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

Friday, May 31, 2013

to the Point: Wayfinding Fail

5/31/2013 25m
Started early, 0615 at the Bastille. Rode with S. to Priory Bakery on East Ohio Street for muffins and drinks, it's really an excellent bakery.

Crossed the Ninth Street bridge into downtown and rode the Strip District Trail to the Point, then across the Ft. Pitt bridge to Station Square. At the upper end of Riverfront Park I was pleased to see that the curbcut for the transition from the trail to the roadway has been restored.

Rode around to Keystone Metals and Sandcastle, and it was nice to be out there so early - you could see it was going to be a hot day. Saw this sign hanging on the CostCo building:

I think that's a nice touch, especially since I bet all the bicyclists could be seen as kind of a nuisance to CostCo - using the parking lot, scrounging the rest rooms, presenting hazards at the stop signs, etc. +1 Costco.

Reversed course and took the Hot Metal Bridge to the Jail Trail. At Grant Street, took the shared sidewalk to Smithfield Street and that's where we saw Lynn, a cyclist our own age looking a bit flummoxed at choosing a route.

Originally from Australia, Lynn has lived in the area for the last 35 years. She lives in Homestead and is a regular cyclist and trail user. Excited about the new Sandcastle trail, she's ridden up to the Hot Metal Bridge. She continued along the river and crossed the Smithfield Street Bridge. Now she's at Smithfield Street and totally at a loss about identifying a safe route to ride to Point State Park without a lot of car traffic.

We introduced ourselves and escorted her along First Avenue. For her ride back, we pointed out the ramp for the Ft. Pitt bridge to the Station Square trail. When local residents ride to Smithfield Street and don't find wayfinding support to get to Point State Park, it demonstrates a lack of design, signage and support.

It's inhospitable to entice people into a location and not make it easy to navigate. It's bad business to make visiting the city a frustrating experience; they won't come back. We want the early adopters to become evangelists, not mine-canaries. Could we have a little help?

and then, speaking of a little help: Rode the Bastille Trail to the trailhead, and saw a dozen volunteers cutting back the foliage which was growing along the trail. Enough to restore your faith in humanity. Thanks to everybody who came out!

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Bastille to Waterfront

5/30/13 24m
A very warm and moist afternoon, and a very nice day on the trail. It may be that the warm temps scare off the non-serious in the mid-afternoon.

Started on the north side at the Bastille, took the Jail Trail and the Hot Metal Bridge down through Keystone Metals and Sandcastle. Took advantage of the Waterfront McDonald's cold water dispenser and ice machine to great benefit. Reversed, and (again!) saw Yale Cohen for a second time, but got to say hello today. He's sporting some major road rash from a fall. We discussed opportunities that the new trail segments provide for educating novice trail users on trail civility and best practices. Saw Mikhail at the Hot Metal Bridge, pursuing the Major Taylor folks down to the marina (the McKeesport Marina, of course). wow.

Once the sun moved past the yardarm (5pm for the landlubbers) the trail became a bit more crowded, I think the Sandcastle opening is drawing people out. There's also a few eagle watchers still out there. I think next weekend, which will be Sandcastle's first days open for business with the new trail, might be interesting.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

SouthSide to Riverton Bridge

5/29/13 28m
Started today's ride in the South Side at Big Dog Coffee on Sarah Street due to some logistics.

Rode the (new) trail down to the Riverton Bridge, a long-time favorite. Reversed to ride back through the Sandcastle-Keystone Metals segment again. Saw world-famous Yale Cohen (twice). There's just a lot more bicyclists out there than I'm used to seeing. Saw the Major Taylor Cycling Club outbound on a group ride. Had the pleasure of meeting trail maven SaraP on the trail, discussed the time latency of bike tourists changing their trip patterns and shifting from ending in Boston PA to ending in Pittsburgh.

