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

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Snuck a Ride on New Proto-Trail

04/29/12 35m

Rode 35 miles with loaded panniers. Started at Boggs and rode south-west. There were quite a few people out on the trail, even in the isolated sections that are usually empty. I was following one rider by about a minute, and when I reached the detour around MP20 the "rabbit" went straight ahead into the construction zone rather than taking the detour. I followed him, intrigued at what we'd see, and it seemed that the work crews were not there on Sunday and the new routing was sufficiently along to provide a nice ride.

In the photo above, the new train track will pass over the heavy-duty bridge where my bike is, and the trail will pass over a lighter bridge still bring built (on the left). Continuing along the rail-and-trail in progress, you can see where the railbed is and where the trail is; it looks like they're doing a very nice job.

Continued on the trail to the Morganza Road and Georgetown Road bridges. Signs on the roadway indicate that the roads will be closed for short periods this upcoming week, maybe that means the decks will be progressing. At Georgetown Road, instead of continuing on the Hahn Drive detour, I walked the bike up the bank (in the same manner as we once used there for trail access) and got right onto the trail. The detour is good and I'm glad we had it, but the trail is nicer.

I stopped at MP28.5, where the bridge observation decks look out over the stream (this is IMO one of the prettiest spots on the Montour Trail) and had a bar and a drink. Reversed course and stopped at MP25.5 to check out the campgrounds, I'll be spending a night there pretty soon as a final check on my camping gear.

Continued east, and at Venice I again eschewed the detour for the new trail-in-progress. The detour is good; it's well-marked and safe, and during the week I'll be using it again, but it was a treat to try "new trail".

At MP16 I encountered J and C on the trail, and we rode east together until I stopped at Boggs. Trail conditions were excellent, and it was a very nice ride.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

4/28 week 15

miles this week: 39

2nd Qtr 398 miles

2012: 1412 miles

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Danny Chew 700,000 Miles or 70%

Danny Chew is a Pittsburgh bicyclist.

That's a tremendous understatement.
That's like saying Lance what's-his-name is an Austin bicyclist.

We all have goals. Danny Chew is on his way to riding 1,000,000 miles on his bicycle.

Danny Chew won RAAM four times.
Volvo wants their cars to last as long as Danny Chew.
Chuck Norris wants to be Danny Chew when he grows up.

Today Danny Chew crossed 700,000 miles.

Via: I Love Danny Chew

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Bicycle Prozac

04/25/12 39m
Rode 39 miles on a beautiful, mild day.

Started early at the Bastille. Rode with four panniers in hope of getting some experience carrying a full load. Got past the stadia and noticed crowds for the baseball doubleheader, rode to Point State Park and over to Station Square, then rode to South Side.

Stopped at Thick Bikes looking for an Ortlieb "rack pack but (alas) they didn't have one. I need some (waterproof) way to carry a sleeping pad which is 25" wide. They did have the spec sheet for the rack pack, and it looks like my sleeping pad is too wide for it so the Search continues. They do have an awesome bike shop, lots of cool gear and great bikes.

In the front of the shop they had an amazing collection of new bikes in a small space, including some with no-rack frame packs, and one bike with a East End Brewing Company growler mounted on the front fork with a very cool Salsa Anything Cage. Three mechanics busy working in the back, including a lady wrench which is nice to see. A very impressive bike shop.

Rode south to Keystone Metals, walked along the tracks to the {open} Sandcastle Gate, and into the Waterfront complex. Stopped at Starbucks for a snack, took a picture.

Continued south to the Riverton Bridge, then reversed back north and through Sandcastle again. I really appreciate SC's flexibility in tolerating bicycle traffic until the dedicated trail is open, it is great to be able to ride through there. Rode to South Side Works and almost took a bike nap. Looks like final preparations are being made prior to opening the new plaza with the Rhythm and Flow celebration, 6-8 pm, Thursday May 3rd.

