while thinking about Kickstarting a $35 bell.

I happen to be in the market for a bell, which are words I never thought I'd be writing in my lifetime, but there you go. If you need proof that cyclists aren't right in the head, this is it.

I'm currently having a bike be rebuilt piece by piece. I found a vintage (circa 1980) Raleigh Reliant that I thought was nice, but wanted to make a little extra special. In other words, I had the original, working parts stripped off and replaced with modern components. Sacrilege? Yeah, a little. Let's just say, I had some other ideas about the bike than its original intent and made some tough choices. Choices like converting it to single-speed, upgrading to 700c wheels and outfitting it with some thicker tires that will chew through gravel rather than the other way around. I wanted an urban cruiser that wouldn't mind going off-road for a bit, and if I can do that with a snazzy-looking, vintage frame, why not?

I'm pretty excited about this bike! As such, I want to make it even extra special-er. More special. Special+. And so, I'm in the market for a bell.

You might think that you could just go to Walmart or your local bike shop and buy a bell, and you'd be absolutely correct. They do that; they sell bike bells. They usually have them in stock right where you can see them, and you can probably just go there and buy one right now, depending on when you're reading this. It's not like you're buying a controlled substance and need to meet a strange guy somewhere, or show some photo ID or ask the person behind the counter for something unusual as a password so that he'll know you're on the level before he shows you his secret stash. You just go to the store and buy one. Bells aren't even rare, they're pretty much everywhere. But, you know... We need things that are hand-crafted and special. And we all know that hand-made things are better than mass-produced things because, I don't know. They just are. And that's how you end up with
a $35 bike bell on Kickstarter.

The really sad part is, I want that bell. Not a "want" like a hungered, passionate desire that keeps me up at night, but more like a, "Can I find something similar on Amazon that doesn't cost as much?" and then I do a few searches kind of "want." That sort of "want."

Why do I want this bell? I just like the way the hammer/trigger thing works. I like how you can aim the bell forward instead of straight up. Makes it more "aero." But I don't want to spend $35 on a bell, so let's see if I can find something cheaper. Here are some bells on Amazon that aren't as expensive:

Mirrycle Incredibell XL BLK Bicycle Bell (Black)

Black, polished mirror finish. Sexy.
The Mirrycle, which is spelled like that on purpose, I guess, seems kind of big and garish, but I'm sure it's pretty loud. I don't know what it sounds like, but I'm guessing it sounds like a bell. I bet it goes "Ding!" which is great for telling people to get the hell out of the way without yelling, "HEY! GET THE HELL OUT OF THE WAY!"

You can most likely mount the bell so that it stands upright or aims forward, but it's probably harder to pull the hammer back if it's not upright. On the other hand, the soundwaves seem like they'll travel horizontally and alert people to your presence in a wider range instead of vertically, which would only benefit airplanes and passing satellites. Oh, wait... that's silly. Sound doesn't travel in space. Sorry, folks aboard the International Space Station! I guess my bike will just have to run straight into you...

PRICE: $8.80. You save $26.20!

Skye Supply Swell Bell - Cow "Moooove"

Not actually a cow bell, just a bell with a picture of a cow on it. What's up with that?
Here's an awesome bell because it has a cow on it that says, "MOOOOVE!!" with two exclamation points, so you know it's super serious about getting people out of the way. It also says, "COW BELL," but it's not a cow bell, it's just a bell with a picture of a cow on it. Crazy.

You can mount this one in any way you like, but I don't think it will make a "MOOO" sound no matter where or how you mount it. It probably just goes "ding," which seems like a missed opportunity, to me. Come to think of it, maybe they should have shaped it like a cow bell. That would have been awesome.

PRICE: Only $6.75. That's a savings of $28.25!

Electra Compass Bell

Not electrical, in any way. Also available in silver. Also: compass.
Remember that Murmur MirrorMirro Myrrh-cycle bell from a few moments ago? Well this has a very similar design, but it's also got a compass on it! So, the next time you're in the woods, you can see if there's any truth to that old wives' tale that moss only grows on the North side of a tree. Or was it South? Or West? Or maybe it was "Moss doesn't grow on a moving Fat Bike?" What was I talking about?

You can mount this one to round things. Maybe you could wear it like a ring! Or, mount it to other body parts -- I'll let you use your imagination here -- just be very careful about where you mount it and read all of the instructions. Also: compass.

PRICE: $7.58 It's more expensive than the Cow Bell, but less than the Mr.MicrophoneMryrrrcycle Bell. Plus, it pulls double-duty as a compass, making it a two-fer! You save: $27.42

So, there you have it. Bells don't have to be expensive. In fact, at a total of $23.13, you could buy all three of these bells for less than the price of the Kickstarter bell. Hopefully, I saved someone some money and embarrassment today.
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For One Whole Year

It's hard to believe, but this blog is 1 year old. 1 whole year of documenting my journey from a guy who used to occasionally ride his bike maybe once or twice a month to a guy who rides almost every day. Well, almost every day...

A year ago, after a summer of eating healthy and losing about 30 pounds, I wanted to accentuate that diet with exercise. I had been walking along the Rails-to-Trails with a friend about once a week and racking up plenty of miles, but walking just wasn't holding my interest. I wanted to go faster, and farther. So, I pulled my bike out of storage and started doing about 10 miles a day.

Before long, I was adding a few more miles a day, but never venturing too far out of the neighborhood. I decided to challenge myself, to see just how far I could go. I felt the way most runners and joggers do after they start really developing a habit and improving themselves. I wanted to enter a race, or at least an organized ride. I felt like it was something I had to do.

The first thing I did was to hit Google and look for events that were happening close by. One of the first events I stumbled on was the Flaming Foliage Festival that was taking place right here, in Hazleton. I had never even heard of this event before, and here it was in my own back yard. It seemed like fate. So, I set a goal to get myself in shape for the event with the goal of being able to ride 50k -- about 31 miles.

I began by learning as much as I could about sports nutrition and plotting longer and longer courses for myself. I'd ride about 2 or 3 times a week, setting a new goal each time went out. I hit a few snags and learned a few painful lessons, but I eventually made my goal. I rode the half metric century course in the Flaming Foliage Festival in October and had a great time. I even met a few new friends. All in all, it was a huge success. As I look back now, has it really been a year? Time really does fly when you're having fun.

My life has changed in a variety of ways since those days. I started a new job, bought the bike of my dreams, kept the weight off and even met several other goals. I even managed to bike all the way to Pittsburgh! I mean, that was just a crazy idea I almost never meant to keep until it occurred to me -- only a few weeks prior -- that I could really, actually do it. And now I'm looking at the achievement from the other end and wondering how I did it; I still can't believe it.

1 year of biking and blogging. How far will I go over the next year?
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On A Cold Morning, Chasing His Shadow.

