Backlit Pictures After The Rain

I have not taken any formal classes in photography yet.  Most of what I have learnt comes from trying different techniques over and over again. I also read articles on the Internet whenever I have questions.  The digital medium has made it easier to experiment.  I can react quickly to whatever seems interesting to me using a relatively inexpensive resource (digital bits rather than film), and then I can delete pictures that I am unhappy with with ease.

I know from experience that some unique conditions arise in the woods the morning after it rains.  The moisture rising into the warming air, combined with the early morning sunlight cutting through the gaps in the trees at a narrow angle, creates a neat visual effect that lasts only for a short period of time.

Most conventional photography is done with the light falling directly on the object that one wishes to capture in picture form.  You cannot see the object clearly if it is backlit, when the features that you are interested in are in the shadows.

But backlighting does create other opportunities, opportunities that I have learnt to appreciate from past outings.  So I was prepared for further experiments with backlighting when I went out for a ride on Wednesday morning, the day after some heavy thunderstorms had passed through the area.  Here are some of the results.  As you can imagine, these pictures would look very different if they had been taken from a different angle with respect to the sun.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

A Closed Section of the Towpath

I saw this at the website of the National Park Service for the C&O Canal Park after I got home from my bike ride.Screenshot_2019-07-26 Current Park Conditions - Chesapeake Ohio Canal National Historical Park (U S National Park Service)I might have been the only person to ride the section after it was closed.

In fact I had to cross this barrier at Pennyfield Lock to exit the closed section after I was done with my ride.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAEarlier on, I had encountered a young girl working for the NPS who belonged to the Student Conservation Association who was taking a count of the number of fallen trees in the closed section.  She said that she had counted 20, and that she had stopped because she had come to an impassable section.  I was able to cross this section by carrying my bike off the trail and back on to it.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe section of the trail in the picture below looked beaten up from water flowing over the trail.P7260040.jpgA park ranger had stopped me earlier.  He looked a little upset when he saw me.  He got up from the stump he had been sitting on.  “Did you not see the sign that the trail was closed?”, he asked.  I had been prepared for the encounter.  “I have to get back to my car which is parked at Pennyfield Lock,” I said.  He immediately relented.  He actually smiled.

I had actually encountered an NPS pickup truck with a couple of kids earlier on in the closed section of the trail.  They were backing away from the site of the destruction on the trail, all the way back to Swain’s Lock it seemed. Because of the width of the towpath, there was no place to turn the pickup truck around.  They had told me to be careful, but had made no attempt to stop me.  The kid mentioned that they were not responsible if I hurt myself.

Back at Swain’s lock, as I approached the sign for the blocked trail, I had a decision to make.  I could stay on the trail, or I could try to get to the main road and ride along the road.  Riding along the road would have added a couple of miles to the ride, and it would have also involved riding up and down decent slopes on the side roads to get to the main road.   It would have also been more dangerous because of the traffic on the road.   Besides, I was tired after having ridden more than 30 miles at that point.  It did not take too long for me to decide to stay on the trail and face the consequences of my action if I encountered somebody who objected.

At that point I was returning from a ride all the way out to Fletchers Cove.  The highlight of this ride was the stop to see the swallowtail butterflies feasting in the morning sun on the milkweed growing beside the waters of the canal.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERACrossing the damaged section of the trail earlier in the morning on my way out had been an adventure in itself.  I could ride my bike for only short sections at a time.  I had to carry my bike over tree limbs laying across the trail, and walk under fallen branches balanced over me.  I even had to carry my bike off the trail through the woods to get past one section.  Fortunately folks had created a path off the trail in this section.  (The trail must have been blocked for at least a little while at this point in time for this to happen!)  I carried my bike past the park ranger who was sitting in his front-end loader on the trail.  He did not stop me.  Perhaps he remembered me later in the day when I encountered him again, which was why he let me get by that time.

The destruction was extensive.  Trees were fallen all over the place.  The trail had also been washed away in a few sections, as if the canal had overflowed.  I kept going.

