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

Friday, January 31, 2014

New Switchback Infrastructure

1/30/2014 30F #218 17m
Started a bit earlier today, and the rivers had frozen over again over the night. The Chateau trail was still unridable so we stayed on Beaver Street, and took a picture of the new switchback ramp across the street from the PAT building.

Rode the Jail Trail and the Hot Metal Bridge (still sketchy). Stopped at REI for a new brake cable for S's Novarra. Rode around SouthSide, took the Birmingham Bridge, checking on several murals to see what's disappeared and what's still there. (Updating the inventory for pghmurals.com). It's surprising how many murals disappear each year.

Checked out Sir Samelot, no new decorations. Lots of car congestion on Fifth, it didn't slow the bikes down much. Pleased to see cycle-bud and citizen-exemplar SaraW downtown, dressed to the nines. I think it's the first time I've seen her in hashtag-normal clothes. Stopped to see Magnolias for Pittsburgh by Tony Tasset at Penn and Seventh Street.

The Allegheny River was pretty frozen, as seen from the Seventh Street Bridge.

Rode East Ohio Street through Deutschtown, checked out some new work placed over a deteriorating mural in the alley-space at Bistro ToGo

Saw two members of the NorthSide Bike Patrol on their rounds, I am so impressed that they've been out every day through the recent cold spells.

Took a tour around Federal Street and Randyland, checking out some murals. One which had been in a community garden is now in somebody's backyard. Rode West Ohio Street around to Chateau, and that seems like a new fairly calm bike-route back to the Bastille.

This is the Chateau Street view of the new ramp infrastructure, still under construction. I was inclined to ride it but it's not passable.

We think (thanks Stu!) that this is where it comes out on top:

The curious thing is, this doesn't seem like it's engineered for cyclists. When you ride the switchbacks, your head is pretty close to the overhead beams; not a lot of daylight. If I had a camera on top of my helmet and was very slightly up out of my seat (like, if I was climbing a ramp) I definitely would be hitting my head. Seems like great infrastructure, I'm not sure why the ceiling is so low.

Last Day of the Month.
Jan 2013 191 miles, Jan 2014 315 miles.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Back on the saddle again

1/30/2014 15m 28F
It was soooooo nice to be out on the bike again.

I rode with S and R, starting at the Bastille. Today I was wearing my new gloves and boots and they were awesome, I was very comfortable. We rode via streets around to the Ft. Duquesne Bridge. All the rivers were semi-frozen, it was a bright blue sky, and there was a lot of light bouncing all around.

Rode out Blvd of the Allies and the Jail Trail, which was in good condition. The Hot Metal Bridge was not in good condition, it was icy and sketchy.

Once in the SouthSide, we stopped at REI because S's Novarra had an intermittent rear brake issue and it's primary care folks are at REI. They were very helpful, took it right in and laid hands on it, pronounced it healed and back on our way.

Rode over to Thick Bikes, which is where R's Rivendell's primary care folks are. They were attaching a Tubus front rack and it took a bit of kludging, but it ended up really elegant in the end. Took some back roads through the South Side, Smithfield Street Bridge, found ourselves downtown at 5pm.

Major gridlock. Fortunately, the bikes filtered well and we were on our way without delay. Crossed to the North Side, and took the Casino- West End Bridge- Chateau Street shuffle which always seems complex when we're in the middle of it. We came upon three red lights with no traffic and I must confess I didn't wait for them, it was just such a sweet spot to keep moving.

Earlier in the day, my fave Transit Guru and Cyclist Extraordinaire Stu was tweeting about a new ramp that connected Beaver and Chateau streets (roughly near the bike trail) to California Avenue (up on the hill) in a wheelchair or bike-ramp format. I was really pleased that we got to see it. I'll need to take pictures of it soon, it was getting dark today but it's going to be an excellent bit of infrastructure.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

It's been a while. I have needs.

1/29/2014 #216 0m

It's been a while.
I have needs.

I know that anything beyond 72 hours in a weather forecast is unreliable. It's like asking a four-year-old, What do you want to be when you grow up? It's entertaining, could be scary, could be inspiring - but in the end, it's all imagination and dreams.

