgh Flâneur. Caffeine User.
A bike geek with a gadget obsession and a high-viz fetish. by Vannevar Bush       about       /       murals

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Unofficial Mt. Davis Challenge, part two

7.30 39m
Today I got to go back out to Mt. Doom Davis. It was unseasonably cool and a great day for climbing.My friend RC came out from Pittsburgh and we set out around 1130. The route ended up looking like this, with the outbound (climbing) segment in red and the second (generally downhill) leg in green.

There is an unnecessary bit on the outbound leg where we missed a turn and had to backtrack. It took 3.5 hours to get up to the top, and 1.0 hour to get back down. We didn't do anything unusual, but the top speed on the computer was 41.1 mph when we were finished. Glorious descents.

Amazingly, people race up this thing in the Mt. Davis Challenge, in a much grander way.

The roads were not busy and the drivers were all very courteous. Twice the surface changed from pavement to dirt-gravel and then back again. Very pretty country, tremendous views. It was a cool day, but we were pretty warmed up.

There's a marker, an observation tower, and a few explanatory panels at the peak of Mt. Davis but otherwise there's nothing in the way of restrooms or water. When we started down, we stopped at the nearby YMCA camp to fill our water bottles (and to put our jackets on, the descents were bracing).

On the way down we decided to eschew the gravel-dirt roads and improvised a paved route, which worked pretty well. The descent still had climbs in it, this is not a rail-trail engineered with a focus on redundant grade.

A tremendous ride, challenging and rewarding. I'm glad I had good company for it.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Looked at Mt. Davis, and I blinked

7.27.2014 12m
Started out to ride from Confluence to the top of Mount Davis and I Did Not Finish (DNF). I looked at the climb and I blinked.

There are stories, factors: excuses. I listed to my phone, which routed me on dirt roads, which turned into muddy hills - but that's an excuse. It's a poor cyclist who blames Google.

I heard footsteps from the expected Tornados of the Century but that's just bad planning on my part.

I just didn't have the mojo. Today was not the day. In previous years, I'd have stuck it out until I bonked, puked, or had a blood sugar crash. Today I recognized, this path is not working for me, and pushing real hard isn't going to make it better.

But I do need to get out there again. Great hills.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Casual Camping, Caveat Markleton, Normal Distribution

7.26.2014 43m
Started in Confluence with a visit to the Confluence Cyclery. They really know what they're doing - free wifi, water, bike wash station. There's a booth on the trail giving away tokens redeemable for small treasures at the bike shop.

Rode uphill/east. Saw some folks had picked an inspired place for casual camping. One of my first feelings was: lucky!, my second thought was: great location but no water supply, and my next thought was d'oh! there's a river!

Every time I come out here I mean to mention this and forget to: I think the road crossing is Markleton is (relatively) a bit tricky for low-time, unprepared cyclist noobs. If you're westbound and descending you're fast, and there's a fairly significant mini-ditch in the trail-road interface.

Which is exactly what this cyclist is encountering (and handling quite well):
photo taken with permission of cyclist
And then when you get to the other side of the road, you meet an abrupt uphill and you're probably not in the right gear for that.

Eastbound/climbing, you encounter a downhill and then a funny oblique road crossing:

It's nothing technical, it's just a moment that wants your attention in the midst of twenty miles that doesn't.

Continued to the Rockwood Opera House, and what I think is the only Espresso machine in the region. Talked to some Annapolis cyclists considering Pgh-DC. Back on the bike, descending.

Finally: very very impressed that the gender distribution of the top-ten Pittsburgh riders in the National Bike Challenge is 50/50.

Friday, July 25, 2014


7.25.2014 33m
OK, first: five months until Christmas. You're welcome.

Based in Confluence for a few days. Confluence is where the waters and mountains reach the sky which sometimes results in morning fog, which was kind of thick today. At midday, rode west toward Ohiopyle for a few miles. Sat on a bench, listened to the trees and the river, took a bike nap. Woke up, sat up, saw former colleague BN and his daughter T riding by, a happy circumstance. He asked me, what are you doing here? I said, where else would I be? We had a nice chat and I gave them a Honey Stinger Waffle from my BOMS (bag of many snacks).

Rode around a bit more, returned to base. Met local cyclist W on a recumbent (which seem very popular among Confluence residents). We rode "up" to the Pinkerton Bypass. It seems that locals don't refer to east and west as much as they talk in terms of up (east) and down (west).

Gobsmacked to learn that the Cassellman River, east/up from the Pinkerton Horn, is the location of a nuage energy vortex that is somewhat of a destination for folks that are aligned with that. This is why you have to ride with local cyclists! I'm told that if you know the spot, as you ride the trail you will sometimes see folks meditating there.