It was a great day for a ride. A ride like this is like Prozac for me, all happy thoughts and smile faces.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

End of Week Lessons Learned

01/21/12 #238 0m
This was a great week. I rode three times, each a great ride in ideal conditions with good company.

Each day I rode (which I must admit was a day I did not go to work) was wonderful and left me knowing I should do more of this. I really like riding my bike and it is really very good for me.

   4/21/12 Week 14
this week:
173 miles
2nd Qtr 359 miles
17 mi/day2-QTR
2012: 1373 miles

Friday, April 20, 2012

Lesson of the Second Monk: Excess Baggage Penalties

01/20/12 65m
Today's blog post is dedicated to the Second Monk, who chose to carry too much baggage for far too long, as told in the original Buddhist story:
Two monks, one old and one junior, were strolling by a stream on their way home to the monastery. They were startled by the sound of a young woman in a bridal gown, sitting by the stream, crying softly. Tears rolled down her cheeks as she gazed across the water. She needed to cross to get to her wedding, but she was fearful that doing so might ruin her beautiful handmade gown.

These monks were prohibited from touching women. The senior monk was filled with compassion for the bride. Ignoring the sanction, he hoisted the woman on his shoulders and carried her across the stream -- assisting her journey and saving her gown. She smiled and bowed with gratitude as he noisily splashed his way back across the stream to rejoin his companion.

The second monk was livid. "How could you do that?" he scolded. "You know we are forbidden even to touch a woman, much less pick one up and carry her around!"

The offending monk listened in silence to the stern lecture that lasted all the way back to the monastery. His mind wandered as he felt the warm sunshine and listened to the singing birds. After returning to the monastery, he fell asleep for a few hours. He was jostled and awakened in the middle of the night by his fellow monk. "How could you carry that woman?" his agitated friend cried out. "Someone else could have helped her across the stream. You were a bad monk!"

"What woman?" the tired monk inquired groggily.

"Don't you even remember? That woman you carried across the stream," his colleague snapped.

"Oh, her," laughed the sleepy monk. "I only carried her across the stream. You carried her all the way back to the monastery."

Today I got to dwell on the foolishness of excess baggage.

The trailside Marriot was excellent in terms of bike-friendliness; they clearly are pursuing the trail economy. I love that they're cool with bikes in the rooms, and that they have an outside patio marked as a bike-washing station. If I could have just one more thing, I'd love for them to have a floor-pump. Sure, there's a bike shop 500 feet away, but they open at 10am and most bicyclists are gone by then. It would be awesome if they had a floor pump, even if they kept it behind the front desk.

Complimentary breakfast and packing and checking and we were on our way at about 0845. We took the obligatory photo with the canal donkey, and stopped at the National Park Service offices to score some paper maps. At the spot where the trail leaves the train station, there's a small sign asking bicyclists to please ring a bell or give some sort of warning when passing walkers; I thought it was a nice to express the local expectation. (And I think that bike bells are an under-appreciated, under-utilized asset.)

The context of the first day, Confluence to Cumberland, was the tolerable, sustained 40-mile gradual climb followed by the thrilling 20-mile descent. The context of the second day would be the same climb over half the distance, followed by a gentle long descent, and the story (for me) of the second day would be the hauling of unwarranted mass up over the Continental Divide.

I think I did pretty well for the first 14 miles, but about two miles short of Frostburg I popped - done, spent, empty. In Frostburg I got something to eat and cooled off and continued over the hill at a much slower pace. Beautiful vistas that drew ooohhs and aahhhhs yesterday were ignored with disdain as the death march continued, and then, once we reached the top and gravity became an ally again, some sense of balance returned and with it our conversation. It was wonderful to cross the top westbound.

