Friday, October 30, 2015

50 Shades of Red (Flannel)

The last organized ride in Ohio usually occurs on the first Sunday in November. This year it was moved up one week or it would have fallen on the morning after a red-letter day, Halloween.

Velo Junkie and I had been wanting to do this ride for several years but something else always seemed to happen the same weekend. Since we were going to participate this year we had to dress the part. I didn’t have a red flannel shirt but I did have a vermillion wool jersey. Perfect. Velo had a plaid jersey that was maroon so it had the appearance of being flannel.

The Lorain Wheelmen put on quite an event, and I have to hand it to them, attendance can be scarce depending on what Mother Nature decides. This year was perfect. As the saying goes, “red sky at night, sailor’s delight”, this time it was a cyclist’s delight. The scarlet sunset on Saturday night was inviting as Velo and I drove to northern Ohio.

After checking into our hotel we walked to The Harry Buffalo for dinner. Their taps were pleasing with a selection of seasonal Oktoberfest, Pumpkin, and Amber ales. I chose the Great Lakes Oktoberfest to have with dinner. The restaurant is called Harry Buffalo because they have bison on the menu. I didn’t want to eat a lot right before bed so I had a bowl of bison chili. Lean meat with succulent, dark red kidney beans may not have been the best choice. In other words, bison chili at night became buffalo trots in the morning…

After breakfast of oatmeal and cranberry juice we drove to the Oberlin Community Center. If it wasn’t for all the spandex tights I would have thought I was at a lumberjack convention. There was at least fifty shades of red flannel shirts and one group in their rose colored Dr. Dentons.

The start of the ride took us past Oberlin College, an old campus full of brick buildings the color of oxblood and stone structures in greys and tans. It wasn’t long before we started to see the autumn trees. There were so many vibrant colors it was almost an assault on the senses.  Sixty-four miles of crimson maples and auburn oaks; flame colored sugar maples and wine colored sweetgum trees; and the occasional amaranth colored Japanese maple. The red barns that dotted the surroundings were camouflaged among the copper, auburn, and cayenne leaves. We even visited with a big red bull.

Landscapes were adorned with mahogany tinted mums, coquelicot sumacs, garnet burning bushes, and ruby hydrangeas. Thickets of sassafras in hues of burnt sienna and mulberry lined the creeks.

There were only two rest stops on this ride but once you visited one you knew why. Homemade chilies and baked goods along with PB&J sandwiches, trail mix, and fruit made it easy to go the distance. Even when we made a wrong turn, went up a 14% grade we weren’t supposed to, and added four extra miles to our ride.

Velo had chili at the first stop in Mill Hollow, and black bean soup at the second stop in Milan, birthplace of Thomas Edison. I opted for peanut butter at the first stop (remember the buffalo trots) and then had the vegetarian recipe at the second stop. When we finished back at the Community center there were some home baked ginger snaps, my favorite.

I think I fell short of naming 50 different shades of red. If you watch the video and check out the pictures you’ll get the idea.

#redflannel #millhollow #assaultonthesenses #50shadesofred #bisonchili #bigredbull

Friday, October 23, 2015

Bike Fashion Faux Pas

After a champion’s breakfast of pumpkin pie, turkey bacon, and coffee it was warm enough to take a leisurely ride. The Reluctant Cyclist was actually looking forward to a hill to try out the new shifters. We have a 9% grade less than a mile from take-off and I was very pleased with the performance on the first incline. The Ultegra’s performance, that is, not mine. It is still a hill and I am still the Reluctant Cyclist.

But then, going out in public with wheels that don’t match is like wearing two different shoes. It’s a fashion faux pas like wearing white after Labor Day. Or like wearing a brown belt with black shoes, knee socks with shorts, flesh colored leggings, ….   You get the idea, think “People of Walmart”. One might be able to get away with it on their old, foul weather bike, but not on their favorite cycle. I had to ride it that way because my new wheels hadn’t been delivered yet, but there won’t be any pictures. Jim of Jim’s Bicycle Shop was kind enough to give me a loaner rear wheel so I could ride while waiting for my new wheels but Ermahgerd! It didn’t match my front wheel. I’m hoping the new wheels get here before the Red Flannel Ride Metric Century in Lorain, OH next week.

