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

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Reunited with Precious after Thick Bikes major overhaul (very happy)

Thursday Oct30 11m
Today I was reunited with my bicycle, my LHT, my Precious, after a semi-major overhaul at Thick Bikes and I am so happy with the job they did. The bike actually rides better than when I first got it.

New cassette (went from a 34-tooth granny to a 36-tooth!), new jockey pulleys on the long-throw rear derailleur, a new Whipperman chain, and three new chain rings.

The bike also got a new headset, a few new cables, new cross brake levers. One of the aesthetics that I asked them to look at was that my two racks were never quite straight; the rear platforms were never quite level, and it left the bike with a not-quite-square look. They hit a major success on my behalf and I am so happy with it.

One of the issues complicating the rear rack was the conflict between the normal mounting positions and the Travel-Agent for the rear brake. The folks at Thick built me a custom bracket to connect the rack to the brake hanger hole. This is so sweet.

Also, I wanted to move a headlight down onto my front rack's forward bolt-hole, and they fabricated a bracket and used a Paul's Mount to make it work. I am so impressed.

Thick paid attention to a lot of little things. My rear hub was always quite noisy when it free-wheeled, and now it's quiet. All my racks and handlebars present with right angles now; my parallelograms are parallel. It looks very square-rigged and I so appreciate that. It handles real nice and the new drivetrain is fantastic.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Verklempt Abandoned Signal House Road Bike Blues, Juggalo Version

10.28.2014 14m
mental health bike rideThis was a day when I really needed to be on my bike - even though I didn't get a very long ride in.

Last Saturday when I was on the Baldwin Borough Trail , from what I could see there were a few guys possibly having a tagging party on the abandoned railroad signal house along the trail, quasi-abeam the American Water Works location, just southeast of Banksville Road and the world famous soft-serve ice cream shop.


Today the access fence was open and there wasn't anybody around, so I decided to take a look at the track-side of a building I've passed a hundred times, but only from the trail-side.

i must admit, I added the clown

I must admit: I added the clown.

I was riding my road bike today, which is not my main squeeze. My LHT is in the shop, getting some (much-needed) expert TLC. I did stop in and visit in; some wonderful stuff had been accomplished on the rear end, and tomorrow's plan is the forward end. I also managed to bike-photobomb a Channel-11 newscast in progress, as I rode my bike down the trail while they were filming in the adjacent trailhead.

It looked like increasing darkness and clouds, so I kept it a pretty short ride - my road bike is sort of a day/dry bike, no fenders etc, so I went back to the start, but only after seeing some Juggalo's enroute to an event at the Rex. Teh interweb said the performers are TwizTid, which perhaps is an Insane Clown Posse cover band.

14 miles.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Birmingham Bridge Bike Lane FTW, Holy Homophones, Steel City Time Machine

10.27.2014 18m
Started today under the Birmingham Bridge, which is undergoing a rehab project. The construction equipment is working on the edge of the bridge deck, which is where the bike lane is.

I'm so impressed that instead of just closing the bike lane, they took one car lane and partitioned it as the temporary bike lane. This is a new thing for Pittsburgh.

In Uptown, stopped to check out Sir Samelot at Seneca and Tustin Streets:

On Fifth Avenue, saw this Kyle Holbrook mural which I don't recall seeing before. There's an Autism theme in the images.

Finally got to take an image of the bike box on Penn Ave (inbound) at 16th Street:

Holy Homophones!I was surprised to find myself at 6th Avenue, so I took a picture of it and then later took a picture of Sixth Avenue. This does not seem smart. Don't want to be calling 911 from either of these streets.

Rode out to the 40th Street bridge and back, then the Jail Trail to Hot Metal Bridge. Saw this Steel City Time Machine in SouthSide Works.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Coffeeneur 2014-6 Big Dog Coffee

10.26.2014 31m 233#
Started riding from the Bastille w/K at 1pm, prior to a 4.30pm home Steelers game. Saw the beginnings of tailgating as we rode south.

Jail Trail, Hot Metal Bridge, Big Dog Coffee for Coffeeneur 2014 Number 6. Details: mocha bianca, chai tea latte, lemon-poppy seed muffin, toasted croissant. 31 miles total.

It was a beautiful day. We rode out through the Waterfront to the Phantom's Revenge on the Steel Valley Trail. Reversed.

