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

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Maturity, Micturition, and Motor Vehicles

4.29.2015 23m
Started riding at Western Penitentiary. Noticed a bit of newly poured concrete at the trailhead. I think: it can't be a BikeShare Terminal (can it?) but any new stuff is very exciting.

Rolling down Blvd of the Allies, came up behind a very nice, heavy duty Dodge pickup truck with this sticker on the rear window of the cab:

Who would spend money on such a thing, you might ask. Well, the person with PA license plate YVR4318 might:

I am inclined to say, this is an indication of somebody who's probably not going to share the road very nicely.

Teh interwebz indicates this is a representation of Calvin from Calvin and Hobbes; that the stickers are bootleg and unauthorized; and that not too much is done about it.

This seems to be a business providing this sort of product.

Met Y. Rode out to Marcigaliagaglie Metals, saw where a car had recently driven off the road, across the trail, and over the cliff. Yikes.

Returned, stopped at Josephine Street at Barry Street where there's a Little Free Library. Dropped off a book, A Peace to End All Peace.

Back to the river, onto the trail using the restored trail access at the city-side of SouthSideWorks (which I wish somebody would acronymize as SSWX). Smithfield St. Bridge, Ft. Duquense Bridge, back to the car that was still there.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Beer Run

4.25.2015 20m
Today (for the first time ever) I was fortunate to attend the East End Brewing Company (EEBC)Keg Ride as a marshall. Each spring for the last ELEVEN YEARS, East End Brewing has delivered their first spring kegs via bicycle, in a very popular event that raises money for local charities.

Departed the SouthSide Riverfront Park with R at 0715 in the snow. Tempted to feel Rule9 about that, except it pales in contrast to those racing the Crush The Commonwealth today and so: shut up, self!

Rode to breakfast at Ritters, then out to the starting point at EEBC.

The destination is a closely-held secret, and before the briefing the volunteer marshalls signed a non-dislosure agreement which includes a $500 penalty. Ouch.

This is an extremely well-run and popular event. There was a band at the muster point, pastries for sale, free coffee - lots of goodness. The ride begins with the kegs at the fore:

During the last year, EEBC achieved a license to sell pints at their own brewery/warehouse so the secret destination was: Back to EEBC!

The marshalls were all assigned 3 or 4 intersections to attend to. I got to work with TedZ, which was awesome. We got to our first point, than dashed to our second point. During the marshall repositions you'd see pairs of marshalls criss-crossing the route, hustling to their next intersection. That was very cool.

About a block from our third and final intersection, I flatted the rear tire. No problem. Except that in the morning rush, I did not bring my toolkit, tubes, levers, etc. JonS gave me a tube, that was so much appreciated! Thanks Jonathon!

So many people riding by offered tubes and help, that was really nice. The police officer riding a motorcycle looked at my face, streaked with dirt from the tire, and twisted his rear-view mirror around so I could see myself. Nice guy.

With the splinter of rock found and extricated, and a new tube in place we rode to the post-ride celebration.

Something I enjoy is checking out all the bikes. Before the ride, I saw Doria and she was wearing a kickstarter head's up display on her sunglasses and let me check them out; extremely cool stuff. Checking out the parked bikes I saw one with a secondary rear rack, turns out it's a skateboard mount, very cool:

A very copacetic, bike-beer atmosphere. Later R and I rode back to the southside. Another great day of Pittsburgh cycling.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Penetrating Pittsburgh

4.18.2015 #247 66m
Woke up, went into town for breakfast at Village Dairy. Very good, reasonably priced.

Departing the Connellsville Adirondack-shelter site, I saw two snakes ahead crossing the trail. I turned to pass behind the first but the second one reared up, opened it's mouth, and hissed at me in a very non-copacetic manner.

Took some daytime video of the trail hazards (to prevent cars/quads from using the trail) on the east side of Connellsville. This is crazy. It doesn't meet any normal standards for bollards, and puts cyclists at risk.

Stopped at River's Edge (which is also the name of a restaurant/BnB in Confluence) KOA campground to use their showers. Riding in I was thinking: I never paid for a showewr ala-carte before - what should I be willing to pay for a shower? $20 would be too much; $10 seemed too high. But I was stanky. Their price - $5 - was a Goldilocks number.

Rode into West Newton, took the lane across the bridge (the sidewalk is way problematic) and went into Gary's Chuck Wagon for lunch. Really an excellent place.

When people approach Pittsburgh for the first time, coming inbound on the GAP, their first indication that they're in a city rather than another small town is the first skyscraper they see - which is the Cathedral Of Learning, the tallest educational building in the western hemisphere.

I think it's awesome that the Cathedral of Learning is the city's first impression to GAP-arrivals, and there should probably be a small sign explaining what that tall building is.