This morning's commute to work was a chilly one -- 52 degrees Fahrenheit at 7 a.m. However, it was still warmer than the 49 degrees I had to trek out in, last week. What's up, Summer?

We had a very late spring and now it feels like summer is pretty much over and done. We still have August ahead of us! Don't be like that, Summer.

As you can tell, I like to turn up the heat a bit. I didn't even mind the heat wave we had a few weeks ago; I just kept on riding my bike and loving every minute of it. Can we have that back, please?

At any rate, here's me, chasing my shadow with the sun at my back.
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Through the Carnegie Science Center

BIKES: Science on Two Wheels.
Growing up, one of my favorite places to visit was the Buhl Science Center in Pittsburgh. I loved seeing the exhibits and all the cool, hands-on activities on display, and the planetarium was a neat experience, as well.

Sometime in the early 90s the old Buhl building was sold or closed, or something... I was never quite sure what happened to it as it had happened after we moved away from Pittsburgh, but a new, bigger science center was opened. They even retained the Buhl Planetarium to honor the memory of the man who built it, so while it's not exactly the same experience, at least it retains some of the old magic. Naturally, with my love of science and science museums, I just had to drop in and pay a visit, as I do every year. This year, however, there was a new exhibit that was much more relevant to my interests. A bike exhibit!

This year's theme is "BIKES: Science on Two Wheels." Showcasing a large assortment of bicycles from the earliest concepts of what a bike is to some of the latest light-weight carbon set ups, there were dozens of bikes to look at.

Of course there were a few 19th Century "penny farthing" style bikes, and some of the earliest "safety bikes" to touch and look at, but I enjoyed seeing some of the bikes from the mid-20th Century, with large fenders and swept back, comfortable designs. These heavy, steel-framed beasts must have been hell to pedal around on -- my favorite was the Huffy Radiobike from 1955. It featured a radio built into the "gas tank facade" along the top tube that ran on vacuum tubes. Vacuum tubes! I'm not sure how they held up with all the bumps and bounces one is sure to encounter, but the idea is mind-blowing. It's too bad transistors were still too expensive, as it would have been a welcome improvement to have a lighter, more vibration-tolerant technology.

Another treat to see was the famous "Pee-Wee Herman Bike" from "Pee-Wee's Big Adventure," a Schwinn DX. Seeing one of the models used in the movie mounted right to the wall, and getting a chance to touch it, was a real joy. (I should note, we weren't actually supposed to be touching any of the bikes, but how could I resist?)

In addition to famous bikes throughout the years were a few other "pop culture" inspired bicycles, such as the Huffy Bandit from 1978, which was inspired by the Pontiac Trans Am driven in the movie "Smokey and The Bandit." Then were was a "tallbike," a tiny UDC Mini Bike, a few recumbents, unicycles and folding bikes also on display. I actually got a chance to try riding the mini bike, but couldn't get more than a few cranks in. Those things are just ridiculously small. Then came a bike that defied all explanation, the F&R Lowrider, as seen below.

F&R Lowrider - Because "art."
Reverse angle. Also because "art."
Another favorite, the Bowden Spacelander takes the prize for "Bike I'd Most Like to Own."

Heavy? Impractical? I don't even care, I want one.
Some of the interactive elements on display included a demonstration of the gyroscopic forces at play when bikes are in motion. Guests are encouraged to sit on a swiveling stool while holding a large bike wheel mounted to a handle while another guest spins the wheel with their hands. When the wheel is up to speed, the seated guest will tilt the wheel to the right and left while lifting their feet off the ground. What happens next is that the guest will suddenly rotate to one direction or the other, depending on which way they tilt the wheel. It's quite a unique, memorable experience, and just one of the many demonstrations available at the exhibit.

Finally, the Carnegie Science Center is sponsoring a number of outdoor activities to get people interested in biking, including a BMX stunt spectacular that was being put on by the "Freestyle Action Sports Team." I shot a few videos of their stunts, which you can see on my Instagram feed.

If you live anywhere near Pittsburgh and are into science museums as much as I am, it's definitely worth the trip. I mean, heck, I biked more than halfway across the state just to see this exhibit, and I thought it was totally worth it.
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Across Pennsylvania - 270 miles from Hazleton to Pittsburgh

I did it. Even a week later, I can't freaking believe I did it. I actually biked from Hazleton to Pittsburgh... Where do I even begin?

At the end of biking season in 2012, I set a little goal for myself. One of my dreams has always been to travel by bike, but I never really had a particular destination in mind. Because I grew up in Pittsburgh, I like making trips out there to visit when I can. Therefore, it seemed likely that if I were going to do something crazy, a bike trip to Pittsburgh would be it. As it stood, it would probably be the craziest adventure I've ever had, so I couldn't wait to begin.

Back at the start of 2013 I started making arrangements to do a weekend in a state park up near Scranton, but that plan sort of fell by the wayside. As July approached, I realized time was running out. With all of the lousy weather we'd been having -- rain, cold, terrible storms -- this Summer was flying by and felt as though it had never even really started. Would it be clear enough for me to actually make this attempt? I just had to try.

Over the last few weeks, I'd been saving up to get important accessories for my bike -- a rack, clipless pedals, panniers and tires. A quick look through a few of the past posts on this blog should give you an idea, I was definitely gearing up for the big trip. Days before leaving, I decided not to get a new front tire. With nearly 2,000 miles on the stock tire, I really wondered if this was going to be a decision I'd regret. The stock rear tire was a disaster, allowing nearly every sharp object I rolled across -- glass, rocks, harsh words -- to puncture the tube. Thankfully, most of the weight is on the back. At any rate, I had 3 spare tubes, ready to go.

With directions hastily printed out from Google Maps only hours before launch time, I left the house at 5:55 am. And then I quickly returned. I'd made it about 3 blocks before the brackets on the bucket pannier I made snapped and dumped on the ground.

I built the kitty litter bucket panniers based on plans I found on Instructables.com. They seemed like such a good idea, but the brackets just weren't up to the challenge. I could have, and probably should have, bought a set of panniers online, but I wasn't convinced they'd be able to hold all my stuff. Actually, that should have been a good indication -- I was bringing way too much junk. A tent, a towel, 3 cans of stew, a lighter, an alcohol stove, a bottle of rubbing alcohol, some bottles of water, a box of Clif bars, some string, utensils, a pot to cook in, a coffee press, some coffee, a knife, phone chargers, a sleeping bag, and a few other items. Too much, too heavy. Regardless, I jammed everything into a large bag, strapped it to the rear rack with bungie cords and headed out again. It was now 7 am.

The directions I got from Google Maps were designed to find optimal biking routes through low-traffic areas. For the most part, it worked exactly as described. Twisty-turny back roads, country drives, and long, lonely stretches that went on for miles. Unfortunately, it also included rough trails and unpaved uphill sections completely inappropriate for thin, slick tires on a road bike. What a predicament I quickly found myself in as I pushed my bike up a rocky, 7 mile hill in bike cleats. Even when it leveled out for a bit and I could ride my bike if I wanted to, I was afraid of what the terrain was doing to my tires. One large cut or slice could be catastrophic!

