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

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Montour Trail's Westland Spur to Houston Train Yard

8.31.2014 17m
August mileage: 452
Rode out to find the Westland Spur of the Montour Trail, which is a new section of the trail. (history of the Old Westland RR, Marcellus Shale Coalition perspective).

It's a very nice rail-and-trail section, very similar to the existing rail-and-trail just north of Route 50. There's a few road crossings, only one major crossing.

As you continue along you encounter the Houston Rail Yard, which was a facility of unexpected size (to me, at least). There's a whole lot of fracking fluid being moved on those tracks.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Had Me At The Kilt, Trenta Wifi, Peace Out

8.30.2014 13m
Before I can even talk about today's ride I need to express my confusion about my REI experience today. I was approached by a staffer (let's call him Bill, because his name was: Bill) wearing a Utilikilt and at first I thought: wow, what an engaging sales person but he kept asking about my needs and my preferences and my choices and all of a sudden he wasn't engaging me anymore, he was enveloping me and I'm thinking wow is Bill hitting on me here or what? I mean, he was pretty good looking and he was absolutely fabulous in that kilt.

Eventually while I was talking about my needs in a mummy-bag liner Bill interrupted me and said, would you excuse me just a minute? and he went over to another customer of a certain age and repeated the same schtick. I saw two staffers kind of watching him and then I decided: this is just show-and-tell, he's the charismatic sales relationship guru from HQ, here to show the staff how to Engage by channelling Robert Bly. He was demonstrating points of technique so that local staff could observe. I felt so used. It was a training exercise. I wonder if he'll call me.

Today's ride was based out of the South Hills. Rode out to Starbucks and back to get some broadband; Starbucks makes such good internet.

Soon, we'll be ordering Internet the Starbucks Way™: um, yes I'd like a venti wifi-N please, please, no SSL and IPv6, quirks mode.. And then the chipper synth-android staffer will say, "coming right up! and you name is?"

Just east of I79 on the Montour Trail, came upon a truly lovely memorial which honors Dorothy M Gaughan:

It sort of fails the Categorical Imperative test, which is to say: Yes it's wonderful when one person does it, but No it's terrible if everybody did it. But until we see a dozen of these every mile, I think it's tremendous.

Friday, August 29, 2014

My Missing Gear and the North Pond Hermit

8/29/2013 29m
Started in McDonald PA and rode over to Starbucks with RC.

The nearest Starbucks, near as I could tell, was via the Montour Trail to Robinson and up the hill into the mall-sprawl. The trail conditions were excellent and the hill into the shopping complex was noteworthy.

We had a nice discussion of many things, including the bits of gear that seem to pass away from existence on our various trips. A folding cup here, a chair or a water bottle there; equipment disappears into some fractional-dimensional void, necessitating a trip to REI or the web to replace them which makes me think - hey, somebody is profitting from this maybe there's something going on here.

Which brings me to the story of Chris Knight, the North Pond Hermit who lived in the New Hampshire woods from 1986 (Chernobyl) until his arrest for theft in 2014, 28 years of living in the woods by stealing food, clothing, and camping gear from local houses and camp sites.

When they finally arrested him (he's been doing about 40 robberies a year) he had new boots, new clothing, and fresh servicable equipment. Never used a cellphone, never heard of the internet, didn't know about 9-11.

Now I know where my missing gear is disappearing to. Not to New Hampshire, of course. But there can't be just one of these guys.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Ephemeral Distributed Semantic Poetry and Entropy

8.25.2014 29m
Started off at the Bastille with S quite early. Rode around to North Street and Reseca to see some new artwork described in a recent Post-Gazette story:

Walked around the building checking out the artist's windows, and noticed a sign over the back door, fancy engraved-metal but I didn't understand what that was all about. Riding around the neighborhood, working our way around to RandyLand, we noticed other homes with words written on them:

Eventually on Sampsonia Way, between the City of Asylum buildings, we found the same words in Rivers of Words, a sort of community distributed semantic poetry project.

