Last week was a pretty god week for me: I managed over 100 miles total on the bike, and got in rides with Doug and also with Anne.
I did a towpath “semi hot lap” ride on Monday.
Wednesday I rode to the Museum and back, and then met Doug for another towpath ride.
Saturday was another towpath ride, my first Trail Patrol ride of the year.
Anne and I did a nice ride north of town, visiting Housenick Park and then riding out to Georgetown Road.
I also started using my HRM again, and some of those rides were done as training, or rather “training,” rides. This week has been cold (and rainy yesterday), so there’s been no riding, and I don’t think I’ll have the same miles. But spring is definitely here.
It was a perfect springlike day Monday, so I hopped on the Iguana to do a little OpenStreetMapping — there was a note on the website saying that a Moravian spiritual retreat just outside of town had been closed, and I thought if I could go there and confirm it on the ground, I’d go ahead and make the change when I got home. The former retreat was right next to a new park too, so I could also do a little exploring when I got there.
My ride was pretty low-key: I was just out in street clothes and boots (and my helmet), something I’d been doing lately for casual riding; I was also inspired to keep it simple by Bike Snob’s recent article… I tooled up Main Street to Macada, then Altonah, then made a right onto Santee Mill Road, which is basically as bucolic as the City of Bethlehem gets. I was looking for a road/path off Santee Mill to take me into the park, but never found it (I saw later it was smaller than a sidewalk and very easy to miss). No matter, I continued forward, back into civilization, and entered the park from the front. Just outside the park entrance was a house where the retreat would have been; the house had posts out front, from which there might once have hung shingles, and the shingles might once have said “Spiritual Retreat” or whatever, but the shingles were gone now and there was a big “Private” sign by the driveway. So Phase 1 of my exploration was complete…
That left the park — officially, “The Janet Johnston Housenick & William D. Housenick Memorial Park” but apparently just called “Housenick Park” by normal people. This is a parcel of land donated by Janet Johnston Housenick, granddaughter of Archibald Johnston, the first mayor of the consolidated City of Bethlehem (he was also chief architect of that consolidation, and a high ranking executive at Bethlehem Steel — he was as Bethlehem as it gets). The land was once part of the Johnston farm/estate, and it includes the old Archibald Johnston Mansion. The park is fairly new and still under construction/renovation, but there are a bunch of new footpaths and old carriage roads, and I cruised around for about an hour, taking pictures.
It’s hard to believe looking at it, but the estate only dates from the 1910’s or 1920’s — it looks typical of a farmstead from about 100 years earlier — and the house was built using Bethlehem Steel beams. There was a boat house and tennis courts (or the ruins of them), but there were also lime kilns and the remains of orchards, ornaments in a hobbyist’s historical reenactment of country-squire life.
The ride home was uneventful, and pleasant though the day was getting breezy. I returned via Township Line Road, which eventually becomes Altonah, and basically retraced my steps from there. I went about 16 miles all told, and total ride time was just over 2 hours
I went out XC skiing this morning — I noticed, on a little towpath hike yesterday, that the snow still seemed pretty decent, so I went to bed early and rose early with the plan, if the temperature was below freezing, to get in one more session.
I was not as early as I would have liked, but I managed to get out for about two hours on Ilick’s Mill recreation fields (behind the swimming pool) and the golf course, covering just over three miles.
Conditions were not the absolute best, but there was a lot of area still covered with snow, and a lot of the snow was still in pretty good shape; the skiing was actually pretty good, especially on the Ilick’s Mill side. There were multiple tracks already laid and crisscrossing each other, and I followed one track or another depending on what looked interesting. (I could see what looked like the same at the golf course, but the only tracks I found when I got there were goose tracks.) Since I expect this snow to be gone by tomorrow I didn’t want to stop, I wanted to see everything before I left even though my legs were getting tired, but conditions deteriorated as the sun, and temperature, climbed; I turned around when my skis started sticking.
This snow was the stuff that fell last weekend, which I’d thought was no good and only likely to get worse, but there was a cold snap this past week, and conditions were awesome when I got out Wednesday night. Go figure, O me of little faith…
This was at Lehigh University’s Goodman Campus, my first time there, night-skiing (also a first) with Renee. I’m sure I looked ridiculous, skiing along with a bicycle helmet (which is what my light mounts to), but I had fun. Besides, it was dark.
Now the sun is out, the temperature is in the mid 40’s, and tonight looks like rain — there may still be more snow this season, but the air has felt like spring for more than a week now, and I think that today was winter’s last hurrah.
