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

Sunday, August 30, 2015

CitiBike, CountriBike

Was fortunate to meet Jeff (aka @CountriBike) at Golden Triangle bike rental. He's riding a NewYork bike share bike, a CitiBike, across the country east-to-west.

He had ridden in on the GAP yesterday, probably arriving a half-hour behind me. Fortunately, he hit Pittsburgh just in time for PedalPgh and the city was just all about bikes.

His story and trip report is online here: countribike.com/. He's riding a brand-new update version of the CitiBike. He's swapped the seat and pedals for some higher-quality gear.

He's rolling with the standard internal 3-speed rear hub. I think he'd have enjoyed a Pittsburgh HealthyBike which has a 7-speed internal rear hub a bit more.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Test-Riding Amtrak Roll-On Bike Service, Pittsburgh DC

8.28 25
8.29 34
Riding your bike from Pittsburgh to DC, or DC-Pittsburgh, or even some segment of the GAP-C&O is a wonderful experience - but there's a logistical problem that presents a barrier to many folks; once you ride from one end to the other, how do you get yourself and your bike back to your starting point (which is often where you left your car). How do you make a round-trip out of a 335-mile one-way ride? You could take the train for $80, but it's not so easy to take your bike on the train.

Until now, the only way to move your bike between Pittsburgh and DC via amtrak was to box your bike - to scrounge or purchase a box, take the pedals off your bike, take the handlebars off your bike, maybe take the seatpost off your bike and then hand the bike-box off as cargo to be carried by the railroad.

I have never heard of any trouble using the bike-box between Pittsburgh and DC, but I have been reluctant to take my bike apart (after having it dialed in) and handing it off to strangers. Fortunately, Adventure Cycling and other advocates have been urging Amtrak to deliver Roll-On, Roll-Off (RORO) service in the DC-Pittsburgh corridor, and they're about to roll this new service out.

I had been an Amtrak RORO test-rider in October 2013, when the project was starting to firm up to something "possible" and I've been waiting for the announcement.

Sept-Oct 2015 is a very exciting time for Pittsburgh bicycling on the GAP and C&O. The Montour Trail will be opening two new bridges to eliminate at-grade crossings. The Pinkerton Tunnel, between Confluence and Rockwood will be opened. And: Amtrak RORO is promised!

This follows up on what's already an exciting year in Pittsburgh, what with the introduction of Penn Ave (and other) bike lanes, and Pittsburgh BikeShare (HealthyBikePittsburgh) rolling out in May. It's an explosive time in Pittsburgh cycling.

My wife and I were asked to be test-riders for one more evaluation ride between Pittsburgh and DC before the railroad finalizes its procedures, placards, documents, etc. The invitation was wonderful but involved being at the Amtrak Station well in advance of our 05:20 departure. Waking up at 0230, to leave at 0330, to be downtown at 0430: I am not the 24x7 guy I used to be.

We parked our car at the Greyhound station and walked across the street to the Amtrak terminal. There were six cyclists onboard for the first leg; friends Yale and Paul, a new friend Don, and Lilly an editor from the Post-Gazette. Our group did stand out a bit in the waiting room.

At the appointed time, we rolled our bikes out on the platform. As we walked out we met a family who had boxed their bikes for this trip, and wondered why they couldn't do the RORO; we had to say this is just a test, sorry. Maybe soon!

We walked our bikes into the bike-car, mounted them in the racks, then took our gear and found seats in a passenger car. It was very straightforward. (Participants were asked to not show pictures of the equipment because it's not formally locked-in yet.) It was just as easy as it should be.

We rolled out of the Pittsburgh metro area and rode for about ninety minutes, stopping in Connellsville. The nature of the evaluation ride is they want to simulate max riders coming off the train, and max riders coming on the train at stops along the way, to see if there's any delay presented by the cyclist shuffle.

As we got off in Connellsville, six fresh-faced cyclists were ready to get onboard. I recognized Linda Boxx, the Great Lady of the GAP. We got off, they got on, and the train rolled away leaving us with our bicycles, 60 miles of trail to Pittsburgh, and a great weather forecast.

One member of our group was eager to depart quickly, because he intended to ride the GAP to the Montour Trail and make a 100-mile ride out of the day. The others rode together over to Village Dairy for breakfast. We used the Connellsville Loop route to get to the other side of town.

Breakfast was excellent, as it always is there, and then we rode behind Martin's Foods and joined the GAP Trail. It was still a bit foggy and chilly close to the river, but in August a cool ride is a welcome thing.

photo: Don Erdejlac

My plan was to ride 25 miles with Karen to West Newton, about halfway to Pittsburgh, and overnight at Bright Morning B&B. My friends Yale and Paul were going to ride back to Pittsburgh, along with Lilly (the newspaper editor).