But please; it would be really nice to get a few days of non-epic riding in.

My compliments and great respect to those that have been out there in the Polar Vortices.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Goldilocks Gear: Boots

1/20/2014 19m 28F #214
Started at the Bastille, and began on the roads in apprehension of Slippy Trails™.

This winter has been a year of increasingly coming to terms with colder and colder weather. My equipment has been getting closer and closer to "Just Right". Fortunately, we've had enough very cold days that I can experiment from one day to the next with some consistency of conditions.

I've got the gloves things down.

Above 50F
Pearl Izumi Cyclone Gloves

Descente Wombat Gloves
30F and below
Marmot Goretex Randonee Gloves

Today's ride was very comfortable, at least until we turned into the wind and there's not much clothing can do about that. Crossed the Ft. Duquesne Bride and rode out Blvd of the Allies and Forbes, through Uptown and across the Birmingham Bridge, which is always a pretty chilled out transition. We rode out to SouthSide Works. Went out on the Baldwin Borough Trail hoping to get as far as Sandcastle, but it became quite slippery and we reversed after a few near-spills.

Took the Hot Metal Bridge and the Jail Trail back to the North Side. It was great to be able to say: it's 30F and I'm very comfortable out here. The surface on the Chateau Trail wasn't too bad.

Now to the shoes. Stopped at Settler's Ridge REI and picked up two pairs of shoes that are both waterproof and insulated with 200 grams of mumble-magic-warm-mumble-dry. Hopefully, with these in the duffel bag I won't be relying on the chemical warmer packs - which are good, but they're an inelegant kludge.

The Keen Anchorage boots look like they'll pass very easily at work.

The Merrill Iceclaw boots look very outdoorsy and lumberjackish.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Building Character with Quantum Tailwinds

1.16.2014 24m #214 25F
Somehow I was surprised that it was cold today. Started in 23F at the Bastille, riding south-east along the Ohio into a headwind. Stopped to take this picture of my fave koi pond, even taking my gloves off to take the picture because there seems to be a rule nothing works with gloves on.

I really liked this picture because some of the moss was just starting to freeze over, and some of it still looked quite warm and wet, and the fish were all congregated under the waterfall.

Continued across the Ft. Duquesne and Ft. Pitt Bridges and road south-east along the Mon River, still into a headwind toward Thick Bikes, looking for a new rear-view mirror. Happily, Thick Bikes had the mirror I wanted. Took a tour of their basement oogling fat bikes.

Came out of Thick and went a block down the street to Fresh From the Farm Juices, a nice place with very nice people at 1330 Bingham We each got some Restless Red to have there and some Limey Green to take home. It was very good, I'm going to go back for lunch sometime.

Worked across the SouthSide to get back on the trail, and rode the trail past Keystone Metals and Sandcastle to Costco to do some shopping. You can make a decent snack-stop out of the samples: I ate a date, a slice of kielbasa, some sort of spinach-and-cheese thing. Still no bike racks at Costco, after they'd been taken away to make a space to Christmas tree sales.

The whole ride down to Costco, we travelled into a headwind. Then we went into Costco, and came out of Costco. When we came back outside, the flag on top of the adjacent Whemco plant had completely reversed and now showed a headwind for our ride back to the cars.

This happens all the time, too often to be a random event. Then I realized: it's like than quantum effect where you face a choice, Yes or No, and what happens is you really take both choices - and you split into two new quantum universes, Universe-Yes and Universe-No.

I think what happens is, everytime I go inside and eat something a decision is made - Headwind or Tailwind for the next segment? And both of them happen. It just so happens that the string that I'm on always gets the Headwind.

Anyway, after facing a headwind on the outbound leg, we faced a headwind on the inbound leg. Took Hot Metal Bridge and the Jail Trail. The sun was out, and lots of blue sky, and I think it warmed up to 30F. From the Jail Trail you can see the wind sock up at Mercy Hospital and it was showing a strong north-west wind. Bastards.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Ides of January

1.15.2014 #214 23 32F
Halfway through January; only ten weeks until the end of March. This winter is almost over.

Started at the Bastille at 1200 with S. Upon examining my bike before the ride, I noticed that I'd lost my rear-view mirror. I didn't realize how much I've come to use it, but I kept looking for it all through the ride.

