Sunday, June 19, 2011
Yesterday was an enjoyable 50 mile ride heading "south" of the NY / PA border for a stretch of rail-to-trails extending northward through little burgs above Scranton, PA. We followed the Delaware and Hudson Rail-Trail (packed gravel surface) through Carbondale into the Endless Mountains to Union Dale.
From their web page www.lhva.org/biketour.html :
"Join us for the 2nd Annual Heritage Explorer Bike Tour on Saturday, June 18, 2011, from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. at Mellow Park in Peckville, PA. Hosted by the Lackawanna Heritage Valley Authority (LHVA), the Bike Tour is a non-competitive, family-friendly event with something for every rider. Last year, more than 300 people of all ages participated in the inaugural event."
I think they topped 500 riders this year! What a wonderful thing to see so many volunteers out there helping to put this event together and showing so much pride in what their community has been able to accomplish!
Figuring that parking at the event might be tough and ALSO wanting to add a few more miles to the 44 mile event I left the van at the hotel and rode my bike up to Peckville. 50 miles has a MUCH better ring to it than 44...lol! Fortunately my DW happens to know an old friend who lives in the area and they were able to take off and visit with each other while I rode.
Here is a rough map of the 44 mile round trip we rode: goo.gl/maps/81V6 There was probably around 50 of us from my bike club who traveled down for the event. I caught up with a fellow member (another Don! :-) ) and we hung with each other for the most part with very complimentary pacing to our rides:
At various points I could hear the Lackawana River rushing alongside the trail so I would hop off the bike and wander off the trail so I could treat myself to hidden nooks of nature such as these:
The weather was picture-perfect with mid-80s, lots of sunshine and many rest stops with ice cold water, apples and oranges. The volunteers at the upper end of the route in Union Dale were particularly enthusiastic and took such pride in their rail-to-trail. One gal spoke of how they have to fight off the four-wheelers who try to take over the trail which is clearly marked with signs of "no motorized vehicles allowed." The four-wheelers have such a cocky sense of entitlement and attitude! At many points of the trail there are gates designed to be narrow enough to allow walkers & cyclists but blocking larger motorized ATVs & four-wheelers.
Challenges of the ride? Being off-road! I'm a pavement kinda guy...lol! Now I have little difficulty with hard-packed dirt with some crushed stone, but there were stretches of rocky trail which had me beside myself navigating the path of least bone-rattling resistance...whew! Slowed me down CONSIDERABLY! Technically, my ride is a cyclocross (Specialized Tricross) which is designed to handle mud & dirt, but there is no suspension as many mountain bikes have. I have a little more width and grip to my tires though, for which I was grateful yesterday! I don't wear gloves when I ride. My hands never complain and I figure one less thing I have to remember to take which would probably only make me feel the heat even more! But I have to say: Yesterday for the first time my hands were sore after that ride!
There were stretches of the trail with large puddles spanning the width of the trail, causing one to oh-so-carefully skirt around the edges of the puddle hoping not to slide or topple into them!
At times the crushed stone was loose enough that my tires would do some scooting around to keep 'er moving! Made me MUCH appreciate being back on pavement! :-)
Here's a few of us cyclists at the end of the line in Union Dale taking a break:
And the old mill behind the market in Union Dale:
A few more pics along the way:
All in all, a most satisfying ride!
PS...forgot to update my total miles for the season so far: 588!
Monday, June 13, 2011
I was quickly reminded and thoroughly humbled by the location of our campgrounds in the upper Watkins Glen State Park...the Hidden Valley campgrounds: it must be like a crater at the top of a mountain! To exit the campgrounds regardless of direction, one is immediately confronted by a sudden and oh-so-formidable climb that is only matched and even surpassed by the even MORE formidable climb that is necessary to RETURN to the campgrounds via Watkins Glen after one's long ride...what a finale! Although Friday evening's ride was only 18 miles the climbs involved very quickly reminded me that the rides for the weekend were going to be filled with climbing challenges. I climbed further than last year, due to my improved standing climb skills, but absolutely HAD to walk a portion of it each time.
