Type 2 Diabetic. Cyclist Flâneur.   Coffeeneur.    Errandoneur
A bike / map geek with a gadget obsession and a high-viz fetish.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

One Down (and enjoyed)

03/31/12 245# 35m 42F
Rode 35 miles, which brings my mileage this year (and this quarter) to 1014. An informal goal had been 1000 miles in the first quarter, so I've squeaked by that succeeded at that. I am not doing well on my weight goal, ending the quarter at 245 pounds, heavier than I started it; this is not a good thing.

Today I rode from Aliquippa to Coraopolis, stopped at Starbucks where it was warm and wifi-y and I really didn't want to leave to ride home but I did. This ride had 2.5 good hills and I enjoyed the work. A large portion of this ride is on State Bike Route S, which people in cars know as Route 51 and for all practical purposes it is a no-shoulder highway for about five miles. Everybody (driver-wise) is very courteous out there, but they should really not advertise that as a bicycle route.

Took the center lane at a major intersection with a left-turn lane, a through-lane, and a right-turn lane, and then a town policeman pulled up behind me. I was wondering if he was going to question my being in the middle of the road, but maybe my two rear blinkies and my Magic Orange TriangleTM convinced him I might be quasi-responsible or at least, trying to not get killed.

Passed by a tavern with a banner proclaiming Wednesday night "Bike Night", I think they mean motorcycles but I may have to go over with my Surly and my bike shorts, just for the photo opportunity if nothing else.

It was a very nice day for March 31st, 42F dry roads light winds and overcast, sort of gloomy, and it seemed inhospitable only in contrast to the recent Florida weather we've been having.

   3/31/12 Week 12    this week:
94 miles
   245# 1st Qtr 1014 miles
11.1 mi/dayQTR (wow-binary!)
2012: 1014 miles

Monday, March 26, 2012

Connellsville Ohiopyle Confluence

03/26/12 241# 59m 44F

Rode 59 miles on the Great Allegheny Passage from Connellsville through Ohiopyle to Confluence and back, a great ride. This is sort of a "showcase" route with a lot of great and varied scenery, good towns with lots of support available - it's a destination ride rather than spending the day in a "green tunnel" that takes on the attributes of an "endless swimming pool'.

S,S, and I rendezvoused with B at the Connellsville Bottling Company trailhead, and rode through the amazing barrier-protected bike boulevard they've built, stopping at the only traffic light on the GAP between Pittsburgh and Cumberland, and then joining the trail. Connellsville's commitment to the bike economy is unquestionable, as shown by their signature artwork representing the transition from coke ovens to bike wheels.

It had rained the three previous days, and I was apprehensive that the trail might have been soft but it was in excellent condition. There was quite a lot of waterfalls, more than I've seen there before, probably resulting from the rainfall. The combination of no leaves and lots of water combined to good effect.

The scenery was wintery: the trees were stark and bare, there was a lot of visibility through the woods, it was a view of this trail that I had not seen before.

In the photo above you'll see a tree on the right that started to fall across the trail until it was caught by the trees on the left. If you were able to look closely at the base of that all-but-fallen tree, you'd see the photo on the right. IANAN (I am not a Naturalist) but that looks like the work of either a critter with sharp teeth (a beaver?) or a very patient person with a Dremel tool.

We rode into Ohiopyle, known as the second-best rest stop on the GAP (after West Newton Station, of course) and made our way to the general store for a snack. Cups of wedding soup were just what the day's temperatures called for, it was very good. When we got back to the trail B departed our group to return to Connellsville for other obligations.

We continued to Confluence, trail conditions were great. As we pulled into town our first attempts at lunch were unsuccessful; River's Edge doesn't open for the season for a few more weeks, and Sister's Cafe was closing for the day.

We did meet two bicyclists travelling from DC to Pittsburgh, one had a Surly and the other was riding "rack-free" using a frame rack in the triangle, a wedge pack, and a backpack. She said the space constraints forced continuous attention to economy, and that she was riding with a backpack in order to rring her sleeping bag along, but she enjoyed riding the bike without the parasitic weight of the racks.

