This is a shameless attempt to save the the most advanced civilization in
history from imminent self destruction by eliminating carbon emission,
dependence on foreign sources of fuel,obesity, hypertension and diabetes.
Cycling accomplishes all those things at once and develops a better
understanding of ourselves, each other and our relationship to the cosmos.

Oh, horse puckey!
I like to ride bikes, have been doing it all my life.
The rest of that crap is just a fringe benefit,
and the blogosphere gives me a chance to share my interior
monologue with virtual rather than imaginary friends.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Grooming our pets

   It's the time of year  my cats start to shed.   They love the attention when I set them on the counter and brush out their coats with a Furminator, most of the time it helps prevent malfunctions, like hairballs on the carpet.  They purr and roll around on their backs to beg for it some days.
    After the winter and a tour like the GAP/CO (April showers version),  my Hunqapillar was screaming for a little grooming.  I don't know what a wholly mammoth does to look adorable and make you want to comb him, but he would if he could.  He was in a sorry state when I took him out of the box in Pittsburgh.
I should have gotten a drive side photo of this, but you can see from the tires and the bottom bracket condition that the mammoth was well ridden.  The derailleurs, cog and crank were horribly encrusted.
     As usual I tore him down to nuts, bolts and bearings.  Damn, filthy was not the word.  It can be changed with a little water, citric acid, patience and paint. Surprisingly, after the nasty winter crud from the the roads and the moist springtime journey, I could not find a speck of rust.  I took the bottom bracket apart and scrubbed it out with solvent, inspected it under a light and could not see a speck or suspicious pit to trouble me.  Kaisai Tubing must be the good stuff.
     I cleaned him up, readjusted everything and it makes me feel like a responsible trainer
and much happier rider.
     I thought it was time for a facelift, so I made my first attempt at the "harlequin handlebar wrap" technique.  I made a few mistakes, but for a first try it wasn't a disaster.  I not only felt like giving the Hunq a new 'doo, I wanted more of the bar covered since I use the flats quite frequently.  It extends the color scheme.   Like anything else,  it  becomes automatic if you learn the technique,. I made my mistakes on this attempt.  I learned not to expose too much  adhesive.  Take the liner off a few inches at a time and plan to sweep up the mess.  Basically you are wrapping each roll in opposite direction to overlap the other and exposing too much adhesive turns a simple operation into a tangled nightmare. I'll roll with it this year and plan to do a better job next.  If I get it right, I'll shellac it to keep it new.
     The day finished on another positive note.  A local journalist posted this op ed piece in our local news site.  She has found her 3 millennial children are rejecting the American love affair with the automobile.  It was a nice piece to see.  I can agree, the kids I see in schools seem to think my bike riding is nothing but cool.  They come up lists of reasons to use a bike rather than a car and very few, to choose a car.  My son likes his car, but thinks it's a damned inconvenience in town.  I get overly optimistic about this, but what will the world be like if 50% of the money spent on oil and autos was available for something else? Moving forward one pedal ahead of the other.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Small happiness and getting free

I was overwhelmed this morning when I discovered the city had swept the curbs.  
No more broken glass, metal shards  grit, grime and crude in the way.  

It was like for one brief moment somebody cared for a bike lane.  That's not true.  They are concerned that the broken car parts from all the accidents might threaten the valuable tires of the other cars who are still  waiting  their turn to be a traffic problem.  Those of us who don't get in each other's way or cause injury and death are of no concern.
   A weeks worth of commuting and utility riding is a good recovery period after a week of self-supported touring.   After the trip, my metabolism was galloping and I seemed to do nothing but sleep and eat everything in sight for days.
  It's April and  people are starting to show up on their bikes.  Some are going to club rides and talking smack about their accomplishments last year, and their mileage goals for this year.  I feel a little left out, they are so focused, determining  their caloric intake and target heart rate.

 It's good that they have a phone to tell them what to do, if they had to think of all that stuff they'd probably forget to pedal.  I just want to have fun riding my bike to more places and I bet it will lead me to more mileage.  Of course proving that would be tedious and, more importantly, useless,
    This time of year I also find myself in conversations that lead to the excuses for not commuting by bicycle; no showers at work, have to change shoes, carry extra clothes, the bike is too expensive, it's 8 miles, have to carry a computer, have to stop at the store.  I like to address these concerns simply and orderly.  I have been commuting by bike for 40 years in 6 different locations while working in 4 different industries.  Nobody had showers at work.  I always wore regular shoes, in fact I really like Rockport loafers for club rides (they're comfortable and confuse people).  The only time I've felt a need to carry extra clothes was the summer in Kansas City when it got unbearably hot.  I still only carried a shirt, used the t-shirt I was wearing to rinse off after I arrived, sprinkled a little deodorant talc around and was fresh as a daisy.  With the money I saved, I could buy a second bike more appropriate for commuting.