By the way, this was me in Vermont, when we were out in “real winter,” with daytime temperatures in the single digits:
The days are getting longer, and the air is feeling more spring-like even when there’s snow on the ground. That spring air is starting to get into my blood too, and I’ve started doing morning exercises again (pushups, sit-ups and dumbbell exercises), as well as grabbing some easy saddle time. It’s coming…
We were at an afternoon/evening holiday party on Saturday where I ran into my friend Renee; she gave me grief about my being AWOL for recent bike rides, and having more excuses than rides lately. She had a Sunday ride planned with Hope at Wissahickon, and after being called out I couldn’t come up with an excuse so I said I’d join them, and so it was decided… I got up early yesterday, and carpooled down with Renee to the Chestnut Hill parking area where we met Hope. We then proceeded to have the most awesome, pleasant ride.
We got in about 15 hilly miles on the dry and frozen trails — the place drains well, and surface conditions there were primo, about as good as it gets in winter. Hope (who rides there regularly, and actually was there the day before) and Renee were both strong, but we rode sociably, with plenty of stops and bull sessions, and despite my recent reduced fitness it was not the beat-down I was expecting.
It was a busy day in the park, many other bikers out, and hikers and dog walkers, especially near the trailheads — deeper into the woods and it was just us and the occasional other cyclist.
That’s us, pretty close to the end of the ride. We were getting back to civilization, and saw this fallen tree that had been cut into pieces near a trailhead. Renee counted rings and estimated it to be 120 years old.
And then we were done! Once again, I went on a ride and did not regret it — there’s a lesson in there somewhere!
I started looking into my new project the other day. The first steps will have to be extracting information from GPX or FIT files, and adding the information to a PostGIS database. I managed to do this in several ways, mostly through a combination of GPSBabel and ogr2ogr, though no single way has done exactly what I want yet: ogr2ogr automatically adds GPX data to the tables in a manner similar to what I want, but extension data (heart rate, temperature) is not treated the way I want, while the FIT data needs to be extracted first into a format readable by ogr2ogr, and then put in the right table form after being put in the database, all of which turned out to be surprisingly easy. (Even so, I may just choose to go with adding the data from GPX for now.)
The biggest problem I’ve run into so far is that GPSBabel does not extract all the data from the FIT file, and FIT is a proprietary, binary file format — I can’t get lap information, for example, just by scanning the file with awk or something. I may have to download and use the (again, proprietary) FIT SDK, in a C or other program I write myself. This may fit in well with what else I have to do, since I can call the parts of ogr2ogr I specifically need, directly from C.
Before it gets to that point though, I have to decide what I especially want to do with this data, which will tell me what I need to extract, what I need to save, and what I can disregard, or discard after processing. Do I want to build a full-blown replacement for Garmin Connect, where I keep all relevant data? Or do I want to just build something, like a web badge, to show a minimum of data about the ride, data like distance, duration and a map of the ride, with maybe a link to the ride’s Garmin activity page? I am leaning towards the minimalist approach (which would entail just saving one record per activity, with fields containing aggregate data), but I think I want at least some of the individual track point data because I may want to graph things like elevation or heart rate.
But maybe I don’t need to keep trackpoint data to build my graphs on the fly. Maybe I can make small graphs as PNG’s or GIF’s for the badge, and store those images in the database — hopefully they would be smaller than the trackpoints themselves. Alternately, I could store the entire FIT file (which is actually pretty small) in the database, and extract whatever I need on the fly. (I would still do a one-time analysis to get and store my aggregate data, since this might be a little too slow for on-the-fly data generation.) These choices will depend on the results of all the little coding/database/GIS experiments I’m doing now, extracting, converting and aggregating sample data.
Ten Years Gone: This is what I wrote on this date in 2008. We voted today, and I remain hopeful, but it is certainly not as happy a day as that one was, and even with good news I don’t think we’ll match that day.
I have a bell on each of my offroad bikes, but I normally don’t use them — I prefer verbal communication when I overtake someone, since it’s more effective and (in my opinion) way more polite. Yesterday, on the way back from the Museum, I came across a little old lady walking her German shepherd, and called out my usual “hi, passing on your left!” She moved over to the left (oops!), but by that time I’d stopped, and we were doing that neighborly, chuckling “yes, hello, passing you on the towpath” sort of greetings and negotiation, when her dog just absolutely went bonkers — barking, snarling, leaping at me at the end of its leash. It looked for all the world like an attack dog in some kind of video.
It dragged the woman over as it came at me, completely out of her control — luckily it was not as hardcore as it wanted me to believe, because when it attacked it went for my ankle. Luckily again, I was wearing street clothes, including hiking boots, and the dog couldn’t really get a purchase on them. (I’m guessing it happened too fast for me to react, since I felt strangely calm throughout the entire situation.) All the while the woman was yanking at the dog, and when she finally got it under control I got a little snarky and said “good thing your dog was on a leash.”
