Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Geeks on Wheels

A friend called me yesterday about taking a look at her (several) computers, all of which had various problems, not the least of which was their newfound inabilities to connect to the internet. Since she lives only 13 miles away, and it was another beautiful day, I decided to bike to her house and see what, if anything, I could do. To make a long (3+ hours) story short, I finally got the connections back, had lunch there, and biked back home. There was even a monetary reward which she would absolutely not let me decline. All in all, a very good day, and now the 6th biking day in a row.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

The Streak is at 5

Today's cold front came through without a drop of rain locally. So after a morning of spring planting and other yard work, I got out for an 18-mile spin. The temperature and humidity dropped dramatically this afternoon, but not so the wind. It switched around to the NW at 22 gusting to 30, which is a perfect day for a river loop. I struggled westbound, but I seem to be getting used to riding in the wind, and it isn't as annoying as maybe it used to be. On the return, I was cranking close to 20 mph all the way. Stopped at Adirondack Bicycle to pick up a helmet mirror, having broken yet another eyeglass one. The flexing of the crosspiece always seems to cause it to snap eventually, and its useful life isn't very long. Time for a change, though I've always used one of an eyeglass variety.

Five days of biking in a row, and I also just went over 700 miles for the season. Gotta love retirement!

Monday, May 26, 2008

4 Biking Days in a Row!

A friend from Long Island was in Saratoga Springs for the holiday weekend at their second home/condo, so we got together for a ride. We had biked together last fall at the 2007 MHCC Century Weekend, and found we had a lot in common, so have kept in touch. Today we did a leisurely 19.5-mile loop around Saratoga Lake from near SPAC, followed by a light lunch and conversation on their patio. Rain tonight and tomorrow, so the streak will probably end at four days.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Long Hilly Ride

Perfect Memorial Day weekend weather, with temps in the low 70s and little wind. Decided to get in a tougher ride than I've been doing so far this year, so I settled on the Mariaville-Esperance-Duanesburg loop, 43 miles with 2300+ feet of climbing.

Stopped at the top of the first climb in Mariaville for an apple pie at the general store, again for lunch in Esperance at the 23-mile low point, and again in Duanesburg for an ice cream after the climb out of Esperance. It's really hard to eat too much while biking, and especially when climbing is involved. The bike performed flawlessly and quietly, and the legs felt good for most of the day, with only a hint of potential cramping that passed with a drink stop. That's over a hundred miles in 5 days, with another ride on tap for tomorrow.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Biking and Yard Work

Holly's been a bit under the weather and had fallen behind on her yard work since we returned from DC this past week, so I offered to help. I biked to her house, mowed the lawn for about an hour, laid down some mulch, and then biked back home. Another windy day, with a NNW wind gusting over 20, so the ride up was much tougher than the ride back. This was a win-win, since I got in a 25-mile ride, Holly's yard work is in better shape, and I didn't waste any gas getting it done.

Friday, May 23, 2008

A Windy River Loop

With sunny skies but showers and thunderstorms possible this afternoon, I decided the morning was the time to get in some miles. Rode from home out to Lock 9 via the bike path, crossed the river, and returned via NY5. Winds were from the NW at 18, gusting to near 30, so westbound was tough, but eastbound back home was really sweet. Tacked on a few miles at the end by continuing up State Street and cutting over to Highbridge Rd via Kings Rd, for a total of 24+. I pity the poor guys I met last night having to get in 40-60 miles today into this wind, and loaded no less!

