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

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Planning a DC-Pittsburgh bicycle trip: Satisfice & Scrounge

bike trip planning DC to Pittsburgh
Yesterday's post, Planning a Pittsburgh to DC bike trip on the GAP and C&O Trail, offered a dozen questions about what you'd like to do. In this post, let's use your answers to inform your bike tour planning.

Who's Going?
  • Three generations of my family
  • Eight members of my riding club
  • Four co-workers, their boss, and their spouses/SO's
  • Just me and my bike.
  Why? What's the reason for the trip?
  • Significant Life Event - retirement, marriage or divorce, career change
  • vacation
  • re-union
  • bucket-list
  • adventure

bike trip planning DC-Pittsburgh group dynamics

Some Bike Trip Planning Thoughts

If you're traveling solo, planning is easier because you only have to satisfy one person. But if you're traveling in a group, there are implications.

Every group faces some pressure on the trail - it might just be anxiety of a new experience, or physical discomfort. Those stresses will play out in the group dynamic. The relationships between friends and who-is-the-Alpha-dog may play out. It's to your advantage to acknowledge that your group is a social construct and that group dynamics will have implications for the ride leader.

The First Rule of Group Bike Trip Planning

If you're riding in a bicycle group from Pittsburgh to DC, here's a primary guide: It's a social construct. You should be friends before the ride, during the ride, and after the ride. There's no reason to bust up any relationships because of a failure to build-in success at the planning stage.

The Second Rule of Group Bike Trip Planning

the planner sets the stage for the success of the adventure. You want to stack the deck in favor of success by anticipating and resolving issues before anybody turns a pedal. Then the trip looks easy and people may say, what was the big deal? because you designed success into the plans.

Time, Distance, Victims These four questions will help you solve the most nuanced problem of bicycle tour planning: how long, how far, how many days? They all come into play.

What is the least proficient rider's enjoyable daily mileage?
  • 20 - 30 miles a day
  • 30 - 45 miles a day
  • 45-60 miles a day
  • remember: are you carrying your gear on your bikes?
   Will every rider ride every mile every day, or will one/some want the choice of opting out?
  • Every rider wants to ride every mile
  • We want the capability of one/some opting out of some segments
  • Our very young/old will want to jump into a van some days
  • Some of us (not a frequent rider, has a new hip) want to skip the long days
What's the enjoyable daily mileage for most of the riders?
  • 20 - 30 miles a day
  • 30 - 45 miles a day
  • 45-60 miles a day
  • 60-75 miles a day
  • remember: are you carrying your gear on your bikes?
   How many days do you plan to spend riding the trails?
  • I can only spend 4 days on this trip
  • 5 Days from Pgh to DC
  • 6 Days from Pgh to DC
  • 7 Days from Pgh to DC
  • 9 Days from Pgh to DC

Click here for a Duration Estimator.

Itinerary Step One: Timeframe For most groups, the length of time available is the most rigid factor. Between work, families, and other committments, and trying to get your group free during the same week, once you've chosen a NumberOfDays you're pretty locked into it.

Itinerary Step Two: 335/Days = DailyMiles This is superficially pretty easy. It's 335 miles from Pittsburgh to DC. Divide 335 by your Number of Days, and you'll get the average daily mileage to make your timeframe work.

  • 335/4 days= avg 84 mile days (two 75 mile days on the GAP, two 92 mile days on the C&O)
  • 335/5 days= avg 67 mile days (two 75 mile days on the GAP, three 60 mile days on the C&O)
  • 335/6 days= avg 56 mile days (3x 50 mile days GAP, 3x sixty mile days C&O)
  • 335/7 days= avg 48 mile days
  • 335/9 days= avg 37 mile days

Itinerary Step Three: Reality Check This is important. Compare your average daily miles (84, 56, 37) with your least proficient rider's comfortable daily distance. If your plan calls for 56 miles a day and Bertie is only good for 40 miles a day, it's not a good plan yet. What you've designed could be a failure for Bertie, unless you build a plan to accommodate your least proficient rider. It could be a support van. It could be an e-bike. There's a lot of approaches to accommodating that rider.

It's a disaster to design a situation that people won't succeed in without providing alternatives and accommodation. This is NOT survival of the fittest; this is vacation of the thoughtful. Unless you're training for an Ironman, in which case: roll on, brother.

Look at your options and resources: some of the group might only ride 20 or 30 mile days, or just the most scenic 20 miles, then jump in the van and meet the group at the hotel. Some might skip that one long day, take to the Spa and meet the group later. There's a lot of options.

