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

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Homestead to Dead Man's Hollow

4/30/13 23M
Escorted some transient Rivendell riders, Ed and Ann, from their Waterfront hotel out to the GAP at Dead Man's Hollow.

They were a little apprehensive about threading the needle through McKeesport and it was a nice morning for an early start and a chance to show off Pittsburgh. I think they were impressed at the local trails (if not at the signage).

Very nice people, they're planning on taking five days to get to DC.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

North Star Junction to Santiago and Imperial

4/27 24M 244#
24 miles on the Montour Trail's north-east end, which I haven't been on in at least six months.

Started off inauspiciously, as my trunk bag on my rear rack lost the connection between the straps and the bag, causing the bag to depart the formation and calling for a return to the car. That bag has gained some weight, and when I went rummaging through it to extract anything essential for the ride the answer was: not much, really. Seems like a self-teachable moment.

Back on the bike, rode MP0 in Groveton to MP11.5 in Boggs round trip. Took a nap in the sun at Boggs. Curious that a man in disheveled dirty clothes with his possessions in bags taking a nap at the Point is a problem, but a man in high-viz with his possessions in panniers taking a nap at the Trailhead is a sign of successful advocacy.

Also pleased to see a new historical marker at MP9.1, the North Star Junction at which the Montour Railroadtrain line once split to go to either Santiago or Imperial (the latter being the course followed by the Montour Trail). What I really liked about the marker was it includes a historic photo. The track switch in the photo is at the same position as the historic marker is today, so you can compare the photo with the layout of the land and see where the other train line used to go. It's pretty cool.

Talked with a couple at Boggs, the gentleman is prepping for a Canada-to-Mexico ride along the Pacific coast on his Surly LHT after his upcoming retirement. He seemed to have it well through out, it was nice to talk with them.

Sad to see the Enlow Station ice cream shop closed and for sale. They had the best pistachio soft serve I've ever had. Nice folks and I wish them well. It's a good location but a seasonal, weekend business.

Saw a new-to-me switchback ramp connecting to the Montour Trail at MP2.9, seems to connect to a housing development. Pretty steep, not bike friendly, but it was probably all they could do given the terrain.

A very nice day for a bike ride.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Firehouse Mural and Sandcastle Bike Lane

4/23/13 35m #245
Beautiful day. Started at the Bastille, rode south, very pleasantly surprised to see the Fountain at the Point in operation. (details here).

Ft. Duquesne bridge, Ft. Pitt bridge, southside, rode up 18th Street to the top of South Side. This was complicated by my bicycle's inability to stay in the small chainring, so this ascent kicked by butt.

Searched for a mural near Arlington Street, never found it. Found some great views of Pittsburgh.

Rode toward Mt. Washington, stopped for a snack at GrandView Park. I think that's the best view of Pittsburgh. Found a mural on the side of the historic Company 27 firehouse, which has been at that location since 1908. The mural sits over a mini-park dedicated to Charlie Lewis (originator of the national fill the boot campaign), who has a unique resume of being both a union leader and the Pittsburgh fire chief (1980-85)and was highly respected.

One of Pittsburgh's Bravest came out and said Hello, a very nice gentleman who offered to refill the water bottles. He said, What does a policeman and a fireman have in common? They both want to be a fireman.

Descended McCardle Roadway, which was much faster and much cooler than the climb. Rode south toward Homestead for a meeting. I saw trail guru Yale C. on his bike but I couldn't stop, I only had a few minutes extra before the meeting.

After the meeting, took a look at Sandcastle after work was done for the day. Very impressive work and clear progress being made. This is what the separation between the tracks, the trail, the road, and the waterpark looks like:

I think that's excellent. Until now, I thought that the Marcegaglia bike lane was the best segregated bike lane in the Pittsburgh area, but this is going to be much better. I think it's going to be a very safe way to put bikes and cars in close proximity. They're really doing this right.

