Sunday, June 18, 2006

Bush League


So, MVG had an incident recently on her bike... again. Alter-Ego, MVG and I decided to do some biking... MVG of the 'road' variety, and Alter and I were going to do some trails at the local park. We would all meet at the Carnegie Library in Oakland (Pittsburgh, not California) before heading back to our place.


So, Alter and I did the trail riding (although, it kind of sucked, and we ended up wallowing through some poison ivy bushes). We were on our way to the library when MVG sent an IM on my cell phone... I deftly replied with one hand while continuing to ride (I'm that good). Anyway, we met at the designated spot, then as a group, began the ride back to our place.

I lead the way... past the dinosaur (it is not alive, so don't panic) in front of the museum, with MVG behind me and Alter bringing up the rear... I'm not far past the dino when I hear a mighty yell "VEE-GEE" (coming from Alter). I quickly return only to find that somehow MVG has crashed into some bushes next to the dino. This image below shows the details:

In his re-telling, Alter said

I thought she just, you know, misjudged the turn. I thought she turned early, and went right into the bush.

MVG claims that she was trying to avoid a pedestrian, but nobody else saw this supposed pedestrian. To this day, the bush is all flattened down (not like in the picture above). It looks like a pack of wild dogs had a fight there.

Bush 1, MVG 0.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Donton (a.k.a. Downtown)

Veggie Tales is Moving!

Yes, you heard it here first... we're moving 'Donton' to a loft. We found a lovely place on the river just five blocks from where my office is (although, in a twist of fate, I will be starting a new assignment in Sewickley next week... you just can't win).

That there Internet

So, you know, you move downtown and everything is great, right? You have more and better access to stuff... so you would ASSUME! It turns out that FiOS (the Fiber Optic Service that Verizon offers) is NOT available downtown, so we can't have that. Okay, we'll stick with our Comcast service... NOPE, not available there either... perhaps we should just move to Adephia (sorry... not in that area either). So, we now are relegated to DSL with Verizon (not so bad, we were beginning to think we would not get any high speed at all... I NEED speed. We managed to get DSL without local service, so we can keep our Vonage phone service, and we'll go with DirecTV for our viewing pleasure... hmm, there is a kink there too... it requires a hard-wired local service phone line to provide the initial setup and 'on demand' content. According to the Vonage FAQ, there may be a fix... Stay tuned for the continuing epic stories relating to our move, I'm sure things will go awry in one way or another, and I'll be there to blog it.

- VG

Clang, clink, clunk

Blue Clouds overhead

So, I had my bike in a million or so pieces on Tuesday night for a good solid cleaning. You could eat off the rear cassette when I was done with it (it didn't really want to go back together, but I won out in the end). It took about 3 hours to fully clean the bike, but afterwards, it was gleaming and changing gears like never before.

That brings us to tonight... this has happened before (twice), but I thought it was due to needing adjustments, anyway, my bike has a NASTY habit of making EARTH SHATTERING CLANKING noises on very steep climbs. The noise is bad enough itself, but at the time, it also causes the chaing to slip (jump, skip, whatever) and negate forward momentum (not to mention put fear into me that something is about to snap). So, I made certain that my bike was adjusted perfectly today, and started the climb up Sycamore... 1/4 of the way up, it began the clank, clink, clunk trick. Only on the top of my pedal stroke, and only every 10 or so revolutions (clearly there is a link in the chain that is screwing up with a tooth on the chainring). I shifted down to my lowest gear (by this time I was stopped due to the 24% grade), and returned to the bottom of the hill to start over.
I began (again) to climb, making sure that everything was in alignment, and I was in my easiest gear (usually I am in the middle chainring and middle cog to start). I got about 1/3 of the way up before the clanking began - it was at this point that children ran in terror from the blue smoke that begin to erupt from my mouth... 25% grade, and I lost all momentum (in fact, the last clunk screwed me up so much that I began to go backwards down the hill). Clearly, there is a problem... I will have to investigate.

