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

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Day Six: Confluence, Ohiopyle, Connellsville, Cedar Creek

05/31/12 66m

While mustering our group to depart Rockwood I had the chance to sit on a trail bench beside a fascinating gentleman. He was off the bike, he explained, because at 85 years old he'd just had a hip replacement and he really hopes to get back on the bike for the July state championship time trials (he competes in the over-80 category). He was a very interesting person. He explained that his wife, who was out on the trail, had ridden around the world after retiring as a teacher. Wow. You tend to think DC-Pittsburgh is something and then you meet somebody who's truly remarkable.

We rode to Confluence without incident, taking a good look at the "daylighting" operation at the Pinkerton Bypass. In Confluence we ate at Sister's Cafe, which has been a favorite of mine. I was a little bit surprised at how much breakfast cost this time, the prices may have gone up for the new season. The food was great.

Stopped by Confluence Cyclery looking for a small, hard-to-find item. They had it and the lady wouldn't take any money for it. I said, Please. She said, No. I said, Wow; impasse. She said, well, there's the boot....

The boot! Just when I thought I was about to get the boot — making two places in Confluence that I'm not welcome at — the lady points to the end of the counter and says, "There's a fireman's boot from the V-F-D as a fundraiser, sometimes cyclists don't like to carry change around so we keep the boot here." So I put $5 and all my change into the boot.

Confluence Cyclery is an excellent bike shop that goes out of their way to cater to visitors - they have wifi and a computer terminal and they encourage you to use it. They took a photo of us outside their shop. If you get a chance, stop by Confluence Cyclery and put your change in the boot!

Rode to Ohiopyle, took a short break mini-nap (photo). Continued briskly to Confluence, loaded up on supplies at Sheetz and Wendy's, and then staked out some territory at the park, ate lunch, and took a more of a Siesta.

We consulted the weather and saw that we'd have rain at about 0400 the next day. Riding all the way into Pittsburgh seemed unlikely, so we agreed to nap a little longer and then ride an extra ten miles while the skies were dry.

We rode to Cedar Creek State Park and found the campground, which was really very nice. They had the best water pump I saw on this trip - a faucet! Turn the knob, water comes out! I love that.

We planned a very early departure, and we found a large Adirondack shelter in the campground. We left our bikes mostly packed and set up our arrangements within the Adirondack shelter.

Having feasted at Sheetz-Wendy's, we ate lightly and then CA surprised us again by preparing coconut-macaroon / M&M brownies, which we chased down with a bit of Starbucks VIA / Irish Coffee in celebration of our last evening of the trip.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Day Five: GAP Mount Savage Frostburg Rockwood

05/30/12 44m
Woke up to a great day for bicycling. Cumberland MD is, of course, the center of the DC-Pgh bike universe, as the distances given on the photo will attest.

DB departed our group off the front very early to make some mileage, he needed to get home. I had an early first breakfast at the hotel, took a nap, had second breakfast just before they closed down. We gathered ourselves and our gear downstairs and headed over to the trailside bike shop.

The bikeshop was very cool, a few charming and attention-addicted shop-dogs on patrol. My handlebar tape had exploded in the recent rainy riding and I asked them to retape the bars for me.

While we were wiating we had the pleasure of talking with Don, who is a Adventure Cycling tour guide (and who took the previous photo). We were discussing various approaches to group touring and specifically to getting on top of Mount Savage and he said, "each person has to find their own way up the mountain", which I am considering my Zen take-away from this adventure. Seriously. (Zen take-away from my previous trip: "we all choose what baggage we will carry")

I had a discussion with a cyclist who was convinced that a person can't ride any further than Homestead along the trail. I explained that people do it all the time, and that the "official line" was probably driven by insurance and liability. It'll be great when the whole she-bang is declared open.

With new bar-tape (see iconic Cumberland bike photo above) and full water bottles there was no further procrastination possible, so we began to ride up the Eastern Continental Divide. The last time I rode up this hill with panniers I popped at about MP12 (note that mileposts reset at Cumberland), so this time I proactively stopped at MP5, 8, and 13 on my way up to Frostburg at MP16. Although it was slow, it was a steady and enjoyable ride.

In Frostburg I stopped at the Trail Inn for a cheeseburger and was surprised to see a "for sale" sign. Rejoined QR and CA at the entrance to the Brush Tunnel, then we continued to the Savage Tunnel and the Eastern Continental Divide.

Riding beyond the Divide, with a small but definitive declination, was a pleasure. I felt like I'd been paying for this descent over the previous four days and now it was time to enjoy it. Stopped at Meyersdale, found the visitor center closed, and we decided to skip the town.

A word about Meyersdale: I really want to like the town. I've stayed in two of the motels and the hostel; I love to eat at the GI Dayroom, I think it's the best food on the GAP. But outside of the GI Dayroom, there's really nothing on the main drag to justify climbing back up that hill. The last two times I've been there, I've skipped the town because there's nothing there.

Saw the breathtaking Salisbury Viaduct, saw the windmills, and rode to Rockwood. We planned on staying at the Husky Haven Campground. QR and CA camped at Husky Haven and ate Thai food, and I stayed at the Hostel on Main and had a calzone from the Rockwood Shoppes for dinner; we were all very satisfied with our choices.