Coming into town was like a reunion. Saw Jon, Dean, Chrissy, talked with a cyclist named Marcus who wanted to chat GAP, then coming through SouthSide I had the great treat of seeing Kordite in full regalia coming back from a downtown Con.

This is a terrible branding exercise for people who sound out words (wiki)

I am not among those who fetishize sports entertainment, but I try not to judge too harshly and I was impressed at this party bus used for transport to Pirates games:

When I got home I weighed my bags at 77 pounds. I intend to go through my stuff, and anything I didn't use on this 5-day trip is going to face a hard review.

Friday, April 17, 2015

48ish hours in Confluence


This was a rainy day in the area and I decided to stay at Homeplate. Had breakfast at Sister's Cafe, learned that Saturday is the opening of trout season and that's a big deal in Confluence. Hung around and surfed the wifi for a while.

Sat in the town square gazebo and read a book. Went back into the Outflow Campground as rain was approaching, and moved my tent underneath a picnic shelter. I don't think that's consistent with their rules, but it seemed pragmatic and it worked.

In a spot between the rain, I rode to the adjacent Outflow Restaurant for a cheeseburger and soft-serve. Very good.

It rained intermittently all night, and I was glad for the shelter's roof. No need to soak the tent. During the night, there was a mechanical vibrating and creaking coming out of the damworks, and then the water flow ceased. It was a big change in what I'd accepted as the local white noise.

Woke up, packed up, had breakfast at Sister's (again). Same experience: good food, slightly pricey, good service. Finished my book in the gazebo.

Riding from Connellsvile into Ohiopyle, saw the newest bit of infra sponsorship:

Rode into Connellsville around 7pm. There was a private rollout party at New Haven Frozen Yogurt, right on the trail at the bike shop on the main drag. Looks like a great place.

Went to NY Pizza and had: soup, fried pickles, and a small pizza. Very good. Family at the next table invited me over for breakfast the next morning. After a day alone, the conversation was welcome.

Set up camp at the Adirondack shelters. Met two young cyclists riding east, they offered me a beer. Nice guys.

Quiet as could be in the campground, and a great night's sleep.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Outflow Campground

4.15 34m
I had hoped to visit a new green-tea-and-smoothies shop for breakfast but it's closed. It does seem like there's a few bike-trail-centric businesses on the verge of opening in Connellsville: New Haven FroYo across from the bike shop, with a nice generous outdoor patio; Bike Bistro on the main drag.

Had breakfast at Valley Dairy. Walked in and when the greeter said hello I asked, table with an outlet? and they knew just what I wanted and just where it was. Good wifi. Great omelette.

Rode to Ohiopyle. There's a spot about 6 miles west of Ohiopyle where a pipeline crosses the river and it's a scene of tremendous beauty, it's one of my favorite places. Discovered evidence that Peeps do, in fact, grow on trees:

Continued to Ohiopyle. Stopped at Ohiopyle Bakery for a sandwich.

Rode to Confluence. Apparently I'm before-my-time, because there aren't any restaurants open for a few weeks yet. (Sister's closed at 2pm). Made camp at Yough Outflow Campground. I approached this with low expectations but wow this is a nice campground: real rest rooms with warm water, campsites, a building with showers (which won't open for a few weeks yet). $5 self-registration for a biker-hiker, that's a great deal. No wifi in the campground, but a good 4G signal. There is Wifi floating over from adjacent WendyWorld trailer park, it would be nice to have that password.

This campground is at the base of an earthen dam. It's a big pile of dirt with an amazing amount of water behind it. If that berm fails, the campground is gone in an instant. There's an outflow at the base of the damn, it makes a very nice white noise.

Cooked Louisiana Red Beans and Rice via the JetBoil. Good dinner, great day.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Second Attempt: In The Bag

Mon 4.14 63m
Departed Oakland at 1130 after enjoying cafe au lait and an egg-cheese crepe at Crepes Parisiennes. Very good.

Stopped at the Pump House, where the rest room is still locked and protected from those who would use it. Stopped in McKeesport for a Gatorade and PopTarts, because: PopTarts. Stopped in Boston PA at The Betsy for a slice of orange cake.

Stopped at Dravo campground for a short break, then made a major stop in West Newton to eat (second time this week) at the Chuck Wagon which is my new Fave Restaurant in West Newton. On Sunday I had a Western omelette, today (Tuesday) I had liver and onions for dinner; both were excellent. They've got wifi and a booth with outlets. All my needs fulfilled. Recommended.

Rode on to Cedar Creek campground, which was one of my two planned endpoints. I felt good and it was still early, so I pressed on to Round Bottom Campground (MP100). I had the place to myself, and I set up my tent inside one of the A-Shelters. Unfortunately there's no Verizon cellphone coverage there, and I had promised to check in and cancel my bike-plan upon arrival.

