Tuesday, April 29, 2014

The over 40 ride: Planning

The planning and facing an anathema.

I'd needed to toughen myself up for longer and longer rides if I expected to do a 60 mile day at some point. The most miles I'd gone in a single day was 40 and I was loopy at the end of that day. I'd not drank enough, I think... or maybe I hadn't eaten enough... I'm not sure, but I know I'd be doing lots of liquid and food consumption on any subsequent long rides, that's for sure. Lesson learned.

I needed a place to ride where I didn't have the distractions of traffic, shopping, bumping into friends, etc.... somewhere that I could just go for miles and miles.... Oh, hey... how about that awesome trail right near my house?

I'd decided to swap the Monster and Ruby for a ride with Ruby on the Montour trail to see if I could rack up some miles on an 'out and back' trip to Moon Township.

That's 48 miles of trail and a mile or two on our *shudder* roads to the trailhead from my house. That mile or so to the trailhead was something I wanted to conquer. It was frightening to me, even as much experience I'd gained in the past year riding the urban streets of Pittsburgh, this short hop seemed daunting. It was on single-laned windy roads with a 35 MPH speed limit and scant roadside in some sections. Having driven these roads for many years, I know that drivers take these turns a high speeds and aren't expecting to see cyclists out here. Nobody cycles in the South Hills... not sane people, anyway. I was about to baptize myself in the insanity that is cycling the roads of the South Hills. I hated having to load my bike on the back of the car for a measly 1.2 mile drive. Seriously? 1.2 miles? I should be doing that on the bike instead of wasting gas and troubling myself with loading the bike onto the car and the unloading it again. If you saw what I need to do to wrangle the bike on/off the back of the car, you'd know what I'm talking about.

My Harrow-ing ride.
Still, I preferred the traffic of the city, even with the murderous buses, taxis and such to the drivers and roads of the South Hills any day. If I nave a nemesis, an intangible one, I think this might be it.

The Monster had been sitting idle in the garage for 4 months. Yeesh, 4 months. I'd driven my car into her the other day when I pulled into the garage and felt incredibly guilty about it, as if I'd done it on purpose. She was unscathed, I'd just tapped her. Even so, it was adding insult to the injury of 4 months of languish.
This trip would run about 50 miles total. Googlemaps says it should take me 4 hours and 15 minutes. I figure with a few breaks along the way I can do it in 5 and a half hours. I'd pack lunch, snacks, lots of water and be certain to pick up an extra battery for my phone.
That's the plan.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

The Variety Show

Another save with the tools...

I was unlocking my bike from the rack at PNC Park after Thursday's afternoon baseball game and the two gentlemen locked up next to Ruby had a flat. They asked if I had tools. Do I have tools??!? Why, yes, I do as a matter of fact! Score! They went to work on their flat and had my lever back to me before I had Ruby unlocked and roadworthy.


Interactions with Strip District Legends:

Photo credit: Darrell Sapp/Post-Gazette

 After 25 years of living in Pittsburgh, I've finally gone through a rite of passage: being called "Dearheart" by Carol Pascuzzi. I don't recall what cheese she sold me, but who cares? I'm officially a Pittsburgher now.

On another of my morning trips into the Strip, I stopped at Jimmy and Nino Sunseri's shoppe. Jimmy himself rang up my order after trying to sell me on a batch of bread he'd just pulled from the ovens. He noted my yellow reflective vest and helmet and commented that he liked the safety factor. He lamented that when he arrives for work every morning at 5:30AM there are many cyclists coming down Penn Ave with no lights in the dark. I told him about the Free Lights program BikePGH has. Interesting conversation.

Goodwill points: destroyed.

Whenever I travel into the Strip on my morning trips, I pass by several police officers manning pedestrian crossings. I make a point of smiling, nodding and/or greeting the officers in some way. They man these crossings because not too long ago there, a pedestrian was hit and dragged to her death. Returning from Friday's trip, I made a tremendous error. I won't make any excuses for my blunder, I screwed up royally and I fully deserve the officer's wrath. Distracted by a car turning in the bike lane, I thought the officer was finished taking a pedestrian across the street and proceeded through the intersection just as the officer was coming back through the crosswalk. He calmly scolded me, and I instinctively stopped and apologized. Then, he scolded me yet again for stopping after the fact, beyond the crosswalk. Arrgh. I needed a hole to crawl into and die I was so mortified. I apologised again and scurried away with my tail between my legs. I'm an asshole cyclist who pisses off police officers. Way to go, shithead.
I'll never regain those goodwill points. When is the Strip Trail going to be re-opened so I can avoid Penn Avenue?!!?

