Saturday, June 30, 2012

First Cycle Tour, Astoria to Clarence Fahnestock Park 6-26 through 6-28-2012 (138.13 miles round trip)

With the small break in the heat that NYC experienced earlier this week I was able to finally take a 3 day cycle touring trip North to Carmel New York and Clarence Fahnestock Park.

Tuesday morning I woke at 6 with a mind to leave by 6:30 so as to be well ahead of the rush hour traffic. I was excited and nervous so I did not have much of an appetite, but I managed to throw back a bowl of cheerios before heading out the door. The forecast called for temperatures in the low 60's and some headwind up to 10+ mph throughout and this time the forecast was accurate. I rode over the Triboro bridge and headed toward the small bridge from Randalls Island to 135th Street in the Bronx. From here it's a matter of joining St. Anne Ave, to Park Ave, and the Mosholu Parkway Greenway to reach Vancortlandt Park and the entrance to the South County Trail.

In the Bronx, the South County Trail is mostly hard packed dirt with small roots and old railroad ties jutting out occasionally. It's nothing my hybrid bike can't handle, and a nice change from the asphalt I find myself on most of the time. Once the South County Trail reaches Yonkers the path changes to pavement. In some areas there are small signs which indicate where the path becomes extra bumpy or uneven. These bumps are mostly doable at my cruising speed with my 700 x 28 tires, but I'm sure these signs are posted for the road bike riders who might approach at much greater speeds with skinnier tires.


Entering Vancortlandt Park.

Entering South County Trail.

South County Trail in Yonkers, my foot gets splashed.

South County Trail continued.

Entering Westchester I passed the familiar Woodlands Lake in Ardsley. I had rode on a long stretch of the South County and North County Trail with the 5BBC on a group ride back in May. At that time I was already trying to plan my first cycle touring trip and hoped that this guided tour of the trails would help me to feel more comfortable when I finally made my way North. All the while I was waiting for the moment when I would reach the Northern most point at which the guided tour took me before it had turned West, that would be when I knew I was riding in new territory. There is a distinct landmark at this particular point, a sign pointing West (towards the Old Croton Aqueduct Trails), and North (to the North County Trail), as well as a plaque next to the last remnant of visible track on the trail as most of it was hauled away as scrap. Now that I had cruised past this last familiar site I was now staring down another long stretch of trail through the rest of Westchester and further North into Putnam County. At this point the sites and sounds grew more and more rural, with long stretches where one doesn't see a house or any other human construct, occasionally surfacing back into civilization only to dip back into the sunlight mottled green and brown expanses. A rocky cliff here, a small waterfall there, and many benches located just off the path through out dedicated to peoples loved ones usually placed in an appropriately scenic location.

Passing Woodlands Lake in Ardsley.

I was overly concerned that somehow I might lose the trail North and kept expecting some unanticipated or poorly represented navigational hiccup to throw me for a loop. To the contrary, all of the crossings were well marked and in the only place at which I needed to use a neighborhood to reconnect to the trail that wasn't marked, I happened to cross paths with a cyclist who was a seasoned local rider, who guided me through a sketchy industrial section of Elmsford, using a parking lot and a couple of industrial park lanes.

Back on the trail at this point, you ride up on a scenic stretch where power lines follow the path to another less than pleasant part of the ride where you must ride along Route 100 to access the length of trail leading in the direction of Yorktown Heights. As I rode along the path approaching Route 100 I came upon 2 younger guys riding in the same direction and caught a draft behind them for a small stretch until they pulled away on a climb on Route 100. Most of this section is either in a highway shoulder or has a path inside a protected shoulder, thankfully this is not a terribly long part of the journey and I return to the relative safety of the county trail. At different times a chipmunk, squirrel, or bird would cross my path and I could here frogs croaking in some of the streams. After another couple of miles I came upon a bridge over the New Croton Reservoir. Here you stand right over the middle of this fairly large body of water surrounded by lush trees. I took some panoramic pictures here and soaked in the exceptional view before rolling along once more.

Power lines over field in Tarrytown.

Riding along the power lines in Tarrytown.

Following cyclists to route 100.

Bridge over New Croton Reservoir in Kitchawan.

Heading North, out of the city limits, is mostly a steady climb. Much of the climb is thankfully on the 3% grade that the railroads needed to accommodate their trains engines. At this time I was beginning to feel quite hungry and began eating the dried apricots I had stashed in my pocket for on the road food. Dried apricots are one of the highest potassium fruits and supply a fair amount of carbs and natural sugars. Eating these while slowly cruising North kept me from bonking and allowed me to make to my first real rest stop about 40 miles into the trip at Turcos Super Ranch in Yorktown Heights. As I approached the supermarket I noticed they had extensive bike parking outside which gave me hope that they might be sympathetic if I asked them to stash my unlocked bike inside the store while I shopped. Thankfully I encountered no resistance and the cashier said I could leave my bike near the managers booth. I bought Sports Drink, precooked bacon, 6 organic eggs, 6 rolls, and salted fresh mozzarella to supplement the cereal bars, energy bars, and oatmeal I had brought from home. The line at the Turcos deli was too long for me to wait on so I opted to buy a slice from the pizza place next door before I set back out on the road again.

It was at some point between Yorktown Heights and Mahopac that I heard the loud and unmistakeable sound of a spoke breaking. I stopped and did a brief check to discover that I had indeed sheared a spoke at the hub and was now riding with an unbalanced wheel which would rub the brake pad when riding under certain speeds. More than a little annoyed with this outcome I rode on until I came to Mahopac and the Crossroads Deli on Route 6. I refilled my water bladder, drank another Sports drink and had some friendly discussion with the owner. He suggested that I use Route 6 to connect to 301 for the rest of my ride to the park; only one turn to remember is usually a good way to go when you don't know the area, and I'll often defer to a locals knowledge of the roads in these situations. He told me I should enjoy the view but warned me of the hills to come. At this time I felt more and more pressed for time (check-in for a campsite closed at 4pm), and thanked the owner of the deli before riding off along the hilly, narrow shouldered, Northern Roads that would be the last 20 miles of my trip to the park.

