Thursday, October 23, 2014

Bicycle Licenses, Coffeeneuring #6, TourTalk, PINK! and a Solar Eclipse

Our conference in State College wrapped up mid-afternoon and I had another opportunity to ride around town before heading back to Pittsburgh.
I decided to head back onto campus and get a Coffeeneuring trip in. Saint's Cafe was my destination.

My natural inclination is to check out the other bikes at racks. I noticed two of them had the same green sticker on them. Bicycle Licenses? Further investigation needed!

I stopped at the coffee shop and got a refill for my mug. Every table, stool and chair was occupied by a student and an Apple laptop. No seats for me!

While I was adulterating my coffee with half and half and sugar, a man walked up to me and asked "Are you touring?" YES! I look the part! WIN!
We spent a great deal of time talking about touring around PA and MO, mayor Peduto, trips I'd wanted to take, trips he suggested for me, RORO on Amtrak. Very nice conversation. Before we parted ways, he told me about a bike shop around the corner called FreezeThaw.

This would be a great place to ask about the bike licenses. An employee, Paul greeted me and complimented Fizz and answered my question about the licenses: they're 'strongly encouraged' (AKA: not legally required) by the University so they have some idea of who's locking up on campus. He also told me that my locking to a sign post was a no-no and that the City would cut my bike lock and haul the bike away for locking to a street sign. Yeesh. The racks nearby were full too!

I thanked him and asked him which way Park Ave was. He told me I could cut through campus to get there. Riding on the sidewalks there is very common; heck... even the bike shop told me to do it!
Weird.... riding on sidewalks is OK, but locking to a streetsign is verboten?

So, I rolled through campus, slowly.

Lots of foot traffic.

I encountered a cyclist in soooo much hi-viz pink: pink helmet, pink bike, pink water bottles, pink tires, pink jersey. My eyes! 

I gave him a "Love the pink!" shoutout and he acknowledged my greeting with a smile and a point... It must be the secret handshake variant for the Hi-Viz Pink Cyclist Club.

I loaded Fizz on the car and drove back to Pittsburgh. The sun was low on the horizon and I need the visor and sunglasses badly. But there was something odd about the sun... I kept staring at it....whoa! An eclipse!

Not my photo, but this is what it looked like.
I never get to see solar eclipses due to weather or some conflict, this was my first! Yes, I blinded myself for a while, but I got to see a solar eclipse!

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

"I'm bringing my bike."

The office was having it's annual 'Retreat'. This year it took place in State College. The retreat is a meeting of all the satellite office employees and the folks from the chapter we'd just merged with. This was the 3rd or 4th time they'd planned this elaborate and too expensive (in my humble opinion) overnight 2-day meeting. In years past, I'd weaseled out of bunking overnight in a hotel room with a co-worker. I'm not crazy about the thought of sharing living quarters with someone I'm not related to. Also, 'Teambuilding' exercises are involved in the plans. *shudder* All of these shenanigans are an introvert's nightmare. I was being ripped away from my routine, my bed, my spouse and dogs. I loathed all of it.
Commence the teeth-clenching!

Additionally, they wanted me to share a ride up there with the one employee who has max points on her driver's license for speeding, distracted driving (cellphone use and makeup application at 70MPH!) and various other moving violations! Not only is she a dangerous driver, but she's consistently late, for everything, which is a quality I cannot stand. Nope, sorry... I'll avoid being her passenger again.

The Late Tangent

< tangent > Why do I dislike tardiness? I can thank my father: he always said that the Navy instilled in him an insistence on organisation and an adherence to a schedule. He is always a few minutes early.
When I was a rebellious teenager and at the age where I didn't quite have my act together (some would argue I still don't, but...) I was in the habit of staying out past my curfew and forgetting my keys. I would come home late and find the door locked. I'd have to wake my parents up to let me in and he didn't take kindly to this disturbance from his daughter. At some point, he put his foot down and told me that if I was late (he locked the door at a certain time) and forgot my keys one more time that I would not be let back into the house... that I would have to sleep on the picnic table in the back yard. So, the next weekend, I found myself trying to get comfortable on the picnic table at 1AM and vowing never to be late for anything, or forget my keys...ever again.
They called that 'tough love' back then.
< /tangent >

So, to bring me some sanity and avoid riding with Ms. Tardy-Crappy Driver, I decided to take Fizz. "Sorry, gotta bring the bike with me, can't ride up with you!"