The lesson I quickly learned was to abandon the biking directions from Google Maps and go straight to Pedestrian mode. This would ensure me the quickest, shortest routes that could be walked. Google's Bike mode depends too heavily on trails and designated bike paths for me to rely on in the long run. I needed smooth roads, regardless of traffic. If it was legal to walk, it would be legal enough for a bike.

At the end of Day One, I set up camp at Reed's Gap State Park. I quickly pitched my tent while soup cooked on the alcohol stove and used the spare time to take a shower in the camp's bathroom. It was a well-maintained site with modern facilities and I definitely appreciated the shower. Unfortunately, then the rains came. A sudden, violent thunderstorm quickly drenched me and everything I owned in a matter of minutes. I dove into my tent and stripped off all my clothes. It didn't stop raining for the rest of the night.

I was the only person in the entire campground, which, when you hear someone walking around, or at least think you do, and you know you're the only person there, that can be pretty unnerving. The slight paranoia mixed with bright flashes of lightning and booming thunder meant I wasn't going to get much sleep, that night.

I laid on my back trying to get comfortable in the tiny 6x5 foot tent. It was cramped an uncomfortable, but at least it was keeping me dry. That's when I noticed that, all around me, I saw tiny beams of light against the sides of the tent. I couldn't imagine what they were, so I cautiously zipped back the door to look outside and saw some of the biggest, brightest lightning bugs ever. They were so bright that their light shone all the way to ground... or maybe it was just the darkness of the forest and starless, cloud-covered night, far away from the big city light pollution that made them seem brighter than usual? At any rate, it was beautiful.

At about 2 am, I heard the crunching of footsteps. I tried to tell myself that it was just the rain slapping the side of the tent, but it really sounded a lot like footsteps. And then it happened again, and again. I was almost certain someone was walking around the tent, but what could it be? A homicidal maniac, or just a woodland creature in search of food? Or what if it's a bear? And that's when something brushed against my foot from outside the tent.

I bolted upright, knife in hand. I turned on my flashlight and zipped the front flap wide open, yelling, "WHO'S OUT THERE? WHO WANTS SOME?!" But there was nothing there... nothing but a small mouse that quickly scurried under a log and stared at me, eyes shining, before slipping away into the forest.

I finally did it. I finally let my paranoia drive me to the point where I had lost my mind. And then, it all went away. Any fear or paranoia evaporated away and I was too tired to allow irrational fear get the better of me. I drifted off to sleep and woke up bright and early the next morning.

I decided that Day 2 would be better. I started out with a positive attitude and wanted to reach Blue Knob State Park with plenty of time to spare. That's when I came across the aforementioned rock trail and the 7 mile slog uphill. It was hell. I still have numbness in my big toe from the bike cleats -- either my shoes were too tight, or I don't know. But it was hell.

When I finally got back on the road, I had almost forgotten what smooth, flat pavement felt like. It felt good, and fast, but I was still lost in the backwoods of the middle of nowhere, and as beautiful as the view was in Rothrock State Park and the Alan Seeger Natural Area, I just really wanted to get to Blue Knob. The trek up that trail hill had stolen a whole 2 hours, at least, from my schedule. I stopped at the first place I could find to get a decent meal in me. My plan was being shot to hell and I had hoped I would make it before the sun went down, but I was having no such luck. As I miserably climbed steep, endless hills that would go on for miles and miles, I felt defeated. This wasn't "fun." I had expected a challenge, but this was torture. I wanted a chance to ride my bike all day, to simply enjoy the act of adventuring, but I was in pain and completely worn out. How could I endure this for another day? Where the hell is the next camp site? How much higher can these damn hills go?

I biked and walked for a good 12 hours or more, arriving well after sunset and forced to set up camp in the dark. But I had done it. I made it. Once again, I beat the odds. I wasn't happy, though. The wind was picking up and the temperature had dropped. I decided that, when I reached camp, I wasn't even going to unpack. I was just going to throw my stuff into the tent, sleep, and head out early the next morning. I made a fire and stared at it while the stew cooked.

Why was I so miserable? I considered that it wasn't like I had anything else planned... So what if it took the whole day to get here? Where else was I going? I was upset that I didn't get to chill out and relax, that I didn't get to do the "campy" things you do at camp, like build a fire, look at the stars, relax. But then, as The Beatles played on my phone, I realized that was exactly what I was doing. I had a fire, I had the stars, I had a hot meal and nowhere special to be for a few hours. Aside from a little bit of pain and suffering, this was the best vacation I had ever taken. What more could I really want?

I had allowed myself to slip into a negative frame of mind, where I was focused more on the destination than I was on the journey. I looked back at some of the photos I had taken and wished I'd taken more. In was in such a hurry and so angry about that trail -- Cooper's Gap Road -- that it ruined the rest of the day. It wasn't the roughness of the trip, it was my own lousy attitude. I listened to The Beatles, finished my meal and looked at the stars as the fire slowly faded. And then I went to bed, peaceful and relaxed.

Blue Knob State Park was absolutely beautiful. I didn't get to fully appreciate it until morning, when the sun had come up. It was still very cold, so I got a bit of a late start as I didn't want to tear down the same structure that was keeping me warm, but I needed to get moving. Fortunately, Blue Knob has electrical hookups at each campsite, so I didn't have to leave my phone unattended in a bathroom while it charged. With a full battery, the first thing I did was open Google Maps and set it to Pedestrian mode. Well, actually, the first thing I did was ride a few miles down the hill, where I could get signal. When I finally saw a few bars and "4G" light up on the screen, I was in business.

Another big detractor on Day 2 was the lack of any civilization. That trail, and the surrounding areas, were so far off the map that it wasn't until almost 4 pm when I finally found a place to eat. I didn't want to make that mistake again. When I started planning the trip, my intention was to travel 45 miles, eat, then travel another 45 miles to my destination. It seemed like a good idea, I just didn't plan it well enough. On Day 3, however, I made straight for the busiest highway I could find that was still legal to ride a bike on: Route 22.

Day 3 ran like a precision machine. I had dumped every last item I didn't need. One can of stew, the bottle of alcohol fuel for the stove, empty bottles for water, the printed directions from Google Maps and a roll of toilet paper I had brought along "just in case." My load was significantly lighter. My bike was no longer trying to buck me off and dump me on the ground every time I came to a stop. The original load was so heavy, in fact, it had almost gotten me killed on Day One when I couldn't unclip from the pedals and fell within inches of a passing van. Again, I had way too much stuff with me.