 Carrying a computer, extra clothes or stopping for groceries  is easy on a bike that wasn't made for racing.  8 miles, are they kidding me? The extra mileage is just what people brag about.   It's hard to make them understand.  Their bike was bought for the same purpose as the car, to impress people.   We're Americans!  We spend money we don't have, to buy things we don't need to impress people we don't like.  Bernard Shaw said; "When you stop caring of other's opinions, you are halfway to freedom."  I'll just be ridin' and smilin'.

Friday, April 17, 2015

GAP/CO summarized and fear unrealized

    I think the experience of choosing to cycle provides an opportunity for one to be an active participant in both the geography and culture of places.  As Hemingway said, on a bicycle "you develop a better feel having to sweat up the hills and coast down them" but  you also participate in the climate and aroma the geography developed.  As a result one has a sense of traveling through rather than past a place.
  One thing bothered me about the the GAP/CO trip, not just leaving my car in Pittsburgh, but returning to get it since Amtrak arrives at midnight.  I was returning on Friday.  So I looked forward to arriving, getting my bike from baggage, reassembling it, loading it and then riding through the heart of the city at 2 AM Saturday morning.  It not only sounded inconvenient, maybe stupid and not even vaguely safe.
   I was wrong.  After removing my tightly packed Hunqapillar

 and reassembling all the necessary parts.  
The streets of Pittsburgh looked less than threatening.  Except for a couple female cops on foot,
 I  had them to myself until I reached the GAP trail. 
 I was apprehensive at that point.  City MUP's are notorious places for disadvantaged, dislodged and disreputable characters. None were found.  I coasted along the well maintained "Steel Valley" trail section through rail yards, and past industrial concerns without a problem.  Many of these places might look foreboding to another, but I was raised in a railroad town, worked 12 years for one of the largest and was familiar with industrial landscape.  These places are lit up and locked up like Fort Knox. There was nothing to do but admire an unusual glimpse into the working guts of a great industrial city.  There are a few artistic renderings developed to reflect it,
 but I liked the functional symmetry.
   My car, 16 miles from the train station, was just as I had left it.  I reloaded and went on my way, drove a couple of hours at a time and napped at rest stops until I got home.
   The trip cost me $50 in gas, $25 in toll charges, $70 in Amtrak costs, $10 in campsite fees plus food.  I  don't count food as a traveling expense, I do expect to eat wherever I am.
   As I mentioned in an earlier post, this is a real confidence builder for somebody attempting cyclo-touring for the first time.  I'd suggest checking with the shop in Cumberland, set up livery service and ride the CO to or from Washington for a trip.  What I did was easy but the CO trail is really a nice ride without many challenges for a novice.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Part 2 the C&O trail

