Type 2 Diabetic. Bike tour guide. #NextBurgh Flâneur. Coffeeneur.
A bike / map geek with a gadget obsession and a high-viz fetish. by Vannevar Bush       about       /       murals       /       Pgh-DC bike maps new

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Tweed Ride and Parametric Space

4/30/11 #226
7 miles



Tweed photos from Pittsburgh, Buffalo, Cleveland, DC, SanFran.


There are no bad rides, only rides of varying difficulty and pleasure, goes the received wisdom. But if there were such a thing, today was almost a bad ride.

Beautiful day, 63F, I got on the bike after seven days off. In five miles I was sitting on the grass and not feeling very well.

I had not eaten, and I had overdressed and then stubbornly persisted in it. It is remarkable how each 10F degrees affects the clothing issue; I was dressed for 40, it was 63, and I overcooked.

In the 60's Dr. Nicholas Rescher at the University of Pittsburgh described what he called "parametric space", the concept of a matrix constrained by parametric ranges.

For instance, life on earth as we know it (LOEAWKI) exists within a parametric space bound by temperatures from -40 to +140F, with barometric pressure between x and y, etc - and if reality moves outside of parametric space then the construct collapses, and with it the phenomena that we are enthusiastic about (life, for instance).

So based on geometry we can describe a 3-d space, but when we add other spectrums we can define different spaces, including those with boundaries defined by energy states. The recognition of sound waves, radio waves, etc. allows us to define new parametric spaces that our original sensors could not describe.

Further, when we've exhausted the conclusions we can draw on the basis of complete sensory apprehension (everything we can see, hear, etc), then increases in information and knowledge require expansion of the parametric space through new techniques - electron microscope, radio telescopes, etc.

As I sat on the grass waiting to feel better I thought about Dr. Rescher and his parametric spaces, and I thought about how narrow my own parametric ranges are - I really do have to keep my blood sugar and food-energy levels in a certain range, and I need to accurately dress for the temperatures - dressing for 40 in 63 didn't work real well, and being stubborn about it was foolish.

So while I was sitting on a hillock of grass along the road, which was in fact somebody's property, the owner came out and approached me. You OK, he asked, which I thought was very nice, and I explained that I was just catching my breath. He said, Sure, I just wanted to check, and I used to be a bike mechanic so I thought I'd offer if you needed help. That was a bit of serendipity.

It's not flooding, no tornadoes, and it didn't snow. Rode 7 miles.

4/30/11 Week 17 // Miles this week: 7
//Miles 2nd quarter: 274 // miles this year: 585

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Clydesdale Easter

3/24/11 #237


Interesting article from Time: Why Exercise Won't Make You Thin. Quick summary: you're not in any way accurate at compensatory eating, and so you exercise and overeat.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

DC Bike Trip, Sterling, VA - Mount Vernon, VA

4/23/11 #238



4/22/11 Week 16 // Miles this week: 130
//Miles 2nd quarter: 267 // miles this year: 578

Just returned from a two-day bike trip which was prompted by a bit of winter cabin fever and the desire to go ride on relatively flat paved trails in warmer weather, and this trip delivered on the promise.



We departed Pittsburgh at 0600 and drove to DC, parking our van at 1130 in the parking lot of the Embassy Suites Hotel Dulles on Waxpool Road. We traveled southeast along the W&OD Trail, which was in excellent condition.

The W&OD Trail follows the right-of-way of a major overhead power line, so there's no canopy. The trail is not a straightaway as I had anticipated, but is an interesting path and a fun ride. On the western side of the trail there are several at-grade (which is to say, road-level) street crossings and in general local motorists were very cooperative. There are a few hills on the west side of the W&OD where the trail goes over major highways.

The W&OD trail is well signed and marked, certainly visitor-friendly. There are rest stations with water fountains, and there are a few electric air pumps along the trail. Very impressive.

We made our first stop at Caffe Amouri in Vienna, VA, a very nice indie coffee shop. We were very close to Bikes @ Vienna which has a great reputation and is known as a recumbent specialty shop, so we tooled over there for a look and then returned to the trail.

