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

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Jill Masterson's Dinosaur in Oakmont

3/30/13 23M
Beautiful day for a ride. Started at 28F, ended at 40F.

Started in Millvale at 0800 with S., crossed the Allegheny River at the 40th Street Bridge and rode north-east out of town along Allegheny River Blvd. Stopped in Verona to photograph this veteran's mural:

Continued to Oakmont, where we expected to find a Dino-Mite Days dinosaur at Pennsylvania Street. We started riding inland on Pennsylvania Street and (inevitably) it was uphill and I was inclined to bag it, but we stopped a local police officer who knew about the dinosaur and told us, It's all the way up the hill on the 1400 block, once or twice the neighborhood kids have dragged it out and put it in the middle of the street. He was very helpful and nice to strangers.

We worked our well up the hill, passed the library and the schools where we would have ordinarily expected to find a dinosaur, and eventually came upon this:

Wow. That wins the pink flamingo contest, hands down. This is actually #97 of the original 100 DinoMites (plus one later additional Dino), and it was given the name Dino-Gold. That's not gold paint, but rather gold leaf installed by Parisian master gilder Joseph Youss-Kadri, whose other works include the restoration of the Statue of Liberty's torch flame, the prestigious monument Les Invalides, and the Alexandre III Bridge.

Back down the hill and we rode over to the world-famous Oakmont Bakery, which was quite an active place on the day before Easter. The joint was hopping, but they sure kept everything moving and it wasn't a long wait.

People were ordering multiple pies, cakes, pastries - big orders of exotic stuff - and when my number was called, I asked for a french cruller, boston cream, and a large coffee and the counter lady couldn't help but chuckle that I had such a routine order on a day for the heavy hitters.

I really like riding out to Oakmont Bakery, I think I've been out there four or five times now. It's always excellent food and coffee, first of all, but it's always pleasant, there's a sitting area with a fireplace, just a really nice bike ride destination. It's a "destination bakery".

Reversed along Allegheny River Blvd. Drivers were very courteous on both legs. Crossed the 40th Street Bridge, rode into Millvale looking for James Simon's sculpture of a Schnauzer dog. Found the dog, Pages with books balanced on its head outside the Millvale Community Library which is scheduled to open in June.

We fell into conversation with a few of the folks working there and they took us in to see some amazing ironwork from Red Star Ironworks that's bracing the overhead support beams - really beautiful structural art, with images bringing in the history of Millvale and the importance of books and libraries. It was cool to see people excited about their town and about their library.

Back to the trailhead at about noon, and by this time of day there were a lot of people on the trail - families with bikes, solo cyclists, runners; it could make you think it was springtime.

** Jill Masterson was the character in the movie GoldFinger who was killed through epidermal suffocation when the villain painted her skin completely gold, which as we all know causes certain death.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Holy Angels Fish Ride

3.29.13 26M
Nice day for a Good Friday ride.

Started at the Bastille at 1230 with S. and R. Rode through uptown to check on Sir Samelot, but no Easter decorations. Crossed the Birmingham Bridge and rode through Keystone Metals; I was surprised that there wasn't more progressed on the trail through there.

Turned inland at Keystone Metals and went to Holy Angels in Hays for Friday Fish Lunch, boy what an operation. A packed auditorium and they run it like a chow hall, very efficient and very friendly. Very very good food. Saw several other bicyclists there from the Bike-Pgh crew, it was nice to see fellow cyclists out.

I realized we had missed our opportunity for Fish'aneuring, an activity that calls for cycling to eat church fish on Lenten Fridays, but we'll be emotionally prepared for next year.

Rode through Sandcastle southbound, noticed a lot of work that had been done for the trail. One of the wooden perimeter walls by the waterslide had been moved a few feet back to make room for the trail.

Continued to Eat N'Park Corporate Headquarters in the Waterfront, where Diner-Saurus graces the lobby:

Reversed course, stopped by MP5 north of Keystone Metals and got to see an eagle circling and eventually landing in the trees near their nearby nest. Magnificent bird.

Continuing north on the Baldwin Borough Trail, had a somewhat disconcerting mechanical in which I was unable to disengage my left foot from my left pedal, it was stuck quite permanently in there. Rode over to REI, took my foot out of the shoe-pedal-bike assembly, they were very helpful. One of the two retaining bolts had disappeared into the ether, so the pivot-and-exit maneuver was not possible. A bit of wrenching and I was back on course, they were very helpful.

