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

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Look What They've Done to My Nap Tree, Ma

4.19.2014 #215 25m
I haven't been on the Montour Trail since November, because over the winter the trail goes through freeze-thaw cycles and develops ruts and runoff and it's bad for the trail to ride on it.

So I was back out there today, looking to reacquaint myself with my old route and see what's new. The trail surface was hard and rutted in some spots, but that's normal this time of year. It looks like a lot of work has been done lately clearing drainage channels on either side of the trail. Between mileposts 21 and 24 it looks like they're about to resurface the trail.

There were some new signage, and some new benches - and the new benches had a flat top surface with no back panel, which makes them infinitely better suited for bike napping. I'm into bike napping in a big way, so I was real happy to see the new bench format. My favorite bike nap spot in the world is on the Montour Trail out in Cecil Township. I can tell you that if you look the area up on Google Naps, you'll see that somebody has apparently entered the spot as an excellent bike nap location. Just saying.


My reverie at returning to my home trail was disturbed when I turned a bend in the trail and saw a scene of violent destruction, and fairly recent violence at that - the shade tree over my favorite napping place had been struck down before it's prime! I was devastated.


I could only stop the bike, unable to proceed, and eventually reversed course. The song kept running through my mind, Look what they've done to my song, Ma (imo, the definite performance was by Claudine Longet) except between my ears it was Look what they've done to my tree, Ma. My mother would just say, hey it's not your tree anyway.

Thomas Wolfe was right, you really can't go home again, not even on a bicycle. It's never there.



Friday, April 18, 2014

Surly ECR Test Ride at Thick Bikes

5.18.2014 52m #215
Started in Coraopolis at the Park-and-Ride at Route 51 and Thorn Run Road, timing some segments for an upcoming BikeTrain / BikePool for Ride Your Bike To Work Day (RYB2WD). The idea is, a "bike train" of several cyclists rides along a published, scheduled route so that commuters who prefer to ride in a group can ride their bikes to work.

Departed the 51-ThornRun Park&Ride lot. Crossed over to Neville Island, passed by the Robert Morris ice hockey rink and the I79-Park&Ride (which I think I'll be using for the BikeTrain). Back to the mainland, then the McKees Rocks Bridge. West-to-east is an uphill slope and I used the segregated sidewalk, because I imagine that's the path of discretion with a group of commuters; there's a lot of debris on the sidewalk.

From Route65 I took McClure St. down to Western Penitentiary, and joined the North Side Trail around to the Casino. Passed by the north-east corner of the baseball stadium, which will be another BikeTrain stop, then crossed the Allegheny River via the 6th Street Bridge into Market Square. Fifteen miles, sixty-seven minutes at a moderate pace.

Putzed around a bit; Jimmy John's for a sandwich. Back to the North Side. Notably, the ADA-ramp from Chateau Street up to California Street is now open which is an awesome bit of bike-infrastructure.

Met S back at the Bastille. We rode out to Thick Bikes because I'd left my high-viz vest there. I bought a new bell for my bike, the simple one-ding classic I've been rolling with wasn't cutting through the ear buds sufficiently. This one has a more br-br-br-br-ring-ring-ring-ring-ring sound.

S. is shopping handlebars and bikes, and I got to testride one of Thick's Surly ECRs. I really like this bike: I like the Jones H-bars, I liked the 29" ride and the 3" tires, I like the disc brakes. It felt like a bike that wants to go all day long.



I have heard different notions of what ECR stands for. As in, "extremely cool ride" etc. Today one of the shop mechanics said it stood for, Escape (the) City Rapidly.

Rode out to the Valley of the Shadow of Eagle Watchers which now has yellow placards warning people about Eagle Watching Activity In Progress, which is probably a great head's up for bicyclists coming quickly upon the scene. I could see how there could be conflicts and the signage might inform people better.

Rode out to the Waterfront, and reversed. Back to the North Side. Dropped S off at her vehicle, then climbed McClure up to the McKees Rocks Bridge, Neville Island to Coraopolis which took +55 minutes, I kind of surprised myself at that time.