Warm Showers List

After 2+ years of offering my home on the Warm Showers List, I got my first request last evening. A couple of guys from New Hampshire were passing through Schenectady on their way to Oregon, and needed a place to stay. Unfortunately, their email was delayed 2 hours by unknown (ISP) circumstances, and by the time we connected, they'd already checked into a motel, albeit not a very good choice. I met them for dinner anyway, and we had a nice chat about bike touring and their trip. I answered what questions I could about routes, camping, and local knowledge, and dropped them back at their motel. I also got to see their Asus eeePC, which I've long been considering purchasing. It looks like the perfect touring laptop. They're maintaining a trip journal with it here:

East to West tour New Hampshire to Oregon

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Ride of Silence

Tonight was Albany's second annual Ride of Silence, to honor recent fallen cyclists from around the area. Despite cool, windy, and damp conditions, roughly 100 cyclists silently rode 15 miles through Albany, stopping at several "ghost bikes" along the way. More details at the links below, for as long as those links remain active.

Capital News 9

Albany Times-Union

WNYT News Channel 13

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Long Relaxed Ramble

Another sunny day near 70, and another day that begged for a ride. Rather than hills, I wanted to start pushing toward 4 hours in the saddle, at whatever pace/distance that means. Today, I headed for Schoharie Crossing and beyond, with lunch at Karen's, and returning to Schenectady.

The first thing I noticed was a new ghost bike in memory of Al Fairbanks, where he was killed where the bike path crosses NY5S in Rotterdam Junction. This wasn't there a few days ago, and just magically appeared, as they always do. The couple in the background were finishing up their Erie Canalway tour in Albany later today, and had never heard of ghost bikes. Now they have.

Continuing west, I decided to stay on the south side of the river westbound today, just to be different, to avoid Amsterdam traffic, and to have a few options for dumping the morning's coffee. Stopped at the site of the Yankee Hill Lock (#28) and Putnam Store, since there are restroom facilities.

From there, instead of continuing on the paved bike path, I followed the "Towpath Trail", which follows the towpath of the original "Clinton's Ditch", the oldest version of the Erie Canal. This path is not paved, so I was rolling along at only about 6-7 mph just enjoying the forest and the river scenery. There's another lock along this route, formerly Lock 29, the Empire Lock, and it's been maintained very well. This was a nice spot, and the paved bike path misses this one. The eastbound lock chamber is twice as long, to accommodate two slower moving loaded grain barges instead of just one, in the interest of preventing traffic jams on the canal. Westbound barges were usually empty, and locked through more quickly than the loaded eastbounders.

This unpaved trail eventually took me to the main part of Schoharie Crossing State Historic Park, in Fort Hunter. The park is so named because the Erie Canal had to cross the Schoharie Creek at this point, a sizable tributary to the Mohawk River that parallels the Canal. Originally, barges crossed the creek itself, rejoining the canal on the other side. Spring floods often made this impractical and dangerous, so an aqueduct was eventually built to carry the canal over the creek. The remains of that aqueduct are still standing.

Just beyond the park, I had lunch at Karen's Ice Cream and Produce Stand, a huge sandwich with potato salad, and very cheap. By now, I had decided to return to Schenectady via the bike path, instead of crossing to NY5 on the other side of the river. A pretty good east (headwind) wind had come up, and I reasoned that the bike path's trees would spare me a lot of that annoyance, which they did. I slowly headed back east, stopping one more time along the present day Barge Canal, which uses the Mohawk River for much of its length. Below is a picture of one of the movable dams, this one across from Lock 12 in the distance. The Mohawk is really a series of pools between each of these dams from Utica on east to Waterford.

Continued on back to Schenectady, after about 3:35 in the saddle and 4:45 elapsed time. That was a very relaxed 46.6 miles at only 13-14 mph, but I realized that's the way I really like to ride. If I can average 4-6 hours in the saddle on tour, at an average pace of 10-15 mph, depending on terrain, that's all I need to do to cover enough miles every day. Now I need to keep bumping this up. There may be a Vermont tour in the cards later this year.

Thursday, May 08, 2008


Today was very windy, gusting over 30mph from the west, but also unexpectedly sunny, warm, and dry. Since yesterday's ride left me only 8 miles short of 500 for the season, I just had to push it over the top, despite the wind. On days like today, I like to head west along the south side of the Mohawk, cross over at Lock 9, and return via NY5 on the north side. The ride out was a struggle, and the wind seemed like more of a crosswind when it gusted, so staying upright and straight was the main challenge. Coming back was a free ride, averaging well over 20mph as I sailed along.

