• Category Archives the sporting life
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  • Memorial Day Fly-By

    Posted on by Don
    old cemetery with city in background
    St Michael’s Cemetery, with Bethlehem Steel in the background and Martin Tower in the distance.

    Took a rest day today, as Anne did a road ride with Julie G. I had my party yesterday, when I joined a few friends in an MTB pub crawl: Riding up the hill through South Bethlehem and into SMB, out to Lost Tavern and Hop Hill in Hellertown, then taking Black River Rd and SME to Yergey’s and Funk’s in Emmaus. We did some more riding in Allentown, but the bars were closing — it was Sunday afternoon — so we took the towpath home. Here’s the first half, before my Garmin died:

    Pretty good time, even if I did feel sketchy and tentative in the more technical offroad stuff. Cheers!

    three men drink beer at outdoor table
    Dave, Scott and Lou enjoy some samples.

    Reading: I’m almost done with Jeff VanderMeer’s book of short stories, The Third Bear. This is working out a bit like N.K. Jemisin: after reading an awesome trilogy, I picked up the author’s freshman effort and found it a chore to read. I’m finding that VanderMeer is big on weirdness — I’d read before bed, and every night I’d finish one story and say “Well, that was fucked up.” — but he isn’t really into closure or answers, and in a short story format, where things keep starting over, over and over again, it wears thin.

  • Just An Experiment

    Posted on by Don

    Here is a test of an embedded Strava activity:

    There’s noting special about this particular run, I just picked it as an example to see what it looked like in my browser.

    Here’s another example of an embedded map, this time from Google Maps:

    Again, there is nothing special about this map — in fact, I’d be wary of using it, as it’s probably years out of date — I just picked it out from a bunch I made once. The point is to notice that the embedded map showed up.

    One more embedded map, this time from Ride With GPS:

    They all just seem to work, right? Contrast these with this one from Garmin:

    If you have anything other than Firefox, you may see the embedded activity (inside the box I added for clarity), but if you’re using (a more modern version of) Firefox you should just see a gray line and a blank space in the box — Firefox is blocking what it now considers an insecure script coming from Garmin. I talked to Garmin tech support, and they say it’s a Firefox problem — that is, their insecure script is really a Firefox problem — and they won’t be fixing it.

    This screws up about a half dozen pages here, and a few more on my old blog, and maybe even some other websites where I’ve embedded Garmin rides over the years. I think I may be going back and re-doing my ride pages in RideWithGps. Ugh, work… Oh well, lesson (re)learned: avoid counting on Garmin, especially their website.

  • In Memory of Two American Badasses

    Posted on by Don

    Yesterday was some awesome mountain biking at Merli-Sarnoski Park, just outside Carbondale. I rode up with Scott S, and we met Mike K and Renee E at the park. This place is pure northern Pennsylvania, hardwoods-and-granite singletrack, with rocky surface and plenty of climbing. Those guys rode like the monsters that they are, and I managed to hang on the back…

    Merli-Sarnoski State Park is named after Gino Merli and Joseph Sarnoski, two local guys who both won the Medal of Honor in WW2. I found no biographical information about these guys on the park’s website, which I thought was strange, so I Googled them:

    • Gino Merli (1924-2002), one of the inspirations for The Greatest Generation, left high school and fought his way from Omaha Beach to the Battle of the Bulge. Along the way, in Belgium, he covered his comrades with machine gun fire as they retreated from a German attack. His position was overrun several times — he feigned death as he was bayonetted, then when the Germans moved forward he got up and shot everything standing. Twice. When the Americans counterattacked the Germans surrendered, and his comrades found him still at his gun, surrounded by enemy dead. After the war he returned to finish high school, and later in life he worked as an advocate for veterans.
    • Joseph Sarnoski (1915-1943) was the son of a coal miner. He joined the Army in the 1930’s, became a bombardier, and when war came he was assigned to lead training and practice missions in Australia, where he started volunteering for other missions. In June 1943, with three days left before being sent home, he joined a B-17 flight crew on an unescorted photo-reconnaissance mission over Rabaul, where they were attacked by Japanese fighters. (Photography means the plane has to be flown straight and smooth over its target — no evasive maneuvers, they’d just have to fight it out as the cameras roll.)  Blasted from his station and mortally wounded by 20mm cannon fire, he crawled back to his guns and continued firing, while the mission continued, until he died at his position.

    It seems fitting to recognize them here, and it was good to remember them as we rode in their park. I have no idea what they would have thought of mountain biking, but I’m glad that the Merli-Sarnoski trails have not been dumbed down; they are as badass as the men they were named for.

    Anyway, back to our ride: it was really fun, and (luckily) uneventful. There were no serious crashes, no mechanical problems; the only mishap was when I looked at our ride time and distance (seven miles in three hours, according to my GPS), and panicked because Scott said the ride was 20 miles long — we had another six hours of riding to go! I actually volunteered to bail, so they could finish the ride at a more reasonable pace. They talked me into continuing, and the pace picked up, though not by much, as the trails became a bit easier in the second half — and then, just like that, the ride was over. My GPS read 12.9 miles total riding, but since it calculates distance by connecting the dots between location measurements, it was cutting corners and under-reporting distance on the twisty trails. Well, live and learn.