(protip: If you're not familiar with City of Asylum or Randyland, these five blocks are a Pittsburgh snow-globe of their own.)

The words start off by themselves all around the neighborhood, then join together to make meaning in the street.

Found this on Monteray, another little free library and now I'm thinking, I'm going to have to start carrying a book on the bike and make deposits:

I was thinking about the wording of the sentences in the River of Words. A few of the sentences began, Once there was a word... and it struck me this wasn't too different from John 1:1 in the Bible, generally rendered as "In the beginning was the Word" so I went back to check out the phrasing.

Upon our return we found a City work crew with a power washer getting ready to remove the painted message from the street, because it was supposed to be an ephemeral artwork and it's lasting too long. It seems a terrible shame to wash it away, on a street that's not particularly well maintained. It shows so much community effort, and such thought. Perhaps washing it away is a demonstration of the meaning-entropy lifecycle. Arggh.

Found this at 221 Alpine Ave, eleven years old by George Gist and looking great:

Rode across the 16th Street Bridge. Rode inbound on Penn to check the work on the new ABRs (artsy bike racks). Saw a really fancy taxi-limo across from the Convention Center, sporting VetsTaxi livery and stopped to check it out; a Tesla-S model. The driver gave us a briefing on the car, very nice gentleman. Teslas for limos, moving-on-up.

Rode out to Costco in Homestead, and back to the NorthSide and the Bastille just as the day was warming up to something near normal for August. Very nice ride A good ride, literally.

Also, this is possibly the most unlikely blog post title for a bike blog evah.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Pedal Pgh and Romper Room Redux

8.24.2014 61m #225
Today was PedalPgh and I rode with my wife K. The weather was ideal. This was the best organized, administered, mapped, marked, supported, and best-executed PedalPgh I've ever been to, head and shoulders above the rest. Just a whole 'nother level.

When I was a kid there was a TV show named Romper Room, and at the end of the show the host would look through this Magic Mirror geegaw and she'd say, "I see Mary and I see Becky and I see Billy and I see Robin" and on and on,

and like a schmuck I'd sit there, entranced, hoping that someday she'd see me! Today's ride kind of felt like Romper Room because I got to see so many people.

I got to see Janie, who I don't see enough. I got to see Monica of Black Girls Do Bike for the first time, which was just awesome. I saw the guy who rides around with the Parrot on his handlebars, who I haven't seen for like two years.

I saw Yale, who really doesn't mind telling open-ended narratives while climbing and who has 8500 miles so far this year. I saw Colleen riding HiViz Fizz. Saw SaraQ's son and then later saw Herself.

Got to see RandyLand and what looks like the update of the NorthSide map. I love RandyLand. In Bloomfield, I got to see Bumper Bike for the first time. Saw Paul-H, Paul-B, and Jon-W on the course, and Mikhael who was volunteering.

Coming out of Highland Park we stopped at Tazza D'Oro for caffeine and scones, which was possibly more effective than Gatorade. The snacks at the rest stops were excellent, including this chocolate-peanutbutter concoction they had on hand.

Minor, minor points: On the north side, the signage entering River Ave was ambiguous. On the SouthSide, the sign at Mallorca told the 62mile riders to go out EastCarson but the road markings told the 62 milers to go inland (which was the correct route). It was possibly, with hindsight, suboptimal to route through the street with the Italian Festival in Bloomfield.

I managed to demonstrate both bad bike-handling skills and terrible behavior by hitting a car and then giving the driver a hard time about it. I feel bad about that and I've apologized to the driver, who was very gracious and above-board. I would like to stop relearning: angry doesn't really improve anything.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Comcast Lemonade

Sat 8.23 9m
Today was a day where I needed to take a website offline, download a fairly large database, make changes to it, and then upload it and put the website back online.

Problem: Comcast at the Domicile thinks it should take about 1hour 10 minutes to download a file of 185-megs. Ugh. My experience tells me that any file that takes too-long to download will also have too many errors in it.