This is a mural in Rockwood celebrating their railroad legacy and remembering trail advocate Maynard Semblower:

Today was a lot of work and a great day of riding.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Day Four: Oldtown's Schoolhouse Kitchen and Cumberland MD

Today was a planned light day, and that carried through although not as expected. The goal was to ride 40 miles to Cumberland, do laundry and housekeeping, and have a few leisure hours in preparation for the Ascent of Mount Doom climb up the Eastern Continental Divide.

We woke to find our campsite occupied by butterflies - big ones, little ones, subdued and wild ones. We each made our morning ablutions and breakfasts, in no rush with a light schedule ahead.

We rode to the PawPaw Tunnel, which was impressive as always. I should mention that in my opinion, the southern end of the PawPaw Tunnel's walkway is the most dangerous place on the C&O Canal trail - it's narrow, slippery when wet, and a significant unprotected dropoff. Just saying. Transition through the tunnel was easy; flashlights are needed.

Continued along to OldTown, departing the trail and turning right to get to 19210 Opessa St SE, Oldtown, MD 21555 looking for Schoolhouse Kitchen. (301-478-5189) This is an old high school building that the town couldn't find a buyer for, so a local family bought it - they use the shops for a antique car business, keep the gym open so the local kids can play basketball in it, and run a restaurant out of the cafeteria. This is one of my favorite stops along the C&O Canal. It's mildy kitchy-quirky but completely mainstream.

We parked our bikes in the entranceway to the old high school, and there were some kittens hanging out that were interested in our bikes. We ordered food, normal diner/grill fare, and it was very good - fresh, tasty, hot. I always really enjoy eating there, and the school cafeteria vibe makes it worth the half-mile ride from the trail.

After we ate QR got a text message from her mother asking if we were in the path of the hurricane that was going on. When we turned on the smartphones we got a bit of a surprise: a major storm was coming our way.

We looked outside and was getting dark, and so we returned and asked if we could hang out for a while. They made us welcome as long as we wanted to stay, and told us we could take any spot we found comfortable. We studied the radar and figured there was no way to beat it, and that we could wait two hours and then reach Cumberland in daylight behind it, so we chose to stay warm and dry while the storm blew past.

It was a doozy. A few bicyclists came in off the trail thoroughly soaked; one said the canal was flooded, filled up to the sides and overflowing, and the trail was just underwater. Most of us took this opportunity to take a nap.

Later, when the major storm passed but it was still raining, we got back out there and starting riding to Cumberland. What was very nice was the folks at SChoolhouse Kitchen saw us about to launch into the rain and told us we were welcome to spend the night if we wanted to, I think they were concerned for us and their hospitality was genuine and generous. So, Heroes of the Day: Schoolhouse Kitchen, Oldtown MD and QR's Mom.

The trail had drained but was still wet; the canal was filled with water, up to the brim. About halfway to Cumberland the rain stopped and the skies cleared. We got into town late.

We went directly to the Crabby Pig restaurant so we could eat a great meal before the town shut down, and we were all pleased with dinner. Then we checked into the hotel, which is very bike friendly (they seem to exist for bike trail traffic). It just seemed like a good idea to get very dry and get a good night's rest before climbing Mount Savage the next day. Laundry machines, hot tub at the pool, bathtubs and beds; civilization felt good.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Day Three: Hancock MD to Devil's Alley H/B (MP145)

05/28/12 45m
Day Three began like many a "morning after", with an admixture of uncertainty and mild trepidation. We joined up at the Red Rood Inn, where one of us had spent the night, and had breakfast at the adjacent Waffle House.

We knew there were trees down along the trail, and some reports of flooding. After a bit of smartphoning we decided we'd try to continue on the trail since there was no attractive road alternative, and if we discovered that it was impassable then we'd deal with that when we found it. I was impressed at the group's sang froid as they dealt with changing situations and partial information.

A diversion: I was intrigued about the Red Roof Inn because another group is considering planning an overnight there. I've stayed there twice before, long ago. Online comments are mixed with many disappointments documented. CA was pleased with the room at the price he paid, but I also noticed there are many things that don't meet the gold standard - if you're looking for a safe $60 room near the trail it's OK, if you're looking for the Holiday-Inn-Express equivalent you'll be disappointed.

As we entered the Trail at MP101, I reflected that we were now north of the traditional PermaBog conditions that are often present below Harper's Ferry - but of course, with the storm, the entire area is soaked now. There were trees and debris and mud; the song of the morning was, "Fifty Ways to be a Mudder".

At MP117 we were thrilled to transition to the parallel, paved WMRT Trail, and then to stop at Weaver's in Hancock for lunch. The people in Hancock are eagerly pursuing the "Trail Economy" and are making their town a "trail destination". There are efforts to extend the WMRT across several bridges and tunnels, that would be awesome.

Back on the paved trail, which was really nice although possibly monotonous. At MP156 (Pearre) the WMRT ends and you transition back to the C&O Canal.

I wanted to stop in Little Orleans to see what's going on at Bill's Place but I was upon it before I knew it, so I passed it - next time I'll stop. We made camp at MP145, the Devil's Alley Hiker/Biker site.

We were joined by one solo camper and another duo, and I was surprised to see that three of the seven of us were using Hennessy Hammocks. At the picnic table there was a bit of a geek discussion about our various connectivity problems (no one could get online at the campsite), but Cody Law took the gizmo-prize when he explained that the MiFi he carries wasn't working either. Game. Set. Match.