The hair goes... somewhere.

3 ten-inch ponytails
I spent Saturday off the bike attending to errands and such. I went for my annual haircut and discovered that I had grown enough hair for yet another donation to Locks of Love. This was the third time I've been able to donate over the years. I've always wondered what poor child is doomed to get a wig made from my hair. It's a very odd feelingto lose 12 inches of hair. It takes some getting used to and I felt compelled to forewarn my friends, family and co-workers via social media of the dramatic change in my appearance. Some people freak out when I hack off the locks. Once before when I cut off all the hair, a person said to me: "Oh, it'll grow back." Gee, thanks for the compliment. 

I wondered how my shorter hair would fare under the bike helmet, I am used to wrapping it up in a ponytail and being on my way with no issues with the helmet. This may present a helmet-hair problem that I'm not accustomed to.

Sunday was a day I'd planned on riding, literally. I'd mapped out the places I wanted to visit and things I wanted to see with maps and guides as well. I packed a soft-sided cooler with ice, fruit and lunch.

Iron City ShowDown

Giant Bovine Huckster of TaintButter

55+ Masters (AKA "Geezers' Dash")

Junior Women's Podium!
 See the rest of the photos here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/cspiegler/sets/72157644378910265/

Old Allegheny Gardens and bikes not welcome at the Aviary

While I waited for the Blessing of the Bikes to begin I thought I might putz around the National Aviary. I found no bike rack, so I tried to loop around a lamppost in part of the parking lot, but found it very difficult. The director of education walked by and noted my frustration. "No bike racks..." I told her. She found a groundskeeper who told me there was a small rack on the Arch Street side of the Aviary. I thanked them for their help and rode around to Arch street and found no rack, just cigarette butt receptacle posts. Feh. I gave up and decided to roll around through the Mexican War Streets instead. They've not heard the last of me.

I found a gem that I've only heard and read about:

Not much is growing just yet,  but the art and eclectic additions were photo worthy.

See the rest of the photos here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/cspiegler/sets/72157644365230902/







I also poked my head over a fence across the street when I noticed a mural in someone's backyard:


The Blessing of the Bikes.

My bike certainly needed a blessing after Friday's mishap. I'm not at all a religious person, but certainly Spiritual in some ways. I respect the religious views of others and am married to someone who attends religious services regularly. My husband is one of the few people I've met who didn't balk at my lack of faith, accepted it and not once dared to question my beliefs or try and sway me to the other side.
I love the artistic devotion in the architecture of churches, synagogues and mosques. I could stare all day at a stained glass window. So when I heard there was a 'Blessing of the Bikes' to be performed at a church on the North Side, I was very intrigued. Here was an opportunity to visit an old Pittsburgh church now occupied by a very open congregation that welcomed and embraced the GLBT community.

The blessing went very well, the pastor even snuck in a mention about the "jerks who try and cut us off.."

The rest of the photos are here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/cspiegler/sets/72157644324385686/

Iron City Bikes Grand Opening: Larryville

I fully expected there to be a SALE. "Grand Opening" means discounts, right? No sales. Feh. I did find a nice ICB/Pirates themed tee shirt that I couldn't pass up.

Allegheny Cemetery

After doing some prep-work for a another visit to this historic place, I learned what the colored lines through the Cemetery mean and I intended to follow the green line for the historic sections and determined what section Josh Gibson's grave is located in. I was armed with maps and guides of the cemetery.
Interestingly, Pittsburgh Mural's tweeted this very morning the Negro League bronze statues at PNC Park of Mr Gibson and other legends of segregated baseball. Seeing that tweet got a big 'Wow' from me as I had planned on visiting Mr Gibson's resting place in just a few hours.

