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

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Murals and Dinosaurs and 55F

1/19/13 240# 35M
What a great day for Pittsburgh in January. It started off a bit cold but ended up at 55F.

Started at the Bastille, and as we rounded the turn at the Carnegia Science Center we stopped to photograph their dinosaur:

Riding through Lawrenceville on our way out to the EEFC we were surprised to encounter this, and while taking pictures we were pleased to meet QR and get to talk bike plans for 2013:

Riding through East Liberty we encountered this beautiful steel sculpture, Joy of Life, along with the cathedral, by University of Pittsburgh professor Virgil Cantini from 1969. Although he believed that the humanoids are celebrating the Joy Of Life, and some others have speculated that the figures are thrilled to be anatomically correct, those of us with a grounded historical perspective understand that they are probably celebrating the NY Mets' first World Series victory.

Turning onto Bennett Street we saw these two murals on a house, and we understood we were in a very different part of town.

We think we've seen a lot of murals in Pittsburgh, and probably all the murals in Pittsburgh, but we keep stumbling across more, such as these at Kelly and Sterrett Streets.

We found the East End Food Coop, and it's even more Whole-Foodsy than Whole Foods, and they've got a very cool mural, too:

We rode around looking for the green-faced mural we were searching for, and we found the elephant graffiti we've become familiar with ever since finding it under the Bloomfield Bridge, this is across the street from Construction Junction:

After a few false starts and misleading tips, we found the mural we were looking for at 7575 Thomas Blvd, by Atomik Art:

We rode back via Dallas and Forbes, stopped in Squirrel Hill for soup, then stopped in Oakland to score another dinosaur at WQED on Fifth Ave:

We descended down Junction Hollow and took the Jail Trail inbound, exited at Grant Street and took a photo of this Dinosaur at the Art Institute:

Next we rode over to PPG Place to look for three dinosaurs, and as luck would have it they were all moved out of their normal places to make room for the ice skating rink and we found them all in one group.

We crossed to the North Shore and rode out to Washington's Landing to score one more dinosaur, this one on the western tip of the island right by the bicycle switchback bridge:

A lot of pictures and a bit of bicycling on a blue, 55F day, a very nice afternoon.

Friday, January 18, 2013

TGISF Thank Goodness I Survived Friday

1/18/13 20M 240#
A pretty straightforward ride, 20 miles.

Had a commitment to meet a friend's son for a geek-chat, rode the bike over to see him and his colleague. Rode over via a circuitous route, then a more direct line home, 19.99 miles on the meter.

A nice and uneventful ride, with the possible exception of an old lady in a Cadillac who right-hooked me. I could see it coming and she was kind enough to give me a foreplay kind of horn-honk, hey watch out I'm going to try to kill you, it's really crucial that I get to Target without any delay!. OTOH, I probably made a few mistakes myself today.

I think I'm always a little bit more spider-sense tingly on Friday afternoons, since statistically more car-on-cyclist fatalities happen then than other times of the week.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

90 Days till the Sandcastle Trail, Joe Magarac

1/15/13 34M 35F
34M on a very nice day.

Started at the Bastille with S. Rode the Ft. Duquesne Bridge, the Ft. Pitt Bridge to the SouthSide, and deviated into the neighborhood to catch up on some mural photos because we'd been told about a map of Shepard Fairey murals.

Stumbled across this at 1922 Carey Way quite unexpectedly:

And next door was this, 1924 Carey Way, by Ben Schneider who we've seen before. I especially like that they've painted the door panels to blend in with the cement block.

Then we photographed a mural S. had found recently, which sat among other "heart-themed" artwork in a backyard:

As we rode between these locations, we passed several of the spots on the map that once held a Shepard Fairey mural but they were no longer there. We did find one at 40 South 22nd Street, at Rugger's Pub:

We were surprised to see the graffiti tags, because generally those guys completely respect the work of other artists. It may be that they hold a view of Shepard Fairey's work not too disimilar from my own (oops!)

Same street, at the Ormby Rec Center's pool on South 22nd Street, was a wall with a beautiful mosaic:

And that concluded the initial mural portion of our ride. We got back on the trails at the Hot Metal Bridge and rode south to Keystone Metals, where we walked along the railroad tracks and observed the work in progress building the trail segment to complete the Great Allegheny Passage from the SouthSide-BaldwinBoroughTrail to the Waterfront-SteelValleyTrail.

Big things are happening down there. At Keystone Metals they're grading earth, installing drainage, building a big wall to separate the trail from the recycling yard - they're doing a lot of things and it looks like they're doing it all ship-shape.

On the Sandcastle side, I was surprised that they don't seem to be addressing the sinkhole. They have marked out the course of the trail, and they've uprooted all sorts of signs and posts that are in the way of the new trail; major work and a lot more to be done. I can certainly see why they waited until the SC season was over to start the work, there's no way they could do this project while the park was open for business.

Rode through the Waterfront, past Kennywood, to a point around Duquesne and then reversed. Stopped at Costco for a snack, met our friend L. by chance and had a nice conversation. Back on the bikes and I was reminded that it was, in fact, 35F outside.