Stopped at the most excellent Confluence Cyclery to look around and ask advice, and they recommended we go to Sweetie's Bakery and Cafe for lunch which was very good advice. It's about six blocks off the town square, there's a surprisingly large bakery with a dining room and an adjacent pizzeria, and if you get pizza you're welcome to use the bakery dining room. Very good food; I had two slices of pizza and a cocoanut almond biscotti, delicious.

When it was time to go we reversed and headed west and into the wind. On the first leg we were climbing with a tailwind, and on the second leg we were descending with a headwind. While we were eating the overcast had cleared away and the sun was shining, which was very nice. The conditions on the second half, with the sun shining and a slighter higher temp (45F) later in the day, were almost ideal and preferable to the morning.

We rode to Ohiopyle and saw more people on the trail this time, either because of the time of day or the warmer temps. Back to the general store and this time I fortified myself with an ice cream cone (overly generous) and a Starbucks in a bottle, figuring to load up on sugar, fat and caffeine for the last leg.

We had a nice ride back to Connellsville and got a bit of headwind practice in. We had taken an unhurried ride and unrushed stops, so this took most of the day and it was a very nice ride.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Smoothies, Helmets, and Trail Maps - Oh My: Pittsburgh Bike Expo

9 months until Christmas. Just Saying.

Attended the Pittsburgh Bike Expo today with M. and I'm really glad I went. It was a much bigger event than I anticipated, the parking lot at the hotel was quite full, and it was a good event.

Although many of the displays were worthwhile, very few were arresting or completely novel (that's hard to come by) but one local bike shop did well with a trainer kludged up to a blender and letting people hop on to make smoothies, that was pretty cool.

Local bike shops were well represented, and what really pleased me was that businesses and representatives from outlying trails came in to town for the Expo - B&Bs from along the Great Allegheny Passage, lodges in Maryland, etc.

There were reps there from Lizard Head Cycling Guides (more), for instance, very cool and I never would have gotten to see them and what they do if they hadn't come out.

Mary Shaw and Roy Weil were there, and they had "final draft" 2012 versions of their famous "Linking Up" planning guide for the DC-Pittsburgh bike trip that they were selling, I was fortunate to have Herself autograph mine.

There were several regional trail groups there that I've been interested in but haven't been able to find info about - the Butler-Freeport Trail, the Red Bank Valley Trails, and the Ghost Town, Hoodlebug and West Penn Trails, and the Armstrong Trail, and they all had newly updated maps and I may just have a fetish about bike trail maps.

These are the current "open" sections of those trails, and to me it looks like with a little bit of on-the-road connect the dots, you could build some interesting long trips out there:

I was very pleased to see Fiks: Reflective, a Pittsburgh startup funded via Kickstarter that produces reflective wheel rim strips. I bought a set for two of my bikes, I think they'll be effective.

Bandbox was there presenting hats that are actually helmets, or helmets that look like hats, take your pick. It really looked like a boutique hat display and not at all like a rack of helmets. I think they get their market (and it's not me, btw) because they'll do things like mix/match strap colors to match the customer's hair, etc. If there is a term for a female Fred, that would be their spokesperson.

It was a very good Bike Expo.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Not the best of weeks; not the worst of weeks

0 miles today. This was not my best week; an assignment that I accepted got the better of my timing and I missed some great weather to ride. I did get two great rides in with friends, and I did make progress with the bikes and gear, so the 2012 version continues apace with room for some positive-delta on the project management skillz.

Frazz, as you may know, is a comic strip by Jef Mallett that, on the surface, is about school custodian Edwin "Frazz" Frazier and the school where he works, but which, according to Mallett, is really about discovery. Some people believe that Frazz is the grown-up version of Bill Watterson's character Calvin, of "Calvin and Hobbes"; there are physical similarities and parallel developments. Frazz rocks, on many levels, and in the last few days the strip discusses the road-car-bike interface:

Road Rage

Moon Shot (Dedicated to Jason)

What we have here is a failure to communicate...