I referred to the map frequently to find section 50 and hit a few tough hills on the way.

Someone's lovingly placed a baseball and catcher's gear at his grave. Wow, he was only 36 when he died?
The deer stared at me and even approached as I rode by.
You're going to need a bigger bike.

I stayed in section 50 and ate lunch under a tree not far from his grave. It was a gorgeous day. The long hill up to Penn Ave wasn't nearly as bad as the first time I rode it. I refilled my water bottles at the faucet at the top of the hill.

 See the rest of the photos here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/cspiegler/sets/72157644378856905/

I left the Cemetery, found my way down to Neville Street (and, I didn't miss the turn!) and down to the South Side for a pit stop at REI. I had wanted to ride down past the Pump House, but my phone's battery was low for some reason. I should look for a backup battery, it's not lasting as long as it used to. I also didn't want to run the gauntlet of Eagle Watchers, so I headed home.

A wonderful day, 26 miles and my hair was unphased by the helmet.

I tried using the Endomondo app on my phone today because it syncs with the Rust Belt Challenge. I like it just as much as Strava.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Weirdness, the Strava addiction and damned headwinds

I hadn't been in much of a blogging mood for a good while, but this ride perked my mood back up to baseline.

I started out heading over to Thick to witness a Weird Bike Ride and to get some new Velcro straps to mount lights on the new helmet. Adam mentioned he's doing Crush the Commonwealth Ride this weekend and it sounds brutal.

I didn't anticipate going on the ride with the Weirdos, but the bikes intrigued me. I finally got to meet Kitaira, which was nice.

I headed off on my own to get some much needed exercise. I ran into new signage near the Eagles' Nest. I also ran into energy-sapping headwinds on the way back after turning around at the Waterfront. They killed me.

I hit a stunning sunset as I crossed over the Hot Metal Bridge.

 The fine work the Earth Day volunteers did yesterday was evident everywhere along the Eliza Furnace Trail. It's amazing, you don't notice how much crap falls off the Parkway until it's pulled out of the shrubs and placed into bags and piles. There was tons of it.

Thank you!

 This work in progress is at Point State Park. Not sure what it's for.

The Strava app that I downloaded to my phone the other day is so addictive, it's not funny.

I mean, look at the route I took around REI for the bathrooms, that is awesome!

Hubby has made a point of telling me I'm pleasant, ebullient and cheery after I've engaged in these two things: a drink and a ride (not together, mind you!). That translates to: "You're a sullen crab the rest of the time."

25 miles total for the day and a lifted mood.

Apparently, headwinds put me into a coma, wow. I can't remember the last time I slept 8 hours.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Cop Corks Friday Flock, dualities and The Pedicab Races.

Friday started off with an early dismissal at work which meant I was free to ride all afternoon before Friday Flock. I met hubby for lunch and we ate outside at the Casino and I watched the cyclists on the RiverWalk and folks paddling about on the river go by.  I hate eating at the Casino, but he loves it. I loathe having to run the gauntlet of smoke to get to the buffet he set his sights on. He'll endure anything if it says 'all you can eat'.

Hubby and I went our separate ways and I went back to base with the intention of grabbing Ruby and being on my way, but leg cramps prevented that. I spent 45 minutes stretching, massaging and walking off horrible calf and foot cramps that had me in tears at one point. It's my own fault, I spent the past two days not drinking enough water and eating poorly. The cramps subsided finally and I was able to get over the the South Side and then back into town and taking the Strip/Polish Hill route to Oakland for the Flock of Cycles ride. I probably could have taken Panther Hollow, but I wasn't sure if I was able to ride up that hill. That hill looks like a doozy.

Friday Flock

I hit Oakland just at 5:45, grabbed some Afghan lamb and rice at Conflict Kitchen before heading over to Dippy where we assembled for a ride that ended up at a wonderful ice cream shoppe. In tow were Yale, Stu, Terry, Marko and many regulars. A few of them thought it novel that I wore a dress. I don't really see what's so remarkable about wearing a skirt or a dress on a bike.