The Third Rule of Group Bike Trip Planning: build a plan that's successful for everybody. Avoid re-enacting the Bataan Death March.

bicycle trip planning on the Great Allegheny Passage and C&O Trail from Pittsburgh to DC

Do you ride Pittsburgh to DC, or DC to Pittsburgh?

Which Way You Going, Billy? Between DC-Pgh and Pgh-DC, there is no 'best' direction. Often the decision will be made by the logistics of your situation; if you're flying in from Europe, land at IAD and start in DC. If you live in DC and want to ride back to increasingly known ares, ride Pgh-DC. It's up to you. If your logistics don't dictate your direction of travel, I recommend Pgh-to-DC for a few reasons:

  • For half the trip, the prevailing wind is from the northwest.
  • On the GAP, I like the slope of the climb-and-descent eastbound.
  • The C&O Trail is a series of 74 plateaus, give-or-take one for each lock. The plateaus are mostly level, and there's a 6-to-8 foot change in elevation at each lock. As far as direction on the C&O goes, I'd rather have seventy drops than climbs. Not crucial but a small factor.
But it works either way.

Here's another notion: The GAP is a modern, wide, very forgiving trail built with contemporary materials and modern engineering standards. The C&O is a Civil War donkey path with rocks, roots, puddles, and it doesn't drain well. If your goal is to ride 300 miles on a quality trail, then ride the GAP round-trip - in other words, Cumberland-Pittsburgh-Cumberland or Pittsburgh-Cumberland-Pittsburgh, and ride back to where you left you car.

  • Camping
  • Hostels - Low Cost Motels
  • mid-range hotels and B&Bs
  • Glamping
  • upscale hotels
Confronting Constraints and Making Sausage Knowing who you've got, what your desired daily distance is, where you're staring and what direction you're riding, you're ready to build your itinerary. Begin at your choice of start-points, roll out the Desired Daily Mileage, and see what's on the map that's consistent with your Lodging Preference.

There won't be anything there. There never is. But wiggle around. A little further, or a little shorter along the trail, what sort of lodging is there? Do you have a support van (for accomodating Bertie the Short-Distance Rider, or carrying luggage) that you could use to shuttle the folks to a hotel? You begin satisficing, finding a suitable compromise that doesn't break any criteria and come close to satisfying most factors. And then you do the same for Days 2, 3, 4...

Pittsburgh - DC Bike Trip Planning Primer

The group is a social construct. You should be friends before the ride, during the ride, and after the ride.

The planner sets the stage for the success of the adventure. Stack the deck in favor of success by anticipating and resolving issues before anybody turns a pedal. Design success into the plan.

Build a plan that everybody will enjoy. Accommodate your weakest rider (which may include alternatives like a support vehicle). Every rider doesn't have to ride every mile; prioritize the scenic. Avoid re-enacting the Bataan Death March.

You'll never find the perfect lodging at your perfect distance; satisfice and scrounge; wiggle all the details. Do you Glamp for one night? Will that hotel come get you? Does your support vehicle bring new options?

In the words of Nobel-winner Herb Simon:* deciders can either 'find optimum solutions for a simplified world, or find satisfactory solutions for a more realistic world'. Satisfice and scrounge.

Please click here for info on our Pittsburgh-DC ChartPack:

Monday, December 28, 2015

Planning a Pittsburgh to DC bike trip on the GAP and C&O Trail

As in many things, a good framework of Questions leads to understanding and a satisfying outcome, so I thought I'd set down a 2016 update of Questions to Consider when planning a bike ride on the Great Allegheny Passage and C&O Canal Trail.
self contained and traveling light: 1 Aussie, 1 Kiwi, 1 Canadian, 1 from New Jersey

In their book Linking Up, Mary Shaw and Roy Weil identify four big initial decisions:
  • Daily Distance: How far should we ride each day?
  • Luxury: What kind of overnight accommodations do we want? Camping, hostels, B&Bs, hotels?
  • Support: Self-contained with panniers, lightly supported with a van, fully supported with an outfitter providing a guide?
  • Direction: Should we ride eastbound or westbound?
I'd like to expand on their framework a bit. Here's the initial questions I'd pose, and some sample responses to each.

  • Who's going, and what's the nature of the relationships and the group dynamic?

    GAP and C&O group ride: group dynamics

  • Why? What's the reason for the trip?

  • What degree of involvement do you want in your trip planning and trip leadership?

Time and distance (335 miles)
  • What's the enjoyable daily mileage for the least proficient rider?

  • What's the enjoyable daily mileage for most of the riders?

    Pittsburgh - DC group bike trip

  • Flexibility Will every rider ride every mile every day, or will one/some want the capability of opting out?

    DC to Pittsburgh bicycle trip; group factors

  • Duration How many days do you plan to spend riding the trails?