After dinner, our raconteur and bon vivant CA produced a wonderful rice pudding. Laundry, showers, early to bed.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Day Two, MP35 to 101: Williamsport, MD

05/27/12 65m

Woke early and it was already hot and humid. In an amazing demonstration of skill and bon vivance, CA surprised the group by baking fresh scones as an eye-opener, which was a welcome treat. As I was breaking camp and packing up I felt like I was out of sequence and lacking any rhythm, which I expect will come with some more experience.

I skipped making breakfast in camp (which would have been oatmeal) in hope of getting something at the nearby store at White's Ferry. A few of us rode out to White's Ferry where the store was just opening, and apparently their food offerings were very limited because they only open for the season on Memorial Day. Dang. Departed and pressed on to the Mini-Mart at Point of Rocks.

The trail continued to be muddy in spite of the recent dry spell. Other campers and riders said, White's Ferry to Harper's Ferry (mp 35-65) is the muddiest section of the trail, it'll get better. I considered the flawed genius of the fictional Ice Nine, a military polymorph that would phase-change the standing water in marshes into ice in order to facilitate surface transport. (It was later found to have the unfortunate side effect of freezing the entire planet's water supply.) If I could have sprinkled a little "instant crushed limestone" over the C&O I'd have done it.

Reached Point of Rocks and the promise of breakfast, only to find my favorite MiniMart closed, shuttered, and out of business. While the loss of the business was no doubt an inconvenience for those involved, the loss of breakfast was taking on a tragic proportion for me. Skipping breakfast through breaking camp, leaving White's Ferry without eating, and the disappointment at Point of Rocks was foolish of me.

Continued to Brunswick, which has not had much trail-focused activity in the past. Found lunch at Mummer's Diner, which was OK. Saw a new bike shop, Three Points Cycle; straight into town until the main drag, it's two doors down on the left.

Continued riding to Harper's Ferry. It's an indication of the day's mugginess that when the trail's direction turned at MP60 and a headwind blew down the trail, I was very happy to have the breeze.

At about MP80 RS pitched his camp for the night. With all the humidity he was having a significant problem with his seat interface, was experiencing great difficulty, and decided to pitch camp and reverse the next day.

Approaching the WideWater Detour at MP84, I was surprised to see a significant stand of bamboo growing along the road. There is a long-standing trail closure between MP84 and -88, and a published route along local roads that brings you back to the trail. Others have seen fit to use alternative road routes to continue into Williamsport. CA took the published detour and the full trail; QR and DB took Route63 into Williamsport; I choose Route68.

There was an impressive cloud building ahead, but I thought I would get to town before it. (Operator-induced error)

This weather radar image shows the line of weather about 45 minutes before it (and I) simultaneously arrived in Williamsport.

My cloud-bike-time-speed estimation skills are not fully developed non-existant, and I was still outside of the edge of town when the air got cool, the wind changed direction, and a gentle mist started to fall. It was a pleasant change for about a minute, then it turned ugly and the rain turned heavy and the winds were strong. I was looking for an awning at a church or business when I gave up and rolled up a residential driveway uninvited and put my bike under the meager cover of the roof overhang. The house seemed to be unoccupied.

I took out my space-blanket and settled in to watch the storm. A few doors down, an aluminum shed blew off its concrete floor and flew into the treeline, where it struggled to retain its form for a moment before crumpling in the wind and falling away in a hundred pieces. Down the street a barn was shifted off its foundation. Lots of sideways rain, very low visability, whipping foliage, lightning (cloud-ground and cloud-cloud), it was quite a blow.

The people in the adjacent house saw me (or perhaps all the blinking lights on my bike, which I'd turned on for the on-road detour) and invited me to come over and take shelter on their covered porch. A few minutes later I was sitting in a rocking chair, well under their porch roof, enjoying their hospitality. They invited me inside but I couldn't go into their house in my condition. Heroes of the day: Mr. and Mrs. Curtis Eyler of Williamsport, MD, who went out of their way to show kindness and hospitality to a stranger in the dark. They walk the talk.

After an hour the violent weather had passed and it was just raining now, so I took my leave and rode into Williamsport, hoping to find a meal before the town shut down for the night. I went to Tony's NY Pizza (10 East Salisbury Street) since I'd been there before. I showed up cold and wet and probably quite a sight but they seated me and brought me soup and a hot meal and it was wonderful. Twice now, they've done real well for me on a bike trip.

Although we were in cellphone contact, our group was separated by the storm. QR and DB were at the campground at MP101 when it hit; CA had encountered trees blocking his path and reversed to the Red Roof Inn; I rode to the trailhead, decided not to continue in the dark, and took shelter under the awning at the NPS Visitors Center in Cushwa Basin. (This was the second time I've been under the same awning, I was also here in the rain in 1994.)

I slept very well as the rain fell around me. Sixty-five miles is a very long distance on a loaded bike and a somewhat muddy trail.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

DC to Pittsburgh Bike Trip: Day One, White House to White's Ferry

05/26/12 40m
Started the day early, meeting QR and DB in Highland Park and putting our bikes into the back of a van for the trip to DC. It was a luxury to be a passenger. Parked in DC close to mile-post (MP) 0 (zero), got to see the smartphone-based parking meters; we don't have those in Pittsburgh.

