Monday, September 23, 2013

Show Me a Sign, Please!

Off the bike for about 10 days due to the joys of home ownership (refinishing the deck).  It felt extremely good to ride again yesterday.

I met up with my friend at Point State Park where he was delivering two out of towners to begin their ride on the Great Allegheny Passage (GAP).  It was very generous of him to pick up and transport these two strangers from where they were staying (near the airport) into the city.  Especially on a day full of traffic fun with both Pirates and Steelers having home games.

We took them to The Point for the obligatory photos at the fountain and then rode along with them until there was no way for them to get lost.  That meant almost 20 miles out from The Point.  All the hoopla this past spring about finishing the last "gap in the GAP", yet there remains some significant, well... gaps.  The fact that there isn't any segregated, car-free trail or route from Point State Park to the Eliza Furnace Trail doesn't seem to get much press.  For those of us who ride around in the city regularly it doesn't seem like such a big deal to hop on the Blvd of the Allies and cut over to the trail.  It probably wouldn't be too much of a big deal to our visitors except for (1) the families with smaller children that aren't used to riding in traffic and (2) the fact that there's still a huge gap in the signage!  How does that happen?  We have a world class trail that's drawing visitors from foreign countries to pass through here and we can't spare the time/expense to give them useable signage?  As we were riding up the Blvd of the Allies, Jim turned to me and said "I still haven't seen any signs for the GAP".  About all I could say was that he hadn't missed any - that they really weren't there.  When he finally saw a sign for the Eliza Furnace Trail I had to say, "Yeah, but you wouldn't want to follow it."  "How come?"  "Because the signs stop before they lead you to the trail and you'd be sitting at an intersection trying to figure out which way to go.  Plus - it's not a good transition to the trail if you go that way."  I found this embarrassing.  They shouldn't have needed us to escort them through town just to keep them from starting their "fun" trip out totally lost and frustrated.

We crossed the Hot Metal Bridge and I explained a bit about how it got that name.  I also told them about how October often brought unusual decorations to the HMB when American Eagle Outfitters hangs bras out for Breast Cancer Awareness Month.  We reached the end of the sidewalk and saw that they had put out their decorations a little bit early this year.  Instead of adorning the bridge or the metal trees alongside their building, this year they put the pink ribbon of bras in Tunnel Park.

A bit subdued compared to the past couple of years, yet still eye catching.

I hadn't paid a lot of attention to the folding bikes that this couple were using until we stopped for a break.  Then Jim showed me that he didn't have a front derailleur or handlebar shifter.  Instead, he taps a push button on the center of his crank arm with his foot to shift gears.  The chain doesn't move, and the change in gearing happens internally.

I didn't know this sort of gearing was an option.  Kind of cool.

After we established our visitors on the trail near Boston and reversed for home I noticed that my legs were unusually tired.  We had planned to stop for dinner, so I just kept pedaling, figuring the dinner break would take care of it.

Ever since we noticed Mitchell's Fish Market at the Waterfront was putting out cold water for the trail users, we've been wanting to stop there for a meal.  That sort of consideration for the bikers, joggers and walkers deserves a thank you, and what better way to do that than to give them a try.  (The link to their site wasn't working, so I've substituted their page on Trip Advisor above.)

The meal was delicious.  Excellent salmon, service and atmosphere.  We've already decided what we'll try the next time we stop there.

The Magical Powers of Chocolate Milk

Thinking I was well rested and fed I wasn't expecting my legs to start aching when we left the restaurant.  They haven't hurt like this since the very first time that I rode 40 miles (doubling the distance that I'd been able to do at that point) just over two years ago.  The front of my thighs were aching and burning and after a few miles I had to yell "uncle".    I was going to just slow my pace, but my much, much wiser friend convinced me to stop while he rode over to a convenience store and got me some chocolate milk.

I've been swearing by the power of chocolate milk for some time now.  Anytime my legs are the least bit sore and tired from exertion the miracle of chocolate milk has always seemed to help. I don't know why I didn't just order some with dinner - except that it didn't sound good with broiled salmon.  I won't make that mistake again.  I chugged down the bottle of chocolate milk and after a 10-15 minute wait the pain was gone.  I kid you not.  We rode back to the car and my legs felt fine.  Lesson learned.

