Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Biking - A long very windy river ride

Holly's bike group was doing one of my favorite rides today, to Karen's Produce and Ice Cream on NY5S near Fort Hunter, using the Erie Canalway Trail. They were starting east of Amsterdam, resulting in a fairly short (for me) ride, so I decided to meet them there at their starting time by starting earlier from Schenectady County Community College in Schenectady. It was supposed to be a day with strong gusty westerly winds, but the worst wasn't due in until afternoon, promising a sweet return trip. Unfortunately, the winds were strong enough even at 8-9 am that it was a pretty tough 14 miles getting westbound to Amsterdam. Then, just to make things more interesting, I had a flat rear tire. After a quick change, I caught up with the group in Fort Hunter, and we continued on to Karen's for a light lunch.

On the way back, we met a couple on a loaded recumbent having lunch at La Cucina in Amsterdam. They were doing the Canalway Trail westbound, and we chatted for a while. Leaving the group to head home, I met another family of four east of Amsterdam doing that same trip, also fully loaded. They were looking for some local info, which I provided, and then I continued east, often hitting 20 mph or better with the tailwind. All told, I did 48.25 miles, my second longest ride of the year, and probably my last ride locally before I leave for Oregon on Friday.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Biking - A hilly windy 32 miles

The legs are ready. If I had any lingering doubts about that, today blasted them to bits. 32.6 miles, 1,255 feet of climbing, strong winds, and the old 10-speed. It was a great ride, and I've never felt stronger.

My friend Judy and I did a nice varied loop around Guilderland, Voorheesville, and Altamont, with lots of relatively short hills and plenty of recovery time between them, except for the constant winds. A stop at Indian Ladder Farms for a fresh (still warm!) apple turnover and a big glass of cider also helped the cause.

My other bike and panniers will be arriving in Seaside, Oregon, today, and I'm watching UPS closely for their delivery. I only have a few more things to do here before I leave to join them on Friday.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Canoeing and Hiking - Mount Blue

At over 2,900 feet, Mount Blue towers above Garnet Lake far below at about 1,400 feet. There is no trail to its summit, but the views are extraordinary. Getting to the summit requires paddling about 0.8 miles across the lake to the Lixard Pond trailhead, stowing the canoe and gear, hiking about 0.7 miles up a marked trail, and following a compass bearing about another 0.8 steeply to the summit.

Garnet Lake was beautiful this morning as we arrived at the hiking start point and looked back the way we had paddled.

Starting up the hiking trail, we soon found our point for jumping off on the bushwhack to the summit. The route was nowhere near as straight as the red line above shows. This side of the mountain had a major forest fire in 1908, leaving lots of bare rocky patches that made the going much easier, if not quite as direct. The best view we had all day was from one of these rocky patches, since the summit itself is mostly wooded, with a few ledges looking out various directions. This view was wide open toward Crane Mountain, with Garnet Lake far below. Our hike had started at the narrows at the bottom of the picture.

For only a 3-mile round trip hike, this seemed a lot tougher. It's quite steep in spots, and on a warm day like today, climbing the south slopes was pretty hot and dry. The ice cream stop in Warrensburg on the way home was most welcome.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Biking - SWC Thursday Night Beer and Pizza Ride

Since I won't be attending next week's ride, this was my last SWC ride of the season. Tonight's ride was on pleasant roads in Glenville, starting out with a climb up Snake Hill, Closson, and Ridge Roads, and generally flat or downhill from there.

With my touring bike now on its way to the west coast, I was on the old 10-speed again. The climbs were tougher than they would have been on the other bike, but I was still near the front of the pack on all the climbs. I also seemed to have more energy or strength than usual tonight, and was able to really keep up the pace better than on some of these rides. These Thursday night rides always seem to push a higher pace than I usually like, but tonight I was as guilty as anybody. Beer, a great assortment of pizzas, and lots of conversation afterwards made for a nice evening out.

Next week's ride is a bit far afield, and I have a 6 am flight to Portland the next morning, so will be skipping that one. Will try to get in a few more rides next week, maybe including another longer hilly one, before leaving for the west coast on Friday 7/2.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Biking - Another river loop

Today looked like the one good morning this week, so I needed to get out for a ride. On last Thursday night's hilly ramble, I noticed that I was having trouble shifting the rear derailleur into the lowest gears. I failed to check the reason when I got home, but remembered to look today before I set out on the ride. The problem was that the end of the derailleur cable housing was shredding and fraying, causing the shifting problem. This was not a good thing to take out on another hilly ride, so I changed my plans from the Grant Hill loop to another flat river ride. Again, I never shifted on this ride, muscling up the minor rollers, and getting in a good ride. I'll try to replace the short piece of housing this afternoon to get me thought the rest of the season, and replace all cables on the old bike this winter.