That began to give me pause for thought on how much of a challenge I would take on for the long ride on Saturday. I knew at the very least I would want to make the circumference of Seneca Lake, the 82 mile ride from the campgrounds. Last year I believe I did a 50-60 mile ride up the east side of the lake and back to the campgrounds. My plan was to get to Geneva on the north side of the lake and see how I felt. If I was going strong enough I'd join the others in the extra loop over to Seneca Falls at the top of Cayuga Lake and back over to Seneca Lake which would put the total up to 109 miles.
One of the wineries along the way:
Some of the rolling vineyards:
You can see how the sun was struggling to break through!
At Geneva, however, the hills had already taken their toll and while I was loving the ride I knew that those extra miles would knock my balance between pleasure and challenge into the wrong direction.
Things brightened in Geneva. Here's a little spot down on the waterfront that caught my eye:
"It Was A Dark & Stormy Day"...that was going to be my original title to my blog when I heard about the weather forecast for Saturday. I kidded around with 4A-HEALTHY-BMI during my journey 'round Seneca Lake on Saturday as my route brought me right through her back yard through Sampson State Park. She was kind enough to catch up with me there and had a big pitcher of water for which I and other cyclists who came along were SO GRATEFUL! We enjoyed catching up with each other for a bit (check out her Water blog for a pic of the two of us that a passer-by took). I was being conservative with my phone-pic taking because I forgot my recharger...ugh!
Here's a brief stop I took at a miltary museum as the State Park I was riding through used to be a military training base:
The day was gradually shifting from overcast to sunny. So what do the weather forecasters know...? Pshaw! I joked that I'd have to come up with a different name for my blog. Yeah. Right.
Took a break a little further down the road in Ovid, chatting with other cyclists. We were facing north during our break...everything looked sunny and pleasant. All done? Head back out onto 414 southward toward Watkins Glen. The final stretch of 20 miles.
And there it was like Godzilla: HUGE, foreboding, dark, storm clouds towering overhead in front of me as I pedaled right into it! Heading out of Ovid the fireworks began. Lightning crackling all about me and thunder rumbling across the countryside! BUCKETS of water coming down in sheets!
I finally found an old shed which looked like it housed farm equipment once upon a time and darted into this for refuge...not wanting to make like a two-wheeled lightning rod out on the road! Some other cyclists came along, towing a cart with a kid behind. I yelled and motioned for them to join me but they soldiered on.
After a while the skies quieted and the rain let up from torrential to a steady soaking rain. I figured this would be as good as it gets and got back on my bike to pedal like crazy through the final miles.
Heading into Watkins Glen the rain petered out as I dealt with the climb up out of Watkins Glen on 409 into the campgrounds. Didn't make it very far before I resorted to hobbling, wobbling, clawing and crawling my way back home! Light, sprite, mighty-mights passed me by. Bet with all her recent practice LADYGWEN25 could make these climbs!
Sunday's replacement ride as an alternative to Keuka Lake turned out to be more memorable than I thought. A 40 miler, this ride included a downhill SWOOP into the little burg of Tyrone that clocked a fellow cyclist at 45 mph. I had made the mistake of fiddling with my bike computer so it wasn't working for me :-( But I figure I was probably going faster than 45 as this fellow was lighter than me.
A story about this descent: not far behind me were two folks on a tandem recumbent. One of the LOW recumbents! They clocked over 54 mph as they SWOOSHED into town! I chuckled as I heard that the fellow in the lead had TONS of experience, however: he begged someone to ride with him in the rear as his wife was disabled and couldn't ride. Could you imagine being new to a 'bent screaming down a hill at 54 mph with your butt only INCHES from the pavement...?!?! Talk about adrenaline OVERLOAD!
This was soon followed (what goes down, must come UP!) by a CRAWL up toward Dundee after passing by a smaller Finger Lake (Waneta). Joined with a couple other cyclists for a short lunch and cycled the rest of the way in and out of local Amish horse & buggies.
Sam, one of our senior bike club members (doing the IDIDARIDE in the Adirondacks later this year...one of the most PUNISHING hill-climbing rides anywhere...not too shabby for someone in his 70's and a titanium knee!) was on SAG duty this weekend and was pleased to report it was a most boring time with no accidents, injuries or mishaps. Lots of SAFE cycling going down! :-)
On my way home I took a little detour to Montour Falls as recommended by a fellow bike club member. Looked around for the falls, not having much luck. Turned the car around and VOILA! There it was, looking like it was falling right into a building!
