Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Who Pays for That???

With the recent purchase of a new fat bike I realized that no one makes a U-lock that will let me secure both the frame and rear wheel (like I do with my regular bikes).  In my search for the best locks to use for this new beauty, I started to think about my insurance.

The first eye-opener was during my U-lock research.  I read in several articles that the insurance some lock manufacturers supposedly provide is pretty much a scam.  They apparently don't pay out.  One even requires you to send them the broken lock in order to file the claim.  I have no first hand knowledge of whether or not anyone ever gets money from this, but it certainly made me think twice about depending on it if I lost my bike.

What about real insurance?  Do any of my current policies cover my bikes?  Do I need a special rider for my growing bike collection?  Are they covered if one's stolen from a bike rack?  Hit by a car?  What if it's inside my car and mangled in an accident?  On a bike rack attached to my car?  Is this on my car insurance?  My homeowners insurance?  Am I going to be SOL if something happens?

I called my insurance company for some excellent information and advice, and here's what I learned. My insurance company doesn't offer bicycle insurance separately,  nor do they have a rider for bikes.  The bikes are simply covered as personal property under my homeowners policy.  Even if they're inside my car, it's the homeowners coverage that applies.

Considering the deductible that most people carry on their homeowners policy and the average cost of a bike right now, it probably won't be much (if any) help.  In fact making a small claim for a bike against your homeowners insurance is most likely going to result in a rate increase as you lose your "claim free" discount.

I'd also seen some forum threads regarding liability while out riding and someone had mentioned that it fell under their auto policy.  According to my insurance company that info was incorrect.  If you hurt someone or damage property while riding then it still falls under your homeowners policy and those liability limits.

So what if someone hits you and you don't get their license number?  You could be left without any sort of coverage.

That reinforces my resolve to use a camera.  I've been a bit complacent about that lately.  The Go Pro isn't very useful for me because the battery just doesn't last long enough.  Even with a spare battery I can only record maybe half of a ride (if I'm lucky).  It's an inconvenience to have to stop and change the battery and half the time I don't hear the beep telling me that it's shutting off anyway.  I have a new camera on order though, and that should solve this problem.  I plan to use it every ride once I get my hands on it.

In the meantime, there are actually companies out there with bicycle specific insurance.  I don't know a lot about them yet, so I can't recommend or review one, but I'm going to be looking into it.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

FAT is In!

Bike Love!!

It was pretty much love at first ride. That immediate, giddy feeling that comes over you when you know this partner is the one for you. The fact that he was fat and owned it was what drew me to him from the start.

I wandered into my LBS thinking I'd just look at their fat bikes. I'd been mulling over the idea for awhile and had a little extra time that day to browse. He was the first bike in the row of fat bikes that lined the entry to the store, and I gravitated to the bright red color immediately. Instead of exploring the row of bikes on my own, I asked the experts - the folks there that I've learned to trust - which fat bike might suit me best. I can't deny that I was pleased when they pointed to that same spicy red, Salsa Mukluk.

I went once around the block with him and stopped for a seat adjustment. After that I took a little longer ride down to the trail and I was smiling the whole way! Probably laughing out loud a bit too. I passed several people that either thought the bike was as cool as I thought it was, or they were just returning my own huge smile. I returned to the shop and started to deliberate. While not the most expensive of the line up, this little guy wasn't exactly cheap. Still... I had no real interest in looking at any of the others. I had Chrissy at the bike shop tell me what this bike had that made it so pricey. She went over all of the features and explained available options. In my mind I was trying to justify the expense, but I don't know why I bothered. The truth is that it wasn't like I needed a fat bike. I don't commute to a job by bike where I really had to have something to transport me in snow. I just plain wanted it. Kind of like a chocolate donut.

I waffled about my need to replace my computer (which has been giving me the spinning beachball of death at an alarming frequency lately) versus my "need" for another bike. In a matter of minutes I decided that the bike's name would be "Mac" (in honor of the iMac that I probably should have bought).  It's a lot like holding a puppy...  shouldn't pick it up - or test ride it - unless you're prepared to take it home.

In the beginning, Mac was a simple, straight forward guy.
When Chrissy mentioned the option of converting to tubeless tires, I thought that sounded like a great idea. While the guys were setting that up, I had the choice to add a little snazz to the wheels. My first thought was to add a high viz color peeking through the holes in the rims, but after thinking it over I decided to go subtle. Wheels are made to get wet and dirty and I didn't want to see a bright, high viz ribbon splattered with road grunge.  I found a leopard print that would hide dirt and stains pretty well and give Mac his own personality. I treated the fabric with Scotchguard and delivered it to the bike shop for installation.
I told the guys that Mac needed a kickstand. At the time I didn't see anything unusual about that request, but apparently kickstands on fat bikes are about as rare as apples on pine trees. I, however, have a kick-ass LBS (Thick Bikes) who manufactured a custom plate for the bike and installed the kickstand. Totally classy!