When I started the ride earlier that morning, I had met a person who had just finished his bike ride.  He had warned me about the fallen trees, but had apparently gotten through to the other side, where the trail was completely clear.  He did not say anything to discourage me from my plan to ride towards the city.

The strange thing about what I saw on the trail was the localized nature of the damage.  I have a hunch that some kind of twister must have touched down during a storm that had taken place a few days earlier.  The funny thing is that I was not aware of the extent of the storm when it happened even though the trail is not too far from home.  I wondered how things might have looked on the trail when the storm was actually happening.  The power of nature is awesome.

And that is the end of this little tale told backwards!

Hah!

 

Destination Cumberland, MD

This particular blog in the series about the bike ride is coming out a little later than usual.  First of all, I want to assure all of you that we completed the ride without any accidents.  In light of what happened to me in 2017 on the last day of that ride, I was especially relieved and happy that I made it without causing any damage to myself.

The blog is late because I am now in the relaxed atmosphere of home,  in a more relaxed state of of mind, not having to worry about the next day’s ride.  Perhaps this blog will also be more coherent as a result.  Perhaps, unfortunately, it will also tend to go on a little longer than usual.  Let me begin to the talk about the events of yesterday without further delay.

To remind readers who are following the blog, we were starting the ride this day at Meyersdale, PA, where we had spent the night at Yoders B&B.

Breakfast at this particular B&B was continental style, the first time it was happening at a B&B during this ride.  I did tuck in more food than I expected despite this fact.  Bike rides tend to make you hungry!

As was my habit during the ride, I did take some pictures outside the house before departure.  The two pictures below are repetitive, but what the heck!  The first picture is of the diner and the small old motel, still in use, in front of the B&B.  The second picture is of the B&B itself.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAKoushik had bought everybody new riding jerseys with the GAP logo on them.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe ride started with a somewhat steep climb through the town itself to get back to the trail.  Back on the trail, it was back to the regular uphill climb, but with a much reduced angle of attack than what we had experienced in town.

The first landmark we passed was the Bollman truss bridge.  It gets its name because of the design of the truss. This particular bridge was transported from another location in another state to the trail.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe next stop was the Keystone Viaduct bridge.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe crossed the CSX railroad tracks below us.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe Flaugherty Creek flowed below us next to a roadway.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThere were windmills on the ridge in front of us.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe ride took us up the side of the ridge and on to a flatter and more open area behind it.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe crossed the Flaugherty Creek a few times during this section of the ride.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe made a pit-stop at a place called Deal to use the restroom.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe trail was surrounded by meadows and wildflowers of different colors.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe next milestone was the Eastern Continental divide.  This was the highest point of the bike ride.  It was going to be a downhill ride the rest of the way!OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAKoushik photo-bombed the picture I was taking of the elevation range of the GAP.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHe always gets great elevation on his jumps.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe next stop was at the 3000 foot long Big Savage tunnel.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI would not recommend the activity shown in the picture below to anybody!OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt almost looked like there was a car approaching us through the tunnel. It was actually the light from two bicycles next to each other.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis picture was taken at the exit of the tunnel.  It is at a slight angle to the rest of the tunnel.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis is what it looked like from a viewpoint just outside the tunnel.  We could see the entire valley in front of us (click on the picture!).  The Cumberland Narrows that we are heading for can barely be seen in the distance, and is better visible in the picture below this one.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThere was always the photo opportunity to be taken advantage of.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt was at this point that Shankar realized that he had left his riding gloves behind at Deal. Two of us decided to ride back to look for it, while the others pedaled on.  They would wait for us further along the trail.

Shankar and I zipped back to Deal on our bikes to find that the gloves were not there.  As we were returning, we passed a tour group that was traveling in the same direction as we were.  Hoping that the person supporting the tour whom we had talked to at Deal (he was carrying snacks for the group in a van and met up with the group at certain points) had picked up the gloves and taken it on to Cumberland, Shankar talked to person who was actually riding with group.  She confirmed that the gloves had been picked up and taken to Cumberland!  Shankar could pick them up there!

We ended up riding 5 to 6 miles more than the others, and we also experienced the Continental Divide and the Big Savage tunnel thrice in a single day!

