Monday, May 26, 2008

Memorial weekend

Almost exactly 11 years ago my friend D. (yep same one as the recent motorcycle trip) and I had set across the US in his bread truck (Think old 1960's UPS van.) One of the stops we made was at his cousin's house in rural Pennsylvania. I have not seen or talked to her since. For Memorial weekend D. was heading out there to visit and invited us along.
Because of Memorial day traffic it took us about longer to get there. However it was nothing like the weekly exodus between Los Angeles and Las Vegas when we were living there. L. and I had brought our folding bikes and it was nice to just put them in the back of the car instead of needing to put the bike rack on.
On Saturday it just happened that the city had got together and had a group garage sale. I thought it was interesting because it reminded me more of an antique sale. A lot of people were selling old rusty cast iron cookware and other kitchen utensils that had not seen use for at least 50 years. (However I remember using them as a child and enjoyed explaining the weird contraptions to my wife.) They then took us for a tour of the old railroad path where the tracks had been removed. It was so quiet and pretty because everything is so green. The path followed the Susquehanna river and was very relaxing. By the time we made it back home we had ended up riding 10 miles. After that they had to show us the local ice cream hang out, and ride home through another covered bridge. We had the obligatory memorial weekend BBQ then set up our tents to sleep outside for a night.
Sunday morning I woke up early as usual. Just being able to lay there and listen to the birds was very relaxing. After breakfast at the local restaurant we took a tour of the remains of Centralia. Centralia was a coal mining town until Memorial weekend 1962 (So this was the 46th anniversary we visited) when burning trash caught the mine on fire and it has been burning since. I had heard of the town when I was a kid and was expecting scorched earth and bare dirt from the extra heat. In reality with most of the homes being torn out everything was green and overgrown. The ground was warm and there was smoke coming out of cracks in the ground, but the smoke was mostly hot steam that was very wet when I put my hand over the cracks. When the wind died you could hear the hissing and popping coming through the cracks so it is still very much active.
D. had brought his convertible so we then enjoyed just riding around rural Pennsylvania and another bike ride before packing up and heading home. Riding bikes through old covered bridges is something that should be done by everyone at some point in their lives.
The drive home was much easier since we returned Sunday night and did not hit any traffic. When we had been in a car driving around Europe we had found an English copy of "The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe." The person not driving would read out loud to pass the time, and it made for a better experience when the movie came out. With "Prince Caspian" showing in theaters I decided to try it again for the second book to help pass the time in traffic. In the 4 hours there and 3 hours back we finished the book between the two of us reading. So on memorial day with us both not wanting to do anything else we went and saw the movie at the theater. Like most movies adapted from books, the books are better but I thought it was interesting to see how they handled some of the sub-plots given the time restraints.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Riding Down the Parkway

We bought folding bikes for our cruise to ride through all the cities we visited. I wanted to make sure that these folding bikes could ride normally so we wouldn't be disappointed when it was to late. I am so used to things not fitting me it was nice to find a small folding bike that did. On Sundays during the summer from 10am-2pm they close one of the parkways close to where I like for bikes to enjoy the ride. A nice 14 mile loop sounds like the perfect test to me.
It was a beautiful ride there are trees everywhere so most of the ride is shaded. The weather was great though. It was supposed to rain starting around 1pm but since I was only doing one lap it was just nice and cloudy. This is an old section of parkway. I guess it was still back when the philosophy was to make the drive as beautiful as possible instead of just inexpensive. There are stone bridges over the river and a parks and forests are intertwined. Basically just being able to ride and enjoy the quiet of the bikes around me is what I had wanted to get out of the 5 boro bike tour.
So how did my folding bike perform? Great, actually. I was passing pretty much everyone that wasn't in full spandex riding gear and on a race bike. The thing that surprised me was how many comments I got about my bike. As I rode past groups or families I heard: "Wow, daddy what kind of bike is that?", lots of "Wow"'s and "Cool"'s, "I want a bike like that", and "How much did it cost". The one that caught me most off gaurd was hearing a girl actually spell out "L-O-L".
So this is a problem. I bought an orange bike to make it easier to be seen by traffic. The problem is that I stick out very much which is something that I don't want when being a tourist. Oh well I guess I have to take the bad with the good. Of course I know that bikes are much more ubiquitous in Europe so I am guessing so are folding bikes. I guess we will find out.
As a side note, I am all caught up! since being done with school I have been trying to catch up on posting things to this blog. Laziness, and time naturally passing has seemed like I never would. Hopefully I won't so far behind again.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Bike mania

