Sunday, March 19, 2017

Pennypack 2017

I had a ride planned for this Saturday but decided to move it to Sunday because of the light rain. Because of the snow this past week I didn't want to ride on the road and decided to go to Pennypack park. This is my go to place when it snows because they plow the bike trail and it is a scenic place to ride.

I got Chris to join me this year. When we got to the parking lot gate it was locked so we had to park on the street. I was concerned that the path might not had been plowed because the parking lot was still full of snow but after we crossed the street and walked over a mound of snow we found the cleaned path.

However as we got further in we found that parts of the path were still covered with snow mostly in the hills in the first couple of miles. The snow that fell Tuesday was mixed with a lot of ice so I guess the plows had a problem clearing parts of the trail. This meant we had to walk up a few hills. This and a problem with Chris's bike slowed us down a little but after the first few miles the path got clearer and Chris managed to ride through his problem.

We continued on until we got to a closed bridge about 7 mile into the ride. Last year we made our way over this bridge and kept going to the Delaware but because the condition of the paths we decided to turn around.

The way back was a little easier as the snow had gotten softer but we still have to walk over a few spots. Out of the 13 miles we did we probably walked at least 2 miles. I didn't really mind as the walking as it was warm and it made it easier to take pictures.

It ended up being a shorter ride than expected but a short ride is better than not riding at all.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Winter Get Away/Adventure

My wife and I have been wanting to get away on a winter vacation for the past few years but each year one thing or another prevented us from going. This year we finally were able to arrange a 5 day vacation to a warm location as an escape from the winter. We wanted a warm place where we could relax and ended up choosing a resort in Jamaica because it has beautiful beaches, reasonable prices and we could get a direct flight from Newark. Unlike our last couple of vacations we were not planning doing any exploring or activities but just wanted to relax from the stresses of our day to day lives.

After the usually hassle involved with air travel we arrived at our resort in Jamaica. Once we got there we were happy to see that the resort was nicer than expected. Our room was a large suite with a comfortable sitting area and wonderful balcony that looked at over the beach which was only a few feet away. The resort we stayed at was an all inclusive resort so all the food and drinks are included for the price. This made for a very simple vacation as you don't have to worry about where to eat or drink. They have a couple of different buffets that are open all day as well as a couple of specialty restaurants for Italian, Asian, French, or Steak. This gave us a good variety of food to try including some local Jamaican dishes. There are bars and lounges around the resort with drinks and snacks so you will not go hungry or thirsty. Even the mini bar in the room fully stocked and free. They even offer a selection of rum, brandy, gin and vodka in a convenient dispenser.

The main attraction at the resort is the beach and we spent most of our time hanging out on the beach relaxing and reading ( I am working my way through the Game of Thrones series).  The weather was warm and sunny which was perfect for the beach and swimming in the ocean and pools. We did take one trip from the resort to snorkel on a reef just a couple of miles away. I used my waterproof camera I had to take some pictures. The coral is not as colorful as other reefs we have been at but there were some cool fans and brain coral.

Beside hanging out on the beach, the resort offers water sports like kayaks and sailboats so I spent a couple hours sailing around the bay we were in. I use to have a small sailboat so it was fun sailing again. All in all the inclusive resort was a good experience and a great way to relax. Not only was the resort nice but the people in Jamaica were very friendly, laid back and generally fun to be around. It was very good vacation until we had to make our way home.

The problem was that we planned to come home on Tuesday which happened to be the day of the big snow storm. Our flight got canceled on Monday so I spent Monday afternoon working on finding a way home. There are not a lot of flights from Jamaica to the US so getting on an alternative flight is not easy. When we checked with United Airlines they said they might be able to get us out on another flight on Saturday or Sunday which meant say in Jamaica for 3-4 more days. Its not a bad place to be stuck but it meant doubling our stay and spending more money to stay at the resort and taking more time off work.

I managed to get us on an American airlines flight to Charlotte NC on Tuesday afternoon so that got us back in the US where we rented a car and started the 600 mile drive back home. We got into Charlotte at 4pm and got the car then drove a few hours and got into Virginia where we got a crappy hotel room for the night before driving the rest of the way home.

The drive wasn't bad and the snow had all been cleared from the roads by the time we got home. The only problem was that the snow/ice that fell on Tuesday was just one solid block of ice covered in snow.  There was no way to clear the driveway of snow and ice. Luckily I was able to drive the car over it but had to spend an hour chopping out the ice/snow at the end of the driveway where the plow has walled me in.

It wasn't the best way to end a vacation but traveling can sometimes be a pain in the ass so when things go wrong you have to adapt and enjoy the adventure.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Google Photos

If you got out riding the last two weekends you probably forgot it was the middle of winter. With temperatures in the 60s and 70s if felt more like spring time. Last weekend I went to Cranbury to do the Saturday ride with Tru. This Saturday I did a one way solo ride down the shore and met my wife there to do some work on the condo. Today's ride was sunny and warm enough that I didn't even need a jacket. When I got to the shore the clouds started to roll in. Then when I entered Seagirt the temperature dropped by 10 degrees and I was surrounded by a dense fog so I didn't get the scenic ride up the beach I was expecting. I'm glad I had my taillight and there wasn't a lot of traffic because it was hard to see more than a 200 feet ahead.