Koushik and Ram were waiting for us at the Mason Dixon line.  This forms the boundary between Pennsylvania and Maryland. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe trail was taking us steadily down the side of the ridge.  We picked up a lot of steam going downhill.   We passed the side trail for the town of Frostburg next.  We decided not to take this trail because it required a stiff climb up a hill, and also because we were running late.

The railroad tracks that are used by the Western Maryland Scenic Railroad excursion train going between Cumberland and Frostburg appeared soon after.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe trail and the tracks would run next to each other the rest of the way into Cumberland.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFrom this overlook above the town of Mt. Savage, one could see the ridge that we had just ridden down.  We had some difficulty sighting the entrance to the Big Savage tunnel from this distance.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe trail crossed the railroad tracks in many places, from one side of the track to the other.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe had been told about a big raspberry patch next to the trail.  We stopped there to pick and eat fruit.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe fruit was quite tasty.  I was picking it off the plant and popping it into my mouth.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERARam was collecting the fruit to share with the folks meeting us at Cumberland.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe passed through a tunnel that was shared between the trail and the rail line.  There is a little fence running in-between the two through the tunnel.  As with the Big Savage Tunnel, it felt much cooler riding inside the tunnel than outside it.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFinally, we were in the Cumberland Narrows, getting very close to our destination!OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe rode slowly into town.  As we crossed the finish line, we were greeted by family and friends.  Ganga, our classmate from high school who was visiting from India, garlanded us.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOur spouses were there to meet us.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe received awardsOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAand posed in front of the statue that marks the beginning of the C&O canal.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt felt great to have made it, and to have been greeted by our close friend and family at the end.  We had covered 150 miles of trail safely.

It was amazing that we also met many of the people we had encountered in previous days along the trail, starting all the way back in Confluence, at Cumberland.  The little boy, Henry, had also arrived with his dad.  I still cannot get over the fact that a 7 year old rode the 150 miles of trail.

We picked up our luggage after returning our bikes to the place we had rented them from and went to a local restaurant for lunch.  Some of us celebrated with a beer or two even though it was early in the day.

Ram returned home to Pittsburgh soon after, while the other riders came home with us to Gaithersburg.  Exhaustion hit during the drive home and folks took naps in the car. Koushik and Shankar departed town today.

All is quiet at home.  The adventure has ended.

In the Rain to Meyersdale, PA

Our host at the B&B we were staying at in Confluence, Sandy, was already there, busy at work in the kitchen, by the time I went downstairs from my room.   Ram and Koushik were chatting with her.

After having a cup of coffee, I decided to take a walk around town while breakfast was being prepared.

This is the house in which we stayed.  It was really charming, both inside and outside.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe early morning fog was rising over the hills, and behind the community center.  The population of Confluence is about 800.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThere were people sitting on the benches in the park in the central area in town having an early morning chat.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe breakfast Sandy had prepared was quite grand – with scrambled eggs, chopped up potatoes with fresh vegetable mixed in, tasty sausage links, fruits of different kinds, orange juice, bread, and homemade jam.  It was all fresh and substantial.  Sandy fussed over us as we enjoyed the food, and she helped keep up a steady stream of conversation. We learnt a lot about the place.  By all appearances, Sandy seemed to be a very active member of the community.

The weather forecast was not optimistic.  The chances of getting rained on during the ride were significant.  But we were prepared, and we were determined to press on.

Sandy came out of the house to talk to us, to bid us goodbye and give us last minute directions, as we got our bikes out of the garage and got ready to ride once again.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe had to ride a short distance on the main road before we hit the trail once again.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt was a steady climb right from the start.  There were places where the river ran well below the trail and the train tracks on the other side.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAnd then it started to rain.  We had to bring out the rain gear.  I had to stow my camera away in my backpack and put on my own poncho.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis is the approach to the Pinkerton tunnel.  The bridge is over the Casselman river.  It was raining like crazy at this point.  I was in no position to take pictures and enjoy the view from the bridge.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe stopped at the entrance of the tunnel.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe boy in the picture above was riding the trail with his dad.  He must have been less than ten years old.  He was really pounding the pavement and appeared to be enjoying the experience.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe encountered many more riders who had stopped to take shelter within the tunnel while waiting for the storm to pass, but we pressed on.  I was actually enjoying the ride in the rain.