I had made it to Route 22 and turned off my phone -- no need for GPS when you finally know where you are. No turns, no detours, no mystery trails that lead to nowhere, just a straight shot to Pittsburgh. What Day 3 lacked in memorable experiences it had made up for in how much better I felt just knowing where I was, for once. Well, at least, emotionally... My saddle sores had saddle sores. My legs were twisting in knots, even as I kept plenty of food water going down my gullet. My left hand was going numb and my feet ached. The sun was searing me a golden brown and the sweat was dripping from every pore. I was in bad shape, but I knew I didn't have long to go. Just a few more hills, a few more miles, a few more hours... When I finally got to the hotel, I was as happy as I could be. I unpacked and then set out to do some urban exploring.

I had time. Time to screw around, time to play. Time to do a victory lap around my old neighborhood, which I did. Time to enjoy a Slurpee from the convenience store on the corner, just as I had done in my childhood. Time to snap a few photographs and reminisce about places that no longer exist. In contrast, I was so much happier than the night before, simply because I had time to enjoy myself. The work had been done, the pain would be a distant memory. I had time to revel in my accomplishment. Why was I so miserable at the end of Day 2? Because it was all work, no play. Now I had time to play. I had plenty of time.

I went back to the hotel, took a long, hot shower and crashed into bed. 3 days of riding had come down to this: a quiet room with air conditioning, a hot shower and a comfortable bed. And my vacation had still only just begun.

I had the chance to meet a few people on this trip, including a young woman who thought I was a bike racer. I met a cyclist who offered to run "wind break" for me, but I couldn't keep up. I met a backpacker who I had passed and thought would never see again, until he suddenly popped up a few hours later. I guess he hitched a ride and passed me at some point. And then, although I didn't meet him, I saw a man on a fully-loaded bike coming up West 22 as I was headed home in a car on East 22. I don't know where he came from or where he was going, but more power to him. More power to anyone crazy enough to do this. I still can't believe I did it.

Looking back, only a week later, it still feels like some impossible dream. I've got the scars to prove that it actually happened, that it was real and that I survived. Now the adventure is just a fading memory, and there's nothing left to do except plan for the next one, to hope that I can see that one through the end, as well. So many variables; so many unknowns. Where will I go next? Even that is a mystery.
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Going clipless with Crank Brothers Candy Ones

I confess, the idea of my feet being anchored to my pedals kinda freaked me out, and I was, in fact, afraid of clipless pedals. But no more.

Presenting my first foray into clipless pedal territory: Crank Brothers Candy Ones on my Giant Defy.

So far, I had one close call when I forgot I was clipped in, but I managed to save myself at the last minute and keep from hitting the ground. In fact, clipping in is actually proving to be more frustrating than clipping out. I was assured that clipping in will come natural after a while, and I did manage to clip in on the first try at least once, so there's hope.

If I hadn't already been sold on going clipless, one ride would have been all I needed to be convinced. No regrets.
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Enjoy or: How I Learned to Defuse the Road Rage Bomb

Yesterday, I found myself huffing and puffing up Poplar Street when I locked eyes with a woman in an SUV at an intersection. I didn't have a stop sign; she did. She clearly saw me, then pretended she didn't as she pulled out and cut me off. I veered almost into oncoming traffic then swerved back behind her tailgate to signal my dissatisfaction (and I think you can figure out what that means.) She continued on. Even thinking about it now makes me angry.

In the past, I've said that road rage is nearly impossible on a bike, but situations like this happen again and again. It happens often enough that it leaves an unpleasant taste in my mouth that lingers into the next ride. Where once there were blissful thoughts of freewheeling adventure on the open road, now there are negative emotions, anger and trepidation. I start seeing things in black & white, "Us vs. Them."

It's important to keep a clear head while riding because this stuff is just going to keep happening, and you need to pay attention or you'll be wind up in trouble when it does. Yelling and screaming, thoughts of revenge, none of this moves the dialog forward. Plus, you end up looking like this guy:

I've grown a thicker skin and learned to tolerate this kind of behavior from drivers, but I still wonder, why should I tolerate it? Why should anyone -- drivers and cyclists, alike -- tolerate aggressive driving?

Because if you don't, you're probably going to do something stupid. So, what can you do? Legally, what can we do to curb aggressive driving (and cycling)?

There are always going to be situations like this popping up, and we need to stop looking at it as an "us vs. them" situation, as much as it feels that way, or it will just continue to escalate. We are all traffic, we all have to get along. It's just that some people will never learn and will always take advantage of the situation when they feel they have nothing to lose. Cyclists are routinely honked at, yelled at, cut off and targeted. Believe me, I've had more than enough of this guy:

I don't think we should just grow a thicker skin and tolerate aggressive driving, but I don't know how to solve this problem. The only thing I can think of is to increase visibility, and that means to keep riding. Just keep getting out there, be safe and be seen. That's the most legal, most positive way I can think of to fix this problem. And the best way to achieve that is get rid of road rage. Grow a thicker skin, wave, smile and let it go.

Thanks a to a number of factors -- aggressive drivers included -- this ride that was meant to clear my head and make me feel better now made me feel worse. I was upset that I felt weak after being sick a few days and stomped the pedals in an attempt to whip myself into shape. I know I've gotten slower over the last few weeks -- my mantra shifted from "go faster" to "go further" and "this is not a race." I've lost some fitness and, despite being able to ride much farther distances, have lost a little bit of speed. Or, maybe it's all in my head. Maybe it's just a build up of negative emotions at things I can't change, like the lousy weather we've been having, or the behavior of other people. The road rage was just continuing to build within me, and like overstuffed panniers, it was weighing me down.

Whether it's physical or psychological, being upset and angry definitely doesn't help. That's when I found myself riding alongside another cyclist on a hill just past Weatherly.

I resisted the urge to pedal hard and race past him and, instead, shot a friendly, "Good afternoon!" as I caught up. He asked, "How are ya?" and we rode side-by-side for a bit, until our paths diverged. I gave a little wave and said, "Have a good one!" to which he responded, "Enjoy!"

Enjoy -- one simple word that completely defused my bad mood and nearly knocked me off my bike. I rode on, contemplating its meaning. "Enjoy what?" I wondered to myself. "The weather? The ride? The bike?"

Earlier, I was racing along the Weatherly-Plains Road when I saw long stretches of bright flowers growing along the side of the road. I had no idea what they were, and I don't recall seeing them before. I thought they might make for a good picture, but I was too busy trying to go as fast as possible to bother stopping. "If I see them again," I thought to myself, "maybe I'll stop. I promise." I say that a lot, though. "Maybe next time." "I'm sure I'll come this way again." "I don't always have to stop and take pictures." How many times have I said that, and not gone back?

After my encounter with that cyclist and a refreshed perspective on just why I was out here in the first place, I made sure to stop at the very next chance I had to snap a shot of one of those flowers. I even paused an extra moment to shoot some video and capture the sound of the environment. Suddenly, I had an answer to my own question, "Enjoy what?" Enjoy this moment; it'll never come around again.