It was so stupid of me to carry all that stuff and to imagine that it wouldn't affect the work-food-water thing. How stupid? I can only express it by invoking my seminal childhood memory of Goofus and Gallant:

We descended west into Rockwood, and this time I noticed that a rebuilt natural gas pipeline seems to run underground along the trail, east of Rockwood. At Rockwood we went into town and the Rockwood Opera house, in search of a real bathroom and ice cream. Departed Rockwood and rode around the Pinkerton Bypass, where we met this entourage:

They've been riding with the dogs for years, about 2500 miles a year, and the cat is a new addition. About five miles east of Confluence, with the sun getting lower in the sky, the shadows of the fence posts presented what could be the "ghost tracks" of the railroad that used to be where the trail is now:

(concept by R, photo by S)

We made it into Confluence at 7:15 pm, 70F, a perfect day for a great ride. The bicycles did very well with no mechanical problems, no flat tires, etc. Next time I will try to remember the second monk and the folly of excess baggage.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Goldilocks Panniers: Confluence to Cumberland

01/19/12 #244 65m
Rode from Confluence, PA to Cumberland, MD with R and S, 65 miles on the bike. This was an impromptu trip. Originally "the plan" was riding Friday, Saturday, Sunday but the weather forecast for Saturday-Sunday was truly nasty, and an important occasion called for being in town on Saturday so at the last minute we decided to ride Thursday-Friday in excellent weather. It worked out real well.

We drove to Confluence and were unsure of where to leave a vehicle overnight; the trailheads seemed a bit too isolated so we parked on the town square. As we were assembling our bikes a local resident pulled over in his car, rolled down the window and said "Just want to say it's great to see bicyclists here in town, taking advantage of the nice weather". Wow. I just don't often get people welcoming me in a town.

As we assembled our bikes in Confluence it struck me that we'd recapitulated the Goldilocks theme: I was way overpacked, R went minimalist, and S probably probably packed just right.

It was a beautiful day for a ride, and we got started at about 11:15 am. The 18 miles to Rockwood seemed like the longest stretch, interrupted by the Pinkerton bypass. Today brought the best view I've seen of how close the current train tunnel is to the abandoned Pinkerton tunnel. The daylighting operation is moving a lot of earth around.

The first stop was Rockwood with its trailside bike shop, changing station, and cellphone repeater. I really like Rockwood because it's certainly embracing the trail economy, but I would offer one kvetch: there's no public water available.

< rant > A long time ago I read that the mark of a civilization, a culture, or a city was how easily a visitor could obtain (and later discharge) a free drink of clean water. Look at old towns and there's a fountain in the plaza. The GAP trail towns are wonderful and I enjoy them but they generally fail the basic test of offering visitors drinking water. (They do much better on the porta-potty test.) They'll sell water to be sure, but there's no public drinking water - in sharp contrast to the C&O, with public water pumps every 10 miles. I think West Newton does the best job of trail hospitality, with a 24x7 water fountain, possibly the best rest rooms on the GAP, and they take your picture - and then I'd rank Ohiopyle and Connellsville, trailed by Meyersdale with its water fountain. (edit)

(wishlist: The ultimate prize for Trail Hospitality will go to the trailhead that offers a shower for transient campers.)

Twelve miles to Meyersdale, the halfway point on the trip. The windmills and the Somerset Viaduct looked great as always. It's still early in the season and the visitor center was closed, and the attraction of the town didn't overcome the task of climbing back up the hill so we took our break at the train station. Departing town and crossing the Bollman Bridge I thought about how much progress has been made, compared to when that bridge was sitting in a field for years waiting to be placed on the trail.

Climbing out of Meyersdale I realized the folly of carrying full bags "for the experience" and regretted the load. I thought about how climbing the mountain was generally a metaphor for enlightenment, and I remembered the story about the two monks who carried the woman.

I realized that my panniers were a self-induced burden, and extended the metaphor to "we all choose what baggage we carry", and that's about as metaphysical as I can get while riding uphill.

The Eastern Continental Divide was a welcome sight, and I never realized until R. pointed it out that the brick facing on the portal was trompe l'eoil. The descent was a pleasure, especially given the weight, and I really didn't have to pedal that often. Stopped in Frostburg (no public water) and then continued into Cumberland, arriving at about 8.15 pm.

