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

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Foreign Visitors to the GAP

09/30/12 233# 51m
A different sort of ride today, I got to help two foreign visitors see the Great Allegheny Passage.

G. from Alberta and E. from New Zealand had come over to visit friends MG and B. and specifically to ride the Great Allegheny Passage with them. I was fortunate to get to ride with them for their first few miles.

They had rented bikes from Golden Triangle Bike Rental, on the Jail Trail, and I was really impressed at how well Tom took care of them. The bikes were in great shape and ready to go with spare tires, locks, lights, and panniers as promised. +1 to Tom and his folks.

We started riding in West Newton in intermittent light mist, after pausing for a pre-ride photo:

The trail was in excellent condition although a bit wet. We stopped for a break at the Round Bottom campsite, about halfway to Connellsville. It started raining pretty seriously a few miles from Connellsville and we took refuge in their Wendy's restaurant, where we all had chili and coffee to warm up. Very nice stop.

The ladies had a credit from a local B&B from a previous cancellation so they decided to overnight in Connellsville rather than go out into the heavy rain and push on to Ohiopyle, which I thought was a great decision.

I picked up some snacks at Sheetz and started riding back to my vehicle in West Newton. Once I was a few miles north, the rain stopped and eventually the skies turned quite blue, it was an unexpectedly pleasant end to a different sort of ride.

I was very glad to get to show two international visitors from closely allied nations a part of the country that I'm pretty familiar with. I hope they enjoyed it, they seemed to.

I think it shows the type of draw that the (soon-to-be-)completed GAP will present. Here were two people, well-traveled professionals, that decided to come to Pittsburgh and ride the trail to DC.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

09/29/12 233# 0m
This was a really good week. I got to ride Cumberland-Confluence, and Springfield-Mason (Ohio) round trip.

   Sept 29, 2012 Week 39
this week:
237 miles
  233#  3rd Qtr 2242 miles
19 mi/day3qtd
2012: 5260 miles

Friday, September 28, 2012

Mason, Lebanon, Corwin, Xenia, Yellow Springs, Springfield Ohio: Little Miami Trail

09/28/12 72m
Got a fairly early start, departed the Comfort Suites in Mason Ohio and rode crosstown to intercept a spur trail off the Little Miami that runs northwest to the town of Lebanon. Our notional destination was Cool Beans Coffee, thinking that it would be nice to do a short ride to warm up and then enjoy a cup of coffee. When we got there we found that seating was somewhat limited, who knew?

So we repaired to a nearby doughnut shop which was very good. Went back to the trail and headed to the Little Miami, and was intrigued at this bit of graffiti:

Because, you know, a smile is just a frown turned upside down.

Once we were back on the Little Miami Trail, reversing the segments we'd seen yesterday for the first time, I really had a sense of how perceived time moves slowly when proceeding into unknown complexity and flows quickly when proceeding into familiar simplicity. Snacked on some granola-with-chia-seeds, first time I've eaten that. Decent food, I'll have to wait and see if my beard starts including green spouts.

We stopped in Corwin, about an hour short of Xenia, and was pleasantly surprised to find that yesterday's advisor was wrong; the Corwin Peddler is still very much in business, renting bikes, selling snacks, serving lunch and British high tea. It seems like they've gone to a winter operating schedule and are closed three days a week, but this is a most excellent place to stop. Wifi, coolers of cold water outside, rest rooms, coffee, ice cream; all my needs fulfilled.

Rode into Xenia under increasingly sunny skies. When Ohio builds a trailhead, they seem to go about it in a big way:

On the main strip in Xenia we saw this mural next to Surf'N Cycle:

We passed opposite-direction to a really cool HPV (human powered vehicle) velomobile, kudos to photo-ninja S. for getting this shot on the fly:

As the trail passed along Antioch College we stopped at the Womyn's Park and met a group of local cyclists. Interested 'Burgh point of reference: Antioch College ceased operations in 2008, and Pittsburgh Board of Ed Director Mark Roosevelt resigned that position to take up new duties reopening Antioch, which enrolled 75 students in the incoming class of Fall 2012.

