On to Ohiopyle, PA

This blog may be short on details and style, but I can hopefully at least get the pictures of the previous day in. The issue is that my computer does not connect to the Internet in the motel that we are staying in.  So here I am, at the only place that seems to be open at this time in the morning, having some breakfast outside, using the wifi signal.   It is a beautiful morning.  The sun is rising.  People are waking up.  I have the hungry sparrow for company.  It is looking for crumbs all around. I will post something as quickly as possible, and clean it up later.

Early morning in Smithton, where we have spent the night.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADeparture.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis deer has been separated from its little ones because of our approach, but it did not seem to be concerned.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIce cream stop at Adelaide.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAConnellsvile, PA.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAA helmet massage for the sore butt!OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe viewpoint.  We are probably riding through Ohiopyle State Park by now.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHe said he was approaching the age of 80.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAt the tepla stop.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe high bridge outside Ohiopyle.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe low bridge at Ohiopyle.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERARemains of a massive salad that turned out to be dinner.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOhiopyle.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe rode about 40 miles yesterday.  Today is a short riding day.  We are going to relax and let our tired muscles recover a little.

And I have to end the blog now.  I will clean it up later.

Riding to Smithton, PA

Here we are getting reading to ride at in the garage at Ram’s place of work.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis is a view of PIttsburgh as we cross the Hot Metal Bridge and the Monongahela river.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis was a photo opportunity in Homestead, just outside of Pittsburgh.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe were riding near the railroad tracks  for some time.  I believe the place was called Duquesne.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe crossed the Monongahela river into McKeesport.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis was a break for a second breakfast for some of us.  Shankar had not had his morning coffee as yet.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis near the confluence of the Youghiogheny and Monongahela rivers.  From now on we will leave the Monongahela, and ride along the Yough.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe trail climbed into the woods.  The people who built the GAP left this stretch of railroad tracks standing beside the trail. The GAP is a railtrail.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe made a stop at Boston and met a very interesting trail volunteer. We spent a long time chatting with him.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI thought this house by the trail looked interesting.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe made many stops to take in the views and chill out.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis waterfall was depositing some white mineral on the rocks.  It could have been either natural or from some old abandoned mine.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe took a break at the Beuna Vista ramp.  We had stopped here to eat teplas when we rode the trail last time in 2016.  We were too full from the late breakfast this time.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis section of the trail was built on the right of way of the Pittsburgh and Lake Erie railroad.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis waterfall carries iron from the remains of an old mine.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe bike must have been dropped in the water.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe saw fallen trees in a few places, but this was the only location where the trail was completely blocked.  We could easily get under the fallen tree.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAt the West Newton train station that has been converted into a museum and gift shop.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERACrossing the Yough to go into town at West Newton.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe spent some time in West Newton.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe then got back on the trail after crossing back over the river. Here we are approaching the end of the ride for the day. At this point, we got off the trail and crossed the river once again into Smithton.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe easily found the Bed & Breakfast place where we were staying for the evening. One of the natives knew exactly what we were looking for when he saw four tired people on their bikes.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe building is a three story affair that is really old – from the early 20th century.  It belonged to the family of the current owner who now happens to also be the volunteer Mayor of Smithton.  It was used as a boarding house in times past.  There is a lot of history in the place that I have no time to expand on at this point.

The place used to have a working bar.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThere used to be a brewery in town.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe spent a delightful and very relaxed evening on the porch chatting. There was not much choice in town for dinner.  We ordered pizza from the only place that was open, and consumed it while enjoying our liquid refreshment in the cool evening breeze as the sun set.  OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAP7080005-1.jpgOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe also took a walk through the town.  It did not take too long to get through it.  It is a really small place. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASmithton is close to the railroad tracks.  You can hear the music of the rails and the whistle of the engines as as the freight trains roar by.  But I did not hear any trains during the night.  I must have slept well.

We rode about 40 miles yesterday.

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.

Arrival in Pittsburgh for Bike Ride

I am here to ride the Great Allegheny Passage (GAP) from Pittsburgh to Cumberland in Maryland with my friends from high school.

I took the bus from Frederick, MD, to Pittsburgh.  Teresa dropped me off at the bus station.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA The bus and train station are both in the same building.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA I am at my friend’s house enjoying the warm hospitality.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe are the riders, the same folks who did the 2016 KVIITM75 ride!OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe are exploring a little bit of Pittsburgh on our bikes today.  I hope the weather holds up.

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.

Watching Aircraft at National Airport

My bicycle rides quite frequently take me past Washington National Airport and Gravelly Point Park, located at the northern end of the airport’s main runway.  I always stop to take pictures.  Here are a few of the latest.

Wth my zoom lens, I was able to track aircraft that were both landing and taking off on the main runway (RWY 1) at the same time. Here is a sequence of two pictures with one aircraft landing and the other taking off,OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAand here is another sequence of two pictures where the aircraft that are landing and taking off seem to be closer to each other.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe two sequences seen above took place within minutes of each other.  It is an indication of how busy the airport was at the time I was there.

The bridge in the background in the pictures above is the Woodrow Wilson Bridge that carries Interstate 495 across the Potomac.

There was also activity on the shorter runway, RWY 33, that cuts across the main runway. Some of it took place between the two sequences pictured above.  RWY 33 is used for smaller aircraft when needed.  The fact that this runway was is use is another indication of how busy the airport was.  Here is a sequence of an aircraft taking off while crossing the main runway,OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAand here is another sequence of a second aircraft landing.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERATiming is critical when managing aircraft simultaneously on runways that crisscross each other.  In the picture above, you can see that there is an aircraft waiting for the crossing traffic to pass before heading down the main runway for takeoff.

I found the picture below interesting simply because of the visual impact of the hot gas exiting the engines of the aircraft that is taking off.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe following picture shows a “crabbed” approach for landing. It is used when there is a significant enough crosswind during landing.  The pilot is trying to keep the aircraft in line with the runway while fighting this crosswind.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI am posting the picture below simply because I like it!OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABeing at Gravelly Point with my camera is one of those simple pleasures that I really look forward to. It is another reason to look forward to the biking season.

Three Herons

I saw all of the three different kinds of herons that reside on the C&O canal during my bike ride on Friday.  This may have been the first time this has happened during the many years I have frequented the towpath.

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The Great Blue Heron
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The Green Heron
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The Black Crowned Night Heron

My training for the bike ride taking place in July is still lacking, but I have gotten at least a few long rides under my belt by now.  The problem is with the distractions that seem to come up with maddening regularity, distractions which prevent me from getting an early enough start in the morning on the towpath.  Once delayed, it is easy to find excuses for not going out later in the morning.

But if I manage to get out on time, I am easily drawn to the wonder and the simplicity of the experience.  The mind relaxes and wanders, and the worries tend to drift away – at least for the short while.

I am going to try to get out tomorrow morning.  The weekend has been a lazy one!