If you're experiencing road rage lately, take it from me. Be seen, be safe and don't do anything stupid. Let it go and, as was so eloquently said to me, that day, "Enjoy."

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Belt Drive Bicycles - Trek District vs. Spot Brand Dualie

For some reason, I spent a few hours yesterday completely enamored with the idea of owning a belt drive bicycle. I don't often indulge such fantasies as I'm more than happy with what I already have, but I decided to slip a bit and endeavor to see what I could find. After a good amount of searching, I found a pair that really spoke to me, for a variety of reasons.

First of all, I don't have much of a problem with chains; they seem to last quite a while and work pretty well. I even kind of look forward to the zen of routine drive maintenance, spending a few hours a morning every other week to keep everything in great condition. However, the Gates carbon belt drive promises smooth, silent operation and grease-free maintenance that should last the lifetime of 3 chains. As someone who notices the instant a chain roller starts squeaking, and who seems to perpetually have the darkened imprint of a big ring on his right calf, that just sounds incredible. The lifetime of 3 chains? I'm not even sure how long one lifetime is supposed to be, but for the purposes I have in mind, I'm sure it would last a ridiculous amount of time. So, if a belt drive is so great, maybe it's worth looking into? Let's take a look at what I've found.

The first 
belt driven bike I came across was the Trek District:
trek district, district, single-speed, belt driven, gates carbon belt drive, bike
Trek District
Featuring a Gates carbon belt drive (as cool as that sounds) with a freewheel hub on an aluminum frame, the District gets off to a good start. At first glance, perhaps the District doesn't have the most exciting color scheme. There are some subtle orange highlights that add a bit of flair, but overall, I'm not a fan of the slivery-grey ("smoke" according to the web site) paint job. Other models in the District line include a greenish color and a darker grey. It's alright, I guess, but not that exciting, to me.

One unique standout is the eccentric bottom bracket and over-center dropout, allowing the bike to be converted to a geared drivetrain. I wonder, though, what's the logic, here? A concession that belt drives might just be a passing phase, or a selling point for customers who are wary of abandoning tradition? Perhaps it speaks more to the "everyperson" consumer, who wants the ultimate in versatility -- a bike that can fill multiple roles.

At an MSRP of $1099.99, there's a lot to like about this bike, but there could be more.

Next, a very interesting bike, the Dualie by Spot Brand.
spot brand, spot, dualie, belt driven, gates carbon belt drive, bike, bicycle, geared hub, dual gear, 2 speed
Spot Brand Dualie
Now this bike is a little more my speed. As above, it features a Gates carbon belt drive, but with an added twist at the hub. You see, "Dualie" isn't just a clever name, it's a part of the bike's featureset. It's got 2 gears!

The rear hub is a Sturmey Archer S2 Duomatic Kick Shift with freewheel. Simply reverse pedal to shift into high gear. Too much stress? Reverse pedal again to down shift. Easy peasey.

The Dualie comes in one color combination, but this is actually a combination that I like. It looks fantastic. I'm already sold on the belt drive, and the addition of an extra gear means I'm better equipped to tackle the hills around North East Pennsylvania.

One caveat is the steel frame construction, which tells me this bike probably weighs a bit more than the District. Then again, the steel frame might just handle bumps a lot better, and if there's one thing we've got around here, it's plenty of bumps.

At an MSRP of $1,199, I'd be saving my nickels and dimes a little longer, but the difference seems worth it, to me.

So, which would I choose? I think it's an interesting race. The Dualie seems like it would weigh more, but the dual-geared hub adds some versatility. On the other hand, if it's versatility you're after, the District wins due to that eccentric bottom bracket and the ability to convert to a geared drive -- it's almost like getting two bikes for the price of one! Aesthetically speaking, the Dualie looks a lot more appealing to me. I'd hate for this to come down to looks, but that's just how I'm leaning in this particular case.

Were this strictly about function, the District would win, hands down. It seems to me that it can do a lot more than the Dualie and would probably be the logical choice for a more practical person. But in this race, I'm not that guy. I'm not looking for a practical, versatile bike, I'm looking for an urban explorer.

In the end, however you look at it, the money is going towards the belt drive, and that's the whole point of this exercise -- finding a lower maintenance, quieter, simpler bike. Getting one with great looks and personality, however, couldn't hurt. Now, if I could just convince either of these companies to send me a demo model for a proper review, I'd be more than happy to tell everyone all about it. *hint, hint*
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How to Keep Bikes Off Sidewalks: Rig the sidewalk to explode.

Apparently, London has perfected a way to keep cyclists (and everyone else) from riding on the sidewalk: RANDOM EXPLOSIONS!

In this video I nicked from 
a post on BoingBoing, even hapless bystanders aren't safe from the wrath of hidden, underground fire devils. Get off that cell phone, citizen! MOVE ALONG!

So, there you have it. Riding the sidewalk isn't just illegal, it's potentially lethal!
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Once again, into the gaping maw of utilitarianism!

I was informed that we needed milk. Perhaps "informed" isn't the right word... but when it was suggested that I should also get some syrup to make chocolate milk, I folded.

In all truth, I was excited to have a reason to go out. About 16 days ago, I'd entered into
the fi'zi:k Tour Tune-Up Challenge on Strava -- a challenge to ride 30 hours in 16 days. As the deadline approached, I noticed that I was coming up 10 minutes short of completing the challenge. I'm not entirely sure if the challenge ends at midnight or if it runs until the end of June 23, but I figured I'd go get those ten minutes in sooner than later.

Aside from claiming those errant 10 minutes, I was also itching to test out the rear rack I had just installed on my bike. Carrying home a gallon of milk seemed like the perfect test. The question was, once I have the milk, how the hell do I get it to stay on the rack? Well, it wasn't easy, but I did it.

Does this mean I've given myself over to the dark side? Hasn't my speedy road bike suffered enough from being forced into daily commuter duties? Must it also serve utilitarian purposes? Then again, Giant created the bike frame with threaded mounting holes for a reason, right? I don't think it's too much of a sin, is it? Is that it? Is this the slippery slope? I even wore regular clothes and left the helmet at home! What next, a cargo bike? Man, that's like the minivan of bikes... I'm doomed.

The rack is a necessity -- I swear. It'll be nice to be able to carry stuff around without a full backpack pressing against me and making me even more sweaty, but I've been hard at work, completing my crazy plan to bike to Pittsburgh, next month. For that, I'm going to need to be able to carry a tent (at least) and some supplies. It's not exactly randonneuring, but my aim is to do about 269 miles over 2 days, with an overnight at a campground. Although, after a 62.3 mile ride on Thursday (that's metric century!) I'm wondering if I shouldn't cut the mileage down a bit and stretch the trip out over 3 days, instead. We'll see. If I can get myself conditioned to much longer rides, it shouldn't be too much of a problem. I'm really looking forward to this!
Panormaic view of Mountain Top, PA
Panoramic view of Mountain Top, PA

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Cicadas: The Vuvuzelas of the Insect World

Just out past Tresckow, heading towards Junedale and Beaver Meadows, I heard a sound unlike anything I'd heard in nature before. It sounded like the loud hum of truck tires, rolling along the highway, but a much higher pitch. Or maybe dozens of car alarms? Or, to my ears, dozens of Star Trek phasers being fired at once. For a moment, I really wondered if I were being abducted by aliens. It didn't sound like anything an animal, or an insect, would produce.