I didn't get to finish the ride up the hill (out of fear of ruining the drivetrain), but I did get the full GPS report of the hill. Here is the elevation and grade diagrams (click the pics to get a bigger view).



So, it appears that Sycamore isn't as 'burly' a hill as it was touted to be. It has sections in the mid 20s for grade, but the average over the 0.6 mile climb is about 14% (those sections of 24% and 25% are rough though). I need to try that hill in the 'Dirty Dozen' that has a 30+% grade (just for kicks).

- VG

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

NOHO - in summary

Back to reality

Don't you just hate having to 'snap' back to reality? Despite the crash, we had a great time, and were sad it ended... I felt like I got just a small taste of what it would be like to be in some racing team or something.

We met some great people on the trip, and even have a few that we plan to visit (and hope will visit us). It is nice when you meet people who seem to be on the same plane of thought and share common interests. We also found Northampton to be a great place to visit, it was somewhat like Ithaca, NY (bookstores, nice restaurants, atmosphere, charm, cycle friendly).

The Camp
We loved the camp, and the coaches were great. We would recommend it, and may go again for one of their A/B ride weekends. Check out ride Noho, maybe they have something for you too!

The Drive
Okay, this is one part we DIDN'T really like. It took about 9.5 hours to get to Northampton from Pittsburgh, and it seemed to double on the way back. We left around 3:30pm on Sunday (destination - Rochester NY), and we pulled into the hotel at about 8:40pm, a little over 5 hours. The hotel was nice (we snuck the bikes in through the back door), but we were too tired to really enjoy it, and the open wounds of MVG negated any chance of pool or hot-tub activity.
We slept in, and got on the road from Rochester at about 11am the next day... arrived at the kennel to pick up Cherry around 4pm. NOTE:There was not a SINGLE Starbucks on any of the highways between Rochester and Wexford PA (where the dog was staying)

The aftermath
So, MVG is off work until Thursday (June 8), but I had to return on Tuesday (June 6). We took MVG's bike to the local bike shop... as suspected, a new rim is required for the back. They kept it overnight for analysis (x-ray, catscan, MRI) just for precautionary purposes... I wonder if my health care plan covers that (it was admitted afterall). Thursday, I will ride up Sycamore in Sewickley to get the grade of it (armed for the first time on that hill with my GPS).

Sunday, June 04, 2006

NOHO - Day 3: The Paceline Miracle

She's back!

So, Sheila made a return to the group today in dramatic fashion, churning along for a ride of about 41 miles. Needless to say, I was amazed that she 'bounced back' from the accident so quickly. Today, we reviewed the work from day 2, and once we were comfortable with the drafting, we formed a paceline and off we went. It was a nice-ish day (not too cold), but there was intermittent drizzle. We stopped at a book shop/coffee shop half way, then on the way back, we began to rotate the paceline (the leader would drop off and go to the back of the line in a rotating fashion).
A nice 'photo-op' presented itself, so the good Doc took this lovely photo of MVG and I in front of a waterfall (sorry for the delay fellow riders...), then we continued along our merry way. The end result was a ride of about 41 miles along gentle hills, below is a map of the route, as well as a profile of the elevation for the ride.

Click picture for bigger view

Click picture for bigger view


Something else that I discovered on this trip was the fact that Superwoman DOES exist... I could tell from her physique, as well as the stories that were being told that the Doc's partner (also a Doc) would be a formidable foe on the hills... I know that I would be scared to challenge her to a 'duel' on any hill, but at the same time, I'd love to go on a ride with her. We have invited Doc and Superwoman to visit us in 'The Pitt' for a ride sometime, so perhaps we will have a chance to try keeping up. We may also visit them in the lovely hills of Vermont.