DC to Pittsburgh, PA bicycle trip planning - lodging, hotels, B&Bs
  • Where do you prefer to spend the evenings?

    DC to Pittsburgh PA bike camping or Glamping trip

  • My problem-solving approach to the unexpected (weather, mechanicals, surprises) is:
  • problem solving, riding D.C. to Pittsburgh on a bike tour

  • How will you carry/move clothing and luggage?

    Pittsburgh to DC, GAP and C&O, support van

  • Are you going to use your own bikes, or rent bikes?

    bike tour: do you use rental or personal bicycles?

  • What are your travel logistics? (new in 2015: you can roll your bike onto the Pgh-DC train!)
  • Do your particular logistics benefit from starting in either Pittsburgh or DC?

If you can answer those questions, you'll be well on your way to planning your DC to Pittsburgh bike tour. Tomorrow's post suggests ways to process the questions-and-answers presented here. Pittsburgh to DC bike trip, scenery: Salisbury Viaduct

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Making Lemonade: Fugazi Cyclovia

12.27.2015 10m
Some people think it's a problem when I-376 is shut down for 5 days so a deteriorating Greenfield Bridge can be blown up and demolished.

OTOH, some people think that's an opportunity for a Fugazi Cyclovia

This was a blast. It had rained all night, but the rain paused for two hours and we were able to ride in warm, dry conditions. It was 63F. The six-lane highway made for an excellent bike lane; perhaps a view of Things To Come.

After the ride we exited, kind of pleased to avoid any encounter with the authorities. This is a photo of the participants:
VB, Joanne-P, Yale, Marko, Jay, Katy, Colleen

totally awesome mini-adventure on a Sunday morning.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

DNS = Did Not Start. Sigh.

Tues 12.22 4m
Fri 12.25 11m
Sat 12.26.2015 15m
Tuesday I hoped to participate in a bike delivery operation run by Community Aides and BikePgh. My wife Karen and I rode to the offices in the Terminal Building, did the meet-and-great (which was great).

The program was led by Bridgette Wright of Pittsburgh Public Allies - which is a part the AmeriCorps national service network. She really did a great job of coordinating the supplies and the delivery operation.

We met Samone who was going to deliver care packages via a HealthyRidePgh bikeshare.

Just as we stepped outside to start pedalling, hauling my trailer on my LHT: flat tire! I really felt like a schlub. Told the others: you go, we'll catch up. Couldn't find anything in the tire, swapped the tube and hoped. No luck; second flat within a half-mile. DNS (did not start). I really wanted to make this ride.

Walked the bike to Thick, entered :45 minutes before they closed and they said Sure we can help. I really appreciated that. Not surprised because that's the way they roll, but not taking it for granted either. Thanks Thick!

Friday, Christmas Day was quiet and warm so I rode a small circuit in my neighborhood, 11 miles.

Saturday I went into town and made a delivery in the Operation Safety Net basket at the entrance to REI. This is a great idea: if you've got an old sleeping bag or jacket, put it in the basket and donate it. Then I got to ride with Yale, out to Costco and back. The rain caught us on the way back but it was warm.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

412Flock! Christma-Hannu-Kwanzaa-Ka Ride

Fri 12.18 12m
Tonight's 412Flock! ride was really the first cold ride I've had in Pittsburgh this year. Started under the Birmingham Bridge, rode to Oakland to start at Dippy.

This may look like the burning-tire image from Back to The Future, but it's just my taillight shining around the audio trailer.

Celeb sighting: we saw Mayor (and Senate hopeful) John Fettermann driving with his family when we started. I hope the playlist was good, it included the Royal Guardsmen, RuPaul, Twisted Sister, Run-DMC, Eartha Kitt, the Kinks, Tommy Tutone, KT Tunstall, The Pretenders, Frank Sinatra. I think this was the most inclusive song on the list:

This was a retro-classic Flock route, into town on Fifth and into Market Square (which was occupied with the Christmas Village so there wasn't room for us), and thence to Point State Park

We had a Healthy Ride Pgh in our pack:

Then we rolled through the Armstrong Tunnel and took East Carson Street to OTB. It got quite a bit snowy, sort of a mini-squall. There's a video of us on SouthSide here

We had a nice end-of-year session at OTB. Note the Christmas tree on Marko's bike.

(photos by and GerryD and LuciaA).

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Springtime for Pittsburgh

12.13.2015 19m
It's 65F on December 13th. No complaints. Rode with my wife Karen from the Bastille. Went out to the 16th Street Bridge, into town on Penn Ave, out the Jail Trail.

