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

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Kudos to Hollywood Bike Racks: Great Bicycle Rack, Awesome Customer Service

07/31/12 234# 0m
An unsolicited true story:

About eight, maybe nine years ago I walked into my Local Bike Shop and asked, What hitch-mounted bike rack should I buy? Without hesitation, G. said: "A Hollywood bike rack is the only rack you'll ever need". And I said, well then please sell me one, and that was that. I love my LBS (Ambridge Bike Shop).

I bought a Boomer-Two for $145, which had a 2" hitch and held two bikes; the rack locked to the car, and the bikes locked to the rack. Later I bought an additional segment for $30 that bolted on to carry two more bikes, making it a Boomer-Four.

This was a great rack. I left it outside for most of eight years and it performed as advertised, no problem. Once I left it mounted on a car for three years straight and when I was getting rid of the car I found that the bolt/nut that holds the rack onto the hitch receiver had rusted and become one, and I broke it taking it off so I ordered a new one for about $20. No problem; I'm hard on gear.

It's an indication of its longevity that the rack has outlasted cars. Whenever anybody asked me about my rack, I told them the story of what my LBS said and that it was exactly true: only rack you'll ever need.

Over the last season I've noticed that the vertical part of the Boomer rack has developed a fore-and-aft wiggle. When a bike is on the rack, it tends to lean back about 15° which is OK, but when you brake it rolls back to vertical and tends to bang back and forth a bit.

Not a huge crisis, but probably not long-term desirable and so I called Hollywood Racks. Talked to a tech-support guy, explained my question, asked if he's heard about this before and what the solution was. He'd never heard of that, seemed puzzled; the Boomer series has been very reliable. I said, Can I email you a picture? And he said Yes Please, so I sent over the photo shown here.

He called me back and said, I want to show this to the engineers. He called me back in an hour and said, We're going to send you a new rack. How much? I asked. No, we're just sending you a new rack, he said.

Problem is, they don't make the Boomer series any more, they're going to have to send me the (upgrade) Road Runner Four. The MSRP on the Road Runner Four is $299. I had spent $175 for my Boomer-Four eight years ago. The tech support guy said, We're good with that if you are. Wow.

Today the nice man in the brown UPS truck dropped off a big box with a brand new bike Hollywood Road Runner rack in it, as promised. Wow, just wow.

The new model is a better design than the old Boomer. I am so glad I bought a Hollywood rack eight years ago, and I am so glad I listened to G. at my Local Bike Shop.

Just saying.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Memorial Ride

07/30/12 238# 32m
A very different sort of ride today, a memorial ride for James Price, a Pittsburgh bicyclist run over by a driver who killed Mr. Price and fled the scene.

Started riding in Millvale at midday, rode around to the stadia, Ft. Duquesne and Ft. Pitt bridges, South Side, Keystone Metals, Hot Metal Bridge, and Junction Hollow up to CMU and Fifth Avenue.

From there it was bike-map and GPS time to navigate out to Wilkinsburg and Point Breeze and Tioga Street, where Mr. Price's mother lives - tragically, the same block where Jordan Miles was beaten by Pittsburgh police. The plan called for a 3.30 muster for a memorial ride.

At 3.15 there were only two bicyclists there and I began to fear a poor turnout, but by 3.30 we had quite an array of bicyclists - relatives and friends from the neighborhood, and cyclists from all around the city and surrounding areas. It was quite a sight.

The ride was both somber and fun, with a motorcycle escort leading the way. The ride followed the route of James' ride until the point of the accident, at which the group stopped at a temporary memorial and some relatives and friends said a few words.

Back on the bike and over to the Church where the viewing was being held. The family was very gracious and positive and went out of their way to make all the outsiders on bicycles feel welcome.

YC told me that Mr. Price's Aunt said, "I understand that accidents happen and people get hurt and get killed on roads. What I don't understand is that they left him to die alone on the side of the road, like he was road kill".