Fortunately, within my approach to problem solving there is this pattern: Ask yourself, how would a bike ride solve this situation? Which is like the 2.0 version of, When Life Gives You Lemons, Make Lemonade.

So I took my laptop and rode over to Starbucks. Signed into their wifi, started the download, and then got a Trenta Iced Coffee, no flavors nothing but ice and coffee, sat back down and the file was mine in about six minutes, bwa-ha-haha.

Made my changes, uploaded it, tested it, put the site back online. Savored the coffee, checked the print edition of the NYTimes, got back on the bike.

It's amazing how many problems can be solved with a bike ride.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Bike Lane Review, Labyrinth Find, Almost Ride Shared

8.22.2014 36m #225
Started off with a tour of the city's new cycle paths: Saline Street, Schenley Park, Pocusset. Popped up to Hobart, rode over to see this newish mural in Squirrel Hill, Murray at Beacon:

Rode out on Forbes, meandered north-east, and came across this Labyrinth at 328 East End Avenue, near Franklin Avenue:

In Swissvale there was this cool Free Mini-Library, and when inside we found that somebody was passing along some free zucchini:

In Wilkinsburgh, at Franklin and Wood Streeets, is what I think is the best mural-rich environment in the Pittsburgh region:

Rode through Rankin, across the Mon River Bridge, and into Homestead. Rode north and crossed the Hot Metal Bridge. Exited the Jail Trail at Grant Street, and a motorist tried to "rideshare my four-space" but we ended up separated by the tiniest of margins.

The driver honked and rolled down the window and I thought, great let's follow up the near-death experience with a pissing contest and boy was I ever projecting, the driver just wanted to explain that he'd been cutoff by another driver and he was very sorry about coming so close. He was apologetic, agitated, and upset (not at me, though). I think very highly of him for rolling down that window and speaking with me, and I told him so.

Rode out Grant, then inbound on Penn looking for the new ABR's (artisinal bike racks) coming into the Cultural District. Met one of the crews installing them and said hello.

Crossed the 9th St Bridge, back to the Bastille. 36 miles, very excellent ride.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

White Privilege Cyclist Blues

8.21.2014 31m
Rode 32 miles from the Rez with K. Went to the Sewickley Bridge, crossed over, headed north on Beaver Street, and that's when my ugly interaction with Power and Authority went down.

I was just riding along, taking the lane (don't all these stories start the same?) which is my right because it's not safe in the door zone and I sure wasn't going to share the lane with that pickup truck coming up behind me, there just wasn't room.

An uniformed old white lady starts in with me, calling "Hey pull over to the side, there's cars behind you!". I tried to figure out what was up, then I realized: Parking Meter Matron. Ughhh. Another instrument of control.

So you see, the Man is Trying to Keep Me Down, too. I thought about stopping and taking a #Selfie with her, but I figured maybe the best thing to do was to get Sewickley in my rear view mirror before she got all Homeland Security on me and the Sewickley SWAT team rolled. I bet they've got Range Rovers, because: Sewickley.

Didn't stop pedalling until I got to Ambridge and pulled into the Blue Canary for an iced coffee to center myself. Great coffee there. Weather radar showed rain coming in, so short-cutted the route and took the Ambridge Bridge back home. K beat me up all the hills.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Summer in the City

Mon 8/18 15m
Tues 8/19 35m
Monday I had two rides with not much to report; I rode my bike to work, which is so cool in itself. Rode directly there in the morning, which is a six-mile route and took a longer route home which was nine miles.

A great thing about riding is that when I ride to work, I'm all focused when I get there. When I ride home from work, I've left every part of the work day behind way before i get home.