There's nothing like having a great bike mechanic! THANKS, CHRIS!!
Handlebars... I had been toying with trying Jones H Bars on my other bike earlier this year.  These bars will offer me lots of real estate for accessories as well as options for hand positions.

Knowing that this bike was intended to go in snow and slush and slop. I figured some sort of fender was in order. I'd just seen a thread on the subject on the BikePgh message board and opted for a couple of strap on fender-like accessories. The bike shop advised that the PDW Mud Shovels wouldn't be a good fit on the front because of the extra small frame, so I opted for another brand that isn't as wide for the front, and put the Mud Shovels on the back.

Dilemma! I had decided that I needed a rear rack and had the shop order the Salsa rack designed for the bike. The dilemma came when they clipped on the Mud Shovel in back and I couldn't see how they would be compatible with the rack. Rats!  Once the rack came in, however, they found that the Mud Shovel would fit beneath the rack without rubbing the tire.  Best of both worlds.

So after all the modifications, today was NEW BIKE DAY!

Mac and I left the bike shop and headed out for a spin.  I can't tell you how many people asked me about him.  As I rode past a group of guys working on a new building downtown, I heard one yell something like "look at that bike!" and when I glanced over I found five guys had stopped what they were doing and were checking out my new baby.

Now we just need some of the white stuff.  Mac is ready to play in the snow, and so am I.

Mar 2016: Kevin left a comment below and for some reason Google won't let me reply to it!  So I've opted to answer him here instead...  Love the Jones H Bars.  I make good use of all the space on them with lights, bell, ORP, GPS, etc.  As it turned out, the rear fender only fits with the rack when I have the tire pressure really low.  So unless I'm in sloppy, slushy conditions where the uber-low pressure is useful and the fenders are a priority I leave them off.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Coffeeneuring 2014

Coffeeneuring Adventures for 2014

Event #1:
Coffeeneuring With Friends

5 Oct 2014
The Carnegie Coffee Company
132 E Main St
Carnegie, PA 15106

Hot Apple Cider
12.26 miles

We met up at the break of dawn at a trailhead on the Panhandle Trail. The early time was partly to accomodate one friend who had plumbing chores to attend to that day and partly to satisfy my need to get on and off of Noblestown Rd before it got a lot of traffic. I don’t consider this a very bike friendly segment between the Hawkins Mill trailhead and Carnegie. It has poor sight–lines and no berm for a good stretch. You pass the interstate on/off ramps and on occasion it can get a little tricky. I actually feel better riding here pre–dawn, because my rear blinkies can be seen farther back and vehicles coming around a bend have a hint that there’s something ahead to watch for.

It was a brisk start that morning to say the least. We ended up stopping at one point to add more/warmer gloves. I was regretting forgetting to bring hand warmers with me. We bundled up as much as possible and continued along.

I had wanted to revisit five public art murals that we mapped in this town last year, as well as ride to one we didn’t have on our map. One of the friends along on this ride had discovered the new (old) mural a few months ago and I hadn’t gotten over to this section of town to photograph it yet, so that was a top priority for me.

Found this older mural on the side of a warehouse.

All of the original murals were still in place and most were still in good condition. One was peeling, but it wasn’t too bad yet. Found the new (to us) mural, that was apparently done in 1995. It’s on the side of a warehouse on a dead end street, so I wasn’t surprised that we’d missed it previously. We turned around after taking the photos of that one and discovered another small mural we didn’t know about to boot. Bonus! After that I offered the possibility of continuing on to check the status of another mural in a nearby community and coffeeneuring on the way back, but the vote was for coffee NOW - both to satisfy caffeine cravings and to thaw out.

We headed straight for The Carnegie Coffee Company, which is in a former Post Office building. I really liked the layout of this place. The counter is made using the old post office boxes and there’s an old phone booth in the corner.

It’s a spacious shop with comfy seating, book cases, a second floor, and artwork displayed. I could see that it would be easy to find a comfortable corner and settle in with a good book and hot beverage here.

I opted for a breakfast sandwich to go with my hot apple cider – which was served piping hot. By the time it had cooled down enough for me to drink it we were all thawed out and ready to face the chill again. It had warmed up a few degrees and was not nearly so bad on the ride back toward the trailhead. We had decided to head back to where we had started and then ride westbound on the Panhandle Trail until we’d had enough for the day.

Saw this leaving the shop.

As it turned out, I was first to call uncle. I had just replaced my saddle with my first Brooks. The couple of very short rides I’d done with it had accomplished nothing in the way of breaking it in. I knew I might not want to go too far on this ride. I had hoped that I would last a bit longer, but I decided that it wasn’t going to be worth it if I was miserable, so I declared my intentions to turn around. The friend with a plumbing mission was also ready to call it a day and our other friend was ready to stop and take some photos and slowly work back to the car.