Whenever I ride I take a few pictures that I like to share. I usually just post them to the blog but sometimes I like to create an album especially for the trips I take. It makes it easier to share with friends and family. I have used Shutterfly and Photobucket to upload photos and create albums in the past but these services either don't have the features I want, have too many popup adds, or charge once you got over a certain limit of photos or views.

When I went to Alaska I knew I would be taking a lot of pictures that I would want to share so I looked for new photo sharing service. After looking over the choices I went with Google Photos. Google Photos my not be a very feature rich service but it does the simple things like storing photos and creating albums really well and being Google is also free with no advertising.

Google Photos are linked to your gmail account so if you have a gmail account you have access to Google Photos. There are apps for your phone or your computer that make uploading photos to Google Photos easy. Once you install these apps any photo you take on your phone is automatically uploaded. (If you are worried about using up all your mobile data you can set the app to only upload when on WiFi). On the computer once you set up the app it will automatically upload any photo put into the folders you choose. This make storing and accessing all you photos really easy.

What I do when I get home from a ride is to dump all my photos on to my Mac that I uses as a media server. The Mac is hooked up to my TV and I use it to stream content to my TV as well as store all my photos and music. A few minutes after I dump the photos they are available on Google Photos. I can now access these photos on my phone or any other computer with an internet connection.

When I write my blog no matter which computer I am using I can get to any photo I took and add it to the blog. From Google Photos I can search for photos,download a photo, edit it, or get a link to it to share with others. The search feature is kind of cool you put in an object you want to look for and it will actually look through you photos and find it. For example I entered the work "plane" and it returned any photo I had with a plane in it. The search is not 100% accurate but it pretty good.

Google Photos also allows you to create photo albums. You simple create a new album and just add photos to it. You can then get a link to share the album. For what I need Google Photos is perfect. There are two upload options High Quality or Original. Google offers unlimited space for High Quality which will compress photos over a certain size (16 M) and limit videos to 1080p. Original will not compress any photo or video but it limits your space to the space you have for you Google account. Unless you use a really good  DSLR you can go with the High Quality and probably won't see any difference since the photos from most point and shoot cameras are less then 16 M.

Because of the unlimited storage I have uploaded every digital picture I have taken since 1999. This means I have a safe backup for all my photos and I can now access them from any internet connected device. If you are looking for a good way to backup and save photos I highly recommend Google Photos,

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Short Ride in the Snow

When it snows enough to make the road a hazard and the trails difficult there are really only two places you can ride Pennypack Park in Northern Philadelphia and Tyler State park in Newtown. Both these parks have paved trails that are plowed when it snows so even when it the roads and trails are not rideable I can still get out for a few miles.

I chose Tyler because it was closer and some of us had to be back early. I sent out an email and posted a note to the blog and got 3 takers Laura, Chris and JIM!!!

After many weeks off the bike because of a bad ankle and bronchitis he was finally ready to ride again. It was good to see him again.

Tyler has 5 or 6 main trails that you can put together to do a couple of loops. With the snow it is very scenic so we stopped a few times for pictures along the way. The first picture stop was at the covered bridge.

There is a small part by the bridge that is dirt and not paved with snow on it but it was easy enough to ride through.

The park is very hilly in fact coming backup from the covered bridge there is section with a 10% grade for about a quarter mile. This was in the first couple mile of the ride and I had to stop after the next small climb to recover a little. I had a similar problem the last time we did this loop. According to my heart I didn't go anaerobic so I think it was just a combination of not being warmed up before the steep climb in cold weather. On the second loop we did a similar climb and I felt fine.

The 2 loops took us just about 2 hours and ended up being a little over 12 miles. This is because we climbed around 1100 ft and had stopped to take pictures since this ride was more about scenery then getting in the miles.

At the end of our second loop we stopped at the boat house to use the facilities and took a few last pictures before heading home.

It was a good change of pace to get out in the snow and get a few miles in but I am looking forward to warmer weather and longer rides.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Exploring Both Sides of the Delaware

It was another below freezing weekend where it was too cold to get out on the road but just warm enough to hit a trail on the mountain bike. So far this year we have explored parts of the northern D&R canal we hadn't been on before. This week Laura decided to do both sides of the canal trail between Washington Crossing and Stockton.

Laura again had a very large turnout of 10 people probably because there weren't any other rides today and people are anxious to get out any way they can. Before the start of the ride one of the riders realized there was a large bolt missing from the rear suspension. There was some talk of trying to zip tie it to fix it but nobody had zip ties and this was one thing duck tape won't fix so he went is search of a bike shop.

We started up the NJ side which we have done many times before. There was a stiff north east wind in our face most of the way up. Although there were a few hardy people and dogs walking the trail for the most part we had it to ourselves. The most interesting part of the trail is the piece that goes through Lambertville as there are some small interesting houses right next to the canal and some art spread around (this time the theme seem to be metal fishes hanging from various spots)

At Stockton we stopped for quick bathroom brake before crossing over the bridge to the Pennsylvania  side.

