Our grill has been in pretty bad shape since late last year, when some burner parts — the heat shields, which should have been stainless steel but weren’t — basically rotted away to nothing. We let it sit for the entire start of grilling season, only picking up some replacement shields at Lowe’s the other day. The replacements were the wrong shape at the ends and couldn’t attach to our grill, but I was able to trim them to fit with tin snips. Some new propane, and we were good to go!

    Old Grill, Shiny New Heat Shields

    Last night was our first barbecue of the season. We had a Warm Showers guest, a guy from Poland who had biked across the country and was getting close to his finish in NYC. We had John & Donna over too, and had hot dogs and burgers and beers, plus a few summery salads.

    When it was dark enough, we watched the city fireworks from the front porch. Happy Fourth, everybody!

  • Interregnum

    Surprise! Brian at his birthday party.

    Brian would have turned 60 a few weeks ago. It’s been ten years since his big 50th birthday bash, and that means it’s only a week or so until the 10th anniversary of his death. The birthday party did not carry any extraordinary significance at the time, but it’s loomed larger in the years since, as the starting bracket for “the last weeks of his life,” and this year I’ve been thinking a lot about him.

    The world has changed so much since then. I wonder: what would he be like now, and how would he fit into this world? Our friendship was in the middle of changing when he passed away: it was early in my relationship with Anne, I was no longer a fellow bachelor, and he was no longer riding as much — or shouldn’t have been — and we were drifting apart. Where would we stand, as friends, now? It hurts to think this, but maybe I value him more than I would have, if he were still here and I didn’t have to miss him.

    But I do miss him.

    Godspeed you Brian, wherever you are. In Moab, or Jim Thorpe, on a goofy bike adventure or just sitting in some bar shooting the breeze, I’ll think of you as being there. I’ll remember you and smile.

  • A Familiar Feeling

    We went up to Jim Thorpe early Sunday morning, Anne and Donna to do a trail run and me to do a short MTB ride while they did it. We started at the lake, and I basically did a loop on the Switchback.

    I was really hoping to catch a glimpse of some rhododendrons or mountain laurel in bloom, but I think it was a bit too late. No cicadas either, but I didn’t feel disappointed. Maybe it was the look of the trail surface — sandstone and dirt with reddish bark and pine needles — or maybe it was the particular environment I rode through, a certain combination of vegetation and soil that I associate with the Alleghenies, and the giant anthills of Allegheny mound-builders though I didn’t see any, and with rides at Michaux and West Virginia, but I felt a sense of nostalgia, of having come home again.

    Anyway, the ride itself was fairly uneventful, if extremely pleasant: I went up the Switchback to the Upper Switchback, across the ledge over that RR tunnel/cave, took the Wagon Road back into town (I had trouble at that same spot I always have trouble, but rode it all better than usual) and finally climbed back up to the lake on the Switchback. I was done just about the same time as the ladies, and we drove off — we were home by about 11:30. What a way to start the day!

    That evening was the Pennsylvania Sinfonia “Valley Vivaldi” concert in Allentown, and drinks with friends at Brew Works.

  • More Infrastructure

    I did a Sals ride with Renee last week, and had a really tough time: I felt almost incompetent, screwing up all sorts of easy things and just not feeling strong or competent. I noticed that my feet would not stay clipped to the pedals, and also that the brakes were almost bottoming out, and since I knew that bad riding would never be my fault or issue, I focused on those as the sources of my problems.

    The brakes were easy: I picked up new pads and replaced the worn ones. Brake replacement used to be the most tricky part of bicycle maintenance, but each new generation of braking technology has made a quantum leap in ease of use (even as the brakes themselves became more complicated), to the point where my biggest problem was not over-thinking the job. Pull out the old pads, slap in the new ones, done — they even do their own adjusting afterward.

    My pedals/cleats were a different matter. I noticed that they (the cleats) were in fact worn, and even kind of broken, and I had spare cleats ready to go, but I could not get the old ones off my shoes: corrosion had welded the bolts in place, and I was practically stripping my Allen wrenches trying to loosen them. In the end I had to get new shoes — the originals were old, had multiple other issues, and they owed me nothing; this was really just the final straw. I got a new pair of Bontrager shoes and installed the cleats.

    Yesterday morning I did a towpath ride, just a test run for my new stuff. Everything checked out fine, and I even did a little bit of playing around with the heart rate monitor, riding in various zones and trying to find my maximum heart rate. This meant that I was pushing pretty hard at some points, and I managed to finish the ride much quicker than usual. Bonus!