Assembled the bikes, put on the panniers, started to ride to the WhiteHouse to rendezvous with the rest of our group. First Lesson Learned: it's good to reconnect the front brake. We thought we would be a group of six, turned out to be a group of five, and we made our way from the White House out along K Street to MP0, the Water Gate, and the cluster of buildings named after it.

We rode out past the Yacht Club and the Capital Crescent Trail, joining the C&O Canal Trail. Between Carderock and Great Falls, the C&O Canal has been breached by flooding and a detour is in place which seems very similar to the Burma Road Detour of a decade ago. It's quite a bit of work to move loaded touring bikes up and down the stairs.

Today being Saturday of Memorial Day weekend there was quite a lot of people on the trail. We saw a copperhead snake at Great Falls, and of course everybody crowded around it, taunting Darwin's Ghost.

At MP16 you pass beyond the "showcase-DC" portion of the trail and into the more hiking/biking segment, and the trail displayed its tendency for mud.

It was not muddy everywhere; it was muddy for about five yards, every 100 yards. Somebody was singing, "Slip-sliding away". The area was dry for the previous five days so conditions were as dry as it gets and the trail was as good as it gets, and it was still muddy enough to be an issue.

Bike handling required continual attention, there was reduced braking and steering, speeds were lower and the bikes all accumulated a lot of mud.

We arrived at the campground, just south of White's Ferry, at about 7pm. We set about making camp, pumping water for showers and cooking, making dinner, and we all went directly to sleep for the night. The solar shower rig worked well and I was glad to cool off.

Making dinner (for me) was a function of boiling water, and generally consisted of using the boiling water in conjuction with things like the photo below, which gave me both a carb and a protein source.

It was a very good first day. Hot, humid, went through a lot of water, and it was muddy. Everybody said that the first 35 miles are the worst as far as the mud goes.

   May 26, 2012 Week 20
this week:
107 miles
  246#   2nd Qtr 968 miles
17 mi/day2-QTR
2012: 1984 miles

Friday, May 25, 2012

Durabond Bypass and Nancy B's Bakery

05/25/12 246# 46m
First, must be said: Seven months until Christmas. You're welcome.

Forecast called for "hot", so I started at the Bastille at 0700 with S. Rode the Escape From Pittsburgh initial segment of the Pittsburgh-DC ride, from Point State Park via Hot Metal Bridge and SandCastle parking lot to Boston PA. This was a recon run in anticipation of a ride with out-of-tahners in a few weeks n'at.

Inevitably, in the vicinity of the McKeesport Marina we had two encounters with transient riders trying to discern the route and realizing René Magritte's wisdom that "the map is not the terrain". One was a solo rider from DC to Pittsburgh, the other was a couple riding from Homestead to Perryopolis and beyond.

Rode to the Durabond bypass and then reversed. Riding through the Waterfront we departed the commercial oasis via Amity Street to Seventh Street, and made our way through the real Homestead to 415 Seventh Street, the location of world-famous Nancy B's bakery. It is possibly the ultimate realization of the "hole in the wall" joint with fantastic food, and their Chocolate Chip Cookie was voted "Best in the Burgh".

It was the best chocolate chip cookie I've ever had. The raspberry pastry was wonderful, too. This is not a venti-skinny-vanilla-latte place, although there is a coffee pot; it seems like they do one thing very, very well. It is now an established Bike Ride Destination.

Being in Homestead on Seventh Ave. (actually, at the Seventh Ave - Eighth Avenue - Route 837 confluence) gave us a chance to review the Route 837 contingency route to Keystone Metals, and boy does that remind one how nice it is to be able to ride through the Sandcastle Parking lot.

Hot Metal Bridge, Jail Trail, was "seen by" G. (front man of hot local band Radio Cargo) at Grant Street. Crossed the Ft. Duquesne Bridge. Passed by the restaurants on the NorthSide.

At the Jerome Bettis Grill there was an older couple taking pictures of each other, so I pulled over and offered to take a picture of them together. They gladly handed me their camera-phone and I thought, Man what a great way to steal a phone. Took the photo and returned the phone, back on the bike, back to the Bastille by noon.

I was glad we got out early because it was already quite warm at 1200. An excellent recce ride, and an absolute find in Nancy B's Bakery.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Petersen's Wisdom

05/24/12 246# 12m

About a week ago I purchased Grant Petersen's book Just Ride in order to read it on an upcoming trip, and I couldn't delay gratification and finished it. Excellent book, a lot of insight, expertise, and some thought-provoking opinion. He likes steel frames, rain capes, and two-legged kickstands; who am I to question him?

Riding away from the garage I hit my high speed of the year, 39.9 mph. Usually I don't exceed 35 but conditions were good, the bike was good, and I knew the road and I wanted to try it. Exhilarating.

I found myself considering one of Petersen's essays this morning, I believe it's called The Great Shoe Hoax about how the Marketing-Industrial Complex encourages regular people to buy pedals and shoes that lock them in (ugh) to only riding on special shoes, when any shoes will do for the great preponderance of cycling.

I had these thoughts when I left a place I'm doing some work at, dropped my car off at a garage, and rode the six miles back to the office. I was thinking, Petersen was right it's crazy for me to have two pair of shoes with me, one for the office and one for the bike. I diverge from Petersen, however, in my resolution; office shoes with cleats. I need to look into them.