The trail passes next to some remarkable houses, and one of the things you can do with a group that has Droid phones is you can stop and Zillow the house you are looking at, see what it costs, and if it's recently up for sale you can see interior photos - that was borderline spooky/stalky.

The wind was out of the southeast at about 15 knots, so there was a headwind for today's ride. It wasn't bad at all for most of the trip, but it was pretty strong as we got closer to DC.

We intercepted the Custis Trail which weaves along both sides of I-66. When it does that, often one side of the trail is the highway noise barrier wall, and the other side is the local neighborhood. The trail undulates over the highway and then down to street level numerous times, and it provided more of a climbing workout than I thought the DC area would offer.

From the Custis Trail we joined the Mount Vernon trail. It was nice to see the historic skyline across the river. The Mount Vernon trail is beautiful, it follows the Potomac quite closely. There's a major park right under the approach path for the south runway at National Airport, that was a very cool stop.

Coming south out of DCA was one area that I thought might have benefited from a barrier wall of some sort, you're southbound along the trail and separated from northbound highway traffic by six feet of grass on a descending slope, it would be too easy for a distracted bicyclist or a child to end up in a high-impact collision.

The Mount Vernon trail is not continuous through the town of Alexandria, you need to ride on streets through there but it's very bike-friendly. We stopped at a Starbucks in Old Town, Alexandria. By then it was 80F and we sat outside Starbucks and watched the world walk by for a little bit.

Back on the trail, the airplanes at DCA were landing in a different direction now which heralded the wind shift that would give us a headwind on both days of our ride.

M. has family and friends in the DC area and was communicating with them through the day in case we needed a safety net, and one friend hoped to meet us along the final leg into Mount Vernon. We serendipitously decided to take a break on highway overpass while M's friend was riding on the highway, so he pulled over with a supply of cold Yuenglings which was both a welcome respite and a remarkable intercept.

The Mount Vernon trail continues south along the Potomac into some beautiful wildlife areas, and we had the opportunity to remind ourselves of the Third Rule of Bicycle Touring:

Never Ride to A Place that is named "Mount _____"


You can never start riding to a place named Mount (anything) and not find hills at the end. That's why they call it Mount Pilot, Mount Olympus, Mount Washington - it's because they've got a hill that will make you want to cry.

We rode uphill to our hotel (Best Western Mount Vernon, great hotel, excellent staff, bike friendly) and were very glad that we hadn't set a more ambitious plan for the day, 49.2 miles was enough for an early spring ride.

The weather was wonderful the first day, we had a lot of sunshine, 80F temps. There was a lot of pollen; our eyes were irritated and the bikes were covered in fine yellow powder.

In the evening we ate at an adjacent restaurant, El Paso, which was excellent - wonderful food, reasonably priced, great staff. Highly recommended.

Bike Trip Day Two: Mount Vernon to Sterling, VA


We met at 0800 for the hotel's breakfast, which was very good. It was a cold morning, low 40s and very windy, northwest at 25 which was another headwind. It was a morning for full-fingered gloves and wool socks. We started our ride at 0900 wearing a lot of clothes, and we shed one layer after the first five miles.

We rode north into Alexandria and this time stopped at a Starbucks closer to the river, a very nice shop in the basement of an old building with a grotto vibe. We sat outside again but the temps were not conducive to lounging and so we got back on the bikes.

As we rode north into the cold wind we needed to ride to generate heat, and I kept thinking of Andy Hampsten an American rider who is the only non-European to win the Giro, and who had a remarkable ride over the Gavia Pass in a 1988 snowstorm, in which he needed to ride fast to stay warm but the conditions made any speed quite risky.

After passing DCA we crossed into downtown DC to ride along the Reflecting Pool. We took a photo by the Jefferson Memorial, then we rode across town (which was a bit congested), had a hotdog at a roadside stand, saw the WW2 Memorial, learned that the Reflecting Pool has been excavated for a refurbishment, rode to the Lincoln Memorial, and then crossed the river back to the trails again. The downtown excursion was a nice break in the middle of the day, slow pedaling in crowds.