Departed and tried to pick a route through to the 40th Street Bridge. Descended through Allegheny Cemetery and was surprised to find quite a few deer, who did not seem to mind it at all.

At sunset Bike-Pgh also put out a ghost bike near the scene of the crime.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

C&O Canal Trail: "A Shitshow Squirrel-Path Tour of Hell"

07/29/12 239# 21m
Pretty, sunny, blue sky day. Rode 21 miles on the Panhandle Trail. Nothing memorable, really, just a great ride. The new/improved western section of the Panhandle really rocks.

I have struggled in the past to effectively describe the qualitative difference between the GAP Trail (Pittsburgh to Cumberland) and the C&O Trail (Cumberland to DC). Generally, I say "The GAP is a modern trail built to contemporary engineering and safety standards. The C&O is a swampy Civil War donkey path". Although I think this eloquent turn of words makes the comparison quite obvious, repeated experience proves that my description fails to convey the desired knowledge.

This week I read the perfect description in a Pgh-to-DC trip report by Dani Kramer: "When people say the C&O towpath is rustic and primitive, what they mean to say is that it is a shitshow squirrel-path tour of hell."

She can write. It's a great trip report, recommended reading.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Goldfinches, Ribbon Cutting, White Lightning, and Gimme Shelter

07/28/12 238# 65m
Rode 65 miles on the Montour Trail, starting at MP0 in Groveton. There had been a lot of rain overnight and this portion of Montour Run (a creek) was fast-moving and swollen. Between MP4 and MP6 we flushed out a series of flocks of goldfinches, it was really impressive.

At Boggs we saw a few more riders who were heading out to the bridge dedication. It was a nice ride, at times misty and at other times a light drizzle, and sometimes dry. The surface was moist which slowed things down a little bit.

We got to the location for the 1200 ceremony, between the two new bridges at 1140. General milling about and hobnobbing prevailed and then the proceedings were called to order. I was pleased to get to meet world-famous trail activist and organic gardner Troy Bogdan.

There were a lot of people who helped get these two bridges and the trail wanted to recognize them, each speaker was brief but it did take a little bit of time - but they got us two new bridges, and took the bikes out of a fairly hazardous intersection, so we were happy to hang out for it.

I was favorably surprised to see a local pizza shop, Burgh Pizza of Bridgeville, present a check for $27K to the trail board, it seems they run an annual fund-raiser; that's impressive.

After the ceremony we rode further to trailside FarmHouse Coffee, where I indulged in their new concoction called a White Lightning: a quad-espresso with white chocolate over ice, it was really excellent.

Back on the bikes, we made good time under dry skies but encountered rain at MP20, and took shelter for a while at MP17. After the lightning passed we waited a few more minutes and then continued.

The rain picked up again at MP9 and we set a fast pace for the Enlow Tunnel, and spent about a half-hour there waiting for the thunder and lightning to move away. It got a bit chilly in the tunnel. After a while, we set off in a light drizzle to complete the ride. Not surprisingly, we had the trail pretty much to ourselves.

65 miles and a very nice day, with two new bridges to celebrate. Not bad at all.

   July 28, 2012 Week 28
this week:
188 miles
  238#  3rd Qtr 634 miles  
2012: 3652 miles

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

RIP James Price: Father, Diabetic, Cyclist, Hit and Run Victim

07/25/12 #238 42m

From the Post-Gazette:
Pittsburgh police are searching for a white vehicle that fatally struck a bicyclist in Point Breeze this morning and drove away.

Both the vehicle and the cyclist, 46-year-old James Price of Homewood, were headed inbound in the 7400 block of Penn Avenue just after 5 a.m. Mr. Price was wearing a helmet when the vehicle hit him. He was thrown about 6 feet from the mangled black bicycle, landing on the sidewalk near the steps of a nearby home.

Officers and paramedics did "all first-aid that would be reasonable and appropriate and more," but the man died about 5:30 a.m. at UPMC Presbyterian. Mr. Price was an avid cyclist, and Penn Avenue was one of his regular routes, relatives said.