Checked into our hotel, the new trailside Marriot, and put the bikes in our rooms and went straight back out to get dinner before the restaurants shut down. We ate at the Crabby Pig (closes at 9!) and enjoyed an excellent meal. Back to the hotel, showers and cleanup, email on the computers in the lobby. We had hoped to indulge in the hotel hot tub after riding but the pool complex was closed for maintenance. A most excellent day's riding.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Freeport Butler Trail and the Element Cafe

04/17/12 245# 43m
Beautiful day, rode 43 miles on the Butler-Freeport Trail with K, D&D, and M&D.

Started in Freeport at the Laneville Trailhead, where there's quite a bit of construction and detouring around the south end of the trail. The first few miles are very much a Western Pennsylvania tree-and-stream vignette. There are a few at-grade crossings but they're no problem. At times the trail is paved, mostly it's packed limestone; the surface is consistently good to very good. There are a few porta-potties along the trail, but no water fountains to speak of.

About halfway up the trail the scenery turns to farmland, and at one point the trail passes through an active, working farm. It seemed like the peak elevation was about five miles south of Butler.

The trail doesn't go all the way into Butler (as Google maps indicates). We persevered along the closed trail section, which grew narrower, more overgrown, increasingly twisted, a bit muddier and more technical, and quite irregular until we were very close to downtown, separated only by a cliff, a deep ravine, and a railroad track.

We backtracked and this was, I believe, the moment the ride turned into an adventure, as our party ended up crossing a stream by standing on rocks and passing the bikes to each other. That was fun, and we did get into Butler. Next time, when the trail ends, we'll get on the road and follow the marked sharrows.

In Butler we looked for and found The Element Cafe, 232 South Main Street, Butler PA. It was kind of kicky to find a street musician playing piano bar and Gospel tunes on the sidewalk outside the cafe, the busker offered to watch our bikes for us and we put a few dollars into his kitty and it was all good.

This is a relatively recently opened cafe and coffee shop, pursuing the goal of "organic, local, sustainable". Robust menu. I had a rustic cranberry turkey sandwich for lunch, it was very good, everybody else was pleased with their meals as well.

Butler at lunchtime is more of a city and a downtown than I expected, I had a preconceived notion that was more like Beaver PA but Butler's main district is pretty substantial.

From a bike trail advocacy perspective, I should note that the only reason the six of us were in Butler having lunch was the bike trail. We really enjoyed the trail, the town, and the Element Cafe, and I'll be back there again.

We returned to the trail via the road sharrows rather than the Great Burma Road, it was a nice transition out of town. Now that it was afternoon we saw more people out on the trail, bicylists, walkers, runners, and one equestrian. I noticed quite a bit of trillium by the trail, and a few red trillium. Someplace in the middle of the trail, maybe Winplace Road in Cabot, a trailside Coke machine with bottled water would be a great thing.

At the Freeport Trailhead I met a rider preparing to begin his ride, he had a curious device mounted on his helmet and he was nice enough to answer my questions about it, it's an Optrix HD video enclosure/app for an iPhone, it takes HD video and audio of the ride and embeds telemetry data in the video. He has a quick review of it on his website.

A very nice, and a much needed, ride with good company.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

15 mile week

04/14/12 0m

Wow, I rode 15 miles this week. My lowest mileage week this year, my lowest mileage week in a very long time. Almost a no-hitter.

Lots of reasons, but not the weather and not always higher priority items. I really can't claim peak efficiency this week in developing "my perfect day". And a new week begins tomorrow.

   4/14/12 Week 13
this week:
15 miles
2nd Qtr 186 miles
13 mi/day2-QTR
2012: 1200 miles

Friday, April 13, 2012

Lake Arthur Bike Trail, Moraine State Park

04/13/12 247# 15m
It's been too long an interruption in my riding. I had a period between midday events and dinner with my son north of town, so I carried my bike along (yes, on the car) and stopped at Moraine State Park and rode the paved bike trail.