Wanton Lawbreakers!

   3/24/12 Week 11    this week:
84 miles
    1st Qtr 920 miles
10.9 mi/dayQTR
2012: 920 miles

Friday, March 23, 2012

Surly LHT Reloaded

03/22/12 40m 75F

I have my four panniers on my bike and I'm starting to move my overnight gear on board, in a month I have my first scheduled overnight and it's almost time for me to start figuring out where everything goes. I've done it before, so I'm reloading the bike, but I've got new/more gear to pack. The bike is heavier and so a little bit slower, but it does seem that the Surly LHT's reputation for handling even better with a bit of a load on the frame is well deserved.

Rode the Montour Trail and the Panhandle Trail today. Started at McDonald under the Trestle and rode the Montour south-west, listening to local NPR station 90.5 talk about the local bicycle scene - very nicely done. I like listening to NPR on the trail; it's a two-fer. Wore my SPD sandals today, I thought I'd embrace the high temps while they were here.

Approaching Route 50 I left the trail (as the signs indicated) for the on-road detour, only to find that the road was also closed also. I applied "veteran's privilege" and continued, but it should be simpler than that.

Met R. at the trail near his house, and we continued together to trailside Farmhouse Coffee for coffee and biscotti. Top-notch as always, I really like that place.

Reversed and rode back to Route 50 together where we parted ways. Rode the detour route again, except this time I took the offered alternative trail route. Descending and turning on the temporary trail I hit an extended spot of deep soft gravel, couldn't maintain speed and couldn't get my feet out of the pedals fast enough so I fell down ('doing the Artie Johnson, for people of a certain age, aka the horizontal track stand for people of another niche).

I have been so overdue for a fall. I generally fall once every 500 miles and it's been quite a while. No injury, just some road-rash on my forearm. Looking back on it, I think I was foolish to not consider that by exchanging my shoes (with worn-down cleats) for sandals (with fairly new cleats) I was increasing my clip-out time latency. Lesson learned (again), and pretty easily: complacency is the hunter.

I returned to McDonald and rode the Panhandle Trail westbound. They're resurfacing and widening the trail from the Fort Cherry Ambulance Station east, and it looks like they're doing a very nice job of it. I saw that when the Panhandle passed by the Midway VFD with its fire siren tower, there's a rough path that leads to a gas-station convenience store so I got a cold drink and a snack.

Continued on the Panhandle out to the Cataney Airport, where I parked the bike and found a seat. I had my cold drink and Kellog's rice krispie treat and watched RC-airplanes fly around. For a while there were two helos in the pattern, one doing acrobatics and the other doing tactical manuevers. I wondered if these operators would find their skills in demand as the domestic drone industry gains a foothold. After the helos, there was a yellow R/C taildragger giving an airshow. Very impressive.

Got back on the trail and returned to McDonald. 40 miles and a very nice ride.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Bike Rebates, Boats, and Butterflies

03/22/12 241# 0m
No riding to write of. I took on a software project and I needed to actually spend large blocks of time on it and accomplish and deliver. (check, done)

But a few bike things of note. Oh, oh, the REI people sent my rebate and a coupon, and as fast as you can say Ortlieb you know I placed an order for panniers and a sleeping pad, 20% off each.

Saw this totally awesome photo at SheBicycles:

and I thought that was the most awesome thing the day could bring me - Surly, double kickstand, boat! - until I checked out the Bike-Pgh forum, as is my wont while waiting for my code to compile, and this is just the most awesome high-viz bike gear I've ever seen:

This is, of course, the Bike Butterfly, a product developed by Corke Wallis, and I am in awe of the breadth of his vision (and wingspan). While this photo does focus on their 'Wiz Kalifa' model in Pittsburgh black-and-gold, other interesting treatments are also available on their website.

