• Twenty Eight Years Later

    I visited my parents about three weeks ago, and before the visit I rode at Allaire State Park:

    The soil there is pebbly/sandy, and pretty smooth, and the trails are twisty but easy singletrack for the most part — though I was gratified to find a few more challenging sections. Here are a few photos from a trail near the entrance, a section I’ve ridden many times over the decades:

    A trailside selfie! The place has evolved a bit (new trails have been built, older trails have worn in), but it hasn’t changed all that much. What has changed is me.

    Allaire used to host a mountain bike race every year, an important one in the state race calendar — maybe even the NJ State Championship? — and it was an important part of my riding/racing life back in the day. My very first race was with Mike K, at the God’s Country MTB Classic (in Potter County, October of 1992), but here is a photo of me with Mike after our very second race, at Allaire that November:

    That’s me on the left, in my “lucky racing shirt.” I don’t look like that guy anymore, but sometimes I still feel like him.


  • Map Update

    I finally got around to riding the southernmost part of the D&L about two weeks ago, riding from Yardley to Bristol and back, and ground-truthing the trail and access points. I can scratch that off my bucket list, and I don’t see any reason to ride south of Yardley again — this trail section, especially the Morrisville-Levittown portion, is nowhere near as nice as other areas — but I got what I needed to finish my trail amenities map. I may do a little exploring on the Black Diamond north of White Haven just for the sake of completeness, but I think I now have everything I was looking for.


  • Every Week Is Infrastructure Week

    Bike

    Speaking of Scott & Kellyn… I went looking for new parts for my road bike, but found instead that the component supply chain is still completely disrupted by COVID, and I may need to wait a long time to replace that freehub. So I went back to CAT, where Scott helped me find find a wheel compatible with my shifting system, and then guided me through rebuilding it: cleaning out and re-greasing the freehub, ditto the bearings, and putting it all together with my old sprockets. It looks a bit weird on my bike — even though it’s also Campagnolo it’s decades older than my other components — and I am still on borrowed time with my other worn drivetrain components, but the bike is rideable again. Thanks Scott!

    Computer

    My laptop started making a tiny creaking sound when I opened it, and the other day I noticed that the right hinge had become detached in some way. Fixing this, according to YouTube, is an easy enough home repair, and System76 says I can send the laptop back to the factory to get it fixed, but I think I’ll split the difference and bring it to some local repair place.

    Before I brought it somewhere though, I wanted to make sure I had my data backed up. (I used to do backups regularly but, ironically enough, my old backup drive crashed a while ago. So, step one was to get a new drive.) I picked up a 2.0 TB, USB hard drive at Staples, then spent a little time fixing it up the way I wanted it, re-formatting it with a more Linux-friendly filesystem and replacing the drive’s icon with one I like better. After that I just copied my home folder over to the new drive and called it a backup. (I also needed to back up a few other things, like global configuration files, but that was just more file copying.)

    My last remaining backups were the databases. These required using a few special programs, which, since I haven’t used them since my last major upgrade, I just discovered in the moment that they were not configured correctly, and in fact my whole database system was a misconfigured hodgepodge… I had to backtrack a bit and get my system in order, which meant I had to do a bit of learning first, but I eventually got the whole thing running and even managed to automate the process.

    The next step is to bring the laptop to a repair store.


  • A Wedding

    Yesterday was the big day for our friends Scott & Kellyn — who, as we told everyone, met at our party. They had a beautiful wedding (officiated by Donna F) and an awesome party afterward. Congratulations to the happy couple, and thanks for letting us be a part of your celebration!


  • More Ball Bearing Woes

    Morning weigh-in: 175.5#, 11.5% BF

    I took my road bike over to the CAT office yesterday and took apart my freehub. What a mess! There are a whole lot of very small ball bearings in there, and the bearing cage basically fell apart — sound familiar? The slop in the freehub was basically caused by missing BB’s but the entire inside was trashed anyway. Maybe it can be serviced, but I think it’ll be better to just get a new one, if I can find something compatible with that wheel. I will also be replacing the cassette, the chain and the front rings, so maybe I should just get a new wheel as well.