From the bridge you actually have to go down a set of stairs to get to the trail on the Pennsylvania side. The trail on this side is not as wide but that didn't keep a pick up truck from driving down it. Peter and I had to step aside to let it through. It barely fit under the bridges of which there are many on this side and as it was a public works truck I guess he was just checking out the trail.

The trail is mainly red dirt and gravel. As we headed down the trail there were a number of bridges which we could either go under ducking our heads or go over and around. When we hit New Hope Laura when over a bridge only to realize there was no way to get back on the trail so we stopped to wait for her.

In the middle of New Hope we had to go down a set of stairs and cross Main street to stay on the trail

Another 5 miles or so as the trail bent away from the Delaware we made it back to Washington Crossing and crossed the bridge back to our starting point. It was still just below freezing but the foot warmers I tried out for the first time today really worked well so I was never really cold during the ride.

The Pennsylvania side of the trail was interesting so if the weather remains cold as that stupid rodent Punxsutawney Phil predicted then we may do more of this trail.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

The Other Way to New Egypt

Last week it was warm enough for a road ride and I chose to do a run to New Egypt. This week was just on the edge of being too cold to ride on the road especially taking into account the stiff wind. However because of the Union Transportation Trail there is now another way to get to New Egypt.

The Union Transportation Trail was built on the former roadbed of the Pennsylvania Railroad's Pemberton & Hightstown line,which was a railroad that provided dairies and farms access to larger railroads at rail junctions in Pemberton and Hightstown, New Jersey. Traffic gradually dried up and the line was abandoned starting in the 1950s. Currently the trail runs from Herbert Rd just south of the Assumpink down to Millstream Rd in New Egypt. Eventually the trail will go all the way into Hightstown. They are already working on completing it. The trail already has been extended north to Old York Rd and if you want to go around or over a few fences you can ride even further north.

This was an official PFW ride that Laura posted. When I showed up at the Herbert Rd I was surprised to find 5 people already there. Laura and a few other people pulled in moments later and when we started the ride we had 10 total which is bigger than some of the normal Hill Slugs ride in the summer.

We headed north for a few miles around one fence before finding another we didn't want to jump over so we turned around and headed south to New Egypt. The first couple of miles down the trail the gravel is a little loose and bumpy. This is because the land itself is a bit wet and mushy and it seems that a lot of horses used this part of the trail so they leave a lot of hoof prints in the trail.

The looses part is just before crossing Rt 524 after that the trail gets a little harder and easier to ride. The trail is almost dead straight and as level as you would expect an old railroad bed to be. The first real turn was just before Cream Ridge where there was a problem securing the right of way through one of the farmlands so the trail has to hug the road past the golf course until it reaches Davis Station Rd.

The part from Davis Station to New Egypt is the oldest part of the trail and is very packed down and solid. We made quick work of the last few miles. At the end we talked about actually heading into the town of New Egypt but decided not to. As we stood around I was getting a little cold so I started heading back about a minute before the others started. As I was heading north I saw Tru going south. I guess we didn't notice he had dropped off the back.

I kept going and saw the others behind me stop but I kept going as I wanted to keep warm and knew they would eventually catch up. Its not like you can get lost on this type of ride. This trail isn't very scenic so I didn't stop to take any pictures. By the time I got back the others were a couple of minutes behind me.

It was still overcast with some intermittent flurries when we got back so I'm glad we decided to do a trail instead of a road ride. It also gave me a chance to test out the new fender I got that should keep some of the mud off me. I was also happy my shifter worked for the entire ride as I found a cracked ferrule and frayed cable when I cleaned up the bike last night. I put a little tape and zip tie on it as a temporary fix until I get the parts to fix it in a couple of days.

The UTT is an OK trail. Its not very interesting but it is close and a good way to get 20 miles in on a cold winter day. 

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Dark and Damp Ride

It was dark and dreary January day. Some may say it wasn't just the weather that made it a dark day. Despite the overcast skies and damp roads it was still a good enough weather to ride in for a January day because it was in the mid 40s. I didn't have anything listed in the book but posted a message on the blog and sent out an email blast.

When I got to the picnic area of MCP Joe, Chris and Bob were waiting and Laura and Peter road in soon after. When we left the park the roads were damp from the previous days rain but at least there were no big puddles on the roads. We road to New Egypt which is one of my standard winter rides. It felt good to be on the road bike again after being on the mountain bike the past few weeks.

We wound our way around the backside of Allentown and into Crosswicks where Peter almost got clipped by a car making a high speed right turn about 3 feet in front of him. It added some much unneeded excitement to the ride.

We kept a slow B pace as most of us hadn't been riding much in the past few weeks. I did decide go up Hill Rd just to get some climbing in. We decide to stop a Scott's Deli which was good because the Wawa is closed and looks like it is being refurbished.

The clouds never got any thinner and we never saw the sun so the roads never dried out. Still it felt good to get out on the road with group again. I ended up with almost 50 miles. January and February are hard months to get out and ride so I was happy we could get a ride like this in.