Here's a closer pic with a person so you can get some perspective:
Pretty impressive! Especially with the recent rains!
Oh and I nominate The Pompous Ass Winery as the most amusingly named winery I've seen along the way...! :-)
So NOW with my added 140 miles this brings my cycling totals so far this year up to 538! Rackin' 'em up!
During the evenings I brought my guitar along to dust it off and see if I could remember the tunes I know. A bit clunky at first, but came around okay...lol!
Already looking forward to my next longer ride this Saturday, a 44 mile ride in Peckville, PA for the Heritage Explorer Bike Tour:
Keepin' 'er rollin'!
Thank you's to everyone following my blogs! Have been falling behind with my Sparkin' being away this weekend!
Update: Just tallied up the total feet climbed this weekend: 9755! Almost TEN THOUSAND! Now I'm not one of those types that CRAVES hills and seeks them out, but WOW...!
Friday, June 10, 2011
All righty! The bike's all set to go...itching to cut loose from work @ noon and then I'm OFF to Watkins Glen for the Great Finger Lakes Bicycle Tour!
The bummer is I haven't had time to ride since those 52 miles on Sun. and am feeling shaky for nailing a century ride on Sat. I may wuss down to the 79 mile ride...oh, and they're calling for rain! So who knows...? Crossing my fingers! Stay tuned! The century ride will include the full perimeter of Seneca Lake PLUS a loop which crosses eastward and travels from Geneva to Seneca Falls and down along a northern stretch of Cayuga Lake before returning to Seneca Lake.
Now the trick is going to be balancing sufficient challenge to gratify myself vs. not going so overboard that I lose the FUN & JOY of cycling...! WANTING that century badly, but...not wanting to jeopardize having a great time.
I'll be chewing on this with some other cyclists today, see what the weather holds and see what I end up doing...will be offline till Sunday night...catch up then!
Here is a wonderful link shared by one of our club members which shows all the various routes which will be offered all three days (Fri., Sat., Sun.):
Unfortunately recent flooding in the Keuka Lake area will rule out the Keuka Lake loop for a ride on Sunday, but they have an alternate ride planned between Keuka and Seneca Lakes.
Can't wait to see all the WATER...lakes, gorges, etc. and the rolling hills of vineyards and wineries and catching up with bike club members...good times ahead this weekend!
Here are a few links with pictures of various parts of the Finger Lakes:
And here's a wonderful selection of shots of the beautiful gorges of the area...one of which (Watkins Glen) will be right in the back yard of our campgrounds and ready for hiking!
Although I'll be staying with others in a "campground"...I'm taking the "cushy" option of staying in one of the cabins. Brought my guitar along to dust it off and see if I still remember how to play...lol!
Praying for sunny, dry weather...make it a SPARKED weekend everyone!
Monday, June 06, 2011
I set out yesterday on my bike to enjoy some of the Big Splash Music Festival:
It was a picture-perfect day for cycling (sunny, upper 70's) and I knew I wanted to get more cycling than just heading out to the festival, which would be around 20 miles.
After listening for about an hour to some nice bluegrass/country/rock crossover and another local group of country-folk women singing (The Burns Sisters) I got restless to hit the road again and decided I would head "south of the border" across the NY / PA state line toward Hallstead/Great Bend, PA.
I thought it would be nice to have some company so on a whim I called my biking buddy (who joined forces with me last Sept. for our 175 mile NJ ride!) to see if she might be free. However she was with company...but she really wanted to get out on her bike! A few minutes after hanging up she rang through again: shook loose her company and was getting ready to hit the road too! YES! :-)
Knowing that this upcoming weekend was the Great Finger Lakes Bike Tour (not too late to join in the fun...! www.southerntierbicycleclub.org/fing
erlakestour.html ) I wanted to rack up some more miles and feel better prepared for cycling 'round Watkins Glen, Seneca & Keuka Lakes.
We enjoyed some bike talk along the way, kicking around ideas for future rides, bike gear we wanted but couldn't afford...lol and the upcoming GFLBT and Heritage Tour the weekend after. I was debating whether or not to consider tackling the century ride around Seneca Lake on Sat. June 11th as it was so early in the cycling season, the route is much hillier than what we had last Sept. in NJ and I wasn't sure if I was ready. She did a good job of nudging me: "You KNOW you can do it. Maybe not as well as you might at the end of the season, but just think how well getting a century under your belt NOW will help you later!"