Tuesday I agreed to meet R and S at 0630 which would have worked great except I woke up at 0630. Drove into town, met them at Big Dog. Saw a fellow with a t-shirt from StudioAM which was a name I'd seen from the art hanging on the walls at BigDog so I asked and I got to say hello to the artist Baron Batch, which was very cool. Come to find out, he's also played for the Steelers which is kind of cool especially in Pittsburgh. A multi-talented guy. He's opened his studio in the space that used to be Smoke in Homestead. I loved Smoke, I'm glad something awesome is happening in the same place. (twitter: @Studio_AM_PGH, @Baron_Batch)

Rode into downtown to make an errand. Rode up to the Hill to check out the August Wilson mural project, then across the Birmingham Bridge and out to the PumpHouse. Back in to town, stopped to help a few cyclists who were out putting up signs for the upcoming Pedal Pittsburgh but they had a mechanical. While opening my toolkit to get a wrench, discovered the two missing multi-tools that I just purchased replacements for at REI. Argghhhh. Anyway, we got them all set and got back enroute.

Met a group of four cyclists who'd ridden from Deal to Pittsburgh. One of them had a really cool drybag on the back rack, turns out it's a kayaker's drybag from Eagle Bay. Really a nice piece of gear and it was nice to talk with them.

Stopped at Thick, because: Thick. Checked out Gabriella's Gourmet at 301 East Carson for lunch. I had a Cohen breakfast sandwich, eggs and cheese and corned beef on a bagel - very good, generous and hefty. French fries inside the sandwich because: Pittsburgh.

Rode over to the North Side, back to Point State Park where I hung out for a bit. Back to Riverfront Park. 35 miles on a very nice day.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Junior Graham Marathon

8/17/2014 26m #227
Of all the things most unlikely for me to be doing on a Sunday afternoon, driving to Billy Graham's son's tent revival at the Consol Energy Center would be like one of the top things on the list - NTTAWWT, I just don't roll that way - but I was chauffeuring my M-I-L for whom these are important things and she doesn't like to drive downtown. Maybe that makes this ride a chauffeneur?

K and I parked on the site of the Igloo, which was parked on the site of the Lower Hill, and had several hours to kill. We took our bikes out of the back of the van and rode to the Jail Trail, across the Hot Metal Bridge, and stopped at REI. I stopped and bought two Multi-Tools because I seem to be unable to keep them in my possession, and cannot locate any of the four that I believe I own.

Equipped (redundantly) for calamity, we continued out to the Pump House. Stopped, reversed, and went to Mitchell's Seafood to eat; they are so kind to leave cool water out on the bike trail, I've just got to support the business every now and then. Good food.

Departed and took the Hot Metal Bridge again. I was very pleased to come upon Roy Weil and Mary Shaw, the grandparents of the trail movement in the Pittsburgh region (and authors of Pgh-DC bike trip planning book). They were the subjects of a hit-and-run only a week earlier in Kittaning. Mary wrote,
On Saturday Aug 9 about 2 pm Roy and I were in Kittanning biking south on the Armstrong Trail in the cycle track beside Grant St. At Market St, we had a green light and started into the intersection. A car headed toward the river on Market St was not signalling a right turn but made a right hand turn into us, hit and dragged the bike (disabling the bike), and drove away without stopping. Fortunately we were not seriously hurt.
Please help us locate the driver. The license number I wrote down was Pennsylvania DTP 2784. The police say this comes up as a registration at the other end of the state, so it’s probably off by a letter, or maybe two characters are interchanged. The car was a station wagon or SUV; I thought it was grayish, the witnesses say it was greenish. Witnesses say a woman was driving.
If you know a car like this with a similar license number that was in Kittanning on Saturday afternoon, please ask the driver to contact the Kittanning police about their report on the Saturday afternoon bicycle accident and to contact us about repairs to the bike.
Thanks for any information you can provide.

It was so excellent to see them out and about on the bike (which does show some damage). It made me very happy to see them. We rode north on the Jail Trail to Grant Street, then took Blvd of the Allies to Point State Park and sat by the fountain for a while.