We rolled much faster than I thought we would, maybe because of the chilly morning and we needed to generate some heat. The fog burned off and it was a pretty, blue-sky day.

In West Newton, we split off and crossed the river to have lunch at Gary's Chuck Wagon. It's an authentic local mom-and-pop, which is the sort of place I'd always rather stop at. There were no espressos to be found in town but we did enjoy an excellent lunch.

We crossed back to the trail. It was early to check-in at the B&B but the room was unused from the night before and we were able to check in early. Hot showers, naps, books and wifi; awesome.

We walked to dinner at the Trailside Inn, located on top of the bike shop. Then we called it a day.

Saturday morning we enjoyed a tremendous breakfast from our hosts and got to talk with the other guests. There was a solo rider from Chicago, riding DC to Pittsburgh and a Canadian family with three young children riding Pittsburgh to Cumberland. It was a very solid breakfast.

We rode out with 36 miles on the agenda. Bought some Gatorade at the Buena-Vista mini-mart, stopped to drink them at the Dravos Cemetery Campground which is always a very nice stop.

Continued through McKeesport and Duquesne into Homestead and the Waterfront complex. Stopped at Red Robin for lunch. Then we rode into Pittsburgh proper; I always appreciate how the first skyscraper visible to inbound cyclists on the GAP is the Cathedral of Learning and not the downtown banks. Reaching civilization, we immediately detoured for some high-power caffeine at Big Dog Coffee on the Southside.

We saw quite a few friends who were out riding: Amy and Sara; Stef, Dan, and Ted doing the 90 Neighborhoods Ride; DanY setting up for the next day's ride at REI, and Stu coming into town.

After coffee we joined the Jail Trail, rode to Grant Street and then rode crosstown on Grant to pick up the car at the Greyhound station. It was a great demonstration of a non-extreme overnight ride, made possible by Amtrak roll-on, roll-off service. I look forward to the rollout.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Droning Along

8.25.2015 21m
8.22.2015 2m
8.21.2015 7m
Today I started riding at the Bastille. Karen and I rode around to Millvale and Pamela's Pancakes for strawberry crepe goodness. Nice ride.

Coming back, noticed these signs around the baseball stadium:

which is kind of misleading, because NOTAM 4-3621 (pdf), the cited authority, pretty clearly says

I'm sorry about the All-Caps, but that's the way they roll.

And that's a very specific, constrained restriction compared to the #NoDroneSign. I do really like the last line of the sign, which I think means "We will tell on you".

Sunday, August 16, 2015

OTB Fried Pickles Black Bean Cakes

8.17.2015 6miles
Rode with my wife Karen. Parked at the Second Avenue lots by the Jail, rode to OTB for dinner. Fried pickles and black bean cakes; wowsa. Simple ride back. I was surprised there weren't more people out.

Friday, August 14, 2015

S24O Sub-24 Hour Overnight to Dravos; BOB Trailer Shakedown

8.14-15.2015 16m
I bought some new equipment - a three-person tent which I figured would be sufficient for two real people, an air pad and a sleeping bag - and the dimensions of each one exceeded the capacity of panniers.

So I went to Thick Bikes and got a Bob trailer. (achievement: unlocked)

My wife Karen and I started Thursday at 5pm in West Newton. Rode downhill for 4 miles to Driscoll and Sons behind the Yough Twister soft-serve stand. Beer, food, coffee, cheesecake FTW. Great restaurant.

Rode another 4 miles to Dravos Cemetery Campground, started assembling new stuff in the gloaming. Got away with it; everything worked well.

It was a very pleasant evening. Cool air, clear skies. There were probably five other parties in the campground and it was very quiet. Didn't get to see any asteroids.

They've placed some deconstructed architectural stone/cement blocks (OK, building blocks lets just say it) around the campground as chairs for firerings. Very cool.

Woke up in the morning. Made coffee and putzed around. Rode 8 miles back to West Newton, got breakfast at Gary's Chuck Wagon which is my fave place to eat in West Newton.

A very successful shake-down ride for a bunch of new gear. Also, another successful S24O (Sub-24hour-Overnight).

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Prexie Ride

8.12.2015 28m
On the road bike again. Started at the Bastille, rode to Downtown.

Got to participate in a group ride of 32 cyclists. Took a meandering route across the SouthSide, Northside, Washington's Landing. Very nice.

Very, very pleased to see repairs in progress at the Ft. Pitt bridge ramp, behind the blockhouse

Afterwards I met Yale and we rode to Thick and back to the Bastille.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Stuff That's Moved

8.09.2015 #252 25m
Rode with my wife Karen today. Used my road bike, which I'm sure I haven't been on in months.