I woke up this morning with no residual pain and did a shorter, but briskly paced ride.  "Radical Days" are in progress and today was the free admission day for Phipps Conservatory.  After recently spending a day at Longwood Gardens on the east side of the state, I wasn't really interested in looking at all the plants and flowers.  I was, however, interested in seeing the art glass that they've had on display for their summer flower show "Glass in the Gardens".  Obviously the displays inside Phipps aren't really bike related.  What is - and what surprised me - was the fact that this place that promotes itself as "one of America's Greenest Public Gardens"; has a LEED certified building; pushes and promotes sustainability, BUT HAS NO BIKE RACKS!!!  Really???  How disappointing.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Signs that Biking is Becoming an Obsession

 - You're watching a movie or TV show and instead of following the plot you're eyeing the bike in the background.

- You see a hot guy/girl (depending on your preferences) riding toward you and the first thing you notice is their awesome headlight (not a euphemism).

- You don't need to go to work, appointments, or run errands, it's 87 degrees/70% humidity, no breeze and you go for a 30 mile ride anyway.

-Opposite extreme - same no reason to go anywhere, it's 20 degrees with a wind chill of 11 and you're looking for your toe warmers so you can take a ride.

- Every potential new piece of clothing is evaluated on it's visibility.

- You have five, red, flashing lights on the back of your bike and you're trying to figure out where to put another one.

-Thunderstorms only concern you if the flash floods wash out the trail you're on.

- Given the choice of a bike ride or romantic evening you have to think about it.

Today fell into a couple of those categories: Unable to go early in the morning due to other commitments, we started our ride late on a hot, soupy day.  Why?  Because we could!  Halfway through the ride the sky darkened and thunder began, but it didn't really disturb us.  In fact, we stopped and sat in the shade for a bit just so we could take our helmets off and let the heat escape. We sat there listening to the thunder and debated whether or not we might get wet on the way back, but it didn't motivate us to hurry.  We had anticipated the possibility of rain and had opted to wear water shoes just in case.  Hey, if your feet are comfortable it's half the battle.

Monday, September 9, 2013

A Fascination with Dragons

Cool mornings, warm afternoons - riding weather doesn't get much better. This past weekend it was perfect.  Climbing up 18th St in the morning felt almost invigorating.  Coasting down a little while later and it was just warm enough to be able to really savor the breeze that comes with the decent.

Riding or walking around Pittsburgh, one of the things I've always loved has been the architectural details of the old buildings.  Years ago there was a large cage on the street corner in what's now the Cultural District.  Inside the huge, wire box was a pile of cornices, gargoyles, grotesques and odds and ends recovered from the destruction of some of those great, old buildings.  I've often wondered what happened to them.  One theory I've heard is that the Heinz History Center has them.  I don't know if that's true or not, but now I know where one of them ended up.  We rode through Station Square on Saturday morning and found this guy adorning a small fountain.

It was a great discovery as far as I was concerned.  The plaque on the fountain identified this as coming from a building on Liberty Ave that was demolished in 1984.  I'd like to find more of those wonderful architectural features re-purposed around the city.

This wasn't our only dragon encounter this weekend.  Up in Knoxville we found a new mural with flags from several countries incorporated in it, including the flag of Bhutan.  Druk the Thunder Dragon represents this Buddhist state who's name translates to "Land of the Dragon".  

But wait... there's more.  On our Sunday morning ride we came across yet another dragon/sea serpent.  This mosaic sculpture is under construction in a small, community garden.  

If the bright colors and inviting seats on it's back aren't enough to entice the neighborhood kids to take a closer look, maybe the kaleidoscopes built into it are.  Scattered at varying heights around the tall tail are prisms embedded in the structure.

And when you look into them:

The top of the tail is under wraps right now.  We were speculating about what other cool feature might be hidden under the plastic, but for now all I know is that it's a great excuse to return here in a few weeks and see for myself.

That was the dragonian trifecta for this weekend.  Other things that caught my eye included a giant, inflated eagle in Point State Park.

This was part of one of the charity run/walks occurring on Saturday morning.  We passed three different groups setting up as we made our way from the Northshore to the Southside early in the ride.

Late in the afternoon on Saturday, the Despica-blimp floated over us while we stood in front of Thick's Bike Shop.

I'm not sure which we were more interested in at the time - the strange minion overhead or the cool modification the folks at Thick were making to their bike racks.  They fitted bike tires around the outside to keep your bike from getting scratched!  Nice.  I think I like this better than the yarn bombed ones I'd seen in Lawrenceville a while back.  The yarn bombing was more colorful, but the yarn ends up getting dirty, snagged and torn eventually.  The tires should last a long time.

Speaking of bike rack adornments... Our Sunday morning ride took us past this:

Hmmm.  I think I'll leave the caption open.  The possibilities are endless.  I was curious enough to look it up on line and discovered that Masterlock makes this bike lock and the MSRP is around $65. In case you're interested.