I based my decision on the fact that State College is very bike friendly. There were bike lanes on East Park Ave which would be my route from the hotel down to campus where all the action is. I scoped out GoogleMaps Streetview and from the looks of it, there were bike racks and bike lanes/sharrows everywhere.  I called the hotel and asked if I could bring Fizz into the room with me. They didn't bat an eyelash... "Of course!" they told me. Yes, the bike would be my respite from the torturous, maddening nonsense I was enduring at the hands of my employer.

I arrived and locked Fizz up to the rack provided outside the reception area.
In the smoking area. Yuck.

After our day-long meetings, it was 'free time' for a few hours before dinner time and a party was being hosted over on the other side of town. I biked there instead of using the hotel shuttle. I had plenty of extra time to putz about the town. I just followed my front wheel, there were so many bike lanes, parks and trails all over the campus and city to explore. Wow.

The only hurdle I had to jump was the highway interchanges between the hotel and the campus/town. It's a tad daunting to cross highway exits and entrances to get through the interchanges for most folks, but this wasn't a big deal to me. I also had to dodge a dead skunk there. I'm glad I didn't run the bike over a semi-freshly dead skunk. Phoo!

11 miles for the evening

I explored campus and whoa, lots of bikes being used!

Every rack on campus was so full! This one had a repair station.
I think they play some sport in this building.

Bike Way!

Bike lane!

Bike trail!
One of the many trails through campus/residential areas.

The ride back was in the dark. I employed all of my lights, blinkies and a reflective vest. I hauled it back down Park Ave at a nice clip. All the cars were cooperative and patient, most of them changed lanes fully to pass me. Impressive.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Balanced loads down a mountain= very good.

Yesterday was rough and I slept off my aches and weariness.
I woke up early at the Levi Deal and wondered: when was breakfast? I neglected to ask Jan, the innkeeper about breakfast... I had inquired about dinner having heard that Jan serves an excellent dinner... but alas, she had only made dinner for guests when the Morguen Toole was closed for the fire. I heard she had served polenta and I had polenta on my mind. I grew up having polenta on a regular basis. Polenta and sausage with (tomato) gravy is a Sicilian dish I loved as a child in a home where my mother of Irish heritage tried to learn to cook Italian dishes for my father of Sicilian descent. Her polenta and sausage was very good, the bragiola excellent too. The lasagna: not so good.
I dressed and looked out the window to see Jan working feverishly in the kitchen. Maybe soon? I also saw SNOW. Good lord, it was sleeting and snowing! Are you kidding me?

I went over and Jan had coffee ready. Yaaa! This would count for Coffeeneuring#5

The Mansion is simply gorgeous inside. I poked around while Jan made breakfast and I chatted with the other cyclists staying in the main house who were by now, coming downstairs from their rooms.
It turns out there were 2 other parties staying there and we were all heading down to Cumberland. There were 3 tables set up in the dining room, one had 4 settings, the other had two and there was a third table with one set of silverware. Gee, I wonder who that table's for? The couple from Tuscon invited me to their table so they wouldn't have to talk across the room to me. It turns out they were using Sara P's Bike the GAP services and their bagged lunch was already waiting for them. Gotta love that service!

Jan brought out a breakfast of freshly baked bran muffins, a vegetable egg quiche and (drumroll.).....polenta! It was fantastic. I scarfed down the eggs and polenta and wrapped up the bran muffin for lunch.

I loaded up Fizz and was underway, but the other cyclists got on the road before I did as they didn't have as much baggage. Yes, they poked fun at me for having so much stuff.

I loaded the third pannier on the top of the back rack instead of the front rack today and this was a vast improvement.

I played leap-frog with the other two parties most of the day, but in the end, I was the first one to reach Cumberland. I win!

Sometimes, I watch where I'm going. I'm looking out for things that might puncture a tire, etc...
In my head, you might hear this: "Rock, stick, hole, rock." Today it was "Rock, hole, rock, baby snapping turtle, rock..." Wait, what?
OMG! How cute!

"Lady, one day I'll grow up and have the ability to bite your fingers off. Now, put me down! I'm formidable!"