I don’t think she got it, because her reply was “well, it is the law.” I just rode off…
Her parting shot, once I was down the trail? “If you had a bell you could have warned me!” I was tempted, but I didn’t ring my bell.
Well, we’re back from the half marathon in Hersey, and now back also from our nap…
The race started at 7:30 AM, so we had to be there at say 6:30, so had to leave the house at 5:00, meaning we all had to get up by 4:30. We were all in bed by 9:00 last night, but it was still a hard morning. We got there about 6:45 — crazy parking traffic — and that was almost like “just in the nick of time” considering the bathroom lines, but Bruce & Heather lined up with no problems and the race went off without a hitch, then just as the race started we met up with Lorraine.
We walked around to several different vantages together, managed to see all our runners (Heather & Bruce, and Adelle & Liz who did it as a relay), and I even got a few photos. The whole thing was over by about 10:00. After navigating back through the parking traffic mess, we all met up for brunch at a place in Hersey. Good to get some food and to catch up with everyone, but it had been a cold, windy day and the place was chilly inside; we were glad to get back in the car and crank the heat. We were home by 2:00.
New Tools Bring New Opportunities
One area on my routing map has been a bit problematic: Rt 329 out of Northampton goes past a reservoir, or old quarry or something, and the DEM elevation data dips pretty hard right next to the road, as well as under it at a bridge. Since I find total ascent and descent for each road using interpolated DEM data at points along them, the roads that go over, or even just near, big elevation changes can have large ascent/descent values even of they are relatively flat.
The bridges have had an easy enough fix for a while: I simply make the ascent and descent (and adjusted ascent/descent) zero for each bridge, and I do the same for very short roads connecting to the bridge, like abutments. In other words, I fudge the data… (I figure the bridges are all fairly flat anyway except some longer, river-crossing ones, and since those are pretty far apart their actual ascent/descent values won’t affect the routing calculations much.)
Fixing these roads near the quarry was a bit harder. I didn’t want to set ascent/descent values down to zero for the whole long and moderately hilly road, but now that I can update the ascent/descent data much more quickly — this was that “the task went from several hours to under a minute” process improvement from the other day — I was able to do my fudging on the elevation-at-road-points data: I made the elevations in the “dipped” spots the same as the points just outside, then re-updated my database with the new script. It worked great, the roads now route more realistically in that area, and it took about 5 minutes to do.
The Hershey Half Marathon is tomorrow. Neither of us is doing it, but a number of Anne’s nieces and nephews are, and Heather & Bruce are coming to visit today so they can be closer to Hershey for tomorrow morning’s drive. It’s still pretty far, they could have found somewhere closer I’m sure, but we’re also brewing today (we’re doing our Bell’s Two-Hearted Ale clone) and they want to learn the process. They should be here in about an hour, and the brew stuff is all set up in the backyard. Of course Anne is cooking up a storm.
So Sunday (last Sunday, not yesterday) was a recreational day for the Eastern PA Trail Summit, and I had an invite — a free pass really, courtesy of the D&L — to the whole event, so I rode to Easton to check out the Canal Boat ride and the industrial history tour. Both were awesome despite my stubbed toe…
(Both events were informative, but while anyone can get a picture of canal boat life from what’s currently on display, and it’s common knowledge that there were once many factories along the canal, it was truly eye-opening to have someone point and say, “right there was a giant textile mill, and in that empty field there was once a blast furnace, in fact that boulder is what’s left of its foundation.”)
Very cool, and here are some photos from Sunday:
Scott S was also at the park that day, doing a kid’s bike ride with the Easton Police. That was pretty cool, and nice to see some cycling friends there with their kids.
The Trail Summit proper was Monday and Tuesday. I had no real idea of what to expect — I actually had to look up what a “breakout session” was, and what the difference was between “keynote” and “plenary” speakers — but they were two awesome, informative and inspiring days.
I learned a new term – “inland port,” sigh — from Northampton County Executive Lamont McClure, who spoke of it as one of several competing visions for the Lehigh Valley (as opposed to “nice place with trails,” I suppose), and the keynote speaker, a woman who thru-hiked the AT and spoke of it as a life-changing experience, made me realize that the Lehigh Towpath changed my life as well. There were morning sessions on redesigning roads to accommodate trail sections, and afternoon sessions on marketing your town to trail users, and a cyclist, the speaker for Tuesday’s lunch, said we need more amenities and signage. Amen brother!
There was a dinner Monday night at the National Museum of Industrial History, so of course we all toured the museum. Here are a few photos:
Not everyone was an awesome speaker, even if their ideas were good, and not every session was informative — there were a few I actually disagreed with — but all in all, it was an awesome conference.