Saw a lot of black-and-gold out on the trails today. Hoping to avoid riding around the football stadium in the last hour before gametime, rode West Carson St to the West End Bridge and used the upstream (southern) walkway and made the required portage. It surprises me that the bridge sidewalk isn't ADA-compatible; this could really use some switchback ramps down to ground level.

Through a parking lot of TailGaters, no problems. 31 miles.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Any Day You Can See the Ocean is a Good Day

12.23.2014 20m
Rode on LungAyeLan today. My first mission was to pick up a nephew from school, so I strapped his bike onto the back of mine and rode over.

Definitely got a few squinty-looks from the HelicopterMoms in their vans and SUVs (which is, I think, a vehicular mixed metaphor). Then I rode back with the 4th grader.

Got out again and rode from Wantagh down to Jones Beach, which is one of the prettiest beaches in the world until they let New Yorkers into it. Pretty much had the route to myself.

Any day you can see the ocean is a good day. Got a phone call while I was near the Jones Beach ampitheater and ended up spending about :45 watching the sunset and nightfall, then when my conversation was done I had a major dark ride back north, which was very nice. 20 miles.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Crossing Guard Appreciation Day

10.22.2014 1/3m
I had major plans for today, starting with Crossing Guard Appreciation Day for the morning rush, an event at the City-County Building at noon, and the afternoon Crossing Guard Thank-You Tour.

But I was called out of town on Tuesday and thought I'd lost my opportunity for Crossing Guard Day. I picked up my nephew at school in Wantagh NY, and - shazam - crossing guard! So I got to thank two crossing guards, and I'll have to make it up in Pittsburgh another time.

I got to ride with my nephew, got to reinforce the bike to school theme, and got to meet two NewYork crossing guards.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Rough Diamond Trail and Braddock GAP Connection

10.19.2014 28m
In the beginning, the plan seemed dubious - parking on the North Side by Western Penitentiary (aka the Bastille) and riding out to Homestead (and returning) on a Monday evening in the same hours as a Steelers home game. But it worked out really well.

Started at the Bastille, rode through the South Side. Stopped at REI because I'd been given an REI gift certificate of unknown value and I wanted to ask them to scan it. I have often thought it would be a great prank to give somebody a giftcard without any money in it, because: awkward and maybe they don't say anything about it, and that would be fun to watch. But I wasn't being played (which would have been hilarious, hoisted on my own skewed petard) and it was actually a very generous gift so: wow.

Rode to the Waterfront, took the Homestead Grays Bridge into town, and rode to my mission d'jour: the monthly meeting of the Steel Valley Trail board. One of the topics was close to my heart, extending trail access into Braddock and I would love that so much.

Visitors from Westmoreland County and the Murrysville Trail Alliance came to talk about the Rough Diamond Trail which is a fascinating vision and a tremendous opportunity. Roughly, it's a quasi-diamond shaped trail network around Pittsburgh. You wouldn't have to ride to DC, you could just ride a big circuit around the metro area.

The Rough Diamond Trail Project from Ryan Bair on Vimeo.

That was really interesting, and there were a few other points mentioned that I haven't heard of before. I love a meeting of a dozen-plus people and 5 arrived on bikes. There was a stack of new Trail Books, Tenth Edition, and I found a picture of this guy making his debut as a male model (page 232)

Departed with YC for a dark-ride back to the Hot Metal Bridge. Encountered Mikhael rocking a pretty new red folding bike, getting some miles in after work. They rode with me up to the Bastille. Coming around the football stadium, you could hear the people chanting some two-syllable shibboleth. For a while I couldn't discern it, then I thought: it can't be SiegHeil can it, then I realized it was DeFense, DeFense. But it wasn't very dissimilar.

No problem at all riding around the stadium during the game. 28 miles, great ride.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Coffeeneur 2014-5 at the Emlenton Mill, Creamery, & Hostel

10.19.2014 30m
Started in Franklin, PA at 0900 with a group of 12 cyclists in clear, dry skies and about 40F. The transition out of town and onto the Allegheny River Trail was completely uneventful; everybody (in cars) was very cooperative.

The route out of Franklin was much less hurried outbound than yesterday's last segment inbound was for K and I, since we weren't rushing to find a 'loo. It's a remarkably beautiful trail. I've been here once, a few years ago, and there must have been a lot of leaves on the trees then because I just don't remember the tremendous views of the river that I saw this year.