Crossed the 31st Street Bridge, rode out to Lawrenceville and climbed up through the Allegheny Cemetery. Took Friendship out to East Liberty, then Baum and Shady (which I've never been on before, very nice ride) to Forbes. Stopped in Squirrel Hill at a bike shop but they didn't have the mirror.

Stopped at 61C for a snack. Hot chocolate and latte, cranberry scone and spinach-feta scone, double-yoy.

Departed and rode through Schenley Park. Was passed by a well-qualified pair of cyclists on a recumbent tandem, Mary Shaw and Roy Weil. That was a real treat. That's like driving through London and meeting the Queen and King.

Descended Panther Hollow. Took the Jail Trail and the Ft. Duquesne Bridge, around the Casino, back to the Bastille. 23 miles, half-way through January.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

My First Bike to Work Day 2014

1.14.2014 #215 13m
Kind of an awkward day, schedule-wise. The rain stopped around 8. I had a meeting from 11 to 12 and then again at work from 3 to 5. Not really any opportunity to get a block of time for a good ride.

So I rode to work for my 3 to 5 block, which turned into a 6.30 departure. A great ride, 13 miles round trip. I did duck across the Ohio River on the I376 bridge, but it went well. Today, both times I was passed by a gendarme without event.

So not a lot of miles, but I got to ride which was excellent.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Two Bike Shops and a Fat Bike

1.13.2014 40F 29m #216
Started off at 32F at the Bastille at 11am with S., who's had some flats in the flat-resistant tires the last few days. Those Conti Contacts had about 6000 miles on them so they gave pretty good service.

Charted a course via the Jail Trail to REI. We got there just before the Wrench did, so we left her bike and hoofed over to Big Dog Coffee for coffee and their world-famous oatmeal with fruit toppings. Completely awesome.

Went back to REI. I picked up a U-Lock with a Christmas gift-certificate (thanks guys!) With the new tyres, S felt a lot better about the bike and we ventured out to Sandcastle and Costco. Reversed, passed behind American Eagle into Riverfront Park, approached a field of mud and decided that we didn't need to go mud-bogging today.

Retraced around the Hilton, through the SouthSide to join the trail at 18th Street. Off the trail again at 9th, which we're doing more frequently and onto the Smithfield St. bridge. Took Grant St. across town, and Smallman Street out to Lawrenceville. At 35th and Charlotte, observed this new mural (the center one):

Saw this at Franktuary, custom bike racks (very nice!)

Went to Iron City Bikes to pick up a light. Started drooling over this Origin8 fat bike, which is a Crawler, which comes with the NuVinci crazy continuous interplanetary flux-capacitor transmission. I'm told the name Crawler is appropriate given it's average speed. Looks like a lot of fun in deep snow. They also had some very cool cargo bikes - a baksfiet, a delivery bike.

Returned via the 16th Street Bridge, and the rain started right around the bridge. Got to the cars a bit (but not too) wet, just enough to make one feel virtuous. 29 miles on a great day.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Oakmont Bakery: Basket Cases with the Gang of Five

1/12/2014 42m #216 33F
Sunday mornings see lower-than-normal traffic on busy streets, as some people sleep in and others go to church, so sometimes they're a good opportunity to ride on a busy thoroughfare. A fave Sunday morning ride is to take Allegheny River Blvd out to the Oakmont Bakery - but you do have to start early, which this time of year means starting in the dark.

Our merry Gang of Five cyclists had agreed to meet at the Millvale trailhead at 0700 (sunrise is 0745, natch) and uncharacteristically I was first in the parking lot in my minivan, listening to the Commonwealth Club on NPR. I see a small light in the distance and I'm immediately outclassed when RR arrives on her bicycle having ridden six miles from her office park. So she must have departed on her bike from the Chateau Trail at about 0600. Wow.

S, RC, and YC appeared in their four-wheelers and we all went through the dressing and futzing-with-the-bike rituals, then we were off. We crossed the 40th Street Bridge and took Butler Street east, riding toward the sunrise. It was nice to have the streets pretty much to ourselves, especially around the Highland Park Bridge transitions which are interesting.