As I headed into a curve, I longed to see whatever was up ahead -- whether it was coming towards me or waiting for me to approach it. But when I got there, I only saw trees. Nothing but trees. And from every direction came this loud, spooky sound. I quickly pulled out my phone and shot this short video:


Until Thursday, I'd never actually heard the noise produced by the 17-year cicadas. I'd heard they were loud, but I really had no idea. It's a sound I'll not soon forget.
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Be like the wheel, my friend. Squeak for your grease!

I am the squeakiest wheel, as visitors to this blog will, no doubt, notice.

I find that maintaining a positive attitude is the best way to get things done. However, I eschew that kind of crystal-gripping, new age, hippie nonsense almost immediately, as I've also found that bitching and moaning is the best way to get other people to get things done for you.

We can't help it; this behavior/reward stuff has been ingrained in us since we were children, and it's hardly a new philosophy. "Ask, and ye shall receive," is just a fancy of way saying, "Have it your way."

We -- as in, humanity -- really are a bunch of whiners and complainers, and bloggers are the worst. Actually, bike bloggers are even worse than that. We're always looking for some cause to get behind, or some way to complain about the status quo. See here, for example, where I ask you to whine to your local legislators to get more funding for biking infrastructure in Pennsylvania.

If anything, it's cathartic. The road being a mess, for example, is something so out of my control that I have no choice but to complain about it. I could simply accept it, and move on with my life, but that doesn't make me feel any better and the problem is still there! So, I complain. But there's another reason, and that is because we, as citizens, have an obligation to demand that our elected officials -- the people we put in charge to get stuff done -- actually get stuff done!

Well, I'm not about to sit here and say that my nimble fingers tapping against a keyboard actually did one iota of good towards fixing the bridge -- I'm sure finishing it was in the schedule, all along -- but my ride was smooth and bump-free, today. As Axl Rose once observed, all we need is a little patience.

Now that I mention it, Axl Rose kind of cements the whole point of this blog post, which is that, if you complain -- and especially if you make a good show of it -- not only do you get what you want, but people actually make you a rock star because of it. Sorry, positive thinkers! Throwing a hissy fit doesn't just feel good, it makes you famous!

Here's the thing: I own up about my whining. When I make a complaint, and that complaint gets a positive response, I stop, and say, "Thank you!" Thank you, to all the road construction crews and maintenance workers out there who keep the roads smooth and even. You rock!

In closing, let the rabble-rousers raise rabble! Flip a table! Clench your fists and stomp your feet! Roll around on the ground and hold your breath until you're blue in the face! We're just trying to make the world a better place, damnit! Why is that so hard to understand? Life is unfair! You're not my real dad! WHY DOES EVERYTHING BAD ALWAYS HAPPEN TO ME? #FML

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The Taste That Satisfies

There are moments when you have a craving, an unwavering desire for something -- a deep, passionate thirst that will not subside. Today, it was ginger beer.

It's hard to verbalize, but there was nothing that could satisfy my thirst for this drink. I don't normally consider it to be something I must absolutely have, but the feeling was overwhelming. Though, however willing the spirit may have been, the flesh was lazy, unwilling to get off the couch. Then, the real dilemma began.

Opposing forces within me grappled for control. I felt my senses leaving as I struggled in vain to fight. I was being torn in two. The fight was between the part of me that wanted -- needed -- to take the bike, and the part of me that thought, "Why not just take the car? What's the big deal?"

My soul was an unfathomably deep well, overflowing with turmoil at this point. On one shoulder was a little devil me, driving a car around with some tunes blaring out the open window. On the other, a little angel me, decked out in lycra, with a glowing halo hovering above his bike helmet. The angel won; albeit, with a pair of flip-flops and a cotton t-shirt instead of shoes and lycra.

One of the very few things I like about living in Hazleton is that there's a grocery store only a few blocks away, in almost every direction. Not that it makes the city unique, it's just that I find it to be a point of convenience. And, speaking from a purely utilitarian point of view, convenience is a very good thing. A long, extended ride is great when the point is to go on a long, extended ride. When you're just running a quick errand to pick up something for dinner, however... not so much.

And so, having finally hopped on the bike and made my way to the store, I claimed my prize:

So, actually, I didn't claim my prize. After all that, they didn't even have ginger beer, so I bought some Big Blue, instead. Turns out, my unwavering thirst for a specific taste was a lot looser than I had originally thought. I guess, really, it's just the carbonation I was after. I don't drink alcohol to excess, and I don't smoke, so if carbonated fizzy drinks be my one vice, I'll gladly roll with it.

As you can see from the label, it is naturally and artificially flavored; I'm not sure what it's naturally and artificially flavored with, though. I don't know what "blue" is supposed to taste like, so I can't even guess what the natural and artificial flavors might be. It tastes a little bit like bubble gum... I guess? I'll just say it was made from Smurf juice, which is both natural and artificial when you consider that they are living organisms that don't actually exist.

In closing, I salute the many smurfs that died to bring me the fine taste of carbonated, high-fructose corn syrup. Big Blue, you might not be ginger beer, but at least you have a taste that satisfies.
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Shots from the 2013 Heritage Explorer Bike Tour

Captain Don Chilly Willy, my hero and personal savior.

Vanilla ice cream on top of a root beer snow cone.

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In Search Of... Kickstands. Whatever happened to kickstands?

In Search Of... a razor, for that 'stache. Yick!
If you recall, In Search Of... went deep undercover to discover the whereabouts of Pete's Bike Shop in Hazleton, only to discover a front for the Ransom Young 2012 election campaign. Then there was something about an alien sasquatch, Elvis' attempt to sabotage the investigation, and I don't recall too much after that, but that's not what matters. What matters is that bicycles don't seem to come with kickstands, anymore, and I don't know why.

In my investigations, I've uncovered a myriad of reasons for this oversight on modern bicycles. One possibility is that kickstands just aren't "aero." Another cites weight as a possibility. Then there's the argument that kickstands are "useless" and that, eventually, your bike is just going to fall over anyway.

Actually, my favorite theory comes from a bike forum user who asks, "Is it just a 'Fred' thing?"

Nail on the head, sir! Heaven forbid we look "uncool" in our skin-tight, day glow racing kits while propping our bikes up against walls, bushes, trees, homeless people or whatever else is most convenient at the time. Imagine being seen with a kickstand hanging from your chainstay... Sakes alive!