Riding on Route 6 I made a wrong turn and asked a friendly mountain biker to point me back in the direction of 301, which he did. This cost me some precious time , but soon enough I was back on track and found the turn for Route 301. This is indeed a very scenic area with Lake Gleneida, the West Branch Reservoir, and the Boyd Corners Reservoir, all passing beside you or beneath you. I stopped in a couple of these locations for some panoramic photography, but once past the Boyd Corners Reservoir it was nothing but a straight shot to Fahnestock Park along the absolute worst hills of the ride. This always seems to be my luck on longer rides, a headwind the whole way, and some big climb at the end. It was true on the 5BBT, true for the Ride To Montauk, and now it's held true for my first cycle touring trip. Hill after grueling hill, each gust of wind a mortal insult to my shredded legs. Every hill climb at this point got slower and slower until I found myself spinning through flats just to conserve energy. After what seemed like a small eternity I came upon a sign for a Buddhist monastery, and following soon after that a sign indicating 1.5 miles to Fahnestock Park!

Bridge on 301 in Carmel over West Branch Reservoir.

301 riding along West Branch Reservoir.

Riding past Boyd Corners Reservoir.

Buddhist Monastery on 301.

Sign indicating 1.5 miles to Clarence Fahnestock Park.

Exhilarated by the prospect of completing my journey I stared down the last mile more determined than ever. I entered the camp grounds and found a small booth where park employees informed that to check-in I had to go to the park office which was an additional quarter mile down the road. Turning back to 301 I slowly made my way to the office where I could sign-in and fill my water bladder as the park does not have drinking water but only water for showers and hand washing. I asked the employees present if they had seen many cycle tourers come through and they said they had not (which I thought strange), and then thanked them and made my way to my campsite to build my tent and a fire to make my dinner as I was becoming more and more hungry again by the minute.

Pitching my Eureka! Solitaire tent was very easy, and the rest of my gear required little set-up if any. The inside of the tent was as advertised, not high enough to sit up in, and takes some getting used to entering and exiting, but once you become accustomed you realize how clever (and rugged) the design is for a 2 pound 1 person tent. After a quick shower I collected a tinder bundle of dry grass and leaves, some small twigs, and successively larger branches to stock up on wood for the night. I had some luck in this regard and had gathered some decent wood in good time. This is where all of the survival reality shows I watch started to come in handy. I had learned the baton method for breaking down logs and was eager to try it with the sweet Spiderco knife my younger brother had given me. This method requires a sturdy blade which you can hammer into the log with a thick stick on an angle. Then using the same method you chop into the log from the opposite direction adjacent to the first cut to break out a wedge. Doing this around the trunk of a fairly large branch, you can make what look like beaver bites all around the log, and then prop the log on a rock or any other sturdy leverage point to then break it by stepping on it. I was very happy to see how I could make nice size logs with this method, breaking down much larger branches then I could just using leverage, or my hands and knees.

My Tent and Bike

I created a nice tee-pee formation with my firewood and kindling, and soon had a warm fire blazing to heat my food, and ward off some bugs. It was right around this time that I could have sworn I heard a bear chase some dear past my campsite, but I cannot say for sure that was what I heard. I cooked up some bacon in my Sierra cup, and melted some fresh mozzarella over it which I scooped out with the rolls, and greedily devoured. I felt a great deal of satisfaction in reaching this park on my own power, and was looking forward to exploring the area the next day after a re-cooperative night.

At some point after dinner I realized that of all the things I could forget, I had forgotten my blanket! Now all I had to sleep with that night was a beach towel and my Lightload synthetic towel. This made for a rather uncomfortable night as the temperature dropped more than I expected and I awoke quite cold more than once. Catching but a couple of hours of sleep at a time, I awoke shortly after dawn and started a small cooking fire. I made some bacon and eggs on the small rolls and by the time I had finished eating the morning sun was warming my tent significantly. I took this as an opportunity to catch a little more sleep before I would go down to the beach for a swim, and look around their cafe/store. The trip down to the beach is all downhill from the campsite and it's a very enjoyable roll down to the lakeside. I left my bike and bag by a picnic table and set my towel and water bladder down before wading into the cool breezy confines of Canopus Lake. Looking down at the waters edge small fish can be seen nibbling at the edges of the lake. Taking my time to acclimate to the cool water I slowly slipped into the water and enjoyed a relaxing half hour swim.

First look at Fahnestock Beach.

Time for a well deserved swim.

Now was my first chance to patronize the only store within any reasonable distance by bike, and that was the lake side cafe/store whose hours only ran from 10 to 4. Inside I was greeted by the friendly employees who when asked said they see hundreds of cycle touring people including having recently met 2 guys who rode up from Brooklyn. I bought a burger combo which was pretty tasty, and a bunch of other food stuffs and beverages to further compliment some of the food I already had brought. After my blanket situation I searched their shelves for the closest thing they had which I could use which was a beach towel, and a Mylar emergency blanket. After some more pleasant conversation about the park and the people that use it I bid the guys at the cafe farewell and went to the park office where I hoped they would charge my cell phone for me while I rode the bike trails. I discovered the night before that I had brought the wrong cord to be able to charge my phone with my solar panel, my second real mistake of the trip. They were happy to accommodate me and I rode back to the site and showered and geared up for the ride along the trails behind the campsite. I had begun to worry that my more perishable food stuffs were not fairing well in the rising heat, so I took another survival reality show trick and filled a large plastic bag with the "unsafe water" from the sites tap and sealed my more perishable foods in a smaller bag which I submerged inside and left in the shade on the ground. This worked quite well and I was happy to find that my foods were cold to the touch when I took them out for use. I could have also tied a sealed bag to a stick and submerged it in the pond, but I did not want to take the chance that the park employees might not approve of it.

As I descended to the back of the site I came upon a fork in the trail and opted for the right side path. This path led to Pelton Pond, and very quickly it became apparent that these were likely not the trails they mentioned back at the office. The views of the pond were very pleasant so I walked my bike around a little ways before deciding to turn back to find the fork in the road and make the left instead. Back on more hybrid bike friendly paths, I rode along the trails rolling hills littered with large sharp rocks and stiff jutting roots which increasingly seemed to get larger and more densely packed along the path. At some point while dodging the dangerous debris I realized I had left my flat tube kit back at the campsite and decided to slow my roll before I hurt my bike or myself for that matter. Knowing full well I would be riding 70 miles the next day I turned around after only a mile or so into the woods and climbed my way back to the campsite.

Descending to the trails behind the campsites.

Arriving at Pelton Pond

Walking bike around Pelton Pond.