I totally would ride with one of those, even if it is somewhat reminiscent of The Tick's sidekick, Arthur the Moth, and even if his winged suit was a metaphor for his unrealized yearnings.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Airport Connector

03/20/12 241# 44m
Magnificent Day with just all sorts of bike happenings. Today was my first day back on my Surly LHT after a major overhaul, a new drivetrain (chainrings, chain, cassette), new pulleys, some new cables, new tires (Schwalbe Marathon Plus HS348, 700 x 32C), new handlebar pads (Bike Ribbon Gel Pad, orange) and handlebar tape. The LHT felt great, much more comfortable than my road bike, and it shifted so cleanly with the overhaul and new components.

Today was the official ribbon-cutting for the Airport Connector on the Montour Trail, and there was a really nice turnout of probably 70 bicyclists, which is pretty good for an 11am weekday event. The magnificent weather didn't hurt.

I got to say hello to people I haven't seen in a while, which was cool. Rode with world-famous trail photographer Betsy, met Bud from the Warren OH trail, Janie from Grupetto Pittsburgh, and got to meet Bruce Wood, Gil McGurl, Paul Weigman, and the peripatetic Larry Brock.

I started at Garden Ridge (nee Wickes) with K, rode to Boggs to meet R, and then as we rode east we encountered S. & S. At the Enlow Ballfield we met about 70 cyclists with a wide variety of equipment types. The Major Taylor Cycling Club formed up the peleton and led us en masse through the airport connector to the ceremony.

Various dignitaries spoke, the sun shone, pictures were taken, cookies and pastries were enjoyed, and it was all good. Linda Boxx spoke well, as she always does.

I was given a "Great Allegheny Passage 2012" license plate for my bicycle saddle, they're a fundraiser for the GAP and will be available at the Pittsburgh Cycling
Expo this upcoming Sunday, March 25. (pghcyclingexpo.com) There's a very cool list of sponsors, that should be an interesting event.

After the ceremony we rode out of the airport, along with Larry and Betsy, and at Enlow we made a right and climbed up to Boggs just to add a bit of a ride. We took a break there and then descended back to Enlow, continuing through to Groveton and then reversing westbound. I got off the trail at my car this time, clocking 44 miles in 3h45m. A very nice day indeed.

And finally, my issue of Bicycle Times appeared in the (snail) mailbox, which comes as part of my membership in Bike-Pgh. better and better!

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Works in Progress

03/17/12 239# 33m 2h36m 75F
A truly magnificent day, blue skies and warm temps.

Took the road bike out again (with 700x28 tires), my LHT is back from overhaul but it's just so clean I hate to take it out on the trails. I'm sure that sentiment will pass.

Started at McDonald, at the trailhead under the trestle, and rode south. Passing MP20-ish there's a detour to Route50, and it really isn't bad it's just not the trail. On the other side of Route50 the trail is back to being it's old self and the National Tunnel was cool and quite moist. At Morganza Road you can see the construction of a new bridge:

This photo shows the construction in progress, it looks like the base of the bridge is ready on both sides and is awaiting the big flat horizontal thingy. (I ran out of engineering terms real fast there.)

A little further down the road you could see that the bridge project at Georgetown Road was in much the same situation, the sides look ready for the big flat thingy, but the steel is nowhere in sight.

Continued on the detour to the underpass by the golf course, under-and-over and back up on the trail. The golf course was a very lush green indeed. Continued along the trail to Farmhouse Coffee, which is just prior to the Bebout Road shutdown and detour.

Went to the Subway for a sandwich and drinks. There were three teenagers there with their BMX bicycles, they were quite adept with them, standing backwards and pedaling and doing some parking lot tricks. One bike was something I hadn't seen before, so before I left I asked them about it and I thought they were very kind to explain it to the geezer, it is an Impakt SideHack and is used to do tricks with a person on the sidecar-platform. It strikes me that if the dimensions were right, you could take the tyres off the wheels, fix the front wheel into position, and use it to ride on railroad tracks.

Back on the trail, quite a few people out today and a lot of them were wearing green. Lots of little kids on bikes which is always cool. 33 miles in 75F, not bad for St. Patrick's Day.