We didn’t get too far along the Panhandle Trail, but we did ride through the section with all the decorative trail–side embellishments. I was sorry to see that many of the very creative birdhouses they used to have there had completely deteriorated. One that once had a helicopter now has a broken, rotor–less helicopter. I didn’t even see ruins left of the haunted house bird house – and that had been so clever! The shoe garden and some of the more simple bird houses were still there though. (ref: reD rIdiNG's blog for some current photos.)

The weather not only didn’t warm up very much, but by the time we made it back to the cars the clouds were looking a bit ugly and I was glad we weren’t getting wet. The rain came later, but by then I was home working on my own plumbing project – replacing a faucet.


Event #2a: (take one)
Service Matters

11 Oct 2014
Wunderbar Coffee House
253A Mercer St
Harmony, Pa

Hot Apple Cider
2.17 miles (squeak!!)

Another choice of a coffee shop in an interesting space, Wunderbar is in an old opera house. It’s not a large shop, but it has some interesting decor. I didn’t stay long though and took only a couple of quick photos. In fact I almost walked out and went somewhere else that day.

I debated a bit about coffeeneuring at all this particular afternoon. It was a gorgeous fall day and I really wanted to hike in a nearby state park. I decided that I’d stop by a local community park on my way, unload the bike and get in some coffeeneuring. I didn’t check the mileage ahead of time. I figured if I needed more distance that I could just cruise around the block, but as it turned out I ended up meeting the requirement of 2 miles with a teeny, tiny, little sliver more for good measure.

Arriving in Zelienople (which is next door to Harmony) I encountered total gridlock on the main road. I was stopped for two light cycles at the intersection while no one moved and I had no idea what the problem was. Once I finally made it across the main road I was very happy to find that the community park had no issues and the side streets were very lightly traveled.

I unloaded the bike and started exploring. Traffic continued to be light and friendly and I only needed to be on one fast moving street for about a quarter of a mile. Zelienople would seem to be pretty bike friendly on the east side of town of least.

When I arrived in Harmony I saw quite a few people dressed strangely. Sort of pilgrimmy strange with a smattering of witches. I stopped at a table full of baked goods and the ladies there informed me that it was Sleepy Hollow days in Harmony and that Zeli was having a Fall Festival. That explained the gridlock and the witches. When I mentioned my destination was the coffee house they whole heartedly recommended it and told me that I would love it. Well, while the shop looked interesting, the service was abominable. Standing first in line at the counter I was completely ignored twice while the barista asked people behind me for their orders. Ordinarily I would have just walked out and gone somewhere else. This time I just interrupted her and told her that she could help me with an apple cider. I didn’t have the time to search out an alternate coffee shop just then and because the ladies outside had so highly recommended this place I decided to make the purchase. I skipped their food selections and instead returned to the ladies and bought a home made German pretzel to munch on.

The cider was fine. It was seasoned with what tasted like cloves. Not my preferred taste for cider, but it wasn’t bad. Still, I don't think I would recommend them. The poor service and total lack of apology when she (should have) realized that she’d ignored me doesn’t sit well.

I returned to the car and continued on (via back roads) to McConnells Mill State Park and had a fantastic trek on the North Country Trail. This particular state park is peculiar. There is really no where to bike here at all. This place is pretty much undisturbed woodland with a dangerous creek running through it. There’s a pretty covered bridge by the old mill and that’s about it. There are a couple of short stretches of trail that are fairly easy hikes, but the other trails I’ve seen can be on the challenging side. I brought a trekking pole on this hike and used it. I’ve seen no indication yet that there’s even anything suited to mountain biking here.

Each year it seems they have someone die in this park. The currents in the creek (which has some very deep spots) are dangerous and the terrain is hilly with many steep drops. Visitors that don’t heed the warnings to stay on the trails can get into trouble quickly. I made sure I was back at the car well before dusk.


Event #3:
Chocolate Donuts are Aggressive

12 Oct 2014
Whole Foods
5880 Centre Ave
Pittsburgh, PA 15206

Chilled Albino Hot Chocolate
15.44 miles

Another blessed cold morning! When I woke up and heard that temps were in the 30’s with wind chills near or below freezing I was almost sorry that I had volunteered to marshall for a charity ride today. Brrrr. I pulled out my wool buff, winter gloves, hand warmers! (just in case) and dressed in several layers.

I ended up assigned to work at an intersection, making sure none of the riders got off course. By the time the ride started (and I had climbed the hill through Greenfield to take my position by Overlook Drive) both the day and I were starting to warm up.

We watched the riders come up the hill only to realize that the hill continued around the bend. Hey, this is Pittsburgh – if you want flat you have to stay on the river trails. They all seemed to take it in stride and most were smiling as they continued on.

Once the sweep showed up I was off duty, so I reset my GPS and started my own ride. I didn’t really want to do the course for the 3–2–1 ride today, so I tagged along with the sweep crew for a bit and then broke off and headed over to Whole Foods. I know – of all the great, independent coffee shops to choose from, I opted for a grocery store. I considered several coffee shops as we passed through Squirrel Hill and entered East Liberty, but the call of Whole Food’s orange–cranberry scones was strong this morning.