    One good thing: while I was at CAT, Scott was able to get my pedals off, so now I can replace them.

    Today we had to run a bunch of errands, and when we got home we were hungry and tired and crabby. So, we hopped on the mountain bikes and rode to Freemansburg, maybe four miles away on the towpath. We got takeout at a place called Cherry’s Caribbean Palace (curried goat, mac & cheese, rice and plantains) and ate at picnic tables by the restored Mule Barn. It totally changed the afternoon’s vibe. I’ve been meaning to check that place out (it’s on my amenities map), and I saw online that they just got recognition as one of the best Caribbean food places around, so this was a pretty good opportunity to do some food exploring. Two thumbs up.


  • It Better Rain

    Morning weigh-in: 174.5#, 15% BF

    Rest day today. The rest of the week is supposed to be rainy, so I did towpath rides yesterday and the day before, and in the heat they took a bit more out of me than usual. It’s so nice out right now, despite the heat (and the rainy forecast), that I’m starting to rethink my decision…

    We were scheduled to go camping in the Finger Lakes this week, and canceled because of the weather forecast: rain and more rain. I just checked the current forecast, and it looks like staying indoors will be a good idea hereabouts — we even have a flash flood warning for this afternoon — but the Ithaca forecast is starting to look much less severe. Oh well.

    UPDATE: We got some rain, and I expect we’ll get some more in an hour or so. Meantime, enjoy this view of LANTA’s routes and stops, suitable for framing on refrigerators everywhere. The routes are blue lines, the stops are green dots, and the municipalities are color-coded white to red based on how many routes and stops are within their borders. I did this to just see which municipalities are not served by permanent routes. Some, like outlying farmland, make sense, but there are other municipalities, centrally located and with sizeable populations, with no bus service. Huh. (LANTA does run a shuttle service in some of these areas, but it’s available by appointment only, and has no permanent routes or stops.)

    LANTA bus routes
    LANTA Bus Routes in the Lehigh Valley

  • New Phones

    Morning weigh-in: 175.5#, 15% BF

    Anne and I just replaced our phones, and in the nick of time too: they were ancient, and falling apart (literally my power button just fell off), and the network they worked on was about to be sunsetted…

    We both got the new Samsung Galaxy A52, which is not top of the line but it still blows our old phones away, thank you very much, and it costs about half of what the top models go for. We bought them online, unlocked, and got new SIM chips from our phone company, and then we transferred our numbers and data to the new phones. Easy enough process, and everything seems to be working OK, now all we have to do is get used to them.

    Rain Comes At You Fast: We had plans to head up to the Finger Lakes for the 4th of July, Ben and Candace (and their new dog) and us, camping and cycling from tomorrow through the 5th. But the forecast has been getting more and more dire as our trip approached, and so we got together in a Zoom chat last night and changed our plans: they’ll be coming to visit us for part of the weekend, and we’ll do a hike if the weather allows.

    I got in another sweltering towpath ride this afternoon, super hot even though I was moseying, but it was beautiful out there. Still, I had the trail mostly to myself, except for a few kids at the swimming holes.


  • Back In The Game. Back In A Lot Of Games.

    Morning weigh-in: 176#, 12% BF

    I’ve been trying to lose weight again lately, and to clean up my diet in general, trying to bring down my cholesterol, triglycerides etc. Nothing major, but I cut back — not stopped, just cut back — on meat, cheese, certain fatty foods, and beer, and now I’m starting to notice a difference. My weight has dropped some more, and I seem to have a bit more energy. I thought the beer would be harder to give up, but that was easy compared to, say, cheese.