   3/17/12 Week 10    this week:
118 miles
    1st Qtr 836 miles
10.8 mi/dayQTR
2012: 836 miles
Weight: Sat:239 Trend: BAD

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Fracking and Napping the Ides of March

03/15/12 #238 33m 2h38m

Rode the Montour Trail, starting at Enlow and riding southwest. I haven't been out this way in a while, and the nascent Marcellus Shale footprint has really changed the local landscape.

There's the fracking fluid remediation facility in Boggs, which sits on top of a series of abandoned mines. There's the trail reconstruction to accommodate a fracking-fluid railway between MP19 and MP21, a major bit of earth-sculpting. At the road crossings there's a lot of shale vehicles and equipment, and at MP16 there's this sight of blue skies, birdhouses, and resource retrieval:

They really do make an effort to be sub-overt.

After Route50 the trail resumed its normal path, and somewhere around MP23-ish I found a favorite grassy spot under a tree and indulged in a bike nap. (See related flickr group)

I had a very nice nap of about a half-hour, just enough time for some major whack dreaming and some serious snoring, then I woke up feeling quite sprightly and enjoyed the ride back to the start all the more. I think napping along the trail is something that senior citizens can get away with, and I'm going to start embracing my Inner Geezer on days like this.

Today's snack experiment was an Odwalla White Chocolate, Macadamia Nut Bar, totally excellent. There's not any water available along this segment of the trail, and the soda machine at the Rt.50 skin cancer dispensary tanning salon was sold out, so the bottles were dry by the time I was done.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Easy as 3.14

03/14/12 32m

Started riding the Montour Trail at Montour Run, where Wickes used to be and Garden Ridge is now. Rode east to Groveton and still had a little time to spare, so I indulged myself and rode into Coraopolis and along Vine Street to Montour St. Extension. That's a brief segment I've wanted to ride for a while and I was glad to have a chance to try it; I was happy to make it.

Reversed back to the trail in Groveton, and back to MP4.5 at Garden Ridge. Trail conditions were excellent. It was so nice to ride in shorts and a jersey; I thought it would be tempting fate to wear my sandals on the bike so I stuck with the shoes. I waited a little bit for my riding partners K and B to arrive and then we rode west to Enlow Station.

We departed the trail and headed north on the joint-use road for the new PIT Airport Connector. We rode the new trail to where the route departs the airport at McCaslin Road, took Moon-Clinton road (which is a climb) and then re-entered the airport on the other side of I376. You work a little bit harder here than you usually do on the Montour Trail.

Rode along the service roads, it reminded me of the post-Apocalyptic Abandoned Turnpike Trail. We crossed the airport exit roadway and made our way to the terminal. They've done a really nice job of signing the route through the parking lots.

While taking a drink and watching the passengers walk by, it struck me that an airport pedicab/rickshaw service might do well, ferrying passengers with their baggage from baggage claim out to their cars, and then snagging clients-of-opportunity walking back to the terminal. Just a thought.

Departed the airport, which is a more friendly grade than entering the airport. Stopped at the Enlow Station to look for signs of opening; the sign promises a return to business on April 3, good news.

Joined the trail and rode east, through the tunnel and under the Parkway to the vehicles. A very nice ride, I had 32 miles on Pi Day (3/14).

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Tanline: Day One

03/13/12 20m 65F

Rode 20 miles around the city, from the Bastille across the Ft. Duquesne Bridge and the Ft. Pitt Bridge. Started off in shorts and a jacket, and shed the jacket pretty quickly. It was such a nice day, the sun felt good and it was a pleasure to ride in shorts and begin cultivating the tan line in accordance with Rule 7.

Riding south of Station Square there was new paint on the pavement marking the obstructions and rough spots, and further south I saw the culprits: two Trail Wardens on bicycles, marking trail hazards with spray paint and delivering a Bob-and-Ray type of banter on demand. If you know who Bob and Ray are, you're probably in the same age bracket as these gentlemen (we try to use the word bracket in blogs in March). If you think of Ray as Chris' father, then you're probably in my bracket.

Nice guys. One claimed to be the "warden of the jail trail", and the other was his spokesmen. I hope I'm out there on my bike when I'm 73 years old.

