Sunday, June 26, 2005

Valley Forge, 10 a.m., hot hot hot

We should have started earlier than we did. My bad on that. An evening of much beer and much great conversation (and much bizarreness) made an early start an impossibility on my part. J. and I set out on a hot morning that would only get hotter for the revolutionary battlefield. The ride out along the Schuylkill River path and Kelly Drive was fraught with foot traffic; once we got to Manayunk, it was even moreso. Main Street Manayunk was blocked off by some sort of street-long festival, necessitating a gruelling detour. Taking a right off of Main Street means an unforgiving climb straight uphill, the hill that's brought us the much ballyhooed Manayunk Wall.

Once through the 'Yunk, we set off for Conshohocken and beyond. "It's been an ugly ride," remarked J. of the traffic and extra climbing. "Still, I'm feeling fast." No sooner were those words out of his mouth, we were passed by a guy clipping upwards of 25 mph. We chased him for a bit, keeping pace for a few miles before we fell back.
"Well, he's only that far ahead of us, and he's doing it on a bike that costs more than our bikes put together," figured J.

The all-flat ride from the Conch to VF and was mostly pleasant, if hot, save for the especially noxious fumes coming from a sewage treatment facility. J. and I took turns drafting and sprinting, hitting speeds upwards of 30 mph on a flat.

After a brief stop at Green Lane, we were forced to once again climb Manayunk, which pretty much did us in. We mostly dogged it back from Manayunk, struggling to keep above 16 mph for the final 8 miles of the ride. As has been the case on these longer rides, I've been overcome on the homestretch by the desire to go swimming, get completely submerged, and just cool down. Maybe there's a pool membership in my future. A cool shower and quick nap did little to counteract the spaciness i would feel for the rest of the day as a result of the heat (~90 degrees) and climbing, a spaciness i hope didn't put off the person with whom I'd had that great conversation with the night earlier when i stopped by the Punk Rock Flea Market to say hi.

The deets: 49.23 miles, 3:02:03, avg speed 16.225 mph, top speed 40 mph, non-commute miles, year-to-date, 889.67.

Song of the day: Tullycraft's "Our Days in Kansas"

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Green Lane, 7 p.m., fightin' through

Almost didn't ride today. It's been one of those way-exhausting weeks, one of those weeks where you get so tired and run-down, you can't sleep cuz of it. Ride today was short and obligatory. Hadn't gotten a recovery ride in from Saturday's 59er, and i needed to shake out the cobwebs that had formed as a result of sleeping in this morning (I do this the day after my radio show). Fired out along the Schuylkill River Park path (no train today, though they were setting up a stage for some sort of "concert on the schuylkill" jawn) and up along MLK drive. When traffic is open on MLK, especially in the vicinity of rush hour, it's best to stay on the paved path; people drive like it's some kind of freeway.

Got out to Green Lane (traffic on Main Street Manayunk was ridiculous), turned right around and flew back. Decided to take the Parkway home rather than the SRP path (that concert was probably closer to underway; no need to get involved with that) and saw some PECO-type trucks doing what I'm guessing was preparing for the upcoming Live8 debacle.

Got home and felt alive enough to shower then run out to the Foodery for a mix-a-six. (This entry is powered by a fine Magic Hat Blind Faith IPA "Blessed with hops.") With any luck, I'll be asleep way before you read this. 18.84 miles, 1:08:29, avg speed 16.5 mph, top speed 25.5 mph

Saturday, June 18, 2005

Perkiomen Valley, 1:30 p.m., longest day (this year, so far)

It's back on. After a hectic couple of weeks of sporadic-at-best biking, I set out this afternoon, a long-needed decent night's sleep under my belt, to kick start the riding regimen. This ride needed to be not only big, but the biggest (at least the biggest this year). I decided on Valley Forge and then some.

There was, yes, a stinkin CSX train blocking the Schuylkill Park trail this morning. I guess I thought CSX was, like, a train company, but maybe they're the valet parkers of the locomotive world. Perhaps they all wear little red vests. Whatever. The park itself has been closed on and off over the last couple of weeks as they complete what I imagine were the original plans for the thing, adding benches, trees and actual grass. The place is gonna look sweet. Which means that yes, there will be more pedestrian traffic, but even I can't complain about that. If there's any one thing this city needs, it's more places to just sit and take the city in.