North through Sandcastle, this time across the Hot Metal Bridge to Grant Street, then crosstown to 300 Sixth Avenue, in pursuit of a mural of Joe Magarac, Pittsburgh's mythic Croatian steelworker, our own version of Paul Bunyan, a larger-than-life steelworker. From Wikipedia,
Magarac first appeared in print in a 1931 Scribner's Magazine article by Owen Francis, who said he heard the story from immigrant steelworkers in Pittsburgh area steel mills. However, field research in the early 1950s failed to uncover any traces of an oral tradition about the character, meaning that Joe Magarac, like Big Steve, Febold Feboldson, and Paul Bunyan, probably belongs in the category of "fakelore," or stories told folk-tale style that did not actually spring from authentic folklore.

Since magarac means "donkey" (specifically, male donkey, or "jackass") in South Slavic languages, folklorists have speculated that Joe Magarac was originally a satirical character, if indeed he was not made up on the spot by Owen Francis's informants as a joke.

We found the mural, as promised, downtown. A line of people at the bus stop were interested in our picture-taking and said they'd never noticed the mural. I think this modern depiction, with Magarac in the background behind the gaudy GNC logoware, is probably a more accurate description of 2013 Pittsburgh than the original installation.

Back across town to the Ft. Duquesne Bridge, back to the Bastille, and 34 miles without casualty or incident, and an old friend met. Not a bad day.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Too Warm for a Windbreaker

1/12/13 35M 60F
Springtime in mid-January, 60F on a day when the primary weather issue was fog generated by melting snow in a low-wind condition. It was a tremendous day.

I had originally planned to meet BH for a ride around McKeesport but that vision fell apart on my side. Late in the day I had a chance to get on the bike, so I scooted from the Res down to the ice hockey facility on Neville Island and back.

It's a nice simple ride, 35 miles today. I finished in twilight and then darkness and it was my first time using my new-to-me headlight, a MagicShine knockoff. I bought it used from a cyclist on the BikePgh forum who had upgraded to better equipment.

One driver in an opposite direction pickup gave me some feedback that the headlight was too bright (by yelling "asshole" while shielding his eyes with one hand), and I guess I did have it pointed up a bit too much and I adjusted it.

It is an effective blinkie though. In fact, rather than being a true on-off blinkie I think it's continually on the low setting and intermittently blinks on the high setting. It's a nice light. It's the first time in a long time that I've had a great front light and a great rear light during the winter months.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Even More Murals: Braille, DJ's, E-O Beer and Mosaics

1/10/2013 26M
This was a nice day to ride, relatively moderate temperatures, sunny skies, and the roads were clear. Today we rode in pursuit of a few last murals we had on our list, which for one reason or another we'd never found or ruled out.

Started off at the Bastille with S, rode around the NorthSide and then looked for an illuminated-visual-Braille mural by Lizzy Devita that had been photographed a few years ago at the Artist Image Resource Center at 518 Foreland Street. Back in the day it looked like this:

Fast forward to 2013 and it's seen better days, the lights and the Braille rigging are gone and the mural's quite faded.

I've also read a cryptic reference to a mural of an urban DJ and a sound system along East Ohio Street, so we went looking and found it in a locked courtyard at 415 East Ohio Street. It's also faded and weathered. It's marked as being done by Atomik-Arts but I can't tell much more about it.

Across the street at Schrim's Garden Cafe, East Ohio Street at Moravian Way, there's a whimsical advertisement for E-O (Early-n-Often) Beer. Very nice.

We rode around the city to Point Breeze to get a picture of this mosaic by Daviea Davis at the Point Brugge Cafe:

Then we worked around to 7108 Edgerton at Selkirk Way, where we'd read there was a house with a big mosaic on the side and that was certainly true.

Rode to Squirrel Hill for a snack, then to CMU, Junction Hollow, Jail Trail, Ft. Duquesne Bridge, and did a bit of DR-navigating to find Chateau Street since the trail wasn't hospitable and managed to get back to the Bastille without salmoning.

A very nice day, 26 miles and it felt really good.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Riding Bikes in January: Not Bad At All

1/8/13 16M
Met S. and R. under the Burmingham Bridge and rode around town, the trails remaining mostly unusable.

Took Carson Street to the Smithfield St. Bridge, the Convention Center Trail out to the Strip District where we stopped for cappuccino's. Rode east through Lawrenceville and climbed up through the Allegheny Cemetery.

Took Penn Avenue, rode through Friendship where I always get kind of turned around, ended up on Ellsworth and rode down Panther Hollow to the Jail Trail, Hot Metal Bridge, stopped at Thick Bikes and then rode back to the Birmingham Bridge.

It was great to ride in relatively moderate weather and a sunny afternoon.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Soupaneur 6 and a Surfeit of Murals

1/6/12 15M
Saw a lot of new streets and a few new murals today, 15miles in about 28F. We began by riding to some of the murals that we'd learned about yesterday.