52 miles, excellent day.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Most Car Fatalities Happen Within Five Miles of the Home

4.17.2014 #216 32m 60F
Due to misplaced priorities on my part, spent hours of nice weather writing website code. Finally got outside about 3.30 on a very nice day.

Rode from the Res down to the Sewickley Bridge. Saw that there is, in fact, a different form of life in Sewickley and it may have taken over the Sweetwater Arts Center.



Departed Sewickley on my new Fave Route, Beaver Street to Ambridge's Merchant Street, to Duss Avenue. Stopped at my new Fave Route-65-Beaver-County Indy Coffee Shop, the Blue Canary. Double espresso and a muffin, yummy goodness. Very nice people.

Back on the bike, Duss Ave turns into State Street in Baden, to Route 65. Crossed the Ohio at the East Rochester Bridge. Back on my own turf in Monaca, close to the spiritual center of the universe which is Yolanda's Pizza, a driver in a silver Hundai decided to demonstrate the limitation of human performance by unintentionally trying to kill me. Fortunately, while it was an unconscious and involuntary activity for the driver, it was an Opt-Out event for me, and I decided that Hashtag-Today.Was.Not.That.Day.

The driver was suitably aghast when they realized they'd almost dented their car with me, and seemed so agitated that I decided to not pass in front of the car as suggested because they were so very twitchy that to me, it seemed like waiting until after they were gone and enjoying the breathing in and out was just prudent. Instead of "taking the lane", I was "taking the now" which is probably the title of my next movie.

While most of life's lessons are contained in the Godfather movies, I believe it was a Steve McQueen movie that conveyed the maxim, most car fatalities happen with five miles of the home. Word.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Chrissy B's Most Excellent McKeesport Polar Vortex Ride

4.15.2014 #215 40m 30F
In the end, as it so often is: It's my fault that it was 30 degrees F, windy and blowing snow on April 15th. It's my fault because on April 14th, I carefully put away my underlayers, middlelayers, four sets of gloves, tights, underArmour and chemical warmers, balaclava and buff, etc. I put them all in one duffel bag so that next year I could find them all in one place and not have them scattered hither and yon.

Have you heard the phrase, God is an iron? written by Spider Robinson. It goes like this.

  • A glutton is a person who does gluttony
  • A felon is a person who does a felony
  • God is an iron
It was good that I put all that stuff together in one bag, so I could use them the . next . day.

This was Chrissy B's Most Excellent McKeesport Ride, from Thick on SouthSide to McKeesport via the GAP Trail. Conditions were such that we had the trail pretty much to ourselves (great planning!) This was a good group of riders, very safe and experienced, felt very comfortable riding with them. Chrissy did a nice job setting this up.

Really nice ride, sixteen riders; two tandems, one fat bike. In my own perspective, I felt strong and had teh flow-like-water thing going on the first leg, and then when everybody stopped at the Whittaker Flyover I realized wow, there's a tailwind going on. Trail conditions were excellent, the extremely light snow wasn't accumulating although you could make out the tire tracks on the Riverton Bridge.

Took a turn around McKeesport and then pointed the bikes back into the wind. The group spread out pretty widely on the return trip. I think I was back at Thick around 9.20. In August, I will be wishing for a cold refreshing blast of toe-numbing Arctic air like we had tonight.

The last few miles, the overcast had blown through and it was clear skies and a bright moon, really kind of pretty. A very nice group ride, hopefully closing out the winter riding season. 40 miles.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Trail of the Dead: Strava Edition

4.13.2014 #213 20m

Since yesterday was Spring, today was Summer in Pittsburgh. Absolutely georgeous, although how They manage the persistent headwind is very impressive. There must be an App for that.

The trails were crowded with oldsters, youngsters, girlsters, guysters. Rode from the Bastille down to the Eagle's Flypaper section of the trail, along with S and Marco.

The mixture of trail newcomers, people without any hint of where they're going, and high-performing time conscious athletes suggests a new Zombie movie to be filmed on the trails today: Trail of the Dead: Strava Edition.

Departed the Eagle's Flypaper Zone, rode to Piper's Pub for a repast, back to the Bastille. Perfect conditions.



Saturday, April 12, 2014

Springtime in Pittsburgh

4.12.2014 #215 46m
Glorious day, spring has sprung n'at.