Further down the trail, closer to Keystone Metals and after the roadway veers away from the trail, the trail-in-progress looks like this:

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Legends of Pittsburgh v3, Keystone Metals Progress, Earth Day Dino

4/21/2013 22m
Glorious day for a bike ride. Got out in the late afternoon, met S at the Bastille, rode south to downtown and saw the Art Institute Dino, all ready for Earth Day:

We checked to see if they've replaced the Legends of Pittsburgh mural (Second Ave. under Grant Street) yet and were pleasantly surprised to see a new one in place. This is the third incarnation of this artwork:

Met Pittsburgh cyclist and bon vivant Marko on the Jail Trail, went to see what the Keystone Metals project looks like and it. looks. good.

photoshop artist representation of what future trail might look like

A lot of people on the trail this afternoon, especially birdwatchers with some impressive equipment looking at the eagle's nest by MM5 at Keystone Metals. There was actually a crowd on the trail, an ice cream cart would have done real well.

Reversed and rode north to REI for some shopping and Marko kept riding. Came out of REI, rode Station Square, Point State Park, North Side and then around past the Heinz Complex to seek a mural we'd seen recently on Twitter from PittsburghIsBeautiful via PghGraffiti:

This 1984 installation was commissioned by the Heinz family to commemorate the role of the nature and the role of labor in the modern world. A tableau closer to the river depicts more of the nature themes, and this upper presentation suggesting a temple depicts the labor theme. I must admit I don't get it; why have they chosen to depict the face of labor as tragic and suffering?

It was a pretty day, lots of people on bicycles.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Bicycling the Natchez Trace Parkway: Afterthoughts

A few after-thoughts or lessons learned after bicycling the Natchez Trace Parkway.
  • Boy, that was great! Excellent road conditions, the cars played nice, not a single significant negative.
  • The National Park Service map is the best map, but it really only shows NPS campgrounds and omits several others (probably the way it should be).
  • First time I've camped for several consecutive days with others. You can see the need to consistent good will and good humor.
  • There's really very little privacy in camping, and zero privacy in hammock camping.
  • Sunscreen; how did I only discover it in my mid-50's?
  • Planning: it's not effective to plan epic days without resources-in-depth and next-day contingency options. Absent that, I'm beginning to think: 45 mile days (loaded) with a rest day every fifth day.
I would so ride this again in a heart-beat. South-to-north, unsupported, 45 miles a day.



Future Bike Camp Designers: I love what you've been doing with the traditional primitive campground: grass, trees, picnic bench, secure trash can, fire circle, water source, restroom or porta-john. Moving forward, would you please consider:
  • plumbing the rest-room waterpipes (if any) to an exterior showerhead
  • exterior electric outlets to charge phones, tablets, cameras, MiFis, etc.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Natchez Trace Bike Trip: Kosciusko to Choctaw Agency

60 miles
The campground in Kosciusko is adjacent to the National Park Service vehicle compound. I mention this because when we asked locals for direction it seemed very difficult to describe for them, but if you stay on the trail and take the service road exit for the Kosciusko District Facility you'll see a small camping icon-sign by a path into the woods, and there you'll find the campground.

It was a very nice, primitive site with a water supply. The floor of the outhouse (which looked very much like a Cool Hand Luke sweat-box) had rusted away, so if you needed that facility I think you'd be pedaling off into town which is quite close.

This is what my sleeping rig looked like:

It was a cool night but not cold, and this was a good campground. We broke camp a bit early, which was something that has eluded us all week, and departed southbound. There isn't a lot of variety in the countryside, but at MP120 we stopped at the River Bend trailhead to see a huge body of water which is actually a reservoir.

It's a beautiful, tranquil scene and we enjoyed a few quiet, holistic minutes until a few local fisher-folk caught a poisonous snake on their hook. From an outsider's perspective, remarkable stupidity followed until the snake got tired of scaring them and returned to the water. At least, they think it did.

Camped at the Rocky Springs campground which was very nice. This was a warm evening that didn't call for sleeping bags. Some local residents found a small bag of our oatmeal and grapefruit and seemed to enjoy them mightily.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Bicycle Tour via Natchez Trace Parkway: Pharr Mounds to Witch Dance

25 miles
still a work in progress

Our evening's sleep from Friday night to Saturday morning was accompanied by a chorus of owls. I don't know what type of owls except that they were verbal owls with something to say, and they were persistent. It was a cold night for my experience (probably 40F) but the sleeping bag with a thermal pad and a wool layer made for a very comfortable night's sleep.

