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.
Doug and I did a really nice ride yesterday, starting out on the Switchback outside Jim Thorpe, then doing a hike-a-bike up one of the descents and into the strip mine trails on top of Pisgah Mountain. My agenda was to look for and photograph some mountain laurel before the opportunity slipped away, since I was still mad at myself for not going at all last year; Doug I think was just up for a decent ride.
Neither of us had been in that particular neck of the woods in quite a few years, and though we started out with a vaguely-formed plan to check out “the Blue Ponds” — old quarries, hundreds of feet deep, that had filled with water and were now swimming holes, and I’d guess I hadn’t seen them in maybe 15 years — we eventually were just in “hey this trail looks cool let’s take it” mode. We saw some ponds, but not the ones we started out to find, but we were having too much fun to worry about it.
Eventually we stopped to look around and realized we were probably lost — everything looked so semi-familiar! Like we’d maybe been there, or someplace just like it, only a few minutes ago, or years, or decades… Actually we were kind of lost, but my GPS had maps that seemed accurate enough, and though we were far off from where we thought we were we could find our way back. We continued on.
That’s when the rain started, which fogged up my glasses and totally flummoxed my GPS unit’s touch screen; the going was a bit tougher but we were still making progress until we found some more cool trails, which really didn’t go the right way but were awesome… The sun came back out, we rode on, and eventually worked our way back to the Lungbuster and down to the lake. What a great day!
So anyway, that was our ride in words and pictures, here’s a map of what we did:
Open that map and you’ll find plenty more photos, which are connected (on the map) to the locations I took them.
I’ve been moving forward with the additional D&L access and amenities points for my project, but the trail sections south of Riegelsville are terra incognita, especially when it comes to trail access, so I relied on GIS to find access points: I split the road network into “trail” and “not trail” sections, and intersection points (that aren’t at bridges) made for pretty good access candidates; some closer map inspections verified a few obvious trailheads, and weeded out some things like private drives. A lot still needed to be verified via “ground truthing” though, and so the other day I went out for a ride, starting from Riegelsville, south along the towpath to Tinicum Park.
I had my candidate points loaded in my GPS so I could see on the map when I came upon one; I could add locations I’d missed, and delete false positives as I spotted them, and by the time I was done I should have a pretty good idea of how to get on and off the trail. This method worked really well, and the only real problems were judgement calls at what seemed like private access points. (Things are a little different in Bucks County, there are some wealthy homes between the trail and the river, with their own driveways and footbridges, and while some crossings are obviously marked “Private – No Trespassing,” others were maintained, and painted, as if they were park property.) Judgement calls, and I think I made the right calls, but for the most part it didn’t matter — all these these access points were too far from any amenities to be useful.
It was easy and pleasant work, and I took pictures on the way back:
Total distance, out and back, was about 24 miles, and the ride took about two and a half hours. I have the new access points and amenities incorporated into my map.
So I got the Iguana’s rear flat fixed pretty quickly, it seemed like probably just a puncture or pinch from the towpath. I also took the time to do some deferred maintenance; now the bike is looking good and performing well.
I then took off the Cannondale’s front wheel, removed the tire, and found what I suspected but couldn’t originally spot: there was a tear in the sidewall. Luckily I had a spare tire waiting, so I put that on with the new tube, and — BANG! That tube popped as well. I was done for the day…
I looked at it a few days later and the most likely cause seemed to be “operator error” when installing the tube, no other problems or defects were visible so I replaced the tube and gingerly pumped the tire, with many stops for bead inspections etc… everything was fine. I let it sit for a few days, but heard no sudden gunshots in the basement, so I took the bike for a short ride Monday. All is good.
I went out yesterday for a road ride, for the first time this season. I’ve been riding (MTB and commuter bike) all winter, and I even managed to get in three towpath rides last week, so my fitness is not totally gone — I’m not starting from zero there.
The road bike itself was a different story. I rode down to the Moravian Quarter, then up Main to Market, with a vague plan of checking out Riverside Drive in Freemansburg. (This road leads to one of my favorite climbs, but had been closed by a landslide several years ago. It remained closed for quite a while, and I was wondering if they ever got around to fixing it.) I cruised through town, then as I continued out Market Street past Stefko I heard a sound like the brakes were rubbing. I stopped off the brakes but the sound was still there — then the tire blew out, with a bang like a gun went off.
I pulled over and checked it out: the tube had exploded like it came through a hole in the tire, but the tire had no cuts or slashes I could find. I replaced the tube, in the meantime discovering that my new pump is more of a low-pressure MTB pump and can’t get the tire up to roadie pressure… I decided that, all things considered, I couldn’t really trust my wheel, so I limped back home (I’d only gone about two miles), then switched to the Santa Cruz for another towpath ride.
I now have two bikes with flats — the Iguana has a slow leak — so I have some basement time scheduled today, exorcising early season equipment bugs.
We saw Pennsylvania Sinfonia’s “Vienna Afternoon” on Sunday, with Anne’s mom in Allentown. It was beautiful as always, and a pleasure to watch and hear real professionals play. They also had a young woman — she looked young to us, anyway — singing, and she was awesome.
We went out afterwards, and I managed to eat too much. I should have accepted the leftovers box, but I toughed it out, and then had trouble sleeping I was so full. We’d done BBQ at Grumpy’s on Friday night (with John and Renee), and more BBQ on Saturday in Lambertville (at More Than Q, with Joe and Laura), so by Monday the scale and I didn’t have much to say to each other.
Also last week: we saw ukulele virtuoso Jake Shimabukuro at SteelStacks. What an amazing show!
We did a leaf-peeper trip “up country” over the weekend, biking the towpath to Jim Thorpe with Ed & Jan, Scott S, and Julie. We all camped at the lake on Friday night, met up Shari W and Sarah A for a ride to Buttermilk Falls on Saturday, then rode home (in the rain — ugh!) on Sunday. We spent yesterday cleaning and drying our stuff…
Yesterday was our road ride into Denver, and our chance to reconnoiter the regional bicycling infrastructure. The region is considered very bike-friendly — well, we are going to find out.
The biggest difference from riding back home seems to be that, while everyone is theoretically supposed to ride with traffic on the roads (as at home), there are many roads where this doesn’t seem feasible, and everyone rides on the sidewalks. (This is especially true of the sprawling cities surrounding Denver proper, such as here in Lakewood.) Even the kitted-out Freds on their training rides are on the sidewalk on the busy roads. This isn’t such a big deal, since the sidewalks are wide, and they look almost exactly like — and eventually merge into — the cycleways and bike trails that connect the city. So when in Rome, we rode the sidewalks…
Our trip downtown first took us way south, on the Kipling Street Parkway bike-path-cum-sidewalk, then we took the (paved) Bear Creek Trail to the (paved) South Platte River Trail, which took us to the Starbucks downtown. This was all very beautiful, and until the very end, it was hard to believe we were even in a city.
But now we were in a city, in downtown Denver, so we did some city street riding — which worked well, like bicycling on city streets in just about any bike-friendly city — and stopped for lunch at Milk Market and a beer at Wynkoop Brewing Company. Then came our ride home:
We took the Dry Gulch/Lakewood trail, which went west and eventually followed the light rail RR tracks we rode the other day; the trail then morphed into some residential street riding (with bike lanes) until we were back in the busy part of town, and back on the sidewalk, and then back at the hotel. (We went back to Milk Market for dinner with Emmi and Kyle last night.)
This was more of the same beautiful terrain as Green Mountain, but somewhat rockier. There was a lot of climbing, but it all seemed less severe, even with the rocks, than the long slog at Green Mountain — we lucked out and went down the “long slog” here. This was not back-country, we passed by houses, and a development with its own access trail, and could see the roads and towns all around us from the top. Very civilized, and there were many other cyclists and runners out there with us. Our post-ride lunch was in Golden, which is a pretty town. Some photos:
We’re resting and doing laundry right now, starting to pack and get ready to leave. Tonight is our last night out with Emmi & Kyle; it’s been sunny and warm in town, but the wind is picking up and the temperature will crash overnight. Tomorrow the snows come, and we’re out of here.
We had the day to ourselves today, as Emmi and Kyle had to get back to work. So, we took advantage of the great weather to do some riding at William F. Hayden Green Mountain Park, a riding area just to the southwest of where our hotel is in Lakewood.