Rode out to the end of Saline Street. Noticed the proximity to the Pocusset Street BikeLane, a switchback ramp would be a major connection between SouthSide and Squirrel Hill.

Crossed the Hot Metal Bridge, saw the greenest intersection on the GAP.

I think the bike-icons should be oriented for the drivers to see, rather than the crossing walkers and bikers to see, but I'm glad for any improvement.

Saw this at REI: how a family of five goes and plays. Two fat bikes, a ride-along, and two BMX bikes:

"The family that plays together, slays together"

Stopped at Las Palapas for dinner, it was very good. Saw the Point State Park tree illuminated.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Pittsburgh's New Angle on Christmas Homeless Giving

Wed 12.09.2015 5m
Thurs 12.10.2015 28m
Fri 12.11.2015 26m
Wed was a short ride, just around Squirrel Hill but it prompted a concept by YaleC about localized sharrows markings for Squill:

The Roberto Clemente Bridge and Millvale have already implemented customized sharrows and bike lane markers. I think Yale's idea would be a great contribution to the Squirrel Hill bike-ped plan.

Friday I started riding with RC. We rode around SouthSide, the Bluff, Duquesne Univ. As we rode out along the north bank of the Allegheny River I was startled to see an implementaion of back-in angle parking which is a fairly new concept and bleeding-edge by Pittsburgh standards.

Under the 31st Street bridge, on the North Shore Trail side, there's a Christmas Tree for gifts for the homeless. Along the top of the photo you'll see some cases of PopTarts, granola bars, trail mix, a bag of apples, bottled water, and other gifts.

There's another one on the SouthSide Trail, under the 10th Street bridge. The initiative for the project comes from a small business called The County Line. I think it's an excellent concept.

"new angle" for "Christmas giving", I see what I did there.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Pittsburgh Chanukah Bike Ride 2015

12.06.2015 8m
Sunday was a day of too many opportunities and I couldn't get to them all. Had a Flock meeting at 10am, very cool. There was a bike-coffee-beer group ride at noon that I very much wanted to get to - start at a roastery, get some beans, ride to a park and everybody demonstrates their particular technique of bike-coffee production - but I couldn't get there.

I did see the group riding as I drove into Oakland, it looked like a great bunch of people and I'm glad Kindred Cycles and Commonplace Coffee had a good event. Very excited to see this developing.

So, Chanukah begins at sunset and today is the Menorah Car Parade and Bike Ride. This is the 4th Annual Chanukah Bike Ride in Pittsburgh, for those keeping count. Each year we get more participants.

At the ride start I had a technical snafu, I couldn't get my Droid phone to BlueTooth the playlist to the audio trailer. Fortunately technomage JoanneP stepped in and set things aright.

In the middle of the ride, we stopped and waited to intercept the vanguard of cars.

My wife Karen rode a Pittsburgh HealthyBikePgh bikeshare bike.

A gentleman who rode a unicycle (while carrying an Ultimate Wheel with a Star of David) on his back, Jim Leonard with his Light-Up-Coat, and Ben Yogman. (photo by Barbara Jensen)

We had a lot of excellent support from Pittsburgh Police, and in particular from Officer Howard McQuillen who was just awesome.

Video from JoanneP:

Video from DinoA:

Video from my bike, looking back over the audio trailer

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Pittsburgh: Most 2015 Coffeeneurs

12.4.2015 Fri 14m
12.5.2015 Sat 17m
Friday was clear blue skies, 50F and there's just not a lot of that in December so K and I drove into Pittsburgh to ride. Yale joined us at the Hot Metal Bridge and we rode out to the Pump House (new parking lot! locked bathrooms!) and back. Great day for a ride.

Friday evening brought the news that Pittsburgh had more 2015 coffeeneurs than any other city. Another to add to Pittsburgh's plethora of Top-10 lists! I hope there's a trophy.

I mean: the Pirates didn't win baseball. The Steelers are unlikely to win football. The Penguins aren't likely to win hockey. I respectfully submit: only the coffee-drinking cyclists are carrying Pittsburgh Sportz forward.

Saturday I had made plans with my neighbor Jack to ride the Montour Trail Airport Connector. Saturday morning was cold and very foggy, but we ended up in the car driving out there before we realized maybe we should discuss the wisdom of it.

It was a great ride. Low visibility in the fog, probably 1/4mile vis, and the moisture seemed to accentuate the cold. Had the chance to stand near the 10L Approach Lights with them all burning.

We certainly had the airport connector to ourselves. It is a great facility, too bad it doesn't get more use. Also, it would be awesome if the Connector continued along the former Moon-Clinton Road to the intersection at Flaherty Run Road near Dicks HQ.