For what was probably this winter’s last hurrah, I met Doug and Lori at South Mountain on Thursday to get in some snowshoeing. The conditions were pretty good for the most part, except on some of the South-facing slopes — the snowshoes gripped fine, but the upper layer of snow itself would shear off and slide down like mini-avalanches (we’re only talking like 6″ or so), making the hills a bit slippery. The sun was out though, and the temperature was pleasant and the sky was a deep blue, and we had a grand time in the fresh air.
Snowshoeing is inherently less exciting than other winter activities, but it’s good exercise and a good way to enjoy the scenery, and in the interest of equal time I thought I’d post some of my recent snowshoe photos to go along with my skiing post, so here are some shots I took on a recent hike at Sand Island:
I haven’t posted much lately, because I haven’t felt like I have much to say, but I have been up to things and getting them done: I finished that SQL course, I got all my photos through the end of 2019 onto Flickr, and… uh, well I guess that’s about it.
What else have I been doing? A lot of shoveling, and a lot of XC skiing. We got hit with a huge storm a few weeks back, with maybe 30″ of snow dumped on us, and we’ve been getting another 3″-4″ every few days ever since, and up until yesterday also we’ve had really cold temperatures — ideal conditions for skiing. I got out maybe two or three times a week this whole past month, and (until yesterday) the conditions were spectacular.
Here are some shots from the early storm:
After another storm I got out for some more pictures:
I got in some snowshoeing as well, but that’s never as much fun… Sunday I misjudged conditions and blew off skiing to trudge around Sand Island, then had to see all the Facebook posts of awesome XC fun. I tried to make up for it, and went out yesterday in the snowfall, but things were so warm and sticky I broke my boot…
It might be for the best: the air feels like spring and the light looks like spring, and the temperatures will be almost 50 by the end of the week — the XC season is probably over around here. But it was good while it lasted!
And with that I will leave you with another GoPro masterpiece on YouTube:
It wasn’t quite new-year’s-resolution level, but I’ve been having a sustained burst of productivity lately, or if not productivity then at least activity: I have been much better about cello practice; I’ve been more on top of bills, and housework, and exercise (i.e. morning calisthenics, not the biking); I’ve been making progress on learning SQL; and I’ve even chipped away at the greater part of my Flickr photos backlog. And I’ve managed to get all this done, to become my new, more organized self, through the use of my simple, lowly to-do list.
I’ve written about my to-do list before. It’s basically just a text file; in the morning, or sometimes the night before, I’ll write what I want to get done at the top of the file, then as the day progresses and I do things I can mark the tasks done. If I don’t get to something it’s no big deal, it’s just not marked done and I can add it to the next day’s tasks (or not), but at any idle moment during the day I can see at a glance what I could be productive about, and the process gives me a chance to think about what I want to accomplish, what I ought to be doing, what might be more or less urgent, etc, for any given day. I also add specific appointments (a doctor visit, an afternoon ride with someone) to the end of the list, so I remember to budget my to-do tasks around them. The structure is pretty simple:
blog (started... running notes go here until it's marked done)
@1:00 group road ride (done)
study sql (done)
work on bikes
And so on.
(I also keep a separate file, a spreadsheet that I call my “food diary,” where I keep track of everything I eat each day, but that does not get used nearly as much as the to-do list. It has a different pedigree, being something I saw once about behaviorist approaches to dieting, and has been much less successful in keeping me engaged enough to use it.)
I find that I am more energetic in the late morning or early afternoon, but that may also be because the morning is when I’m selecting my day’s tasks, and therefore thinking more about them, rather than it being an issue of afternoon energy levels. The one thing that does sap energy levels — the thing that wrecks any given day’s remaining plans — is biking. Any day with a longish bike ride, nothing seems to get done after the ride…
Anyway, here’s a product of one of my previous to-do lists: my first cycling video, posted on YouTube. The raw GoPro video quality is very high and the files are huge, so I spent some time learning how to process the clip into a format with reasonable values for both quality and file size. It looked great, but YouTube has taken to throttling quality to conserve bandwidth during this COVID-level use era. Here it is:
We did our semi-official, annual Fall Bike Camping Trip last weekend: up to Jim Thorpe via the D&L on Friday, exploring the Lehigh Gorge on Saturday, and home on Sunday. We had a pretty big crowd, and had three campsites reserved at Mauch Chunk Lake, and since some of us drove to Jim Thorpe we were able to have much of our camping gear carted up rather than bikepacking all of it — sweet! Except for some early morning sprinkles on Friday, we enjoyed perfect fall weather the whole trip. Here is our story in words, pictures and maps.