Departed via the Ft Pitt Bridge and Station Square, rode the South Side Trail and went over to Big Dog Coffee, best. coffeeshop. ever.. Left after consuming some biscotti and rode through SouthSide, took the Birmingham Bridge into the taint betwixt Uptown and Oakland, and rode Fifth into the Consol Energy Temple.

Put our bikes back in the van, found the M-I-L and we were shortly back on our way into exurbia. Distance was 26 miles plus a little bit, so we (roughly) rode a marathon. Really a very nice day for August.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Western Reserve Greenway Trail

8.16.2014 48m
Rode with my neighbor Jack on the Western Reserve Greenway trail, north out of Warren Ohio.

Started early (0730) at a trailhead which is at: N41.308511, W-80.833073 and it was a bit cool; in fact, my toes were cold in my sandals. This is a great trail that follows the path of a former intracity rail line, it's paved, flat and straight. About every mile or so there's an at-grade road crossing, and there's not a lot of traffic out there.

I had not communicated too well with Jack. I thought we were going to ride the 45 miles to Ashtabula and then reverse, but I guess I had not been explicit. When we stopped about 24 miles into the outbound leg at a scenic overlook and I said "this might be a good place to take a break", he was surprised and said "don't you mean turn around?". So, good news, we ended up with more time in the afternoon than we expected.

Not a lot of people on the trail. Saw a few Amish folks on push bikes, and saw one horse-drawn Amish buggy on the cross-road. This was kind of a go-fast, blow out the carbon ride and that was great. 48 miles.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Murals and Street Art

8/14 19m

My riding has been off and my blogging has been off even more. My riding is off because I've been working a lot, which is just a silly thing for a retiree geezer to cop to. Not riding a lot is really ungood for me in so many dimensions. And then, I've had a computer failure which I'd like to say is tragic but when a 9-year-old XP laptop gives up the ghost it's not a grievable issue; it had a good life. Primarily, the absence of the machine kept me from uploading and blogging the few rides I was making.

This ride started off on a cool, crisp, clear day in August which is just wow, I am in San Diego or what. Rode with SR, and coming across the Ft. Duquesne Bridge we saw the FOAN (flag of another nation) flying over Point State Park which left me concerned that perhaps we had surrendered overnight or maybe the damned Queen had sent her minions to retake Fort Pitt.

Inquiries at the Fort about the non-standard ensign were met with inconclusive responses, except for the tidbit that this was a 1776-era British flag. I wish they'd tweet the nature and rationale of the non-standard flags, that would be cool.

Rode up to the Hill District, to see the MLK mural that just got started focusing on August Wilson. Two young artists were painting some of the lower work.

Rode up into Oakland to see the Mad Mex mural, which I had not seen before.

Spotted a bit of street-tile art, ala the Toynbee Tiles. You'll see it here, in the street, by the motorcyclist with the excellent hi-viz helmet:

And this is a closeup:

Rode across Oakland, down Panther Hollow, across Four Mile Run and out to Saline Street to view the band new Bike Lane. Until two weeks ago, commuters were parking here and walking a few blocks to get onto UPMC shuttle buses to their job site; now parking is verboten and it's a bike lane. Almost seems a bit salt-in-the-wound to be parking a bike where they were recently parking cars:

Rode over to Thick Bikes, so SR could get a mirror to replace a broken unit. Happened to see this tremendous bike, a custom-painted Surly LHT Disc Trucker named Hi-Viz Fizz after a Yehuda Moon character. I'm very impressed at it. Custom paint job by DanB and I've got a bit of WantSomeOfThat going on.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

I won a Bedford Single Speed from the Brooklyn Bicycle Company

8/8/2014 #222 10m
Went to the BikeFest kickoff event which promised a Bike Beauty Pageant, which I thought might be fun to see. Little did I suspect...

Arriving, they organizers said 'put that bike over here' so I did and that was pretty simple. Hung around checking out all of the bikes, there was some really awesome equipment there. Old bikes, fat bikes, touring bikes, Frankenstein bikes - the kinds of bikes people really use.

