Month: May 2014

Working Out The Technology

Reading Chris Miller’s book about hiking the Appalachian Trail is a reminder that planning is a good thing. He had never hiked before, built a tent out of industrial plastic bags and bought new hiking boot the day he began his 1200 mile sojourn.  I’m very comfortable with all the things like that for my tour. Things turned for the worse very quickly.  I know my tent, how and what to pack to keep the bike from getting too heavy and stuff like that.  What I am working on is the technology.  It would have been very frustrating to try to work out the nuances of my gps and video equipment while working out all the other stuff during the first few days of a long bike tour.

Today’s ride takes us on the Narragansett Bay Wheelmen’s ride into Mattapoisett, Rochester, Wareham and Fairhaven. All on the south coast of Massachusetts.   When we pay attention to our surroundings we get to see and experience things that unless we were on a bike, we would miss.

 

Getting Fit For Touring

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Spring is showing off.

Tennis anyone.  Played my first tennis match last night after nearly a year off.  It took a while go get my first return over the net.  Actually it was midway through the first set of doubles and we got smoked, 6-1.   The second set my partner and I both began to hit the ball and get in good positions.  We took that one 6-3.  Then my partner quit.  He didn’t want to overdo on his first day out.  None of the four of us broke a sweat in this game which was not much different than a game of fetch.  Fetch the long shots and fetch the ball from the net.  Things will get better playing twice a week.

On the bike side.  I entered a route into my new Garmin Touring GPS and it did all the right things by alerting me to turns ahead of time and showing the route, turns, time, speed, and elevation.  When it was time to post the ride into connect.garmin dot com, there was nothing saved.  I’ll have to work on that between the tennis matches.   The short 6 day tour in West Virginia and connecting to the Great Allegheny Passage near Pittsburgh is approaching quickly.  Bike fitness is improving daily and although I am training alone this year, it’s still easy to stay motivated.  This tour is sort of a shakedown for the long tour of the Southern Tier Bike Route that I plan to ride in October but may have to put off till next March.  I have a fundraising commitment in Boulder in the middle of October and also need to be home by Thanksgiving.  Those two things are what are making me think about moving the ride to March.

While researching the Southern Tier ride I found a great series of YouTube videos by a local rider and author Chris Miller who lives 30 miles or so down Rt 195 in Pawtucket R.I. He also wrote a book titled Hiking the Appalachian Trail that looks to be a hoot to read. I did order it today.  He rode this route on a cheap single speed bike he purchased at WalMart, and used paperboy baskets as panniers for part of the trip.  The baskets didn’t last too long and he did eventually buy a set of good panniers.  His videos grow on you the more you watch.  They are short 4-6 minutes each and he says tons about how his day is going.

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Lake overflow gates in Mattapoisett, MA.

A Biking and Football Weekend.

Going Up
Hix Bridge Road climb.

Saturday was blustery, damp and chilly for the 10AM start to the Fairhaven Ma. Bike ride celebrating National Bike Month.  I did a bit of tweaking to the route because of a late start and ended up doing 37 miles.

Sunday morning was a beautiful 70 degree, calm, sunny day for the Narragansett Bay Wheelmen ride in Westport, Ma.  I chose the 25 mile option and started an hour before the official starting time in order to get home before noon.

Route
Westport, Dartmouth


Drive Time
30 minutes from Providence
Description
This ride is considered to be one of the club’s best, rolling down the Westport waterway to scenic Horseneck Beach.
Easy riding past rural farms. 50 mile extension by Gil Peel
I was able to get home in time to see City win the Premier League Title. I chose teams by their managers being on that side of the house for so many years.  It was also a big football day locally with the Revolution thumping the league leaders Seattle Sounders, that featured the ex-Rev and Fulham FC star Clint Dempsey by a score of 5-0.
Football - Fulham v Sunderland Barclays Premier League
Training is going well for my six day mini tour next month riding in West Virginia, Pennsylvania and Maryland

The New York City Five Boroughs Bike Tour Weekend 2014

Welcome to New York
Welcome to New York

As always. Click any photo for big. Click again for bigger.

The Day Before The Ride

After disembarking the Staten Island Ferry it was a two mile walk to Basketball City to pick up the registration package.  The line was a New York City block long.  It seemed most of the 32 thousand riders all came on the same bus. Since there was more than three hours remaining till the close of registration it gave me time to walk around the city.  Every year I make it a point to spend time in a different part of town.  In the past I have done the financial district, the Bowery,  East Village and central park.   This day, because I needed to stay close to the registration area, I did China Town.

There are sights and aromas in Chinatown that act as Pavlov’s bell . There were other sights that take your appetite away.   One restaurant had a decent amount of people inside and a constant flow of take out customers.  I decided to give it a try. Traveling is an adventure and authentic Chinese food fit the bill perfectly.  I tried to tell the woman at the counter what I wanted but as often happens in Chinese restaurants, I needed to point to  #2 and #26 on the menu to make her understand what I wanted.  Five large pan fried pork dumplings and a bowl of white noodle soup.  Utensils are stored at each table along with the sauces like soy, duck etc.  My choices were chop sticks and a plastic spoon for the soup.  I looked around to get a good idea of how to eat with chop sticks.  In a place full of westerners struggling a little is the norm.  In this place I stood out very much so.  After a couple of comical attempts to eat a dumpling only to have it fall back onto the plate just as I was about to take a bite, I adapted by stabbing the dumpling with one of the sticks and holding on to the second just to make things look good.   The price of this meal, 5 large dumplings and a bowl of soup?  $2.25.