It's very nice - paved, signed, rest rooms and water, and tremendous views of the lake. I could see how it might be much more populated in the summer months. At the west end of the trail, there's a bike rental concession.

I saw two inline skaters, several couples on hybrid bikes, a few solo riders including some road bikes, a few clusters of parents with kids on bikes, and one man with a Segway rigged with off-road tires (that was a bit of a surprise).

It's a very nice park and trail, I hope they extend it all the way around the lake someday.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Cars Dont Pass Bikes; People Pass Bicyclists

Many people will tell you, repeating what they've been told, that the CommonWealth of Pennsyvania has recently enacted a four-foot law for cars passing bicycles.

I prefer to say that Pennsylvania has enacted a four-foot passing law for automobilists passing bicyclists, or if you prefer brevity then drivers passing bikers.

Let's face it - Cars don't pass bikes. Automobilists pass bicyclists. There are different formulations available - drivers pass bikers, etc - but to de-emphasize the human presence, the human agency, and the human responsibility is to diminish all of us. I think it was John Forester who said, "Ask not for whom the bike bell toll, it tolls for thee..."

Consider the highly effective anti-drunk driving campaigns, which swayed media coverage and in turn influenced our language, perception, and behavior. The victim wasn't killed by a car; she was killed by a drunk driver. There's a person who did it, and we reduced violence by making people accountable. The car isn't to blame. It's about people.

I'd like to see newspapers start saying, "Driver Kills Bicyclist" instead of "Car Kills Bicyclist", or the even more abstract "Crash Kills Bicyclist". The New York Post is known for catchy headlines, having once published "Headless Body in Topless Bar", but today's issue carries this meh! headline and routine story:

The story's bias leads to these conclusions

  • a white SUV killed 18-year old David Oliveras, who wears Converse sneakers
  • the car seems to have had a driver, who feels terrible
  • the driver has invoked the British SMIDSY defense: Sorry Mate I Didn't See You.
  • the driver has no responsibility or accountability
  • the death is a regrettable, unavoidable and acceptable cost of modernity

Until now, I've focused on staying safe and alive by doing everything I can to remain visible; reflectors, lights, high-vis clothing, even a slow-moving vehicle triangle on my bikes. I'm thinking, if I do my part it'll be all right, a sort of passive salvation-by-hope.

But Lady Elaine's post today has brought me to a new kind of thinking — ensuring that bicyclists get our space by really emphasizing our humanity, by making it quite evident that there's a person on that bike. We may need to take it to the drivers.

Imagine if people rode in traffic like this:

We notice that the center cyclist has a helmet, lights, reflector, a high-vis yellow bag, and a slow-moving vehicle triangle, AND they've gone the extra step in overtly humanizing themselves to passing drivers.

You got a problem with this? I bet they get four feet, don't you think?

Please. Don't make us do this.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

PA 4-Foot Law, Cyclist Tramp Stamp

04/08/12 244# m
From the Post-Gazette, a graphic that might be most people's first introduction to the new Pennsylvania Four Foot Bicycle Law:

While I could do without the "Rules of Engagement" subtitle (which suggests an combatant perspective), it's a good summary.

Also, I am considering getting a lower back tattoo, aka tramp-stamp in the form of a slow-moving vehicle triangle to provide an extra margin of high-visibility and to call the automobilist's attention to my "don't kill me bro" campaign.

This is just an artist's depiction, sort of a "proof-of-concept":

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Groveton - Burgettstown

04/07/12 241# 53m 35-55F

Started at MP3 (Brothers Grimm) in 35F. Rode with S, S,and M out to the Montour-Panhandle Connector, then the Panhandle Trail west to Burgettstown. Got a nice view of the world-famous Langeloth Smoke Stack. Reversed, stopped at Midway for snacks, returned to Brothers Grimm, continued to Groveton and came back to MP3 in 55F.

Really a nice day: blue skies, light wind. Disappointed that the Main Street MiniMart in Burgettstown remains closed, excited to see a new restaurant opening right by the trailhead.