Continued along through Verona as YC made Shakespeare puns which I was very slow to pick up on. Entered Oakmont, which would probably qualify as the Beaver of Allegheny County if Sewickley hadn't already won that honor and stopped at our destination, the Oakmont Bakery. (pictures)

Being a NuYawker, I entered and hit the TakeANumba machine for five numbers, one for each of us, and distributed them among the party. I did not realize that my friends would need time to come to terms with the emotional overload presented by the wide range of offerings, and some of them passed and got back in the sequence later.

In addition to our take-away packages we obtained coffee and pastries to enjoy in the moment. We took a table in the foyer and had a nice sit-down. The pastries and sweets are really excellent and the coffee was very good.

The Basket Case: Back on the bikes, with pies and buns and tortes in our baskets (and most definitely not in our panniers -- which YC explained, comes from the Latin for bread carrier). Baskets are the only way to carry baked goods such as pies and pastries. Fortunately, four of the five of us had equipped our bikes with baskets for the occasion.

We rode west on Allegheny Blvd. At Lawrenceville SR got a flat rear tire and expertly changed it. In fact, I was running my mouth with Yale, arguing that the speed of light was not a long-term constant and that time flowed at different rates when I saw that she had the bike upside down and the rear wheel off. This was a novel wrench session, with the womenz tending to the work and the men just yakkity-yakking. I kind of enjoyed that.

After remounting the wheel, SR announced her intention to head over to the nearby BikePgh bike workstation on 43rd Street which really impressed me; I would not have thought of it. I need to make a list of all the bike workstations in the metro area. Pumped up the tire and crossed the 40th St. Bridge, back to the cars and unloaded the pastries.

SR wasn't sanguine about the rear tire so she called it a day, and then we were Four. We rode around the Casino to take RR back to her office park, and then we were Three. She had fallen on railroad tracks and ended the day with a nasty lump on her arm and a pretty significant limp, I was impressed that she pedalled through it all.

We pedalled around to the Ft. Duquesne Bride and RC was going to return to the trailhead, and then we were Two. YC and I rode across the two bridges to the SouthSideTrail, down to Keystone Metals, just because it was so nice out. We came back via the Jail Trail, Grant Street, the 16th Street Bridge, and the North Side Trail.

42 miles with the Gang of Five, and a most excellent ride.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Ice, Ice, Fall Down Go Boom #FDGB

1/10/2014 40F 38m #216
This was a great day for a bike ride, started off around 32F and ended around 44F.

S and I began at the Bastille around 1130, unfortunately missing YC by a few minutes. We rode to Point State Park, where we noticed the tree is being disassembled, and then out the Blvd and the Jail Trail. Conditions on the Chateau Trail and Jail Trail were significantly better than what we encountered yesterday, but there was still a lot of slush and water on the trails.

The Koi Pond on the Chateau Trail was more frozen over than we've seen it. There was a hallowed-out space between the ice crust and the waterfall, it was very pretty. The photo doesn't do it justice.

We rode the Southside Trail and the Sandcastle Trail, and the Steel Valley Trail. Passing over the Whittaker Flyover Bridge, we could see that the remaining snow did a good job of outlining the possible path of the Braddock Trail Connector, so we took a photo.

Continuing south-east, we saw two frozen waterfalls, very pretty. This first one spilled over into an ice accumulation on the trail below.

We rode through Duquesne and out to the Riverton Bridge, where we reversed course. As we returned, the change in conditions was quite evident - less ice/slush, more water/pavement which was great. Approaching the SouthSide Trail, we were aware of the chronic frozen-over area south of the office park, but one of us still managed to fall on the ice. Fortunately, Bumbles Bounce™.

Stopped at BigDogCoffee for a Mocha Bianca and a chocolate chip cookie. Used the Jail Trail (where we saw Ben Y.) and First Avenue to get to Point State Park. Coming around the Fred Rogers statue on the NorthSide, saw an accumulation of ice floes and sea gulls. I don't know where the sea gulls came from, I've never seen that many around.