A group of motorcyclists thought our group was picture-worthy and they hooted and waved to a fellow 'biker gang' as we rolled by them.
Our group even got a special corking near Homewood Cemetery/Frick Park by a police officer who turned on the light bar. That was awesome ².

The officer was thanked by every one of us, I think.

Parking all of our bikes in one block of Shadyside proved challenging. We got creative.

The cone I had didn't give me a roller-coaster blood sugar ride. That's the mark of good ice cream: not so much sugar, but lots of fat. Ah, milkfat goodness.

Upon exiting the shoppe, I realized I had never been in this part of the city on a bike. I would have to figure out how to get back. In. The. Dark. I didn't even know whether left or right would get me closer to Downtown. I was completely disoriented. I enlisted my phone's navigating app to guide me and it took me down Baum to Liberty and on to the Strip. Whew. Thank you, technology!
On the way there, I stopped in Bloomfield to remove my jacket and put on my reflective vest when a man came over to me after two girls (also wearing skirts, FWIW) on bikes had passed and told me he had wished they were wearing reflectives and lights like I was. I looked up and sure enough, the girls had become nearly invisible just half a block ahead of us. Ninja Chicks.

I felt twinges of thigh cramps coming back while riding through the Strip and I was thankful they didn't fully cramp up while I was trying to ride. I clearly need to take a day (or two) off to let my legs rest and re-hydrate myself.

Being the outsider

On my way past the ballpark, I felt out of place being outside the park while it was full of fans and much noise emanating from them. It was odd, but even more interesting was the dichotomies of the dim silence that was enveloping me where I was.... on a dark bridge, above a quiet river and no traffic around me and the noise from the far off cheering fans in a bright stadium that would wash over me in waves as some exciting play would rouse them in unison. It made me smile as I filled my senses with sound, light and breathed in deeply the smells of the river and our lush city.

Pedicab Races

I passed many pedicabs waiting for the game to end and for their fares to come pouring out of the park. I suddenly found myself in a rare moment where I was able to manage a burst of speed; this would be 16-17 MPH, if you're keeping score. My normal pace is the 10-11 MPH range. I zipped past a lumbering pedicab and the driver shouted up to me, "You're making me look bad!".  I smiled and gave a sorry-shrug back at him. Another pedicab had a fare of 3 in the back of his cycle-rickshaw and they decided it would make good sport to race their cab against me as we waited at a light. I gave them a good show of getting into a low-built-for-speed position and donning my best steely-eyed competitive glare before setting off at a speed just fast enough to over take the sluggish rickshaw.

Bruise mystery solved.

I've noticed a mysterious pattern of bruises on my right knee and I had trouble determining the cause.

Where are these coming from?

Oh, the shifter. *BONK*
They started after I moved the saddle forward. It doesn't hurt when I knee the shifter paddle when I dismount, but I guess I bruise easily in this spot and I'll have to put up with brown and purple spots all over one knee.

A wonderful day, 33 miles.
Coming up: several days of rest for my legs that were torn apart by muscle cramps.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Unlocked: Advocacy and Bus Driver Goodwill

Back in August of last year, I wrote to the President of the Pittsburgh Pirates to ask if more bike racks could be installed at PNC park.

So, I waited a few months (is 8 months enough time?) and sent a follow up email to the Ballpark President, who Mr Coonelly had CC'ed.

His first response didn't look promising...

Then this arrived in my inbox!!

W00t! Happy Dance! I cannot WAIT to see those things installed!

In an effort to create goodwill with Port Authority bus drivers (where there is a terrible discord between them and cyclists), I made a decision on a few occasions to communicate directly and politley with the driver while at a light. In this instance, I let the driver go ahead of me.

Bus is picking up/dropping off passengers

I pull up next to the bus.

I note that there's a line of parked cars ahead of her, she will need to get into my lane after this light.
If we both go when the light turns green, she may cut in front of me and kill me, or if I manage to get in front, I'm the pain in the ass cyclist who is slowing her route. No wins there.

I smile and ask her though her open window if she'd like to get ahead of me. She's delighted.

I wait and everyone wins! (except the driver of the car behind me: too bad, pal.)
The weather is looking good for Friday Flock and the office closes early: time to get out and ride!