I stopped briefly at Falls Bridge to adjust a pedal (8 miles in) and at the Conshohocken rest stop for a Cliff Bar and Gatorade (16 miles in) and decided that, from there, I would see how far I could go without resting/stopping whatever. I rode out past Valley Forge to Perkiomen Valley State Park which took me to a gravel path where I turned around (30 miles in) and rode all the way back to Falls Bridge (about 51 miles in) where I hopped off the bike and stretched out my aching legs. So that's about 35 miles of unadulterated pedalling, probably my longest such stretch.

The ride was largely quiet. Reminded me a bit of Alan Sillitoe's The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner, a short book I read on a train somewhere in Europe during my continental adventure with Ed and Pete some 10 years ago. Not that I actually remember much of what the book was about; I have very poor plot retention, people. Ask me about a plot point in a book I've read or a movie I've seen and I'll be of no use. Most of what I remember about books and movies are the mood they create, how they made me feel. And today's ride had a Sillitoe thing going on. (As I recall, Loneliness was maybe about a dood who was maybe in a juvenile detention center, who maybe ran long distances to work out his aggression. I could be very wrong here.)

Highlights: Saw two groundhogs and a groundhoglet(?), one fawn and, best by far, a fox, or at least that's what I'm guessing the reddish-brown, white-tip-tailed, dog-sized thing that streaked across the path in a sleek, bounding motion reminiscent of the jungle cats on the Marlin Perkins-hosted Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom (and for that matter, wtf is up with that show? Mutual of Omaha is an insurance company). Also of note: There's a place just a few miles from Valley Forge where the trees along the path vanish, giving you a clear, 100-yard view of the Schuylkill, which is -- who knew? -- absolutely gorgeous right there.

My legs are sore. I see icepacks in my future. The deets: 59.03 miles, 3:29:51, avg speed 16.878 mph, top speed 39 mph. Non-commute miles, year-to-date, 821.60

Song of the day: CocoRosie's cover of Damien Jurado's "Ohio" on the CD you get with the June issue of The Believer.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Green Lane, 7 p.m., little bit restless

These are not good days for biking. There's heat advisories flying around and they're letting the kids out of school early. It's balls hot out. Today's ride was more strategic than anything. The last few days I've been doing this bad thing where I come home from work and, because I've been so wiped out lately, I plant myself on the couch and watch TV under the whirry whir of the ol' ceiling fan. At some point at around 7 or so I think to myself, "hey, wouldn't it be much more comfortable if i got prone on the couch?" and boom, it's over. I wake up on the couch at 10, my hopes of falling back to sleep anytime before 3 a.m. dashed. I've been poorly rested and likely poorly nourished.

So today the plan was: Get home, put laundry in, get on the bike, thus ensuring that by the time i get home, shower and eat dinner, it'll be time to pass out for good for the night.

Hopped on the Trek 1200 at around 7 p.m. (I refuse to name my bike, in much the same way I refuse to name my car; I'm hoping this reduces the chance of them developing wills of their own.) The Schuylkill River Park path was free of stinking trains, and I made good time out to the art museum, though, admittedly, I wasn't feeling particularly loose today. There was some sort of walk/run finishing up on Kelly Drive today which made getting from the museum to the Falls Bridge a little hairy and, to be honest, by the time I got to the bridge, I was feeling a little like turning around right there. But I persevered. Past the bridge I was hissed at by a pair of geese who didn't seem to want to move out of the path, which I guess beats getting hissed at by motorists.

The ride out to Green Lane was largely uneventful, save for a near wipe-out flying down the hill past the Manayunk UA. On the downhill there is a slight bend as the grade levels out and then picks up toward the Main Street strip, and I was being followed closely by a truck of some sort. As a result, rather than rounding the bend, I had to stay on the inside of the white line where some silty sediment had collected. Felt my wheels slide out from under me briefly, which put the fear of something in me as I righted myself.

After a brief stop at Green Lane I turned around and found myself behind what I'm assuming was some sort of cycling club, so I tagged along figuring they'd be good to draft off of. Except that they were going sooooo slow -- like 19mph on Kelly Drive. I sat at the back of the pack, wanting to sprint past, but fearful that maybe this is how the whole peleton thing works in the Tours de Whatever. I'd sprint around, they'd gobble me up and maybe laugh. So I kept pace, waiting at the back of the pack, wondering if I dared make my move. Thankfully, they split off toward MLK Drive at the bridge and I rocketed past them, opting for the Kelly Drive path, where I again found myself stuck behind three cyclists decked out in fancy shorts and jerseys going too slow for my taste. So I turned on the burners, blowing past them at 23mph, hoping that they wouldn't catch up to me later. (Thankfully, they did not.)