In the morning our neighbors from the next campground came over to say hello and we were pleased to offer them a cup of coffee, they were three Australian cyclists on Day45 of their adventure having started at the LAX airport. They had ridden across the Southern Tier Route to New Orleans and were now joining the Natchez Trace Parkway to the Underground Railroad Bike Route.

They were fascinating people and experienced travelers, Jose and Linda were married and their friend Geoff. All were very efficiently outfitted; they'd been doing this for a while. I was pleased to introduce them to the American healthfood known as Pop Tarts. Very nice folks.

Joined the trail at the Pharr Mounds, which were very impressive and the placards explained our best contemporary understanding of them.

There is a general guidance to avoid the area around Tupelo Monday to Friday, 0700 to 0830 and again from 1530 to 1800 during the local rush hours but we were riding on a Saturday and it wasn't bad at all. There's a nice visitor's center in Tupelo, wifi and rest rooms and trail info and I believe there's a primitive bicyclist campsite there as well.

We made camp at the Witch Dance campground, another very nice NPS campground. ("oh, if they only had a shower in the restrooms!") We met another bicyclist who was already in the camp (Fons) and then later another cyclist arrived to set up camp (Roxy). This campground was entertained by a pair of vocal roosters on the adjacent property, who may (or may not) have been commissioned by a landowner who wasn't wild about having a campground next door.

This was the first night I got to use my solar shower (in conjunction with the JetBoil to heat water) and it wasn't bad. It wasn't a hotel shower, but it wasn't bad.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Natchez Trace Bike Trip: Dogwood Mudhole to Colbert Ferry

45 miles

As we adapted our plan to a line of severe weather, we drove from Pittsburgh beyond Nashville and overnighted at the Natchez Hills Vineyard which also hosts a small Bed and Breakfast operation. They're very bicycle-friendly and have the best bike trail-to-B&B shuttle car setup I've ever heard of. Although we were uncertain of our surroundings when we arrived in the dark, sunrise presented gardens and fields and some very pretty buildings. The proprietor was excellent, they're a retired military couple, the breakfast was awesome and we probably overstayed our timeframe in conversation but it was very interesting. I would stay there again in a heartbeat.

This is what the Natchez Trace Parkway looked like when we first got on it, and as far as road surface, width, shoulders etc it never really varied much:

We stopped in Collingwood TN at MP355 for a snack at Miss Hazelbea's Sweets and Treats, very biker friendly, right next to the visitor center, and lest you think Miss Hazelbea was a pushover they'll have you know she was a WAC in WW2.

We continued south into the prevailing winds, which would turn out to be a theme. Perhaps there was a reason that all the other cyclists were riding northboung? Hmmm.

Approached the Tennessee River crossing to Colbert Ferry, the map really didn't provide much advice in terms of what to expect, but it was really very nice:

We camped that night at Tishomingo State Park at MP305 and paid $13 for the priviledge. There's a curious overlay of all sorts of government; the feds and the NPS run the Trace Parkway, the rest stops and shelters and several of the free campgrounds; the state parks run other facilities; counties provide yet another layer.

S. stayed at the Belmont Hotel which was very nice, an old school hotel but still kept up, staff was extremely hospitable. We took advantage of S's lodging to glomm some hot showers before heading to the campground.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Bicycling the Natchez Trace: Plans and Notions

still a work in progress

The Natchez Trace is a historical footpath of 440 miles (710 km) from Natchez, Mississippi to Nashville, Tennessee, linking the Cumberland, Tennessee and Mississippi rivers. It was created and used for centuries by Native Americans, and later by early European and American explorers.

The Natchez Trace Parkway is a two-lane road from Natchez to Nashville that closely parallels the route of the Natchez Trace, serving to commemorate the route while preserving the path. The Parkway is operated by the National Park Service and is advertised as dual-use for bicycles and cars.

Our initial plan to ride the Natchez Trace Parkway by bicycle was to proceed as two bicyclists (with a support van) to the northern end, and to bike-camp our way to the southern end, whereupon we'd drive back to the center of the universe (Pittsburgh).