  • And A Couple More

    Friday’s ride at South Mountain in Emmaus was awesome, though it started late in the day with some missed connections. (We were all together at the trailhead by 4:30 and riding soon after, so it all worked out.) Greg, Ken M, and Mike K and his brother Mark. The day was pretty warm for a change, and I was puffing and sweating but I thought I rode well enough, especially on unfamiliar and sometimes difficult terrain.

    Saturday I rode in to the Museum again for the annual volunteer cleanup day at the park. Unfortunately, I got my signals crossed (maybe a theme for the weekend), and arrived at the end… Facilities guy Scott set me up with some work for me before he left though, so I got in my share: about about four hours of sanding benches. I only got four done, and part of a fifth, but it was hot, dirty work; when I left for the ride home my butt was dragging…

    We went to Ted & Mary Lou’s house last night — after my too-short nap — to celebrate their daughter Lily’s marriage. A fun evening with a lot of really nice people, but it was also an early night: we were home and in bed by 10:30. The evening, which started out just on the good side of “too warm,” had already turned chilly on our walk home. Now it’s cold and blustery out, and we’re expecting rain.

  • A Coupla Rides

    I’ve been getting out a lot more as the weather gets nicer…

    Last Thursday I took a “mapping ride” on the Iguana, down the South Bethlehem Greenway and over into the Intermodal Facility, aka Commerce Center Boulevard. There’s been a lot of construction over there, new buildings as well as new roads, and there has also been a persistent (and likely erroneous) OpenStreetMap note connected with that location, that I wanted to clear up but I didn’t know the area at all. So off I went, to see it all firsthand and gather data. Total ride mileage: 14.8 miles in just over an hour and a half.

    The result? After the ride I was able to update the map with several new roads and buildings, including the extension of Commerce Center Blvd into a huge, newly constructed loop. (I’d never been back there, and was amazed at the size of the place and its buildings.) I also updated the Greenway, which is now no longer under construction, and added a new access point.

    On Friday I did a towpath ride, 23.5 miles in 2:04.

    Wissahickon was on Saturday. I half expected this ride to be canceled because the weather was supposed to be bad (one reason for Friday’s ride), and the day started cold and a bit sleety, but things rapidly improved… I rode down with Lou and Scott, and we met Jason and Mike down there. I have not been to Wissahickon for mountain biking in probably 20 years, had no idea what to expect, and ended up having a hilly, rocky blast. We all felt good and rode well, especially for how early in the season it was — weather-wise at least, if not according to the calendar. Ride stats: 16 miles in just about 4 hours.

    Monday was another Towpath ride, and yesterday I rode the towpath to my Canal Museum gig — on my ride home I was running on fumes.

    Today is a rest day, and it’s raining anyway, and tomorrow I may ride with a few friends at South Mountain in Emmaus.

  • Digging-Out Diary

    I kind of fell into the same trap as before — leaning too heavily on categorization for my posts — and am now stuck, playing catch-up with things I wanted to talk about that really didn’t warrant their own posts. So…

    Cali Weekend: I finally managed to go skiing this year. Julie G had an extra ski pass and a Friday off, so we went up for a morning on the slopes at Blue Mountain. She’s a bit of  a neophyte (or maybe more like “haven’t skied since college”), and was more comfortable on the easier slopes, and I was too, to tell you the truth. We did two each on the Burma Road and Paradise trails, then I did two on the intermediate Lazy Mile, and we called it a day. It was surprisingly fun, especially since I had been worried beforehand, about getting hurt or whatever.

    The next day I did a towpath ride, going the whole length to the waterfall in Easton, and on Sunday Anne and I rode the towpath to Easton for brunch at Two Rivers.

    That was two weekends ago. The weather has been pretty crappy since then, but we did manage to get out, in one heavy spring snow, to attempt some cross-country skiing: too warm, and the snow was too wet. Oh well, at least we tried…

    Reading: I read Ann Leckie’s new novel Provenance , set in the same story universe as her Imperial Raadch trilogy (but not within the Raadch itself). Fast paced and fun — especially for a book about the authenticity of venerated historical objects — I’d recommend this to anyone who liked her trilogy.

    I also finished Hilary Mantel’s Bring Up The Bodies, her second novel about Thomas Cromwell, advisor to Henry VII. This one picks up where the first left off (at the execution of Thomas More), and continues through to the execution of Henry’s second wife, Ann Boleyn. It was just as absorbing, but seemed to move a bit slower than the first.