So how did I end up with a chocolate donut? The scones might have been calling, but that damn donut was screaming at me when I walked in. Nothing goes with a chocolate donut better than a cold milk, so I grabbed a chilled, albino, hot chocolate and took my milk and donut to one of their outside tables to soak in some sunshine.

Now I was warm, full and happy. I meandered around Bloomfield and Friendship before I dropped over the hill into Lawrenceville. Traffic had picked up so I stuck to side streets and avoided the crazy. Crossed the 40th St Bridge and joined the trail. I passed the rest stop for the shorter, family–friendly 3–2–1 Ride course in Millvale and noticed that they had someone making balloon animals. I continued back to the Northside where I dropped by the finish celebration for the charity ride before calling it a day.

While I was hanging out there the guy that rides with a parrot on his handlebars showed up. I haven’t seen him in ages, but it still amuses me. A few minutes after he left a family returned from doing the family–friendly course, and the little kid was sporting a balloon parrot on his handlebars! What are the odds?


Event 4:
Vacation Rule!

17 Oct 2014
Grand Canyon National Park
10 South Entrance Road
Grand Canyon Village, Arizona 86023

Berry Smoothie
8.6 miles

On vacation with friends in Arizona and we had planned to spend a couple of days at the Grand Canyon. Wow – wouldn’t that be a great backdrop for my coffeeneuring photo??? I did a little googling and discovered that they had rental bikes available and began my campaign to ride while we were there. My friends do not ride. They immediately questioned their ability to do it – especially at 7,000 feet elevation, but I told them it would be easier than walking it. Either way, I decided that I was going to rent a bike while we were there so I packed my helmet (who wants to use a rental helmet??), headlight and blinky. If the rest of the group didn’t want to ride, then I’d get a rental and use it to ride out for sunrise photos before the rest of the group was awake. One way or another I wasn’t going to miss out on riding a bike at the Grand Canyon.

As predicted, no one else was interested in biking, so I implemented my plan. I got a two day rental and used the bike to haul myself and a ton of photo gear out to the rim for sunset and sunrise photo ops. The first evening I started out later than I wanted to and was racing up the hill to get to the lookout that was recommended for sunset. When it was obvious that I was running out of time I stopped at the next overlook I came to. It might not have been the best sunset spot, but it was still really nice. I stayed well after sunset for pictures and rode back to the lodge in the dark. I managed to only get lost once and was really happy I had brought my windstopper bike jacket along. It gets chilly quickly after dark.

The trail was nice in the daylight, but hard to find at night. The roads were reasonably bike–friendly. On the section that only allows the park busses (no private vehicles) this time of year, cyclists are to pull off to the side when the busses approach. A little easier said than done as the side is often rutted and has a several inch drop off in some spots. In the dark that’s pretty hard to see and I nearly lost control on one of those occasions.

I had planned to coffeeneur on this ride and stopped at the cafeteria on the way back. The three tour busses parked outside should have been a clue, but I didn’t catch on until I walked inside and saw the endless line. I gave up and continued back to my room. My friends had picked up a box of instant hot chocolate earlier and I considered using that, but didn’t. I should still have plenty of opportunities to complete the challenge without this ride.

The next morning I was up and riding about two hours before sunrise. I wanted to get out to Yaki Point an hour before the sun came up so I wouldn’t miss the best lighting. It was a bit cold and very, very dark. Again – got lost once, but figured it out and was the first one at the overlook. The stars were magnificent and well worth getting out early for. The sunrise was beautiful! I enjoyed trying to capture the experience in pictures. I’m still learning and I figured out several things that I did wrong, but I still came out with a few ok shots.

The rental bike left a bit to be desired. The seat was incredibly uncomfortable and my knees were bothering me, so I stopped at the bike rental office on the return and swapped out bikes. (Thus the mis–matched bikes in the photos.) The lady saw the camera backpack, tripod, holster camera case, and my Bike–Pgh sling bag (from bike–to–work day) all wrapped around my neck and offered me a basket. Awesome! That would make this a bit easier. I went into their cafe for my beverage and selected a berry smoothie and blueberry muffin.

Now it’s getting a bit later than I wanted it to be. I had planned to go over to the rim near the visitor’s center to enjoy my beverage, but by now my friends were up and had breakfast and were ready to commence sightseeing. I needed to catch up. It was my fault. I couldn’t just ride straight back after sunrise. It seemed that I stopped every 50 feet along the way to take more pictures. It’s an addiction.

I had a quick gulp of my smoothie and loaded it and the muffin into the basket along with one of the camera cases and my Bike-Pgh bag (which held the extra gloves, hand warmers, and misc items I thought I might need that morning). I started to ride back to the lodge to drop off the bike, reorganize myself, and catch the next bus out to join my friends.