I replaced him over to the side of the trail he was heading in the hopes he wouldn't get crushed by a bike. I think I came within a millimeter of squishing him.

It was cold, but bright and glorious.

We all helped one another get pictures in scenic spots along the way. I made sure Fizz photobombed all their shots.

I remembered to bring pickles.

This is my "I made it!" pose
I remember this nursery rhyme. I had an ear worm for a while today!
Cumberland was reached quickly.

At the Fairfield Inn, nice amenity!

Damn kids! You're ruining my self-timer shot! Go away!
Much better.

Another 32 miles, but much more comfortable, more 'wheeee!' and much better weather.

I took lots of photos, you can view them at FLICKR

More of the GAP gaps are getting filled in!

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Off balance overpacked loads up a mountain= not good

Another overnighter trip! This will most likely be the last until Spring.
I drove to Cumberland early having packed 3 panniers and 2 bags (stop laughing!) the night before and was on the GAP before 9AM.

I stopped for Coffeeneuring trip #4 at Cafe Mark

This was my first real use of the new front rack, I used one pannier on my new rack.

I am reminded when I do things like... load ONE pannier on the front rack... that I'm still a clueless noob. I spent the day trying to figure out why on Earth I was having horrible arm pain.

The weather conspired against me too, it drizzled and spit and misted the entire morning and much of the afternoon. Sometimes it spit-izzled and others it mist-izzled. It was cold too. Even though I was well-dressed, the cold and wet got to me after 6 hours outdoors hauling gear up a mountain. 45 pounds worth.
While the trip was long and tiresome and dreary, I made the best of it. The fall colors were amazing despite the poor visibility from the top of Savage Mountain.

The traffic was awful.

I hope we don't exceed the weight limit!

It was tiring going up the mountain, there was one well-worn firmly packed path on the trail; my side was soft and rutted from washouts and full of rocks. I tried desperately to get some relief from the bad side of the trail and ride on the 'wrong' but delightfully-easy-to-ride-on side. However, cyclists coming down the mountain were always kicking me out of the firmly packed side when they bore down on me at 15-20 MPH while I was limping along at 6 MPH. Oh, how I wanted the other side of the trail.

Eventually, I was able to ascertain the cause of my arm pain: the off balance load! I once drove a car on a regular basis that needed a front-end alignment and my right arm always hurt from pulling the steering wheel to one side to compensate for the wonky alignment. Logically, this translates to bikes too! By now, I was 25 miles into the trip. I switched the pannier over to the other side in the hopes that I'd give one side of my upper body a rest from the strain... but it still ached in spite of the switch. WAIT... this pannier doubles as a backpack!
I turned the pannier into a backpack and strapped it on. No luck, I was so tired and sore by then that any weigh on my back was an objection as well. I arrived in Meyersdale a little after 2 PM and was too early for a check-in at the B&B, so I hung out at the Museum and enjoyed the wifi.
The hours between 2 and 4 are rough in Meyersdale if you arrive hungry. Thankfully, I brought snacks and fortified myself along the way.

I rode down to to Levi Deal Mansion bed and breakfast after I checked my email and met Jan, the inkeeper. She showed me the guest room where I'd be staying and the codes to get into the garage where I could store Fizz.

I showered and rested... I was so very tired and needed a lie-down. A hot shower helped to get my core temperature up, but I was still chilled.

Note to self: take photos of your room before you mess up the bed and don't leave dinner's leftovers in your shots.

The room was decorated in a Asian theme.
I think those are two monks.
I shivered and my teeth chattered on my walk down to the Morguen Toole for dinner. I was still penetrated by cold. I couldn't get warm. They were out of the Octoberfest entree I had my eye on, so I opted for the burger and Jameson's again.

The wifi at the Levi Deal wasn't reaching the guesthouse, I was resigned to walk down to the Morguen Toole and linger outside in range to pick up a signal.

I slept hard and soundly even with the trains going by and blasting horns every 20 minutes.

32 miles, and an agonizing lesson learned.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Feeling foolish at Flock

It's October 17th and today is the monthly Flock ride! That means everyone comes dressed in a costume, right? Yaaaaa!
Nope. I was the only person who arrived costumed and boy, did I feel dopey.

I enjoyed some Palestinian Conflict Kitchen cuisine beforehand.

No one even knew who I was supposed to be! I mean, isn't it obvious?