Thursday, April 30, 2009

Biking - Burnt Hills and Charlton

Holly's hosting next week's first SWC Thursday Night Bike Ride of the season, and we needed to scout the routes for problems, like construction, dogs, missing road signs, etc. She's going to drive them before then, but today I decided to bike a couple of them and get a read on conditions from a biker's perspective. We have routes of 10, 17, and 23 miles, and I was going to check out parts of the two longer ones for a 30-40 mile ride. I rode this loop counterclockwise, starting at lower right.

Aside from a new dog that gave chase on Devil's Lane, and heavy daytime traffic on Middle Line Road, all was going well. When I reached the northernmost point, on Galway Road, my plans were changed by a sudden spritz of rain. I wasn't carrying raingear, and indeed, no rain was expected until overnight. Clouds had been lowering and the winds increasing, and expecting more rain, I headed back to the start by a more direct route than I had planned. I only got spritzed one more time, but was glad to call it a day after just 23 miles.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Golf - Hillcrest GC

Woke up today still suffering from yesterday's ride, having no legs at all. Add to that the fact that after 2 days in the 80s, it's now back in the 50s with a punishing wind. No interest in riding, so I decided to try my first round of golf for the year. Hillcrest is a 9-hole par-37 layout, with wide open fairways and only the occasional out-of-bounds markers. There's just not a lot of trouble on this course, and that's what I needed for my first time out.

Things started off well enough, with 2 bogeys. Then, a couple of stupid marginally out-of-bounds shots cost me several strokes. Overall, I finished with 5 bogeys, 1 par, and 3 triple-bogeys, two of them related to the OB holes. The round felt like it went a lot better than the 52 I finished with. I hit a lot of good shots, and the short game and putting were the best they've been in a while, as evidenced by only 14 putts. I just need to put together 9 full holes of good shots, but I seem to have trouble doing that.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Biking - Rexford-Waterford Loop

It was an interesting day for a ride - temps in the upper 80s and a westerly wind gusting near 30mph. The thunderstorms forecast for midday were still very far off, so I decided to tackle another long ride, another river loop I've done several times before.

I rode this loop clockwise, starting near the left of the map, crossing the river on the Rexford Bridge, and riding down Riverview and other roads to Waterford at the far lower right. It's at the junction of the Mohawk and Hudson Rivers, and is also the low point on the profile at 20 miles. So far so good. I found some shade at Peebles Island State Park and had lunch.

Then came the long climb back to the car, into the wind and with the afternoon heat. At least it was on the bike path almost all the way, so there was some shade and less wind. I took a break around mile 30 and sat in the shade for a few minutes, with energy levels lagging. The last couple of climbs from there were much more difficult than usual, since by now my legs were like lead. When I finished, I had gone just under 36 miles, with 1400+ feet of climbing, and had gone through 3 quarts of Gatorade. What was normally a nice easy river loop had worn me out completely.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Biking - Altamont-Duanesburg Loop

Another fine spring day, with partly sunny skies and temps in the low 70s. With the chance of rain later, I got out for a morning ride, combining parts of two other loops I've done in other years.

The 11-mile ride from my house through French's Hollow and then out to Altamont was easy enough, despite some ragged shoulders and traffic on NY146. Then I headed north to US20 and the long climb to Duanesburg, at a little over 20 miles. I stopped at Stewart's for a chocolate milk, and continued on, flying down NY7 back toward Rotterdam. From near I-88, I cut through some other back roads to NY146 and home, for about 36 miles and 1300' of climbing.

It was a real pleasure to ride the Trek again after several days on the old Gitane 10-speed. (Apparently, the second flat the other day was unrelated to the first - there must have been a second shard of glass somewhere else in the tire - all is fixed and ready to ride.)

Friday, April 24, 2009

Biking, Walking - Mohawk River Bike Path and Local Roads

Today was a leisurely 20-mile ride with the Glenville Senior Citizens bike group, a bunch that Holly rides with twice a week. We were starting east of Amsterdam and riding west to Schoharie Crossing and back, with lunch somewhere along the route. I took the old 10-speed again, since it was a very flat and casual ride.

Reaching the easternmost Schoharie Crossing site, some of us rode the old Erie Canal towpath, a double-tracked grassy couple of miles. Then we rode west as far as the Auriesville Shrine, the turnaround point. There were no other takers to climb the 10% hill up to the shrine, so I did it alone, and coasted down the other side. We all rejoined for lunch at La Cucina in South Amsterdam, where I had a very good sandwich. After reaching the cars, after almost 20 miles, I dropped Holly off at the Exit 26 Park and Ride, and decided to ride some more myself. It was a beautiful afternoon!