The funny thing was that we encountered many of the same folks that were waiting in the tunnel when we finally got to our destination for the evening at dinner.   And we might encounter some of the same people on the trail on the way to Cumberland today.  There is definitely a kind of fellowship that is generated between people who bike this trail.  I do not remember this from our ride in 2016.

The picture below was taken when we made a short stop for a restroom break.  Koushik and I rode over the bridge to the other side of the river.  It was still raining heavily at that point.  It was difficult to take pictures since I had to first take my poncho off to get to my camera bag underneath it, then extract the camera from the bag in the rain, and only then, finally, take the pictures.  I had to go over the process in reverse after I was done.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe finally arrived at the town of Rockwood as the rain was beginning to subside.  There was a group of cats on the trail.  It felt like they were there to welcome us.  Apparently, they have become rather well known on the trail.  I could not take a picture.

We rode off the trail to a place we had stopped at during our previous ride in 2016 to get some sustenance and warm up a little bit.  There were many other riders of the trail who had stopped there, most likely with the same purpose.

It was a nice atmosphere inside, and a general spirit of camaraderie.   We were all there with the same spirit of purpose.  Many folks seemed to be familiar with the drill.  This was not the first time they were doing the ride.

I had been imagining a turkey sandwich and a cup of hot chocolate during the wet ride.  I got what I wanted!OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThen it was back on the trail.  Our rain gear was put away.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABack on the trail, it was back to the steady uphill climb.

We took our time to enjoy the stops that we made.  There were many small waterfalls along the way.  The air was actually cooler as you passed these waterfalls. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThere were also the waterfalls that were formed just because of the rain that had fallen.

In one section of the trail with walls of earth on both sides, we came across a young deer that was trapped on the trail in front of us.  It kept running ahead of us until it found a place to climb the slope on one side of the trail.   We slowed down for it.

And then the rain started coming down in earnest once again.

It was pouring heavily by the time we got to the long Salisbury viaduct.  We could not afford to stop too long on the viaduct since there was some thunder and lightning action going on around us – and we also happened to be the tallest objects on the viaduct.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI would have loved to have stopped and taken more pictures on the viaduct, but it was not to be.

It was an uphill slog the last couple of miles into town. There was water running down the the trail as we kept our heads down and pedaled as hard as we could. A steady stream of water was picked up by the tires and a line of dirt coated our rain gear.

We kept at it until we arrived at Meyersdale, PA.  We found our way to the place for the night.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe first order of business was to clean up the bikes and put them away in the shed that you can see to the right of the above picture.  Then we had to clean ourselves up. There was an incredible amount of dirt all over us.. My shoes and socks had gravel all over them.  (The shoes are still wet this morning.  I will have to ride in my sandals today.)  A hot cup of coffee after a shower brought us back to normal.

This picture was taken from the front of the B&B.  There are only a few places close by to eat at, and this shows two of them.   The Donges Diner and the small motel next to it are very old, and both are still functional.  The Donges has a good reputation.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe went to the Morguen Tool Company for dinner.  There was a nice breeze blowing outside as we chatted.  We were joined by a few of our fellow riders on the trail, including the little boy and his father.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThen it was back to the B&B for some more conversation.  The bottle of Scotch was demolished.  The people that we had stayed with at the B&B in Confluence stopped by to chat.  We headed for bed as late as usual.

We rode about 30 miles yesterday.  We have about the same distance to cover today, into Cumberland.  There is a good downhill stretch towards the end, after we cross the Continental Divide, that could make this a short run.

 

A “Rest” Day in Ohiopyle, and then on to Confluence, PA

My friends had woken up by the time I finished yesterday’s blog at the cafe where I had found the Internet connection.  I went back to the motel room to get ready for the day while they were having their own breakfasts.  I then joined them as the day’s activities began.

This is the little place where I had written the previous blog.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI walked around town by myself for a little bit before going back to the motel room.  The others had gone back to the motel to get ready to check out.