Our original itinerary, for those who like such things, went something like this:

Thurs 11 Apr: Day 1 of 6 riding North Terminus MP445 to MP388 MerriwetherLewis (57 miles)
last coffee: 8400 Tennessee Hwy 100 Nashville, TN 37221 http://www.lovelesscafe.com/
trailhead bike shop: http://tracebikes.com/ 615.646.2485
444.0 TN Hwy 100 - market (gas) .1 mile east of parkway
429.0 STOP (15 miles) TN Hwy 46? (prob 96) – market/gas .8 miles east of parkway,
town of Leiper's Fork 1.3 miles east of parkway
Leiper's Fork Joe Natural's Restaurant http://joenaturals.com/joes-menu/
Puckett's Grocery & Restaurant http://www.puckettsofleipersfork.com/
427.5 Garrison Creek trailhead (restrooms)
415.7 STOP LUNCH (15 miles) TN Hwy 7 – market 1.7 miles east of parkway
408.0 TN Hwy 50 – market (gas) 1.1 miles west of parkway
407.7 Gordon House trailhead (restrooms)
404.7 Jackson Falls (restrooms)
392 STOP (23 miles) US 412 - Fall Hollow Market at exit
385.9 TN Hwy 20 - market (gas) 1.3 miles east of parkway
385.9 END (8 miles) Meriwether Lewis National Monument, 191 Meriwether Lewis Parkway, Hohenwald, TN 38462
Camp: Meriwether Lewis campsite (restrooms)
Bnb: Natchez Hills B&B, 906 Ridgetop Road, Hampshire, TN 38461 http://www.natchezhills.com
dinner in Hohenwald, 2 miles from trailhead
Junkyard Dog Steakhouse 18 N Maple St Hohenwald, TN 38462 (931) 796-0041
River Rat Grill 35 N Maple St Hohenwald, TN 38462 (931) 796-4330


Fri 12 Apr: Day2 of 6 riding, MP388 to MP305 Tishomingo State Park, camping (83 miles)
385.9 TN Hwy 20 - market (gas) 1.3 miles east of parkway

380.8 Napier Road - market .5 miles east of parkway: Naco Natchez Trace Wilderness Store
377.8 Jacks Branch (restrooms)
372.6 Laurel Hill Lake & Wildlife Mgt Area with market 2 miles east of parkway
370 STOP (18 MILES) US 64 Lawrenceburg Hwy - market (gas) .9 miles west of parkway
364.5 Glenrock Branch trailhead (restrooms)
354.9 STOP (15 miles) TN Hwy 14 – town of Collinwood .5 miles west of parkway with market (gas)
G G's Market 1271 Railroad Bed Rd Collinwood, TN 38450
350.7 TN Hwy 13 – market (gas) .1 miles east of parkway
4 Mile Market, 1609 Chisholm Road Cypress Inn, TN 38452 (931) 724-5320
Tennessee / Alabama border
337 AL Hwy 20 market 3 miles east of pkwy
331.9 AL Hwy 14 – market (gas) 6 miles west of parkway
327.3 Colbert Ferry (restroom)
320.3 STOP (25 miles) US 72 – market (gas) .5 miles east of parkway
Alabama / Mississippi border
305 END (15 miles)
Camp: Tishomingo State Park
BnB: Belmont Hotel, 121 Main St. Belmont, MS 38827
Dinner: Four small restaurants in Tishomingo, MI 4mi NW


Sat 13 Apr: Day3 of 6 riding, MP305 to MP232 WitchDance, (73 miles)
303.2 Market MS Hwy 25 – market (gas) .5 miles west of parkway
286.7 Stop (19 miles Self Support) Pharr Mounds trailhead (restrooms)
270.7 MS Hwy 363 – market (gas) .8 miles west of parkway
266.0 LUNCH (20 miles) Tupelo Visitor Center (restrooms, visitor center) Numerous restaurants
262.3 McCullough Blvd. – markets (gas) 2 miles east of parkway
260.0 MS Hwy 6/Main Street – markets (gas) .4 miles east of parkway
255.7 Palmetto Road (Verona exit) – market (gas) .7 miles east of parkway
251.6 STOP (25 miles) Pontocola Road/CR 506 – market (gas) .3 miles west of parkway
233.2 END (18 miles) Witch Dance
BnB: Bridges-Hall Manor B&B 435 N. Jackson St, Houston, MS 38851 (15 miles from campsite)