While we were near the White House we met a couple on touring bikes from Germany that we had seen earlier in the day. Really nice bikes, all tricked out with Ortlieb panniers, surprisingly no high-viz clothing or gear. They were probably in their mid-60's, a husband and wife from Germany. They had left Miami on their bikes three weeks previous, and hoped to reach Boston in another few weeks, staying overnight in hotels. They were very impressive.

We left the Mount Vernon Trail for the Custis, and now that we had some knowledge of the path ahead we paced ourselves a bit more wisely across the I-66 chicanery. At about 30 miles into the day we stopped at a Starbucks (thanks Mr. Droid!) and enjoyed a nice break in big comfortable recliners, they were a bit hard to leave behind. We shed another layer of clothes there and enjoyed the last two hours at 60F.

We continued uneventfully to reach the destination at 5pm with 52.3 miles on the GPS. We used the hotel's facilities to change clothes, put the bikes on the rack and drove home. I was back at my house at about 1030pm.

This was a great trip. It was exactly what I had hoped for, a middle-distance ride early in the season with great company and paved trails. I could do this again next spring.

The W&OD Trail, the Custis Trail, and the Mount Vernon Trail are wonderful - well designed, well maintained, marked and signed. The traffic on the trail is a mixture of road bikes, recumbents, kids and geezers, joggers, dog walkers, people with strollers - but they're all well behaved and courteous.

The bikes performed well, no flat tires, no mechanical issues.

I do like the local policy (advertised on trail signs) of a maximum dog leash length of 10 feet, I see people on the Montour Trail with 25-foot leashes and that's not very practical IMO.

The 50-mile distance was luxurious (as opposed to an 85-mile day) because whenever we stopped there wasn't any time pressure to get back on the bikes in order to reach the destination in sunlight and before the restaurants close down.

Planning-wise, here's a series of DC-specific bikes maps and if you call them, they'll snail-mail you a few for free. This link will sell you a cool folding map of the W&OD for $6, sort of like the Adventure Cycle maps. Finally, Google Maps (bike) is a great resource.

Inevitably I gained weight during the ride, which is what usually happens.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Breakfast Destination Hot Metal Diner

4/17/11 #233
28.2 miles


Today I rode 28.2 miles in 2h30m, 50F, quite windy. The first section of my ride was the Destination Breakfast at the world-famous Hot Metal Diner on Route 837, so I rode from the Hot Metal Bridge to the Hot Metal Diner, a distance of 6.6 miles with a bit of a climb at the end.



Great ride and I really enjoyed climbing the hill. The food was excellent and the atmosphere was colorfully quirky (in a good way) at the Hot Metal Diner. I had a western omelette (excellent), hash browns (wonderful), corned beef hash (meh). This will be a ride-to-food that I'll do again. Very pleasant experience and great food.

Bicycle Wheel Grabber Killer Drain Gratings on Route 837


On the way back down the hill I crossed over the railroad tracks in Hays, using the new bridge lanes that had recently been rebuilt with stimulus money. I had to stop on the road, because the new drain gratings on the new bridge were absolute Bicycle Wheel Grabber Killers.



There's almost no way you could avoid putting one of your tires into these things. There are five or six of these on the newest lanes going from Hays toward the river. I need to find out who to contact, because there are absolute bike accidents/injuries waiting to happen, especially at night or in the rain.

2011 Steel City Showdown, Bicycle Criterium Race



I rode from the Hot Metal Diner back to the Baldwin Borough Trail, Hot Metal Bridge, Jail Trail, Ft. Duquesne Bridge to the Steel City Showdown, which is a bicycle criterium race. Very cool, well attended, very well organized.

It was very windy, presenting strong gusting crosswinds on the long legs across the bridges. I didn't see a lot of echelon riding, and I didn't see any wheel disks, which I suppose is to be expected.



I watched for three laps, there was a breakaway, a chase group, the peleton, and then a few stragglers. An announcer on the platform with a sound system did a really nice job of calling the race and explaining the nuances to the crowd. Very well run event, I hope they do it again.