I crossed the river and rode out to the railroad dead end on the bike path, then retraced my route back to NY 5S, and biked the other more western part of the Rotterdam bike path sections. Heading back east, soon after crossing the NY103 bridge to NY5, I heard a pop-fffffftt, and my rear tire was flat. I had it fixed in about 10 minutes and got on the road again, only to have it pop-fffffftt again a few minutes down the road. I thought I had checked and cleaned the inside of the tire, so this was a mystery I'll need to unravel later when I fix it. That was my only spare, and rather than take the time to patch it, I chose to walk the 1.75 miles back to the Park and Ride and just be done for the day, after about 30 miles total actually in the saddle. More on that once I figure out where I went wrong.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Biking - Mohawk River Bike Path

Today was another Taconic Hiking Club bike ride, a 34-mile round trip from the Niskayuna train station at Lions Park to Kiwanis Park in Rotterdam. Three of us headed west into a very strong westerly headwind, gusting over 30mph. It was like doing a 17-mile climb, always in fairly low gears and spinning furiously. After lunch at the pavilion there, we turned around and sailed back the way we had come. The westbound trip had taken 2 hours, and the return only 1.5 hours. Once back at the cars, I pushed on just a few minutes further, upping my season's total mileage to 300.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Golf - Bucket O' Balls

Still sunny after lunch, and no rain in sight yet, so I grabbed a few clubs and went to the range at Whispering Pines. This trip went amazingly well. I mostly hit the ball solidly, and even mostly relatively straight. According to the manager, the course is in better shape than usual for this early in the year, so it may be time to go play a par-3 round.

Biking - Grant Hill Loop

Today provided an unexpected sunny break between two rainy spells, and with temps near 60, I needed to get out for a ride. This 23-mile loop has a little of everything - suburban traffic, country roads, and some climbing. It even has some scenery with the distant Helderbergs, the gorge at French's Hollow, and Watervliet Reservoir.

Since it starts right out of my driveway, I do this ride pretty frequently over the course of a season, but today was the first time for this year. I considered this my first "serious" ride of the year, the others being relatively flat and/or at a very casual pace. The bike performed perfectly, my legs felt strong, and the climbing went better than I expected. The regular winter hiking of the past few months probably had a lot to do with that.

The first flowers of spring were blooming along the roads and in the woods - colt's foot, trout lily, bloodroot, and even a red trillium. The lawns I passed, of course, had the year's first dandelions, adding a splash of color. Maybe spring is finally here!

Monday, April 20, 2009

Biking - Mohawk River Loop

After being off the bike for a week, and expecting rain later today, I decided to squeeze in a ride this morning between getting life back to normal and the onset of the rain. When I went to put air in the tires of my Trek, I found the front tire flat with a nail in it. Not wanting to waste the time fixing it, and possibly getting wet, I grabbed the old 10-speed and headed out. From SCCC westbound was literally a breeze, with a strong southeast tailwind. I decided to head for Lock 9 and return via NY5, knowing the return trip would be a struggle. On NY5, I was pushing into a 20-30 mph headwind, riding in the drops, and using almost every gear. I decided not to cross the Western Gateway Bridge with a crossing headwind, the biking shoulder being narrow and traffic usually heavy. So, I crossed back over to the bike path on the Exit 26 bridge (see map below) and slogged back to the car. For only a little under 16 miles, this had turned into a tough ride.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

April 13-19 - Hiking, Tourism - Trip to Virginia

A son of Holly's longtime friend Ann was getting married on Saturday, April 18, in suburban Washington, DC, so we decided to make a vacation of the trip. We drove to Winchester, VA, on Monday, the 13th, and stayed in a B&B there.

Since Tuesday was cool and drizzly, we visited the Museum of the Shenandoah Valley in Winchester. It's a regional culture and history museum, and this visit set the stage for the rest of our week. We next headed south for Lexington, VA, stopping first at Shenandoah Caverns, another good rainy-day diversion.

We decided to stay two nights in Lexington, and use it as a base for exploration of the area. Lexington is the home of VMI and Washington & Lee University, and is a charming town.

Wednesday was still a bit gloomy and not a good day for any high-elevation exploring, as we confirmed by a short drive on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Many of the mountains, and even the Parkway itself, were shrouded in fog, but the views we did have were interesting for just that reason.

We continued on to Crabtree Falls, reputedly the highest waterfall east of the Mississippi. It's actually a series of 5 major waterfalls and many intervening cascades, with a switchbacked trail from the bottom to the top that gains 1380 feet in 2 miles. Up and back, it was enough of a hike for this day.

We got back to Lexington fairly early, so we visited some local historic sites, including Lee Chapel, on the campus of Washington and Lee.

Thursday dawned clear and bright, with warmer temperatures and lots of sun expected. We headed south from Lexington, toward Natural Bridge, an overpriced tacky tourist attraction with many tour buses. We would skip it, but on the way, we stopped at Foamhenge, a full-scale Styrofoam replica of the original in England. Needless to say, it was a strange sight.

It was a gorgeous day for a hike, but there are very few "destination" hikes in this area. Most are either access trails to the AT or old logging roads. We chose a short hike to the Devil's Marbleyard, a mountainside pile of marble blocks, many the size of cars. Scrambling out into the boulders provided some very nice views of the valley below.