On the way back to the garage, managing 3.5 mph up the hill that I'd found so thrilling on the descent, I was pleased at my work going up the hill. Two years ago I'd have stopped riding up that hill, and so it was a good ride.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Riding Pittsburgh to Washington, DC by Bicycle

05/23/12 244# 0m
I found myself three times in the last two weeks describing the bike ride from Pittsburgh to DC, or from Washington to Pittsburgh, to people who really wanted to go but didn't know how to go about the endeavor.

I figure one time is a conversation, two times is a theme, and three times is a blog post - so without further backstory, here's an email I sent about riding a bicycle from Pittsburgh to DC.

You can ride from the Point in Pittsburgh to the heart of downtown DC, almost completely on car-free trails. Purists will point out small gaps in official coverage, and yet people with local knowledge do it all the time. There are a few small work-arounds involved.

The northern half of the trip, 150 miles from Pittsburgh to Cumberland MD is called the Great Allegheny Passage (GAP). The GAP is a modern trail built to contemporary engineering standards; it's one of the finest trails in the country. The official web reference is www.atatrail.org, and the crowd-source is at GAP Yahoo Group.

The southern half of the trip, 185 miles from Cumberland MD to Washington DC, is called the C&O Canal Trail and it's an unimproved Civil War donkey path. It's got a historical designation so it won't be improved much. The trail is often just two tire tracks, there's roots and rocks and mud, and the C&O trail is more primitive than the GAP. They're both great, just very different. The authoritative web reference is: http://bikewashington.org/canal/, and the crowd-source is at C&O Yahoo Group.
  • If you want to ride your bike for five or six days, ride Pittsburgh to Cumberland and back to Pittsburgh. The GAP is so nice, and you'll be back at your car/home when you're done. Every injury or busted bike I've seen on the DC-Pittsburgh ride has happened on the C&O. Key phrase: unimproved Civil War donkey path.
  • If you use a trailer on your bike, make it a one-wheeled trailer; two-wheeled trailers are incompatible with the C&O Trail

There is a growing trail economy in the small towns you pass through. Personally, I prefer the eastbound (Pittsburgh to DC) trip because of the relative slopes. The logistics of a round-trip often outweigh the aesthetics, and many people in Pittsburgh prefer the certainty of traveling to DC first and then riding home. The wrinkle is there's a bit of a peak (Mount Savage) east of Cumberland that's got a relatively steep slope if you're riding westbound.

How to get from one end to another? People rent cars and drop them off near a trailhead, people box their bikes as baggage and take Amtrak (unfortunately no rollon, rolloff service), people get a friend to drive them one-way or solicit a lift on Craigslist. Some people even bicycle round-trip.

Every year the trail and accommodations improve, so most things in print are outdated within a year. There's a tremendous little $5 book called Linking Up that I highly recommend, and the Fourth Edition is now available for purchase. All profits benefit the GAP.

This book is written by CMU professor Mary Shaw and Michael Baker engineer Roy Weil, and if the Pgh-DC trail has grandparents they are it. They're nationally recognized trail advocates.

Almost any (non-racing) bicycle that is reliable in frequent use will do; trikes really don't work well on the C&O. An optimal tire size is 1.5". Fenders are good.

Usually, people make an intermediate overnight trip for a bit of experience before they go on a 5-day or a 8-day trip; you might ride from Connellsville out to Confluence, stay in a B&B, bike back the next day, etc.

There are various ways to assemble a group of riders; the most straighforward seems to be to go on local group rides, meet other riders, and talk it up. All the other options to some extent resemble Internet dating, but some people post for group rides on the two Yahoo groups, on CrazyGuyOnABike, on BikeForums, etc.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Sunday WakeUp

05/20/12 243# 9m
Spent the night camping along the Montour Trail in my Hennessy Hammock, then broke camp and rode out back to my car. At 58F it was quite cold in the hammock, conditions improved when I put on wool and long pants.

I woke at 0800 aware that I'd been snoring loudly, finding a text from D. on my phone explaining that he'd left at 0700, reluctant to wake me while I was so clearly having a profound REM event. People were already walking, running, and biking on the adjacent trail.

For breakfast I "cooked" Quaker instant oatmeal "Maple & Brown Sugar" and enjoyed a cup of Starbucks Via Columbia coffee. Not bad for camping. I learned that cooking dinner, cleaning up, overnight drinking water, and cooking breakfast and cleanup requires almost a half-gallon of water. That was a good thing to learn.

There's a Montour Trail sign with a QR-code on the campsite, so I pointed the smart-phone at it and gave them some feedback about the camping experience, which was excellent.

I packed it all up. Each time I pack I hope it's in a slightly more practical way. I got my bike and gear out of the campsite, checked that I left it as well as I found it, and got on my way.

As I crossed Route50 in Venice I encountered my friend S, which was a nice surprise but it was becoming a bit of an old-home-week bike ride; pretty soon I'd be meeting long-dead friends and that would be freaky. She joined me for the ride back to McDonald.

It was very nice to have a place on the Montour Trail to camp out, I think I learned a lot by doing a shakedown overnight, and it was especially pleasant to meet good friends on the trail.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Saturday Morning Burgh, Evening S24O Entertaining

05/19/12 243# 36m
My plan of the day was to ride in the city in the morning, and in the evening go out on the Montour Trail for an overnight campout to shakedown my gear.

