Experimental music, photography, and adventures

Archive for May, 2009

Images of a city illuminated by invisible light

Monday, May 11th, 2009

On Saturday, my wife and I did something we hadn’t done for a while: we went out with our cameras with the sole purpose of taking photos. We didn’t go far from home. We parked by Kirby park and took some photos there before walking across the Market Street Bridge and a little into downtown Wilkes-Barre. I am feeling a renewed interest in infrared photography, so I spent most of my time working on that. Note: in many of these photos, it looks almost as if the scene is blanketed in snow — that’s not the case. Foliage appears white in infrared photos.

Wilkes-Barre sign

Kirby Park

Levee Trail

Grass and sky

Market Street Bridge

Grass and clovers


Looking toward Wilkes-Barre

Eagle gargoyle

Looking toward Wilkes-Barre. In normal light, the Citizens Bank sign is green, and the Guard Center sign is blue.

The abandoned Sterling Hotel

Sterling Hotel

Looking up at the Sterling


Tyvek snaps in the wind

A couple of other downtown buildings

After a while, I switched away from Infrared. I love the stylized images produced by the infrared shots, but the technique requires a lot of patience, a tripod, and trial-and-error. I wanted to walk around and do some freer hand-held shots.

The same buildings again, in normal color

Scratched wall in a dingy alley

Plants growing out of a wall of the Sterling

Citizens Bank and other buildings

Masonic Temple / Fallout Shelter

Another shot of the fallout shelter sign

Brick patterns on the Masonic Temple


We really only covered the bridge and a couple of blocks of downtown. The city looks very cool in infrared, I’ll have to do more of this.

Harvey’s Lake revisited

Tuesday, May 5th, 2009

Back in November, I rode to Harvey’s Lake, but I didn’t have time to ride around the lake. This seems to be one of the quintessential places for road rides in this area, and I felt I had some unfinished business, so on Saturday I decided to ride back out to Harvey’s Lake and this time, complete the loop around the lake. I took a different route this time, because I also wanted to explore some new gravel roads along the way. Here’s a map of my route.

View Harvey’s Lake 05/02/2009 in a larger map

Unfortunately, I had to start out by climbing Larksville Mountain Road. I’ve written plenty about it on here — it’s the hardest climb I’ve ever ridden. I always have to stop a few times on the way up, and this time was no exception. I took advantage of the opportunity to photograph a few wildflowers.

Mountain Road

St. Vladimir’s Cemetery



More flowers

Level area atop the mountain

Field with dandelions (“Weeds are flowers too, once you get to know them” – Eeyore)

After a whole lot of climbing, I rode on the ridge for a bit before descending down the back of the mountain on a different part of Mountain Road, which turned gravel at the bottom. I enjoyed a couple of miles of flat, easy riding with mountain ridges on both sides.

Mountain ridges

I made my way over to Pine Tree Road, which I had heard was a nice gravel road, and relatively flat. It was quite nice indeed, and flatter than many roads around here, but reallyt his just meant that I only had to do a couple hundred feet of climbing on this road. It wasn’t as easy as I had hoped, but it was quite enjoyable.

The pavement ends on Pine Tree Road

Rolling field


Curvy road ahead

The road went in a general uphill trend for some time. It was tiring, but it was a very pleasant, cool day. The road surface alternated between paved and gravel, and all the roads were very quiet. Meeker Road had a nice straight hill and I let loose. I hit the highest speed I’ve reached for a while, 43 mph. You would think that descending off a mountain, you would be able to hit speeds like that regularly, but the mountain roads are too twisty for that. A  straight descent down a smaller hill actually let me pick up more speed.

I enjoyed some beautiful scenery from a ridge before descending toward Harvey’s Lake in a long, flowing, fun descent.

A view from the ridge

Weird tree


Finally, I reached Harvey’s Lake. I started the loop around the lake, a little concerned that there would be a lot of traffic. But I was surprised to find there was almost no traffic. But, it was a cool day to be out on the lake — I bet that the roads get pretty busy during prime boating weather.

This part of the ride was extremely flat, smooth pavement. The easy riding was a welcome respite from all the climbing I encountered on the way there. For about nine miles, I had the lake on my right, while the left side of the road had a lot of amazing homes. I noticed some weird and cheesy tropical themes: one boathouse had a “Margaritaville” sign, and had some plastic flamingos in front of it. Some others were decorated in tropical ways as well. I also rode by an apparently-abandoned restaurant called “Tijuana.” I thought the tropical and southwest themes were a little odd. I know it’s a lake and all, and it had its own character — and it was not at all tropical. If people must decorate, I really wish they would choose something more appropriate.

Don’t get me wrong, though, the lake was beautiful and most of the homes were tasteful.

Beautiful lake — cheesy decor

Don’t even get me started on this clown

Looking across the lake

Me, at Harvey’s Lake

“Tijuana” restaurant

The lake

The trip around the lake was fun and easy. Once I made it most of the way around, I started looking for a convenience store so I could get some water. I didn’t see anything. I did see some restaurants, and I was a bit hungry, but I didn’t bring a lock. I decided to head out. I was sort of dreading the climb away from the lake. Last time I rode out to Harvey’s Lake, I climbed up Carpenter Road, and it was harsh. It was beautiful, but a tough climb. This time, I took Old Lake Road, and I was stunned by how much easier it was. However, the scenery wasn’t all that great. But it’s nice to have options.