Came back to the Hot Metal Bridge, saw Kordite sporting some reformated whiskers on the switchback ramps. Kordite was posting online Pgh-DC bike trip reports before blogs were named, I've always appreciated his trail blazing.

Rode the Jail Trail to the Smithfield Street bridge, turned south and went back to South Side. A very nice ride, 28 miles.

Monday, May 27, 2013

MS150 Prep in New Castle and Big Dog Coffee

5/27 55m
A tremendous day for riding: cool, a bit of wind, overcast with just an occasional spritz of raindrops in the afternoon. In August I will be wishing for days like today.

Started early near New Castle with the group I'm going to ride the MS150 with. There were several old friends, SK, CU, and RC and a dozen team mates that are new to me. Very nice people; young, strong, fast. We rode on backcountry roads with a bit of ups and downs, some very pretty country. R and I were the only people on touring bikes, the others were on road bikes.

It was a real change in both terrain and pace for me, and it was an excellent workout. My friend CU is such a strong cyclist, he's just always out in front and he makes it seem effortless and he's very funny to boot.

As we rode around north of Route 422 there were seismological sensors all around, for fracking testing. Later we saw a helicopter working above and below the treeline in the distance with an external payload, one of the riders said they were dropping off bundles of seismic sensors in different locations.

In the afternoon I met S. in Pittsburgh and first we did some utility cycling around the North Side and Bellevue. Then we stopped to check out the Federal Street mural, and took a ride down to the Hot Metal Bridge and Big Dog Coffee. At times, there were quite a lot of bikes on the Jail Trail. A very nice day for a few miles.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Puzzle of Life and BBQ Month

5/25/13 23M
First of all, happy Seven Months until Christmas. Just saying.

Started at the Bastille, rode around Allegheny Center to the Underpass Public Art Gallery on Federal Street, part of the Charm Bracelet Project. New artwork is hanging which presents a puzzle in the form of a symbolic algebraic expression (which might be a redundant phrase).

The equation presents itself within three bracketed functions, and the first one looks like this:

The center argument looks like this:

The third argument looks like this:

And so I could interpret the first two panels like this:

But I've got nothing on the third panel. Evil eye? Bad luck? I'm going to have to wait for the artist's explanation.

Rode out to the 40th Street Bridge, to the Point, down to Grant St. Saw the Point State Park dinosaur ready for "BBQ Month?"

Crossed the Hot Metal Bridge, rode north to the Ft. Pitt bridge, back to the Bastille. 23 miles.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Arlington Memories, Stevo in Olympia Park, Point of View Descent

5/23 20M
Started at 0620, moving toward the summertime "new normal" of a 0600 start, from the Bastille.

Crossed the Ft.Pitt bridge and rode toward Southside and started climbing at 18th Street. At the top, we turned left and rode east into Arlington searching for a series of murals on Arlington Street at a former bus turnaround that we've heard about but have had trouble finding.

We rode out quite a ways on Arlington Ave, through Arlington Heights (never want to ride through a neighborhood with Heights in the name, you just know it has hills) past Loretto Cemetery out to Devlin St and Devlin Park, which is such a wide, level elevated area I thought it might have been a former Nike site. (Turns out it's not.) No luck, no murals. Turned around and rode back.

Inevitably, we found the murals which had been on the back side of a building as we rode out and they were just as described: on Port Authority property where busses used to turn around at 2405 Arlington Avenue.

There was a good bit of climbing involved in getting to this location and it was nice to find a reward up there. I haven't been able to find any other info on the murals.

Reversed and rode back to Arlington and South 18th Street. Turned left and rode Brownsville Road into Knoxville looking for a restroom, ended up at McDonald's. Rode over to Allentown, which can be a complicated ride with the trolley tracks still in the roadway and continued to Grandview Park which has a tremendous view of the city and a great, cold water faucet.