As I pedaled up the road (fat, dumb and happy with my morning accomplishment) the newly acquired handlebar basket detached and I watched my Nikon DSLR with a brand, spanking new, wide angle lens go bouncing across the pavement. The smoothie exploded on the road in front of me and I ended up wearing more of the concoction than I was able to drink. I think there’s still smoothie on my helmet. The other bag bounced off the road and into a gully. Sigh. I scrambled to collect everything before a vehicle could come along and do even more damage. The muffin was at least still edible. A little soggy, but edible. Note to self: check basket before loading expensive gear into it.

To my extreme surprise and pleasure, the new case that I had bought for the camera just before the trip paid for itself about thirty times over. The camera and lens came out unscathed! I was able to take hundreds of more photos designed to bore all my friends and relatives to death with. The smoothie was not so lucky. My coffeeneuring event was a bit truncated this time as far as volume of beverage consumed, but the location made up for it.


Event 5a (take one):
Coffeeneuring Insurance

25 Oct 2014
Cranberry Township, PA 16066

Hot Chocolate
3.27 miles

How to you follow up coffeeneuring at the Grand Canyon? Somehow picking another little shop in one of the same neighborhoods that I usually ride in just didn’t measure up. I considered some options, but at the last minute decided that I’d better just squeeze something in while the weather wasn’t terrible and save the search for dramatic scenery for another week. I wanted a little insurance that I would complete the coffeeneuring mission for the year. Usually I’m done by now.

It started out a bit dreary and I was so behind with everything from being away that I procrastinated on the coffeeneuring. Highly unusual. Normally the coffeeneuring – or any excuse to ride my bike – is closer to the top of my list, but I was having trouble getting motivated. I had a pleasant distraction with an unexpected visit in the morning, but by afternoon when the sun peaked out I figured it was now or never. I did have something I wanted to do in the city, so I planned to head to a spot where I could avoid the afternoon Pitt football game traffic. Almost the minute I left the house I reconsidered. By the time I had checked the tires and loaded the bike in the car the overcast had moved back in and the wind was picking up. My motivation to ride was plummeting. I started considering options, but nothing was appealing to me, so I chose a spot to park the car and headed for the closest coffee shop – a (ugh) Starbucks. Not my fav spot. Probably because I don’t drink coffee; they have a limited selection of tea; and their hot chocolate is way too bitter for me. Too bad – their shop would keep me from having to get mixed up in the very bike–UN–friendly traffic of Cranberry Township. Instead I would ride on the nice, wide, four lane road that went through the industrial park in Marshall Township, (which shouldn’t be too busy on a Saturday afternoon) and live with what SB had. As it turned out the ride was good except for one idiot in a black Hyundai SUV that was apparently a bit put out by me riding in his lane.

The hot chocolate was indeed as bitter as I remembered. I decided to consume it slowly so I put it in my bottle holder and started to ride back toward the car. Hmmm – wait... considering the recent smoothie episode perhaps I should reconsider this ill–conceived plan??? I remembered that Starbucks had those cute, little plugs for the lid opening, so I went back and grabbed one.

I was still skeptical of how well the lid would stay on but started out slowly with it. Seemed OK, so I continued. FYI those cups have a small pinhole in addition to the opening you drink from. The liquid will ooze out of that pinhole steadily while the cup is being jostled. I stopped several times to sip and managed to keep the potential mess under control. The clouds were looking unfriendly and the wind kept shifting. I didn’t think there was actually rain in the forecast, but the weather guessers are often wrong, so I just returned to the car and called it a day.

No reason for the jerk in the SUV to crowd me here. Jagoff.

At least there was still some pockets of nice fall color around.

Not my best coffeeneuring event. I decided that I’d keep this one as a back–up event. If for whatever reason I didn’t get seven accomplished without it then I would have this in my pocket. If I had the opportunity though, I would have a re–do on a better day, and since that did happen I relabeled this one as Event 5a (bonus coffeeneuring).


Event 6: Making the Map

1 Nov 2014
Big Dog Coffee
2717 Sarah Street
Pittsburgh, Pa 15203

Hot Chocolate and Oatmeal
3.1 miles

Options for the oatmeal toppings.

This stop was inspired by this years snazzy, new, Google Fusion Coffeeneuring Stop map (set up by newenglandbicyclist). For the past couple of Coffeeneuring challenges I made it my mission to find and try out mostly newly opened shops or places I hadn’t been to before. Looking at the map, however, I was disappointed that my favorite coffee shop wasn’t there. It’s my go–to spot, (one of the best in the area IMHO) and I thought it deserved to make the map. That’s how I ended up scarfing down a bowl of most excellent oatmeal – loaded with fresh strawberries, a few dried cherries, and just enough almonds for some crunch – alongside a cup of hot chocolate (light on the chocolate, please) on this less than gorgeous day.

Forgot my bike lock today, so I left the bike on the patio where I could keep an eye on it.