Started at the Bastille. Rode to Thick (which is closed on Sundays, just like their sign says!) Very interested to see a placard for Bike The Boroughs, whose website is not ready for prime time (still showing some Greek'd text) but it's a great idea nevertheless.

Rode to Oakland and thence to Taza D'Oro for cold coffee, so wonderful. Back into town via Penn, where I saw this bit of sculpture

I'm pretty sure this sculpture used to be on the GAP trail, just south of (Little) Boston PA.

(this picture seems to show the sculpture being moved from Boston PA). I believe the duck is the work of Pittsburgh Artist of the Year 2009, Tim Kaulen.

I've had the notion that prior to the GAP in Boston it was previously at a Pittsburgh children's facility, possibly a school for the deaf, but I can't find anything on that.

Back on the bikes inbound; saw RC & Donna. Over to the North Side, saw Yale. Great day for a ride.

Friday, August 7, 2015

Bike Wreck; Adios My LHT

8.7.2015 3m
I had a bike wreck. It was not an accident, it was a wreck.

I was riding south on the C&O Canal around MP31, south of White's Ferry. I was riding a bit fast because our party was intent on beating the rain to DC. The trail did have some muddy spots.

Rather than ride through the puddle, I rode to the right edge of the trail. The berm did not hold, and the mud gave way leaving me riding down the hill into the trees.

This was not an accident, which would mean something that Just Happened, not amenable to review or learning. It was a wreck caused by operator error, riding too fast for conditions, and GetHomeItIs on the last leg of a 6-day ride.

Fortunately I was riding with a worthy crew, who gathered around and examined all the places that the bike was bent. They were surprised that I was uninjured, but as Yukon Cornelius said long ago, Bumbles Bounce™.

This picture, with bricks attempting to present some Cartesian squareness, shows three points where the frame was distored: top tube, down tube, front fork.

This bike was awarded Best Antelope (for the best handlebar rig) and Best In Show at the 2014 Bike Beauty Contest thrown by Bike Pgh.

It has lived well, seen many things, and to the end discharged its duties in a most honorable manner, often exceeding expectations. Even after being harshly bent it still carried me another 35 miles to the destination.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

The Fall of 2015: Leesburgh to DC

8.6.2015 41m
Departed our Leesburgh hotel via the shuttle van. Got right on the ferry, crossed over the Potomac, and got on the trail without delay because we expected rain in DC in the afternoon.

At MP31 I pulled a bone-headed move and departed the horizontal trail surface for the rather steep-sloped #SideOfTrail™. I think it started the rider I was closest to, and once I realized I could wiggle my fingers and toes and asked no really, take a picture first it was probably a bit surreal for them.

They're a great bunch and they captioned the event #FallOf2015, which I really liked.

Back on the bike, rode at a somewhat chastened pace. Stopped at Great Falls to eat the bag lunches from the hotel; most excellent. Also, Great Falls sells Dove bars.

Rode into DC. Saw Lock One. Rode around to the mysteriously difficult to find MilePost Zero, where the group each gave their rendition of the big "zero"

Then we had the great fortune of G. showing us around DC. We rode to the White House, the Hill, and the Washington Monument. The new DC bike lanes are truly awesome.

This was a great ride with a fine group. The trail was in excellent condition, the logistics went smoothly, and the trail economy seems to be continually developing.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Williamsport to Leesburg(h)

8.5.2015 62m
Today we departed Williamsport and rode the wonderful new concrete sections along Big Slackwater. We stopped abeam Shepardstown and the riders jumped in the support van and went into Shepardstown for First Lunch at Blue Moon Cafe; they were very pleased.

When they returned we rode a short segment into Brunswick and Bats In The Belfry. It was a pretty hot day and we were pleased to relax with iced coffee and wifi.

The last segment of the day was 20 miles to Whites Ferry and a boat trip across the river. The hotel staff was waiting for us with their vans and bike racks to transport the group to the hotel. They run a real smooth operation.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Third Time's a Charm

8.04.2015 43M
It was the easiest of days, it was the hardest of days...
(with apologies to Charles Dickens)

This was the first "light" day on the trip, a short hop that turned into a bit more for me. Sort of like the "three hour tour" that the S.S. Minnow took.

We departed Little Orleans and made the timely transition into the paved WMRT. Love that pavement. Stopped at Weaver's for food and PIE. Yum. Stopped at the bike shop to check out their essay submission and the backyard campout that (to me) is somewhat reminiscent of a Cool Hand Luke prison shelter.

Departed Hancock. I got a flat tire on the last bit of paved trail. Found two sharp-pointed rocks in the tire and tube, removed them, put in my new tube.

Departed again. After a little while, flat tire number 2. Ughhhhh. I took it apart and it looked like a pinch-flat from my not installing the spare correctly. Double-uggghh.