These trail markers for the Erie to Pittsburgh Trail seem like sort of a throwdown, kind of taking the ground. The route for this trail really doesn't hit Pittsburgh and doesn't hit Erie, but it's a magnificent trail that when completed could be every b

From near the northern portal of the Kennerdell tunnel:

Saw this at the southern portal of the Kennerdell tunnel:

As we approached the destination we rode across Emlenton to the Emlenton Mill and Creamery, so as to make this a coffeeneuring event. K, RC and I had coffee in the basement of the old grist mill and we got a fascinating briefing on the machines.

The clothing was on display because it was all sewn from the fabric used in flour sacks. We walked around the Mill and it's really an impressive building, very reminscent of the Rockwood Opera House in scope. They have a hostel suitable for bikers!

Coming back into town, we saw that the bike shop also has Segways, which is pretty audacious. On today's ride through town I saw signs of economic development like you see along the GAP-C&O. Very impressive.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

coffeeneur 2014-4 Franklin, PA Tim Horton's via Allegheny River Trail

Sat 10/18 32m

Started in a group of 16 cyclists in Emlenton, PA, riding on the Allegheny River Trail from Emlenton to Franklin PA.

We parked in the Post Office after checking in, since we were on a Saturday overnight trip. It was very nice of them to accommodate us, and I think we jammed up their parking lot a little.

Weather wasn't terrible, just uncooperative; 55F, raining at times, and a headwind for the last 12 miles. There was an accumulation of leaves on the surface, and the trail edge has a 2" dropoff to the adjacent turf; there were a few falls until everybody learned to stay in the center of the likely trail position.

At MP12, at the south end of the Kennerdell Tunnel, the ladies realized that there was No Civilized Indoor Plumbing until the destination at Mp28 and that put a bit of urgency into their giddyups. We passed through a lot of beautiful country but didn't stop for picture-taking too often.

The second half of the ride was a Sprint for Relief, we made great time. After we found a PortaPotty we turned to Other Priorities namely Coffee. Unfortunately, Franklin's coffee shop closes at "two-ish" on off-season Saturdays, and we arrived at 3pm. The hotel staff recommended we try Tim Horton's for Coffeeneur 2014-04, and that worked really well. Coffeeneur 2014-4 was Tim Horton's in Franklin, PA with K, RC, and Alice. Very good coffee and doughnuts. No poutine, faux-alas.

As the final segments of the party were arriving, some were very tired and sought rest immediately.

We met in the lobby for dinner and since it was still raining, opted for the hotel restaurant (which I try to avoid). This one did a very good job, dinner was excellent. 32 miles.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Pittsburgh's Hostel Environment: South Side Traveller's Rest (2015)

10.17.2014 24m
Started at the Bastille, rode to the SouthSide. Stoppped at Thick Bikes to consult on a new drivetrain.

My current granny gear is 20tooth in the front and 34 tooth in the back. If the plan persists, I'll end up with 20t/36t which should give me 115 gear-inches instead of my current 16 g-i granny.

I'm also going to get new derailleur pulleys, a Whipperman chain, three new chainrings and a new cassette. Possibly a new set of bearings for the headset. I really appreciate the way the gurus all pitched in with options and ended up at a best-result final outfit.

Rode back up to 600 Bingham to find the location of the under-construction South Side Traveler's Rest

The SSTR is being developed by the same bike-folks that run Green Gears Pedicabs.

This will be excellent when it opens. There's really no lodging near the trail system for itinerant cyclists that isn't very pricey, and a hostel is just what's needed. When cyclists do come into Pittsburgh, unless they've got a fat bankroll they're in town for one day and they're gone. A hostel will let more people stay for a few days.

Between SSRT (Southside Traveler's Rest) in Pittsburgh, the Hostel on Main in Rockwood, and the 9 Decatur hostel in Cumberland MD, and the Adirondack shelters along the GAP in Connellsville and Cedar Creek Park, there's a lot of new options.

Stopped at PitaPit for something to eat. Rode over to the Schenley Quad for the Flock Ride, which included Kristen Saunders, Pittsburgh's new Bike/Ped Coordinator - that's pretty cool to have a city official out on a Flock Ride (on their Surly, no less!)

I was the happy recipient of a gift from John Marko, one of his prototype U-Lock holders, which I hope becomes a KickStarter product soon. Some people wore Holloween costumes, and I had a few people ask me if I was "riding as Builder Bob" but I had to explain: this is just the way I roll.

This photo is by Joyce Wasser, of the Flock Ride circling in Market Square:

It's much easier to circle the Square than it is to Square the Circle.