Started 0900 at the Bastille with M, who's been working out of town and it was a welcome reunion. Rode around the northside, stopped at some sort of health-walk at the stadia, went out to the 31st STreet bridge and then back through the Strip District. Stopped at Point State Park which was hosting a Venture Outdoors celebration.

Saw some tri-types in a sort of bicycle urban orienteering competition, it looked like they were really working hard at it. Saw a bicycle skills course being laid out and another vendor was queing up electric-assist and electric-shift bikes for demo rides.

Rode out on Blvd of the Allies to Grant Street, took the Jail Trail and Hot Metal Bridge. Cruised the newly opened AEO-HBH plaza, checked out the OTB bike corral, went to Big Dog Coffee for the coffeeneuring phase of the ride (photo). Biancha mochas and elephant ear pastries, very nice. A young couple had just become engaged and asked us to take a photo. Rode to Keystone Metals (wish they'd open that mini-segment), reversed to Station Square, crossed Ft. Pitt bridge, crowded Point State Park, Ft. Duquesne bridge, rode back to the Bastille, 27 miles. It was great to see Mark and get to talk with him, and doubly so on bicycles.

In the afternoon I tried to re-assemble my bike kit, which is actually about a hundred different items that may or may not remain in formation. Last week I took geat out of their normal places to gather my TOSRV supplies, and then on the return it was hither and yon for drying and cleaning, and it became scattered.

I stopped at REI for some MRE-type meals, bought a pouch of mandarin orange chicken and another of spicy sausage pasta, by Natural High. There really isn't a place for overnight parking along the Montour, so I parked in McDonald and hoped for the best (it was fine). I spent at least a half-hour sorted gear into panniers and trying to get my stuff together.

I was unsure of water availability, so I carried an extra half-gallon container from a convenience store. Between the four panniers, bedroll, and the water jug it was a pretty heavy bicycle when I started out on the trail.

After a few miles my front fender support failed. I'm guessing the weight on the bicycle flexed it a bit too much. No damage and I consider it part of the reason to do a shakedown, and I'm glad it happened now and not when I'm halfway between DC and Pittsburgh.

Crossing Route50, my cellphone range and my friend K was on the trail behind me and had seen my car, so we agreed that he'd catch up to me which was no great leap of faith given my speed.

I reached the Montour Trail's Kurnick campground around MP25.5 at almost the same time that D. arrived from the other direction, he was doing the same thing - checking out his gear for a DC-Pgh ride.

All five campgrounds were unoccupied so I started checking for a site with optimally spaced trees and chose Site2. D chose Site1 to set up his REI tent. My friend K came up the trail on his mountain bike and I got the hammock up pretty quickly, it really does only take about three minutes. That was pretty cool, established for a few minutes and hosting guests.

We had a nice visit, I hadn't seen K for a few weeks, and then he had to go as he had miles to make before it got dark. I continued setting up camp, rigged the stove, arranged some gear etc when my friend R. stopped by on his Rivendell. He lives a few miles out on the trail and came bearing gifts of bug spray and a water jug, both of which were very thoughtful.

I "made" coffee (which means, I boiled water and invoked the Starbucks Via ritual) and it was pretty good. I "cooked" the spicy sausage pasta; it was pretty good for an MRE, it certainly had a variety of tastes for the palate and probably better for morale than a PB&J, but nothing you'd ever be happy to have at a restaurant. As darkness began R. departed and I did a bit of camp clean up.

I climbed into the hammock and it was immediately obvious that the trees I'd used weren't far enough apart, the hammock had way too much of a bend in the middle. I thought, give it a few minutes but it didn't get any better it just got darker, so I got out of it and searched for another spot.

I was using a Petzl headlight, several years old and dim by contemporary standards but quite workable, and it was an awesome tool. I found two trees on a slope, took down and re-rigged the hammock. I realized I had the entry side of the hammock on the wrong side of the slope so that it was five feet up into the air, so I took it down and hung it the other way, and it all went well and I feel a bit more proficient at hanging the hammock in the dark.

   May 19, 2012 Week 19
this week:
117 miles
  243#   2nd Qtr 861 miles
17 mi/day2-QTR
2012: 1877 miles

Friday, May 18, 2012

PhotoBomb B2W-PGH, Bike Nap Cecil, Farmhouse Coffee

05/18/12 243# 50m
Rode 22 miles with S in the morning, 28 miles with R in the afternoon, 50 miles total on Bike To Work Day

Started at 0700 at the Bastille, cool enough for a sweater. Stopped at a "bike to work" support station by the stadium supported by The Priory, two very cool dogs there and some very nice bikes, excellent swag (wool socks, water bottle!) Rode around the Point, took the Strip District Trail, arrived at the City-County building in time for the 0830 presser.

Saw some great bicycles there including a Trek1100 just like my road bike, and a Trek830 just like my trail bike, representing old school. I was very pleased to see (and get to use) the demonstration bus bike rack (and thanks to Steve Patchan for the briefing).

Also spoke with a PAT expert who made a few more points: if you're the first bike using the rack, use the slot close to the bus; put the spring-loaded clip as high as possible; consider putting a pre-paid bus card in your bike bag, so if you ride in to the city in the morning and get surprised by rain, you could just take out your card and take the bus home. (I thought that was a great multi-modal point.)

The 0830 event got underway about 0900 when Hizzoner the Mayor arrived to work on a bike along with Scott Bricker (BikePgh), Bruce Woods (PMTCC), and a few other worthies I didn't recognize.