This mural in North Oakland, at 645 Clyde Street, is Stevo Sadvary's homage to "Girl Before a Mirror" by Pablo Picasso. The buildings are an apartment complex for international students at CMU.

This mural, Sunny Side (in Shady Side, inevitably, at 926 South Aiken) had ice accumulating on it today, but you could click the image below to see it on a more temperate day.

Next we went to see Octavia, by Laura Jean McLaughlin, in her new location in Friendship, at CMU Professor Kristen Hughes' community garden.

Stopped to get a better photo of the MLK Mural at Station Street Hot Dogs, 6290 Broad Street in East Liberty:

Having been on the bikes for about an hour and becoming a bit cool, we decided to head over to Whole Foods and Soupaneuring Stop Six, the final soup-stop to meet the First Annual Soupaneuring 2012-2013 Challenge.

A completely unexpected mural discovery, We Get Back Up, at 250 Paulson Avenue in Larimer by KH Designs.

Next we went looking for a mural on Frankstown Road that we'd had some vague information on but nothing solid, and it turned out to be a pretty significant work of art:

This mural is a representation of "The Block" (1971) by Romare Bearden, which was a tribute to the New York City neighborhood of Harlem. Each of the six panels of "The Block" presents an aspect of the neighborhood, such as the Evangelical church, the barbershop, and the corner grocery store.

The original mural, on display at NY's Metropolitan Museum, looks like this:

Stevo Sadvary had told us about a "bird park" at an elementary school at 8080 Bennet, where he did an installation he calls "Tweet Tweet". The project took an unused corner of the school property, placed bird-friendly plants and birdhouses, and included mosaics of different birds:

By this time, we had warmed up and the 28F was no longer an issue. We had one more mural we wanted to get to, which we'd heard of in an email exchange with Jeffrey Katrencik and Colleen Black. The directions were from memory and a few years old, but they told us to go "through a tunnel, down the street, turn right and go a few blocks" - wow, did we have low expectations and were we surprised.

The Whitney Avenue Tunnel

The Whitney Avenue Tunnel is a walkway connection Penwood Avenue on one side of the East Busway, and Hamnett Station on the other side. We found some tremendous murals in there, although some are suffering from leaking water on the tunnel walls.

The Whitney Avenue Art Gallery

The Whitney Avenue Art Gallery is a project by Wilkinsburg artist Lazae LaSpina to decorate abandoned homes and reposition them as "homes-in-waiting".

The Hamnett Station Park and Ride Murals

This is the "Pittsburgh Angel" by Colleen Black:

This is Joe Magarac by Jeffrey Katrencik:

After that, we rode to Squirrel Hill and Commonplace Coffee, then rode Forbes back into town. It was a very nice ride, very good food, once we got pedalling the temp was OK, and it was very fruitful in terms of documenting murals. Writing this blog post was almost harder than the bike ride.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Swimming Along and Cafe Allegro's Sidewalk

1/5/13 13M
In a different sort of twist, my ride today started with artist Stevo Sadvary coming out to meet S. and I to give us his briefing on his work with mosaics.

We looked at his work, "Swimming Along", which is on both sides of a brick-lined passageway between the sidewalk and an interior courtyard at 527 South 27th Street. (Click the images to embiggen in a new window)


He also told us about other projects he's done which are publicly accessible and we're probably going to ride to them in the near future. He explained that the concept behind the design was driven by the passageway to the fountain, which took him to movement and water and groups, which took him to schools of fish; and he wanted it to be fun and to make people walking through there happy.

Stevo told us that when he was working on the site, his dog Priscilla would sit happily near him. Priscilla was well-trained and didn't need to be tied up, and people passing by were paying much more attention to the dog than to the artist; he said the ratio of Priscilla comments to artist comments was very high.

We departed South Side Works and rode around the South Side neighborhood for a while. The local trails were mostly unrideable due to snow accumulation and a few freeze/thaw cycles. We had some hope of seeing a few "parking chairs", which people use to stake out parking spots that they'd cleared of snow but it seems like there aren't any more parking chairs SouthSide, and today all we saw were orange cones being used to "save spots".

We rode up to Station Square, crossed the Smithfield Street Bridge, rode the Blvd of the Allies down to Grant Street and hoped to join the Jail Trail but that wasn't rideable. We continued on Second Avenue to the Hot Metal Bridge and that wasn't in very good condition either.

Stevo had mentioned that his first public artwork was an unauthorized guerrilla project outside of what once was Cafe Allegro, in SouthSide's Bedford Square at South 12th Street. He said there was an damaged and unfinished section in the sidewalk that was crying out for attention and he decided it would be easier to seek forgiveness that a commission.

We rode north looking to see if it still existed. It took a bit of searching, and then a bit of snow removal, but it's still very much in place:

Rode south again along East Carson Street to 18th, went to Riverview Park, took a ride on the wild side and rode the SouthSide trail down to REI. Trail conditions were very rough and it was more of a slalom than a ride.

A very nice afternoon's diversion and exercise.