This was a great ride in the dark, I really like the way the lane lights up with 50-plus rear blinkies doing their best.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Rights and Road Equity: Cherokee Schill

10.15.2014 13m
I had an excellent ride to work today. It took me 7 miles to get there (and make a stop), and 6 miles to get home. At times I'm on a 4-lane road, speed limit 55. For a brief few minutes I'm on (what was once) a state road, now designated as an Interstate Highway, because that's the way across the river.

Some places there's a usable shoulder, other places there's not. When I need to be in the lane, I am. (not on the Interstate). The cars around me are consistently courteous and cooperative, and I try to behave that way too.

I was thinking as I rode to work about Cherokee Schill and how much it would be a burden to have an adversarial experience to get to work each day and to keep a job. (Insert observation about penalizing workers who are working for their living and paying taxes; is bike tolerance a part of moving people out of the social safety net?)

Later I came across this story http://commuteorlando.com/wordpress/2010/10/01/the-cost-of-being-different/ about a Florida cyclist who was continually harassed by police for riding in the lane.

It's vehicular bullying: if it were a bulldozer, or an Amish buggy, or a mounted police officer they'd slow down, take their turn, and behave like humans. But when it's a single vulnerable cyclist and they've got more power because they're in a car and can intimidate with impunity, then they act up. Classic coward bullying behavior, driven by their own insecurity.

I think it's really important to be cognizant of the struggles that are being fought elsewhere, by people doing the same thing as I am.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Espresso Tasting at Voluto Coffee: Pittsburgh Coffee Week

10.13.2014 29miles
Started at the Bastille riding solo on a very mild day. Rode the Jail Trail and Hot Metal Bridge over to SouthSide because: REI.

Departed and rode out to Sandcastle. Saw a car with a mondo camera mast and assumed, Google Maps on the prowl. Wrong! Bing Maps on the prowl.

Also noted a new (to me) gate in the fence abeam of the soft-serve ice cream shop at Becks Run Road, very close to the water plant facility. Always good to know about.

Down to Sandcastle, reversed, Hot Metal Bridge. Up the Junction Hollow Trail, pacing with another cyclist, possibly my best time ever up the hill to Fifth Avenue.

Rode through East Side and back on Penn Avenue to Voluto Coffee, for the first event in Pittsburgh Specialty Coffee Week. This was an espresso tasting and educational briefing, and I learned a lot about top- and bottom-segments in espresso and what that tiny spoon is for.

Also, drinking two espresso's at 7.30 at night, I was wired. Made great time inbound on Penn to the bike lanes, and back to the Bastille.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Coffeeneur 2014-3 Tazza D'Oro also: Sam the Macaw, Palestinian food at Conflict Kitchen

10.12.2014 23m
Coffeeneur 2014 Series, Ride 3: started riding with K at the Bastille on the North Side. As we came around the Casino's riverfront greenspace, saw the Parrot-Bike buy and just had to stop and meet him them.

This is Gary, who owns a bicycle, and Sam the Blue Macaw who rides around Pittsburgh on Gary's handlebars. It was really a treat to meet them.

Rode out to the 40th Street Bridge, up through the Allegheny Cemetary. In Garfield, passed by the new location of the Angel of Garfield installation, but this time I thought to snap a picture. It's so cool that when the new Bottom Dollar building was built, in a place that would have blocked the previous position, the new owners allowed the piece to be moved onto their building.

Continued out to Tazza D'Oro, one of the Top Three Coffee Shops in Pittsburgh (Commonplace-Squill, Taza D'Oro, and Big Dob Coffee being the triumvirate). Wowie wow wow. A baked apple dumpling, a berry pastry, a cappuccino +2 shots, and a pourover of Banko Gotiti coffee from Ethiopia (promising jammy/fruity/berry hints which were very pleasant). So mark this as Coffeeneur 2014 Number3, for myself and K.

Rode across to Oakland and Schenley Quad, to check out Conflict Kitchen's new Palestinian menu.

We split an order of Musakhan (a toasted flatbread w roasted chicken, carmelized onion, sumac and toasted pine nuts) and an order of Rumaniyya (eggplant, lentil and tart pomegranate stew with Arabic bread). Tremendous food.

Down Junction Hollow, the Jail Trail, and over to the NorthSide and Chateau Trail. 23 miles.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Coffeeneur 2014-02: Commonplace Coffee, Squirrel Hill

10.11.2014 25m
Started off parked under the Birmingham Bridge, riding south-east. Noticed that the trees and brush have been cleared away where the SouthSide Trail splits between the riverfront plaza and the (higher) road to Tunnel Park and REI.