Sometimes I just gotta get out of my own way...lol!
Dealt with a pretty strong headwind on our way northbound after a stretching water break in Great Bend, good to build our skills, right? :-) Practiced a few standing climbs here and there. It was good to find our mutual cycling pace quickly became very complimentary just as it had been last year.
She went back to the Big Splash festival as we returned to Binghamton and I headed home as it was heading for 7 and I didn't want it getting too dark.
Less than 5 miles from home. Isn't that what they say about auto accidents...most of 'em happen right near one's home?
The lane striping for cyclists on upper Front St. northbound where it T's off with Route 12A is very frustrating as the cycling lane is of course on the far right-hand side. But then there's the right turn lane for cars. What's a cyclist to do when one wants to go straight and not turn? Well, they simply stop the far right cycling lane striping back before the intersection and voila! Paint a bike lane at the traffic light IN BETWEEN the straight and right-turn lanes.
So how does one get there? While turning to my left to eye-ball oncoming traffic to see if anyone was coming up the right turn lane so I could cross into the bike lane I inadvertently zigged my bike into the curb.
Yikes! Seeing a fall in the making I saw a sign on the side of the road and grabbed one of the posts holding up the sign and sorta just slammed into THAT instead of the ground. Saved my knee from major road rash, but twisted my thumb and still scraped up my shoulder, etc. Bike was okay other than the handlebars getting knocked a bit off "true." Hobbled on home for those final 5 miles. Hello Bacitracin, my old buddy! Unlike Wily Coyote who bounces back good as new in the next frame, I'm going to need some mending this week.
Passing on cycling today. Going to the fitness center to work out the kinks. Hated to do this as I may get rained out the rest of the week and I want to keep cycling to be at my best for this upcoming weekend!
Guess I'm just going to have to revert to STOPPING at this intersection, getting OFF the bike and walking across and then getting on. At least until I get a mirror of some sort which can improve my visibility.
What us cyclists will put ourselves through...! But yep: every lump, bump & scrape: the joys of cycling is still worth it!
Have a SPARKED week everyone!
ps...keeping track of my totals: Today's 52 mile ride puts me right up to 398 miles so far for the season!
Tuesday, May 31, 2011
After a weekend of woefully late spring cleaning (sans cycling...!) and a week full of RAIN last week it was WONDERFUL to get out on my bike for my commute today! A cool, foggy upper 60's ride this morning with plans of getting to my local bike shop after work to see if they could tweak the front derailler so that I could shift and get my "Granny" back!
I knew it would be a hot one...and it was! 90 degrees on the bank thermometer!
The trick to minimizing sweating when cycling?
I turn into a human water sprinkler then...lol!
The bike shop tweaked the front derailler...cable was slack. Managed to pick up a flat, unbeknownst to me, just before arriving at the shop...a tack of all things! Also I finally remembered to bring along a gift I received some time ago: A Schwinn 17 function Bike Computer:
I didn't trust myself to be able to install it properly so I had them take care of that at the shop. Grand total service bill: $10. Worth it to have things done properly. From the Amazon reviews it looks like I made a wise choice!
Now I can pay more attention to my speed while cycling! I've already found out that I go faster than I think I do on the open flats...often topping 20 mph. Plus, I've ALWAYS wanted to know how fast I go down this hill I have to travel each time I go to / from work. It's a manageable climb, but not exactly a breeze! And the SWOOP of joy down the other side is always a sweet pay-off!
So how fast is this downhill...? 38 mph...twice a day every time I commute! Been faster (near 50 mph), but to have this at my doorstep is kinda cool.
We'll see how this bike computer thingy goes...who knows maybe I'll get into the numbers enough to be lured into the world of GPS...? (Doubt it...lol!)
Took the long way home...UP the River Road hill AND the hill to my home...climb baby climb!
Did I mention SWEAT?!?! EVERYTHING I was wearing was drenched! DW thought I'd had an "accident" on the way home...lol!
No riding tomorrow, long day, but Thurs. / Fri. look good for commutes...no precip and chilling to a frosty 70 some degrees! :-)
Today's ride racked up 26 miles bringing my 2 month totals for April and May up to 313 miles. Not too shabby...considering all the rainy day washouts!
Make it a SPARKED week everyone!
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