We went over to Big Dog Coffee to plan Great Strategies for an upcoming ride. R. was surprised to see another Rivendell parked out front, a very nice Hunqapillar (three bars in the front triangle, as opposed to the rear triangle like a mixte) with a Pitt sticker on it. The odds of seeing two Rivendells in front of one coffee shop in Pittsburgh are rather slight.

Back on the trail, saw a few of the BikePgh lunch cohort returning from McKeesport, continued across the Ft. Pitt and Ft Duquesne Bridges to the Bastille. A very pleasant ride, 26 miles.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Viking Biking

3/23/2013 28M
Off the bike for an extended period with pneumonia. Feeling better, thank you; today's forecast called for 40F and blue skies, and today was the Annual Viking Biking Ride and I couldn't pass it up, especially with tomorrow's forecast calling for four to six inches of snow.

Today's ride started at the Bastille at 1000 with S. We rode through Lawrenceville out to 57th Street catching some murals, then reversed and rode across the Smithfield Street Bridge to Riverfront Park and met the group forming up for the Viking Biking.

The Vikings rode to Downtown and then through the Strip District inbound, and the people shopping in the Strip seemed amused at the Viking invasion.

It was so good to be out on the bike again, although it was a lot more work than it usually is.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Step Through's: Geezer Bikes not Girly Bikes

I walked into a bike shop today and was smitten, bowled over. Didn't mean to be, wasn't looking for it, but wow.

I mean, it had me at the chain guard, just look at that. The skirt guard over the rear wheel was overkill. The 7-speed internal gearing told me this was an aspirational bike, something for better-me to hope for rather than for now-me to covet.

I saw it at Mike's Bikes in Palo Alto, California, which is an excellent shop and I really like they way they have their service area laid out. I've never seen anything like it, their bike service area is a lot like a car dealership's service area; it's in an outlying building with a waiting area, couches, a fitting room, you can see into the shop space. It was a very thoughtful execution, something unique.

But I must say, the industry at large is dropping the ball by playing distaff in the marketing copy on step-through frames. For instance, the write-up on this bike begins, Classic lady bike. Pure elegance for the sophisticated lady. Classic style with perfection in every detail. Classic skirt guard built into the frame. Front logo made from raw copper, which will age nicely with time.

Wrong, wrong, wrong. It's not "ladies" buying step-through frames, you sillies. It's aging baby boomers, that's why they've stopped calling them girl-bikes and started calling them step-throughs and yet you can't help but call them lady-bikes.

When you pitch it as a "ladies" bike, you alienate the women who might otherwise have bought it, and you alienate the men who would have liked to have bought it. Here's the thing: all those baby boomers, that huge, self-focused, wealthy demographic wave of discretionary income, are getting old and stiff and they're not hiking that leg over the old diamond-frame as easily as they used to. Want to sell 1955 Biff a bike? Then it's a step-through.

P-shaw, you say? Ask Rivendell. Rivendell made a bike called the Betty Foy, but they made the mistake of positioning as a women's bike. It's an excellent bike, and men wanted to buy it but very few closed the deal.

So Rivendell painted the frame differently, made a few adjustments to the equipment, and sells the same bike as the Yves Gomez, and they're selling a lot of them (for $225 more) to high-net-worth Boomers who can't get their legs up over the rear seat. Hip replacement? Bad disc? Just plain old? No problem! (whisper) Did you know that Yves Gomez was the man who taught Don Juan how to make love to a woman? He also told Juan Valdez to go into the coffee business! And this is the type of bike he had made for himself, no shit!

Marketing. But I'd bet that the next bike I purchase, if I ever buy one again, would be a step-through - because that leg swing is getting a bit more ridiculous for me, too. It's all about my generation.

(Once, there was something called the Smothers Brothers' Comedy Hour on something called TV, and though it's hard to believe it was considered very controversial in its day) This video captures an odd bit of TV history, worth reading and then watching again.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Unplattbar is the New Black

Took my Precious (my Long Haul Trucker) in to the shop for a new drive train and a semi-annual overhaul. New tires, too. IMO his is the sticker you want to see on your bike tires:

The LBS noticed that the right-side eyelet that takes the mounting bolt for the rear rack had separated from the frame. Fortunately, the other pair of rear eyelets were suitable for mounting the rack and fenders both.

left side, with two eyelets right side, with one eyelet

I had broken a flange underneath my Brooks 73 saddle, and the LBS contacted Brooks and a replacement is on its way. I love my LBS (Ambridge Bike Shop). That wouldn't have happened if I had bought the seat online.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Granny Gear Death March: It's Always Darkest Before the Dawn

3/10/13 19M
An excellent 19 miles that started before sunrise to avoid traffic on busy roads.