    Next up was The Discovery of Middle Earth: Mapping the Lost World of the Celts, by Graham Robb. It had an interesting premise: the Celts were more sophisticated than we realize, and had a pretty advanced navigation system, based on astronomy and a system of survey points, which they used to build roads and locate their cities. That was the theory; in practice the book was a rambling mess, full of very enjoyable digressions and oddly useless maps and diagrams, that attempted to tell the story of the Celts. (The book reminded me, more and more as I plowed through it, of Robert Graves’s The White Goddess, and not in a good way.) There were parts I really liked, but I struggled to finish it.

    And finally, I’m in the middle of The Selected Works of T.S. Spivet, a novel by Reif Larsen. This is the story of Tecumseh Sparrow Spivet, a 12-year-old prodigy (mapmaker, scientific illustrator) living on a ranch in Montana, who wins an award and a job offer from The Smithsonian Institution — who don’t realize he’s a child — and takes off for Washington DC via freight train. That’s as far as I got, but so far the story is compelling and multi-layered and, despite appearances, not a Young Adult novel.


  • The Challenge: A Follow-Up

    Morning weigh-in: 190.5#, 10.5% BF

    I don’t know, maybe it was the burger & beers… I went for a walk in the falling snow last night, and somehow ended up at Brew Works — I know, right? Go figure…

    The Push-up Challenge: Well it’s been at least a month since I started, and things went pretty much the way I expected — I can see, or I pretend to imagine I can see, some new bulk and a bit of definition in my pecs, a little less so for my arms, but nothing really dramatic. (Strangely enough, my upper pecs seem to be growing the fastest, so I sort of look like I have very high chest muscles, ending just a little below my collarbone. Kind of a weird look… Luckily I’m still wearing my winter sweaters and long sleeve shirts for now, and since I’ve still got plenty of chub it’s all kind of hidden anyway.)

    I’m still thinking that a hundred push-ups is not enough of an overload, and a month is not enough time, for real muscular improvement. I am currently doing 130 push-ups a day, in two sets of 65, and will continue doing so for now, adding reps as I my strength allows.


  • Exploratory Fat-Burner

    Morning weigh-in: 190.5#, 14.0% BF

    Got in a good ride yesterday, going upstream on the towpath. I only went about 20 miles, but with the snow and the soft mucky conditions, it took almost four hours of hard work, so I feel I got a serious ride — and since I went out to a less fully developed portion of the D&L, there was also a bit of adventure and exploration in the mix too.

    From Bethlehem I went west to Canal Park in Allentown, then north on some local roads and trails until I picked up the towpath again, off of Dauphin Street a little south of Catasaqua. I rode this to Race Street, and here my true exploration began: we normally turn right and then left here, to continue north on Front Street; I have contended that there is a bike path somewhere nearby we could take, while Anne feels that Front Street is the way — maybe the only way — to go.

    It turns out that we’re both right, though first I had to make a wrong turn and end up on RR tracks for a mile or so, before realizing that there was a bona-fide towpath just a few yards out of sight to my right. I was riding on the ballast, cursing whoever it was that thought this was a good cycling idea — uh, oh look over there, there’s a real trail and it’s so much easier! I got that sorted out and continued on my way, but even this trail deteriorated after a while — nothing too bad for mountain biking, but it was certainly not straight, smooth and flat towpath anymore either, and definitely not ready for a loaded touring bike. Still, I was having fun even if the going was rough, but then I came to a spot where a construction crew was putting in a bridge. I got around them, but past the construction site the trail was pretty chewed up from all the equipment; that, I decided, was my turn-around. (I’d wanted to go all the way to the 21st Street Bridge in Northampton to prove it could be done, but since I was within a mile of the Northampton portion of trail — which I was already familiar with — I figured I’d seen what I needed to. Besides, I was starting to get tired.)

    The ride back was pretty uneventful, though I did stop to note where I should have accessed the towpath in Catasaqua, and I did have to stop at a train crossing in Allentown. Back on the regular towpath at Canal Park, a snack break at the last lock before Sand Island, and I was home in no time. I then took a brief nap…

    We went over to Two Rivers in Easton last night, to catch up with Judy. Nice night, good beers (I had their oatmeal stout) and good conversation. I slept like a log when we got home, and I was surprised and disappointed to find I didn’t drop 20 pounds overnight. Today was volunteering at the Canal Museum, and tomorrow it’s going to rain I think.

  • Sloppy Towpath

    Morning weigh-in: 190.5# 14.5% BF

    I went out for a chilly towpath ride this morning with Julie G (she has off Wednesday and Friday). I think she knew what was coming but I totally expected the ground to be frozen solid, and dry even if above freezing, and it was like that for the most part but there were long sections where it was soft, muddy or just plain wet. We had a great ride, 14 miles down to Hope Road and back, but we did come home dirty. I have my jacket and bike clothes in the wash as we speak.

    I wonder how the mountain is doing, if it’s in any rideable shape. I did a mucky towpath ride a few weeks ago, then met Greg the next day and rode SMB and it was in great shape; we did Sals a few days later, and it was a bit wetter than SMB but still OK. Maybe a Sunday ride, at one or the other?