Ahhh, the perfect warm up on a damp, chilly, overcast morning. The threat of rain and even (gasp) – snow – hovered, so I planned the ride to keep myself within relatively easy range of shelter and/or the trailhead where I left the car. Yes, I confess to being in a wimpy mood. It was raining lightly when I left the house and at a whopping 40ish degrees the wet was dampening my enthusiasm yet again. Although I was not ready to experience the first snowflakes of the season, even that sounded better than being cold and wet from rain. I was so not interested in doing the drowned rat impression at these temperatures. In fact, few things could have dragged me away from my favorite cozy spot in the house today, but the Coffeeneuring challenge managed to push my lazy self out the door and onto the bike.

Riding to Big Dog I noticed trail improvements under way. Cool! I hadn’t ridden here in at least a month and didn’t know that there were plans to pave the section of the trail that split off by the river. All the trees and shrubs between the two sections had been removed; the big, dirt/muddy circle on the branch that leads toward REI had been remodeled into a straight trail segment and there were indications that it would all end up paved. Nice.

When I left Big Dog it seemed that the light rain had stopped. The air didn’t feel as cold as I had expected it to this morning, so I thought maybe I’d get in a nice ride after all. As I began to meander about on the Southside though, those thick clouds started to leak on my head again. Not hard. (Yet.) It was just enough to make me pretty sure that a long ride wasn’t my best idea. I started to defy my instincts anyway and turned away from the trail again, only to see the drops materializing on my goggles and to hear a light patter on my helmet. Sigh. Maybe this was a better day to run errands than to ride my bike? I called it a day with only 3.1 miles logged. Almost a waste to have driven into the city for such a short adventure, but at least I could now enter Big Dog on the map – so there’s that.

On the way home I made a few stops and at each one it felt like the wind had picked up a bit more and the air was a little colder. It continued to spit off and on, but no downpours. Should have kept riding.


Event 7:
Coffeeneuring Without Walls

2 Nov 2014
Brush Creek County Park
Route 588
Beaver Falls, Pa 15010

Orange–Jasmine–Passionfruit Tea with Orange Juice
4.15 miles

Woke up to the morning news and heard the words wind chill of 25 this morning and pulled the covers back over my head. Arghhh... It really is November. Originally I was planning to join a Covered Bridge ride in Washington County today, but the idea of driving three hours round trip so I could freeze my heinie off for a 25 mile ride seemed less than appealing to me today. The 20 knot north winds were supposed to die down later, so I waited. Mid afternoon wasn’t exactly toasty, but it did break 40 and the winds had lessened. It was sunny and looked really beautiful, so I decided to do the Coffeeneuring Without Walls option.

I made myself a travel mug full of one of my favorite teas (mixed with orange juice as I like it) and drove out to Brush Creek County Park. I had only been to this park once before, and not at all with my bike. I had hiked the trail along the creek a few weeks ago, so this time I rode the park from end to end on the bike. Not a huge park, but quiet and pretty.

I found all the picnic tables were stacked up beside the parking areas. Probably staged there to be loaded up and hauled away for the season. I guess the county park officials had already figured out that it was November.

Part of why I chose this park was because I knew it had a covered bridge. Since I skipped the Covered Bridge ride I figured this would be a suitable substitute for today. I rode over to the bridge and found a nice spot overlooking the creek to enjoy some of my tea.

Standing in the sun wasn't too bad, but I didn’t stay stationary for too long. I continued on the road as it started to loop back toward the entrance when I came to a field where someone was flying a remote controlled helicopter. I stopped to watch for a bit and enjoyed some more tea.

I had just started riding again when I heard a car approaching from behind. This is a relatively narrow, one–way road, so I pulled over to let him pass. It turned out to be an antique that I probably could have easily stayed in front of. In fact I had to slow down several times to stay behind him as I followed him through the park.

When I was here the last time I remembered seeing a small, arched bridge going across the narrow spot on the pond. I didn’t see it from the main road so I turned down into the parking area to see if I could find it. I started to wonder if perhaps they had removed that for the winter as well and got my answer when I found the empty cement piers where it had been. Hmmm, they winterize this little park well.

When I got back to the car I thought about taking another lap around the park, but I’d had enough of the rough pavement. In spite of the sunshine my toes were pretty cold so I quit for the day. Another really short ride, but better than nothing.

I was glad to have technically completed the challenge at this point. The weather is likely to get worse from here out, so in case I couldn’t ride the next two weekends I had at least accomplished the seven rides. I was still holding out hope for at least one do–over though. I’d like to replace that Starbucks ride with something more interesting before the deadline.


Event 5 (Take Two):
Coffeeneuring Do-Over

9 Nov 2014
Biddle’s Escape
401 Biddle Ave
Pittsburgh (Regent Square), Pa 15221

Peppermint Hot Chocolate, Cinnamon Currant Scone
28.03 miles

Although still in the 30’s, the temps were moving into the 40’s and I was past my wimpy, resisting–the–inevitable–cold, mood. Sort of. I’m sure there will be plenty of days over the next few months that I’m going to prefer hibernation to riding, but for now I’m over it so I headed out early for an opportunity to replace that lame ride to a local Starbucks with something more interesting.