The last time I started a ride early on a Sunday to avoid traffic on normally congested roads I got hit by a PAT bus, but today went much better. Met S. at the Walker's Mill trailhead at the eastern terminus of the Panhandle Trail at 0645 nu-time and took Noblestown Road into Carnegie.

As we hit the first mini-rolling-hills I just didn't have any power this morning, S was waiting for me at the top of the hills as I GGDM'd (granny gear death-marched) through it. We got to our first destination in Carnegie, the Pinball Mural, but it was too dark for photography so we pressed on to our second objective.

In Crafton we were able to take pictures of the mural Introversion Excursion by Andy Mattia, on the outside wall of the library at 136 Braddock Avenue:

Then we reversed into Carnegie to take a picture of the pinball mural at 400 Gregg Street (Intersection of Gregg, Bluff and Superior Sts ), which is the world headquarters of PAPA, the Professional and Amateur Pinball Association. They hold their world championships in that building, which holds an array of vintage pinball equipment. Up Carnegie! (click the image below for full-size in a new window)

With that accomplished, we departed Carnegie via Campbell's Run Road (which I didn't know how to do) to Robinson Township, to take a picture of a mural at 201 Parkway West Business Park that edmonds59 from BikePgh identified for us. The transition on Campbell's Run Road was fine; (full disclosure) light traffic, ideal conditions, no shoulders.

This mural was done by Dwigh Kirkland and Michael Colley.

We descended to Campbell's Run Road, and crossed under the Parkway West via Boyce Road then climbed up on the other side of the Parkway. McMicheal Road brought us around to Noblestown Road and back to Walker's Mill. Several of these segments were roads I'd never been on before and had wanted to experience, so these connections made it an extra enjoyable ride.

At the Panhandle trailhead we saw quite a lot of runners getting their miles in to prepare for springtime marathons and half-marathons, but the trail seems way too soft for bicycling.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Kittens and Puppies Populaire 100K

3/09/2013 245# 64M
Rode my first brevet populaire, a beginner's randonee event of 100 kilometers.

The ride is called the Kittens and Puppies Populaire, acknowledging that this if a newb-friendly event with relatively few hills and straightforward navigation.

The event was sponsored by Pittsburgh Randonneurs, a subset of Western Pennsylvania Wheelmen. I've always been impressed at WPW events; they're safe, well-organized, and very cordial.

This ride was no different. I knew a few of the riders (Mikhail, Jon, and Stef). People formed up at the start on Neville Island (under I79) on schedule, there was a group briefing, we were all issued a brevet card to have stamped at the turnaround point (the 7-11 in Ellwood City), and we started without any drama exactly on time.

I would say there were about twenty men and five women. Road bikes, all diamond frames, no 'bents. Stef rode fixed-gear, I didn't notice any others. Some really excellent equipment.

Boy these folks are strong. I stayed with the back of the group until Stoops Ferry Hill, and then I was off the back. The nature of the event is that it's not a group ride, you're responsible for your own navigation and passage.

The route is excellent, it's basically PA Bike Route A. Gastronomically, the route includes The Fountainhead Cafe, Waffles Incaffeinated, and Oram's Doughnuts so there were vittles to be scrounged enroute. The briefing was that there was an initial hill at Stoop's Ferry, then a series of rollers on the east side of the Beaver River.

Hah, rollers, a funny phrase that. It's very pretty country right there, and I had the time to enjoy it as I pedalled up the rollers at 4mph remembering a 1965 movie The Hill, about a man-made hill in a British military prison used to break men's sprits. My favorite part of the film is about a half-hour from the end, when a noncom played by Ossie Davis decides he will no longer be part of the Army, and in an instant changes from a dutiful sergeant in the ranks to a polished, comfortable man who refers to his officers by first name; the officers are so confounded by his suave manners that they are forced to interact with him as a peer and are unable to engage his dereliction. It's one of the finest moments of acting film that I've seen.

Anyway, while emracing the rollers I managed to stay true to the path while the other riders deviated and added a few more miles to their ground track, which had the effect of moving my arrival at the 7-11 to within 30 minutes of the main group.