A sittin' rock and wooden bridge on Pelton Pond.

Babbling Brook feeds Pelton Pond.

Entering Mountain Bike Trails, some fast rock dodging rolling over small hills.

Mountain Bike Trails continued.

I rode up the hills to the office to collect my now fully charged phone and it was at this time that I asked for some duct tape to secure my broken spoke to the one adjacent to it, and then rode down to the cafe/store one last time. After convincing the chef that I eat hotdogs raw I bundled together some water, sports drink, and energy bars, and climbed all the way back up to the campsite. Collecting a nights firewood once again, I cooked a couple of hotdogs I purchased earlier, and took a short walk in the nearby woods between my campsite and the pond. Besides the park office, there are electrical outlets in the bathrooms. This meant I was able to use my phone plugged in for short intervals without draining my battery as I needed a full battery for the ride home the next day. I contacted my girlfriend and mother to let them know all was still well, took a few moments to check email and such, and shut my phone down for the night.

Returning to my site I fed my fire with larger and larger logs as the sun set. By full dark I was burning 3 and 4 inch thick logs in a healthy blaze with lots of dense pine which I hoped would leave plenty of coals that could save me some time building a fire when I want to eat at dawn before leaving. Staring at the fire reminded me of how this was probably what people stared at for millennia before we had T.V.'s. This night was warmer and I had ample cover. The Mylar emergency blanket was odd. It's probably the loudest bed cover one can buy and at some point condensation formed on the underside. Sleeping under one of these is similar to sleeping under a tinfoil blanket. I decided to supplement the Mylar blanket with the 2 beach towels I had, and was comfortable throughout the night.

Awaking just before sunrise I was anxious to eat, clean, pack, and hit the road. I made the last of my eggs and bacon on the last of the rolls I bought and when all was said and done I was tires to asphalt by 6:15am. Due to the lack of potable water on site, I was forced to backtrack to the park office to fill my water bladder for the first leg of the journey. Leaving the park office heading South, I sailed over the long succession of rolling hills and at this point in the journey averaged 18.5mph over 4.5 miles. Not bad for a 250+lb guy with a 20lb pack, and a nearly 30lb bike. Reaching the Boyd Corners reservoir I stopped to take some panoramic pictures before continuing to the heart of Carmel. Though it was fun to ride these hills, parts of this road are a little harrowing for me. I'm not used to riding on what is essentially a highway with little to no shoulder. I was looking forward to reaching the safety of the North County Trail as soon as I could pick it up. Passing lake Gleneida entering the heart of Carmel, the golden sunrise warmed the air and brightened the town as it unfolded below me.

Fast Cruising on large rolling hills South on 301, top speed 31 mph.

Boyd Corners Reservoir.

Bridge over West Branch Reservoir in Carmel.

Passing Lake Gleneida on 301.

Spying an entrance to the trail well North of the one in Mahopac where I had left it behind on my way up, I picked up the trail again now heading South and was now relieved to be out of harms way for the time being. For now it was a simple matter of following the trail to Mahopac where I could refill my water and buy a sports drink. I had forgone food at the deli which was not smart, and thought I might be ok with just stopping on a bench to eat an energy bar and some apricots but it still wasn't enough as I was feeling hungry again soon after that. It was at this time that I noticed a vending machine on the side of the building where I purchased a cola which I believe gave me some extra pep to push on through the last sections of the South County Trail and finally back into the Bronx.

Bridge over New Croton Reservoir.

South County Trail through Tarrytown heading South.

Finally returning to the beginning of the South County Trail in Van Cortlandt Park.

Back in the big city I knew it would not be long before I saw a street vendor and I was not disappointed. After eating a delicious "dirty water dog" I asked the vendor for a chip of ice which I slid under my helmet and then promptly evaporated on my skull. Heading back along a similar route as the one I used to ride North I started seeing shaved ice carts and promised myself this treat at the next one I came upon. Next thing I know I'm eating a glistening fruit punch shaved ice made with delicious sugary syrup, a New York Summer classic. Climbing the bridge at 135th Street to Randalls Island I finished my ice and marveled at how close I was to my goal. Once on Randalls Island I feel I am on my home turf again and make my way to the steep ramp up to the top of the Triboro Bridge. I would like to tell you that I pedaled up this part of my ride, but I can honestly say that I did not. I walked my bike to the crest of the bridge and coasted into my neighborhood for my triumphant return home.

*Edit: For clarification on the network of trails used for this trip I was offered a compact and far more accurate description by a helpful forum member, Steve B. - ...."the "official" South County Trail starts at the Westchester County/NYC border, where the Old Put RR line becomes a paved path. Then it's the SCT to Elmsford, then the North County Trail runs from Warehouse Lane in Elmsford, north to the Putnam County line at Tomahawk St. in Baldwin Place. Then it's the Putnam County Trailway to Brewster." - Thanks, Steve!

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Astoria to Queensvillage (34.16 miles)

Today the heat finally edged off enough to consider taking a long ride out to Queensvillage along the Brooklyn/Queens Greenway.

I wanted to give the chest mount another try, but this time I used a better microphone. Filming with the chest mount is more challenging than I had expected, and I found there to be a lot of bounce when I'm pedaling hard. Also, I should have tilted the camera a little further back as I found the angle I rode with today faces down too much. Considering all of this, I dd shoot some decent footage of my route.

I started out in the warm midday afternoon sun and made my way through Astoria to 34th Avenue and 108th St. Here I can travel along 108th Street Southeast to Forest Hills and the popular Austin Street area. I arrived at my cousins apartment stopping less than half an hour before turning around and retracing my route towards Corona Park.

71st Street and Austin Street, in Forest Hills.

When I left Forest Hills I decided to stop at the famous, Lemon Ice King of Corona for a small Pina Colada Italian ice.

Ice King of Corona, small Pina Colada flavor.

After enjoying this special treat on the corner, I decided to follow my sense of direction towards Kissena Park and pick-up the Greenway to head further East towards Queensvillage, and my fathers house. Riding along Corona Avenue I crossed an overpass and followed the Grand Central a short ways to another overpass at 64th Road that took me to Meadow Lake. Looping around Meadow Lake heading clockwise/Northeast, I connected to Industry Pond where I found an exhibit called "Flock House Microsphere" by an artist named Mary Mattingly. I found an article here speaking about this sustainability project. One excerpt from the article described the project as, "....adaptable ecosystems that will migrate through New York City’s five boroughs and beyond as part of an investigation of sustainability....".