The father of an 11-year-old daughter, he had gotten in shape over the last two years by riding several times a day. Diet and exercise helped alleviate his diabetes.

more at CarpetBagger.

Rode 42 miles, Boggs to McMurray, via the Montour Trail with my friend K. A beautiful, clear blue day.

We have put some blog content that might have gone here in another place today.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Cougars, Labyrinths, Donuts and Honkers

07/24/12 235# 34m
A good ride, 34 miles around the city.

Met S. at the Bastille at 0600-ish. Rode along the North Side and the Allegheny River to Millvale, took the new sidewalk up to the 40th Street Bridge, rode the trail to 48th Street and entered the Allegheny Cemetery, which is open to bicyclists when internments are not being conducted. It's the first time I've ridden in a graveyard and it was OK; green, calm, quiet, certainly at least as safe as a bike trail. A curious collection of monuments, not photographed out of respect. The cemetery provided a not-too-heartbreaking climb up to Penn Avenue near the new Children's Hospital.

From there we rode Penn, Winebiddle, Liberty, and South Aiken to the campus of Chatham College, which had several banners proclaiming "this is Cougar Country" (which probably has unwelcome connotations for a womyn's college).

Continued climbing across Chatham's campus until Berry Hall, at which we found our destination, Jessica's Labyrinth. The terrain is landscaped so that you won't see the labyrinth itself until you're already there (which is pretty standard wayfinding by Pittsburgh standards). This particular labyrinth is based upon the Chartres design, and is 2,320 feet long.

We continued across campus to Wilkins, Murray, and Forbes to the Squirrel Hill Dunkin Donuts, and as we sat down the skies opened in a very heavy downpour demonstrating once again, Timing is Everything.

Iced tea, croissant, boston cream, check the interweb. I received an email from a British Israeli who completely agrees with my assessment (elsewhere) that Bradley Wiggins looks like Marty Feldman's love child. (Not that the US should be talking smack about the TdF since Lance is probably about to get the JoePa treatment, which will leave us with Greg LeMond.)

The rain passed and back on the bikes. Forbes Ave to South Braddock to Frick Park, Falls Ravine Trail to Tranquil Trail to Firelane Trail (I had to look them up) to the Irish Center; Nine Mile Run Trail to Duck Hollow Trail, Second Avenue to the new Hazelwood Trail to the Hot Metal Bridge.

Rode south to Keystone Metals, reflecting on how cool it will be when that trail segment is complete, reversed and took the Hot Metal Bridge and the Jail Trail to Dahntahn.

I was in the left-turn lane at Smithfield Street, stopped at a red light. A automobilist behind me honked his horn at me. He apparently didn't like my being in the lane — which was curious because he was a full block behind me stopped at a red light in the previous intersection. When his light turned green he eventually caught up to me and got to honk again. That guy must have been pissed off before he ever saw me, and I think if he'd nosh at Dunkin Donuts his outlook would improve tremendously.

Fort Duquesne Bridge where I saw another Extreme Athlete doing chinups on the bridge supports, then climbing down the pedestrian staircase face-down, head-first, on his hands and feet which looked very difficult and he was very good at it.

Monday, July 23, 2012

App Induced Energy Crisis

07/23/12 41m
Last week I started using an App to track my calories and exercise, because I thought it would be good for me, because I like the Quantified Self movement, and because my friend J. found good results with in. So I downloaded the app and followed the directions.

In five days I had lost eight pounds which is perhaps immoderate. Saturday was a bit problematic in that I had no energy at all. The tank was empty, the engine was shot, zip, nada, bupkiss. I cancelled a ride with a good friend in town for the weekend on Saturday; I cancelled a road ride in Washington County on Sunday; I cancelled a scheduled ride Monday morning. Turns out, it really matters how you set up those Apps, and which parts of them you decide to pay attention to.

I suppose that if Flip Wilson were working it today, he'd come out as Geraldine and say "the app made me do it".