Until next time, VG.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

NOHO - Day 2: Rain Riding

As expected, MVG did not participate in the cycling due to the injuries suffered the previous day... in fact, she stayed at the hotel in bed for a while in the morning. The cycling was delayed several times due to the driving rain (the 8:30 start was delayed until 10:30am, then again delayed again until 1:00pm).

The Ride

We did go out at 1pm, in a drizzle filled sky. The rain only got worse, but by then we were soaked to the core anyway. MVG didn't ride (as previously stated, also another 'camper' skipped the ride due to the rain). The ride actually turned out to be pretty good, 17 miles. We worked on group riding skills (drafting and pacelines) both on and off the bike. We were in the rain for about 2 hours, then called it a day.

The Seminar

CoachThe classroom time was delayed until 7pm due to the late start to the ride. The topic was bike maintenance (adjusting brakes, derailleurs, and changing tires). This is a shot of the coach showing us how it is done. MVG came to the seminar, and got quite involved in it, she took a turn changing a flat (removing the tube, replacing the tube. There was also an exercise in removing the rear tire from the bike, as well as replacing it on the bike. MVG did very well, in fact, she is now soley responsible for the maintenance of our bikes! Here she is afterwards... unfortunately the bikes weren't cleaned up from the ride in the rain, so they were a bit messy.

So, despite the rain, and the injuries, day 2 turned out to be a pretty good day.

Note:Look at the recovery already taking place with MVG... I think the high quality bandage job helped :)

Friday, June 02, 2006

NOHO - Day 1: Emergency Stopping

We arrived at 'Ride Noho' in Northampton, MA on Thursday evening (June 1) where we met two other cyclists in the parking lot, and then met with the coach. We went out to eat (Indian of course) with our new found friends, before the camp started on Friday.

Day 1: Climbing, Descents, Emergency Braking, Rough Roads

So the schedule started with us riding along a trail, with a few stops for instruction (pedal practice, balance, and how to climb), then we got continued to a few climbs (although, they wouldn't be considered climbs in Western PA... more like flats). Anyway, after a brief break for an apricot square at the Williamstown General Store, we got to the Emergency Braking... This is where Day 1 got really interesting.

Emergency braking -> Emergency Room

MVG's EarSo, this is a picture of MVG's ear after her attempt at an emergency stop (which resulted in a stop in the emergency room for stiches)... but, I get ahead of myself.

The idea was, we climb a very short hill (probably about a 4% grade), then go down the hill to where the coach was standing to perform an emergency stop (grab the brakes, but don't lock up). This worked for MVG the first time down (although, she was not in the 'drops' of the handlebars), so the next time, she moved to the proper position and went off down the hill... pull... no, too much brake!. MVG launched herself over the handlebars (I think the pedals disengaged at this point) and landed 1) on her head, 2) on her shoulder and then 3) on her back. Thankfully she was wearing a helmet (destroyed by the crash) and a Camelbak (took the brunt of the back impacts).

MVG's HeadThe view from the top of the hill resembled somebody skipping a stone across a pond... I think there were three skips in all. The bike did NOT skip, it crashed down hard... better the bike than MVG. Everybody rushed down, she was a bit dazed and confused, but didn't lose conciousness (but as the pictures show, she did suffer some injuries). Coach called 9-1-1 to get an ambulance on scene (in case of any spinal damage), the police arrived within about 2 minutes to block the road.

To the hospital

So, this was a day of firsts. MVG's first ride in an ambulance, her first time on a backboard, her first time getting stiches, and our first experience with health care in the US (aside from the annual check-ups). We were pretty impressed with the care... one of our new friends accompanied us in the ambulance (turns out she's an ER doc... so we'll call her 'Doc') for moral support (and to translate for us). She was great - and a great comfort to MVG and myself. We got out of the hospital at about 2:00pm, would have been earlier, but the guy in the next bed had the nerve to stop breathing to get some attention, so the staff rushed over to help him instead of the important stiches to MVG's ear.

Well, that about says it for day 1 of Noho... more later on day 2 and 3.