Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Gooseberry Pie

Even though I've been feeling bad, I did manage to get out and pick the gooseberries the other day. The Missus made pie yesterday and did her usual superb job - had a piece last night and one for breakfast this morning. The red & black raspberries are ripening up and I'll have peaches before too much longer. I picked some cucumbers from the garden yesterday. I need to get back to work before the weeds over run the place, though.

I've been moving in the direction of self-sufficiency for a few years now, figuring to set myself up for retirement or if things go bad (WTSHTF), I'll be able to ride out the storm. The peach, apple and persimmon trees are mature enough to produce fruit and I should have cherries in another year or two. I'm planning on expanding the garden when I retire and maybe build a small greenhouse to expand the growing season a little. I'd like to build a small outdoor oven for baking bread and pizza also. This all requires a lifestyle that is somewhat labor intensive, which I don't mind, but it also requires good health.

As I'm sure is obvious to you, this sitting around for the last week is really starting to get to me. I've made it through the backlog of mail and magazines and I started on the big pile of books I've been planning on reading some day. Hell, I'm starting to get saddle sore from riding the recliner all day. The weather forecast is looking great - 70's and sunny for the next few days. Even if I can't do much, I'm getting outside. I suggest you appreciate your good health and do the same.

Monday, June 28, 2010

STB's Big Adventure Part Six

This was taken at the Dickerson Whitewater Course used for training by the US Whitewater Slalom Team. It appeared that these guys were practicing rescue and survival skills. This is just off the C&O Trail and we followed a slow moving pickup truck to see what was going on only to find out the truck was escorting a manlift inside the fence and the electric gate that closed behind us. It was just a matter of minutes and we were politely asked to leave. Oops!

This was the end of the line for our C&O Canal part of the trip. We made it as far as the Great Falls Tavern Visitor Center which is just a few miles outside of DC. You can take a canal boat ride here pulled by a mule and go through a lock just like the real thing about 100-150 years ago. This is right after I had a flat on the front and just minutes before I had a flat on the back - while trying to climb the big-ass hill leaving the river valley, of course. It all worked out and we were able to meet our ride in the town of Potomac a couple of hours later just about the time I was finishing up my salad & beer. I felt pretty good at that point in spite of the fact I was covered in mud and sweat.

The weather cleared up nicely the next day and we made it into Washington. We found a bike path that would take us into DC and the Mall for our sightseeing excursion but our driver had a little medical emergency so we went with the back up plan and drove in a little closer and then unloaded the bikes. We had a most pleasant spin around our nation's Capitol. Just a quick glance around and you know that a city like this could never be duplicated. The colossal expense, if you could find the craftspeople, to build these massive types of buildings will prevent anything even close to these ever being built again. We rode past the Capitol, White House, Library of Congress and many others. Another day cycling around the city would have been nice. I still haven't been inside any of the Smithsonian's buildings. Another time perhaps.

This one's for Cuzzin Ricky - Teamster HQ.

Jerry & Kevin

Thanks Jerry for the ride.

Thanks Kevin for the trip.

So there you have it. Pretty much the Alpha to Omega of Shop Teacher Bob's Big Adventure. It was a lot of fun and I'm looking forward to the next big adventure that comes my way. I'm still paying for this one in the form of illness but I'm feeling better this morning. I've come to the self-diagnosed conclusion I'm suffering from Lyme disease but will have to have that confirmed by the doc when I go back this week. Whatever it is, it seems to be responding to antibiotics and that's the main thing. The weather forecast looks promising for the remainder of the week, so hopefully I'll be able to get out and start getting some of the jobs done around the shack I've been postponing. If I don't get the green light to start running pretty soon the marathon is going to be out, though. Just have to play that one by ear.

Friday, June 25, 2010

STB's Big Adventure Part Five

Sign at the locks on the C&O - at some of the locks you could ride down through the bottom or across the top. The top trail was pretty narrow.

Statue of mule and mule skinner at the Visitor Center in Cumberland. This view reminded me of my superintendent and the school board members.

Also at the Visitor Center. Pretty fancy brickwork.

Detail from the Irish Brigade Monument at Antietam Battlefield.

