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Canoeing on Lake Monroe

Monday, August 29th, 2011

Sarah and I have been canoeing a few times in the past. This summer I’ve been bugging her to go, but of course it was extremely hot for a while, and it’s not terribly pleasant to be out, exposed to the sun, when it’s super hot.

But, the weather has been incredible lately — lows in the 50s and 60s, highs in the 80s. Saturday the high was in the upper 80s, and Sarah suggested a canoe trip. A great idea!

We figured Lake Griffy would be our best bet — Griffy is a small lake on the north side of town — within city limits, if I’m not mistaken. It’s a beautiful lake, and canoe rentals are cheap there, so we headed up to go paddling.

Unfortunately, we found that the water level was quite low and the shallow, stagnant water was disgusting, covered in algae and who knows what else. Suffice it to say, it looked unappealing.


So, we headed out toward Lake Monroe instead. First we tried to rent a canoe at Cutwright SRA, which lies east of the causeway. This is significant, as the east side only allows idle speeds, whereas the west side has speedboats and the like. But, we came up empty-handed. They only rented pontoon boats at that location. They suggested we try Paynetown SRA, which is not far away but is on the other side of the causeway.

We headed to Paynetown instead, and indeed, they did have canoe rentals. We rented one for two hours. It was overpriced, at $35, but we really wanted to get out on the water, and the water looked great, so we went for it.



We’re not terribly experienced at canoeing, and it had been a while since our last trip, so it took a little while for us to figure out how to work together to move forward and, more difficult, steer. We were having a good time. We weren’t sure which direction we should go in, so we checked out a little inlet.



After some hemming and hawing, we decided we would make our way over to the quiet side of the lake. This meant we had to cross the lake, and then go under the causeway. It didn’t look too far … we were mostly worried about speedboats.

We were a little surprised how much the wake of the boats affected us on the water. The waves didn’t look big but they were rocking our canoe. Or if we were headed straight into the waves, the front of the boat would tip up and then smack back down, which Sarah found a bit frightening.

I think it’s a lot like riding a bicycle on a gravel road. It’s disconcerting the first few times your tires start to slip, but once you get used to a little float and realize it’s not the end of the world, you start to feel more comfortable. Sarah was a good sport about it, even though I know she was a little stressed during this part.






Pretty soon, we realized that it was a lot further across the lake than it looked. Also, we had to contend with some wind. We kept paddling and eventually we were going under the causeway. It’s a little weird paddling under it, as I have crossed it many times by car and bicycle, but I had never seen it from this perspective.



Once we were on the other side of the causeway, things did calm down considerably. It was much quieter and I would have loved to explore further east, toward Hoosier National Forest and some other areas that are familiar from land, but by this time we were getting tired. We made a small loop on the “quiet side” and headed back.



Our return trip was a lot more pleasant than the trip out. Instead of cutting directly across the lake, we more or less followed the causeway and the land. We did cut across a bit but it seemed like once 5:00 rolled around, about half the boats left the lake and it was much quieter, even on the side that had been hectic before. We enjoyed a peaceful paddle back.






We saw this crazy house, which I guessed (and later confirmed) is owned by John Mellencamp.



We returned back at the rental place in almost exactly two hours, having traveled 4.3 miles. ┬áHere’s a map of our trip.

After that, we decided to head out to the Scenic View Restaurant, which was right on our way home. We had heard good things about the place, but had never actually been there ourselves.

It was Saturday night, and there was a long wait for a table. At least the View was excellent, as promised.



I did think this statue was a little over the top …


However, once we got our table we really enjoyed ourselves. There was a live jazz band playing and the lake looked beautiful as the sun set.



We enjoyed some beer samplers (the beers are not all the same, I swear, even though it looks that way), some great food (including a corn fritter appetizer that was amazing) … and great conversation, of course.



Once the sun set, the torches were lit and the environment continued to be just wonderful. We’ll definitely be making a return trip, both to Lake Monroe and to the restaurant.

In the future, I’m considering renting a canoe from IU, which we could then take to any location we want. There are quite a few areas I’d like to explore by boat, and I’d rather not have to put in at such a busy location again, if we can avoid it. Plus, IU’s rates are cheaper for a whole day than what we paid for two hours …


Tuesday, July 28th, 2009

Last week, I decided I should plan a long ride for Saturday. I always thought it would be neat to ride to Tunkhannock, a small town about 25 miles north of here, and back. The route I planned was around 57 miles, and if successful, this would be my longest ride since moving to Pennsylvania. I planned to take some new roads, including some mixed terrain. One odd thing about the route is that most of the climbing would be in the first 20 miles. Here’s the map and elevation profile.