OK, I admit it I have a problem. My hobby is out of control. It all started with me wanting to build the fixed gear. The idea being that I would store that bike in D.'s basement for when we visited. Well with that being the case L. would need a bike too. I found a free one on Craigslist for her. I them realized how fun it would be to have bikes to ride around the towns we visited on the cruise so I found some cheap folding bikes for that. L.'s folding bike only had 16 inch wheels and it was slow so I wanted to test if slightly larger wheels would help. I bought a child's bike with 20" wheels for $10 to test it. Both of us were disappointed with the folding bike and realized that they would not do what we needed them to so we decided to return them and bought some different, better, and more expensive folding bikes. If you add in the bikes that we already owned that means we had 9 bikes total in the garage. Entirely to many bikes for two people. Of course we returned two of the folding bikes, but still. So now I have a "stable" of bikes and I need to figure out how to store some of them, and get rid of the rest.

Monday, May 05, 2008

5 Boro Bike Tour

When searching for good trails to ride bikes on I came across something similar to a bike Marathon for NYC. Riding bikes for 40 miles through the five boroughs of NYC. Somehow I convinced L. and my friend D. to do it with me. I didn't think it was that big of a deal but after it sold out I started seeing posters and ads for it everywhere. Turns out it is 30,000 people. Both D. and I had made the deadline. We had finished our bikes. Taken them for test rides and tuned them up again so they would run good for this.
We didn't want to deal with all the roads closed so we decided to take the train into NYC. It was 5:30 in the morning and all the train cars were full of people with their bikes. It made for a weird site. We met D. at city hall and rode south to the starting line but saw people already lining up so we got in where we could. It kept repeating it was not a race in all the information but then why wait for an official starting time? Especially starting late. While waiting we looked around at everyone else's bikes and what they had done to them. The starting line was a barrage from the speakers of how thankful they were to all the sponsors. They released us in groups, I realize for safety, but it seemed like so everyone would hear the spiel about each sponsor.
When we rode it was great. My bike was running great and it felt amazing like I was connected to the road. The sound of thousands of bikes around us shifting gears on hills or breaking around corners was one of those magical zen things. The problem was that there were many delays. There was enough traffic that a lot of the time we had to stop for no reason. The worst stop and reason why I do not want to do it again is when we were on the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway and they had to funnel us down to one exit lane. We ended up walking our bikes for an hours until we got past that traffic jam.
I was also surprised how many wrecks there were. I can see why helmets are required. I would say in the 40 miles we saw 10-15 wrecks where the people were laying on the ground with paramedics standing over them. I am guessing just to be safe since almost every fall also involves the head hitting the ground. Fortunately we all made it though without incident. The ending line was across the Verrazano Bridge at the fort. When I ran the marathon I saw it and had wanted to go there. The finish line party seemed like more advertising so D. and I were more interested in seeing the fort.
On the ferry ride home we all talked about what our goal was for doing the ride. I was surprised and happy that I finished with a fixed gear. I also thought it was really cool that I had just rode the whole way on something that I had built and nothing broke. L. had not really done any training and was just happy to have finished. D. was interested in his time taken to finish. He now knew with how he felt that it would be possible to do about 50 miles a day for a longer bike ride.I really enjoyed this ride and will start looking for me to do.