Experimental music, photography, and adventures

Archive for November, 2008

Photos from a few rides

Friday, November 14th, 2008

Here are some photos from a few rides that don’t necessarily need their own entries, but that I want to make sure to share. I’ve done a few night rides lately. Since the sun now sets around 4:45 pm, it’s dark by the time I finish working. This means that I have no chance of riding during daylight after work; I’ve learned that it’s better to wait until 6 or 7 to ride when possible, since before that there’s more traffic. I haven’t seen enough traffic around here to call it “rush hour,” but there is noticeably more traffic earlier in the evening.

I’ve found that I really enjoy riding on the Levee trail at night. There are very few people there, and part of it feels sort of remote. I ride along, hearing only the quiet whirring of my wheels, and get caught up in the repetitive act of pedaling. It’s very relaxing.

I have made a few attempts at night photography as well, and with my cheapish digital point & shoot camera, it’s challenging. However, it does have a Night mode that works pretty well for long exposures, so long as I have a solid place to set the camera. I sometimes use a Gorillapod, but it is pretty limited. I wish I had a taller, but still portable, tripod. Anyway, here are a few shots, most taken from near the Market Street Bridge.

Cyclist on Market Street Bridge

The Trucker on the bridge

Glowing lights over the Susquehanna River

Riding action shot — notice the headlight beam

Eerie full moon shot by the river


Moon and pillars

My old mountain bike (the Trucker was in the shop)



I also took some photos during a daytime ride in which I combined Bunker Hill and Larksville Mountain. There was a little more traffic than I would’ve liked during part of it, but overall it was quite enjoyable. There was one huge climb, and I was about to snap a great photo of the mountain when my camera refused to cooperate. Alas, I’ll have to go back.

Looking back, partway up the Bunker Hill climb

Trucksville United Methodist Church

“The White Church on the Hill”


I learned the other day that the Back Mountain Trail, which I have ridden a few times now, has been extended by about two miles. This should bring the total length to around 4.5 miles. The existing section is very enjoyable and provides a gradually-climbing, traffic-free way to get to the Back Mountain area. Unfortunately, the new section currently ends in the woods; hopefully, they’ll be able to make it go through soon.

The comments section of the article about the trail is quite interesting as well. Mostly positive, but there are some negative opinions in there as well, that sort of surprised me.

Bunker Hill, Mt Zion, Lake Louise, etc

Monday, November 10th, 2008

Yesterday I decided to do my first longish ride since moving to Pennsylvania. I imagine I won’t be able to fit in too many more long rides before winter hits, so it felt great to spend an afternoon on my bicycle, exploring my new home territory. I planned to do this ride I found on MapMyRide.com.

This ride ended up having more climbing than any other ride I’ve ever done (3600 feet of climbing), even though I’ve done much longer rides. For reasons I’ll explain below, my route deviated significantly from the one I intended to do. Here is the actual route I rode.

I still haven’t adjusted to the switch away from Daylight Savings time. Even though I left by 1:00 pm, I was a little worried the sun would set while I was out riding. I only planned to do about 45 miles of riding, but given how long even my 15-mile rides around here have taken, due to all the climbing, I didn’t know what to expect. So I brought lights with me, just in case.

It was in the 40s and quite windy when I started — windy enough to have me a little worried. A few gusts really blew me sideways, and I worried that with the wind, combined with the mountains, I’d run out of steam. As it turned out, the meandering route I took meant that I was never riding into the wind for very long at a time. Also, the mountains helped block the wind, and the wind died down over the course of my ride. So it wasn’t as big a factor as I feared.

The ride started with the big climb up Bunker Hill that’s becoming quite familiar to me. I am getting more comfortable with this climb; it’s never very steep, and I am quickly learning that the best way to approach most of these climbs is to use a very low gear and keep my cadence up, only pedaling hard when necessary. I can climb for a long time, as long as I don’t attack too hard. I was astonished at how much more bare the trees looked than they did even a few days before; they’re really shedding their leaves now.

I’ve photographed the view of Pennsylvania Route 309 before, but this time I stopped to get some better shots.

My bicycle on Bunker Hill Road, overlooking PA Route 309

Bunker Hill panorama 2
Three-shot panorama of the view from 309 (worth viewing large)

I’m not sure that this climb is getting easier, but now at least I know what to expect, and I have a pretty good idea when I get near the end. Eventually, after a ton of climbing, I enjoyed a blistering descent down to Carverton Road, some views of Frances Slocum Lake, and another sweet descent, fast enough that my eyes were watering.

Frances Slocum Lake

Going into a sweet descent

This is where the route deviated from familiar territory. I went left on Eight Street and almost immediately right on Mount Zion Rd for some more serious climbing.