Rode over to J&J's Family Restaurant at 300 Shiloh Street (very good) for something to eat. Got directions from the waitress to find Olympia Park in Chatham Village which was close at hand. In the park we found a mural by Steevo Sadvary (map) who does such excellent work:

Rode toward the edge of Mt. Washington and found ourselves at Point of View Park, which I'd never been to before. It's got the scuplture of Washington with an Indian, and a neat perspective of downtown:

From there, S. plotted a new route off Mount Washington. We took Grandview Ave and Greenleaf Street down to the West End Circle and crossed the West End Bridge. The descent was tremendous fun and crossing the West End Circle was much better than I'd imagined, it's really well provided for in this direction. It's now my fave way off Mt. Washington, much more fun than McCardle.

20 miles, new neighborhoods explored and new murals, a great ride.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Priory Bakery, Zeke's Coffee and Linda the Trail Goddess

5/21/2013 37M
Great day for a ride. Started at the Bastille, rode to Deutschtown and visited the Priory Bakery, which was prompted by learning that the Priory businesses are a business sponsor of BikePgh.

The Priory Bakery is awesome. Coffee, lattes, pastries pastries pastries.

Departed the Priory Bakery, took a look at the works-in-progress along the North Shore trail. The surface is much improved and I think people are going to like it. Crossed the 40th Street Bridge, and rode uphill in the Allegheny Cemetary which is very pleasant. Rode mostly east through Friendship to East Liberty.

This sculpture, Joy of Life by Pittsburgh's Virgil Cantini, has long been a favorite of mine, and this was the first time I saw it with the fountain operating, it looked great on a sunny morning.

Stopped at Zeke's Coffee to see the increasingly famous Coffee Bike, which they use to bring coffee out to various construction sites and office centers. It's an awesome bike and I covet the kickstand a little bit.

Rode to Oakland hoping to score a snack at Waffallonia but they weren't open yet, so we descended the Junction Hollow trail down to the Swinburne Street trailhead and crossed the Hot Metal Bridge, and rode through the new trails at Keystone Metals and Sandcastle (love love love it).

Stopped at the Pump House and we were very fortunate to meet Trail Goddess Linda Box and trail Project Manager Jack Paulich, who were about to take their own first bike rides on the new trail section and check for gaps in the signage. It was a real treat to get to thank them in person for their efforts, it's kind of like passing through Rome and bumping into the Pope.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Bike to Work Day, New Trails

5/17/2013 31m
BTWD-2013. Bike to work day. What does a retired guy do on Bike to Work Day?

Why, you staff a BTW Support Station for Bike Pittsburgh, along with some folks from The Priory Hotel, the NorthSide bike friendly lodging place and a business sponsor of BikePgh, a rep from ProBikes, and folks from the Cycle for Life Cystic Fibrosis event, Sept, 15th. We were handing out Schwag Bags and bananas and water and mentioning the I-Bike-I-Vote campaign and the National Bike Challenge n'at. It was a fun time, I met some cool people and got to associate meat-space faces with a few avatar-names.

After that I rode with S. around to the new trails at Keystone Metals and Sandcastle. Wow wow wow wow wow. Wow. wow. They're really very nicely done. The Keystone Metals section has a ninety-degree turn with a big mirror to help see around the bend.

The street crossing between Keystone Metals and Sandcastle has a set of traffic-calming barriers designed to encourage you to dismount and walk your bicycle across the street.

This is how the trail looks on the Sandcastle side, looking north. They've really done a first-class job of this.

Coming back I saw an old colleague BN out riding his bike. All sorts of people were out riding, I think the trail opening and nice weather might have encouraged a lot of people to call off sick today or something. Beautiful day for a ride. 31 miles.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Katy Trail, West to East, 2013

5/9-13/2013 250m
Enjoyed a chance to ride the Katy Trail, west to east, with friends. An excellent ride that I highly recommend.

work in progress

The logistics of a one-way ride are always a question. For this trip, we drove to the east end of the trail and parked at Lococo Bed and Breakfast in St. Charles, MO. Lococo provides a shuttle service for people who'll be staying there, so they put us and our gear into a mega-van and drove us out to the western end of the trail in Clinton, MO. (cost $270). Another option would have been riding Amtrak with our bikes as roll-on baggage west to Sedalia, which is almost the western end of the trail, and pedaling to the end. The shuttle service was very cool, Leo and Ronna Lococo are very nice people and very informative, and they set a postive tone for our first Missouri interaction.

