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Archive for the 'Rain' Category

A very rainy ride

Monday, August 24th, 2009

Before I talk about my actual ride, I want to talk about some bike stuff. If you don’t want to read it, just skip down to “The Ride” section below.

As I mentioned previously, my front Velo Orange fender developed a crack recently. Fortunately, it was within the one-year warranty, they said they would replace it if I sent in my broken fender. I had a hard time finding an appropriately-sized box, so it took a while for me to send the old fender back to them.

I also placed an order for a fork crown daruma (a different type of mounting bolt for the fender) and a shorter stem for the Trucker. I let them know I was going to do so, and they shipped the replacement fender and the other items all together. They sent the items out immediately, and I got them two days later. Nice service from Velo Orange.

It took a while to install the replacement fender, and although they sent me all new mounting hardware, I reused some of the old hardware. Mainly, I didn’t want to have to cut the new stay, so I just used the old one. The daruma bolt works much better than the L bracket I had before. I had to settle for a fender line that’s a little less than perfect, but it’s close. It’s worth it though, the fender is definitely more solid than it was before. We’ll see if the fender holds up better this way; I think it will.

The new stem is nice too: silvery and with a subtle V O on it. I may have gone too short with the stem. Or I may just have to adjust to this one, I’m not sure yet. I went from 100 mm to 80 mm, thinking 1 cm didn’t seem like much difference. Now I think 90 mm may have been just right.

The Ride

Yesterday, I set out on what will probably be my last longish ride here in Pennsylvania. Given that, I thought it would be fun to ride in familiar areas, but explore some new roads in the process. I had planned out a route a week or two ago that I never got to ride. The forecast called for a 30% chance of scattered storms, but the radar looked clear. I don’t often ride in rain, at least not intentionally, but I figured it either wouldn’t rain, or I might hit a patch of rain that wouldn’t last long. Here is the route I rode.


View Center Moreland, alternate roads 08/23/2009 in a larger map

Center Moreland elevation profile

I headed out, and made the long climb up Bunker Hill Road. Sometimes I settle into a groove and enjoy the climb, but that didn’t really happen. I think I just haven’t ridden enough lately. As a result, I’m not in top form, and I’ve gained some weight. It wasn’t too hot, but it the humidity was extremely high; I was uncomfortable.

However, eventually, I made it to the top and then enjoyed the descent down the back of the mountain. It was fun, but short-lived, and then I had more climbing to do on Manor Road.

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Then I took Wyoming Road over to Ransom Road and then Ryman, thereby avoiding the tough climb on Krispen Road. I still had climbing to do, but it wasn’t as bad. During this time I saw some golden hillsides, a rafter of turkeys, and a pig grazing in someone’s front yard. As I turned a corner, a Great Blue Heron startled me by swooping up out of a marshy area that was hidden behind some brush.

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I spent a while on Ryman Road, a very enjoyable gravel road with nice scenery and no traffic, and some decent ups and downs (but nothing too strenuous).

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I came across an fascinating, beautiful, gnarly iron gate.

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The Stewart Iron Works, Cincinnati, Ohio (now apparently in Covington, KY)

I reached Lake Catalpa Road. The road turned paved and the skies grew increasingly ominous. This road is a lot of fun, some great descending with a lot of twists and turns along the way.

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Somewhere along here, the rain started. It rained gently at first but it quickly picked up the pace. I turned onto the gravel Nesbitt Road and was at the base of a big climb when the rain turned into a deluge. It was raining so hard that I could barely see, from the raindrops that were falling and from the water on my glasses. I had notions of waiting it out and tried to see if a tree would shield me from the rain, but it was just coming down too hard.

I waited a few minutes and it was clear that the rain was not going to let up any time soon. I got back on the bike and resumed the slog up the hill. By this point, water was running down the hill toward me in the tire ruts and forming lots of puddles. This would have been a difficult climb without the rain but it was even harder now. It took a while, but eventually the grade let up and I was able to spin at a higher cadence. It wasn’t so bad now, I had to try to avoid puddles since I couldn’t tell how deep they were, but at least the road was more ridable now.