First I want to thank John Hawrylak for taking the time to e-mail and correct an error.  I had overlooked the fact that the GAP trail is built on an abandoned Western Maryland right of way and originally attributed that to the B&O.  Thanks for keeping me in line John!
 Everything on these two trail systems begins and ends at the Cumberland Trail Connection, a bike shop strategically located at the junction between the two.  A group of other shops and a long term parking lot are adjacent to the junction.  It's an impressive development around the union of these trails.  I stopped at the shop Monday afternoon and they gave me a map of the city with specific directions to the YMCA and laundry.  This is a full service shop which focuses on the trail rider. They also provide shuttle service to Washington, Pittsburgh and points between. When in doubt go here and make arrangements, they know better than anybody.
   I set out on the C&O trail and noticed a singular difference right away.  It is flat, very, very flat and the surface is much like any gravel two track you might find in the country.
Built on the tow path adjacent to the defunct C&O canal, the trail is like a dike between the Potomac river and the canal  built to carry freight.   Right away there was a noticeable change in the scenery and wildlife.
 I sailed along past dozens and dozens of turtles sunning themselves, and frightened deer after deer deeper into woods.  The pace was brisk, the wind at my back and temperatures accommodating.  I sailed through 30 miles in the morning going to Paw Paw WV.
 Although I had passed the Mason Dixon line on the descent from the Big Savage Tunnel, I felt I was just now entering the South and would be meandering back and forth over the borders of West Virginia and Maryland for days.  After having a lunch snack and getting supplies at the Dollar General in Paw Paw I rode to the  tunnel.
   This was one of the great debacles that shut down the canal.  The construction of the tunnel took nearly 3 times estimated and gave the B&O railroad a chance to get ahead  and ultimately allowed them to begin taking shipments to prove themselves before the canal was completed.
   Now the tunnel is a tourist curiosity.  The towpath through the mile of darkness is wide enough for single file traffic.  Two hundred years of condensation and dripping has eroded the concrete into a pattern  of waves 3 inches deep.  The guard rail preventing me from falling in the canal was a 2x4 set at standard 3' height.  I was walking the bike.  I switched the BM dyno against the tire and started into the tunnel all lit up for a stroll with reliable light.  300 feet into the tunnel one of the wires came loose from the dyno and the lights went out.
The most reliable equipment will fail at the most inopportune moments, and the light at the end of the tunnel was not encouraging.  The balance of the distance was negotiated by rubbing my right shoulder against the grimy wet wall and shuffling my feet forward while white knuckling the bike to make sure I still had it at the end.
  After the interesting trauma of the tunnel, I sailed right through another 30 miles and passed Hancock, Md.  Staying at one of the trail side campsites for the evening, I had a pleasant visit with a priest who was angling there.
Rain began to fall as I was fixing dinner and rhythm from the wind and rain put me to sleep quickly. I slept late and Wednesday was not nearly as productive.  Things were seriously slower on the trail after the rain. There were long stretches of muddy trail which was slow going but the park service is determined to change that.
 Some  stretches are repaved with the nicest aggregate I have ever seen on a trail.
This section has been resurfaced  4" deep  and compacted tightly.
    Judging by the debris on the trail, this section was a year or more old and was still as smooth as concrete.  If they continue repairing weak sections with this material, the trail can only get more comfortable and faster.  The rain came and went, there was a small benefit to wearing a rain cape since the wind was westerly and helped me force my way through the soupy portions.
     I began to see some evidence of beaver although I was unaware there was a population.  A couple of other wildlife sightings were significant.  Pileated Woodpeckers are seen routinely.  I was seeing several every day once I was beyond Cumberland.   In Michigan, I might have seen one a year at my house secluded in a forest.   I was also seeing a huge number of Bluebirds.  The beautiful little critters seemed to be everywhere.  Thirteen ways of looking at them occurred to me.   At one point I'd have sworn I rode through a flock.
      I took time to stop and see Fort Frederick, just up the hill from the Potomac flood plain.   I was a bit early in the season and only had access to the outside  to marvel at the size of an 18th century hand built fort.  Despite the fact that this has reverted to a forested national park, the remnants of the canal construction is overwhelming in scope.  Every few miles there's another lock used to raise the boats incrementally to surmount the 600 feet of elevation to be gained over the 184 mile journey.
 The lock houses still stand and many are available as lodging
 to get an idea how the lock attendants would live, for years on end.
    Nearer Georgetown, a rebuilt passenger boat sits in one of the locks.  Now that is probably a bit smaller than the freight barge, but a team of donkeys can only pull so much right?  Despite water shipping being a familiar and proven transportation for the time, you would think those investing in this project would have noticed that railroads were less labor intensive...just a thought.