Indiana Monument at Antietam. I've been to quite a few Civil War battlefields and the monuments to the soldiers are really impressive. It's nice that they have been remembered - shame that it happened in
the first place.

The office at Antietam National Cemetery. The cemetery is relatively small and contains the remains of not just Civil War veterans but other veterans as well. It's a quiet, beautiful place. Within a day or so of being here, I heard about the screw up at Arlington National Cemetery. Craziness everywhere you turn.

Hilly ride to the battlefield but certainly worth the effort. I had been here once before but glad I went back.

I was going to get started on my marathon training this week but have come down with some kind of crazy illness. Went to the doctor yesterday and he seems to think it's a result of all the time spent in the bicycle seat. I've started some antibiotics and hopefully they'll start kicking in pretty soon. I've laid around the shack for two days now and I'm pretty much tired of it. Of course, I'm too tired to do anything else either. I go back and see the sawbones in a week. Hopefully, I'll be back on top prior to that.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

STB's Big Adventure Part Four

Pretty, Huh?

The other side of the the tunnel the elevation drops like a rock into Cumberland. We cruised in darn near effortlessly - easy pedaling at 15-17 mph on a trail that was nearly as smooth as glass.

Lots of old railroad bridges along the way. This one was unique in that it was constructed of iron rather than steel.
If you click on the photo to make it larger, you can see some of the ornate detail work on the top. I like how in the old days structural elements like these corner braces always were more than just functional. With castings like these, it didn't really cost anymore to make them look nice. I'm just glad they did.

This one was taken from the inside of the Big Savage tunnel while I was riding through it (which partly explains why it's a little shaky). This one had lights inside so you could see where you were you going. 3300' long. This was quite the project at the time. The one on the C&O Canal that is almost as long is brick lined. 6 million bricks! Plus it was dug like if you and I were going to do one in the back yard. Picks, shovels and black powder. No thanks. I'll pass on that job.

Monday, June 21, 2010

STB's Big Adventure Part Three

It is by riding a bicycle that you learn the contours of a country best, since you have to sweat up the hills and coast down them. Thus you remember them as they actually are, while in a motor car only a high hill impresses you, and you have no such accurate remembrance of country you have driven through as you gain by riding a bicycle. - Ernest Hemingway

Boy Howdy!

We stopped in at the Ohiopyle Visitor Center on our second day out and mentioned to the lady we were planning on riding out to Falling Water, the Frank Lloyd Wright designed house 3-1/2 miles away. She said that we didn't want to do that and she tried hooking us up with someone to shuttle us out there. Having no luck with that we headed out with an hour alloted to make our tour date reservation. After one mile of uphill climbing, it became obvious that we would never make it in time at the rate we were going. We cached our loads behind the guard rail and continued on. After cresting the first big hill I was going down about 25mph when the front of the bike started to go into a speed wobble. I tried riding through it but it developed into a full blown tank slapper. I was looking for a soft place to crash but decided just to grab as much brake as I could and see what happened. I got it stopped but the bars never stopped oscillating until the bike came to a dead stop. I checked the speedometer and it got up to 33.3 mph at it's fastest. The pucker factor must have pegged the meter on that one. You couldn't have driven a pencil up my ass with a sledgehammer! Needless to say, I kept the speed down for the remainder of the trip. We did make our reservations with about ten minutes to spare, however.

The house is just magnificent. Wright was a design genius even though some of the details didn't always work quite as designed. His houses are noted for little things like roof leaks and Falling Water had to have some major reconstruction work a few years back. Most everything in the house is original, including art work by Picasso, Diego Rivera, Tiffany and others. We were there on a splendid day as you can tell from the photos. Our guide was very knowledgeable and the trip was well worth the wild bike ride out there.

After our sightseeing we didn't have much time left, so we put in a relatively short day, only 21 miles. With the 62 the day before and the hills on this one, that was plenty.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

STB's Big Adventure Part Two

The first part of the trip we followed the Youghiogheny River. The Trail itself was the former railbed for the Western Maryland Railroad. The railroads always followed the easiest route in order to limit the steep grades through the mountains and hills and this was typically along the river. I didn't know much about the history of the northern section of the route until just a few days before leaving. This was coal and iron country and was at one time home to over 40,000 coke ovens. That should have been fun trying to breathe. There are lots of visible remnants that were a part of the old history of the area. There is also evidence of environmental problems left from the mining. McKeesport and Pittsburgh were big steel towns. McKeesport was known as Tube City for the steel tube and pipe manufacturing done there. It looks like it's pretty much on the ropes now, unfortunately. A lot like what occurred here in the mid-west to Gary and East Chicago.

Once you get out of the city, things turn rural and undeveloped pretty fast. Lots of rough terrain and wildlife. We saw deer, herons, turtles, an otter, and a couple of big snakes. Black rat snakes, I believe they were. One was over three feet long. Not the kind of thing I would want to have crawling through my campsite. You have to admire the gumption of the original settlers to the area. Hardy people, indeed. Of course the displaced indigenous people is a whole other story. Hard to imagine looking at the first two photos that you're just a short bicycle ride away from a very large city.

If you're going to have a rail-trail you've got to have some rail stuff along the way. Lots of the old stations have been converted into visitor's centers. Some are really nice with nice washrooms and volunteers. Some have collections of items dealing with local history. Some of the towns have embraced the trail and make sure they get a few dollars from everyone passing through. Others don't seem to care too much about the bikers and hikers using the trail. When the weather is warm, everyone is looking for a cold drink and a snack. If you can get people to stop for a few moments, they'll buy something. Also, not to appear sexist, but you can tell when you're approaching a town because there will be an increase in bike and foot traffic of women on the trail. Lots of the ladies get out and ride or walk during the day when the kids are in school and the hubby has gone off to work. Interesting mix of people on the trails, I've noticed. Lots of older people like myself who are either retired or have decent vacation time. Lots of day trippers just out getting some air and exercise - these tend to be older folks as well but includes the housewives - and then you have the hardcore exercisers that are running or biking at much more than the leisurely level. Nice mix of people but the young adults are certainly underrepresented except for the athletes.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Home Again

I made it in last night just in time for a big storm. Glad I was home rather than on the road for this one. Total mileage for the trip, a little more than 340. Lot's of fun seeing new things and sweating and stinking. Oh, and getting real muddy as well. And don't forget about the flat tires, or the chigger bites, or the rain. And did I mention the hills?

Here's the first of a couple installments of Shop Teacher Bob's Big Adventure:

Starting out in McKeesport, just outside of Pittsburgh, Pa. Nice morning and an early start. Bike and trailer ready to go. As always, Kevin is fiddling with something. The dude is always trying something new or working on his kit. He left the trailer home this time and went with both front and rear panniers. He also switched from a tent to a hammock setup. That seemed to work out well for him on both counts.

Typical mess while setting up camp. Unload the bag from the trailer, set the tent up, put sleeping pad and bag in tent, figure out where you packed all the rest of the stuff at. After a couple of days you remember which pannier contains what and a system develops. We rode 62 miles the first day and just about the time I was running out of gas we discovered we had to push our bikes a 1/2 mile up a really, really steep hill that had a trail made of big ballast stone. What a pisser! The lady was real nice at the park when we checked in. I walk up huffing and puffing and she's obviously seen this scenario before. She got us hooked up with a nice campsite and gave us the run down on the road ahead and the weather. Other than the big push up the hill, it was a good start to the trip.

That's me up on top of the tunnel portal. We went through several tunnels. One on the Great Allegheny Passage and one on the C&O Canal Towpath were both over 3000 feet long. One tunnel was closed so we had to ride over a mile to travel about 75 feet. That's what makes it interesting, though.

The weather and the trail was great for the first few days. I can recommend the Allegheny Passage without reservation. The C&O Canal had been hit with a lot of water issues this year as a result of the Potomac coming out of it's banks and a very wet spring, including the days immediately prior to our arrival. The trail wasn't anywhere near as nice as the Allegheny but help is on the way in the form of Federal Stimulus Package dollars. I took my cell phone but didn't have any reception for the first few days. They had a pay phone the second night we stopped, so I got a chance to use my calling card I've been carrying for a couple of years. Nice to have a back up plan. I'm not much of a phone guy to begin with, but I do like to call home every night if at all possible. If it weren't for traveling, I wouldn't go through more than ten minutes worth of cell phone time per year. They did have one spot that had a cell phone booster in a little shed along side the trail. As long as you stood within about three or four feet of the building you could make a call. Kind of a nice touch for the technologically dependent.

More to come.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Almost Home

That's me right there! Sprocket Man.

It's always good to get away but always better to come home.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Like a Timex

My four dollar Raleigh has to be the best investment I've ever made. Portland to Missoula - 550 miles, Natchez to Nashville - 5oo miles and now getting near the end of Pittsburgh to Washington D.C. - 350 miles. All with a loaded trailer and panniers. Lot to be said for the "All -Steel Bicycle".

Monday, June 14, 2010

Still Riding

Not everyone rides with a dorky looking helmet and some polyester jersey.

Don't forget Flag Day today!

Friday, June 11, 2010

On The Trail

The Missus bringing me a little water. A guy gets thirsty putting in all those miles every day.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Off We Go

Photo from here:

Leaving for Shop Teacher Bob's Big Adventure. Off to Pennsylvania and all points south east along the trail. I'm in pretty good shape, looks like some good weather for the first couple of days and I need to get away. I've got a digital and an old film camera I'm packing along so I should be able to get some good photos. I always keep a diary of my journeys so I'll have plenty to write about when I get back. We're planning on about 50 miles per day, depending on where the campgrounds are located. Should be able to get sunburned and stinky without too much trouble. Hopefully it won't be like the Natchez Trace where we had to go three days without a shower in the heat and humidity (the old bike shorts were getting a little yeasty by then). We're renting a room for tonight, so I should be able to catch the Blackhawks win the Stanley Cup and start the trail fully rested. Should lose a couple of pounds along the way, so I'll be ready to start the marathon training when I return. Man, I'm one lucky son of a gun.

Rock on, people. Get out there and have yourself an adventure as well.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Leon's Triathlon

That's Leon on the left.

Here's a shameless plug for my son:

Surly spent Sunday taking pictures of the triathlon run by Leon of QBlast fame. It took place in Hammond with the swim in Wolf Lake and the bike portion on Cline Avenue. I used to commute up and down Cline when I was teaching in East Chicago. I would've loved to have been able to ride my bike on the same road I took almost daily for 18 years. The only reason I didn't participate myself is the fact that I can't swim. I thought seriously about taking some lessons this past winter but I didn't figure I could get good enough to feel comfortable swimming a mile in a lake in time before the event and I just didn't have time to train like I needed to for the bike and the run with all the other things I had going on. This would have required pretty serious training for most anyone, especially an old duffer like me.

Check out the photos at Surly's gallery - he's getting to be a pretty good sport's photographer. While you're there, might as well order a couple of photos before he gets too famous and you can't afford him any more.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Zombies & More

We hosted a couple of actors at the gym the other day for the filming of a zombie movie, in case you haven't checked out the boxing club link lately. I didn't take a camera along, like the big doofus that I can often be, but Surly shot a mess of photos the previous day at a different location. You can check them out at his Smug Mug site. They're pretty cool - order a couple of prints for the garage or workshop. While you're ordering, might as well get a couple of the fight photos as well.

School's officially over for the year. I have to go in on Monday to do some work and my official check-out but year #34 is in the books. I've had some ups and downs over the years but the last three months have probably been the worst, at least from the standpoint of how management has mistreated people. They've poisoned the waters to the extent things will never be right, at least in the few remaining years I plan on working. Damn shame how they've managed to screw things up in such a short time. My thanks goes out to our union president and all the rest of the membership who've been fighting this uphill battle.

It's all systems go for next week's departure for Shop Teacher Bob's Big Summer Adventure. 350 miles on the bicycle pulling my trailer and camping along the way. Don't know how many blog posts I'll be able to put up while I'm gone - probably none - but I'll be sure to get some things posted as soon as I return. I'll get something up prior to my departure as well. I'm sure that will ease the minds of all of you loyal readers.

Enjoy the weekend.