First Flight of the Albatross

I’m fresh back from a lovely 6.5 mile ride on the new and improved diamondback. My first impression is that it feels ridiculous, but in a good way.

When my hands are on the grips, my back is almost exactly perpendicular to the pavement. Since there is no weight on the front tire, the steering feels really light. I felt like I should be wearing a top hat and tails, smoking a pipe, and tipping my hat to people as I ride by and saying things like “tallyho,” or “jolly good” or something vaguely Victorian-British sounding. I’m probably going to swap out the B17 for the B72, since all my weight is resting squarely on my…arse…

A gentleman cycler

It was kind of fun, but I think I’m gonna start saving up for the Karate Monkey. I don’t think I’d want to do long rides in this configuration. It would be ideal for a 6 mile park-and-ride commute. If I can drag my ass out of bed a little early, I may try that. I’m thinking of ditching the car at the Weis Market next to Holy Spirit Hospital. Think I’ll get towed?

Today: 6.5 miles
This week: 6.5 miles
January: 58
2007: 58 miles

I fell short of my meager mileage goal by a whopping 42 miles this month. Pitiful. That means I’ll have to ride 142 miles in February.


Last Chance for the Diamondback

The weather finally turned cold last week, and I found myself in the annual ritual of changing out the Diamondback’s slicks for studded snow tires: twenty-six inch Nokians. I’m six and a half feet tall, and a bike that fits me looks absurd with 26 inch tires.

The diamondback in its original configuration.
Diamondback with flat bars

This is the bike I was riding when I started this blog. I didn’t know anything about bikes when I bought her. She’s too small for me, and the frame geometry is only really set up for a beach cruiser.

As I have gotten more ‘serious’ about bikes, I have tried to make the Diamondback work for me. I put drop bars on her, I put moustache bars on her. I even took her camping in the mountains. No matter what I did, I never felt really comfortable on her.

Diamondback with moustache bars
Diamondback with moustache bars

Last week, I decided that enough was enough, and that I was going to replace her with either a Surly Karate Monkey or Crosscheck. After taking an honest look at my post-holiday finances, however, I decided to give her one more chance.

So, I ordered up a pair of Albatross bars from the right honourable gentlemen at Hiawatha Cyclery. I figure if the bike is designed for an upright riding stance, then that’s how I’ll ride it.

Diamondback with Albatross bars
Diamondback with Albatross bars

I have been stuck indoors with the flu for the past several days, so I haven’t been able to ride her in her new configuration just yet, but if these bars don’t work out, there’s likely to be a karate-monkey-shaped hole in my credit card in the near future.

Old Maps

You can learn all sorts of interesting trivia by pouring over old maps.

For instance, according to a topographical map created in 1899, City Island used to be called Foster Island.

Foster Island
Foster Island

The 1956 version shows the Market St. bridge as a toll bridge.

Who knew?

I think I want to be a cartographer if/when I grow up.

Harrisburg Map Update

I have been dragging my GPS with me for the past few days, and I’m starting to get something recognizable (to me, at least).

Harrisburg Open Street Map
Click for the live map

This is what I’ve got into the database and rendered so far. The red lines are Interstate 81 and Route 581. Tonight, I’m taking the turnpike to school, and I’ll have the entire “capital beltway” mapped. (Interstate 83 is still waiting for CPU in the render farm.)
Rendering seems to lag several days behind database uploads, so it will be out of date for a while. I am hoping to complete the borough of Mechanicsburg before I lose interest in the project 🙂

I’m also thinking it would be nice to get the CAG in the database, because the current map is an out of date PDF file.

Open Street Map

I haven’t been making time to keep up the blog this week. I’ve been busy with the new job and with a new geeky project.

Something that’s always bothered me is that there is no Open Source equivalent of TopoUSA. This means I have to keep a windows machine handy because I like to play around with maps and figure out different routes to go on bike rides.

It appears the reason that there is no open source equivalent, is because the map data itself is locked up by copyright holders, who demand tribute from software developers. (Google pays tribute to NAVTEQ for gmaps, for instance.)

What we really need is for someone to release mapping data under a Create Commons license. I’m not holding my breath. In the meanwhile, a dedicated group of GIS geeks are running all over the place with thier hand held GPS devices, and creating a totally free version of gmaps, and releasing the data under a Create Commons license.

The project is called Open Street Map, and it rocks the proverbial bollock.