The award categories were Best Vintage Bike, Best Lit Up Bike, Best Shiny Bike, Best Mutant Bike, Best Yinzer Bike, Best Commuter Bike, Best Antelope, Best Ugly Bike, Best in Show.

As Anya Vasilis Dobratz explained when making the presentation (she was excellent) the Best Antelope category is about being a noble creature: having tremendous antlers, multiple hand positions, great capabilities, and being a go anywhere, do anything bike. Remarkably, my Surly LHT won "Best Antelope" which amused me to no end. The trophy (suitable for wall mounting, designed and fabricated by Chris Beech of Thick Bikes wow) looks like this:

But wait, there's more. Turns out one of the category winners gets chosen for BestInShow, and my LHT won that prize too. So there's a second trophy, and it looks like this:

And yet, there's even more!So I'm standing outside the crowd, gobsmacked with two trophies (which is not a standard experience for me) and Chris Beech says hey you forgot your bike and I said, No I've got my bike right here. And Chris says No, Best In Show includes winning a bike and he rolls over a really sharp single speed from Brooklyn Bikes. And I'm from Brooklyn, so Double-Yoi and a shout-out from Avenue D.

This is a Bedford single-speed model and it's a really nice bike. They're a boutique Brooklyn shop so they have a Buy-and-ride program - buy the bike online, pick it up at your Local Bike Shop. That's pretty cool.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Bring Your Dog To Work Day; Navigation and Industry

8.5.14 225# 32m
The first ride segment of the day started early at the Bastille with S. We rode over to Brighton Place to see a mural being added to two already in place (top-right and top-left). The white paint and orange swirls on the base layer are a mark that it's an Moving Lives of Kids project.

As is usual on MLK projects, younger kids to the lower-level work and people who are 18 years old get to work from the high-lift machine on the higher portions of the mural. We rode over to Station Square in search of statuary called "Industry" and found it outside a parking garage. Industry is on the right, holding an industrial mold. Navigation is on the left, and once held a rudder (now missing) in her hand. (There's also another statue of Industry outside the Gandy Dancer).

A description of these statues can be found on Page36 of the Pittsburgh Walking Art Tour PDF. They were created in 1889 by Eugiono PEdon to adorn the fedeal Post Office in downtown Pittsburgh, and were part of a series commemorating Navigation, Industry, and Enlightenment. Other statues from the Post Office are located at the North Side Children's Museum.

Rode up to the Hill District because: Hill. Saw that the front surface of August Wilson's birthplace is being rehabilitated. Fun descent down to 7th Street.

Rode out to Lawrenceville. Saw this on the House-slant-canvas at 35th and Charlotte:

Saw this on Butler at Doughboy Square (which is a triangle) by Kaffeine:

And the last bit of kitsch was on the NorthShore, where I thought I saw a food truck and it turned out to be a Dog Food Truck, because the adjacent office building was having Bring Your Dog To Work Day. (most excellent).

Second leg of the day was after dropping a Volvo off at a garage, rode to work. Scott-O recommended an alternative route and it was a great ride, much more empty twisty two-lane than busy artery. I did enounter a major deluge enroute, and I am pleased to report that rain is still. not. fatal.

Finally, about 7pm rode home. Completely uneventful. I love my bike lights and I'm glad I could afford really great ones. Excellent riding today.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Triathlon HOV Lane Safety Sweep

8.2.2014 10m #221
Every year, a bunch of intrepid folks go run and swim and bike in the Pittsburgh Triathlon. This happens to involve the I279 HOV Lanes on the Parkway North.

These lanes are closed from Friday evening through Sunday mid-day. Holy Deutschtown Cyclovia, Batman!

But remember, safety isn't free. Somebody has to go out and inspect the course. Think of the potential for disaster: namely, a tri-cyclist falling off their bike somewhere other than the transition zone.

Took a very nice ride from Chateau, up to Perry Highway, joined the HOV Lane, then enjoyed the graceful descent to the NorthShore. It's kind of fun.

Anything in the name of safety.