We started from Sand Island a little after 9:00 AM: Anne & me, Ed, Scott & Kellyn, and Julie, and picked up Rick and Shari at the prearranged location just north of Allentown. The day started with showers, but (as the weatherman had predicted) the rain stopped just as we got going, and the sky was clear by noon. We moved at a leisurely pace, with many stops along the way including a lunch break in Slatington. We got into town around 3:00, and were at the campsite by about 4:30. (We also bumped into Anne’s Aunt Kay at the supermarket, which was a pleasant surprise.)
We didn’t exactly get up early on Saturday, but we managed to eat breakfast and hit the road by about 9:00. We met Rick & Shari in town — they’d stayed at the hotel — and picked up the day-tripper contingent of our crew at the Glen Onoko trailhead. After that it was north up into the Gorge.
The day was really beautiful, though the leaves were only just starting to change. It was another perfect day, and we had plenty of company on the trail. We had a snack break (which turned into lunch) at Penn Haven Junction, then another feed stop at the Rockport trailhead. Most turned around there, but a few of us went just a little further, to check out Buttermilk Falls, another half mile or so up the trail.
I didn’t take any pictures on Sunday, and since I forgot to stop the GPS before the ride’s end I managed to record some location data I don’t feel like sharing, so this section is a little sparse…
We managed to have another great day on the trail, though it started a bit overcast compared to Saturday. We were a bit tired though, and maybe a bit sore in the nether regions, and our pace was definitely set at “mosey.” Still, before we knew it we were back in Slatington where I got the scrapple & egg sandwich — I got chili dogs from the same food truck on Friday, only to spot the breakfast sandwich menu immediately afterward, and I vowed to return someday…
We had another nice surprise: I saw Chain Gangster Greg M at Slatington; he was doing a gravel bike ride and we all spotted the old team jersey he was wearing: bright yellow and still in good shape though it must be about 30 years old… I caught his attention and we had a nice chat before he continued on his way.
Well, we did it — Anne and I rode the century ride we’ve been working towards. We started with our friend Julie and her brother Peter, who were riding to their family cabin in NY just past the Poconos, but for COVID and logistical reasons we only went about halfway — we left them at Delaware Water Gap and continued from there on our own route, returning along Cherry Valley Road (one of our recent favorites) and picking up Mountain Road, an old favorite, just north of Wind Gap. This was a beautiful section, but it meant that we had to go over Blue Mountain at Little Gap. Luckily, the ice cream place was open at the bottom of the downhill side…
We got home with about 98 miles and had to circle around the neighborhood a few times, but we finished with 100.1 miles. It seems funny, I used to do century rides on a fairly regular basis back in the day, but Garmin Connect tells me that this was my longest recorded ride. I’ve been using Garmin Connect since 2009, so that means that this was my first century in more than a decade.
I just finished David Mitchell’s latest, Utopia Avenue. I really liked it, which was good because I’d been thinking lately that I no longer had the patience or attention span to read a book under the current stressful circumstances. (I finally finished The Mirror and the Light, and was sorry to leave it behind, but in the moment the process seemed such a chore.)
The story follows a British 60’s-era band, blues/folk/psychedelic amalgamation Utopia Avenue through its formative days, with plenty of references to the London music scene and cameos from all sorts of British musicians, but there were also connections to some of Mitchell’s other books like Ghostwritten, Cloud Atlas, and the books in the Bone Clocks universe. Apart from a few (relatively drama-free) supernatural passages, and a jarring ending, it just passed by in a smooth and pleasant flow, like a sort of “Forrest Gump of British Rock.”
I just picked up where I left off in The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet, since it apparently is a bit of a prequel to Utopia Avenue.
I did another ground-truthing session along the Delaware Towpath, this time finding (or confirming) the access points between New Hope and Morrisville. I parked (for a fee) at the municipal lot in New Hope and turned around a little past the accessible parts of Morrisville; I was out for just over three hours and rode about 31 miles. This should be the penultimate expedition, since there is now only the last eight-mile section from Morrisville down to Bristol.