Departed after a snack and drinks with the last of the other riders and fell off the back again in the hills. Beautiful day for a ride. I made it back to the final control with :20 minutes to spare before the time cutoff, and I received a Populaire pin for my bike bag for completing within the time range.

I really enjoyed the populaire format and my goal is to complete a 200K within the time parameters this year.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Murals, Dinosaurs, Karma

3/08/13 35M
Really a nice day out, after six days off the bike.

Found this by surprise, at The Parador Inn, your "Caribbean bed and breakfast" on Western Avenue:

S. located this at 1214 Liverpool Street in Manchester:

Passing by the Art Institure, we saw that their Dino is decorated for St. Patrick's Day. Traditional Pittsburgh Irish food: perogies, Eat N Park smiley cookies, and a Primanti's sandwich. I guess the fries are potatoes.

A really cool mural at Duquesne University's Laval House by Gerry Tonti:

Traveled through Uptown to check out Sir Samelot, who seems to have a website now in addition to a gamine sidekick.

This is the "green wall" mural at PNC Bank:

Then we stopped at PPG Plaza for a BikePgh luncheon meetup in the food court. Although the location wasn't bike friendly, it was great to meet about ten bicyclists for lunch. It was a bit funny that people introduced themselves with their web-nommes and their real names. Really a nice time.

Rode to the 10th Street Bridge to photograph these dinosaurs at the top of the superstructure:

Then I rode to a meeting, and when I got out I rode over to REI. Departed and rode back to the Northside, and as I rode around the Casino I saw another Silly Driver who really needed to park their car on the bike trail so they could go and gamble.

It seems that the odds were against them. First, because some trail users with a sense of accountability hoisted a road barrier up on top of the car, perhaps to suggest that it was inappropriately parked. Second, because security had placed a sticker on the window saying, Move it or you're going to be towed.

As I stopped to take this photo, security came back and said they'd be towed in a few minutes. As much as I hate to see somebody's car towed, I must also say I really appreciate them policing the bike trail.

A very nice ride.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

March Madness: Northside to Dead Man's Hollow

Rode 51 miles in temps from 20F to 30F, thoroughly enjoyable.

I started riding at the Bastille at 0620, intended to meet friends for breakfast at DeLuca's at 0700. The streets were a bit slippery but fortunately traffic was very light. As I reached Penn Avenue I saw C&C, two out of town cyclists who were riding to DC. (They'd been riding a red-eye bus to Pittsburgh since 2400.)

We went to Deluca's and met their friend L. Excellent breakfast, I haven't been there in 15 years. The last time I ate there it was rather (cigarette) smoky, but it was great today. Progress does occur.

After breakfast we rode to Point State Park for obligatory photo taking, using the Blockhouse in lieu of the Fountain. Rode Blvd of the Allies to the Jail Trail, Hot Metal Bridge to REI for some needed mechanical assistance.

Departed REI, took the Baldwin Borough Trail and traversed Keystone Metals - Sandcastle where progress is also occurring. The fence panels on the Keystone Metals high road are being put in place, and in Sandcastle the light poles in the eastern parking lot are being moved back to make room for the trail.

Stopped at the Waterfront Marriott for warmth, restrooms, coffee, and a bit of sitting by the fire. Very nice people.

Back on the trail. We skipped the Waterfront Trail and stayed on the main road to the Pump House, then joined the trail again. Passed Kennywood and Duquesne. Crossed the Riverton Bridge (to McKeesport) which I just love riding across.

McKeesport to PortView, to the DuraBond bypass, to Dead Man's Hollow. When the pavement ran out and the trail became packed limestone it was extremely rough, it had been rutted and puddled and then frozen and it wasn't Type-I fun.

At Dead Man's Hollow I parted ways with our hearty adventurers who are continuing to DC and camping overnight. These are hard cyclists. I offered to top off their water bottles with one of my own but mine had frozen shut, couldn't work the valve or the threads.

The ride back was pleasant, stopped at the Waterfront Hampton Inn for coffee and warmth (trying to balance the love). At Southside Works I stayed on the SouthSide Trail to Station Square, Ft. Pitt bridge to the Ft. Duquesne bridge and back to the car which was still there.

The last three miles I was feeling pretty tired, but it was an excellent ride. It was a bit of a stretch both in terms of the distance and my personal standard of minimum temperature but it was an excellent ride.

After six days off the bike it was wonderful to ride again. Be careful in the rabbit hole: dummest thing I've read all day.