 I was riding my #1 bike – my Gunnar, affectionately known as “Gunnar”. We finally decided to buy a whole new group because I never could get the groove of shifting the front gears.  The SRAM front shifter was always difficult to move from the small ring to the big ring. I went with new Shimano Ultegra, I have always liked the way they shifted. Now my Gunnar, equipped with the Ultegra, shifts as smooth as cutting butter with a hot knife. The crank feels so much more solid and smooth, too. I would have snapped a picture of it but I’m still waiting for the new wheels.

Velo Junkie got a new toy, too and finally had it ready to take out. He had won a VeloOrange frame on ebay , although some may say he stole it he got such a deal, and was trying to decide what group he wanted to put on it. He built the wheels himself (they matched) and had an extra handlebar, seat post, and saddle. His decision was made easier when we decided to put the new stuff on Gunnar. He used my old SRAM Red group, purchased new brakes and handlebar tape. Then he foraged through drawers, boxes, hooks, and shelves and came up with enough old stuff to build the frame up with the left over components from other bikes. Here you can see him making some minor adjustments on the handlebar. The VeloOrange bike is going to be Velo’s winter commuting bike when he has to work downtown, so he didn’t want to make too much of an investment. At least his wheels matched…

A trip out and around Lunken Airport put us back at Brew River Gastropub at about 28 miles.  We were entertained by Todd Z Hepburn, owner of Todd Hepburn's Music Company, tickling the ivories and singing while I had a Dogfish Head Pumpkin Ale and a plate of chicken & waffles. There are so many good places in Cincinnati to grab a brunch and brew it can be difficult deciding. But Brew River is right along one of the main bicycle routes to the east side so you can almost always find at least one other cyclist there.

After brunch we had to go straight home. A list of chores ensued – picking up the kiddo, neighborhood Council Board meeting, Sunday night football, and laundry for the following week.

#brewriver #veloorange #gunnarbikes #lunkenairport #fleshcoloredleggings #ultegrashifters

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Rollin' on the River in The Queen City

Rollin’ on the river – that was our goal for a beautiful weekend ride in and around Cincinnati. For anyone who is unfamiliar with the area, the Ohio River is a major thoroughfare for waterborne commerce and it flows right past Cincinnati. Winding through six states, barges carrying coal and other energy products make up the majority of traffic. The docks at the banks of Cincinnati were once bustling ports for trade and travel. Although several riverboats designed for dining and entertainment still call her home, most of the majestic vessels of a bygone era remain only in photographs. Below are several of many links to visit Cincinnati’s riverboat heritage.

Recently major investments in the banks on both sides of the river have revived the River City in a major way. Two new stadiums, a slew of eateries, a magnificent park, and, what else, but a bike center for commuters. You can see a lot of these attributes in this six minute video.

About ten miles west of the busy downtown area one can ride through the sleepy community of Sayler Park and board the historical Anderson Ferry. Founded in 1817, the ferry has remained in continuous operation. For a mere $1.00 you can roll your bike onto the ferry and cross the river to the banks of Kentucky. This was where Velo Junkie and I were headed on this October afternoon.
We left home about noon and headed straight into a chilly wind coming from the east. I treasured it for the short time before we turned south to head to the river. In about five miles we reached the river and another five brought us right to the Anderson Ferry loading dock. There is a very steep grade going down to the bank to board the ferry. Reluctant to roll down between cars I dismounted and walked the Gunnar aboard. Not Velo. It would take a major event to make him walk his bike anywhere, and even then he would do it while kicking and screaming.  