The good bike and baggage are getting picked up this afternoon for shipment to the West Coast.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Biking, Mini-golf, and Gutter Repair

It was a hot sticky Father's Day, and I enjoyed a low-key day. I watched Lance Armstrong finish 2nd in the Tour de Suisse, did some cleaning up around the house, and then went over to Holly's house to seal up some drippy gutters and then go for a bike ride. There's a mini-golf and ice cream place a short ride from her house, and we enjoy going there for both offerings. When I got home, I watched the end of the US Open golf tournament, had dinner, and enjoyed a phone call from daughter #1. As soon as the house cools down, I'll be calling it a night.

The biggest thing I got done this weekend is that the bike and gear are all packed and ready for shipment to the West Coast on Tuesday. This whole dream is finally starting to seem real, and it's a little hard to believe it's all happening.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Canoeing - A short paddle and another picnic

Dinner found us at another potluck picnic, this one for one of Holly's church committees. The host's house was located on the banks of the Mohawk River in Scotia, and all were invited to bring canoes or kayaks and get out for some paddling before dinner. Holly and I were the only ones to take them up on it, and went for a short paddle around the Isle of the Oneidas, one of five Iroquois-named islands in the channel near Schenectady.

Biking - Short ride and a picnic

Holly rides with an "older" bike group twice a week, and today was a beautiful day for their annual picnic at Saratoga Springs State Park. I tagged along, both to loosen up my legs after last night's epic climb, and because the potluck food at these picnics has always been very good. We did a slow meandering 6+ mile ride around the park, and then settled in for the feast, along with some good conversation.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Biking - A hilly loop south of Albany

Some friends invited me to join them for a ride this evening starting from the Delmar Park and Ride, 21 miles and 1375 feet of climbing. Since my good bike is now packed and awaiting shipment, it seemed like a good opportunity to do some climbing on the higher-geared 10-speed, so I joined them. It was a nice evening for a ride once the clouds cleared and the sun came out. We had plenty of time, so added on an optional loop to extend the ride. With a name like "Copeland Hill Road", we should have been prepared for what we found. But a mile of climbing averaging over 7%, maxing out over 13%, was not what we expected. With a low gear of 34 gear-inches, I struggled with this one, stopping twice to catch my breath and get back my legs, but eventually made it to the top, much of it standing out of the saddle. The rest of the ride was hilly but much more manageable, and a good workout. Afterwards, we stopped for pizza and beer at Smith's in Voorheesville, topping off a good night of riding.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Biking - Relaxed, relaxing river loop

After a few wet days, and some frustrating time spent trying to fit my large bike into a small box, I needed to get out today on a beautiful morning. This was not a training ride, a fitness ride, or anything of the sort. It was just a ride for its own sake, to blow off some of the increasing tension related to my approaching departure date and all that needs to be done. I chose the old reliable flat river loop, with a few add-ons because I wasn't ready to be done yet.

My one concession to training was to ride the entire loop without shifting gears on the old 10-speed. I muscled up the few very minor rollers and coasted down the other side, without ever touching a shift lever. Kinda fun.

When I got home, I think I've finally succeeded in getting the good bike packed, but only by extending the length of the box to accommodate the longer touring frame. Lots of cardboard and tape construction to make that happen, but it looks like it will work. It's still a tight fit, but that's probably a good thing. A few final tweaks and I'll close it up and be done with that project.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Biking - Last long ride before packing it up

Today was a rare sunny comfortable day when I'm not expected to be in the "office", a perfect day to get in a longer ride. I discovered last night that my first day's ride from the West Coast on July 4th will be 44 miles and 2,200 feet of climbing. Loaded. Yikes! So today, I got out and rode 43.6 miles with 2,300 feet of climbing. But not loaded. The fact that I left the house at 9 am and was home by 1 pm, including a couple of stops for refreshment, makes me think that spreading that amount of distance and climbing over a full day will make it all possible. I'm probably in better shape than a lot of people whose trip journals I've read starting out. Add to that the "riding into shape" effect once underway, a much earlier daily start, a big greasy breakfast, and the massive calorie intake that I mostly skipped today but will require on the road, and I think I can do this.

