Experimental music, photography, and adventures

Archive for July, 2009

Huntsville Reservoir

Tuesday, July 21st, 2009

As I mentioned previously, I was sick last week. I was feeling better by the weekend, but naturally I was sick at the worst possible time, just as my workload was really picking up. So I spent a good portion of the weekend trying to catch up. I did find time for a little riding. On Saturday, I rode around Huntsville Reservoir. I have done this ride a couple of times in the past; it’s a nice, quiet route, mostly paved, with a little gravel thrown in as well. The ride was only about 21 miles, but with nearly 2400 feet of climbing, it felt much longer. I took a lot of photos of the bike during this ride, since I had just cleaned it and put on some new handlebar tape.

I started by taking the Back Mountain Trail. There’s still a bridge out, but I managed to cross the creek and push the bike up the other side. It was a little tricky, but doable. There’s some nice scenery on the Back Mountain Trail, and I stopped for a bike photo shoot.


View Huntsville Reservoir 07-19-2009 in a larger map

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The trail climbs the whole way in this direction, but it’s a nice easy grade. But soon I got on Sutton Road where the real climbing began. It’s slow going, but with some lovely views of fields and mountains, there’s no reason to be in a hurry. The road is a bit deceptive. It’s steeper than it looks. It seems like the kind of place a nice spirited climb would work well, but I’ve found it’s best to put the bike in a low gear and just gradually spin up. Maybe part of that is the Trucker. Climbing is not its forte.

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By the time I had gone seven miles, I had climbed nearly the entire way. At this point, the road dropped down rather steeply toward Huntsville Reservoir. I took the road along the eastern side of the lake, which was flat for a few minutes, with some nice views.

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Before long, I had another slog of a climb, and the road turned to gravel and went through some rolling hills and the pavement came back.

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A brief jaunt on PA Route 115 took me to Huntsville-Idetown Road, which I would follow back, more or less along the other side of the lake. I underestimated the climb here.

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Fortunately, my efforts payed off, in the form of three miles that were mostly downhill. This was very refreshing, both as a break for my legs and because the wind had a wonderful cooling effect. Speaking of which, this had been a rather windy ride, but in a pleasant way. The wind wasn’t strong enough to make riding overly difficult, but it did keep me from getting too hot.

Unfortunately, I still had the biggest climb of the ride ahead of me, up the back side of Larksville Mountain. This was a real slog as always, but then then I had an exhilarating descent down Larksville Mountain and an easy roll home.

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All in all, it was a pleasant ride. I sometimes find myself wishing I had a faster, lighter bike better suited to climbing. I wouldn’t want a full-on racing bike, but sometimes the Trucker can feel unwieldy on the climbs.

The LHT gets some TLC

Tuesday, July 21st, 2009

I didn’t ride much last week, as I was sick. However, I did find some time to work on the Trucker a bit. It needed a good, thorough cleaning, and the handlebar tape was wearing out. Last time, I cleaned the bike with Simple Green, and it worked well, but this time I used regular Dawn dish soap. I think the Dawn worked even better.

Nearly every time I work on my bike, I mess something up. This time, I lost some parts when I took the chain off to clean it. I thought I had only lost part of the master link, but it turns out I lost a few other parts as well. I looked for them for quite a while in the yard, but could not find them. Unfortunately, I had to buy a new chain. The old one only had about 1900 miles on it. What a waste! Well, now I know to be more careful next time, and I know what pieces to watch for.

When I went to buy new handlebar tape, I decided to try something different. I liked the Cinelli natural cork tape I had before, but it’s expensive and the shops I checked didn’t have it anyway. I settled on a roll of RavX red cork/gel tape. In the box, it looked like a deepish red. I had a harder time wrapping the bars than usual. I think this tape is thicker and a little softer and it doesn’t stay in place quite as well.

Once I had the tape on the bars, it appeared much brighter shade of red than I thought.