Sun 14 Apr: Day4 of 6 riding MP232 to MP160 Kosciusko(72 miles)
219.6 MS Hwy 46 – market (gas) .1 miles west of parkway.
204.2 STOP (28 miles) US 82 – market (gas) .5 miles east of parkway.
Trace-Way Restaurant .7 miles east open b,l&d 7x/wk. Subway, BBQ.
195.3 MS Hwy 9 – market (gas) at the exit
193.1 Jeff Busby (note: restroom and water only - market/gas station is closed)
180.7 STOP (23 MILES) French Camp (Council House Cafe Mon-Sa 10:30 a.m.-7:00 p.m.) Market on MS Hwy 413 .2m W of Pkwy
159.8 END Kosciusko Information Center - market (gas) .2 miles north of parkway and .2 miles south of the parkway
Camp: Kosciusko Depot Campground
BnB: Days Inn Kosciusko/1000 Veterans Memorial Drive Kosciusko (.3 mi off Trace)


MONDAY 15 Apr: Day5 of 6 riding MP160 to MP55, Rocky Springs camping (105 miles)
159.8 START Kosciusko Information Center - market (gas) .2 miles north of parkway and .2 miles south of the parkway
154.3 Holly Hill trailhead(restrooms)
146.2 MS Hwy 429 – market (gas) .5 miles west of parkway.
135.5 STOP (25miles) MS Hwy 16 – market (gas) 1.5 miles west of parkway
123.8 Ratliff Ferry Rd - market/gas .5 m east pkwy (clsd Dec-Jan, clsd MONDAY b4 MemDay and after Labor Day)
122.6 River Bend trailhead(restrooms)
114.9 MS Hwy 43 – market (gas) 1.5 miles west of parkway
103.4 Old Canton Road - markets .3 miles east of parkway
102.4 STOP LUNCH (30) US Hwy 51 - markets (gas) .6 miles south of parkway. The Trace Grill restaurant .6 miles north of parkway.
89 STOP (11) Pinehaven Drive - Clinton Visitor's Center (west) and market (gas) .4 miles east of parkway
79.0 MS Hwy 467 – town of Raymond is 2.5 miles east of parkway with market (gas)
59 Fisher Ferry Road (Utica/Vicksburg exit) - market .8 miles west of parkway (CLOSED ON MONDAYS)
54.8 END (35miles) Rocky Springs campground
BnB: Isabella B&B at Port Gibson (1.7 from the Trace, about 15 mi south of campsite)


Tues 16 Apr: Day6 of 6 riding. MP55 to MP0 (55 miles),
then drive nine hours to Nashville hotel

54.8 START Rocky Springs
41.3 STOP (13miles) MS Hwy 18 - Port Gibson (south on US 61) with markets (gas) are 1.1 miles west of parkway
37.5 US Hwy 61 – market .4 miles north of parkway
30 MS Hwy 552 to US Hwy 61 South – Old Country Store Restaurant 2 miles east of parkway
17.5 Coles Creek (trailhead, restroom)
15.5 STOP (26 miles, No logistics) Mount Locust (trailhead, visitor center, restroom)
00 FINIS (15 miles) 31.544875,-91.367587 377 Liberty Rd Natchez, MS 39120


And that's what the plan was, FWIW. No plan survives contact with the real world, as Clausewitz suggested, and Thursday was a day of thunderstorms and Tornadoes so instead of driving south on Wednesday and riding Thursday, we drive south on Thursday through the rain and stayed on schedule, beginning our ride on Friday morning.


We did discover two gems on the way to the trail. We found the River Terrace in Columbia, TN for our last meal before joining the Trace and it was very impressive. I had some andouille sausage and then New Orleans style crabcakes, which was excellent; all three of us were very impressed with the food and service.

Our BnB for the night was Natchez Hills Vineyard which we approached in total darkness so we really didn't have an appreciation of the setting, but when we arrived the two little cottages we saw were very nice so we set ourselves up for the night and turned in. It's a remarkable Bed-and-breakfast, very bicycle friendly, veteran-operated, great all around. Highly recommended.


Wednesday, April 10, 2013

81F and Icy

4/10/2013 249# 33M

Rode the Montour Trail from McDonald Trestle at MP17 to Farmhouse Coffee at MP32, round trip, with R. It was great to be out on the Montour Trail, especially in 81 degrees on April 10th. Remarkably, there was still quite a bit of ice on the floor of the National Tunnel: