• Category Archives the sporting life
  • Biking, running, weights, yoga…

  • Working Man’s Blues

    “Plans are worthless, but planning is everything.”

    Dwight D. Eisenhower

    I did another stint as a bicycle guide over this past week — this time, and rather unexpectedly, as the “ride leader”. I think I did well enough and liked it for the most part, and I think the riders got a pretty good experience out of it, but I also think I’ll not be doing that again anytime soon. Lesson learned: I like riding, and riding with other people, but I am not as comfortable schmoozing as I thought I’d be, and I absolutely hated feeling responsible for people and situations over which I didn’t have much control.

    What I did enjoy, strangely enough, is what I always enjoy: planning bike rides using map and database software. I started this particular ride-mapping project a few years ago. Rides, routes and alternate routes; points of interest and local trivia along the ride; ride logistics like bathroom locations and transportation times between the base and the start/finish — I stuffed it all into a database and managed the whole thing with QGIS. That was all well and good, but then it sat moribund over the COVID hiatus.

    As this new ride season approached I cleaned up and updated my project. Maybe this was really just the “fantasy football” or cosplay of the bike-guide biz, but it did come in handy after some local trails got wrecked by recent storms: I had backup rides already on deck, and enough information in my head to make plenty of other sudden changes “on the fly.”

    It seems a shame that I no longer have a use for my toy. We’ll see, maybe it can be the basis for some other project.

  • Eat Sleep Ride

    Some recent rides:

    Yesterday Anne and I did a ride out to the “Snoopy Barn” in Nazareth with our cycling neighbors Mat and Diet, and our other neighbor Josh. Our true goal was Sweet & Savory Bakery in Nazareth; we stopped there for donuts and coffee on the return trip and had a picnic at the nearby park. We were out from about 10:00 to about 2:30, with actual ride time of just over three hours for our 33 mile round trip.

    Saturday we went with our friend Yani B, and Dwight and Rachel with their son Josh, up to the Game Lands in Jim Thorpe. We parked at the first Game Lands parking lot, rode out the the second overlook, then on the return trip we stopped to hike down to the big flat rock area at the top of Glen Onoko Falls, where we dipped our feet in the creek’s freezing water. We spent quite a bit of time at the overlook and the falls, and we also stopped for a picnic in town so it was a long day, but our total riding time was about two hours for seven miles on the old Broad Mountain doubletrack.

    These trails are, sadly, far less fun than they used to be, ever since the Game Commission put down ballast stones, but mountain biking was an exciting new experience for our friends, especially Yani (and Rachel — Dwight is an outdoorsman with quite a bit of MTB experience, and I’m sure he’s brought Josh on some adventures), so it was fun to share the general enthusiasm.

    Thursday was the make-up day for the Weekly Women’s Bike Ride, and I joined Anne and the ladies for a ride down the South Bethlehem Greenway and part of the Hellertown Trail. (Musikfest was in full swing, with Sand Island as ground zero, so riding the D&L was out of the question.) Thirteen miles total, about two hours at “conversational pace,” and then we stopped in at F&A Grog House afterward.

    Saturday a week ago I helped Anne run a Smart Cycling (i.e. LAB “road one”) course, with some classroom learning, skills training at a nearby basketball court, and a 5-mile “put our new skills to use” ride around town. I haven’t done anything like that in quite a while, and I was surprised at how much fun I had teaching.

    The Friday before was a road ride, just me and Anne, down to Milford for lunch. Forty-six miles, maybe five hours plus breakfast and lunch stops. It was a bit on the warm side (and we were out in the sunny hills at exactly the hottest part of the day), but what a beautiful day!

    Thursday was the Volunteer Appreciation Breakfast at the Canal Museum, and I rode there on the Iguana. Twenty towpath miles — two 10-mile rides really, with a breakfast in the middle.

    All of these events were followed, eventually, by an afternoon nap.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • The Other Snow Toys

    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:

  • Snow Crash

    Hi. I’m back. How fares the world?

    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:

  • Organization Man

    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:

    Sunday 1/17/2021
    exercise (done)
    dishes (done)
      phone (done)
      gas (done)
      electric (done)
    study sql
    blog (started... running notes go here until it's marked done)
    @1:00 group road ride (done)
    Saturday 1/16/2021
    dishes (done)
    exercise (done)
    cello (done)
    study sql (done)
    flickr (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:

  • A Ride Up The Trail

    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.

    Day One

    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.)

    Day Two

    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.

    Day Three

    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.

    Another few hours and we were home.

  • This Side Of The Mountain

    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.

    Happy Labor Day!

  • Nextpedition

    Patriot Graves

    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.

    Turtles on the Delaware