The Rest of the Ride

I rode north along the Ohio River, past the Casino and up to the Western Penitentiary. Then I reversed and enjoyed a tailwind, took the Ft. Duquesne and Ft. Pitt Bridges, the Station Square Trail to the Southside trail, and the Hot Metal Bridge to my car — which started, so life is good.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Benefits of Procrastination on Tax Day

4/15/11 #234
41.7 miles


4/15/11 Week 15 // Miles this week: 72 //Miles 2nd quarter: 137 // miles this year: 448

April 15th is always a very effective day for me, I usually take the day off far in advance, and then I spend the day doing all the small tasks I've been procrastinating and delaying for months in order to actually procrastinate doing my taxes. That's how much of a procrastination ninja I am - I can actually get things done and still be second-level delaying. The taxes don't get done, but everything else does.

Today I took the racks off my Surly bike, cleaned the hardware and remounted them (front and rear this time) using Blue Loctite gel (which is awesome), just because it's a tragedy when these things go loose in the middle of nowhere. I did some other small fidgeting on the bike, the rear brake cable needed to be adjusted, new batteries in all the lights, the rear lights needed a new kludge to keep them aligned, etc.

I took advantage of the weather and rode 41.7 miles in 3h18 minutes. I tried to get finished four minutes earlier (pi time is 3.14), but it was not to be. I rode on the Montour Trail from Boggs to the trailside Farmhouse Coffee in McMurrary/Peters, which is a favorite stop of mine. I had a hot chocolate and a pastry then returned.

Sightings included a recumbent racing trike that had dual headlights on it, it looked sharp and was going quite fast. Since I was on the trail, I indulged myself in listening to NPR on the radio, totally excellent.

Trail conditions were very good, the National Tunnel is quite wet but the ice is gone.

It's supposed to rain on Saturday, I'll do the taxes then.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Next Sunday 4/17 Steel City Showdown, 8.30am - 1.30pm

4/10/11 #235
29.7 miles




Next Sunday, April 17 2011, there's a bicycle race in downtown Pittsburgh - the Steel City Showdown. At this time there are 210 registered racers.

Bicyclists will race a rectangular course framed by the Roberto Clemente Bridge and the Andy Warhol Bridge — two of the "three sisters". The first race starts at 0830, and races of riders of various categories continue until the Kiddie Race at 1.30pm. Prime spots for spectators are the walkways along the two bridges.



Showdown Tailgate

from the website:
The Showdown Tailgate began as a friendly competition among bike shops, and local shops will definitely "bring it" as they compete for the award of Best Tailgate Tent. In addition to the shops, fans will also mingle with national cycling brands and retailers as well as AGH Sports Medicine, Cycling Fusion, and other sponsors.

We are also excited about several nonprofit and local advocacy groups that will bring their unique perspectives in cycling to the Showdown Tailgate. These groups include Team H2Ope, a RAAM team from Ohio, BikePGH and Venture Outdoors, as well as other charity organizations with a cycling focus.





Beautiful day, sunny, 75F, dry. Road out on a local four-lane, there was a lot of debris on the shoulder - rocks, glass, wire - and I thought I should stay out of that but it wasn't a situation where taking the lane was appropriate.

It was wonderful to be able to dress for warm weather. I wore short and a jersey, and instead of wool socks, shoes, and booties I wore my Lake clipless sandals which I love. The sandals do have one downside - there's reduced protection from any rocks etc that a passing car might kick up, and for diabetics a foot injury is really bad news, but I'm living on the edge and loving the wind on my toes.

Eventually about 14 miles into my ride I had a flat rear tire. On the one hand, what a pain - but on the other hand, what a pleasure to be able to work with my fingers and not have them be numb in the cold.

I took the necessary gear out of my trunk bag - levers, tube, pump, C02 canister, inflator - and then I realized, man there's a lot of stuff in that bag besides what's necessary to fix a flat. It may be that I don't really need my orange reflective survival blanket, I'm thinking about that.

I put a rubber medical glove on my right hand, which I usually do to avoid getting it all greasy and dirty when I change a tire. I got so dirty from sitting in the road, handling the tire etc that when I took the glove off my hand, I think I looked a little like Micheal Jackson.

A passing bicyclist stopped to see if I needed anything, I really appreciated that. He was wearing an orange-red kit on a red/white Cervelo road bike, I really appreciated his courtesy. I was pleased that my hand-pump got the tire up to 70 psi pretty easily and I didn't have to use my CO2 cartridge (they're $8 each).