In the afternoon, we headed up to the Blue Ridge Parkway again, and started the long drive north to Skyland Resort, on Skyline Drive in Shenandoah National Park. We had reservations for the night (at early bird rates!!), and it was about 100 miles away at 35-40 mph. There would be many superb views along the way, so many that not all were even deemed photo-worthy.

Nearly all rooms at Skyland overlook the Shenandoah Valley far below to the west, and ours was no exception. We watched the sun set from a window-side table at the restaurant, and settled in for a cool night.

Friday was another beautiful day, and we planned to climb Hawksbill, at 4050 feet the highest summit in the Park.

The most direct route was less than a mile, with only about 700 feet of climbing, and we did it in less than an hour. The views from the summit were almost 360 degrees. The shot below is away from the morning sun toward the Shenandoah Valley to the west. Skyland is located on the ridge at the right of the picture.

After the hike, we continued north to the end of Skyline Drive, stopping for lunch along the way. Now it was time to leave the mountains and head for the Washington area. After a stop for ice cream in Front Royal, we started the drive east. Since we still had extra time before our evening commitment, we made a brief stop at Manassas Battlefield and walked around a little there. It was too nice an afternoon to pass it in a hotel room.

On Saturday, since the wedding wasn't until evening, we had brunch with my daughter who lives in DC, and then all visited the National Arboretum. We were a few weeks too early for the hundreds of azaleas to be in bloom, but it was a nice place to walk around, and then drive to some of its farther reaches.

Finally, Sunday was the long drive home, 8 hours with very few stops, but some of which included the usual Pennsylvania interstate construction zones and their heavy stop-and-go traffic. Now it's time to get back to normal and enjoy springtime all over again if it ever reaches our area.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Biking - Mohawk River Loop

This always seems to be my bread-and-butter ride, when I don't have the time or inclination to do anything bigger or farther away. It was another sunny day in the 50s, and it begged to be enjoyed.

I started and finished at Schenectady County Community College, at the lower right, riding clockwise. I followed the Mohawk River Bike Path west to its intersection with NY5S, rode that until I reached the NY103 bridge over the Mohawk River at NYS Barge Canal Lock 9, and then picked up NY5 back to the start, passing through downtown Scotia. It's a relatively flat ride of 14.5 miles, with less than 400 feet of total climbing, but the wind is normally a factor in one direction or the other. Today, there was no wind, and I cranked along at a pretty good clip, much faster than the longer slower rides I've been doing lately.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Biking - Clifton Park to Saratoga

This was almost a carbon copy of our trip a week or two ago, except that the temperatures were significantly warmer. It was almost 50F at 10am when we started, so excess layers were shed in advance and left in the cars. After a leisurely ramble up to Saratoga Spa State Park, and an equally leisurely lunch at a sunny picnic table, we headed back to Clifton Park. By now, the wind had come up, and was gusting strongly from the southwest, mostly in our faces. We found ourselves adding back a layer, then taking them off again after a hill or two warmed us up. We took a slightly different route back through Ballston Spa, stopping at a streamside park there, then finished the 41 miles in heavy afternoon traffic as schools were letting out.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Biking - Rotterdam to Schoharie Crossing

Today's weather was promising sunny skies, temps near 50, but punishing westerly winds. So we all decided it was a perfect day to head 17 miles west, into the wind, to Schoharie Crossing State Historic Site, following the Mohawk River Bike Path, also known as part of the Erie Canalway Trail. As we left Rotterdam, temps were in the low 40s, there were spits of drizzle, and winds were gusting over 30mph in our faces. This would be a character builder of a ride, or at least the first half would. The ride home, with a tailwind, would seem effortless.

We battled the wind through Rotterdam Junction, and then along NY5S up the Mohawk Valley, where the wind was really ripping. Once we got to Amsterdam, we were back on the bike path again, and were somewhat more sheltered. Reaching Schoharie Crossing, we headed for Karen's Produce and Ice Cream Stand, which turned out to not yet be open for the season. Seeking a sheltered lunch spot, we next made a beeline for the park's visitor center, which was also closed. Improvising, we unstacked a picnic table and moved it to the downwind side of a small barn, where we had a pleasant lunch. Then the real fun began. Heading back the way we came, the big wind was now behind us, and we struggled no more. Even the mild uphills were easy cruising. By the time we reached the cars, the sun was out, the winds had abated somewhat, and we had covered 35+ miles. Not the best of days for a ride, but this group is hard-core, and we all had a good time.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Biking - Mohawk River Bike Path

Another ride today with the same Taconic Hiking Club friends. The day started out foggy and cool, but later warmed into the 60s with lots of sun. We started at the old Niskayuna Train Station and headed west, through the city of Schenectady, and ended at the Rotterdam Kiwanis Park, about 16 miles away. We enjoyed lunch there at a sunny picnic table overlooking the river, and then returned via the same route, for just under 33 miles. The bike path is now definitely open for business, and that allows access to a lot of good riding to the west, where the bike path is effectively the only good way to get beyond I-890.