I knew about three new murals that I wanted to photograph today, and I picked out a coffee shop that (although I knew about it last year) I still hadn’t tried. I mapped out a good route and got started before Sunday traffic started to pick up.

First stop was to hunt for a mural of Homer Simpson exploding. I knew which street it was on, just not specifically where. On my way to locate it, I stumbled on another mural. This one was fairly simple, but a nice touch on the otherwise blank side of a house.

Homer by Matt Gondek

With my first goal accomplished, I set off to locate another mural. This one is a huge, multi–panel mural on a loading dock with the adage How you do anything is how you do everything repeated across each section. Apparently the motto of a local wine company, and I think it says a lot about how they must go about their business. Kind of cool. A reminder of the work ethic and expectations every time they show up for work.

Next stop... coffeeneuring at Biddle’s Escape, a small shop in an old house in the middle of a residential neighborhood. Quirky. That was my first impression. Well, maybe my second impression. My first impression was one of disbelief, when I rode up to find a bike rack made out of pvc pipe. Really? Anybody seriously stupid enough to lock their bike to a plastic rack that wasn’t attached to anything? It was laying on it’s side on the edge of the road and I wasn’t sure if it was supposed to be a joke or not, but there was no way I was leaving my bike locked to it. No one was on the patio, so I rolled the bike up there where it could be locked to the metal leg of a table at least.

Inside they were fairly busy, with a line at the counter so I had some time to look around. This is when I settled on quirky as a good description.

Other than a few pastries, it would seem that the only food option was a Sunday brunch item, which changes each week. Today it was huevos rancheros. I skipped that and went for the one scone that they had which turned out to be a cinnamon currant scone. I wasn’t sure if that sounded good or not, but decided to try it anyway. They do have a pretty good selection of coffee, teas, and other drinks. I had seen an option on their website that wasn’t on the board so I asked and they said sure: Peppermint Hot Chocolate.

I know it wasn’t exactly warm outside, but I opted to take my hot chocolate and scone out onto the patio anyway. I was surprised that I wasn’t freezing. Even though it was a little cool it was comfortable enough. I actually liked the scone and enjoyed the peppermint hot chocolate too. The patio was also decorated in what could qualify as quirky. An iron dinosaur skeleton sat beneath several carved branches along the one fence. Interesting place.

When I was leaving I went to get a picture of that bike rack and was surprised to find that someone had actually used it! They had set it upright and locked up to it. I was tempted to see if the joints had even been glued (not that I think that would make it a useful place to secure my bike) but was a bit afraid that if I messed with it it could very well fall apart, so I left well enough alone.

Some brave and trusting soul actually used this thing.

From there I headed for the third mural. I didn’t get very far when I discovered another tiny library. I love these things. Makes me want to live in a neighborhood where one would be put to good use. This one was full of books!

The third mural on my list replaced an old, wheat paste mural in the same location. This one had been done within the last few weeks and it was very nice. The colors are so bright that I wondered if some of them might be phosphorescent. The building it’s on is slowly being restored/renovated, and each time I return here I can see more progress. It’s a labor of love on a very old structure.

Across the street from the mural is the Superadobe, or Konbit Shelter, done by the same artist. I saw that it had been painted and couldn’t remember if it had been that way when I came by here a few weeks ago, but I don’t think so.

Once again the clouds have gotten that ominous look about them. Dark, foreboding, and threatening to dump cold water on my head. Time to start working my way back to the trailhead. I walked the bike past the kids playing kickball in the street so that I wouldn’t interrupt their play, then headed for the trail. The return ride was mostly uneventful except for the winds kicking up and the numbness of my posterior. Still haven’t broken in this new Brooks seat. At about the 20 mile point for the day I was getting some serious complaints from my petutie. I’m sure that if I hadn’t kept switching bikes and seats that this process would be farther along by now, but it isn’t. Nothing to be done about it but suck it up and ride.


Event 2 (Take Two):
Coffeeneuring Do-Over

11 Nov 2014 – Veteran’s Day!
Prestogeorge and Allegheny Coffee and Tea Exchange
1719 Penn Ave, and 2005 Penn Ave
Pittsburgh (Strip District), Pa 15222
http://www.prestogeorge.com/default.asp and http://www.alleghenycoffee.com/
Acai Raspberry Green Tea, and Fortune Apple Cinnamon tea

20.12 miles

Yep, another do–over. I was pretty dissatisfied with the original Event 2 for a couple of reasons. For one, it was squeezed into other plans – not a Coffeeneuring Event unto itself. Mostly though, I so disliked the experience at that little coffee shop (I know, I need to give them another chance) that I wanted to replace it. Plus... it was Veteran’s Day and I wanted to coffeeneur for Veteran’s Day! So once again I relabeled the first trip to 2a and am substituting this ride into that slot.

