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Monday, May 14, 2012

Veloscenti Discern the True Cause of Frank Lenz' Death

05/15/12 243# 31m
A different sort of riding day, 31 miles over several hours and diverse events.

Started at Kennywood, dropping off a few young scholars for their annual Science Day field trip where they use the rides for various physics puzzles. Having a few hours until I needed to return to pick up my yutes, I did something you couldn't do until recently: I put my bike on the Steel Valley Trail (just behind Kennywood) and took a ride.

I rode north, crossed the SandCastle lot, walked the railroad ballast past Keystone Metals, and then after another half-mile came to a trail closure. Workers with a backhoe had dug a deep trench across the paved trail, leaving a two-foot gap in the GAP. I approached the work scene, dismounted, and walked my bike up to the abyss as the work crew eyed me. I said hello to everybody, passed the bike to a worker on the other side of the trench, stepped over and Wa-Lah as they say, back in business. Probably the trail should not have been closed, a bit of wood over the trench would have served well.

Went to the IBEW building for MovePGH's transportation design charrette. This was extremely cool, local transportation planners seeking public comments on what works, what doesn't work, what people want/need, and info on what they don't know about.

It was a funny and almost indulgent experience in that they listened, took notes, asked for more - that doesn't happen too often.

Continued north and met my friend S, and we rode further north to Thick Bikes just to see what was going on in there. A very well stocked shop, knowledgeable effective staff (thanks Adam!), cool bikes. I love checking out their no-rack frame packs and the snow bikes.

Went over to the Bike Corral ribbon-cutting (see photo above) at OTB Cafe. Excellent OTB eggrolls. Many local bike advocates were present, Linda Boxx, Scott Bricker from Bike-Pgh, Pittsburgh bike coordinator Stephen Patchan, and somebody named Luke who was trying out his version of a Tom Murphy imitation (didn't offend, didn't close the pitch, hey it's an election year).

The real VIP at the event was Boston writer David Herlihy, author of a recent book on Pittsburgh bicyclist Frank Lenz, who died on a round-the-world bike trip. Mr. Herlihy Himself did not comment for the record on the scuttlebutt circulating among the veloscenti; the suggested real story of the death of Frank Lenz has a lessons-learned that seems still valid today: apparently, Lenz had hoped to ride through present-day Turkey but the bike trail was not complete - it was mostly complete, but never quite complete.

Lenz spent the winter of 1898 waiting for the path to extend around the Sandy Fortress, and although it was promised it never came to be. Frank Lenz waited the next year, with the announcement of a breakthrough always imminent, and then the year after that; he foraged for food, adopted the local language and lifestyle, went native and eventually depleted the natural resources while continually placing stock in the "maybe next month" announcements. Sadly, he died waiting for the gap to be completed; he final words were, Siz Bizim Türkçeleştiremediklerimizdensiniz yoksa Türkçeleştidiklerimizdensiniz., meaning 'Next year in Sandy Fortess'. What a tragedy.

Gosh I hope we learn from history. I'd like to think that given the evolution of man, nobody today would believe a string of unrealized "soon" promises that never come to fruition.

To be clear, Mr. Herlihy's book makes no such suggestions, and has been very well received. (City Paper book review by an esteemed local writer here).

Mr. Herlihy had a photograph (see above) of Frank Lenz outside the PawPaw tunnel, and I was surprised at the remarkable picture of Frank Lenz on his bicycle in a place where I've ridden my own bike.

Rode over to Gateway Center to drop off some panniers for an upcoming DC-Pgh ride, rode over to the NorthSide and up to the Bastille. Reversed and crossed Ft. Pitt bridge to SouthSide, a coke stop at Subway and then out on Route 837 (having imposed on the work crew's kindness once, I figured I shouldn't press it).

I like riding 837 from Hot Metal Bridge to Hays, it's thrilling in a scary-fun way. Hopped the guard rail and portaged across the (live) tracks at Keystone Metals, through SC, into the Waterfront complex were I met a trail developer exploring options to finesse the trail's passage around the Costco-footbridge segment, that was pretty cool.

Back to my car, pick up the kids, what a good way to spend a day.

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