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I reached Levitt Hill Road and the riding got a bit easier. There was a little more climbing but then it was downhill for a while, and the road spit me out of the heavily wooded area into a more open area with views of some fields and mountains. But it was still raining hard and now rather foggy and it was hard to see much. It was a beautiful scene. I took more photos than I probably should have and the lens cover got wet and refused to open or close properly without my assistance.

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Soon Levitt Hill Road unceremoniously spit me out in Center Moreland, the halfway point for my ride, and a frequent refueling stop. I planned to get some water and gatorade, and maybe a snack. Unfortunately, the convenience store was closed. They had a vending machine but it didn’t have any water. I ended up trying Ginger Ale as riding fuel, and it didn’t work too badly at all. I had an energy bar so I ate that. I stood under the awning for a few minutes. There was no chance of drying out, but it felt good to be out of the rain for a few minutes. I called my wife to let her know everything was going fine, knowing she was probably worried about me being out in the rain. I hoped hearing from me would make her worry less, but I think I made it worse.

After a bit I decided I should hit the road again, and I felt surprisingly refreshed. It was still raining, but it had let up a little bit. Enough so that my glasses weren’t getting too much more water on them. Truthfully I was really enjoying riding in the rain. It was the first time I haven’t felt hot during a ride for some time. I had to be extra careful about traction, but my tires handled the situation well.

My route had me taking a slight detour further north before truly heading home. I enjoyed Ripple Brook Road quite a bit. It had a rough surface but it was just beautiful, with a couple of ponds, some fields and some other pleasant scenery.

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I crossed PA Route 292 (this would’ve been the more direct route from Center Moreland) and got on Village Road / Cider Run Road, and the scenery just kept getting better. I had a hell of a climb, but it was wide open on my right so there were some wonderful views.

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The rain was light at this point, but I was really glad that I got the new fender installed before this ride. Water was running out the bottom of it most of the time. That would’ve been all over me, without the fender. I could probably use a mudflap for insanely wet days like this, but I was drenched anyway so I didn’t really care.

Once I reached the top, it was mostly downhill for a couple of miles. I couldn’t exactly let loose and ride fast, given the slippery, wet roads, but it was still quite enjoyable.

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Unfortunately, I had a long climb ahead of me on School House Road. This wasn’t a fun one at all, it was 500 feet of climbing and quite steep for a while. There weren’t even many turns, it was just a long, straight, grueling climb. It had stopped raining and the sun was starting to come out. Normally this would be a good thing, but having it warm up during a tough climb wasn’t particularly helpful. There were some nice views, but only when I stopped to look back down at where I came from.

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Eventually I reached the top. By now it was sunny,  and the road was flat very briefly before turning down steeply toward 8th Street.

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I took 8th Street down to the valley where I live. I had basically five miles of descending ahead of me. Normally you can reach 40+ mph on this road, but with the rain, I don’t think I passed 30. That was fine; I was in no hurry and it was great just to let gravity do the work for a few miles. Once I reached the bottom, it was a flat 6-mile ride home with just one climb.

This was an absolutely wonderful ride. Some of the most fun I’ve had riding in the rain, and it’s a good reminder that I even though I don’t often start a ride if it’s raining, I do enjoy riding in the rain, so long as it isn’t too cold. I should ride in the rain more often.

I also thought it was fitting that my last long ride here gave me a new appreciation for riding in the rain — something I can take back to Indiana with me.

Pine Creek Gorge Bicycle Camping Part I – Saturday

Tuesday, June 16th, 2009

I was considering riding the Great Finger Lakes Bicycle Tour last weekend, but I decided against it, mostly because of the cost. Instead, I planned a bicycle camping trip along the rail trail at Pine Creek Gorge, also known as the Grand Canyon of Pennsylvania. The trail is some 60 miles long, and most or all of it runs through the gorge, with fantastic views of the creek and the mountains.