Departing Yellow Springs we saw this mural on the community pottery center:

We got back to Springfield pretty quickly and our vehicle was still there which is always a nice thing. Changed out of our bicycle togs for normal clothing and settled in for a four-hour drive home.

The Little Miami Trail is truly excellent. The only possible negative that's going to keep me from frequently riding it is the distance at which it's removed from Pittsburgh. Highly recommended ride.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Springfield to Mason Ohio, Little Miami Trail

Rode 56 miles from Springfield Ohio to Mason Ohio on the paved Little Miami trail.

Drove I70 west out of Pittsburgh with R and S. Parked at a Comfort Suites in Springfield which was very close to the trail. Started riding in the rain and rode in drizzle for the first ninety minutes or so.

The Little Miami Trail is in excellent condition, good surface, well marked. The first town we came to was Yellow Springs, a tremendous trailhead and a mural on the pizza shop complete with UFO, Sasquatch, Nessie, a Jackalope, an unknown monster-critter, and the local college.

The next town was Xenia which included a few blocks of sidewalk riding through the core downtown area. Saw a mural on the community theater on Detroit Street. There were two bike shops on the main drag. At the south end of town a few bike routes converge at Xenia Station.

Abeam Waynesburg we had planned on stopping at the Corwin Peddler for a mid-trip respite but we were disappointed to be told by local doyenne that they had recently closed. update: bad info, see next day's post! We snacked on the supplies we'd brought along and then continued.

I wish I understood more about what's at the adjacent Fort Ancient and although I've read the website I still don't get it. This is a pretty normal view of what the trail looked like once the rain stopped:

Does this make my hips look big?

Departed the trail on Grandin Road, crossed the river and climbed out of the valley. Our hotel was near the Kings Mills amusement park.

The Little Miami Trail is excellent. I can see building a future trip around it. There is much to be said for a paved trail.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Hill District, Gist Street, James Simon

09/25/12 36m
Started early from the Bastille, riding with S.

From the Charm Bracelet Project, the Federal Street railroad UnderPass Gallery displays 3 three *** by Dick Esterle:

Easier to get forgiveness
North Pacific Ave at Kincaid Street in Garfield, the local mascot of the Garfield Gators. This is an unauthorized guerrilla mural, so the subtitle might be, "easier to get forgiveness than permission". Artist prefers anonymity. I've never been up in this section of Garfield before, a lot of rebuilding and development going on and a night/day difference between the legacy buildings and the new buildings.

Stopped at Enrico Biscotti for biscotti and cappuccino. Excellent. Joined the trail to the Convention Center, then rode cross-town to Grant Street and Centre Avenue to go up to the Hill District, which I've never been in before.

Hill District

Got a close look at St. Benedict the Moor Church. I had long been impressed at the figure on top of the church and was under the misunderstanding that it was a representation of Christ, much like the famous statue in Rio de Janeiro. Turns out that the figure is St Benedict the Moor.

I assumed that "Moor" meant the historic Muslim presence across Spain and Portugal, which was (at least) my second error of the day: in this case the phrase the Moor (originally Il Moro in Italian) means The African or The Black, and that presents a whole new perspective.

The man now known as Benedict was a black child of two African slaves, born and raised in Italy. To me, today, it seems like they're we're hiding the nature of the name in obscurity. (I'd like to recognize the potential fallacy of assuming that because I didn't recognize it, it must be cleverly hidden.)

I wonder how the Church, how this Church, would be perceived differently if it were explicitly named Benedict the African. You know that the kids in adjacent parishes would call it 'Benny the Bro'.

According to the Diocesan website, this is the second St. Benedict the Moor in Pittsburgh, the previous one in Uptown having been demolished in 1968. You can learn (or perhaps, unlearn) so much riding around on a bicycle and doing a bit of follow-up.