The towns that we are riding past are next to the primary CSX freight line that runs between this part of the east coast and the rest of the country.  There is always a steady train traffic nearby.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis is a picture of the Low bridge over the Yough in the morning light.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe set out on a hike to Cucumber Falls after I returned to the motel.

The activities on the river had already started.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe stepped off the path to go down to a stream to see the natural water slides.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe could not figure out how anybody could actually slide down this stream and stay alive!OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe were trying to follow the Meadow Run Trail to get to the falls.  We got lost after this stop by the Yough river.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe had to work our way back to the main road to get to Cucumber Falls.  It was a good climb up a hill.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe falls were spectacular!OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHere is Koushik exploring the falls.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERARam was next.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAShankar also walked behind the falls.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe then hiked the Great Gorge trail to get back to town.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHere we are at the place where we had stopped for lunch during our ride of the GAP in 2016.  We were nicknamed “The Blues Brothers” for the day.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis picture is from the High bridge over the Yough.  It was taken from the GAP trail at the tail end of the hike.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI thought this was a good day to relax.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe stopped here for lunch.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis picture was taken as we were leaving for Confluence.  This is where we had stayed the night.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHere we are back on the trail again.  It is good to stretch before doing any exercise!OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASince we were only riding a short distance, we took some extended stops along the way. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe had to climb down to get from the trail to the river.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAEven though it had felt quite hot when we had been walking in the sun earlier in the day, it was very comfortable riding under the trees.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThese pictures are from a second stop by the river.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAnd then it was back on the trail.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis is a picture of the confluence of the Youghiogheny and Casselman rivers. It was taken from the trail.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe went for a walk after arriving in Confluence, putting our bikes away, and cleaning up.  We were staying at the at The Confluence House Bread & Breakfast.

It turns out that Confluence is not just the confluence of the Youghiogheny and Casselman rivers. There is also the Laurel Hill creek that joins up with the two rivers.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe tried to walk to the area of the confluence of the rivers but it was all on private property.

We then proceeded to the Lucky Dog Cafe for dinner.  It was the same place we had eaten at in 2016.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe walked a little more after dinner.

We crossed over the Yough during this walkOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAand ended up at the Youghiogheny dam.  We did not attempt to walk up to the top of the dam to see the lake behind it since there was a “No Trespassing” sign on the pathway leading up.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThat was the last stop before we walked back to our place for the night.

We retired for the night after some drinks, music, and conversation.

We walked about 8 miles during the day, and rode over 11 miles.

Today promises to be a rainy day.  We will probably be riding in our rain gear.  The ride is also going to get a little more challenging because the trail is going to get steeper.

 

Seeing Pittsburgh by Bicycle and Boat

We were in a good mood for the first day of riding.  Here we are leaving home.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOur bikes were delivered at Washington’s Landing on the Allegheny river.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe biked along the Allegheny river. Downtown Pittsburgh is in the distance as we start the ride.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis is a view of downtown Pittsburgh from the North Shore trail along the Allegheny river.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe took a short detour to ride past the front of the baseball stadium where the Pittsburgh Pirates play.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis picture shows the confluence of the three rivers at Point State Park.  Our trail continued along the Ohio river.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis is a view of downtown Pittsburgh from the banks of the Ohio river as we continue to ride the North Shore trail.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe trail continued past Heinz field, the home of the Pittsburgh Steelers football (American football, that is!) team.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis submarine on the Ohio river is a museum that can be visited.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERATime for some fun beside the Ohio.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe end of the North Shore trail provided a break and some time for texting.  The trail ran past an older industrialized neighborhood that has seen better days.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe Duquesne Incline and the water fountain at Point State Park are captured in this picture.  We were still on the North Shore trail at this point.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe crossed the Allegheny river to get to Point State Park and the water fountain.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHere we are at the confluence of the three rivers.  This is the start of the Great Allegheny Passage, otherwise known as the GAP.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHeinz stadium is now across the river from us.  One of the Gateway Clipper boats that provides tours of Pittsburgh sails on the river.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe walked the last section through the city on our way to lunch.  We went to a Turkish restaurant.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAfter lunch, we rode back to the start of the GAP, and rode the trail up to the Hot Metal Bridge.  It rained a little while we were biking along the Monongahela river.  It was a very light rain that did not bother us.  This is the middle of summer and the time for thunderstorms.  We could be getting more rain during the rest of this ride.