We overnighted at the Hampton Inn, which was about 1.5 miles from the trailhead, and ate dinner at the adjacent Applebee's. They were both as expected.

Day1: Clinton Mo to Sedalia MO; 41 miles. We saw morning rain in the forecast and had to decide: sleep in and wait out the rain, or try to "outrace and/or embrace" the rain. At 0815 we departed the hotel. The trailhead had a restored caboose, one of many that we'd see. The trail surface was excellent, a sort of packed limestone that the locals call "chat". Shortly after we started we were riding in a gentle, warm rain.

We passed through Calhoun in the rain, and continued to Windsor where we stopped at Raymond's for lunch. We walked in soaking wet, and as we ate the rain stopped and the skies turned blue. Lunch was excellent, we all had variations of Rueben sandwiches and soup. Excellent lunch stop. We couldn't get a 3G signal so we asked where we might find some WiFi, and we ended up in the Henry County Library. It seems like they have a difficult process to get to use one of their public-access computers, but anybody can use their wifi signal so it was nice to update the weather forecast.

The skies had turned blue and dry but the trail was quite mushy so we lounged for +45 at the trailhead waiting for things to dry out a bit.

East of Bryson MO we crossed the highest point on the trail, and saw a formation of two A-10s in some sort of a manuevering area. Even though this was the high point on the trail, it felt like we were still climbing a bit for the next two days.

At Sedalia, we passed through the fairgrounds and then went across the town proper, and doglegged into downtown for the Hotel Bothwell. The downtown area was reminiscent of the town square in Back to the Future, and the Hotel Bothwell is a grand old hotel with a reputation of a haunted third floor. They're bike-friendly, you can keep your bike in your room or in a special basement bike-space. The rooms were about $85.

We ate dinner in the hotel's restaurant, and it's the kind of meal I dream of on bike trips - comfy quasi-formal dining room, classical music, salads, filet mignon, deserts, coffee, just the way dinner should be after a day on the bike.

Day 2: Sedalia MO to Boonville, 35 miles
Departed Sedalia without any hotel ghost experiences, which was OK with me. Saw two other groups of cyclists departing at about the same time, a couple celebrating their 25th anniversary and a three nurses on a buddy trip, just like we were. The hotel breakfast was OK. We encountered a major trailhead in Sedalia complete with a gift shop, mandatory shopping ensued.

After the Sedalia trailhead the trail takes to the street for a while, we got a bit cadywampus out of position and took a few minutes getting back on the right path. This day's itinerary has a long stretch between support opportunities, so we brewed our own Via coffee at the Clifton City trailhead. While we were drinking our coffee, we saw the 25th-anniversary couple blitzing along the trail eastbound and it surprised us because they'd departed before us; they explained that they'd made the wrong initial turn on the trail out of the hotel, and had gone 20 miles out of their way before getting turned eastbound. Ouch.

At Pilot Grove we stopped at Becky's Burgers and Cones for lunch, it has an excellent reputation and it was well deserved. A lot of these places that open for breakfast close at 1400, so there's a bit of ciphering to get to them while they're still open.

It seemed colder and more overcast when we came out from lunch, and we continued east to Boonville. Our Holiday Inn Express was just short of Boonville so we stopped just short of town.

After cleaning up we took a cab into town to have dinner at the Hotel Frederick, the restaurant is called Glenn's Cafe. It was excellent, very much an old-school dining room and seriously excellent food. I had a dish called "pastalaya", a variation on jumbalaya. They had a robust selection of beers and wine. Highly recommended.