Pedestrian Overpass at Corona Avenue.

Pedestrian Overpass at 64th Road, to Meadow Lake.

Meadow Lake path.

Meadow Lake path continued.

The Flock House Microsphere at Industry Pond.

I rode further North to follow the Greenway signs around the Queens Botanical Gardens and enter Kissena Park and the beginning of the safest stretch of the Greenway which cuts through Cunningham Park and Alley Pond park, partially along the converted car-less old Long Island Motor Parkway lanes. Approaching Alley Pond Park is the steepest descent of the Brooklyn Queens Greenway, today I hit 27 MPH on this short downhill. Once through here the Greenway reenters the streets but today I was stopping at this point to pay a short visit to my Father. We talked mostly about my recent century ride to Montauk and a little about my recent minor audio recording problems and after a half an hour and a liter of water I was back on the Greenway. This time I would follow my usual route after Kissena Park along Bowne, through the heart of Flushing, past Citifield, and back onto 108th Street and the familiar route home past LaGuardia Airport.

Kissena Park.

The Greenway Trail through St Francis Prep.

The Greenway through Cunningham Park.

Rapid Descent along the old Long Island Motor Parkway through Alley Pond Park.

Long Island Motor Parkway, now heading West.

Passing St Francis Prep on the return trip, now heading West.

Roosevelt Avenue Bridge to Citifield.

The crowd flows towards the ballpark anticipating game 2 of the Subway series at Citifield.

For my next ride with the chest mount I will do some experimentation and see if I can find a way to reduce the bouncing and of course I'll tilt the camera up a bit more too. If the weather cooperates with me Monday through Wednesday, I may have an opportunity to test out my cycle touring rig for a couple of overnights at Fahnestock Park.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Ride to Montauk 2012 (109.36 miles)

My first century ride, complete!

11 hours start to finish, 9 hours of pedaling. Temperatures in the mid 70's and a very shady route helped to compensate a little for the headwinds that were blowing for most of the ride, and were especially stiff on all of Dune Road (15+ mph). With an average speed of 12 mph, a starting weight of 260lbs (I was almost 6 pounds lighter when I got home), and having had no sleep before the ride, I am quite pleased with my performance.

Leaving my apartment at 2:30am to be extra careful that I will be on time, I walked Ditmars Avenue the half mile to the subway station. On my way I encountered more than a few late night revelers wobbling home who gave me a sideways glance when they saw me walking in all my gear. Arriving at the subway I was happy to find a train waiting on the platform, but after waiting about 10 minutes on the train the conductor told me we would be delayed until 3 which further validated my desire to have left extra early. The N train I was on moved much slower than usual, stopping to clear the track of construction workers, and stopping for train traffic ahead. Therefore, a trip into midtown that usually takes me 40 minutes took over an hour, and I arrived at the meeting area on 31st and 8th outside the Amtrak entrance.

Having loaded my bike onto a Babylon bound truck the day before, and receiving my wristband in the mail, there was nothing for me to do at this point except to wait for our train to be called. I made my way down into Penn Station and found a Doughnut shop where I could get a coffee. While waiting on line for my coffee I fell into conversation with a friendly fellow rider named Mo. He was also a New York native and we talked of cycling, music (he is a professional musician), and various related topics. We walked back out to the street where we would then wait together until the train was called. Mo suggested riding together for a little while, and I made sure he understood that as a much heavier rider, I may not be able to pace him. He said not to worry and that he would likely stick with me for awhile, and would then take off when he felt ready.

Soon we were lining up to walk down to the train tracks. We were guided down to the Amtrak tracks by a single volunteer where our train arrived after just a couple of minutes. Mo and I took our seats talking a little while I set-up my gear and eventually Mo drifted off for a little while. After an hours ride to Babylon we all shuffled off the train to seek our bikes, and some food. I ate 2 small bagels with cream cheese, and a banana; earlier I had made sure I ate about 10 dried apricots in an effort to load up on Potassium as that should help me to avoid cramps. Once we were all set Mo and I took off following a small pack of riders including a recumbent bike.

One of my goals was to try to pace myself as best as I could in the hopes that it would help me to finish the 109+ mile route. The best way I found to accomplish this was to try to find someone traveling at a speed at which I could comfortably follow and then attempt to (respectfully) draft behind them. While riding with Mo I had drafted a ride Marshall who had full panniers and a license plate that said, "Moser Retired Coastguard". He was keeping a very respectable speed considering the load he must of been hauling.

Starting the route, Mo and I follow a recumbent cyclist.

Following Mo over a bridge on Montauk Highway before passing Dowling College.

2 Small Bridges.

Drafting behind ride Marshall, Moser retired Coast Guard, into West Sayville.

Drafting Mo through East Patchogue.

Mo and I kept a good cruising speed for most of the 20+ miles to the first rest area at the Blue Point Brewery. During that first stretch I had my best average speed which was about 16 mph for 7.1 miles. Finally arriving at the first rest area we stopped only briefly, grabbing a quick bite and using the facilities. This time Mo decided he wanted to ride a bit harder than I felt I could so he slowly pedaled off into the distance. I could see him for quite awhile but never caught up again on the road. For the first time that day I found myself riding solo.

Bridges in Moriches.

First small bridge in East Port.

Second small bridge in East Port.

Small bridge in Speonk.

Unable to find anyone good to draft I found myself internally gearing down. By this time I was beginning to feel the effects of sleep deprivation, but thankfully the effects seemed mild compared to what I imagined it might have been like to exert oneself while essentially exhausted. In fact, I believe sleep deprivation to have contributed to my being able to pace myself well for the length of the ride

Somewhere at about 3 miles from the 2nd rest area I began to feel quite hungry and there was a tense sensation in the tendon where my thigh muscle meets the bone alongside my knee. I took this as an indication that cramps were beginning to set in and made an even more concerted effort to pace myself in the hopes that I could reach the rest area before they got any worse. After another mile or so I came upon the only unofficial rest area I had seen all day. A mother and son were handing out free lemonade and gummy candy. I thought that anything containing substance might help me at this point and stopped to drink 2 cups of lemonade and grab a pack of gummies. I do believe this small infusion of calories helped me to make it to the next rest area without too much more difficulty.