I got a few gratuitious miles pedaling for coverage and not finding any, so back to RoundBottom, pack up the tent and pedal on to Connellsville. Got some cellphone coverage at about MP95.

Approaching Connellsville I was mindful of Kordite's experience riding at night and colliding with a big rock they put on the trail to protect the trail. (and you'd think, hey protect the cyclists, wouldn't you?) Here's a slice of riding into Connellsville at night:

We flirt with wishing a special place in Heck upon the people who thought this was a good idea.

Rode into the Connellsville Trailhead and continued directly to the Martin's Shopping Center and "New York Pizza". I walked in at 8:40, they close at 9 and had the place cleaned up, and they were very good about making me a pizza and letting me eat it there. I really appreciate it. Apparently, the patriarch is from Napoli and the matriarch is from Greenpoint in Brooklyn. It was a very good pizza. Recommended.

Back to the campground. Last time I was here, I remember 2 Adirondack Shelters but now there's four. It was really great to get into the sleeping bag and be warm and dry.

I was also glad that while pruning the gear, I kept the lights with me because I sure used them today. A great ride.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

The space between the plan and the operation

Sat-Sun 4.11 #252
Intent on sleeping with my bike out of town, I started off from the Bastille at 2.30 on Saturday afternoon with the bike fully loaded, including a non-ironic baguette.

Stopped at Thick Bikes for an adaptable water bottle carrier, the Looney Bin from Arundel Bikes. Rode out to McKeesport, stopped in a convenience store: diet coke and pop-tarts. Increasingly I think PopTarts are the premier food of bike trails.

Rode to Boston. Continued to Dravos Cemetary, where I stopped for the night. Picked a campsite, said hello to semi-adjacent campers. There was a dozen boy scouts and their grownups who had biked out for a Friday-Saturday overnight. There was a husband-wife and two young children, maybe 6 and 4-years old, each riding their own bike. The A-shelter was occupied by some folks I'd seen there before, and on the lower level another campground was set up.

The Mother of the foursome asked me, Would I like a hot turkey-Rueben because they're packing up and have some leftover food? And I said Hecka-Yes-Please. Their daughter, Ella, cooked me up a sandwich in a folding-iron. Jason the Dad said, Do you have a cup or a container? Because I've got a bit of ale left over in my East End Brewing Company growler and I don't need to pedal it back. And I said: this is the best campground I ever rode into.

I had the Rueben and the Ale and was setting up my tent when one of the Scoutmasters came over: they had extra hot potato soup, do I have a container and would I care for some? Things just got better and better as I dunked the baguette in the hot soup. I watched a camper come out of the lower campground and recognized Reggie, who I first met a few weeks ago. He was camping with Liz and Milo the dog, and they're in a first-use test of a Tentsile tent.

Milo, shown on the right, wears booties in the tent. And socks, because the booties might chafe. Milo ran all the way down from the Boston Trailhead.

The TentsSile is is a lot like a hammock - the ground doesn't have to be level, dry, or smooth - but you sleep above the structure rather than below it. Reggie said it's a bit like sleeping on a trampoline. It's got a huge interior surface.

Had a small fire going. When it got dark I was in the sack early, maybe 9pm. It got cold. I had brought my small sleeping bag liner and not my big bulky sleeping bag, and that was a huge mistake. It became very cold and sleeping in the tent was near-impossible.

I ended up spending the night sitting by the fire. I was quite warm at the fire, but unable to sleep. I was able to sleep in the tent, but never for more than an hour because of the cold. The good news is: mega-kudos to the volunteers who maintain Dravos Cemetery campground, because there was a great supply of dry, split, help-yourself firewood. It kept me from needing to ride away for shelter.

Watched the sunrise sitting at the fire. Lots of birdsong. A few woodpeckers. Listened to the Scouts discuss the disposition of: a case of Pop-Tarts.

In first light, the dew on my tent had frozen. Cleaned up my gear. At 0730 it was warming up, the full sun was out in a clear sky, and I was able to lay down and sleep for about three hours.

Not bringing a real sleeping bag was a major blunder. I certainly brought everything else.

Woke up and packed up camp. Got on the trail at about 1130, heading for West Newton. Stopped at the Buena Vista trailside convenience store, lemonade and PopTarts. The conspiracy is persistent.

I didn't have a lot of energy and the bike felt much heavier than it did yesterday. Didn't get to West Newton until 2pm, which is 8 miles in 2.5 hours.

I've been told that the best breakfast in West Newton is the Chuck Wagon. At the trailhead there's a road across the bridge; ride across, go to the second light, turn right; 100 feet on the right. Really excellent chow, and an authentic local restaurant rather than a place that's just for visitors. Recommended.