So, I picked up a handlebar mount for my GPS, and I took a quick ride into a housing development that was recently built near my house. The development I mapped was carved out of an apple orchard. It was a very interesting experience riding through the snow, with the smell of apples everywhere.

My GPS log
Click for big

The dark black line is my contribution to the project.
Now comes the hard part. I have to convert a bunch of gps coordinates into a connected system of streets. I almost have my neighborhood completed.

My Neighborhood
The interface

Today: 5.5 miles
This week: 8.5 miles
January: 51.5
2007: 51.5 miles
I need to get my butt out there more. There is a lot more road to map.

Anticlimactic Delusion

A few months ago, I wrote about maybe reading the new Richard Dawkins book. I ended up getting the book as a birthday present. I finished reading this one just before the holidays, but I never got the time to tell you all about it.

The God Delusion

This book is targeted at fence-sitters. Dawkins wants to nudge skeptical theists and agnostics across the line and make them into full blown atheists. The books starts out strong, with nicely done refutations of common “proofs” for the existence of God. None of the arguments are terribly original, but one presumes that the target audience has not heard them before, or else they would be atheists already.

Unfortunately, after refuting the existence of the almighty* in the opening chapters, the book really has nowhere to go. It plods on, delving into abortion, evolution, and all the other nonsense that religious people get excited about, but it’s kind of hard to care about these arguments after the rug was pulled out from under them so early on.

I give The God Delusion 3 Jihadis out of 5

3 Jihadis out of 5

Not a bad book overall, but if you’re a seasoned, veteran heretic, there is not a lot of new material.

*What he really does here is claim that the probability of the existence of God, while nonzero, is very small.

York Heritage Rail Trail Ride

Brandi had the day off today, which is kind of rare for a Saturday. We don’t often have weekend time to do stuff together. I didn’t think she’d want to ride today, since it was supposed to be raining all day, but, this morning, she still wanted to. So we loaded up the bikes and headed out for York (home of the great and powerful Donut Guy!).

Defunct Manufactory
A defunct manufactory on a gloomy day

I had never ridden on the YHRT before. We kind of lost the trail at first. It starts in downtown York, and we ended up in a kind of ghetto-esque neighborhood. Once we found the trail again, we were treated to spectacular views of urban decay.
We made it about 5 miles out before it really started raining, so we turned around and packed it in.

A dead factory
A very large abandoned building

It was an enjoyable ride, but I’m never going to make my mileage goals at this rate. Girtong2 and I have a longer ride planned for the MLK holiday.

Today: 10 miles
This Week: 24 miles
January: 43 miles
2007: 43 miles

Wool – Good Enough for Everest

I just came across an article from BBC news. Evidently, some people are trying to say that George Mallory could not possibly have summited Mt. Everest in 1924, because he only had wool clothing, and not the high-tech stuff people climb in nowadays.

They found Mallory’s frozen corpse on the side of the mountain back in 1999, and some people reverse engineered his outfit from the shredded remains surrounding the body .

Surprise, Surprise, wool and silk work out just fine in outrageously cold conditions.

Mountain man
International Mountain Man of Mystery

More importantly, a mountaineer decked out in stylish woollies, cuts quite the dashing figure, and is sure to be popular with any young ladies he encounters on his way up the mountain.

More Rail Trail Riding

Girtong2 and I tore up 13 miles of the north end of the Lebanon Valley Rail Trail this morning. The trail was surprisingly busy today. Lots of equestrians and a fair number of cyclists.

LVRT sign
Obligatory Bike Picture

We stopped for lunch at the country store in Colebrook, but the lady refused to make any subs because it was a Sunday. Apparently it breaks the sabbath or some such. The Blue Bird Inn, which was a speakeasy during prohibition, had no compunctions about serving us lunch.

There are many cow pastures along the LVRT

The wool underwear worked out very nicely. They are kind of expensive, but I think I might get another pair. They are very comfy on the bike, and more comfortable than padded bike shorts on the bar stool. I’d say that they are wonderful and give them 5 jihadis, but they’re just underwear, and I really can’t get all that excited about them. But they are quite nice.

I think I’m going to make a half-assed effort to keep track of my miles for 2007. For spiritual reasons, none of my bikes wear cyclocomputers, so mileage will be ballpark guesses. This weekend is the first I’ve ridden this year, so that makes 20 miles so far. Not much, but it’s a start. I would like to log at least 1200 miles this year.