I kind of screwed myself into a box and took a few days to climb out of it. Although I am faux-blaming the App, it is of course my own fault and it shows how deaf I am when it comes to the mythic "listening to your body" that I hear so much about. Arggh. Idiot.

I took a short ride Sunday afternoon and that worked out.

Today (Monday) I did a fair amount of eating, and in the middle of the day I went out for another short ride on the Montour Trail. I knocked off to meet a friend and I did not balk at the Vanilla Latte, I grabbed it by the throat and drank it like I stole it, or however one asserts Alpha-Latte-Quaffer status.

Then I went back out on the trail for a slightly longer ride, from McDonald out to My Big Fat Greek Gyro in McMurray, located right off the trail. Had an excellent gyro, got back on the trail and returned to McDonald.

This was my first ride over the new bridges at Morganza Road and Georgetown Road - topic of a future post. 41 miles and I feel a bit of the mojo returning. No app entries today.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

A Momentous Day in Cycling

07/22/12 #233 6m
A momentous day in cycling: I got to ride with my daughter from Wickes-Wuz to Enlow Station, enjoy a cup of the world's best soft-serve ice cream, and ride back for 6.4 miles. A complete pleasure, a total bicycle indulgence.

Something happened in Paris today, seems like this guy got to take a bike ride with his kid, too. Cool.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Summary, 7/21/12

   July 21, 2012 Week 27
this week:
144 miles
  234#   3rd Qtr 446 miles
2012: 3464 miles

Friday, July 20, 2012

Stanton, 'SLiberty, Frick, Smoke, Floods

07/20/12 234# 46m
Something different today, rode with B.H. on a mostly urban ride, 46 miles on a wet day.

I started at the Bastille, he started near Homestead, we met at Point State Park and rode along the Allegheny. He showed me quite a few ways to get through places that were much more effective routes than I'd been using, culminating in a ride up Stanton Ave to East Liberty, which the locals call 'Sliberty.

Took a break in Bakery Square, rode through Point Breeze (first time), penetrated Frick Park via the Tranquility Trail which was very nice. (BTW for those paying attention, BH reports that Nine Mile Run is called that because it's about nine miles from the Point).

Rode up to Swisshelm Park and took a look at the Triangle Bar and Grill. Noticed a street sign explaining the details of the local curfew; a whistle blows at 9.45 pm and anybody under 18 years old out on the streets after that is subject to 30 days in jail. That's something you do see too often.

Rode into Rankin, took the Rankin Bridge across the Mon River, stopped to look at the site of the Carrie Furnace. Teardropped into the Waterfront to join the Kennywood Trail Southbound, rode to McKeesport and discussed the development of the trail alignment behind the old newspaper plant and municipal building.

Although we'd planned to ride into Clairton and into the heights above Duquesne, my time was limited so we saved that for another ride and reversed back to the Waterfront and Homestead, stopping for something to eat at Smoke BBQ Taqueria (menu, Facebook, UrbanSpoon, Yelp). It was awesome food, generous servings, great staff, cool atmosphere, moderate prices. I had a Chorizo Taco and an Egg (w/chorizo) Taco, they were both excellent. I can see why this place has the reputation it has earned, I'll definitely eat here again. Wrinkles: no credit cards, no bike racks; deal with it.

After lunch the rain resumed pretty heavy and we split up, BH returning home and I turning north for the return trip. My cellphone went off notifying me of an urgent flash flood warning, it's only the second time I've had that - it's pretty cool to get real-time alerts on the bike.

The only difficulty I encountered was a lot of standing water along Keystone Metals, it was up to my hubs (axles) when I unclipped and started walking. After that things only got better. Hot Metal Bridge, Jail Trail, Ft. Duquesne Bridge, back to the Bastille. A great thing about riding in the rain is you get room on the trail.