Behind the County Executive (the grownup in the suit) there's a very attractive Surly LHT with a two-legged kickstand, an orange triangle, and Ambridge Bike Shop water bottles. Just saying: photobomb ftw!

Back on the bike, Jail Trail, Hot Metal Bridge, Keystone Metals, REI for the Anniversary Sale. Bought new bike shoes at 20% off. Station Square, Ft. Pitt and Ft. Duquesne bridges, Bastille: 22 miles on a beautiful morning.

Drove out to the west and took a mini bike-nap on the Montour Trail near Cecil and MP23, then my friend R came by and woke me. We rode southwest past the Twin Bridge construction, walking up to the trail at Georgetown, then rode to world-famous Farmhouse Coffee for Farmhouse espresso, iced tea, and red velvet biscotti.

Once fortified we continued (east, I think) past the new Bebout Bridge to Logan Road. I don't get out on this section of the trail much, trail conditions were excellent.

Reversed and returned, stopped for a few minutes above the creek at the golf course. My total mileage for the day was 50.

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.

Hennessy Hammock and Bartleby's Rainy TOSRV

05/13/12 0m

Sunday I slept overnight in my Hennessy Hammock. I did take a little bit of time getting situated inside the hammock, but then I slept very well. After 0100 it rained heavily, but I was snug and dry in the hammock. A few thoughts on the hammock:

It was cool out, 58F, and the hammock was quite cool due to the airflow around it. The thermal pad below me and a wool Navy blanket were more than sufficient for the temperature.

One thing about the hammock it that's it's a dedicated, specialized shelter; the benefits come at the cost of adaptability. It's difficult to put on a sweater inside of the hammock, or to do much other than recline, and ordinarily that's no problem - but when it's raining outside you're limited to reclining, so things you might do in a tent - sitting up, changing clothes, making a sandwich - are constrained.

As I lay in the hammock the thought did occur to me that the hammock does somewhat resemble an REI bodybag, and then I realized that to a passing (hungry) bear I probably looked like a wrapped candy treat.

I really enjoyed the sleep in the hammock, and the freedom from sleeping on the ground. Even with the rain fly deployed there was a gentle breeze and no condensation accumulation.

DFL beats DNF double-beats DNS

Peering out of the hammock at the heavy rain at about 0500, I was very reluctant to get out of the dry shelter. I didn't bring rain gear or cold gear because of the (optomistic) forecast; no fenders or rain capes.

I checked my smartphone and the weather forecast offered no respite for 12 hours, well beyond my welcome in the park. On Saturday night you're a welcome bicycle tourist; on Sunday night you're a hi-viz vagrant.

Cold and wet outside, warm and dry inside; my lizard brain suggested staying inside. As 0600 rolled around I awoke to the sound of other bicyclists breaking camp, some clamoring into vehicles (to drive home) and others putting on rain gear and doing the carpe diem bit. I considered my options and channeled the spirit of Bartleby the Scrivener, saying "I would prefer not to" out loud to nobody in particular.

I dozed off while considering Bartleby's wisdom, a man ahead of his time who occupied Wall Street persistently in spite of being urged to leave, and who simply asserted his capacity to assert: I would prefer not to. When I thought of stepping out into the chilly rain, Bartleby's shibboleth rang in my head.

A large RV started its engine and teased the possibility of transport to Columbus, so I exited my shelter and tried to scrounge a ride, offering $50 for a lift, but they did not find it persuasive. I made the rounds of others who were filling cars with bikes and gear, but they lacked either a seat or a space on the rack, or both, and so I scarfed a doughnut and went back into the hammock to wait for better developments. I couldn't finagle my way onto the cargo truck, either.

The sun rose and I took my cellphone out of the ziploc bag and called for a lifeline; a friend in semi-quasi-nearby Springfield would come and pick me up, and drive me to my awaiting car in Columbus (and then drive himself back to Springfield). I am grateful for his willingness and his six hours. I spent the time waiting for the ride in the lobby of the local Holiday Inn, which was kindly giving breakfast to riders and wouldn't take any money for the eggs and coffee from a non-guest.

The second half of my TOSRV didn't even make it to DNF (did not finish); I was a DNS (did not start). I did get a night's experience in the hammock in the rain; I did get to ride a Century on Saturday; and it just seemed like bad judgment to choose to ride 105 miles in a chilly rain, on a road bike with no fenders, without any rain gear. I would prefer not to.

Compliments and Mega-Props

All self-justification aside, my compliments and mega-respect to the hard men and hard women who saw the conditions, remembered Rule5 (HTFU), and went out and did what they'd planned to do. You rock.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

2012 TOSRV Granfalloon

05/12/12 109m

I have ridden in the 2007 TOSRV and the 2005 TOSRV, but this was the first year I'd be riding without a few friends.

Riding is initially a physical activity, but it is later a matter of conation - the decision to ride, and the decision to keep riding - and those decisions can be swayed and made easier by the presence of good company. With a group of friends a long day riding is a pleasure, but with a group of strangers it's a different experience; the company in today's organized ride is at best a granfalloon, and I missed riding with my buddies.