Hill District Murals

These three murals by George Gist are on the former Granda Theatre on Centre Avenue, across from the police station:

The Hill District was once a major cultural center (until half of it was taken for the Civic Arena development), and places like the Crawford Grill were mainstays in the American jazz scene. This mural at 2037 Centre Avenue by Ashley Hodder remembers the local jazz scene:

Another local mural on Wylie Avenue:

This mural at 2201 Wylie Avenue is "Listening Through Time", by Chris St. Pierre and Jordan Monahan, 2003:

Uptown Artwork

We descended out of the Hill District to the Birmingham Bridge to enter Uptown, and found this sculpture by James Simon at Fifth and Kirkpatrick:

This mural at Forbes and Seneca is called "Open Highway, Open Sky" by Gabe Felice, Oct 2010:

If you want to see public artwork in Pittsburgh and only have one hour, you would be well advised to go to Uptown's Gist Street. Art on Gist Street started with "Baby Kong", a sculpture of the head and hands of King Kong made by James Simon at his 305 Gist Street studio. Kate Bechack added the bananas.

The first mural on Gist Street was Oaxacan Dinner by Jean Foss, 2005:

We were fortunate to meet Mr. James Simon, who explained that the local artists chose to frame their murals to emphasize their status as artwork, equivalent to portraits and other more classic painting formats.

This is artist John Fleenor's work, "Portrait of Antoine", a portrait of long time local Gist Street resident Antoine Lynn, in a style inspired by Renaissance portraiture by artists such as Raphael.

Mexican artist Luis Castellanos Valui painted this mural on the side of the Association of the Deaf's building, which includes sign language (and a bicycle).

Gist Street artist Laura McLaughlin painted "Bicycle Mural" on Fifth Avenue:

Across the street from Bicycle Mural we saw this unattributed artwork:

This 2008 mural, "Urban Paradise" by Gregg Valley, is on the side of a former bank turned into a women's shelter. A staffer explained that the intent was to present a view of a calm oasis without mention of society or other issues; just a calm oasis.

Since we got to meet James Simon, our Uptown segment closes with his mural at Duquesne University:

It's a great mural and it does capture both the university and the community. I'm intrigued by the turtle between the man and the bicycle and I wonder if it's a "turtles all the way down" reference.

Across the street from the sculpture, we saw the mural "Elevate" by Gerard Tonti, June 2010 on Forbes Avenue:

36 miles on a great day of bicycling.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Bike + Laser = Personal Bike Lane Generator

9/24/12 233# 0m
From the "I'm still waiting for my jetpack" file: In 2009, the Industrial Designers Society of America (IDSA) awarded the prestigious Gold International Design Excellence Award (IDEA) to Alex Tee and Evan Grant for their design of a prototype called "LightLane", a portable optical bike lane generator.

The Feb. 2009 WIRED magazine ran a story about the LightLane:
Fed up with seeing friends getting clipped by cars, the designers at Altitude combined two things we love — bikes and lasers — to create an instant bike lane and make nighttime cycling a whole lot safer.

Their bike-mounted gadget, called LightLane, beams two bright red lines and the universal symbol for cyclist on the pavement, neatly delineating a bike lane to remind motorists to yield a little space.

This caught my inner bike-geek's attention and I developed a serious case of gadget lust. I don't do a lot of night road riding but I do a little bit of it, and I really try to stack the odds in my favor (as you can probably tell from this rear-view photo of one of my bikes from a few years ago).

I've been waiting to get one of these in the way that I've been waiting for my jetpack and my gyrocopter-car. Every now and then I'd consult the Google and see if the vision had become a product yet.

Turns out, it takes about 3.5 years to go from vaporware-concept with mockup photos into an actual physical product in a box in your hand delivered by the UPS truck. The light I got is from a Korean company.

My initial experience has been that it's a very solid-built light, not flimsy, and set up for a seat-post mount only. There are two switches, one for the LED tail lights (steady or blinky) and another for the laser bike lane; you can operate them simultaneously or independently. Just as a standalone seatpost rear light, it's a good rear light.

The raison d'etre, though, is the laser light lane and it's a major attraction. On a dark street it does a real good job of depicting a bike lane on either side of the bicycle (no international bike logo, like the initial prototype though)

According to the package, there are max power constraints for the lasers used in this kind of device (5mW ?) and in bright ambient light like a streetlight, the visibility of the laser is significantly reduced.