Started riding at the Bastille with my bike teacher MC at 0900 in a cold fog. Crossed to Point State Park as an MS 5K run and 1mile walk was mustering up, big crowds lots of tents; such chaos much goodwill. Busted out of the park, rode the Jail Trail to the Hot Metal Bridge by which time the fog was gone and we were fairly warmed up.

Continued down to Keystone Metals, through the bird-watching gauntlet, down to the pumphouse. Stopped for a drink. Restrooms still locked, keeping them safe from the hordes who would - what, exactly?

Reversed, passed through the Gauntlet of Eagle Groupies. Got to see an eagle fly around. A lot of people on the trail, some of them probably for the first time this year, still in shakedown mode.

Rode to South Side, stopped at Big Dog Coffee for oatmeal with fruit toppings and mocha biancas wow and also used the wifi to watch a movie from one of M's offspring.

Rode East Carson Street. Traffic was such that it slowed us down just a bit to take the lane, which is cool. Smithfield Street Bridge, back to the North Side. It was great to ride with MC again.

Coming back to the Bastille, we met S. by the Post-Gazette plant. I ditched MC and rode with S, back into town. Stopped on the Ft.Duquesne bridge to help two cyclists (CMU grad-student roadies, if you must put people into tiny boxes) who had a flat tire but no spare tube or patch kit. Another achievement unlocked.



At Point State Park we started riding along the course of the MS route, removing the route markers (by request). Prior to Grant Street we encountered two Cadilacs with Jersey plates who were confounded by Pittsburgh navigation and were flummoxed at finding their way up to GrandView Street, so we told them to follow us and led them over to the base of McCardle. I bet they don't get that kind of service in New Jersey.

Back to the MS-event course, where we removed the signs from the 1 mile route and then from the 5K route. That was pretty easy duty.

Rode out to Lawrenceville to see a new mural, still a work in progress, Stephen Foster on 42nd Street, on the river side of Butler. The work is being done by Jeremy Raymer, who's also using a house at 35th and Charlotte as an outdoor gallery and he does some excellent work.



Crossed the 40th Street Bridge into Millvale, where both sets of trailhead restrooms are locked to prevent the same sort of abuse that I guess the pumphouse is also afraid of. Took the North Side Trail around to Federal Street. Continued to the Bastille. Totally perfect riding conditions. 46 miles.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Cyclist Stand Your Ground; A Fountain Runs Through It

4.10.2014 #215 23m
Sort of a swirling day and a good day to get on a bike.

Saw a bit of car-bike bullying on my way to the biking. At the McKees Rocks Bridge and Route 65 intersection, a cyclist was being followed by a Blue Jaguar (PA license JCA2453) and as I arrived it seemed like the cyclist had stopped to pick up something he'd dropped, delaying the Jag driver who was dipleased and honking, shouting, and slowly inching forward as if to bump the cyclist.

I was two cars back and the cyclist seemed to provide the driver an opportunity of choice - would he, in fact, hit the cyclist? Finally the driver stopped advancing, more shouting, the cyclist continued, the Jag passed, and the traffic flow resumed. Didn't have time to take a movie.

Two thoughts, a moment later. (1) #JaguarJagoff is such a great hashtag. (2) Although I generally am not a Stand Your Ground Supporter, because anything ALEC supports I can generally assume I'll oppose, imagine if SYG meant: cyclists can shoot to kill any driver the cyclist perceives as a threat. Of course, that just plays to the same victim-revenge-fear-omnipotence fantasy that actual SYG laws pander to, but: BikeLobby!

Started out at the Bastille. Rode to Point State Park, back to the Bastille, out to Thick Bikes and REI.

Checked my phone at REI in accordance with The Law and saw that a friend had playfully tweeted my location in homage to High-Viz cycling. So much for my Secret Cyclist role with #Anonymous.

A lot of people on the trails today. A lot of people at intersections kind of stopped and wondering which way to go. It's good to have more people on the trails. (Keep repeating that)

The Fountain in Point State Park is operating again.


Had a cyclist riding behind me ask, "Wow what kind of tail light is that?" I love it when that happens. (Design Shine 600, btw, and I'm very, very pleased with it.