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No worries, I planned to finish the job with some twine and shellac anyway. I had to finish both ends with twine; with barend shifters, you can’t put the tape in the ends of the bars, and it kept unraveling. The twine holds it in place nicely. A few layers of amber shellac helped the color a bit. It’s still not quite the deep red I had in mind, but it’s growing on me.

Even though I had more difficulty than usual, I enjoyed changing the handlebar tape. It’s a relatively simple and inexpensive task, but it significantly changes the look and feel of the bike.

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I’m fairly happy with how the bars turned out. What do you think?

Nescopeck Fiasco

Tuesday, July 14th, 2009

I decided to try something new on Sunday, and planned a 52-mile ride to Nescopeck State Park — south of Wilkes-Barre, when all of my rides to date have either stayed in the valley or gone to the north. The main reason I’ve avoided riding south of town has been because I don’t like riding through the city, but in planning this ride, I realized that there just aren’t very many roads in that area.

Furthermore, as I was on my way back toward the valley, I realized that some of the roads that Google Maps shows don’t actually exist. I could not get back over to a safe road to ride back home, and had to have my wife save the day by picking me up in the car. So, the map looks a little weird. I also missed out on some more climbing at the end, and what would’ve been an incredible descent back to the valley. Alas. I still managed to ride around 50 miles, with 4892 feet of climbing. Here’s a map and elevation profile.


View Nescopeck 2009-07-12 in a larger map

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I started by riding across the Susquehanna River and into Wilkes-Barre. I then took Main Street southwest to Alden. I was a little worried Main Street would be busy, and it was busier than the country roads I usually ride on, but it really wasn’t too bad. It got a bit hillier than I expected, with a series of decent rolling hills.

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About 10 miles into the ride, I turned onto Alden Mountain Road to begin the long climb out of the valley. I had never ridden here before so I had no idea when the climb would end, and it felt like it went on forever. Over the course of 2 1/4 miles, the road rose close to 750 feet.

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Once I reached the top, I had a couple of good descents toward Nuangola, then some rolling hills. These roads were fairly pleasant but once again not as quiet as where I usually ride. Except Gay Ridge Road, a one-lane road through a wooded neighborhood … that one was very quiet.

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Soon, a Google Maps issue caused me some trouble. I was planning to turn from Church Road onto Henry Road. Here is what I found when I arrived at the “intersection.”

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I was on a bridge overlooking Henry Dr. I looked in vain for a ramp or another way to get down to Henry Dr., but there wasn’t one.

Now that I’m back at home, I can see how this happened. The next image has two Google Maps views of this intersection, the first one is zoomed in one step further than the other. When zoomed in very far, you can see that  Church Road has lines going through the intersection, indicating a bridge (even then, it’s subtle). In the second panel, you can see that when zoomed out one step further, there is no way to tell that there’s a bridge here.

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Fortunately, I could easily see on my GPS (which also failed to indicate the problem) that I would be fine if I just continued on Church Rd. So it was no real problem at all, but it’s a good reminder to be aware of things like bridges. But there’s no way I’m zooming into each intersection that far just to see if there happens to be a bridge. Maybe Google can improve on this.

I continued on Church Road, through some rolling hills, and took a break under a huge tree at a cemetery. I really needed a break, and I felt much better after relaxing for a few minutes.

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After some more rolling hills, I started the second big climb of the day, this one up to Nescopeck Pass. This climb was smaller than Alden Mountain, but still 500 feet of climbing, some of it quite steep, over the course of two miles. I was moving rather slowly, but steadily. I reached Nescopeck Pass at 1617 feet and turned onto PA Route 309.

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Now 309 is a busy highway, and I normally avoid roads like this but there really was no other way of getting where I wanted to go. A side effect of having few roads in this area is that the roads that are there tend to be busy. I was hoping for a good shoulder on 309, but unfortunately there was only a very narrow shoulder. I had what would have been a wonderful descent down from Nescopeck Pass, except that I had to keep my speed way down and try to stay out of the way of the traffic. The junction with I-80 was particularly sketchy. In non-highway situations I often take the lane but that would not be safe here. Fortunately I knew I would only be on 309 for a couple of miles, and the scenery was pleasant even if the road was not.