Personally, I kinda do really want a kickstand, but rather than purchase another aftermarket part to scratch up my paint job, I decided to go DIY on this problem. Presenting: The PVC Bike Rack.

Instructables user fuego316 describes the steps necessary to build a small, "apartment" sized bike rack. Well, after a quick trip to Lowes and a swipe of the ol' debit card, I managed to put this little beauty together:

The best part is, it cost less than $10, and only took about half an hour to complete. It seems pretty sturdy, so I feel like I can trust it to hold up my Precious. Meanwhile, I plan to get another length of pipe and some more fittings to build another one for the office. I'm actually quite proud of this!

And so, another episode of In Search Of... comes to a close, with us no closer to a definitive answer. Until then, the search continues!
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Have you ever seen a dead porcupine?

Have you ever seen a dead porcupine? I mean, up close and personal and not simply a picture of one or an image on a screen? For that matter, have you ever seen a live one, frolicking in the wild? Do porcupines frolick?

Porcupines are frightening and bizarre creatures, when you think about it. "God's own pincushion" -- if such a deity actually exists. The quills, or spines, are actually hairs with a healthy dose of keratin that strengthens and binds them into sharp points that easily penetrate flesh. To get an idea of the toughness of this stuff, human fingernails are made of keratin, as is hair and the outer later of skin.

Contrary to popular belief,
porcupines can't actually throw their quills, which is something I actually worried about, recently.

As a cyclist, I'm keenly aware of the hundreds of sharp objects that litter the shoulders of the roadways I travel each day -- broken bits of stone, plastic and glass. Now I have a new threat to face: porcupine quills.

I can only think of two times that I've seen a porcupine in person, and each time was from my perch atop a bike saddle. Also, each time, the porcupine was decidedly dead -- victims of automobile drivers, likely late at night, when visibility is low. Late last year was the first time that I can recall seeing one in the wild, and yesterday evening was the second time.

It was a bit unnerving when I realized what the bundled clump on the side of the road actually was. My feelings were a combination of desire and wary. Of course, I felt some sympathy for it, but I welcomed the chance to get a closer look at the creature without it scurrying away. As I approached, I was mindful to maintain a safe distance. I wondered if, perhaps, spontaneous nervous reaction could cause a few of the spines to be thrown my way, even post mortem. As I later learned, the spines don't work that way, and so, I had nothing to fear. However, the buzzing of flies and stench of rotting flesh caused my upturned nose to happily continue pedaling on its way.

If your quest is to see a porcupine in the flesh -- the rotting, putrefying, festering flesh -- I invite you to aim your bike along the southward lane of Route 309, heading away from Mountain Top. Eventually, you will have your wish fulfilled. (At least, until someone or something carries it off.) Just remember to steer clear of it. Porcupines ain't nothin' to mess with.
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Be careful what you wish for...

...because the scumbag genie is just gonna screw it up; and probably on purpose.

I've read more than enough fairy tales and fables to know that you can't trust genies as far as you can throw them. In case you don't know what I'm referring to, take everything you know about Disney's Aladdin and toss it out the window. From The Monkey's Paw to the fable of King Midas and even Glinda, the Good Witch from The Wizard of Oz ("You had the power within you, all along!"), anyone with magical powers is a scumbag. Don't accept their offer.

"Why?" you ask, as if you've never had your order completely botched up by a hapless fast food worker, before. Except, in the stories I've read, the wish granter goes out of their way to completely screw you over. You wish for a million dollars? Great, your wish is granted -- a bag with a million dollars worth of stolen money drops into your lap and the cops are banging down your door. Should've been more specific, right? Wrong. It doesn't matter. The moral of the story is always, "you can't get something for nothing," and wishing is about as good as spitting in the wind. So what's with all the bitter cynicism? Read on.

There's a section of road that intersects with 940 in Hazleton with a short bridge that crosses a small creek. I'm not sure what the name of the road is, but it's the bridge next to the Churchill Mall, for locals who know the area. The pavement is a little uneven where the road meets the bridge, and I always get a stiff bump when I hit it. I usually have to slow down, which isn't preferable as I have to go up an incline immediately after. I found myself wishing the department of transportation (or whoever is responsible for this stuff) would fill in the gap a bit, just to make it a little smoother. Well, I guess the scumbag genie heard my request, because roadwork began a few weeks ago. And then it never ended.

They did this:

It was an incredibly rough surface to ride on -- I'm still searching for some of my teeth -- but it was quickly repaved and painted about 48 hours later. Woo-hoo! That is, except for a large section where the road meets the bridge and again up at the light, which are about as rough as the surface in the photo. In fact, the deep gap you see along the road in the photo is still there. In other words, it's much worse, now. Thanks a lot, guys! You took a minor inconvenience (for me, on a bicycle) and turned it into a big problem for everyone -- even people who drive have to stop before hitting these gaps. Weeks have gone by, and it's still there. Are you ever coming back to finish the job, or is this how the scumbag genie fulfills this wish? Thanks, but I liked it better before.

Well Said, Cheryl. Pointless, confused and flat out wrong, but well said!
Here's a radical idea -- if you really want to stick it to the man, sell your car and ride a bike. No more road tax! No more high gas prices! A feeling of smugness that cannot be denied! Much more effective than letters to the editor...

I honestly wish there were a version of iPayRoadTax.com that applied to the United States, but I doubt it would help much. Actually, I just wish the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette would refrain from publishing stuff like this, but there I go, wishing again. Wish in one hand... you know what in the other.

Carnegie Science Center is teaming up with The Bicycle Museum of AmericaBicycle Heaven, and others to offer a diverse collection of historic, rare, peculiar, and all-around amazing bikes! Visitors will enjoy science demonstrations and hands-on exhibits that explore energy, forces and motion, engineering, and material science:
  • Explore the evolution of the modern bicycle
  • Check out uniquely customized bikes
  • Learn about the latest technologies for sporting bikes
  • See bikes you know from popular culture
On Saturdays through September, we'll spotlight a special bike-related outdoor activity along the riverfront trail. Activities are free with general admission.
Motha'. Effin'. Bicycles.
I was born and raised in Pittsburgh, and although I haven't lived there in about 14 years, I still have friends and family I like to see when I'm out that way. Well, mostly, I just go to spend a day at Kennywood and visit places like the Carnegie Science Center. But now, seeing as how the CSC is putting on a big exhibit about bicycles, I almost have an obligation to be there! I mean, they're going to have Pee-Wee Herman's Schwinn DX as seen in the movie "Pee-Wee's Big Adventure." You really think I'd miss that? Hells naw, man.