Lunch in NYC Chinatown.
Lunch in NYC Chinatown.
Five dumplings and a bowl of white noodle soup for $2.25.
Five dumplings and a bowl of white noodle soup for $2.25.

When I got back to the registration area the line was even longer but moved very quickly.  Overall it took about an hour from the end of the line to the registration desk.  No one seemed to mind the line or the chaos inside the building. It’s New York and it’s the norm. After picking up my packet I was tempted to buy a pass on the tour bus of the city but decided to walk back to the ferry and take in more of the city.   As I passed the NY Supreme Court building I came upon this.

Shooting scene at the Supreme Court
Shooting scene at the Supreme Court

A movie called “Lucky Shoot” was filming it’s final scene on the steps of the building.   “Quiet Please, no movement” is what I next heard.   “Cut”  I struck up a conversation with a woman holding a clip board and wearing a headset and asked what the movie was about. ” It’s an anti politic thriller” she said.

“Do you want to be an extra?”

Imaging lil ole me in an anti political movie?    “Sign this form, grab a sign and follow our directions”.   I told her this one was on me but next time they want me in a production it’s two million.    “Agreed” she countered.

How they chose me for an anti political movie part is beyond me.
How they chose me for an anti political movie part is beyond me.

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The Five Boroughs Bike Tour

I promised this rider the cover spot in my blog. This is the best I can do.  The cover of part II
I promised this rider the cover spot in my blog. This is the best I can do. The cover of part II

Click Here for the Flickr Photos

Click Here for the Garmin Route

A 5AM wake up, a short drive to the Staten Island Ferry and a 20 minute crossing, all before breakfast.  I was assigned to the Red group with an 8:30 start time.  I arrived on site at 7:15 and began the search for a coffee shop.  I spotted a Dunkin Donuts a half block ahead.  If your from Massachusetts, Dunkin Donuts or the “Dunk”, or “Double D” , is the go to coffee shop.  Starbucks is not even a passing thought.  The problem is that DD was past the start point for the Red riders.  I asked the tour Marshall to cross over into the Blue group to get a coffee.  He gave me a look that said it was against the rules.  I offered to lock my bike on this side, grab a coffee and return.   “If I look away and you cross, who’s to know” he said.  He looked away, I crossed and now found myself in the 7:30 start group with a hot cup of DD.  Things were looking up.  I felt a bit out of place till I spotted quite a few others with the tell tale red bike and shirt ID’s.   We all had to wear Bike New York helmet covers.  These were so the Marshalls could easily identify those who tried to join the ride illegally.  Anyone could ride the streets with us but were not allowed to ride the bridges and roadways that were made available for bikes only for this tour.

I randomly struck up conversations during the tour and met some very interesting people  One group of men were from New Jersey and  ask one if they were firemen. “Cops” he said.  I told him it was obvious that they were public servants.  He gave me a look and I said that it was a compliment not a “diss”.  I could tell they were part of a brotherhood by the way they talked to each other and that it was a 50/50 choice between police and fire.  “Thanks, and good eye” he said.

We began on 6th Avenue and continued through central park.  One woman was taken aback at the slow pace of the ride.

“You can finish before noon” I said to her.

“At this pace?” she responded.    I told here we would cross the 6th Ave bridge into Harlem and when we come back to Manhattan things open up and you can make good time if you wish.   But your on a bike, what’s the hurry?  I met a group from Toronto,  three guys from Los Angeles.  A family from New Mexico, people from Connecticut, Maryland, Iowa and a young couple from Jackson, Wyoming.  Getting things started is as easy as asking, “is this your first tour?”

The spectators were a hoot.  There were people cheering us on, there were musician from gospel, to rock to jazz and random guys beating on drums.  There were police on every corner in every borough but occasionally someone would try to cross a street filled with thousands of bikes.  Take two steps, stop, let 20 bikes pass. Repeat a few more times to get across.

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The riders were young, old and everything in between on their own style of bikes.  Some fast some slow. Some paying attention, some not.  I make it a point to ride in the first group with the more experienced bikers.  I saw three falls and no injuries.  The falls were at stops where the rider failed to unclip from his pedals and did a comical style of the slow fall over muttering a few choice words of disbelief.  Oh no, not me.

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The bridges and highways are always a highlight.  The Verrazano is the dread of many of the bikers.  It’s difficult but slow and steady gets you to top and allows the rider to fly to the end of the tour.   Riding on the closed to traffic Queens/Brooklyn expressway to the Verrasano is a long wind in your face challenge.  The downhill part of the bridge we were met with strong cross winds that tried to push the riders across the lanes.  Lots of “whoa ha’s and braking on this final push to the finish.

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Madison Ave Bridge over the Harlem River taking the riders back into Manhattan.
59th St. Bridge from Queens to the Bronx
59th St. Bridge from Queens to the Bronx
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Newtown Creek from the Pulaski Bridge in Brooklyn
This is the reason NY pizzas are so good.
This is the reason NY pizzas are so good.
The Queens/Bronx expressway with bikes
The Queens/Brooklyn expressway with bikes
We end the ride and a great day, crossing the massive Verrazano  Bridge starting in Brooklyn to Fort Wadsworth on Staten Island
We end the ride and a great day, crossing the massive Verrazano Bridge starting in Brooklyn to Fort Wadsworth on Staten Island
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Crossing the mighty Verrazano Bridge
The finish line.
The finish line.
Well done.
Well done.