After dinner we walked over to the casino, there's a tremendous discontinuity between the new money, ticky-tack faux-glitz of the casino and the old buildings along the rivers. The folks in the casino aren't quite the people of WalMart, but they don't seem like folks that have much money to lose. We got a ride from the casino back to the hotel and called it a night.

Day 3, Boonville Mo to Jefferson City, 58 miles.
Today we exited Boonville and started riding along the Missouri River, and the nature of the geography completely changed. The first two days were prairies and farmland, and now we were riding along a waterway, or along the bottom land between the old railroad (now trail) and the Missouri River. After a while, the side of the trail away from the river was all cliffs rising up a hundred feet of so; it was a dramatic shift in landscapes.

It was very much like riding a GAP-type trail, in C&O type conditions down along the Potomac River. Trail conditions remained excellent.

Approaching Rocheport (on a Saturday) we encountered the only significant trail traffic we'd see until St. Charles, a lot of bicyclists out on the trail. In Rocheport we saw several bed and breakfasts, a trailside bike shop, and a great sandwich shop. This was a very effective stop and a great lunch shop.

We saw a lot of Boy Scouts on the trail. In Hartsburg we approached Dotty's Cafe for our second lunch and two cyclists coming out engaged us in conversation; when we got clear it was 2.15pm, and inevitably Dotty's closes at 2pm. Dotty saw what happened, came out, and made us welcome. We had blackberry cobbler and ice cream and they sure took good care of us, after hours and at the end of their day. +10 to Dotty's in Hartsburg, even if there's no H at the end of the town's name.

Dotty's Cafe, Katy Bike Trail, Hartsburg MO: ice cream, pie, lunch excellent!

In North Jefferson we needed to cross the Missouri River to get to our hotel, and the bridge across the river has been problematic in the various trip reports. We were pleased to see they've recently opened a new switchback ramp for bikes that leads to a new bike ramp on the bridge, it's a great piece of bike infrastructure.

Jefferson City, MO bike switchback ramp across Missouri River, bridge bicycle infrastructure

We stayed at the Baymont Suites in Jefferson City, they were excellent and once again very bike friendly. They said they're seeing a lot more bike business since the new switchback ramp was opened up. For dinner we walked to the nearby Arris Bistro, which was completely excellent. Wonderful service, great food. There's a TV in one of the rooms that they switched to the Penguins-Islanders playoff game at our request, we really appreciated that.

Day 4, Jefferson City to Peers, MO (69 miles)

This was to be our longest day of the week, and at our request the Baymont Suites opened up their breakfast room an hour earlier so that our group and another bike party could make an early start. (That's bike friendly!) It was an easy departure out of town. Being out so early, we saw two deer, and the nomination for SongOfTheDay was Morning Has Broken.

Later we saw a big rock that has withstood erosion and is used to mark the various floods. Apparently the M-KT railroad abandoned this line because of the continual flooding.

At 1130 (on Mother's Day) we rolled into the only place open in Portland, the Riverfront Bar and Grill. There's a great variation in these places, and I think you have to remember them for what they are. You can't walk into a bar at 1130 on Mother's Day and expect quiche loraine. But we got something to eat and moved along.

In Rhineland there was a fair amount of civilization and a few places to get something to eat but we pressed on. We had planned to stop and cross the river to see Hermann, but we adapted and skipped that town to save the five or six miles involved. Saw a "killdeer" protecting it's nest, that was pretty cool. A few miles short of Marthasville, we turned into Peers MO and the Concord Hill Bed and Breakfast, which was on the top of a fairly decent hill.

Since there's not any restaurant around, we'd asked the proprietors of Concord Hill to make a dinner for us and they really did well, a fancy salad and a pasta dish and some local wine. About half of their business comes from being in a Missouri Rhine Valley wine country bed-and-breakfast, and the other half of their business comes from Katy Trail bike trips looking for a B&B near Marthasville, Missouri.