I was done in. 25 miles to Connellsville, and it had taken me two hours to go eight miles; the math didn't fit into daylight. I put in a phone call for a mercy-extraction and my wife Karen came and picked me up. I don't know that I've ever felt so low on a bicycle before.

I weighed the bags when I got home: 81 pounds.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Accepting Applications and Small Print

4.10.2015 248# 21m
I started today at the Bastille. Met Yale, Reggie, and Frank - three awesome cyclists - and got to talking. Talked with Frank about Pelee Island. Talked with Reggie and Frank about the overlap and distinctions between transient cyclists and homeless folks, which is a pet topic of mine.

Frank rode south and Yale & Reggie rode up to Observatory Hill, and I needed 20 minutes to putz with my stuff so I ended up riding solo. The trails around the Science Center and the baseball stadium were all flooded with high water.

Took the Riverfront Plaza around PNC Park then crossed the Roberto Clemente Bridge, with the new Roberto bike lane icons:

Just as important as the bridge bike lane are the sharrows and bike lane connection the Bridge with the Penn Ave Bike Lane:

Rode out the Penn Ave Bike Lane, went out to 35th and Charlotte to check on Jeremy Raymer's artwork. I think this one is new:

Rode up the cemetery, where I felt the winter's deconditioning. Rode outbound on Penn, only recently opened as a two-way street. I really appreciate the new curb bump-outs that mark it explicitly as a two-lane, not a four-lane, street.

Took Penn out to BabyLand*, turned right and took Friendship when I should have taken Ellsworth. So I took Ellsworth for a while, realized my mistake, started navigating cross-country.

Saw this artwork on the side of 608 South Millvale:

Intended to stop at Conflict Kitchen for chow but the queue was way too major. Went down the cobblestones (pave?) to Junction Hollow, enjoyed descending to the Jail Trail.

Inbound on the Jail Trail I encountered this advertisement, which I'd seen on social media but not IRL:

In the small print, dated today, was this clarification: I live in the woods at the top of the hill, I'm building my own house. I'm thinking there's about twenty dead Freds up there.

It was so good to be on the bike, and in weather that only required a t-shirt.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Veni, Vidi, Goat Rope

4.4.2015 9m
There are rides of beauty and grace where you and the bike are One, and there are rides that are goat-ropes. Today was a goat-rope ride.

But I did see this sign on Franklin Avenue in Aliquippa, and I've since learned that Aliquippa has embraced a community turkey named "Tom".

Friday, April 3, 2015

Prognosticating Precip for the Peripatetic

Drizzly day, got the taxes done. This is the earliest I've been done in decades, because I hope to go on a trip and need to get them accomplished. Being able to download and print out obscure forms is just awesome, it so much beats being constrained by the library hours.

The web is also so useful (and addictive) in the week before a bike ride, checking and fussing over the weather forecast.

I'm planning on riding Natchez MS to Nashville TN via the Natchez Trace. I'm going to be camping and possibly using HOO's (hotels of opportunity). One of the benefits is that I can choose my start moment, which is a blessing and a challenge.

My plan is: I'm going to drive to the northern terminus of the Natchez Trace Parkway and park my aging van close to the trail. I've made arrangements to leave the car in a fairly secure place. I'm going to have a shuttle service from Natchez (the south end) come up and then convey me down to Natchez, where I'll start the ride.

I love the temperature range I'm seeing here. I'm thinking: drive to Nashville (BNA) Thursday, shuttle service to Natchez Friday, start pedalling Saturday morning.

This is the temperature range at the north end of the trail, in Nashville TN. Looks like the nights are about ten degrees American cooler.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Persephone's Pomegranate Pourover at Big Dog Coffee

4.2.2015 21m #250
Started under the Birmingham Bridge at 0730 with R. Showing keen judgement, we prioritized our options and immediately rode over to Big Dog Coffee where we both enjoyed a Persephone Pourover, which of course carries hints of pomegranate.

The mural above, at 149 Omega Place (off Larimer Ave) in East Liberty, depicts Persephone trapped in the Underworld after eating a pomegranate. Artwork by Ed Rawson, Lucas Stock, Bonnie Schindler, C. Rubisch, S. Altwerger, S. Steffey.

The world warmed up a bit while we drank coffee, so we started out to the far end of Kennywood. Reversed, went to Thick which was closed. Went to REI.

At REI I purchased some supplies for the beginning of the season: new Merril shoes, short-finger padded gloves. I used up most of my "REI Dividend", I have about $17 left over. This is what happens when I go into stores with R. We both look at things, and I end up buying things.

We went over to Thick which had opened. Heard of another great feature in their building redesign, but I think it's closely held so I shouldn't spill any buzz about it. Ended up with a new helmet, bright and with more vents than the one I've been using.

Back to the cars, and this is what my bike looks like carrying shoes and a helmet: