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.


Weekly Photo Challenge: Unlikely

These days, it is quite unlikely that you will find me in the kind of of situation you see in the picture below.  This picture was  taken near LAX, during a time when I used to frequent that part of the world for work.  Even then, it was quite a fluke to be be in a position to take a picture like this.IMG_1977And then, it is probably unlikely that Wonder Woman would ever be stopped by a storm trooper.  She would have been too quick for him.  Also, any sensible person knows that they are from different times in history, err.., story telling.  I am not sure she could rescue anybody in the shape that appears to be in.  And the storm trooper should probably be fired.  He looks quite harmless.  This picture was taken on Hollywood Boulevard.IMG_2278This was a unlikely sight for me – a waterway near Minneapolis full of dead fish and a few rusted vehicles buried in the mud.  But apparently, fish kill are not that unusual in Minnesota.  I do not know the story behind the buried vehicles.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHow likely is it to see two planes in the configuration seen here?    Take a guess as to where this picture was taken at.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Technology as a Natural Process (2/24/2007)

The parade of Boeing 757s is lining up on the taxiway awaiting departure from LAX. It seems like early afternoon is the time of day for this type of aircraft to dominate the departure schedules from Los Angeles. The 757 is really an excellent aircraft! It has a unique look – lean and mean, with a cockpit shape and nose gear that furthers the impression that it is all business. It is not just the looks that impress. The aircraft is a great performer. It can take off in a steep attitude that is very impressive, and can also weave its way in for a steep landing as if it was a stone dropping from the skies. It is quite agile for its size. It is a pity that they have discontinued production of the 757. Apparently, it just did not make business sense any more.

Yes, I am returning from LA after yet another business trip (and I will be back again next week for another one). I am settled into seat 26F of a 757 high over some dry brown countryscape (not sure if that is a real word!) just east of LA. These days, this is usually the period of time when my mind tends to become unoccupied and wanders, which perhaps may not be considered a good thing. I am getting used to these kinds of business trips. The reason it is not that much of a hassle is because I am not under much pressure and because I am relaxed during the trips. I do not have to fly at some odd time of day to avoid losing time at work, and even when I get to my destination, the people are more laid back, and the expectations are quite reasonable.

It is now wintertime in Los Angeles, which means that it rains for a couple of days (in a manner of speaking). They were joking that it rains so little in LA that it may not even make sense to try to go up on the roofs and the high ceilings of the glass foyers of the buildings to fix leaks. In fact, it might make better sense instead to just collect the leaking water in buckets when it rains! I was present when a terrific thunderstorm rolled over the airport. I got a great view from DIRECTV’s facilities, which are just beside the runways. From the 7th floor you can see the constant stream of traffic arriving and departing the busy airport. From the 7th floor you can also get a great view of downtown LA off in the distance. It was the perfect photo opportunity with the city skyline and the threatening clouds.

I am getting to that point in my life and career where it is quite interesting for me to just sit back and think about the consequences of the kind of work I am involved in, and perhaps even ponder the kind of “natural” processes that seem to guide the directions that consumer technologies seem to lead us in. I was initially hesitant to use the term “natural”, because, in the big picture of things, nothing that we do in technology is natural. We invent stuff, most often with the express purpose of doing something cool or making a profit (or both). We usually try to create a market (using the term market in its most generic sense) for our technologies. Some of this stuff takes off and people can make a lot of money. A lot of it goes nowhere. But the technologies that are successful have the ability to impact people’s behaviors, and perhaps even the cultures of the societies that we live in. (I was just reading a travelogue in the In-flight magazine about the use of cell-phones by the lamas in Lhasa. Imagine that!) I happen to be in a situation where I can see the kinds of new consumer electronics and communications technologies and applications that may be coming and are just over the horizon. I can even try to imagine the kind of impact these are going to have in the way we think and live, and ponder the processes that are going on. At this point in my life, this appears to be far more interesting than working on the technologies themselves!

One reason you could call these processes in the technology area “natural” is because they really are unpredictable and we do not control them although we think we do. But the term natural ought not to be used lightly. The truth of the matter is that human beings are inventing their own reality. Although it is a process that includes a healthy dose of probability (i.e., aspects we cannot control), we are really inventing stuff and defining the way we live on our own. We have been doing this ever since we invented the wheel. It is quite possible that intelligent creatures that live on another planet in the universe will create their own reality in a form that we cannot even imagine. At the end of the day we, as human beings, have defined the world we want to live in, and we are only seeing and comprehending things in this context. This is quite different from just letting the other forces of nature do their thing, and adapting ourselves to the circumstances without trying to control and modify our environment in some dramatic manner or the other. So, one could argue that since intelligence gives us the ability to control our reality and modify it, this reality may not be considered a natural thing. But why does it matter what we think about all of this? I think it matters because many of us tend to think in absolutes – right and wrong, black and white, when in fact nothing that we as human-beings do has an absolute basis for legitimacy. What we do may only make sense in the context of the world that has been created around us. And perhaps it is important to recognize this.

Anyway, coming back to the “reality” of the world that my career has led me to, it is interesting for me to observe, as if from a distance, the cycles that new mass-market consumer electronic technologies tend to take if they are truly successful. There is the initial phase of invention. Then somebody or some organization tries to find out if there is any interest in the practical aspects of the invention, and any money to be made. If so there is the next phase of bringing the technology to the market. You could be successful at this stage and continue to refine your technology and operate as a closed system. But if the technology really takes hold, it is quite likely to become bigger than a single person or even a single organization. You will also tend to get competition. If the technology has to work for everybody, you may even have to cooperate with your competition. Eventually you may have to get involved in some kind of standardization process. Once you do that, you lose control. Eventually whatever technology you develop is overtaken by something new and better. By some kind of process that the first generation of people working on a technology could not have even imagined, events happen, and something new takes hold. All of this eventually impacts the way we live and our so-called culture. Is this a natural process?

I hope you made it this far without condemning me to the lunatic asylum (which is a part of our own reality, and so arguably, not a natural thing). Perhaps it is the thin air at 37,000 feet that is affecting me (but then again, I am actually only experiencing the unnatural reality of the experience of a much lower altitude inside the pressurized body of a 757).