I had read about other S24O trips there by The Blasphemous Bicycler (another trip) and FiveToedSloth. They rode part of the trail, camped at one of the campgrounds alongside the trail, and rode back the next day. I had another plan. I parked at around the halfway point (Black Walnut Bottom), rode to the northern terminus at Ansonia, then turned around and headed back, but rather than take the trail back, I climbed up the mountain along the west rim of the canyon. I wanted to get some views of the gorge from above, then camp at either Colson Point State Park or in the backcountry in Tioga State Forest. I pored over some maps and found a way to climb the mountain that appeared to be fairly gradual, and a good route for the return trip on Sunday.

Here’s a map from Saturday.


View Pine Creek Gorge bicycle camping part 1 06/13/2009 in a larger map

Saturday morning, I dropped Sarah off at work and then headed out to the trail. It was about a three-hour drive, and I got some lunch along the way. I was riding by about 1:00 pm. The trail surface was wonderful smooth gravel, and while it was slightly uphill the whole time, the climbing was nearly imperceptible most of the time. White and grey clouds filled the sky, and threatened rain.

The scenery was incredibly beautiful. For the most part, the trail was wide open, with mountains on both sides, and the creek down the middle. I took a ridiculous number of photos, but I’m only going to post a few, relatively speaking. Much of the scenery looks the same in the photos.

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As you can see, the scenery was fantastic the whole time. I really enjoyed looking over toward the west side of the gorge (on the left side in most of the photos) and thinking, “I’ll be riding up there later!” It’s very cool, and daunting, to see where you’ll be going in that way.

So far, the riding was very easy, to the point that I don’t have a lot to really say about it. It rained on and off for at least an hour, but fortunately it never rained hard enough for me to get completely drenched. I spent some time listening to music while I rode (the “Cedar Grove” album by Jeff Lang), but it seemed like every time I turned on my mp3 player, it started raining and I had to put it away. Eventually, I gave up. It was nice to listen to some mostly-acoustic, bluesy music for a while, though. The mood was just right.

Interestingly enough, the further I rode, the more wildlife I saw. I had seen a few deer here and there, and someone warned me that they had seen a rattlesnake alongside the trail. Fortunately, I didn’t encounter it.

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Later, I saw a deer eating right by the trail, and she did not run away as I approached. I took a couple of photos before I continued on my way.

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After about 30 miles of beautiful, easy riding, I reached the end of the trail. It had been raining, but it stopped. I found my way over to Colton Road, which would take me up the side of the mountain and into Tioga State Forest.

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I was nervous about this climb. I knew from studying maps that this was going to be the easiest way to make the climb, but it still rose 700 feet over the course of about 3 miles. And, my bicycle was fully loaded with camping gear.

The climb was more doable than I expected. Don’t get me wrong, it was quite challenging. However, it was paved (I thought it was going to be gravel) and it was only steep in a couple of different spots. The rest of the time, I was able to put my bicycle in a low gear and just spin, spin, spin. I even did most of the climb in the middle chainring!

I should point out that this was the first big climb I’ve done on the Long Haul Trucker when it’s been loaded with gear. I was amazed with how well it went, and I have to give the bicycle some credit for that. The gearing is quite low, and the bike feels so solid at all times. Steep climbs would still be a problem, but I am very happy with the Trucker’s performance.

Threats of rain continued, but aside from a few drops here and there, no more rain fell. The sun even came out after a while.

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Eventually, I reached the top, and I pulled off to a picnic shelter to take a break and have a snack. A couple was by their car with their dog, I just went by them and went into the shelter. I started eating and suddenly something fell from above. It landed on the ground and I realized there was a pile of animal droppings down there. I looked up, afraid of what I might see. It was a porcupine! It had climbed up the posts and was sitting in the rafters.

Just as this happened, the man was walking over with his dog to say hello. I pointed out the porcupine, and called the dog back. He noticed that the posts had metal on them to prevent animals from climbing, but you could see where the metal had been scratched away. I didn’t even know porcupines could climb.

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I moved away from the porcupine. I talked to the couple for a few minutes, and then they left. It occurred to me that the porcupine might have been stuck, but I can’t imagine what I might have done about it. I hope it’ll be OK.