I was up at 0530 and started sorting my kit into piles of "bring/don't bring", choosing to leave rain gear and cold weather gear behind. Then, in spite of a long-standing personal policy of never fooling with a bike just before an event, I spent some time re-routing my aero-bars and my brake cables, and I think I ended up with a much better layout. I was now armed with a duffel bag of supplies I'll want in Portsmouth, and another bag of things I'll leave behind in the locked car.

There is no better way to summon people to a point of assembly, to give them a way to proceed together smartly, than to provide a band of musicians, and this morning I heard the unmistakable sound of bagpipes echoing off Columbus' buildings.

I dropped the duffel bag off into a waiting Ryder truck (which would convey it to my destination, they've really got this figured out) and then joined the queue for the 0730 start, which occured at about 0750.

In preparation for a mass start, organizers were marshalling riders into various clusters in a process that looked a lot like herding cats. I saw some folks wearing this year's newest accessory, the smart-looking but decidedly drag-inducing helmet cam:

It makes me want to speculate whether somebody's making this stuff up and placing bets on whether they can induce people to go out like that.

In this photo of the group start, you may see one particularly stylish cyclist with an orange triangle on the back of his bike, imagine if you will the smooth pedal stroke:

The beginning of a ride is somewhat thrilling because it's both exciting and scary; the frisson of a new day and an unknown experience, and the risk of butterfly-induced foolishness or distraction leading to a pileup. Fortunately, the riders within my range departed the city without incident, with policemen blocking sidestreets.

About ten miles into the ride I was passed by a formation of two HPVs (human powered vehicles), recumbents in fairings with fully enclosed cockpit. Extremely cool.

The first quarter of the ride seemed to be taking too long, and I was warm enough to remove a layer but hanging on to the Circleville stop. We passed the Circleville laundromat where we'd stopped to put our soaking wet clothes into the dryers in 2005 and I was missing my karass.

When I got to the rest stop I was surprised to see that it was at MP29, so it was a somewhat late position. A great stop as always at TOSRV, lots of good snacks, water, plenty of room, mechanics to assist riders with problems, the usual great job.

Centreville to Chillicothe was a nice leg, only 21 miles, and with the sun popping out, the temps rising, and the jackets coming off there was a down-to-business vibe on this segment. I saw a rider on a SlingShot racing bike with a mid-suspension design, it had a carbon fiber wedge in the top tube and a tension cable in place of a down tube, a very unusual design especially given its early 90's timeframe.

The first half of the ride, there was a lot of unannounced passing not only by individuals but sometimes by twin pacelines of twenty riders. They made an awesome woosh-noise as they passed, but it really seemed that a few calls or bells would have been prudent.

In Chillicothe there was another well-run stop, lots of food and drink, a first aid station and bike mechanics, a live band; it was like a bike swap meet with a Woodstock vibe. Saw a tandem made out of wood. Although I thought it was a Calfee it was a one-off, a beautiful bike. Usually (?) a wooden bike has wooden support members with steel or carbon fiber joiners, but this frame was wood from stem to stern. It was beautiful.

I did get lost coming out of Chillicothe, made a wrong turn and started following the signs for the next day's trip back to Columbus, but after a while I got it figured out.

The third leg from Chillicothe to Waverly has a few climbs in it, and on this segment I noticed something missing from previous years. Used to be, scout troops and church groups etc. would give away free hot dogs / drinking water, and there'd be a cigar box for donations - everybody understood they weren't licensed or certified to sell food to the public, let alone collect taxes but they could give it away and maybe you'd leave a donation? This dodge seemed to work very well in the past but this year there were no wink/nod supply stands.

I really felt the need for one at the top of Schoolhouse Hill - while the hill isn't too demanding, it's at just the right point for a water refill and none was available. Later in the ride, I did see two places giving away free water, and those folks weren't taking any donations - something must have changed. I hate it, sometimes, when things change.

I saw a woman riding a bike with a mirror mounted low on the frame, I've never seen that before. When I asked her about it she didn't have much info, turns out it's a Bike-Eye.

Approaching Waverly the residents of Bristol Village, a chronologically gifted community, were out on the street cheering and ringing cowbells for every bicyclist, that was very nice of them.

The Waverly rest stop at Lake White at MP75 was great, everybody seemed tired but there was only a last leg to go. In the beginning of the day, with the rush and vigor a lot of courtesy dropped by the wayside and people would pass without notice and other unspeakable outrages, but by the last leg it seems like everybody had calmed down and good practices resumed.

At about MP97 I developed a loud squeak in one of my rear derailleur pulleys, but a bit of WD40 fixed that and there were no other bike problems.

Camping Overnight

In addition to logging some miles and doing a century ride, which I haven't done in a few years, a big part of the mission for this trip was camping out overnight in preparation for an upcoming DC-Pgh trip.

I rode across Portsmouth to the once-famous Spartan Stadium, which was the home of the Portsmouth Spartans before they moved and became the Detroit Lions. This was also the venue of the NFL's first night game.

There were quite a few tents set up on the soccer fields outside of the old football stadium:

I was walking around, checking out all the equipment (skewing toward BigAgnes and Marmot) when somebody made eye contact with me as if I were a peeping Tom, and I hastily explained that walking around all that gear selected by knowledgeable people was better than any REI seminar.

There was one Hennessy Hammock from the alternative crowd:

And of course, there's always more than one alternative view:

It was a very nice day.

   May 12, 2012 Week 18
this week:
209 miles
  2nd Qtr 744 miles
17 mi/day2-QTR
2012: 1760 miles