    I hopped in the shower afterward, and just for laughs I stepped on the scale. This wasn’t my usual “official morning weigh-in” protocol by any means, it was a warm ride and I was probably dehydrated, but I got on the scale anyway and it read 180.0 pounds. I hadn’t seen that number in a while! I spent the rest of the day chugging water, and my weight was back up at 184 pounds this morning. Oh well…

  • Grit And Flow

    So I’ve had my new Garmin Edge 830 fro a week or two now, and my verdict is: meh, it’s better than the 810 but it’s not magic. The map it comes with is OK, but I plan to put an OSM map on instead — I think I can do this, but I’m not going to try for a while — and there are a bunch of other features I haven’t explored yet, which don’t do much for me (yet), such as connectivity to Strava, map connectivity to TrailForks, and some new MTB measurements: Grit, Flow, and Jump.

    “Jump” seems pretty straightforward, it measures something about how much or how well you jump on the bike, but “grit” and “flow” remain a mystery to me, even after reading their explanations. “Grit” apparently is a sort of trail difficulty score, based on turns and elevation changes, while “flow” senses the rider’s performance as a function of maintaining momentum. Maybe they’re useful, but they sure don’t seem to tell the whole story — where does rockiness, or trail roughness generally, come into the equation? We’re talking Pennsyltucky riding here, after all…

    Anyway, for now the unit shows me where I am and where I’m going, and I can explore what I think of the other, new features over time.

  • Philly Biking

    We (Anne and I, and Scott S) went in to Manayunk yesterday morning. We met Ben there, got some coffee/breakfast, and then lit out for Philadelphia proper via bike paths. This was part of a CAT investigation of bike lanes and similar infrastructure in nearby cities — Anne and others did New York last week — so, with Ben, and some maps provided by Scott, as our guides, we rode through a bunch of areas and neighborhoods: West Philly, South Philly, Center City, etc, trying the various bike lanes on for size.

    We were meeting Sarah Clark Stuart (executive director of the Greater Philly Bike Coalition) in Center City, but we were early so we grabbed lunch at the diner inside Reading Terminal Market. After lunch we did laps around Market Street and JFK Boulevard, met with Sarah, and took the Schuylkill River Trail back to Manayunk.

    We had a bit of trouble back in Manayunk: while we were out riding, someone hit our car in the trailhead parking lot. It was ugly, a smashed quarter panel, but there seemed to be no actual frame or mechanical damage, like to the radiator or whatever, and there was a police report with insurance information on the windshield so we just drove home — slowly — and are now dealing with insurance, estimates, and so on.

    What did we learn? I have to digest my experiences, but I will say this: Philadelphia is a fun place to ride a bike.

  • Ghost Town

    Not much being said here lately, but it’s not for a lack of things to say; in fact it’s probably the opposite: I’ve been getting in plenty of riding (including some on my side gig — my job — with Road Scholar), and some big GIS/mapping fun, and I’ve been super-busy in general, leaving little time or inclination for writing.

    I have also been in the middle of an infrastructure crisis: I broke my Garmin on an otherwise fantastic ride at Sals, and while I was waffling over getting it fixed, other Garmin devices all started going on sale everywhere, then Garmin released their next generation GPS’s. More waffling and I bought the Edge 830, which will probably show up tomorrow. In the meantime, I’ve been using my old Edge 705, which always was a pretty good workhorse.

    Also on the infrastructure front, I’ve been in a panic because my laptop is suddenly having trouble. It looks like the wi-fi chip is getting wonky, intermittently failing then reconnecting etc, so for now I’m connected to the router via Ethernet cable and am researching new laptops. This has been a long time coming: my laptop was petty top-of-the-line 10 years ago, but it’s a 32-bit box, and there’s software I can’t even upgrade anymore because of it, and it’s been slowly obsolescing for years even without these sudden end-of-life issues. Stay tuned…

  • Garbage Plate

    Posted on by Don

    Greetings from Rochester, NY! We’re up here to celebrate our nephew Greg’s graduation, which is tomorrow. We drove up today, got into town maybe an hour or so ago, and immediately went out to Nick Tahou Hots for “garbage plates.” They lived up to their name, being basically everything the place makes (hot dogs or sausage, with potatoes, macaroni salad, etc) all scumbled together on one plate and covered with meat sauce. Not HUGE huge, but plenty of food and very filling. We are both stuffed now, and sitting in our hotel room trying to digest — we expect to have to go to dinner at Sticky Lips BBQ when the rest of the gang arrives…

  • Readings

    Posted on by Don

    We went down to visit Ben & Candace in Philly on Monday. We took a walk around Bartram’s Garden, grabbed some lunch downtown, and made our traditional trip to Penn Books — they may not be there much more longer, so it was good to get in one last visit. I got a few SF titles, and already finished one: Jeff VanderMeer’s The Strange Bird. This is another story in the “Borne” universe, and I think it’s by far the best story in that universe, though it probably can’t stand on its own – it needs those other stories to make sense. Still, it’s got my recommendation.

    Last night was a poetry reading at the library: a public reading of Leaves of Grass in honor of Walt Whitman’s birthday. Anne read a poem, as did our friends Matt (poet/librarian), and Sarah, and many others. Very fun!