The final segment on the Chateau Trail was uneventful. A great ride on a relatively warm day. 38 miles.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Serendipitous Mulligatawny Soup at The Pub Chip Shop

1/9/2014 33m #216 30F
Rode with S today, starting at the Bastille. Roads were generally clear, shoulders and trails were generally snowy with some ice.

Intending to go the the Braddock Community Cafe, we rode around North Side Streets to run an errand at the Humane Society, then crossed the Jail Trail and took Blvd of the Allies*. Joined the Jail Trail and, unsure of which way to proceed, chose adventure and crossed the Hot Metal Bridge (where we saw Mikhael) and then joined the SouthSide Trail.

Conditions were not terrible. The trail was snow-covered, but it wasn't too deep and it wasn't icy.

This is the Glenwood Bridge, from a position just northwest of Keystone Metals:

The trail did become considerably more challenging near Keystone Metals, where it gets very little sunlight due to the surrounding hills. The Sandcastle Trail was better, and we stayed on the road through the Waterfront. We transitioned to the Rankin Bridge and into Braddock, and unfortunately the Braddock Cafe had a broken water pipe with the temperatures so they were temporarily shut down.

We reversed course along the same route, planning on going to Piper's Pub in SouthSide. Right next to Piper's Pub, at The Pub Chip Shop, we saw a sidewalk sign advertising Mulligatawny Soup which is something I've been seeking for quite a while. So we went in there.

Turns out, Piper's Pub is the Scottish sit-down restaurant and The Pub Chip Shop is their new takeout facility, same owners - which is very cool. I had the Chicken Mulligatawny soup, and S had a "pasty". Although some people would tell you that Scotland is not known for their cuisine, this was very good food.

Departing we encountered the Ironic Photo of the Day (IPOTD), a booted and locked car with an Unlocked logo.

The SouthSide trail wasn't a great surface, so we went back to the local streets and rode to the Smithfield Street Bridge. Crossed the Ft. Duquesne Bridge and attempted to use the Chateau Trail, but that was not conducive to forward movement so we bailed to the streets and made out way back to the vehicles. 33 miles, a great day.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

DUBlooB : Down Under Bloomfield Bridge

1/5/14 23m #216 35F
This was a great day to ride and very motivational, because the FreezeOfTheCentury arrives for Monday-Tuesday-Wednesday and today's weather was dry and mild. Hashtag-No-Brainer.

Started at the Bastille with S. Rode around the North Side a bit, came out on Federal Street. At Federal Street and East North Avenue, around the corner from the abandoned Garden Theater, I was surprised to see all the doorways that opened into very open space.

Took East Ohio Street and the 16th Street Bridge. Went to the Pittsburgh Public Market to have soup at Soup Nancys but - they're not staffed for hot soup on Sunday, it seems, only frozen. Bummer, not a tragedy.

Back on the road to DUBloob, which stands for Down Under Bloomfield Bridge. I figure, if NYC can have Dumbo, Pittsburgh can have DUBlooB.

This shows the routes under both sides of the Bloomfield Bridge (the Bloomfield side, and the Polish Hill side):

Sassafras Street, Neville Street, and then Lorigan Street is probably a transition most Pittsburghers never have occasion to traverse. First, it's cool just to be under the Bloomfield Bridge, which most people only go over. What's most interesting (for me) about being under the Bloomfield side of the bridge is the iron shop for Iron Eden, at 4001 Lorigan Street. On the flat roof of one of their shops there's a patio with a dozen or so ornate astrolabes that are just incredible. It's a favorite place of mine.

This is a view of the seamy underbelly of the Bloomfield Bridge, from the Lorigan Street/Bloomfield perspective:

Climbed out on Lorigan Street, worked our way over/around the valley using Millvale Ave and Baum Blvd, and turned back toward the Bloomfield Bridge (for the Polish Hill side) using Gold Way and Pittsburgh's newest bike boulevard.

I've been through here a few times recently, but only in the evening hours and I never noticed the Ink Spots graffiti on the Bloomfield Bridge support structure. (Note Children's Hospital in the background)

From a different perspective, the Iron Man scuplture is keeping watch on the Ink Spots.