It was a nice ride over through our part of town, then we tooled around the perimeter of the park on the Green Mountain Trail. The riding was pretty easy except for one huge climb, which was worth it for the views and the easy flow back to the trailhead. Here are some photos:
So the week before last, Anne was on a self-supported bike tour with a few of her friends, Albany to here. They made great time and the ride ended sooner than expected, so she put together another ride, and I went along… We went with our friend Kellyn and did a three-day tour, a sort of triangle: from home to Jim Thorpe via roads and towpath, Jim Thorpe to Anne’s sister’s house in Tamaqua, and home via the towpath again. I have no touring-specific bike, so I rode my trusty old Iguana, which may need some bike-maintenance love but does have a rear rack.
We started Thursday morning about 8:00, just after Kellyn got to our house. Our route took us up toward the south side of Blue Mountain, then over to the river, via the back roads near Point Phillip and Danielsville, before we picked up the D&L at the Lehigh Gap Nature Center. We rode the rest of the way to Jim Thorpe on the trail, but had to do a bit of bushwhacking in totown: the Mansion House Bridge is scheduled to open tomorrow, but it was closed to all traffic last week. No matter, we got into town and had a huge lunch/dinner (with a few beers) before the final leg — all uphill — to our campsite, right on the shore at Mauch Chunk Lake. Our camp was fairly spartan (no fire, very little food), but we didn’t care: we took our showers and were asleep before the sun was down
Friday we got an early start for Tamaqua, but before we got too far my bike was making the most horrible squeaking sound. It happened every time I turned the handlebars, and I concluded that the problem was in the headset; we stopped, I turned the bike over, and saw (through the spot where the bearing seal should have been) that the bottom bearing was exposed, and bone dry, and most of the balls had fallen out — there were only two ball bearings still in the race, sitting there like lonely buck teeth in an empty mouth. Uh oh…
I packed a bunch of thick lube into the bearing, tightened it down and hoped for the best. The squealing was gone, and I figured I could at least limp the rest of the way to our destination; I was stressing though, and when we got into town and stopped at a coffee-less “cafe” I managed to leave by Camelbak behind… This was the shortest leg of our trip, but it was starting to feel like a loooong day. But we continued on, grabbed some lunch at Heissler’s Dairy Barn, and then all of a sudden we were at our destination. A quick (and very welcome and refreshing) dip in the pool, then Ray drove me back into town, where we bought some beer, retrieved my Camelbak, and stopped at the bike shop to get some grease and ball bearings. Back to the house, where it was a surprisingly simple matter to pop some balls back into the bearing — this was my greatest “MacGyver” moment ever — and I could finally relax and enjoy the afternoon. This was awesome because Lorraine and Ray had prepared us a feast, and Lori & Chris came over — and when it started to storm, they put us up at their place for the night. We were living in the lap of luxury!
We got up the next morning just before dawn, and went with Lori & Lorraine to walk through a nearby field of sunflowers just as the sun came up. It was a misty, overcast sunrise, but still very beautiful.
We were back on the road before we knew it, and had a long, and beautiful, but thankfully uneventful, ride back home — and that was that! Three days, 113 self-supported miles over mixed road and trail, good company and some beautiful scenery. I got home and took a “nap” that lasted until the next morning.
I’ve been embedding too many rides lately so I won’t post the data, but I did two rides at Nox this weekend and I learned something about my new Garmin: it beeps when you get air.
Friday night I was out once again with John and Renee, along with Scott & Erin and Heckler Mike, for a “happy hour” ride. We started at the boat launch parking lot, basically rode most of the place in the opposite direction I’m used to, but then again that was the first time I’ve been there since 2017 so it was all like new… Some trails had new (to me) flow sections, with bermed turns and little jumps, and I managed to get some pathetic air on one — and my Garmin chirped at me!
We all went back to J&R’s place for beer & burgers afterward; it was a later night than I expected but when I got home I confirmed it: the sound was because of a jump, and the jump location and stats were all recorded with the ride data.
Saturday’s wake-up was a little rough, but there I was, back at Nox for a morning ride with my friend Ted. We were joined by a friend of his and did a brisk-but-not-crazy standard loop — it was a hot day and I was tired, and I think they took pity on me.
When we got to the little dirt jumps I did some cautious experimenting and got three more beeps out of the Garmin… I think I’ll need to keep a tight rein on this, otherwise I’m going to hurt myself chasing that bell.