This was a great ride through some new neighborhoods and I really enjoyed it. No photos, couldn't take the 'Droid phone out in the rain.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Bridge Building

07/18/12 238# 43m
Started out at Boggs at 0600 with S in an attempt to beat the heat and the expected thunderstorms. Rode southwest to world-famous Farmhouse Coffee where today's treats included a big iced tea and a slice of quiche lorraine. Mondo excellent and departed cooled off and with bottles filled with ice water.

This trail ride has two interruptions, one at the Route 50 crossing and another dual-hump crossing at Morganza Road and Georgetown Road, and the latter is about to be replaced with two brand new bridges. Took this photo of the work being done on the Georgetown Road bridge, crews installing the side railings:

It's going to be a tremendous improvement for the bicyclists when these bridges open, and probably also for the cagers automobilists that have been sharing the road with crossing bicyclists.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Murals, Asylum Houses, Randyland and Tunnels

07/17/12 239.5# 35m
Rode 35 miles around downtown Pittsburgh, starting in the North Side and some neighborhoods I'm not yet familiar with. The first mural of the day was Children's Alphabet Garden, by Mary Mazziotti in an open lot at 1313 Sherman Ave.

A serendipitious discovery was Than Htay Maung's work at 324 Sampsonia Way, which wraps around two corners of the City of Asylum house and depicts a tableau ranging from the artist's native Burma to Pittsburgh's NorthSide. (read more)

In the adjacent property, Just Be Good by Oliver Lake wraps around the exterior of another City of Asylum house at 320 Sampsonia Way. (read more)

My next unexpected discovery was Randyland, downtown waiter Randy Gilson's three-lot parcel at Jacksonia and Arch streets - which is a gallery/residence for artists.

Then the second planned mural of the day (and final bit of artwork for today's post, thank you) was Birds Not Words, by Stevo Sadvary at 1300 Federal Street. The mural looks as if it were made of stained glass.

With that I rode across the Ft. Duquesne Bridge, out the Convention Center Trail to the Strip District, and stopped at Enrico Biscotti and got a biscotti and a coconut macaroon - very, very good.

Rode the Jail Trail, Panther Hollow, the Hazelwood Trail, crossed the Hot Metal Bridge, and rode south the Keystone Metals. Reversed to South Side Works and saw the work being done on excavating Tunnel Park for CSX's National Gateway project, to make the tunnel taller to accommodate double-height trains — because once the the Panama Canal is expanded in 2014, they'll need more rail capacity to carry the freight.

Ft. Pitt Bridge, Ft. Duquesne Bridge, back to the Bastille; 35 miles.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Tour de Frack Prologue TdF

07/15/12 239# 22m
A short ride today, but something different; I joined the Tour De Frack for their ride through Pittsburgh.

Parked at the Bastille, rode around the trails to Millvale and met the assembling TdF group. I was impressed at the turnout, there was 50 to 60 riders there. Most were locals, there were some from New Jersey, Ohio, Beaver County, and Butler County.

One of the riders is hauling a Bob-Trailer loaded with six gallons of "frack-water" from Butler-area water supplies, that's a committment - hauling 48 pounds of evidence to DC. It's nasty stuff, and although the Pennsylvania DEP deems these water samples safe for drinking, I wouldn't want to drink any of these nasty brown concoctions.

A bit of logistics and we were off, riding along the Allegheny River, the Roberto Clemente Bridge, and stopping for a photo opportunity at Point State Park. (photo by Barbara Edelman)

Blvd of the Allies, Jail Trail, Hot Metal Bridge where we heard the sounds of a marching band which was playing to greet the Tour De Frack, coming from the new South Side Works River Front Plaza (SSWRFP). That was pretty cool.

Departed the group, made a circuit of South Side Works (which had a band of its own playing), rode north to Station Square, Ft. Pitt Bridge, Ft. Duquesne Bridge, and back to the Bastille.

As a bike ride in itself, the ride was a bit of hurry-up-and-wait, as I imagine all group rides of this size are. It was pretty interesting to observe a bike event as political activity, and I wonder if Pittsburgh will see more of these type events.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

07/15/12 239# 0m

Answer to the Lunar Lander Mystery here.