Continued through Sandcastle, and at the Waterfront took the ramp up to the Homestead Grays bridge and back northwest on the main drag. Continued to the Bulgarian Macedonian National Education and Cultural Center for their Soup Sega sales of food-goodness.

They have a display of Bulgarian-Macedonian artwork, and I was taken by "Icarus", by Dimitar Kazakov (1980).

There's an interesting background on artwork depicting the Fall of Icarus, and whereas Bruegel's depiction shows it in a context of many mundane activities, this picture shows the crash in the faces of observers who saw a winged man falling out of the sky.

This is Bruegel's depiction, and you'll see Icarus' leg entering the water in the bottom-right corner:

Packed two containers of frozen soup into the panniers and we departed, intent on going to Millvale for Pamela's Pancakes. Rather than staying on the rivers and riding around the Point, we crossed the Homestead Bridge and went somewhat directly, up and over the hills. We went from Homestead to Greenfield and Squirrel Hill, and decided to stop at Commonplace Coffee for Coffeeneur 2014-02.

K had HeartMender Espresso and I had an Ethiopian pourover (hints of crunchberries and cranberry juice) - the coffee is excellent here. (Voted the 11th Best CoffeeShop in America, they will proudly tell you.)

Even more serendipitous, this is the beginning of Specialty Coffee Week in Pittsburgh. Rode through Shadyside and the newly ordained EastSide, on through East Liberty. Stopped at Banker's Supply to check out what's new; K got a cool hat.

Rode across Friendship and Garfield. Very happy to see that the Angel of Garfield panels by Daviea Davis that might have been blocked by the construction of a new building, have been moved to a more prominent position on the new building, a Bottom Dollar store at 5217 Penn.

Descended through the Allghegheny Cemetery, rode through Lawrenceville to the 40th Street Bridge, and over to Millvale. Stopped at Pamela's Pancakes for strawberry crepes, nom nom nom.

Departed on the NorthShore Trail to the 16th Street Bridge, to intercept the Penn Ave bikelanes. Noticed a brand-new, bright green bike box on Penn Ave (inbound at 16th), identifying to cyclists and avid automobilists the transition into the bike lanes. Very very cool.

Riding on Blvd of the Allies, saw Parrot-Bike-Guy for the second time this year. A major bird/bike-watching accomplishment.

Rode to Grant Street and the Jail Trail, the Hot Metal Bridge, performed the pilgrimage to REI because they mailed me a coupon and I think attendance is required. Got a pair of Novarra rain pants.

Departed back to the Birmingham Bridge, rewarded by an intercept by Marko.

25 miles on an excellent weather day.

There's Always Someplace

10/9/2014 33m
Overnighted at the Frostburg Days Inn. Nice place, I'd stay there again. The transition into town and back out to the trail was uneventful.

Before we departed I needed some real caffeine and a nosh, so we checked the web and found Mountain City Coffeehouse and Creamery, just a block from the Depot/Main intersection. How come I never knew about this place?

We had fancy-schmancy coffees and really excellent breakfast sandwiches. Great coffee shop, well worth the ride from the trailhead. The building originally housed a headstone business, Irwin Memorials.

Exiting the coffee shop, found a tract from the Solid Rock Independent Baptist Church wedged between my pannier and the cinch-strap. I guess that's the equivalent of tucking it underneath a car windshield wiper. So, hurrah for bike acceptance I guess.

Rolled out on the trail - down Depot St. down the switchbacks. Once again, there were one or two vehicles alongside the trail between Frostburg and Borden Tunnel, but it was very well marked and no problem at all.

Climbed up to Mt. Savage Vista, great view.

Came out of the Savage Tunnel with 2 more miles to the top, encountered a headwind that would stay with us the rest of the day.

Arrived in Meyersdale at 2.15pm, once again in the Taint Time between GI Dayroom closing and Morguen Toole opening. Ended up going into Take Six, a beer six-pack takeout bar that serves food and it was very good. Hoagies and chili, just right for a cool day on the trail. There's always someplace, I guess, and we were lucky that someplace wasn't too far off course.

The last 12 miles were a lot of work with the headwind, which seemed a greater factor than the descending trail. Back to the Rockwood Trail Shoppes and the van that was still there. Stopped for an ice cream cone.

Very nice foliage ride. Not quite peak colors yet but impressive.