I started riding again. I had a bit of a descent, followed by some modest ups and downs. Soon, I reached Colton Point State Park, and came across a vista.

The view was absolutely breathtaking. I could see the gorge for miles in either direction, and the trail I was riding on just two hours earlier was clearly visible. It was amazing, and so rewarding to think that I climbed all the way up from the bottom of the gorge under my own power. In these photos, the path that follows the creek is the rail trail.

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I rode around on some of the roads in the state park. Other overlooks presented themselves. Wonderful.

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Now I needed to decide what to do about camping. I sort of wanted to ride on and find a nice backcountry spot somewhere in Tioga State Forest. However, I was right by the Colton Point State Park campground, so I checked it out. It was pretty nice, and quiet, and even had some walk-in spots that were away from everything. I rode down the trail to see how these spots looked. They were secluded and very nice. The tent pad was a bit overgrown but nothing unamanageable. I get the sense that these walk-in campsites don’t get a lot of use.

I decided I had better camp here. It might take a while for me to find a backcountry campsite. These spots weren’t free ($19) but it seemed worth it. I chose a site that’s accessed by a thin trail through a field of dense ferns. On the other side of the campsite was a wooded area. I saw another deer on my way back to the campsite.

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As it was, it took me a while to set up camp and cook dinner. One thing that bothered me about the state park was that while there was water available, there were signs saying not to use the water without treating it first. I don’t remember the reason they stated — I think it was something about the water supply being affected by surface water.

I had brought my water filter, so that was no problem. However, I didn’t have a bucket or anything like that. I had brought my CamelBak bladder to keep water at my campsite, but I had to fill it with untreated water and filter from there. This meant using the filter any time I needed water for cooking or drinking. A real pain.

I had a surprisingly tasty meal of freeze-dried lasagna with meat sauce. I finally made a windscreen and figured out a better way of setting up my alcohol stove. I was able to boil water faster than ever before. The hot meal and a cup of hot tea had me feeling good. I snacked on some other food as well, although I should have eaten more.

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These caterpillars were everywhere (Eastern Tent Caterpillars)

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No sooner had I finished eating when I was visited by a very brazen raccoon. He ran over toward my campsite. I yelled at him to go away, and I thought he had, but then I realized he was just hiding behind a tree. I took some photos and ran him off.

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I went to bed early. Unfortunately, I slept really poorly. I kept hearing animal noises, which were messing with my head. Given how bold some of the wildlife I had seen that day had been, I was a little worried an animal would try to get into my tent. I heard some pretty wild sounds, a couple of owls seemed to be having some sort of conversation, and I even heard a fight between a couple of animals, complete with hisses and screeches and grunts. Some other birds clucked while insects chirped away. These were fascinating sounds, but at times my imagination got a little carried away.

On a positive note, I am learning to get much more comfortable using my narrow sleeping pad and small pillow setup. Aside from being a little chilly, I was physically comfortable. I just need to learn to turn off my brain in these situations.

I set an alarm for 5:00 am so I could catch sunrise over the gorge (there was an overlook within walking distance of my campsite). 

Note: This is Part I. You can read Part II here.

An informal poll

Thursday, December 18th, 2008

I should set up a proper poll, but I have other demands on my time. I have, until now, mostly avoided riding the Trucker in rain or snow. It’s the nicest bike I have, and I worry about subjecting it to those conditions. However, I put fenders on it not long after I bought it, fully intending to ride in the rain/snow. And if/when I eventually go on tour, I’m sure that’s something I’ll have to deal with. So my question is, should I ride the Trucker through the winter, or revert back to my old mountain bike? The old mountain bike is nice in that I can put big knobby tires on it, and I don’t mind if it gets road gunk/salt/etc on it, but it’s heavy (even compared to the Trucker) and it doesn’t feel as good to ride it.

Poll: Should I ride the Long Haul Trucker through the winter?

Options:

  1. Bikes were made to be ridden! Ride it in any and all conditions. The bike will love you for it, anyway.
  2. No way, are you crazy? That bike is too nice to subject it to that kind of abuse.

What are your thoughts?

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