    At Dam #4 there is an extensive interpretive display which details the mechanics necessary to tap the river, flood the canal and manage the water needed to eliminate the current and navigate with a mule team.  It's overwhelming to imagine this construction with the technology 200 years ago.  One of the people I met on the trail said there is a cemetary in Shepherdstown dedicated to 30 Irish immigrants who died on that portion of the project alone.
   Wednesday I made it as far as mile 76, just short of Shepherdstown.  After pitching camp at the campsite, I made my way into the small college town to get supplies.  Another wind and rain storm passed as I did my shopping at Food Lion.  The bad weather was kind enough to wait until I had finished dinner to start drumming on my tent and driving me to sleep.
      The historical significance of the canal and railway during the Civil War 
is obvious as you get farther down the river.
 Just down from Harper's Ferry was the place where Robert E. Lee was driven to ford the Potomac back to Maryland to escape Yankee Troops.  I doubt that I would enjoy swimming that part of the river, let alone ride a frickin' horse across and certainly not try to supervise a few hundred underpaid soldiers in the process.
Passing Point of Rocks, I ran across Sam.
He was languishing with a flat.  It was Sam's first attempt at an overnight  bike trip.  He is an experienced backpacker which as a breed are interesting because of they demonstrate such imaginative ignorance on a bike.  Most persist on carrying a backpack on their body, Sam, an advanced beginner, had developed a way of strapping the backpack onto the rear rack like a back rest. It'll probably be the last time he tries that.  He had only ridden as from Shepherdstown but was already asking about panniers.   He had one flat earlier on and discarded the damaged tube.  Now he had a second and was dealing with the quandary of patching it.  I was glad to help.  After about thirty minutes, we found the hole and patched the tire.  He was glad for the refresher course.
   Sam and I rode along together most of the day.  His intention was to make it to Georgetown before the end of the day.  I wanted to get within striking distance and camp out. He is a good traveling companion and interesting company.  When I mentioned that he was an experienced backpacker, I was understating the facts.  He had backpacked the entire Appalachian Trail  a few years ago.  Right now he is between jobs and going to a meeting Friday night in DC.  We rode along for about twenty or so miles and I was searching for supplies when we discovered that the Mileage Chart I had been using for reference and had been so reliable, proved to be entirely false from this point on.   Dum-de-dum-dum!
  The ride was nice, brisk enough most of the time with occasional muddy patches.  

I didn't need to be in Washington until 4PM Friday so all I needed was dinner and a snack..  As long as I went to sleep at a regular hour I'd be fine and Sam was planning to be in Washington that night . Whites Ferry was the next stop on my list which had a retail connection.  We planned to stop there. Whites Ferry has nothing.  We weren't worried because Poolesville was right there also, or so we thought.  After realizing White's Ferry is a small collection of dilapidated buildings, we ran across a biker who happened to live in Poolesvillle.  He explained it is, "exactly 9.8 miles" from where the chart listed it.  He also said there were no services there either.  Hmm.
Undeterred, we still had Seneca and a campsite a few miles ahead.

    Reaching the campsite at the 26 mile point we found Al (aka Steve) and Fritz already camped out there.  After some convivial exchange with our new friends from Indianapolis, Sam and I both decided to camp there.  The plan at that point was for me to set up, then ride the remaining 6 miles to Seneca and pick up some food for myself and maybe some beer for the rest.  No problem.  Until I road down the way and found that Seneca is 6 miles officially, I mean the village limits may be there, but nothing else.  It started to rain.  Another 4 miles (total 10 now)  I found a way to cross the canal and get access to the town.  Climbing a mile and a half up a cliff road to reach Seneca, I found absolutely no retail possibilities, only huge, high priced architectural marvels.  I figure these were the families that owned the railroad that drove the canal out of business.  Following the cliff road a bit, I found nothing but more gated neighborhoods with extravagantly huge and expensive homes.  There probably are some retail areas in this town, but not near the canal.  The extra mileage I put in would have put me in Georgetown, but with no place to stay.  After my discovery, I obviously made it back late, the other guys offered some of their stuff and we all went to bed a little wiser than before.
    Sam got up early and left long before the rest of us were motivated.  Al, Fritz and I had coffee together and a chance to inspect and compare gear.  They are petty experienced cylo tourists and backpackers taking a week off work.    I was quicker to break down and pack up.  I figured they would catch up as soon as I saw a place to sit and buy a fresh meal.

  It didn't happen,   The road to Georgetown is all down hill and down wind, the river changes character dramatically as it nears the Chesapeake, but there ain't no place to get nothin' . Despite what the Mileage Chart had told me, once past Brunswick and Point of Rocks area, there is no modern convenience until you reach the visitor center in Potomac and that is just a tourist accommodation.   Just fair warning.  It taught me to hold back an extra freeze dried meal or two.  I have had so much success over the years buying on a daily basis that I set myself up for failure here.  Fortunately, this is an easy part of the trail and I had time, just had  time, to get to Union Station, pack up the bike and catch my train.  Except for the little faux pas at the end, this was one of the best long trips I have had.
The important pleasure,  360 miles-no cars!
I'll wrap this up in a summary when I get some time in the next couple days, the important issue was the trip to retrieve my car outside of Pittsburgh.