View 07/25/2009 Tunkhannock in a larger map


I am not normally an early riser, but I got up early and was on the road by 9:00 am. Partially, I got up early to beat the heat, but I also knew it would be a long day of riding. It was a very pleasant morning — foggy and cool. My ride started on the Back Mountain Trail, even though I knew I’d have to make the sketchy creek crossing where the bridge washed out. The roads and trail were wet from rain the night before.






Shortly after I got off the Back Mountain Trail, the fog lifted and it started heating up. Aside from a couple of steep sections, the first 12 miles was mostly gradual climbing; a routine ride up to Center Moreland.


I made the usual stop at a convenience store in Center Moreland. The clerks there have typically been pretty unfriendly, but they were much nicer this time, for whatever reason. From there, I went west on 292 briefly, and then hit Pine Ridge Road, the first new road of this ride. My Garmin software said this was a gravel road, but it turned out to be some nasty chipseal. But I had no trouble with it at all on the Trucker. I was glad I had reduced my tire pressure, as my tires soaked up a lot of the bumps. The scenery improved, thanks to some bigger mountains.






Soon, I came to an intersection. My route had me continuing on Pine Ridge Road, but ahead of me it changed from a chipseal road to a loose, rocky doubletrack trail. The map on my GPS didn’t quite match what I had seen before; on my GPS, it appeared this road didn’t quite go through. However there was only a small gap and I decided to see if I could get through.

This was some tough riding. Traction was poor and the “road” rose some 350 feet over the course of about a mile, getting rockier and steeper as it went. Along the way I encountered some power lines and figured I could probably follow them for a while, if need be.





Eventually, I reached the top. The “road” did go through, although things were a little confusing at a power line intersection. As soon as I reached the top, I started down the other side. It was steep and rocky, once again. Suddenly, the road spit me out of the woods, with some nice mountain views and a jaunt across a field.







I immediately turned onto another chipseal road and started climbing. Naturally, a dog decided this would be a fine time to chase me. I couldn’t sprint up the hill fast enough to get away from him, but he was moving pretty slowly and it quickly became clear he was just chasing me for fun. Also during this time, I started hearing some weird sounds coming from my front fender. Later inspection would show that my Velo Orange aluminum fender developed a crack during the bumpy descent.

So, I pedaled away from the dog as fast as I reasonably could, with my fender ticking and creaking the whole time. Some more fields yielded excellent views.





But soon I turned onto Barziloski Road, another chipseal road and gravel road, and began a climb that I had terribly underestimated. It’s not often that I walk a hill; sometimes, I’ll stop to catch my breath. But I walked for quite a while here. Some slopes were so steep that I just couldn’t keep the pedals turning. And the climb just went on and on. Another 350-foot climb I didn’t really realize was there.







Once I finally reached the top, I rested for a bit and sprayed water on my face from my water bottles. My technique for dealing with the heat was just to take my time and stop frequently to cool down. After a break, I felt quite refreshed and enjoyed quite a crazy descent down the other side.




The road flattened out briefly, and I turned onto a paved road and enjoyed a paved plunge toward the Susquehanna River. The smooth pavement felt wonderful after all the chipseal and gravel and I swooped alongside the river on a winding road with plenty rolling hills. Gravity did most of the work and I really enjoyed allowing gravity to carry me over the rolling hills, which are in short supply around here. The scenery was stunning too, with the river and the mountains.




I spent a brief time on PA Route 29, which is a busy highway, but it had nice decent shoulders most of the time. I reached Tunkhannock and spotted a Subway, which seemed like it would be a great option for lunch, so I stopped.


It felt great to sit in the air conditioning for a while and refuel. I called my wife to let her know where I was and that I was behind schedule. With all the climbing and the road/trail, it had taken nearly four hours to ride just under 25 miles, so far. Fortunately, I felt strong, and I knew the second half of the ride would be much easier.

When I was done eating, I filled my water bottles and headed out. I crossed the Susquehanna River and saw the road to the quaint downtown Tunkhannock area, but I kept going. I spent a little time on US Route 6, which was busy but had wide shoulders, before turning on PA Route 92.