I stopped at a McD to wash up and bought to a diet Coke and a baby ice cream cone, I though I had a treat coming. The new tire held up well on the ride home.

I rode a few hills today, my max speed was 37 and my min speed was 2.6 mph, that's a pretty good spread. I ended up riding a little bit shorter than I'd planned, 29.7 miles, but I took up quite a bit of time dealing with the flat tire.

It was a great day to ride a bicycle.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Sandcastle Bike Trail Update

4/9/11 #232


4/9/11 Week 14 // Miles this week: 65 //
Miles 2nd quarter: 65 // miles this year: 376

Courtesy of PG transportation writer Jon Schmitz, Sandcastle Trail Update (part2).

  • 11/11/11 from Duquesne to the Point not necessarily a guaranteed thing
  • Sandcastle work starts soon, ends when park opens, resumes when park closes in Sept.
  • from Duquesne to the Waterfront - June 2011
  • Accolades and chapeau to the never-resting Linda Boxx! Thank you!


Thursday, April 7, 2011

Western Penitentiary to Pamelas Pancakes in Millvale Bike Ride

4/7/11 #233
42 miles


Today was a great day for bicycling, 55-60F. As I drove out to my first ride of the day I met five young men with loaded bikes riding from Harrisonburg VA to Ohio. They looked like they were enjoying themselves.

The plan for my ride with M. was to start at the Western Penitentiary, ride to Millvale and eat at Pamela's Pancakes.

Western Penitentiary Trailhead

To find this trailhead, you could use this address: Valspar Corp., 2000 Westhall Street, Pittsburgh, PA 15233-1090.


Bike Trail Route, Western Pen to Millvale



Millvale Bike Trailhead to Pamela's Pancakes


It's a short hop through the town of Millvale to Pamela's Pancakes. Crossing Route 28 requires your attention, cars are going through there fast and it's a complex interchange.


When at Pamela's

Pamela's in Millvale is very cool, it's co-located with the Lincoln Pharmacy - old-world drug store counter service, etc. I ate the crepe-pancakes with strawberries and had coffee, which was perfect fuel for the rest of the ride.


After Pamela's

After Pamela's we rode back along the Allegheny to the stadiums, crossed the two bridges to get to Station Square (my favorite ten minutes of Pittsburgh bicycling), and then we rode down to SouthSide Works.

Southside Works Bike Trail

While we were at Southside Works we took a look at the new trail under construction which will permit a smooth transition along the river without bicycles having to mix with sidewalks and pedestrians along Tunnel Park. Basically, the new trail route stays between the river and the Hofbrau Haus / American Eagle buildings, and connects to the Hot Metal Bike Bridge.


Total mileage for the Pittsburgh ride was 22.1 miles.

Little Beaver Creek Greenway Trail, Lisbon Ohio

Later in the day I met K. and we rode the paved Little Beaver Creek Greenway Trail out of Lisbon, Ohio to Leetonia, Ohio. The south end of the trail has an adjacent bike shop (Donna's Bike Shop, very nice, friendly, well supplied). This is a very nice trail, well maintained; we rode 20 miles. It starts along Little Beaver Creek and has some very nice views.

I saw a black squirrel, which I'd only heard about for the first time last week.

There are a few at-grade road crossings that make some funny angles, so you want to be watchful. We saw probably thirty other people while we were out. Nice trail and I'll ride it again, I hope.



Total mileage for the day: 42.1

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Here Comes The Rain Again

4/3/11
23 miles road 47F

Nice day for a ride before the rains come.




I waited all day for the temps to rise from 29 to 47, and got out on the road before the rain started. It felt so good to ride again.

Now that we're in the Second Quarter (April-May-June), my goal is 4 rides a week, and 92 miles/week. We'll see.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

4-2-11 End of First Quarter, 2011

4/2/11

4/2/11 Week 13 // Miles this week: 53 Miles 1st quarter: 311 // miles this year: 311

First Quarter: PLAN
jan-feb-mar: 2x18mile rides /wk
2x18=36 per week, 144/month, 432/quarter

end of qtr weight: 215


GOAL: 432 miles, 215 pounds
ACTUAL: 311 miles, 334 pounds