   July 14, 2012 Week 26
this week:
150 miles
  244#   3rd Qtr 302 miles
2012: 3320 miles

Friday, July 13, 2012

Working on the Railroad

07/13/12 239# 42m

Rode on the Montour Trail, starting at Boggs at 0600 and riding to McMurray and world-famous FarmHouse Coffee. This morning's weather was a pleasant change, a bit cooler and overcast skies. It appears that the fracking wastewater processing plant near Boggs has been removed, leaving a very X-Files-ish scene where something used to be.

Encountered a detour just north of Route 50 / Venice for the installation of fence between the trail and the rail line.

At the two new bridges at Morganza Road and Georgetown Road the trail is (re)surfaced all the way up to the new bridge decks, it looks very nice and might just need a light rain to help settle the limestone.

Stopped at FarmHouse Coffee. Indulged in a ham/swiss/two-egg croissant and coffee, very very good. Back on the trail, folks were posting announcements for a July 27 Twilight Walk, which may (or may not) include extremely attractive, romantic young vampires.

Travel was halted north of Route 50 / Venice because of rail construction. The new rail line was being used to shuttle additional track segments down to a site where even more track was being set in place. For all the talk of self-building robots in recent years, this almost seems like a self-building railroad; once they get a bit of train track, they use that to build more.

In the photo below, temporary carriages travelling along the new rail line are supporting parallel rows of new track; the entire assembly moves back and forth along the track (and across road and trail crossings) as the track is laid.

A minor kvetch, but there were two different work crews - the fence installers, and the track installers, and between them they closed both possible routes along the trail. But the forced wait was only about twenty minutes, they were clearly working at it, and the time passed and it was back on the bike.

An easy ride back to Boggs, it was nice to get the ride in early. 42 miles.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Bride of Penn Avenue, Destiny of Sand Sculptures, Risk of Bike Naps

07/12/12 #241 70m
Two rides today, one 45 miles and the other 25 miles.

Started in the morning at the Bastille, rode south into Point State Park where against all expectations the sandy mess of the previous day, the debris of the remarkable artwork of the previous week, had somehow not been cleared away but had instead become more organized into a pile, somehow resisting the famous forces of entropy.

Rode south on the Station Square Trail, Waterfront Trail, Kennywood Trail, to the Riverton Bridge. Reversed and rode north to the Hot Metal Bridge, Junction Hollow Trail, Fifth, Wilkins, Murray, and Forbes. Poked around at PghProBikes.

Departed Squill crosstown in search of the mural, The Bride of Penn Avenue, by Judy Penzer and Jill Watson. Coming within a few blocks of it, you can see the mural of a bride entering the building.

When you get closer, you can discern that the apparent building is a mirage painted upon a flat wall. The visual continuation of the row of buildings is a head-fake. Very impressive.

Tragically, the two artists died in the crash of TWA800 on July 17th, 1996.

Rode Penn Avenue to 24th Street and the Cork Factory, the Convention Center Trail to the Point once again, where the irresistable forces of PeopleWhoWantFridayOff eventually overcame Inertia and both the wreckage and the sand sculpture itself was just a memory.

Rode north to the Bastille and my car for 45 miles on the bike so far. Moved my car to Oakland for the afternoon's logistics, then proceeded to take a well-deserved bike nap. Taking a bike nap is not without risk; well-meaning passersby may assume you have passed out or entered a diabetic coma. Word: if you're bikenapping and wake up to the sound of somebody saying "CLEAR" in an authoritative voice, shout out NO! NO! NO!

Rode around town some more, then rode through the South Side Works River Front Plaza, which is almost too many words in one placename; saw that the cooling mist generators (CMGs) were active.

Rode to West Mifflin for a friend's celebration. 837/885 up the hill was a great workout; coming back down was a lot more fun. The day's second ride was 25 miles, for 70 miles total.