Arriving at Westhampton Church I set out to eat some of everything on offer. I hoped that one of these foods would contain "the cure" for the light cramping I was experiencing. Recently a friend of mine informed me that quinine capsule would help but the first aid tent had none. So I opted to try the better known solutions of potassium rich foods and electrolytes and salts. I ate a PBJ sandwich on nice fresh baked whole grain bread, 4 cups of watermelon, 2 cups of pineapple, half a cup of blueberries, a small Lara bar, and a few cups of water before filling my water bladder back up and setting out on the route again.

The impending cramp sensation began to subside, and I felt I was likely out of danger for the time being. A couple of miles down the road I approached the familiar Dune Road. I have family that lives nearby so I have been down to Tiana Beach a few times with them. The scenery is beautiful and the homes are opulent. Unfortunately I was unable to fully appreciate the scenery as intense headwinds relentlessly blew along the entire 8 mile stretch, making for slow going and reminding me of similar conditions on the Gowanus Expressway during the Five Boro Bike Tour in May. I had tried drafting a couple of slower riders to try to relieve some of the strain, but I found myself having to stop a couple of times to rest before eventually making it to the Ponquogue Bridge.

Third small Bridge in Quogue, and Beach Lane to Dune Road.

Neptunes and Tiana Beach

The view from Ponquogue Bridge.

As I climbed this bridge I saw a dead seagull lying in the shoulder and later heard a rumor that this seagull had flown into a woman cyclist killing itself on impact! Gliding down the other side of the bridge I was relieved to have that section behind me and rode into the idyllic Southampton neighborhoods that lead to Milcox Bay and the final rest at Water Mill. This was when I began to doubt my ability to complete the 100 mile route, and in talking to 2 other riders who were calling it quits I had decided I would stop the ride at Water Mill. The views along this stretch were very pretty, conjuring up images of old New York as it was when the East End was first settled. Old cemetery's, churches, ponds, and quaint bridges looking out onto harbors helped me to forget some of my pains.

Drafting behind yellow cyclist continued.

Agawan Lake, I consider calling it quits at the next rest area.

Agawan Lake 2.

Wickapogue Road.

Amagansett Rest Area

Having reached Water Mill I drank 2 glasses of blue gatorade, and filled my water bladder again. Here was where I found my piece of the famous pie that I anticipated for so long. Approaching the table I spied an enormous quarter pie sized slice of blueberry sitting by itself looking woefully neglected. I heaved the glorious pile of sweet goo and buttery crispiness up off the table and plopped down to fill my pie hole. After maybe 15 minutes I stopped to take stock on the condition my condition was in, and quickly came to the conclusion that I should make every effort to complete the 109 mile route I had started off on.

Back on the road again now resolved to finish, I once again allowed my internal dialogue to slow my roll. Chugging along at a slow, plodding, deliberate pace; every successive pedal stroke seemed to take a little more mental effort. After a few miles or so I came upon a couple, Mitchell and Jessica who were keeping a similar pace as myself and tucked in behind Mitchell to draft for awhile. At this time I called out to Mitchell to ask if he minded my drafting him, which he did not.

Jessica was riding a steal frame mountain bike with knobby tires and seemed greatly restricted by the limitations of the bike. She did seem resolved to finish though, and Mitchell seemed to be doing his best to constructively encourage her. We tried to make light conversation even as we approached main street Montauk and the worst hills of the ride which to everyone's dismay was at the end of the route. It was at this point that I split off from them trying to make the best of the momentum from these hills. Once I made it to the bottom of the very last big hill, I decided it was not safe for me to try to pedal up it, and seeing that the majority of riders were walking this hill I dismounted and marched up behind the rest. During the last 10 or so miles I was beginning to experience something I could only describe as a tightness or pressure above my kidneys. I did not have to pee, I only felt this sensation when I took a deep breath, and there were no other symptoms which seemed to be effecting my performance or mental state that I associated with this feeling, so I decided it wasn't an emergency and gutted it out.

Bridge on Little Cob Road in Water Mill.

South End Cemetery

Drafting behind Mitchell and Jessica through East Hampton.

The sign to indicate 10 miles to the Montauk Lighthouse.

Descending to Main Street Montauk.

The last few miles of the route.

Once at the top of this terribly steep hill you get the thrill of hurtling down it to gain speed for the last 2 small hills which can be crested mostly with the speed from the hill prior (or "rollers" as their known). I had thought I was filming this particular descent, but failed to start the camera at the time (Thankfully that was my only real filming mishap). As we approached the lighthouse we came upon some tightly packed car traffic which was trying to enter the rest area as well. I actually clipped the corner of a charter bus with my handlegrip as I weaved through when I made a slight miscalculation but I was able to keep control of my bike.

FINALLY arriving at the Montauk Lighthouse I immediately handed my bike over to the staff to be loaded onto a truck for the return trip to Manhattan. My bike safely in the hands of staff I made my way to where the luggage was being displayed so I could try to retrieve my after ride change of clothes and have my most anticipated shower. I was given instructions on how to locate my bag and had no luck in finding it. After triple checking all of the baggage areas I enlisted one of the staff to assist me. Neither of us had any luck and asked a 2nd staff member to help look for my bag. Still no luck in locating my bag. Now I have spent most of a half an hour trying to find my bag and desperately require food, I told the guys to keep looking and that I would be back.

I went to the buffet area and had a hotdog, a hamburger, some potato salad, and a soda, and quickly ate them at a table where I had brief but nice conversation with a few women who expounded upon the benefits of beer after a ride when I told them I opted for soda. At about the same time that I was finishing up my meal an announcement was made that the last buses to Montauk train station would be leaving in 15 minutes, so I quickly ran back to where the luggage was and asked if they had found my bag, which they had not. Now they directed me to the merchandise table to leave my contact information so they can reach me if they find my bag (which they have not). I have also sent an email to one of the organizers outlining the contents of the bag (which included my brand new Ride to Montauk T-shirt), but I know I may not hear from them for a few days as they are dealing with many people and many different issues. Along the way I saw many flat tires, a few accidents, and more than few people sitting on the sides of the road grimacing as they tried to nurse their leg cramps.

Besides the fact that my bag was lost the only thing that bothered me was the lack of sufficient water at the Water Mill rest area. They only had a single slow flowing hose which created a very long line full of very thirsty riders wondering why the water situation was so scant. Apparently some others ran into problems at rest areas where they didn't have enough food, but I did not witness this myself. Apparently a truck carrying some of the bikes broke down which caused a lot of people stress as well. I can imagine that logistical problems are the order of the day when it comes to events like this. Though I do feel the staff might have been better prepared for some of these contingencies.