    I’ve also been putting a lot of road miles lately, which I’m surprised at how much I’m enjoying. (I’m also surprised at my surprise, if you know what I mean — I love riding the road.) That has also helped with the weight loss, and the hill rides especially have noticeably improved my fitness. The extra road miles have also revealed a whole slew of mechanical issues I’ll have to deal with: one of my pedals needs replacing but can’t be removed from the crank, the chain/drivetrain is starting to feel worn, and while I was trying to track down some other problem I discovered that the entire cassette/hub is loose, like “wobbling like a loose tooth” loose, and that’s bad — I might have to replace the wheel. Oy.

    Both of the other bikes are also showing signs that they’ll need more love before they get much more use: I had to tighten the Iguana’s headset (which I replaced just a year or so ago) , and I’m trying to track down yet another squeak near the bottom bracket on the Santa Cruz. The bike work area could also use some love, or at least a good straightening so I can find my tools…

    I got in a nice towpath ride this morning, before the day became too hot.

    Speaking of towpaths… I’m back volunteering at the Canal Museum again, currently working through their fleet of rental bikes and making sure they’re seaworthy. Nothing major, the majority just need a few minor adjustments and a little air. There’s probably plenty of other work waiting after the bikes get done.

    And finally, I’m playing music with others again. I played with Donna H this afternoon, and we’ve been getting together for duets for a few weeks now. The quartet (minus our viola, at least until until she gets back from England) has been playing a bit as well. There’s even been some recent talk of getting the cello/oboe ensemble back together.

    My days are getting full.


  • The Wheat From The Chaff

    I’m not sure if this is going to rise to the level of “new GIS project,” but I have been playing around a lot lately with the local transportation authority’s GTFS feed — where GTFS stands for “General Transit Feed Specification,” a standard for publishing public transit information on the Internet.

    These feeds are like a cross between spreadsheets and database tables, and by a judicious massaging of the data you can extract bus stop and route information. Unfortunately, that massaging is a real necessity: the specification is built to convey a lot of information, and to cover a lot of different transit situations, so there’s no simple route-and-stop information — it’s buried in cross-references and spread across multiple tables. All this extraction and data crunching is fairly straightforward though, and there are even tools to automate the process (I use a QGIS plugin).

    Or the process would be straightforward, if we were not dealing with LANTA. These feeds are updated periodically, and about a year ago the new LANTA feeds sort of devolved into chaos, with extra routes showing up that had no real world connection, odd use of abbreviations for bus stop names (abbreviations are sort of frowned upon, for what ought to be obvious reasons), and their cross-referencing system becoming unnecessarily complex. It was hard to figure out what was going on — I thought at first that it was my analysis software mangling the data, but no it was them.

    Well, they’ve been working through a huge revamp of their entire bus route network, so maybe that was the source of some of the bogus data. The new routes and schedules went into effect on June 21, and an updated feed followed soon after; I downloaded the new one and crunched the data — and the garbage was all still there! But, I noticed that in among the old chaos was a new and much cleaner set of data, valid starting on the 21st, showing the new bus routes and the correctly-named bus stops. So now I do a double extraction, first massaging the feed into a useful form, then extracting from that the new, valid and cleaned-up route data. Voilá!

    I have some vague plan to add these bus routes to OpenStreetMap, but that’s a big undertaking, and I would prefer to rely on eyewitness ground-truthing (ie riding the bus) than a data set — which means even more work. For now I’m content with just having got the damn data.


  • Brood X

    I finally got to see the cicadas this week. I’d been on several rides recently looking for them (including one ride up to Blue Ponds in Jim Thorpe — strangely early even for the mountain laurel), but no dice. Then on Wednesday I did a road ride in the hills south of town, and they were everywhere. They were loud enough while I was riding that you’d have to shout to be heard over them, and I stopped once or twice just to watch them fly around.

    Anne and I did another hill ride yesterday with a few friends in the same general area. Again, they were everywhere and maybe more numerous than the other day, even landing on us when we stopped for ice cream.

    So that’s one thing off this summer’s bucket list, though I do expect to check them out a few more times before they are gone.