It's a good seatpost LED light. The projected laser light lane is major bling, it's very effective in a dark setting, and it increases your visible cross-section significantly as the bike moves. In that way, it's a bit like the glowkits on some bikes. OTOH, it does wash out under streetlights.

Verdict: Very good as a second light; the laser gets major geek-factor points for Freds (like me) who can't get enough rear visibility and who like to play "gadget show-and-tell". (link)

What I really want is a "Back To The Future" bike lane generator, which of course would require something like 1.21 gigawatts:

Still waiting on my jetpack. I saw a man flying one at the 1964 Worlds Fair, how can it be taking so long?

Sunday, September 23, 2012

A Cold, Clear Gravity Demo

09/23/12 73m

Woke early to a clear, cold (48F) morning in Cumberland. Enjoyed the hotel breakfast, filled my bidons with Water-Cran-Apple mix, glommed a few apples for a later snack, made my morning bike tweaks outside along with a group of touring motorcyclists who were also getting ready for their ride.

Some of us planned to ride up the hill to Frostburg and join the others coming up on the excursion train. We made what seemed like remarkable time, we got up to Frostburg in two hours and we weren't trying to make great time it was just a very pleasant cold morning and we cranked it out.

There was a bit of lag-time waiting for the train group, so we hung around the Trail Inn and tried not to get in their way too much. It was a bit too cold out for a bike nap.

The Trail Inn gets a headcount when the train departs and today's was 130 passengers. I was amazed when they told me that yesterday (Saturday) the train brought 500 people up the hill, which is a pretty big injection of people into a small train station. Peaks and valleys and staffing, all hands on deck.

We realized that there would be a rush for sandwiches etc when the train arrived, so our contingent on the train texted us their lunch orders from the online menu and we put their order in just before the train arrived, that seemed like it got us on our way a bit quicker. The bike car on the train was well organized and everybody seemed to enjoy the ride up the hill.

Was pleased to meet a trio of riders who I recognized as guys who work at the local REI store at Settlers Ridge, very nice folks and extremely cool to see them out in the field representing.

Between this and that we ended up in two groups, a breakaway group on the front and a sweep rider. Once we crossed Deal (new SST, btw) and started descending the speeds picked up, the conversation resumed, and it was a lot of fun riding fast to Confluence.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Glorious Glide

231# 63m

Joined De, Do, and B in Confluence Pa for breakfast at Sisters Cafe. A good meal as always; took a photo of a few murals on their building.

Stopped in Confluence Cyclery for some jersey shopping and then we got underway. We rode east and climbed to Rockwood under skies that threatened rain, and occasionally there was a very light schpritzing, less than a drizzle. The best thing about the weather was the very cool temps.

Between Confluence and Rockwood we encountered this gentleman on a recumbent heading to Confluence to watch a friend participate in the Garden Tractor Pull. There was a lot of interesting aspects to his recumbent, but most interesting of all was the two carbon-fiber masts that support a Senz umbrella which he uses for shade. I'd never heard of Senz before - they're shaped like an airfoil and good up to 60 knots. It's amazing what's out there.

Took a break at the Rockwood trailhead and then started off to Meyersdale. Had second breakfast at the GI DayRoom, which IMO is consistently the best breakfast on the DC-Pittsburgh corridor. Rendezvoused with M and J.

The last seven miles from Meyersdale up to Deal seemed more moderate than the previous slope. We crossed the Eastern Continental Divide and then began the Glorious Glide, descending for 24 miles into Cumberland. The temperatures were cool all day but I changed into full-fingered gloves for the descent and I was glad I had them.

We checked into the trailside Fairfield Inn/Marriott, bike-friendly and very good as always. Had dinner at Crabby Pig, which was also good.

Trail conditions were excellent, the weather although threatening was good. The bikes did well and the company was good. 63 miles.

   Sept 15, 2012 Week 37
this week:
218 miles
  231#  3rd Qtr 2005 miles
17.9 mi/dayqtd
2012: 5023 miles