The day was gorgeous and the Kentucky side held a trove of treasures for the senses. The palette of orange, green, and gold trees dotted with the occasional red barn gave way to marinas, a horse farm, a pumpkin patch, and a country farm store. We made it a point to stop at McGlassen’s Produce for some fresh-pressed apple cider. 

Had I remembered how rolling the terrain on KY 8 was I may have been a little more hesitant to embark. With grades upwards of 9% the Reluctant Cyclist in me grumbled but forged on, lost in the autumn folly.

Velo decided to give me a new nickname – the Reluctant Shifter. I admit I hesitate to shift to my small ring. I have been riding with an old SRAM shifter that has always had a problem moving back to the big ring, hence the reason I developed the bad habit of mashing it out to the top in the big ring. That is about to change. Immediately following our ride I ordered new Shimano shifters and Velo took the old components off of the Gunnar. I think it was really because he was tired of hearing me curse on hills.

We reached the end of the rural route and stopped for a quick snack and to rehydrate before heading back towards downtown Cincinnati. The long downhill coast into Covington was a sweet reward for the long uphill climb through Ludlow. The increase in traffic was inevitable the closer we got to the metro areas of northern Kentucky. 

There is something exhilarating about riding your bike across a bridge and Greater Cincinnati offers many opportunities. We crossed the Licking River into Newport via the 4th St. Bridge, then the Taylor-Southgate Bridge carried us across the mighty Ohio.

OMG. We had scheduled our ride to avoid the race that was taking place in the morning, and we did miss the race crowd. But we were not prepared for what ensued at the end of the bridge. There were hordes of people trying to locate their groups, roughly 25 tour buses, and lane closures for said buses.

Every restaurant in the vicinity had a forty minute wait for food because all of these people converged on them at once. We were hungry so decided to wait it out at Jefferson Hall. Bless our server, he slid our order for nachos to the kitchen in front of a table of 24 so that we could get our food in about 20 minutes. The nachos and a Rivertown Pumpkin Ale were enough fuel to get us home. By the time we finished eating a lot of the foot traffic had dispersed so exiting the city was less stressful than entering.

“Over the river and through the woods…” We climbed back out of the river valley passing Great American Ballpark, Paul Brown Stadium, the Kroger manufacturing plant, and the defunct Lunkenheimer factory. And to think, all of this adventure in 42 miles.

"Through the hills of Kentucky 'cross the Ohio river
The old man kept talking 'bout his life and his times
He fell asleep with his head against the window
He said an honest man's pillow is his peace of mind"
                   Minutes to Memories, John Mellencamp

#rollinontheriver #cincinnatibybike #andersonferry #greatamericanballpark #paulbrownstadium #thebanks #taylorsouthgate #ohioriver

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

An Autumn Ride on the Great Allegheny Passage

There is a name for those of us who like grey skies, a drizzle of rain, and temperatures hovering around 50⁰F (besides Scottish). It’s Pluviophile - lover of rain, someone who finds peace in grey, rainy days. You can imagine my delight when I saw the forecast for our weekend trip to ride the Great Allegheny Passage.  It was perfect – gorgeous fall colors and the sensation of Mother Nature beginning to rest. The trail was covered with leaves of all colors. The sweet, nutty scent of the leaves when crushed by our bike tires combined with the smell of the cold rain and the nearby river was a fall festival for the senses.

The Gingerbread House
Our long drive from home to the Gingerbread House B&B was daunting especially when an accident closed the highway, setting us back an hour. The silver lining to our delay was it gave our good friends, who had left earlier, time to pick up some seasonal craft beer and a bottle of wine. We had been hoping to catch up with them for dinner but, as fate would have it, Velo Junkie and I had to settle for Arby’s on the go. It seemed we would never reach our destination on the winding roads through the rainy night. We finally pulled up to the B&B about midnight, exhausted.