For me this was a very special ride, one which I'm sure I will never forget. I learned a lot about myself and what I am capable of now, and it has further inspired me to lose weight as "wanting" to carry so much excess weight for such long distances is ludicrous and is likely extra stressful on my body. That being said I look forward to being substantially lighter for century route on The Farm Ride, July 28th.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Astoria to SoHo (9.47 miles)

Today I made my first trip over the Williamsburg Bridge, and it was for a special purpose; to have my bike loaded on a truck that will meet me in Babylon at 6am tomorrow morning to be ridden 108 miles, to Montauk. The temperatures were once again in the mid seventies, and I left my apartment about 2:30 as loading time started at 3. Traffic was light as I made my way along my usual Brooklyn route, heading South. Approaching the bridge I took some shots of some interesting graffiti and stopped briefly to get my bearings. Climbing this bridge for the first time, I was disappointed to see that there were no convenient breaks in the fencing to get clear pictures of the skyline here. At the top I stopped for a panoramic shot of the view on offer.

21st Street to the Waterfront Route and Goodwill Park.

Socrates Sculpture Park.

Queensbridge Park.

Pulaski Bridge to Franklin Street.

Graffiti building near the foot of the Williamsburg Bridge

First time climbing the Williamsburg Bridge.

View from the center of the Williamsburg Bridge.

Loading my bike for it's trip to Babylon.

I am supposed to be at Penn Station tomorrow by 3:30am where I will eat and wait for the train that will take us to Babylon. It's already 9:30pm now, and I'm totally psyched for the ride, I highly doubt I will get any sleep tonight but I will try. I should have a full report on the Ride to Montauk no later than Monday, wish me luck!

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Astoria to Bensonhurst (31.57 miles)

The chest mounted camera was a great perspective and worth trying, but I wanted to go back to my helmet mount for today and use the Omnidirectional microphone that I started with. Earlier this week I had made a lunch date with my girlfriend and had made a plan to ride to Bensonhurst. On past trips down Kent Avenue I had noticed some interesting looking graffiti and thought that I might try to film some of it at some point during today's ride.

Today was also the first time I would try my new hiking backpack, and my new 2 liter water bladder (featured in my first touring gear post). The backpack has chest and waist straps which I've never had on a backpack before. These straps took some getting used to, especially around my portly frame, but after awhile I had them adjusted so I felt comfortable and the pack felt stable. The water bladder works well, and the water even seemed to stay cool in the backpack compartment. I found the outer cap to be a little awkward, but the valve on the end worked well, and I'm sure with some practice I'll get better at fully recapping the end while riding.

I set out after 11 and immediately cut through Astoria Park to pick up the Waterfront Route and Vernon Blvd, my preferred route to the Pulaski Bridge and Brooklyn. The weather was favorable for NYC in June, mid 70's with some moderate winds around 15mph+, sunny skies and dry lanes made for a pleasant trip. I made my way through Astoria and Long Island City taking in some of my favorite local scenic spots, including a bustling Socrates Sculpture Park and soon came upon Pulaski Bridge. AFter cresting the bridge, I made my way South to Kent Avenue to find the graffiti building I had spied on other trips to Brooklyn. What I found was an interesting mix of graffiti styles wrapping around the entire structure, seemingly contributed by a group of artists. There are famous graffiti buildings in Five Points which I plan to film one day, the work on those buildings is huge in scale and variety.

Astoria Park to the Waterfront Route and Socrates Sculpture Park.

Queensbridge Park.

Cresting the Pulaski Bridge.

Freeman Street to Franklin Ave, which becomes Kent Ave.

Graffiti Building on Kent Ave.

Kent Ave to the Manhattan Bridge and Flushing Blvd.

Still heading South I followed my usual route to Prospect Park. The bike lanes along the outside of Prospect Park are continually under construction and at some point you usually have to ride in the car lane until you can get back over. Today while riding around the construction a woman decides to honk and yell at me through her closed window that I should be in the bike lane. It was apparent that she had little regard for cyclists or the rules of the road which state that any lane is mine if needed. Descending along the park to the traffic signal I find her caught at the light and decide to use this as a "teaching moment". I do believe that ignorant drivers are often best left ignored but sometimes my frustrations get the better of me. Of course the irony of all of this is that she was driving a hybrid, but I guess that could just mean a person is cheap and not necessarily "green" or bike friendly.

Prospect Park bike lanes under construction, an irate motorist honks and yells at me. I find her at the light and explain the rules of the road.

At the top of Prospect Park is 20th Street and Mc Donald Ave which run along Green-wood Cemetary for a steep descent to Fort Hamilton Parkway. On this downhill stretch it is easy to reach the posted speed limit of 30MPH, and I do. Now on Dahill Road It's a long straight burn to 17th Ave, and then a long straight burn to my girlfriends door.

Prospect Park West to Mc Donald Avenue, rapid descent, doing the speed limit (30 MPH).

Children crossing, Dahill Road to 46th Street.

I took a shower and then we walked down 86th Street in Bensonhurst to get lunch. After a few hours hanging out in Brooklyn I decided to head back to Queens to get ahead of rush hour, and the glare of Sunset.

Vanderbilt Avenue.

Kent Avenue to the Manhattan Bridge.

Along Kent Avenue there seems to be quite a few interesting spots to explore, one of which is East River State Park. Mostly gravel and grass, this little park offers beautiful views of the Manhattan skyline along the East River. As I was leaving the park I was told that bikes were not permitted though there was no clear sign saying so on the gate.

East River State Park

Exiting back onto Kent Ave I then resumed my regular route and approached the Pulaski Bridge for the 2nd time that day. Near the top of the bridge there is an opening in the fence and a small outcropping which seemed perfect for a panoramic photo opportunity.

View from Pulaski Bridge

Cresting Pulaski Bridge to Long Island City.