Got home, showered, then walked to the 7-Eleven in search of a Slurpee only to discover that all the Slurpees were not yet Slurpee-ready. So I picked up a tall-boy can of Arizona green tea which, in retrospect, isn't going to help me sleep tonight: 18.91 miles, 1:09:73, 16.271 mph, top speed 26 mph.

p.s.: I'm presently preemtively icing myself. Also, strapping on an icepack feels good on a day like today.

Today's song: Milkcrate Mosh -- The Hold Steady

Monday, June 13, 2005

Conshohocken, 5:30 p.m., the heat AND the humidity

It took all my strength to get on the bike today. As you can tell from the post-frequency here, there's not been much non-commute riding going on this week. Expended most of my energy this week on this: City Paper's annual Ultimate Summer Fun Issue. Spent much of Friday and Saturday feeling drained: physically, mentally and, hell, emotionally. The week before last was something of an exit-vortex, as several key players in the last few years of my train-wreck of a romantic life made temporary or permanent exits, all for points at least a couple thousand miles away. There's something about leaving that makes people feel and do weird shit. Mark it down.

So after a trip to Tracheotomy Jones for a round of mad grocery stockpiling (and damn you Odunde, or whatever festival it was that made the drive to 22nd and Market an hour-long affair; thank you, Pat, for making sitting in stop-and-go Grays Ferry traffic tolerable), I hopped on the Trek 1200 and made my way to the Schuylkill River Park path where, of course, a stinkin CSX train (tm) was again blocking the entrance. There are days when powers greater than you seem to conspire at every turn. (Even geese would find a way to slow me down today.) After a detour to the Chestnut St. train track overpass, I was on the path and that train was on the move, so I raced it. Hell, i blew the thing away. Maybe busting 23 mph right out of the block was not a good idea in 80+ heat, soupy humidity and following a week of no riding and much smoking and drinking, but someone had to show that train who was who. It was my John Henry moment. Would I meet a similar fate?

After crawling through Manayunk (learn to park, motherfuckers), I hit the hills in Manayunk. While not the mythic wall, the hills that one must climb to get to the Conshy/Valley Forge bike path are, how shall we say, wall-esque. after climbing the second, and easily the toughest of these, i was checking my odometer to see if turning around would produce a respectable round-trip. I'd done 12 miles and was at one of those magical points where I was not entirely confident that I was not about to collapse. I soldiered on, however, remembering that it's all flat from here to Conshocken, and it's these moments, moments where you don't think you can go on, is where you gotta, in the parlance of Flavor Flav, show 'em wha'choo got. I made it to th' Conch, stretched a bit (though getting warm wasn't really an issue this day), and turned around. It wasn't my best ride (though my high speed, 39.5 mph coming back down that hill, is my third best such mark). But, to quote J. as per last week, I accomplished something today: 32.21 miles, 1:57:03, 16.511 mph.

p.s.: the two Slurpees I enjoyed post ride -- a pepsi variety in the Darth Vader cup and a Fanta Banana a half hour later in the smaller cup -- could not have tasted better.

Today's Song: Love, Love, Love -- The Mountain Goats

Saturday, June 04, 2005

Valley Forge, 8 a.m., spitting rain

Justin and I rode this morning. Under dark rainclouds. In a light rain best described as pissing. J. and I have both purchased new bicycles within the last couple of months. Mine a Trek 1200; his a Lemond. This was the first time we'd had them both out together -- "we accomplished something today," J. would say later.

Hit the road at around 8 with a head fuzzy from both the shot I have to take weekly and saying a sudden goodbye earlier in the week to someone I care a lot about. Biking has a way of rattling that stuff out of your mind, if just temporarily.

After a slow start -- we had to turn back from the start of the Schuylkill Park path thanks to a stinking CSX train -- we made pretty good time, getting out to Valley Forge and back in a little under 3 hours (we'd done the ride earlier in the season in 3:20). Suffice it to say, the new bikes work. We averaged just under 17 mph (on the earlier ride we'd clipped 15.3) with J. nursing a hangover and me working on about 5 hours of restless, medicine-hindered sleep. Granted, we were humbled by many of the pro cyclists (in town for the USPro Championship this weekend), but for us, it was a banner day: 49.17 miles, 16.971 mph.

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