The bed was a welcomed sight and I slept like a stone, for a few hours. I was awakened early by some very vivid, off-the-wall dreams that I can’t even recall now, just that they were weird and I woke up angry. Upon waking I realized the area had no cell phone reception for AT&T service so I wouldn’t be getting any photos from my daughter’s homecoming dance till Sunday.

Breakfast was at 8:00 a.m. and home-cooked food sounded delightful. That’s when we met Ted, a
solo cyclist on his way from Pittsburgh to DC. Being semi-retired, Ted was not in any hurry and was adjusting his travel around the weather. He was new to touring by bike and thought the GAP would be the perfect introduction. I want to add here that I really think cyclists are neat people. Whether new or seasoned they are just cool people to be around. We shared stories with Ted for about an hour then he needed to hit the trail before the predicted rain and we wanted to head to Frank Lloyd Wright’s Falling Water for some easy, morning hiking.

Trekkie and the Reluctant Cyclist
The GPS took us down some dirt roads that I would have guessed were not even charted. If the rain had come we may have been stuck in some ruts for a while. As it would be, it never rained and we made it to Falling Water only to find out we needed reservations if we wanted to see the inside. **Sigh**. We settled for touring the outside of the property, which exceeded our expectations, and had an overpriced lunch in the café. I don’t want to use a lot of my blog real estate on Falling Water, but it is an impressive look into another era and well worth the trip.

The four of us decided to head out for an afternoon ride from the B&B when we got back from our morning tour. Oh brother, that is when the Reluctant Cyclist in me took over. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to ride; I did. But I had this inclination that Velo really wanted to take off with his Pedal Pal, and Pedal Pal’s wife would rather be exploring on foot because she is more a fan of trekking. Then the positioning of my handlebar camera didn’t suit me, my tights were pinching me, I was dressed too warm, and my seat was mal-adjusted. We had moved it from the Gunnar of which the geometry was different. I was glad when we caught up with our friends and Trekkie wanted to turn around for a glass of wine. We left Velo and his Pedal Pal on their journey and went in search of the fruit of the vine.

After we each had a glass of wine (really it was a plastic Solo cup) we went out to explore the booming metropolis that is Rockwood, PA. One bar, one gas station, and The Mill Shops. Coffee and some delectable pastries awaited us at the Mill Shops. We wandered to the bar for a look at their menu but it didn’t exist. The only restaurant in town was, you guessed it, the Mill Shops. Velo and Pedal were still out so we ordered pizza and hoagies to go. The very big apple tree hanging with sweet fruit couldn’t go unnoticed through the parlor window. I invited Trekkie to pick some apples with me and she reluctantly obliged, fearful of spending the night in some rural jail cell for stealing fruit. 

Velo and Pedal
 Velo and Pedal were ecstatic to get hot food after riding several hours in the cold, damp wind. Dinner was followed by a 12 pack of Sam Adams Seasonal Ale variety and a few mindless rounds of Euchre. (We beat Pedal and Trekkie 3-0)

Up early the next morning for breakfast at 8:00 again, this time meeting two women from southern California. Both were new riders and definitely not used to the Pennsylvania mountain weather or cuisine. This was a birthday adventure for Jacquelyn and she wanted to share it with her friend, Stacey, rather than her husband. It was entertaining hearing why they left the guys home with the kids in California.

Jacquelyn and Stacey took off for the next town on their bikes, Pedal and Trekkie took off towards home in their car, and that left Velo and I. I was excited to ride in the morning while the temperatures were still in the 40’s and the fog hovered over the trail. Ahhhh! Autumn bliss. We could only ride about 20 miles because the 6 hour car ride home was looming.
Casselman River
Pinkerton Tunnel
In spite of the short distance the scenery was spectacular and the ride exciting. We had everything from dry pavement, to wet, leaf covered gravel, to wooden bridges, and even a long tunnel. We saw wildlife readying for winter, formidable crags, a white capped river, and a variety of cyclists. Make a note here – if you use a Garmin Virb for video recording and you ride over rough terrain, the SD card can slip thereby losing your video.  I was glad I had taken some still pictures and was able to record the trip back to the B&B. I had to tell poor Velo to get out from in front of me so I could record something other than his a**. Geeze. He must have thought everybody wanted to see it.