   4/07/12 Week 12
this week:
171 miles
2nd Qtr 171 miles
24 mi/day2-QTR
2012: 1185 miles

Friday, April 6, 2012

Montour - Panhandle Coffeeneuring

04/06/12 241# 29m
First, if I may, a potentially tragic story that ends well: Richard Gubish, Bus Driver of the Year (2012), although the final denouement is to be announced. Also, Pittsburgh's Danny Chew is at 698,800 lifetime bike miles, almost 70% of his lifetime goal of 1,000,000 bike miles.

Rode 29 miles with R. Had a funny mini-moment driving to the trailhead when I saw a big huge flame climbing above the horizon line in the distance, it seemed like it was a few miles away and quite tall, and there was no disaster as much as that's just what it's like to live in Oklahoma an energy extraction zone - just burning gas at a well, nothing to see here, keep moving.

Started at the Montour trailhead at MP17.1, the intersection of the Montour and Panhandle Trails. Climbed up to the Montour Trail and rode south through the detour on the temporary trail to Route 50 in Venice, rejoined the trail for a little bit more and then onto Route 50 for some road riding.

We took Route 50 past the American Legion and the tank, then took a parallel side street, made our way past Chartiers Valley high school and under I79 to the Heidelburg Starbucks. The automobilists in this area were very courteous and gave us a lot of room.

Enjoyed a Skinny Vanilla Latte, the manager attempted to explain the various Via options, and then back on the road. We climbed up through Nevillewood, then descended to the Panhandle Trail.

The Panhandle Trail is much improved between the east terminus and the Montour Trail. About a third of that section has been completely resurfaced, with the old ballast being used for the shoulder and new limestone material being used for the trailbed proper, in a way that R. said was reminiscent of the actual railway.

Stopped at the McDonald Trail Station which is open weekends in the summer, and I was pleased to find that it was open with a few ladies preparing for an event (wedding reception?) tomorrow, so I was able to score a few dead-tree Pandhandle Trail maps. I've wanted one of these for quite a while.

In previous years the Panhandle has been sort of the wierd-uncle trail for me because of the rough surface, but I could see that it's going to get a lot more traffic as the "new improved" conditions become more widely known.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Fully Loaded Shakedown

04/03/12 43m 60F
Rode 43 miles, Montour Trail, fully loaded.

My first overnight "bike packing" or "bike camping" trip of the year is in about three weeks, so it's time to begin putting everything together on the bike and giving it a bit of a shakedown.

For today's ride I took off two dilapidated old panniers and put on two brand new Ortliebs. The old Avenir's were very much built to be put on and left on, they're a bit of a pain to mount and unmount; the Ortlieb's are simple and easy by contrast.

I filled the panniers with my camping gear - hammock, two wool blankets, cook stove and accessories, some foul weather gear - and added my sleeping pad athwartships. Some pannier systems place the sleeping pad vertically, aft of the rear panniers, I'll have to see what works.

With the bike rigged as it is I've got an aft center-of-gravity, that may be an issue on steep climbs with the bike tending to rotate away from the front wheel. The Surly frame does handle better and more comfortably with a full load of weight on it.

I started in Boggs. The first ten miles felt quite difficult (with the weight), I felt some pain in my quads in places I didn't know it could occur. About a half-hour in I did get rained on for about fifteen minutes, and in the rain the value of the Ortliebs was brought home again; no need to put on raincovers, they're just good to go.

Navigating the two detours with the loaded bike was a bit of a lesson. I'm glad it wasn't slushy or muddy; my tires are 32's, I could see how you might want wider tires for a sloppy surface. The main differences with the heavy bike seem to be that starting and stopping are a bit more complex, and I think I need to be a bit more ahead of the bike than I'm used to thinking.

Having said all that, when I got to McMurray I stopped at Starbucks for coffee and then Subway for a sandwich. When I got back on the trail, the pain and agony was gone and it was just a bit of extra work and some consideration of inertia; I think the pain and resistance was mostly a mental issue.

A very nice ride.