After we departed Polish Hill, we rode into Downtown, then Grant Street to the Jail Trail. Out to the Hot Metal Bridge and back, then over to the North Side. The trail north of the Casino really wasn't rideable, so we used Preble Avenue to get back to the Bastille. 23 miles.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Soupaneur 7, Two Flats, Escapes at the Penitentiary

1/04/2014 25m 32F
Started at the Bastille at around noon. The Chateau Trail was snow-covered and had some drifts, so S and I stayed on the roads to the Stadiums and headed out along River Road to the 31st Street Bridge.

Crossed the 31st Street Bridge, and S had a flat front tire coming off the bridge. I offered to help but she said she wanted the proficiency drill of changing the tube. She did a real nice, workmanlike job and her response gear was well organized. Neither of us could find any wire or glass in the outer tire that aligned with where the tube was perforated. It's great to ride with somebody for whom a flat tire is not a problem.

Rode through Lawrenceville - with a stop at Iron City Bikes to use their floor pump to top off S's front wheel - and then climbed up though the Allegheny Cemetery, which is always a pleasant transition. Stopped in Bloomfield at Taste of India restaurant in hopes of finding Mulligatawny Soup, but they were closed.

Took Friendship out to Whole Foods. Expected the bike racks to be somewhat open due to the temps, but they were full (as always). In the checkout line I did something I've never done before, I bought a magazine in a supermarket checkout line. I couldn't help myself, there was Jon Kabat-Zinn on the cover and I felt compelled. (related)

Soupaneuring 7, I think: I had organic Minestrone which was excellent along with pomegranite juice, S had chicken noodle soup which she said was OK.

Departed eastbound on Penn. Saw two curiously costumed individuals outside of Target, decided that I was dressed funnier than they were, gave them a shout-out. At Mellon Park we turned right on Beechwood, which has an awesome bike lane. Rode Beechwood to Forbes, rode Forbes across Squirrel Hill and into Schenley Park. Descended through Schenley Park to the Schenley Quad, then descended more and more to the Junction Hollow Trail and the Swinburne St. Trailhead on the Jail Trail.

Rode the Jail Trail, Smithfield Street and First Avenue. On the North Side we stopped for some photos at the Vietnam Veteran's Memorial (the pineapple-looking thing by DelMonte). Stayed on the streets, primarly Chateau, around to the Penitentiary. At the Penitentiary S's front tire went flat again - but fortunately, we were within an easy walk of the cars, and still within daylight.

We examined the tire and found the hole and the culprit this time. Also, while fooling with the tire we noticed that the guard vehicles patrolling the prison are Ford Escapes, which is sort of a mixed message I think.

25 miles on a very nice day.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Well Begun is Half Done - Icycle Bicycle 2014

1/1/14 14m 25F 219#
The Icycle Bicycle Ride is a great way to start the New Year: with good friends and fellow travelers, celebrating by doing something easy but not too easy, and by stepping out of the norm a bit.

Parked under the Birmingham Bridge in Southside Riverside Park, and R, S and I rendezvoused at Big Dog Coffee for coffee, tea, and their world-famous Oatmeal with Fruit Toppings. If there is to be a designated First Meal of the Year, surely this is it.

We loitered over drinks and watched the SouthSiders come and go, then finally amassed our high-viz layers and headed out for the Icycle Bicycle Ride, with the faint jauntiness of astronauts approaching the gantry but not even close.

Rode around to REI and joined the trickles of inbound cyclists approaching from all directions. Joined the mass of cyclists where   I   blended   in   and thought, these are my people. Photo by Rusty Red:

Got to wish a bunch of friends Happy New Year. Got to meet SarahQ in real life for the first time, which is awesome. This year's ride just seemed better than last year's; I'm not sure why - I think the temps were lower, but possibly the road surface was better and the route was more clearly understood.

We rode north along Carson Street. It was a very copacetic ride, obeying red lights etc. In the photo below, from a SouthSide Facebook page, you may notice a bike with a very nice tail light on the far left side of the photo.

Continued past Station Square to the West End Bridge and then crossed the Ohio River. Photo by Charlie Forquer:

Rode around the stadiums and out to the 31st Street Bridge, and crossed the Allegheny River. Travelled the Strip District inbound, Grant Street, and the Jail Trail to the Hot Metal Bridge and crossed the Monongahela River. Just a great time.