I was not as impressed with this section of towpath, but there were a few highlights: I took the flag photo just north of Washington’s Crossing, where a bunch of unknown Revolutionary War soldiers are buried, and I thought the town of Yardley has potential. (Morrisville was a bit of a disappointment.)
One other notable event was that I passed the young couple we met over the weekend, when we were doing bike checks at Sand Island. They told us that they were from Philadelphia, had taken the train to Bristol, and were on the outbound leg of a multi-day ride to Jim Thorpe and back. Fast forward a few days and there they were, heading south as I was on my own return leg. I waved but I don’t think they had any idea who I was.
So that was my day! I’ll leave you with one more photo, a bunch of turtles sunning themselves on a log.
These are from several weekends ago, when we met Joe and Laura for some kayaking at Round Valley. I have not been there in years, and I’d never been on the water — it was always bicycling. Awesome day, and I had fun trying to make correspondences between what I saw from the kayak and where I rode years ago. There were a lot of spotted lanternflies on the water though, which was an unpleasant surprise since we didn’t know they were already in New Jersey (or that they liked water).
In other photo news, I’ve been doing some more curating of my Flickr photos, and finished uploading the last of them from 2017. Now I am only three years behind.
Anne and I did a pretty long ride yesterday. This has been the trend lately, road rides in the 50-70 mile range, but yesterday was a solid 93 miles: up through Plainfield Township and over Wind Gap, Cherry Valley Road to Water Gap where we met Ben and Candace for some socially distant lunch, then following the more recent Gap Gallop route through Columbia and down to Belvidere, where we picked up Foul Rift Road, re-crossing the Delaware at Phillipsburg and then home. Pretty mellow ride with snack and lunch stops, we were out for just about 12 hours.
Here are some photos at about our halfway point, crossing the Delaware just south of the Gap:
This was my first time across the Pedestrian Bridge in Portland, and it led to a quiet and rural corner of North Jersey I’d never seen before. Very pleasant if a bit hilly…
One of the pedals on my road bike has developed a squeaky bearing lately, and I thought that maybe it’s time for a new pair. (I’ve used the same clipless pedal system — Speedplay Frogs — for more than 20 years. With pedals on multiple bikes and cleats on my bike shoes, it’s a fairly big investment in the one technology.) I went online to order the new pedals, and found that they have become extremely scarce — like nonexistent, discontinued scarce. Turns out that Speedplay was bought by Wahoo, and they decided to shut Speedplay down while they “reconsider the product line” or whatever they might call it. WTF?
My immediate options are to see if I can find a new pair on eBay or whatever (no luck yet), or to replace the bearing (which also requires an eBay purchase, but spare parts seem plentiful so far), or just keep re-packing the pedal with grease and hoping for the best — that’s what I did this afternoon. I guess I’ll eventually have to completely replace the Frogs with some new system, and rather sooner than later. Three sets of pedals and two sets of cleats — it’ll be a substantial chunk of change, but I’m not even sure what that replacement system will be yet. It’s a total shame, really, the Frogs are great pedals.
I’ve been cycling about 110 miles a week over the last month, a mix of on- and off-road, with mileages running between 15-40 miles a ride — my fitness is starting to build back up, though I do need to build endurance for longer distances. There have been plenty of mellow group road rides with friends, plus my adventure with Doug the other day, and a whole lot of toodling up and down the towpath.
Today was an afternoon MTB ride at Nox with Renee and Hope. They are both much faster/fitter than I am, but both were on hard-tails and Renee was nursing a sore back from landscaping, so I had a shot at keeping up, especially since it was more a social ride than anything else — I hadn’t see either of them, in real life and on a bike, in quite a while. Here’s our ride, a fairly standard Nox loop:
The pace wasn’t difficult, but we didn’t dawdle either, and the ride passed fairly quickly. It was nice to catch up with those guys and hear the latest news — Hope is now a grandmother! (The kid is now 5 months old, so I guess this counts as old news to everyone but me.) There were plenty of other people out too, no one I knew but there were a whole lot of parent/child groups, which was pretty cool to see.