The 17.4 miles put me at 509 for the season, a full month ahead of last year's pace, and well on the way to the year's goal of 2000 miles.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Saratoga Lake Loop

Holly needed help with a few things at her house, so I built a route starting from there that would give me a longer day than I've been having so far this year. From Burnt Hills, I headed toward the south end of Saratoga Lake, using all lightly travelled back roads. The road around the south/east/north side of the lake is a different story. At one point, I saw a pickup with yellow flashers pass me, and as it did, I noted the emblem "Certified Escort Vehicle" on its door. Uh-oh, I know what that means. Looked in my rearview mirror and saw a double-wide prefab home coming towards me. With nowhere to go on my side of the road, I bailed out to the left shoulder and waited until it passed and traffic sorted out before continuing. The rest of the ride around the east side of the lake was pleasant and summer-like, with the usual camps and lake views. When I got to Saratoga Springs, I decided to head in past the race track and the beautiful part of town it's located in. Had to stop for an official "horse crossing" at one point, then continued on downtown. Construction on US9 forced me to detour via NY50 instead, so I turned off 50 onto "Avenue of the Pines" and cut through Saratoga Spa State Park in search of a rest stop, which I found. Came out on US9 on the other side of the park, headed south, and noticed the smell of barbecue on the wind - yummm. PJ's Bar-B-Q has been open for over 25 years, and serves a variety of tasty barbecued foods. I had a pulled pork sandwich on Texas toast and some lemonade, then continued on my way. Next came Ballston Spa, after a short trip on more back roads. From there, I headed west on NY67, and was beginning to tire. Dreams of hitting 50 miles today were fading fast, but the odometer read 41.7 when I got back to Holly's house. Actual saddle time was just under 3 hours, for the usual 14.1 mph average, but the elapsed time was more like 4 hours. Pleasant ride with lots of variety.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Tour de Clifton Park - Part Deux

Some Taconic Hiking Club friends were getting together for what would ostensibly be a 30+ mile ride today, similar to the one we did a month ago but longer. Sunny, 70ish, and very little wind. Despite my earlier negative comment about biking with a group, this ride seems to be different and was a good time. We stopped at Lakeside Farms for lunch (great sandwich!), but then cut the ride short because of a couple of people being out for their first ride of the year. I still got in about 24 miles, and at a very casual pace. Maybe that made the difference. I had considered biking the 11 miles from home to the start, and also back again, for a planned 50+ ride, but changed my mind and drove instead. Given the 24-mile total, I kinda wish I hadn't. I need to start getting in some longer miles.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Two rides today

Despite the first Schenectady Wintersports Club ride of the season being tonight, it was such a nice day that I decided to get out this afternoon as well. I hadn't ridden in a few days because of weather, and needed to take advantage of this opportunity. I decided on the Grant Hill Road loop, which is always a good climb. It seems to be getting easier, which is good news. I extended the usual ride a bit by taking US20 to NY158 to County Line Road to Church Road/Helderberg Avenue. I thought I might cut through side streets via Cold Brook back over to Hamburg St, but instead went straight down Altamont Avenue, a more direct route. Altamont has lots of traffic, but a good shoulder, so the main concern is various forms of turning cars, and a sharp lookout fore and aft was required. About 22.5 miles total.

This evening, since I was the designated pizza pickup guy, I needed to be back earlier than the 17-mile ride would allow. So I started out with that group and cut it short to get back early, only doing about 12 miles. As I was heading back alone, it really struck me how much more I enjoy riding alone. Riding with the group, I was trying to carry on conversation, trying to keep up, having to watch for passing or slowing cyclists, and just not riding my own ride. I felt much more relaxed and in touch with the pure experience when I was riding back after leaving the group. This comes as no surprise, of course, but last night I really felt it clearly.