Rolling home through Long Island City on the last third of my trip, the temperature continued to drop cooling me nicely. I found myself thinking more and more about The Ride to Montauk Saturday, and tried to gauge my strength. All things considered, I feel strong, tomorrow I will clean and lube my drive train before riding to the bike shop in SoHo where my bike will get packed up to meet me in Babylon early the next morning.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Astoria over the East River via Triboro, Wards Island, and Queensboro Bridge. (11.05 miles)

Today's ride was intended to help work the kinks out of some new gear. I had sent my camera back to the manufacturer because of a background noise my camera was producing when recording with my external microphone. In the meantime I had purchased a completely different type of microphone and was also given a chest mount for my camera as warranty fulfillment to longer than expected. Having received my replacement camera and chest mount today, I decided on a short ride to test them out, along with a different kind of microphone (Unidirectional, externally powered).

Unfortunately I must warn the viewer that there is a new sound "artifact" on most of the video for this ride. I need to experiment more with this new type of microphone and mount and see if I can figure out what makes the new sound. Otherwise, I'm fairly certain that I should have no trouble using my other Omnidirectional self powered microphone, which does seem to have superior sound quality but has the added battery pack and wires which make it more inconvenient.

One of my favorite local training routes involves using a combination of the Triboro Bridge, Wards or Randalls Island, and the Queensboro Bridge. When I began exploring Wards and Randalls Island last year I realized that once the East River esplanade was completed to the Queensboro Bridge, one could effectively do laps over the East River by joining the Triboro, Wards Island, and Queensboro Bridges. I would estimate that at least 75% of this route is MUP, and bike lane making it safe training grounds with plenty of climb, less than a half mile from my apartment. Up until this month either the esplanade or the Wards Island Bridge were under construction and made this circuit less appealing as you had to use the 125th Street Bridge and ride on Manhattan streets.

Cresting the Triboro Bridge.

Descending the Triboro Bridge to Wards Island.

Today, for the first time since late October of last year, I was able to cross the Wards Island Bridge to connect to the East River esplanade at 103rd Street! I had been on the mailing list for the project but never received word that it had completed construction. This also makes using this route to access midtown much more appealing. Though it adds a couple of (very scenic) miles to the route, it is far safer than riding through Long Island City over the Queensboro Bridge.

Discovering that the Wards Island Bridge has been reopened, crossing to the East River esplanade.

The East River at 79th Street

Riding along the East River from 79th Street to 59th Street.

From the 59th Street sculpture park to the foot of the Queensboro Bridge.

Descending the Queensboro Bridge to Long Island City.

Tomorrow will be my last day to test gear before my first century ride (actually 108 miles this year), The Ride to Montauk Saturday. I will likely ride to Brooklyn to visit with my girlfriend, and ride home that same afternoon. Friday I plan to drop my bike off for early check-in so I can just start riding almost as soon as I arrive at Babylon Saturday morning.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Ride to Montauk Packet arrives and free pass for The Farm Ride

Last week my Ride to Montauk packet arrived containing a flyer and my rider number, wristbands, and my t-Shirt and socks. The Ride to Montauk will be my first full century ride (actually 108 miles this year). I hope for no rain, and temperatures no warmer than the 70's, but I'm prepared mentally and physically in the event of rain or high temperatures. I feel confident that I can complete a mostly flat 108 mile route in almost any conditions, and I'm excited to give it a go.

Flyer, T-shirt, Socks and wristbands for the Ride to Montauk 2012

Earlier today I went for a damp utilitarian ride in the drizzle to pick up some paper products and look for a few other odds and ends. When I was making my return trip home I noticed my tire seemed low, and when I viewed my tread I thought I saw a crack forming. I went to my LBS (Tony's Bicycles) and asked them to look over the tire, tube and rim. After an inspection I was told that my valve may have been loose but that neither my tube nor the tire had gone bad. Happy with the good news I gave the mechanic a small tip and started talking with another employee Dino, about the upcoming Ride To Montauk. Once on the subject he offered me a pass to the next ride hosted by the same organization, The Farm Ride. I happily accepted the pass and thanked them for their help and generosity once more.

Free Pass for The Farm Ride

Arriving home, I read more about the The Farm Ride, and found to my delight that it is a whole weekend long event. The pass pays my way for all of the festivities and quite a bit of food, but no overnight accommodations are included. The least expensive private option was a dorm room on Amherst campus which cost me 90$ for 2 nights. This ride sounds like a really interesting all around experience, and a great opportunity to meet other cyclists. I knew building a loyal and positive relationship with my LBS could be rewarding, but Tony's has really gone above and beyond for me first and foremost with their repairs and gear, and secondly in offering me these great ride passes. Support your local bike shop!

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Ultra Light Cycle Touring Backpack Gear Overview

Cycle touring has long been on my mind, and ideas for touring have evolved as I've put more and more thought into my goals and desires in regards to overnight cycling trips. Initially I had thought to try a short "credit card tour" North, to my mothers home near Albany. Riding with nothing more than clothes and roadside essentials I would get a hotel in Poughkeepsie (80 miles) and sleep there one night before continuing to ride to Albany (80 miles). Soon my thoughts turned to campsites, and a self sustained rig, after all the price of 2 nights in a hotel room can buy a lot of gear. Once I began researching parks, I found only a couple which were close enough to ride to, and offered camping. Clarence Fahnestock Park was the obvious choice for me, at 63 miles it's just the right distance for my abilities, and has shower/bathroom facilities, bike trails, and swimming available. "Food service" near the beach is mentioned on the website as being available during swimming season, and Winter park. I'll likely pack some food, and possibly pick some up in Mahopac as it's the last town on my route. This thought process lead me to the inevitable topic, gear. Cycling specific gear is often either not an option or not necessary in terms of touring, and many items designed for overnight backpacking will double as cycle touring gear.

I'm a backpack cyclist, I started my adult cycling adventures as a midtown Manhattan commuter. I like to keep my bike free of anything that changes how the bike is shaped, or how it handles. The only things you find on my bike are for safety, lights on the front, rear, and a BikeGlow light rope wrapped around my frame.