Taking the high road

Even though I had just spent a while descending, it was a little disheartening to go into another big climb immediately. But it ended up not being too bad, and I continued to use the same “climb slowly” technique. It worked well. I saw some amazing, huge houses nestled in the mountains, some smaller houses and barns, and even a place with a sign saying they were selling old books.

Huge house

More climbing

Barn (I should really do more photo treatments like this)

I had a few minutes of flatter riding, and as I approached the descent I had an amazing view of the surrounding areas. Mountains, and a golf course.

Distant mountains

Mt Zion panorama
Golf course panorama (view large)

I enjoyed a steep descent with some twists and turns, but none very sharp; I was able to let loose during this part and I’m not sure how fast I got going, but I was hauling. The Long Haul Trucker still impresses me with its solid feeling while descending. I swooped smoothly down the mountainside.

I soon realized that many of the country roads in this area suffer from the same problem as those in Indiana: an utter lack of street signs. I had to guess which road to turn on. It didn’t help that the street names on my printed maps sometimes weren’t legible, and I didn’t bring my Pennsylvania Gazetteer. I had brought one map, but it was of the Wilkes-Barre metro area, and I was already off the map. So, I guessed which road to turn on. And as I eventually figured out, I guessed incorrectly.

I rolled through some more beautiful country, not knowing if this was where I was supposed to be, but I at least turned in the right direction. A few miles of moderate rolling hills gave my legs a bit of a rest while I enjoyed views of more mountains, barns, and a Christmas tree farm with very young trees.

Mountain view

Young trees


I reached an intersection and when the road I was supposed to turn on wasn’t even an option, I knew I had gone the wrong way. Rather than backtrack, I got out my compass and tried to orient myself with the roads on the map. I was a little unsure where I was, and wished my GPS wasn’t broken, but I figured that if I could get moving in the right direction, I would eventually hit the route I was supposed to be on.

I went into another long climb and really hoped the road I was on would take me where I wanted to be. Eventually it connected with Lake Louise Road, one of the roads from the route. I got the compass out again to make sure I headed in the right direction. I was clearly approaching from the wrong place, but I thought this would take me where I needed to go. Lake Louise Rd had a strange surface, it was paved but had a rough surface almost resembling tiny pea gravel. I continued to climb.

The rough Lake Louise Rd surface

Eventually I came to a point where I could see a lake that I presumed was Lake Louise. The route was supposed to go past that lake, so I rode toward the lake.

Lake Louise, from above

Lake Louise panorama
Lake Louise (three-shot vertical panorama – view large)

My bicycle by Lake Louise

As I climbed back up from the valley where the lake was, I saw a huge house with lions on pillars on either side of the driveway.

Huge house with lions on pillars

The view in my mirror

After that long climb were some big rolling hills, followed by a pond an a marsh.

Rolling hills



The road behind me


Winding climb

Soon I reached the town of Center Moreland. I looked for water in some vending machines. I didn’t find any, but I didn’t really need it anyway. I probably should have been drinking more, but I felt fine. From here, the next six miles or so were almost entirely gently winding and downhill; this was where the majority of the climbing I had done paid off. The descent was steep at times and more gradual at others, and I enjoyed some spectacular mountain views along the way. During this section I hit my top speed for this ride, 42 mph (and that’s with a rather bulky jacket and pants adding a lot of drag).

Part of the fantastic descent

More scenery

Winding road

Looking behind me

More mountains

Eventually I turned south on Pennsylvania Route 92, which would follow the Susquehanna River back to the Wyoming Valley, where we live. At times it had great views of the river; at times, it was far enough away that you couldn’t see the river. This part of PA 92 had very little traffic, but as I got closer to town, traffic picked up. Some motorists were obviously annoyed at my presence, as three or four of them honked at me at various times. There was always plenty of room to pass me, so I’m not sure what their problem was. It made me a bit nervous, but I was glad to have my mirror. I could tell when someone was behind me and move over to the shoulder when necessary to let them by. I tried to share the road the best I could, I only wished they had done the same.

There were some hills during this section that although they look small on the elevation profile, still gave me quite a challenge. Most hills look small compared to the 1,000-foot Bunker Hill climb. Fortunately during many of the climbs there was an extra passing lane, so I just stayed to the right and cars could easily pass me. This section was still challenging, but easier than most of the other riding I’d done, with no long, sustained climbs.

Susquehanna River

Some industrial activity by the river

PA Route 92, river, mountains

The scenery continued to amaze me. These were either some of the biggest mountains of the ride, or I just had better views of them. Very impressive indeed. As I approached town, I saw more signs of industry, and even got a great view of the Wyoming Valley, where I was now headed (home).

Power plant


Sheer rock face

PA Route 92 panorama
PA Route 92 Panorama (eight shots, stitched together – view large)

Wyoming Valley, where the ride started and would end, is visible in the distance

Railroad trestle across the Susquehanna

The traffic continued getting heavier. It never got terrible, but I may want to figure out a quieter way home. I saw some potential ways to do that. The only downside being extra climbing.