Day 5, Peers MO to St. Charles 48 miles
This being our last day, and a shorter day, we took an unhurried start. Breakfast at 0830 and we departed at 10:00.

We stopped at the Defiance Roadhouse for lunch, very nice. Most restaurants are closed on Mondays, and the ones that were open were busier than usual.

We got into St. Charles on schedule, climbed up from the river to our B&B at Lococo House. The hosts couldn't have been more hospitable. They recommended Tony's for dinner (closed Monday!), so we ended up eating at Little Hills Restaurant. The next morning we departed and rejoined the rest of the world.

Not much to report on this leg; around St. Charles the trail became well-used and the surroundings were well-developed; they've done a really nice job of integrating the trail into the local parks.

Monday, May 6, 2013

A Relatively Minimalist 25

5/6/13 25m
Had an occasion to run an errand and drop something off at a friend's house, so I rode the bike and accomplished 25 miles.

I've been carrying a lot of stuff in a trunk bag (which gave up the ghost last week), so I replaced the spacious trunk bag with a more moderate under-the-seat bag and I'm carrying a lot less stuff (by my standards). The bike is lighter and I liked that today. True, I'm not carrying the compass, flashlight or the emergency blanket, but I think that's OK. This is more of a flat-tire and 98% of problems response bag, and when I go on Epic Adventures I'll just carry the incremental stuff.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

MS150 Team Meeting

5/5/13 13m
Got to meet the team I'll be riding with for the MS150 in June, Team Western Pennsylvania Anesthesia Associates.

This was a short ride around New Castle, 13 miles or so. It was nice to meet about ten of the other riders; they mostly work together at WPAA, I'm sort of the outlier and very happy to be invited to ride with them.

It was a very nice intro ride along some country roads on a beautiful day.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Southside Roof Dachsunds

5/3/13 21m

Started at the Bastille, tarried a bit at Market Square to see some Marathon kickoff glitziness, crossed the Smithfield Street bridge and rode the SouthSide Trail down to the Tenth Street Bridge.

Exiting the trail I was surprised to see this bit of roof art on an abandoned building at 901 Bingham Street in Southside, adjacent to the historic Oliver Bath House at Bingham St. and South 10th Street.

It looks very much like an abandoned factory or warehouse. I'm kind of surprised there's such a large, unused space in the middle of so much development and economic vitality but I think that's still going on in Pittsburgh.

Continued down Bingham to Thick Bikes, they had ordered an Ortlieb bag for me. They have an shop of interesting and engaging mechanics that seem to be quite busy.

Rode down to the riverfront plaza by HofBrauHaus, then down to Keystone Metals. Reversed course, enjoyed the tailwind and stayed on the Station Square side of the river since it was Friday afternoon, crossed the Ft. Pitt bridge and the Ft. Duquesne bridge back to the Bastille.

A very nice day for a ride.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Meanwhile on the Montour: Big Things

5/2/13 36m
So much local bike news is focused on Sandcastle developments that I went out to the Montour Trail at Morganza Road where the new Tandem Connection has opened shop. I pedaled over to Farmhouse Coffee to meet local trailmeister CF, and then he showed me around that part of the Montour Trail where there are also some big things being developed.

This is what the at-grade crossing at Valleybrook Road is beginning to look like.

This is what the South Park Connector looks like, I had not even heard of this.

This is a new trail segment (not yet open) replacing the Triphammer Road detour. This looks like a beautiful trail segment, with a pond and a stream, it's probably very scenic if one was to go beyond the barriers.

We rode out to the Large Hotel, then returned back to FarmHouse. This is how nice the people at FarmHouse are: we went in for cold drinks at 5:55, unaware they close at 6pm. We sat down and started talking trails. At 6.20 they said to us, Hey you're good there but if you don't mind we're going to vacuum over here. Slowly it dawned on us to ask, what time do you close? Oh, six o'clock, but you're good don't worry. Extraordinary. Very nice people.

A very nice ride, and I really enjoyed a chance to ride with CF.