I was victualled today by Sisters for breakfast (5/10), Sweeties for lunch (7/10), and River's Edge for dinner (11/10).

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Tour de Braddock Rankin Swissvale

7.24.2014 #223 42m
Rode with K, S, and KC. Started at the Bastille at 0630 and rode out to Sandcastle and the Riverton Bridge between Duquesne PA and McKeesport.

Reversed, and after crossing the Whittaker Flyover encountered a cyclist who'd just fallen surrounded by three friends, probably grandma's who were out living the dream. Unfortunately, the fallen cyclist made great haste to get up because we were approaching and that wasn't necessary at all. They were a funny group of folks and no injuries.

Crossed the Rankin Bridge en route to an errand in Swissvale. Approached Regent Square from an unusual direction, across Squill, and rode Pocusset Bikeway with KC who hadn't seen it before. Coming off Pocusset I pulled some bad nav juju, I should have led us to Greenfield downhill but instead I took us through Schenley Park which I think took an extra three miles.

On the Jail Trail, approaching Golden Triangle Bike Rentals, I could see a cyclist with a helmet that looked almost like a time-trials helmet from a distance but as we got closer it seemed like something else. When we got there it turned out to be the best sunshade ever, I had to take a picture.

The cyclist said it's called Da Brim. She was on a folding Bike Friday, heading to Perryopolis for the night enroute to DC in a party of three.

42 miles, excellent ride.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Ultimate Passive-Aggressive: I just didn't see you, you're dead now. Sucks to be you.

Mon 7.21 9m
Tues 7.22 14m
Wed 7.23 15m
Tuesday, an avid driver tried to kill me in an act of not-seeing-me, which is really passive-aggressive at its best: I didn't see the cyclist, the cyclist is dead now, there's no criminal penalty, and people will offer me (the avid driver) comfort for my trouble.

Classic scenario: I was just riding along (as they say), on a straight twp-lane road, in my lane because there's no shoulder and also no traffic. The driver was opposite direction and intended to turn left into a medical office complex (on my right). The driver never saw me, and just turned into me. This is, according to a lot of what I read, the most frequent category of car-on-cyclist fatality: it's a head-on where the driver fails to perceive the cyclist as existing, probably because they're busy, not expecting the cyclist, operating on memory as much as in the moment, and possibly distracted.

Fortunately, I perceived her and so I didn't die.

So I'm rocking a bright high-viz helmet, a bright orange-yellow jersey, and I'm a big guy; I'm a pretty visible object. When I take myself out of the trajectory and start waving at the driver, hello I'm here please don't kill me, the driver looks at me like, what are you doing there? crazy cyclists!.

To move into speculation, having watched her face, I think the driver was occupied scanning the parking lot at the doctor's office, trying to figure out where they could put the car when it was still in the road, even before starting the turn. That's where the driver was looking while they commenced the turn into me.

My take-away was, what else could I have done to prevent the scenario? And my answer was, my front blinking was in the o-f-f position. What, what, what was I thinking? Was I really focused on saving electricity? I think I'll use up a few more electrons from now on.

Three very nice days of commuting to work on the bike. If I end up inside, at least I can bike back and forth.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Doughsants, Coffee, & OTB

7.20.2014 38m
Started at the Bastille with my wife Karen. About a mile into the ride, met S on the trail returning from OpenStreets and was able to return some of her gear from my van from last week's shuttle.

Back on the trail, around the stadia, out to the 40th Street Bridge. Crossed the Allegheny River, continued east out to the Oakmont Bakery. I have heard of cronuts before, but never doughsants which may be a trademark issue.

But a rose by any other name... They certainly do taste good. Oakmont Bakery also has some lovely little mini-eclairs. And bags that fit into front baskets.

Departed along Allegheny River Blvd, turned at One Wild Place and climbed up to Highland Park and Taza D'Oro which was closed when we went there on Friday. Our fortune was better today, and the coffee was great (as always). Came out and was unlocking our bikes, saw Danny Chew riding by with a buddy.

At Highland and Baum, saw a new presentation on The Last Billboard:

Rode over to Banker Supply, very impressive new shop. Crossed the Whole Foods -slash- EastSide footbridge over the Busway and took Ellsworth to Junction Hollow to SouthSide, and stopped at REI. Took advantage of the geography and went to OTB for dinner, and we lucked into seeing nascent Burgh cyclist Rick Sebak and also the crew from the day's Zodiac Alleycat, double yoi!

Great meal at OTB, then the Jail Trail and the Chateau Trail back to the waiting car which was still there. 38 miles.