Eventually I turned onto Old Exeter Road and took this to Slocum Road, which took me most of the way home.

Riding into the sun

Huge pile of coal with an American Flag on top

The sun is nearly setting

I arrived at home at around 4:30. I felt I had made pretty good time, a bit over 3 1/2 hours for 45 miles of mountainous riding. My ride time was 3:14, reflecting the fact that I only took a couple of brief breaks.

This was a truly fantastic ride. I can’t wait to explore the area more.

Bunker Hill

Wednesday, November 5th, 2008

Another mountain climbed by bicycle. I decided to tackle Bunker Hill, which is adjacent to Larksville Mountain, which I rode previously. Bunker Hill goes a bit higher than Larksville Mountain; I’m not sure why one is called a “mountain” and the other a “hill,” but that’s how it is. I’m still getting used to the crazy amounts of climbing short rides can have. This ride had over 1900 feet of climbing in under 15 miles. Here is the route I took.

I took North Street up the side of the mountain, which becomes Bunker Hill Road. It more or less parallels the Back Mountain Trail, so there are a few different options for how to climb out of the valley in this area. I took a slightly different route to get to the base of the mountain and while it had a little lighter traffic, I’m not sure it was worth it.

Riding toward the mountain

I started riding up the mountain and made a conscious decision to pace myself. I hoped this wouldn’t be as steep as Mountain/Huntsville Road, which I used to climb Larksville Mountain. I tried to pace myself on that climb, but it was so steep that the amount of effort it required just to keep moving made it impossible.

Bunker Hill Road takes a winding path up the side of the gap between the two mountains. At times there are houses on the side of the road, and at times it’s just the guardrail, and a dropoff. I got a great view of PA Route 309 as I climbed. It was a beautiful cool overcast day, and a bit hazy, with almost no traffic. A perfect day for riding. I nearly had the roads to myself.

Winding climb

Looking down on PA Highway 309

I found the climb up Bunker Hill longer than the Larksville climb, but not as steep. I was still glad to have the uber low gearing on the Long Haul Trucker, but I was able to make this climb without stopping. Still, it was probably 25-30 minutes of climbing to make the initial climb, spinning in a low gear. After a while I got another nice view. In the following photo you can see how high I was above the dirt road/trail that’s on the right above.

Another nice view from the road

Undulating road

I reached an intersection where I could stay on this road, which becomes Dug Road, or turn right to stay on Bunker Hill Road. I opted to stay on Bunker Hill, and I still had a bit of climbing to go at this point. But it was an easier grade and I picked up the pace considerably. I came upon Fire Cut Road and followed that over some rolling terrain until it ended at some gated private property. It felt great to finally get to coast, even if it was immediately followed by more climbing. I hit probably 30 mph on a descent and carried my momentum most of the way up the next ridge.

Rolling terrain on Fire Cut Road — the road curves right and goes down, then back up in the distance.

It was flat briefly, but then went into a steep descent. It curved at the bottom and I really had to watch my speed. My brake pads were squealing a bit, I need to see about getting them adjusted. I may attempt it myself, but I’m not too good with such things.

Steep descent, with distant mountains visible on the horizon

I stopped to snap a photo of a scene that reminded me a bit of one in Bloomington (see here), and noticed the Anthracite Rubber Company, where a worker was outside enjoying the view and a cup of coffee.


Anthracite Rubber Company

I had more steep descending ahead of me, but before long I was at Frances Slocum Lake, which I’ve ridden by before. I saw a man fishing with his dog on the other side of the lake, but otherwise nobody else.

Frances Slocum Lake

Looking back at Bunker Hill, where I just came down

I rode on Carverton Road a bit, which is a little busy but has bike lanes. A quick and easy ride with only a little bit of climbing put me on Dug Road, where I’d climb for a while longer before riding back down to the valley.

Dug Road

View from Dug Road

Dug Road
Panoramic view (worth viewing large)

I was pretty tired of climbing by this point, but I had 250-300 more feet to go. Fortunately it wasn’t too steep, I just kept grinding away and eventually reached the top.

Finally cresting the mountain

The descent back to the valley was amazing. There were lots of twists and turns and at times the road went right on the edge of the mountain. I was glad the guardrail was there, but even so it was a little nerve-wracking. I kept my speed in check and had a blast.

This was an awesome ride, and I think this is a good way to make the climb. It’s nice to have options. Next time I’m hoping I can piece something together with Bunker Hill and Larksville Mountain in the same ride. I’m hoping that once I’ve made the climb out of the valley where we live, even if there are lots of ups and downs, they’ll be smaller ones. I have yet to test that theory, however.

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