We left our bikes locked at Ram’s place of work, and Kalpana gave us a ride back home.  It was short day of riding, only about 15 miles.

We went for a cruise on the rivers in the evening as the sun was beginning to set. It was a delightful experience.  We enjoyed it thoroughly.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHere are some pictures of the city taken from the boat.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis picture is of downtown Pittsburgh.  At this point we were on the Ohio river.  To the left is the Allegheny river, and to the right, the Monongahela.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe Carnegie Science Center and the Heinz stadium seen from the boat.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAnd then it was time to head back home and chill. The serious riding starts tomorrow.

Mad Thoughts on July 4th

I had decided to take the week off from training since it was so close to the start of the longer bike ride that is starting on Sunday.  I did not want to overdo it.  But restlessness took over early in the week.  A couple of days of staying at home when I could have been outside biking in nice weather was more than I could handle mentally.  Although it is easy to become lazy, I also had a sense that there had been opportunities that had been missed.  I finally broke down and went for a long bike ride on Thursday, July 4th – Independence day.

I left early in the morning having decided that I wanted to be back home at a reasonable time after the ride.  The streets were quiet on account the holiday.  It was somewhat jarring on this particular day to come across a pan-handler at a road intersection holding a sign that indicated that he was a veteran.  My first thought that it was quite ironic that my first experience on Independence day was something that made a mockery of the sentiment of independence.  The veterans were the guys who were willing to face danger in the preservation of independence, but we were failing them and not taking care of them.  Yet, we were having a celebration.

Our eyes locked for just an instant.  The moment did not last long. I was just driving past.  I suppose I could have pulled over somewhere to engage with the person.  That may have been the right thing to do, but it seems that the easiest thing to do is to try to put encounters with the less fortunate out of our minds.

There were many cars already parked in the lot at Great Falls by the time I arrived.  That was not normally the case on a regular weekday.  I found a spot for my car further away from where I was used to parking, got my equipment out, and started to ride towards the trail.  I could see that a yoga class was underway next to the river.P7040078.jpgPeople were also already on the trail, many walking towards Olmsted Island to see the actual waterfalls.  I headed south on the towpath towards Washington, DC, on my bicycle.

My goal was to get to Fletcher’s Cove, and then take the Capital Crescent trail to Bethesda.  I estimated that this would give me a moderate distance of about 30 miles for the ride.

As I got closer to Fletcher’s Cove, the urge hit me to head right into Washington, DC, to investigate what was going on with regards to the July 4th celebration there.  The primary concern with following up on this urge was the fear of possible crowds of people on foot on the path on which I was trying to ride my bike.  My strategy was going to be to immediately turn back and retrace my path the moment I hit trouble.

I was able to ride along the C&O canal all the way through Georgetown without interference. I then got on the trail that went past Rock Creek, to get to mile 0 of the towpath.  The city was still very quiet at that time of the morning.  There were fewer people about than I had expected.  So far so good!  I decided to keep on biking further along the river, in the direction of Lincoln Memorial, and to cross over to Virginia on one of the bridges across the Potomac at some point.  I would then head back north through Virginia, and finally cross over back to the other side of the river at the Key bridge.

I did not have to bike far before I encountered a roadblock. It was just before the Kennedy Center.  Both the trail and the road beside it were closed, and a police car and a dump truck were blocking the way.   I could either go back the way I had come, or try to find another way around the blockage.  Remembering that this blockage was in the direction of the Lincoln Memorial, and that a big event was being planned at that location in the evening, I saw no point in continuing.  There was no way the authorities were going to let people, even an innocent bicyclist, get closer.

Seeing a sign for Interstate 66 and Virginia at this point, I decided to take the bridge over the Potomac to Virginia instead.  I biked up to the front of Kennedy CenterP7040084.jpgand looked around. There were no people around. The few scattered guards around the building appeared to be in a very relaxed frame of mind.  There was no concern about my standing there all by myself taking pictures.