Shot of my bike doing its Christmas Tree impression

That being said, I did not want to opt for panniers or a trailer, and felt that modern material, design, and fabrication techniques would likely have ultra light and compact camping gear to make a -20lb backpack possible (shelter included). The first thing I chose to research was a tent. If I could not find a viable shelter for my size and weight needs, my whole idea for touring by backpack would not be possible. Single occupancy tents were less common than I had thought, and I only found a couple of reasonably priced options to consider. Soon I came upon a clear choice, the Eureka! Solitaire. Weighing only a little over 2 and a half pounds, this tent is very well reviewed by consumers and was on sale for about 70$ before shipping. The tent is a shallow tubular design, you cannot sit up in it, and is only high enough to prop yourself up on your elbows. Basically it is a good tent for sleeping and changing, and that's about it. Some reviews complained of breaking their fiberglass poles and recommended purchasing custom aluminum poles (which are also lighter than fiberglass). When I received the tent, I tried assembling the tent to get an idea for how it was done and heard one of the fiberglass poles make a small internal cracking sound. Though I could not see a crack forming, I decided that this was all I needed to influence my decision to order the custom aluminum poles from Tentpole Technologies. I measured the poles for the customer service rep, and placed my order. The poles cost me nearly half the overall price of the tent (just under 50$), but I felt the extra piece of mind was worth every penny.

Eureka! Solitaire Single Occupancy Tent

Tent, Poles, and Pegs

Custom built aluminum poles. (Aluminum poles must be slightly pre-bent.)

The next item of importance to me was power supply. I run GPS from my smart phone when I ride, and I also run my GoPro camera. I own a small emergency charger that takes AA batteries that I've used for extra long bike rides, but I wanted something sustainable, like a solar panel, that would keep me charged even when outlets are not available. After reading reviews and specs for many models of solar panels, I came upon the K3 Wind and Solar Charger. This device boasts 4,000 mAh capacity, a large panel, the capacity to charge from wind via a small turbine, and USB or wall plug charging abilities. I was able to find one for 20$ less than the MSRP on their website, about 80$ shipped. I have tested this on one ride last week and the internal battery extended my GoPro well past its usual single batteries life (about 2 hours) and I was able to ride 50 miles without changing the battery (about 5 hours). When I returned home, my K3 was at 50% charge, so I would estimate that it could run my GoPro on standby for an additional 5 hours. I will also try charging my phone with the K3 at the same time, to experiment with just how much I can get out of this device.

K3 Wind and Solar Charger

Now that I had the roof over my head that I needed, and a portable power supply that I wanted, I focused on a potential headache of a decision, the all important backpack itself. There are so many types available online that the selection is daunting. Also, when viewing a pack online you can read measurements, but never actually handle the bag and inspect its features and workmanship before purchase. With this in mind I wanted to make a trip to some nearby wholesale stores to see if they might have a pack that could match my needs. In Marshalls department store I found a Jansport Talus 26 Versa-Wing hiking backpack for 50$, which I thought was a great price as they range from 60-80$ online. The pack is a narrow tubular stuff sack design with a thick rigid foam back, a compartment for a water bladder, and large adjustable mesh pockets that reach from the back around to about halfway along the hip straps known as "Versa-Wing" pockets. Viewing these pockets in the store, I estimated that my tent would likely fit nicely in one of them and took the slight risk on the 50$ purchase. Once home I found the Eureka! Solitaire tent fit almost perfectly into one of the Versa-Wing pockets along with it's poles and pegs. In the other Versa-Wing pocket I was able to put my K3 charger and my spare tube kit to balance out the weight of the pack.

Jansport Talus Backpack

I'm a bit of a picky sleeper, but I know I have to be realistic when sleeping in a tent. I hoped I could find a light bedroll that offered durable padding but wasn't too terribly bulky. In researching this item I found many bed rolls were much heavier than I had liked, and I was determined to find an ultra light alternative. All of the inflatable rolls were far too heavy, and most of the foam rolls seemed flimsy or offered little in the way of padding in comparison to their weight. That's when I came upon the Therm-a-Rest RidgeRest SOLite Sleeping Pad. Purchasing this product was a concession to size as it is made of firm ridged foam that does not compress when rolled. But the weight (1lb 3 ounces), and the added feature of a reflective insulating design, were enough for me to overlook the SOLite pads bulky profile. Adding a small inflatable travel pillow I already owned, I now have a bed for my tent.

Therm-a-Rest RidgeRest SOLite Sleeping Pad

Standard inflatable travel pillow

Next I wanted to address some of the other necessities for my trip. Water, towel, rain gear, and spare tube and mini pump. As my backpack featured a compartment for a water bladder, I purchased an inexpensive 2 liter bladder that had positive reviews. For a towel, I found Lightload (synthetic) Beach Towels which weigh only 5 ounces and come packed tight. I already own a polypropylene rain jacket and usually I do not mind if my legs take a splashing (though I own 2 pairs of rain pants), but it's nice to keep the torrents off your torso. Even when you sweat under a raincoat, it's sometimes better than freezing exposed to the rain. I also own a rain cover for my backpack which will be good cover for my gear in the event I get caught in a downpour. Lastly I have a simple flat tube replacement kit. A mini pump, a tire lever, and a spare tube. This is the absolute minimum that I would recommend anyone to ride with regardless of distance.

2 liter water bladder

Lightload Towel

Polypropylene rain jacket and rain cover for backpack

Tire lever, mini pump, spare tube

Add a knife and fire starter and now you have the core of a durable one man cycle touring rig.

Now it was time to see how everything might pack together. The water bladder slipped fairly easily into its compartment. Then I packed 2 pair of nylon cargo shorts, 2 pair of cotton underwear, 2 pair of padded cycling short liners, 2 pair of socks, 2 pair of athletic weight cotton t-shirts, and 2 synthetic fiber athletic base layers (one long sleeve, one short sleeve), into the backpack. Next I stuffed the tent into the Versa-Wing pocket on my backpack along with its poles and pegs, and put my spare tube kit and my solar charger in the other Versa-Wing pocket. My unfortunately bulky bedroll went through the compression cords on the back of the pack without too much trouble squeezing it in. Later I found that if I used the top and bottom loops of this cord I could secure the bed roll quite tightly.

Left side of pack, stuffed with tent

Right side of pack holding solar charger and spare tube kit now in a brown plastic bag

Everything itemized above fit well into the pack, and combined only weighed 12.4 pounds! There was enough room left in the main compartment of the backpack for toiletries, food, some media equipment, and odds and ends. I believe I should have little trouble keeping this entire rig under 20 pounds before walking out the door.

I had planned on riding to Fahnestock Park ASAP upon receiving my gear, but recent problems with the audio for my GoPro have forced me to send the camera back to the manufacturer. My goal now is to attempt this trip before my first century ride on the 16th (The Ride to Montauk). Once I field test this gear I will be sure to comment on its performance when I write my first cycle tour report.