I ended up on PA Route 415 for a bit, it was a little busy but there was a decent shoulder. I eventually found a gas station where it intersections PA Route 118, which was also a little busy, but I was only on it for a fraction of a mile before I turned to go by Huntsville Reservoir. I intentionally went a little bit out of the way so I could ride back on the east side of Huntsville Reservoir. I have ridden on the west side several times but only once on the east side. I enjoyed some big rolling hills, followed by a gravel climb that wasn’t as bad as I expected. It seemed a lot longer last time I was there, but then again, it was covered with snow then.

Big rolling hills

Gravel Road

Huntsville Reservoir

Huntsville Road

I was looking forward to the next section of the ride, a long, flowing descent down Huntsville Road. It wasn’t blisteringly fast, topping out at around 30 mph, but I stayed over 25 mph for quite a while without really putting any energy into it.

Now, I was back at Larksville Mountain. The climb isn’t as bad from this side, but it’s still significant (400 ft) and it’s quite steep for a while. I have made it up without stopping, but I was rather tired at this point and took breaks several times.

Steep, winding road

Looking back

Steep switchback

I reached the top, and after a few minutes of flat riding, I got to ride down Larksville Mountain and back to the valley in which I live. This is a steep, twisty road and you have to ride the brakes almost the entire way. However, I was able to go faster than I have in some time as the roads are now relatively clear of winter debris.

1 1/2 miles downhill

Soon, I was home. I’m glad I went and rode around Harvey’s Lake, as I enjoyed it, but really in general I prefer the more remote lakes, or at least less touristy areas, such as those by Huntsville Reservoir.

Interestingly enough, the ride turned out to be around 35 miles. Back in Indiana, one of my common rides was around Lake Lemon, and it was about 35 miles as wel. However, I used to do that ride in right around two hours; here in the mountains, even with the 9 miles of flat riding around the lake, a 35-mile ride took me almost four hours.

Some quick post-work mixed terrain

Sunday, May 3rd, 2009

On Friday, I finished my projects a bit early and went for a bike ride. I wanted to try a different way of climbing Larksville Mountain. In the past, I’ve ridden up Larksville Mountain Road, but this is an extremely difficult way to go. It’s both steep and long — it seems like it’s never going to end. Every time I’ve ridden it, I’ve had to stop at least three times along the way. Looking the terrain map on Google Maps, it appeared to me that Washington Avenue might be a little longer, and seemed to climb up in a gorge carved by Brown’s Creek. This seemed like it might be easier, so I decided to try it. Here’s a map of the options.

View Mountain Road vs. Washington Ave in a larger map

Now, don’t get me wrong, I knew this would be a tough climb. There is simply no easy way to climb 600-800 vertical feet. But Washington Avenue had several advantages. Even though I had to ride further to reach the base of the mountain, I would get some of the climbing out of the way during this time. And the ride to the mountain was quite enjoyable. Furthermore, Washington Ave. topped out at about 1400 feet, versus 1500 for Mountain Rd.

A climb in Edwardsville

Looking at the mountain I was about to climb
. It looks unassuming from here, but … not so much.

Church St.

One of many trails I spotted alongside the road. These warrant further exploration

It was a long, hard climb. I still had to stop a couple of times. It had rained most of the day, so it was very humid and I was dripping with sweat. It was grueling riding, and at a few points I wondered why I was doing this. But I keep telling myself that if I keep climbing these crazy roads, I’ll get in better shape quickly, and then it won’t seem so bad. We’ll see if that holds true or not.

Beginning the climb

Steep switchback

Looking back at the switchback



Looking back toward the valley

Curvy climbing

Eventually, I reached the top. To be honest, I wasn’t sure that this way (Washington Ave) was easier than Mountain Rd. But then I did the Mountain Rd. climb the next day and now there is no doubt in my mind: Washington Ave. is easier. More on that ride later.

I made my way over to Steele Road for some nice gravel riding. I had ridden on this road before, but I was going in the opposite direction that time. The road was still wet and a little greasy from the rain we had earlier. Just enough to turn my tires red from the gravel, and get things a little dirty. Traction was still good and the surface was solid. It was relatively flat, easy riding for a while. I took my time and enjoyed the scenery.

Steele Road





I stopped at a power line right-of-way to enjoy the view. It’s so great to see everything getting green.

The Trucker, with Bunker Hill (an adjacent mountain) in the background

The Trucker

The descent ahead. Wyoming Valley, where I came from, is visible in the distance.

From here, I had an insane descent down Corby St., a rough, paved road down the mountain. It was fun, but I had to ride the brakes the whole way. I think I will need some better brakes, or at least better pads, for the Trucker. I really have to squeeze the brakes hard on downhills like this.

Trees and clouds

Small, abandoned house

The trucker by some yellow flowers

Corby St.

The descent was over all too quickly. I had a little climbing to do, and then another descent on a short, steep road, from which I got a nice overhead view of some churches in our neighborhood. It’s interesting to see them from above.

Myrtle / Periwinkle. I’ve been seeing a lot of this.

Wyoming Valley, including some churches near us

It was a lovely ride. The climb was gruelling, but overall I was gone less than an hour and a half. It’s cool to be able to catch some nice views and some mixed terrain in a relatively short ride.

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