I found the bicycle trail leading to the bridge.

The bike lane on the Interstate 66 bridge across the Potomac was clearly not part of the original design of the bridge.  It was narrow enough to be dangerous.  I saw a person coming towards me lose his balance while trying to pass some people, and hit the railing on the river side of the bridge in the process.  The railing was not very high – once again not designed with bicyclists in mind.  Luckily, the person did not fall off the bridge.  I proceeded with additional caution.

There were cars at the parking lot for Roosevelt Island on the Virginia side of the bridge. By this time people were beginning to come out to the park in significant numbers.

I made my way over the Key Bridge back into DC,  and then biked back to Fletcher’s Cove on the towpath.

The ride on the Capital Crescent trail was my last opportunity for some uphill biking as part of my training.  It felt good.  I felt strong.  Things seem to be in good shape for the ride.  There were plenty of people on the trail by the time I got there.  The laid-back spirit of the July 4th holiday was in the air.

The towpath was completely crowded with holiday-goers by the time I got back to Great Falls at the end of the ride.  I had to slow down to a crawl and call out to people on the trail regularly to warn them about my approach.  Folks were in good spirits.

I got in about 40 miles of riding.  It was more that I had wanted to do in the beginning. I was a bit tired.

It was a news article that I saw online that I wanted to talk a little more about in this blog. The article indicated that Mad Magazine was soon going to cease publication. Coincidentally, I had been thinking about Mad Magazine during the last few days.  I had been an avid follower of the magazine in the 70s. One of the regular features that I used to enjoy was a comic series (I have not been able to find the author’s name) that attempted to showcase regular Americans going about their everyday lives.  It was a caricature, and it pointed out the ridiculous nature of some of the habits of the regular folks, and the mindless and asinine things people do as a matter of habit without even thinking about it.   Although I did not know it at that time, the drawings were quite accurate and cutting in their depictions.  I found this out only later when I came to the US myself.  The drawn pictures of the people were themselves quite priceless, and also ridiculously accurate in their representation. You could see what a typical American looked like in his or her living environment, and it was sometimes quite ridiculous.

My thoughts then wandered towards how America has changed since the seventies.  Specifically, I was thinking about people like me, Indians who have settled down in the US, people who have grown in our numbers. I was thinking about how we now represent a significant chunk of the local population that is easily recognizable.  We have our own recognizable  place in the American experience in the cities and in suburbia. (This is perhaps less true in the rural areas.)  We have our own quirks.  The interesting thing is how Indians have adopted to the existing American way of life, and also how Indians have impacted the social experience and the culture in places where they exist in large numbers.  We can be as American as they come, but in our own way.

It was in this context that I was thinking about my American experience, and consequently about Mad Magazine.  I was thinking about the opportunity to make fun of people like me, the Indian American, and my manners and looks. I am sure we have our own foibles that would be worthy of laughing about if we became more self-aware.  It could perhaps take an “outsider” to point these out to us.  Yes, we could perhaps be downright ridiculous in our ways if we really thought about it.  And this would also be a unique part of the American experience.  And it would be great to capture this in comic form, just the way Mad Magazine could.  Indeed, they might have done so already without my knowing it.  How would Mad Magazine try to caricature a person like me?  That would be interesting to know.  Would they consider people like me to be full of crap?

I will end with a thought about the July 4th celebration. It is about the fact that for the first time in many years they had a show of military power at the celebrations in Washington, DC.  The show included Air Force One flying overhead as the president spoke.  It is easy to forget that all of this material stuff is temporary.  The picture below symbolic of what eventually happens to all of this over time.   The aircraft below once used to carry the President of the United States.  It has now become a museum piece, somewhat sad looking in its current location and appearance.P6170040.jpg(This picture was taken from the Mt. Vernon trail, from under the Wilson Bridge.)

It is the spirit that really matters in the end.

PS.  If you do not know anything about Mad Magazine, and are interested in getting a better context, you should watch the video in the link that I provided in this blog.