If I don't get out this weekend because of questionable weather, this will have been the last ride on this bike before I start disassembling it and boxing it up for shipping on June 22. I want to get an early start on that process, including cleaning it up first, since I have no idea what problems I may or may not encounter, especially with fitting this large bike securely into a box. I'll be riding the old 10-speed for the rest of the month once that process starts.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Biking - SWC Thursday night ride

Tonight's beer and pizza ride was at Galway Lake, northwest of Schenectady. We do the same ride from here every year, and since rain was possible, and since a couple of the usual hills begged to be made harder, I took the old 10-speed again. As usual, we kept up the Thursday evening furious pace, and I was pretty well spent by the end. The hills were easier than usual, but the 9%-er a mile from the end was an all-out effort.

It was at least 10 degrees cooler at the lake, so we gathered inside afterwards for, not pizza, but several different pasta and lasagna dishes prepared by our hosts. A strong fast ride, good food, and good conversation made for a great night.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Biking - A hilly, windy 29 miles

I went to bed last night with a grand plan to do a long loaded climb this morning. But reality set in when I woke up and didn't feel 100%, and didn't really want to take on something that big, especially after coming off a very light week and weekend of biking. So I set off on a 30-mile ride that was relatively flat, just to get the legs working again.

On the way, plans changed yet again. I was feeling better once I got back in the saddle, so I decided to sprinkle in a few shorter climbs just to make the ride worthwhile. In climbing Grant Hill Road, the big peak below, I tried sitting up with my hands on the top of the bars. This has never been my style, and you're more likely to find me in the drops than anywhere else while climbing. Well, either it made a huge difference, or my legs benefited from the recent respite. I cruised up the hill with 3 gears to spare, my best ever, and did the same on some smaller climbs that followed. This bodes well for the months to come.

On the way back north, the winds were coming up (from the north, of course), and the sky was occasionally threatening a shower. I didn't actually get spritzed until I was about a mile from home, and then the sun returned.

I'll be starting to disassemble and pack the bike after this weekend, so only a few more opportunities for a loaded climb. Then I'll be back on the old 10-speed for the rest of the month until I leave for the West Coast.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Hiking - Savoy Mountain State Forest, MA

With temps near 70, no humidity, and breezy conditions to keep the bugs away, Holly and I wanted to get out hiking today. It needed to be relatively nearby, not too ambitious, and someplace we'd never been, a tall order since we do a lot of these. Nearby Massachusetts has many state forests in the western part of the state, in the Berkshires, and we've only begun to scratch the surface, so that's where we went, less than 2 hours from home.

Today, we went to Savoy Mountain State Forest, where we first climbed Spruce Hill, about a mile and a half away and 700 feet above us. It was a pretty easy hike, and we reached the summit in under an hour.

Mount Greylock, the highest point in Massachusetts at 3491', loomed in the southwest.

To the northeast, we looked down on North Adams, Williamstown, and the Taconic Range on the New York border in the distance.

After having lunch and taking in the views on the cool windy summit, we headed back down to the car to do more exploring in other parts of the forest. On the way to Tannery Falls, we passed a turnoff on an unmaintained road to Balanced Rock. We decided to walk the half-mile rather than take the car over some pretty rough and rutted terrain. This was obviously a popular party spot.

Finally arriving at the parking area for Tannery Falls, we had no idea what to expect. The trail led steeply down to the base of an exquisite 80' waterfall, running well after the heavy rains of yesterday. There were numerous smaller cascades in the gorge along the way, as well as the smaller and narrower Parker Brook Falls (60') just off the main trail.

It was a good day, and we'd had lots of variety in our hiking. We'll definitely be exploring more of these Massachusetts state forests in the future.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Biking - SWC Thursday night beer and pizza ride

After some passing showers early in the day, it turned into a very nice afternoon and evening, a perfect night for the weekly SWC ride. I took the old 10-speed tonight, mostly to try to get in a slower-paced ride than usual on these outings. I also had an inkling of where we'd be going, and relished the thought of cranking up some of the hills on this old bike with much higher gearing. As it turned out, I didn't ride much slower, and a friend and I even called a sprint to a road sign ahead at one point. It was almost a dead heat, but he beat me by half a length after 30-45 seconds of all-out effort. Most of the ride was at a much more leisurely pace, with stops to regroup and chat. The hills were not a problem, though tougher than on my touring bike, and I felt pretty strong pushing the bigger gears. After 16.6 miles, the beer, pizza, and conversation finished off a satisfying night.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Biking - Mohawk River loop, loaded

It's been over a month since I last rode with all the packed bags on the bike, so it seemed like a good idea to do it again. I've been tweaking the packing list, and will continue to do so up until the last minute, when the bike and bags ship to the West Coast on June 22.

Today, I biked from Schenectady to Amsterdam and back, a 32-mile mostly flat loop along the Mohawk River. I had done this same loop in late April, but it was much easier today without the strong winds I had then.