In light of this revelation, I'm getting these big, crazy ideas about making a bike trip to Pittsburgh -- all 269 miles of it. That's not impossible. I just... I don't know. It's crazy. I think I'm crazy, and the more I think about it, the more I think I wasted my wish on lousy road construction. Come to think of it, if I want to get that road fixed, maybe I should write a letter to the Post-Gazette. Apparently, they'll print anything. Crazy.
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The Therapeutic Effects of Lonely, Desolate Roads

Sometimes, it feels really good to tread old paths. I love going off on adventures, exploring new areas and seeing new sights, but after a wreck of a weekend, I just needed to get back that old feeling of pure joy that I had last year. Judging by how I'm feeling today, I was successful!

First of all, this weekend did NOT go as planned. I had intended to do some light cycling on Saturday and then head up to the Pedal & Paddle Fest in Prompton State Park on Sunday. Instead, I went to Moon Lake Park with some friends from Valley Cycles to ride the trails there on Saturday.

As I've mentioned, I usually head up to Wilkes-Barre to ride with a group from Valley Cycles. This past Thursday was to be an extra special affair, as June 6 is also my birthday. (34 trips around the sun!) But, due to rain, a lot of folks either opted to ride trainers in the shop or just skip the night, altogether. I chose to skip.

After 2 days of raining, the trail was incredibly slippery. My rear tire could gain no purchase on the many rock gardens and tree roots along the trail. I'd get the front wheel up and over an obstacle only to get the rear wheel hung up as it would spin out and dump all the energy I put into each pedal. I just wasn't having a very good time.

I realize now that the Excalibur is too big for me. I had an extremely difficult time controlling it and ended up in quite a mess. I fell a few times, and I even ended going over the handlebars once as I tried coming down a rock formation and ended up going vertical. As I felt the back of the bike coming up off the ground, all I could was tuck and roll. Fortunately, I wasn't hurt.

Wet shoes + platform pedals = OUCH
The worst part of the ride came towards the end; I was really beginning to lose my confidence. Instead of going all out and having a good time, I was trying to play it safe and avoid any obstacle that looked like it might be too dangerous. I lost count of how many times I slid sideways and was tossed off the bike, or lost my balanced and fell over. Then came the injury as seen in the picture to the right -- a result of my right foot slipping off the pedal. It's not as bad as it looks, but it hurt for a while.

After all that, I just needed to get back out there and get myself on familiar ground. On Sunday, instead of driving up to Prompton State Park for more trail riding, I chose an old, favorite route that I haven't been on since late last year. Going out Stockton Mountain Road to Route 93, then on down through Weatherly and up past the Lehigh Valley Gorge. I didn't have time to head down into the gorge, so I continued past the Weatherly Cemetery and up past Eckley Miner's Village and then home along Route 940. 2 hours and 29.3 miles later, I was feeling back on top.

Riding this route reminded me of the days when I had no plan and no agenda. I wasn't trying to make it to work on time and I wasn't trying to keep up with anyone else -- it was just me, with hours and hours to be alone with my thoughts. I could take time to feel the cool breeze on my skin while coasting along desolate roads lined with forests of evergreen that reach into the sky. Trees so tall, they easily block out the harsh rays of the sun and put you in the center of your own world. It was, and still is, the best therapy I've ever found.
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PA Live! Presents: The Blog of the Week (Spoiler: It's this blog)

I woke up this morning to a brisk 49 degrees Fahrenheit. I thought we were over this! At any rate, I mounted my noble steed and made way for the office. I felt I had to, since this humble blog was declared the Blog of the Week on PA Live!, and it would just be awkward to be known as the guy who writes about cycling in North-East PA and then drives his car to work because, "It's a bit chilly out." So, I did that. I rode the bike today. That was me.

NEPA Blogs presents a new blog each week on WBRE's PA Live! in a segment that airs between 4 and 5 PM.
I feel like they nailed the description of my blog pretty accurately. As I go about commuting by bike, searching for thrills and adventures in Pennsylvania (and beyond, someday), I definitely enjoy documenting my trips and keeping an informative edge to things. I'd say it's also fairly accurate that the majority of my treks are solo and that, gee, it sure would be nice to meet a few fellow bike bloggers to network with. (Fortunately, Google+ has been a great place to meet quite a few bike commuters who love to share their adventures and advice.)

I'm looking forward to seeing the segment once it airs. Usually, the broadcast is recorded and published online after it airs, so keep this post bookmarked and I'll have the video linked here as soon as it goes online.

Update: Here's the link to the video that aired on WBRE's PA Live!
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Friends of Prompton Host Pedal & Paddle Festival

If you've been looking for a chance to get off the road for a while and enjoy some single-track trail riding, I've been informed that there's a big event going on this weekend at Prompton State Park.

The Pedal & Paddle Festival is being held June 9th at Prompton State Park by the Friends of Prompton, and I'm pretty excited about the prospects, myself. I've never been to Prompton, so I'm eager to explore the area and see what they've got. It's been a long time since I've had the chance to get my wheels muddy, and this park promises at least 23 miles of trails.

As evidenced by the name of the event, kayaking is also supposed to be a big deal at Prompton. I can't say I've ever kayaked, unless you count buying plane tickets from Kayak.com. I've rafted along the rapids of the Lehigh River, jet skied on a lake, boated, canoed and hydroplaned across a wet road, but I've never been on a kayak. I'm sure I'm missing out.

If running is more your sport, however, please be aware that there's a trail run going on at Prompton the day before the Pedal & Paddle Festival on June 8th, dubbed the Prompton Punisher. Running really isn't my thing, but if it were, by God, I would have my iPod set to repeat "Run Through the Jungle" the whole 10, 20 or 30 miles (depending on the particular brand of punishment you desire.) Let's be honest, that would just end up being stuck in my head, anyway; I can't help it.

Before closing this blog post, I ask, "If gingers don't have a soul, what can be said for ginger beer?"

It is delicious, that's what. On Sunday, I decided to go on another ride through the valley to visit Stewart's Drive-In in Conyngham, PA.
Stewart's used to make their own brand of ginger beer, but I guess they stopped making it and decided to stock Big Ben's from Catawissa, PA, instead. I can't argue; it's just as good, and totally worth the trip.

Finally, and I'm not saying it's because of the ginger beer, but, that same morning, I totally beat my personal record going up one of the sections I ride often. It's true, I got the whole thing on Strava! Amazing, no? I'm almost better than no one, but at least I'm better than myself.

Speaking of Strava, I've accepted the "Junedoggle" (their word, definitely not mine) Challenge. The idea is to ride as much as possible in June, which was, pretty much, my MO all along. I mean, really, I was going to do that, anyway. But, seeing as how I love stats, Strava  tells me that I'm currently ranked 19,040 out of 54,476 participants, which makes me feel better than at least 35,436 other riders. Woo hoo! See that? BETTER!

And now, as a reward for those who've read this far, a picture of Howdy Doody:
Note: Howdy Doody is a ginger.
And whatever is happening here:

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