I don’t have an Air Force bike jersey (yet), so I pulled on one of my old AF T-Shirts with reflective markings and headed for town. This was shirt made for running – before the days of light weight, wicking fabrics. This wardrobe choice might have been less than optimum considering we got up to around 70 here, but I am so not whining about getting 70 degrees in November. What a great day to ride!

As I rode past the WWII memorial I noticed the light was hitting it just right so that the panels were really showcased today. It was nice to see so many visitors at the memorial today paying their respects.

Sunlight behind the glass panels make the images stand out even more than usual.

I had initially planned to ride up the Northshore Trail and take the 6th or 7th St bridge across the Allegheny, but found myself on autopilot heading up the ramp for the Ft Duquesne Bridge. No biggie. That just put me on Penn Ave before the new protected bike lanes begin, but city traffic was lighter than usual on the holiday so it was a very easy ride. I L–O–V–E our new protected bike lane (Thanks, Mayor Peduto!). Right now I don’t care that it isn’t perfect and that the transitions are a little rough. It’s a great start.

I continued into the Strip District via a back alley once the bike lanes ended, and circled around to the Pittsburgh Public Market. I didn’t remember exactly what all was in there, but I was sure that one of the vendors would have Coffeeneuring type beverages. Unfortunately, once I got the bike locked up and went inside I discovered that they’re closed Monday AND Tuesday. Rats. OK, well I had considered the option of making today a Rule 19 kind of day anyway, so I cruised a bit farther down Penn Ave in search of some supplies (Buying Beans Rule).

On a Saturday this place is so mobbed you can hardly move.

For those of you unfamiliar with The 'Burgh, The Strip District (or just the Strip) is a strip of land along the railroad tracks by the Allegheny River where all the fresh produce used to arrive by train and later by trucks. It was the central spot for all the wholesale, fresh food businesses. Restaurants and grocers would head to the strip for all the meats, fish and produce they needed each day and this small bit of land was busy in the wee hours with deliveries and wholesale customers. Now, not so much. The Strip has evolved into more of a retail shopping experience. They still have plenty of fresh meats, fish and produce, but it’s mixed in with restaurants, lots of stores specializing in ethnic foods, sidewalk vendors, and every possible item that a Pittsburgh sports fan could want. Seriously, if it comes in Black and Gold then it’s probably in the Strip.

I love this sign!

For me, there are about three places in the Strip that I go there for. One is the Pennsylvania Macaroni Co, which specializes in all foods and supplies Italian. When I need some Torone I stop there. Another is Enrico Biscotti for fresh baked–on–site biscotti of every flavor imaginable, plus a few other treats. (I stopped by there today and grabbed an apple cinnamon scone.) My destination for coffeeneuring though, was Prestogeorge. They have my two favorite loose leaf teas.

Go ahead and try to decide.

On the way to Prestogeorge I saw Allegheny Coffee and Tea Exchange and decided to see what they had. I had never been in there before. I spent some time checking out their offerings and decided to try a small box of apple cinnamon tea bags. Must have been in an apple cinnamon kind of mood today.

I actually have plenty of my favorite teas in the pantry right now, so once arriving at Prestogeorge, instead of getting more Blood Orange or Very Cherry tea, I went through the jars looking for something new. One of the ladies there had some recommendations and I decided to try the Acai Raspberry Green Tea.

Coffeeneuring purchase complete, I headed back into the downtown area. Although I’ve used those new bike lanes outbound quite a few times, this was the first time I had ridden them inbound – and it was surprisingly a bit of a different experience. I still absolutely love them, but I quickly discovered the need to be especially vigilant at intersections. Drivers on my right making a left turn seemed to not be very cognizant of the fact that I was there. In spite of signs at each intersections warning/advising drivers to yield to cyclists, they just haven’t quite gotten the flick yet. #LearningCurve

Holiday traffic is as good as Sunday morning traffic!

Such a nice day that I couldn’t resist a shot from the bridge.

I made a loop through the city and out the Jail Trail to the Hot Metal Bridge and then stopped at the park below Southside Works to enjoy my scone. What a gorgeous day and a nice, quiet spot. It was hard to believe how close I was to the city as I sat there soaking up sunshine and enjoying my snack.

I continued along the Southside Trail and decided to stop by LBS extraordinaire Thick Bikes. After melting my credit card there, I started heading back to the car. Station Square trail to the Ft Pitt Bridge, through Point State Park and back across the Allegheny to the Northshore where I ran into a couple of friends and stopped to catch up. RC’s Rivendell was looking extra spiffy today flying the colors.

Back to the car with just over 20 miles. The seat is still not feeling so great, so that was more than enough today. I look forward to the day that this thing becomes as comfortable as everyone SAID it was going to be.

Still one weekend left for Coffeeneuring this year, but I think I’m satisfied now with the two do–overs. Once again, I enjoyed this challenge and am looking forward to Season 5 next year. Thanks, MG!