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Along the way, I stopped at a gas station to get some more water and some chips, and use the facilities. I took the chips with me to eat at Nescopeck State Park, which I was now approaching. I turned onto Honey Hill Road, the road that took me to (and through) the park. The road surface was horrible — one of the worst paved roads I’ve ever ridden on. Pieces have been cut out and patched so many times that it looks almost like a quilt.

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Now they tell me!

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The scenery varied, some sections were densely wooded and in other areas there were open meadows, with frequent views of Mount Yeager to the south. Nescopeck Mountain was to the north, but I couldn’t see it most of the time. The road itself had some decent ups and downs, nothing too steep but enough to keep me slogging away.

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When I stopped to take the above photo, I looked around as I set my foot down and to my surprise saw a rattlesnake looking right up at me from about 10 feet away. At least, I believe it was a rattlesnake. I didn’t hear a rattle, but it looked like a rattlesnake to me. I backed up and zoomed in to see if I could get a photo of it.

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I continued riding, and soon reached the park office. I sat on a bench on the bridge over Nescopeck Creek and ate the chips I had bought earlier.

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Before long, I got back on the road. Soon, it was time to start the third big climb of the day. I saw the road I had considered using to climb up Nescopeck Mountain, but had decided against. I had a sign that read “No Winter Maintenance.” I guess that mean’s there’s no maintenance at all? At some point, it would be fun to explore this road, but I didn’t feel the need to do it at this time. A few more small hills and I reached PA Route 437 and started the climb.

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This time, I climbed about 400 feet, took a brief ride on a flat side road to avoid some extra climbing, and then rejoined 437 for some more hills. 437 felt a bit like a highway, but it was relatively quiet. Certainly not like the crazy traffic on 309.

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Soon, I neared the town of Glen Summit and turned off. My plan was to take Crystal Lake Road over to Laurel Run Road and ride on that back to the valley. Once off 437 I had quite a bit of climbing to do, and I was running out of water. I watched for someone in their yard, or an available spigot, but did not have any luck. Running out of options, I filled one of my water bottles from a small creek. I had not brought my water filter, so I drank the water with no treatment. It seemed like a relatively safe creek, at a high elevation with no nearby agriculture. I have been having some digestive issues today (Tuesday) so I don’t know if they are related to that water, or for some other reason. But I am normally very careful about making sure I can buy water, or I bring my filter. I failed to do either this time and now I may be paying for it.

Unfortunately, although Crystal Lake Road is listed on Google Maps, I found that it does not actually exist (along with several other roads in that area). Or if it does exist, it’s inaccessible due to private property. Every option I tried, I reached a dead end. During this time, I reached the highest elevation of the ride, at around 1900 feet.

Exasperated, I decided to head back over to 437 and see if I could find another route back to town that didn’t involve riding on 309. Route 309 had been bad in a remote area, but riding it through the city would have been incredibly dangerous. I was not willing to do it. I found an abandoned railroad grade which I think may be a planned rail-trail. It’s very rocky and unmaintained currently, but I rode on it for a while anyway. I have to say, if they smooth it out and groom it a bit, it will be very nice. A gorgeous area, and if there were a couple of clearings you could get some very nice views of nearby mountains.

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Soon I found a way back down to 437 and got back on that road. I studied my GPS maps a little more and determined that there was no safe way home from here without backtracking and adding a lot more mileage to my ride. I called my wife and asked her to come pick me up. I told her where I would be and set off to ride around a bit more while I waited. I had some very nice views.

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I’m lucky that my wife saved the day for me. I am glad I got to explore the roads on that side of town, but I’m not sure it’s something I need to repeat. Unfortunately, after doing all that climbing, I didn’t get to do the blistering descent back to the valley, to which I was very much looking forward. But I really wanted to clock at least 50 miles for the day, and I did that. And 4892 feet of climbing is nothing to sneeze at, either.

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