I had a third tube, but I didn't want to unbox it unnecessarily so I tried to glue-and-patch my two flat tubes. One of them held air well, so I installed it and started again.

I got about two miles and it was flat. Having had enough, I pulled out my last remaining fresh tube and popped it in. It worked really well, but now I had no spares and there's no bike shop in Williamsport. If you've seen the movie Flight of the Phoenix, you'll recall the scene where they're down to the third and last shotgun shell; it was the same sort of thing.

Riding into Williamsport, well behind the others, I thought I'd stop into a bike-friendly place to ask if any local stores carried inner tubes. I was so pleased to see this sign:

I bought four tubes and rode up the hill to the Red Roof Inn. This place has always been a solid, reliable, value-priced overnight. Not fancy but clean, safe, quiet, and the wifi always works. Plus there's a Waffle House out front.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Caffeine Don't Make Me Crazy, Protein Don't Make Me Lazy,

8.03.2015 82m
This was the long mileage day of the trip, tempered by the fact that 24 of the miles are downhill. We departed Morguen Toole with some excellent bag lunches for later in the day, and had breakfast at the world famous GI Dayroom. so much good.

Climbed 8 miles. Took photos at the funny memorial bench, lots of ooooohs and aahhhhs at the Savage Vista. I thought we might encounter the climbing railroad, but it seems they have a locomotive snafu and they're out of operation for a few days. Took a photo at the Mason-Dixon line:

Stopped at the Frostburg trailhead to eat half the bag lunches. This group liked descending. Stopped in Cumberland at the fountain and ate the other half of the bag lunches. Started off, intending to stop at Schoolhouse Cafe which is just a wonderful opportunity.

Unfortunately, Schoolhouse was closed this Monday. Kind of needing some rereshment prior to the destination, we departed the trail and rode west into PawPaw. New infra! They've built a segregated/ protected bike lane from the north side of the PawPaw roadway into PawPaw, removing the need to a 1.5-mile share the road on a fairly fast roadway. Such a pleasant transition.

In PawPaw, the only thing happening was the convenience store and we were damn glad to have it. I found a Coffee and Protein drink in the Starbucks reefer, I didn't know they were into recovery drink products. Unfortunately, the old blue hostel (with the hot tub) was out of business, the pizza shop was out of business, and Grandma's Kitchen and BnB is out of business.

Back on the trail. The Paw Paw tunnel was impressive as always. Trail conditions were excellent. The approach to Little Orleans and Bill's Place was straightforward. The group went up the hill to their hotel and I camped out along the trail. There was a great lightning show, and a bit of rain in the wee hours.

As we were leaving the next morning, arrangements were proceeding for the first day of MotorCycle Week, with about 10,000 motorcyclists expected. It was a good day to get out of Little Orleans.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Connellsville to Meyersdale

8.02.2015 58m
Started out of Connellsville in excellent weather. Greg-K had told me the previous morning that you can buy packaged fresh fruit at the Martin's Grocery in town, so we ate some fruit cups at the 12-mile pipeline overlook.

Ohiopyle was crowded as would be expected on a Sunday morning, but we didn't see as many cyclists and I thought we'd see. Departing Ohiopyle eastbound, at MP71.08 I saw the "sky chair", a type of boatswain's chair used to cross the river. Sometimes I see this rig, other times I completely miss it. I was glad to get a photo of it.

Rode to Confluence, ate lunch at River's Edge. Saw the riders from the Mount Hood race in the town square, but didn't see anybody I knew. Stopped at Confluence Cyclery for some supplies.

For folks who are non-cyclists, the stretch from Confluence to Meyersdale can be very difficult. It's a continual climb, there's not a lot of distraction, and they really don't have any sense of the overall picture - it can be a bit of a Bataan Death March.

In this group, some of the riders departed Rockwood rather quickly, and the others hung out and got a solid rest before the last leg. They each did the right thing.

We stayed at Morguen Toole, and even though the second group got to the hotel as the restaurant was closing, the staff stayed and dinner was served and I thought so highly of the Morguen Toole for making that happen.

I stayed in the men's hostel room and won the "hostel lottery" - I had the room to myself.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Pittsburgh to Connellsville

8.01.2015 62 miles
Rode with a group of five cyclists from Pittsburgh to Connellsville. It's always a treat to see Pittsburgh with folks that have been away from a while, and/or first-timers.

We stopped at the Homestead Starbucks for a final bit of caffeine before plunging into the unknown. Hit the Boston tea shoppe for cookies and cokes while they were having a princess-themed birthday party for a little girl. Stopped for lunch in West Newton.

In Connellsville I ate pizza at NY-Pizza which is consistently very good, then I camped at the A-shelters. A few people in another shelter were playing banjo music and it was very pleasant.