Rode the aeo-hgh trail, and was pleased to see more people using it, including a violin (fiddle?) player working some Celtic tunes - perhaps a budding busker? - and a fellow with his dog. The plaza is become civilized, and just in time, too because surveyors were ciphering along Tunnel Park and I suspect excavation will begin soon.

Rode down to Keystone Metals, when the sun came out and it went from being a nice day to a magnificent day. Reversed and rode north, took the Hot Metal Bridge. Stopped at the (still closed) bike rental shop to futz with a flat tire, then back on the trail, Point State Park with people laying on blankets in the sun, across the Ft. Duquesne Bridge and back to the Bastille. A very pleasant 20 miles.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Roller Coasters and Magic Jelly Beans

03/10/12 239# 50.4m 42F
A beautifully crisp, clear day, calm wind and 42F.

Started from Neville Island at the RMU Ice Arena, and rode south on Route 51 through McKees Rocks to Station Square. Joined the trail, and as I passed under the Ft. Pitt bridge I saw that a photographer had somehow positioned a bride and groom up on a concrete bridge support to take a wedding photo with the bridge in the background. It must be a money shot for them to endure the difficulty of getting up there in their finery; the girl sure looked cold in her off-the-shoulder, sleeveless gown. Reminds me of the first line of a song.

Continued via the Southside Trail, the AEO-HBH trail, and the Baldwin Borough Trail, intending to see if the gate to the Sandcastle parking lot is open.

The fencing around Keystone Metals has been repositioned, the walkway (that dare not speak it's name) is now quite a bit closer to the tracks. When there's standing water from recent rain, as there was today, you're really quite close to the tracks. Nice breeze when you and the train are there simultaneously.

The Sandcastle gate was closed so I rode around the 837/885 CloverLeaf in the spirit of St. Patrick's Day and passed through Homestead to get to the Waterfront. One of the things I do like about riding through Homestead is it provides a chance to reflect on the promise of urban re-development; for all the money in the Waterfront, there's not much of it getting to the town - it's as if there was a moat.

Rode around the waterfront on the street, joined Pittsburgh's best bike line around Marcegehagehageha Metals, and then joined the Steel Valley Trail. Stopped to take this photo of the sun poking through the rollercoasters:

That's probably about as good as one can do with a cellphone located 93 million miles from the light source. I think the photographer I saw earlier doesn't have to worry about competition from me.

Stopped at the McKeesport side of the Riverton Bridge for a snack, some honey and I experimented with some Jelly Belly "extreme jelly beans", they were very good. Reversed course, Duquesne and behind Kennywood and through the waterfront, riding 837 out of Homestead. Really, 837 between Waterfront and 885 is much more bike-friendly than the same road is between 885 and SouthSide; the latter is always a bit of a forced sprint and an exciting ride, but perhaps avoiding the thrill is the better part of judgement. (Says the guy who walked alongside the train at Keystone Metals.)

Stopped at SouthSideWorks at the Subway for a sandwich. It's a great deal - a hot sandwich and a drink, and bidon refills for $6 plus a tip; can't be beat. Had to stop for a train just south of Station Square, got to discuss bike gear with a bicyclist riding an REI Novarra with a generator in the front hub and a Rolhoff internal gear mechanism on the back hub. She explained this was her "shopping bike", she uses it (among other things) to ride from the city out to Southside to go shopping. I think it had B&M lights, a very nice bike. We got to discussing the impending annual REI rebates and then the train moved past.

Back on the trail, 51 North to Neville Island, and I appreciated the flat finish. I did finish at sunset, and I'm looking forward to the artifice of Daylight Savings Time to help my afternoon riding.

50 miles in 3h32m. The drivers on the road were very courteous, as they generally are in Pittsburgh. I felt like I had good legs today and the bike did well.

   3/10/12 Week 9    this week:
100 miles
    1st Qtr 718 miles
10.2 mi/dayQTR
2012: 718 miles
Weight: Sat:239 Trend: BAD