We had intended to go into the B&B to change out of our damp cycling clothes for the drive home. Funny thing – the door was locked. One thing we are not is shy. There was a side porch out of view of the main road that served just fine as our changing quarters. Another adventure in the books.

#greatalleghenypassage #rockwoodpa #pedalpal #trekkie #velojunkie #autumnbliss #pluviofile

Thursday, October 1, 2015

A Three Day Hiatus from Driving - Day 3

Our third day in Portland was the day we had planned the trip for. This was the day we would tour all of what Portland has to offer for the non-car-driving population, specifically streetcars and light rail. The reason for our trip and this particular tour is our home town, Cincinnati, OH, will be getting its first streetcar in a few weeks. John Schneider, our guide and fellow Cincinnatian, takes great pride and pleasure in demonstrating what streetcars have done for Portland, and what they are already starting to do for Cincinnati before the cars are even on the tracks.

No bikes today so my apologies to the bike enthusiasts who wanted to read more adventures with Velo Junkie and Sis. You may find it just as interesting, though. When a city improves its infrastructure with mass transit other possibilities evolve. Like trains with bike walk-on availability, bike barns at the rail’s end and bike valets. With fewer cars in the city center it is easier for cyclists and pedestrians to navigate the streets. And even bridges that don’t incorporate any lanes for cars such as the new Tilikum Bridge.

After breakfast we met up with the group in downtown Portland to jump on our first adventure, the new light rail line, Portland’s fifth line that had been open less than a week, which traverses the Tilikum Bridge. We couldn’t ride all the way to the end so we got off at a stop on the edge of town to see what they have done to encourage ridership. Park-n-ride lots and an impressive bike barn in pleasant surroundings welcomed commuters. 

Next, we reversed direction back over the bridge
to Portland's South Waterfront, a reclaimed industrial neighborhood. This is where the bike valet and the Portland Aerial Tram are located for riders to go up the mountain to the Oregon Health Sciences University.

Following the tram ride back down the mountain we boarded a streetcar that took us to the Portland Zoo, via a tunnel 300 ft. under the city, where we had lunch. Mr. Joe Cortright, an Economist who studies cities' cultures and systems, joined us for a Q&A session on what direction Portland is taking and why.

After lunch it was back on the streetcar to the Pearl District. This was nothing new to Velo, Sis, and I because we had been hanging out there all weekend. This time we got to meet with two gentlemen from ZGF Architects, one of the biggest design firms in the Portland area. Paddy and Stuart took us on a visual journey of Portland, then and now, and shared some perspective on why Portland made some of their decisions.

That was our final stop before dinner and we had a couple of hours to fill. Oh darn! We were smack dab in the middle of brewery central, the Pearl District. It didn’t take long to decide we were going to Fathead’s Brewery. This time we had another guest along, a young stakeholder from the Over-the-Rhine neighborhood in Cincinnati. I had enough good beer there to convince me I wanted to purchase a branded bike jersey and hat from them.

I opted for scotch with dinner because I didn’t want to keep drinking beer, and I knew I would only have one. John had arranged for us to have dinner with Dan Bower, Executive Director of Portland Streetcar Inc. We learned a lot form Dan about what to expect when the streetcars are up and running in Cincinnati. It was a very beneficial exchange.

Velo, Sis, and I were heading to the airport early the next day so we opted to go back to our hotel and just hang by the fire pit for a bit.

Thanks for reading about my travels. I hope I didn’t go into too much detail about the tour. It was a day full of adventure and “A-Ha” moments. I’m looking forward to the Cincinnati streetcar and what else we can do to improve our great city, reduce car drivership, and boost urban population.