US Route 6

Avery Mountain

I turned onto PA Route 92, where I would spend the next 11 miles. The road follows the river, and I would follow the river most of the way home. I had ridden on 92 before, but not this section. Traffic was quite unfriendly and a few cars honked at me for no apparent reason. I enjoyed the way the road was sandwiched between the river and a mountain, along with a train track, but I spent a lot of time looking in my mirror and worrying about the traffic. Fortunately, after a couple of miles I passed the junction with PA Route 307 and traffic thinned out. Most people must have turned onto 307, which heads toward Clarks Summit and, eventually, Scranton.







92 was relatively flat, with the exception of one tough climb of around 300 feet toward the end. The biggest problem I ran into was that there was very little shade, and the sun started getting to me after a while. I continued to take frequent breaks so I could cool down. I took a slight detour on Sand Plant Road. This turned out to be great, as I avoided some extra climbing on 92 and Sand Plant Road had an excellent, sweeping descent and only a slight climb back up to 92.



I reached the town of Falls, where Route 92 crosses the river before continuing south. I stayed on the east side of the river and took the quieter roads on that side. But not before checking out Buttermilk Falls and noticing that I was about to be on Hoppy Road. Naturally, this made me wish I had a beer.




I spent the next six miles or so on a nearly-deserted one lane road that with alternating paved and gravel sectons. It continued to follow the Susquehanna River and railroad tracks, just as 92 had done, but the riding here was much more pleasant. The road even had a slight downhill trend, so riding was easy, except that there were a lot of potholes to dodge in the gravel parts. This was all technically a road, although it felt more like a rail-trail part of the time, thanks to the narrow road and lack of traffic. Now that I think about it, I wouldn’t drive my car there. The gravel portion is quite rough.












After a while, I reached Ransom and from here on out I’d be on paved roads of varying quality. After following the river for a few more miles, I went through a cool one-lane underpass and then reached the bourough Duryea. From there, I took Main Street to Pittston, crossed the Susquehanna on Route 11, and headed home by way of the West Side Trail.












Finally, I made it home. I was gone for about 7 1/2 hours, making this my longest ride in some time. To my surprise, my moving average was nearly 12 mph according to my cycling computer, faster than I expected. However, I took a LOT of breaks. I was hoping this would help me deal with the heat, and it did seem to help quite a bit.

Fortunately, I had a nice, hoppy beverage waiting for me at home. I enjoyed a Stone IPA. I love big, hoppy brews and this one didn’t disappoint. Maybe a little on the bitter side for my tastes, but even so, there’s nothing more refreshing than a cold beer after a long ride.

I rode close to 60 miles and climbed 5190 feet. It felt great to get out for a long ride, I have had too few of them lately.

A very full weekend

Monday, June 9th, 2008

We had a very full weekend. Sarah got her driver’s license on Saturday. She was nervous about her driving test, but she got a perfect score. I’m very proud of her, but not at all surprised she aced the test. We’ve practiced driving a lot lately, she’s very good at it, and she was prepared for the test. After that, we went and visited with my family for a while. My mom had pulled out some boxes of stuff I left at her house, and we looked through the contents, which brought back a lot of memories. Among other things were some photos of me from my track racing days back in elementary school, and other bike-related shots. Hopefully I can scan and post some of them soon.

We also finally got Sarah a DSLR camera, a Nikon D40. We had been saving for a while, and it was time. So far, it looks to be a great camera.

In celebration of Sarah’s status as a new driver, we went for an outing on our bikes. It sounds backwards, but it was a great way to celebrate, and I had made her promise we’d go for a ride once she got her license. We spent a lot of time practicing driving and hadn’t ridden together all year. So, we headed out to drop off some books she wanted to donate at the library, and then went to dinner.

Sarah on the bike path


We decided to go to Crazy Horse for dinner, a pub with good food and beer selections.

Our bikes

They had Dogfish Head 60-minute IPA, one of our favorite IPAs, so we ordered a pitcher.

Dogfish Head

Crazy Horse

Sarah’s pasta dish and my buffalo chicken sandwich

After dinner, we saw a few more bikes outside, a touring bike and another bike with a child seat extension thing on the back, and one or two others. They were pretty well loaded, might have been on tour or something like that. We headed home. It was rather hot outside, but Sarah was a good sport about it.




There was quite a bit of debris on the bike path and in some parts of the road from all the crazy rain and flooding we’ve had. We got around 8″ of rain in a 24-hour period. The manhole cover was ajar. We fixed it.

Fixing the manhole cover

We had a great time. Hopefully we can have more dates by bicycle. Sarah rode better than the last time we went out on our bikes, even though it’s been so long since she rode. We had a great time together, and went out again later so she could test her new camera. I took some shots too … more on that later.

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