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|Monday, November 24th, 2008|
|Sunday, October 26th, 2008|
|Wednesday, October 1st, 2008|
Bill Moyers interviews Andrew Bacevich on everything that's wrong with America.
Is an imperial presidency destroying what America stands for? Bill Moyers sits down with history and international relations expert and former US Army Colonel Andrew J. Bacevich who identifies three major problems facing our democracy: the crises of economy, government and militarism, and calls for a redefinition of the American way of life.
Part 1Part 2
|Tuesday, July 22nd, 2008|
Every state must have its enemies. Great powers must have especially monstrous foes. Above all, these foes must arise from within, for national pride does not admit that a great nation can be defeated by any outside force. That is why, though its origins are elsewhere, the stab in the back has become the sustaining myth of modern American nationalism. Since the end of World War II it has been the device by which the American right wing has both revitalized itself and repeatedly avoided responsibility for its own worst blunders. Indeed, the right has distilled its tale of betrayal into a formula: Advocate some momentarily popular but reckless policy. Deny culpability when that policy is exposed as disastrous. Blame the disaster on internal enemies who hate America. Repeat, always making sure to increase the number of internal enemies.
|Wednesday, May 21st, 2008|
| Pedestrian Cities
Encourage walking and cycling. Discourage cars and parking.
Copenhagen is a fascinating city. Over the past 45 years, they have gone from a car-oriented city with few public spaces to one of the best cycling and pedestrian cities on the planet, all without ever having a master plan.
Metropolis Magazine lists 10 strategies Copenhagen uses
to make itself a better city for people, not cars, plus a great interview with architect Jan Gehl
These strategies should be tried by every city in the US. Not only will they help us survive the coming dual crises of global warming and peak oil, we can actually improve our quality of life in the process.
|Friday, April 18th, 2008|
| Al Gore on Optimism
Just think, this guy was almost our president. Can you imagine Bush speaking eloquently on any
|Tuesday, April 15th, 2008|
The Man Who Cycled the World: part
What an incredible journey! I've dreamed of cycling around the world for a while now, but I don't know when I'd be able to find the time to do something like that. If I did get such an opportunity, I wouldn't try for a speed record. I'd rather keep a slower pace, taking a more meandering cycling route while taking the time to experience each country along the way.
His bike set-up looks really good -- handlebars at saddle height for long-distance comfort, waterproof panniers, etc. The Rohloff internally-geared hub looks interesting: you get your whole drivetrain sealed inside your rear hub, and they're supposedly incredibly reliable and virtually maintenance-free. One drawback (other than the exorbitant cost) is that the hub only comes drilled for 32 spokes, which is likely a contributing factor to his frequent spoke breaking.
|Wednesday, August 1st, 2007|
I can't stop thinking about the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route
. I want to ride it, the whole thing, Banff, AB to Antelope Wells, NM. Maybe next summer I'll give it a shot.
My girlfriend thinks I'm crazy -- it's too far, too dangerous. But the route keeps calling me. Others have called it a personal Vision Quest. I'm most worried about the remoteness of the route and getting eaten by a bear, but I should probably be most worried about the isolation one feels when traveling solo through the wilderness. It's that isolation, however, that if conquered can make the journey such a rewarding experience.
And even if I don't make it the whole way, it's still days, weeks, or months spent biking through beautiful country to the point where I've decided that I've had enough.
|Saturday, July 7th, 2007|
|Monday, June 4th, 2007|
This past bike trip had me thinking a lot about doing a longer tour. It's been my dream for a while to someday complete the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route
from Canada to Mexico. I now realize that a trip of that length is much longer than I'd like to do anytime in the near future.
However, I will be finishing graduate school next year, and I do want to do another tour before entering the workforce. I'm thinking of going from Jasper, AB to Missoula, MT, following Adventure Cycling's Great Parks North
and Great Divide Canada
routes. The route is about 750 miles long and should take between 2 and 3 weeks to complete.
I'm extending an open invitation to anyone who might like to join me for this trip. You should be prepared to bike 40 - 60 miles per day, with some hills! We'll potentially start in late July, 2008. Contact me if you're interested in coming or if you have any suggestions or advice on this route!
|Saturday, May 19th, 2007|
DC to Pittsburgh summary
Distance traveled: 358 miles
Trip length: 7 days
Rest days: 1 day
Warmest temperature: 90 degrees
Coldest temperature: 32 degrees
Weight lost: 7 lbs
Cyclists met going from Pittsburgh to DC: about 25
Cyclists met going from DC to Pittsburgh: 0
Favorite trail section: Cumberland, MD to Ohiopyle, PA
Hardest day: Ohiopyle to Pittsburgh
In conclusion, this was a fantastic trip. I highly recommend this route to anyone who and has a week to spare and appreciates dirt roads and car-free travel.
|Friday, May 18th, 2007|
|DC to Pittsburgh, Day 7 (78 miles)
Although we might like to, we can't stay in Ohiopyle forever, so we head out.
Pressing on from Ohiopyle.
Unfortunately for us, it's started to rain again and it's very cold for mid-May, about 45 degrees. Before long, we're soaked again and covered in mud.
It's still raining.
Pittsburgh 58, Washington DC 280.
Fortunately, that's nothing a garden hose and a few hours inside can't fix.
Hosing ourselves and our bikes off yet again.
We stopped for lunch at a diner in Connellsville for our usual meal; grilled cheese for me, and a fruit cup with cottage cheese for Tara.
Warming up at the Hometown Diner in Connellsville, PA.
By the time we had finished lunch, the rain had stopped and it warmed up to a comfortable 65 degrees. It's amazing what a difference good weather makes in enjoying the ride.
Finally, the sun returns.
The bike doesn't look too bad after a week of abuse.
The trail's character changes after leaving Ohiopyle -- instead of a sense of endless wilderness, we begin to feel that we're on the outskirts of civilization, passing through many small towns that are part of the greater Pittsburgh region.
The trail runs through many tiny towns like this near Pittsburgh.
Regardless, the trail is still very pretty out here with plenty of green and wildflowers blooming alongside.
A muddy waterfall near West Newton, PA.
We reached our intended camp site for the evening, Dravo's Landing, just before 5pm. While snacking on Clif bars and reading our map, I realize that we're only 8 miles from the trailhead at McKeesport and only about 20 miles from downtown Pittsburgh.
With a gleam in my eye, I call my friend Ben who lives in Pittsburgh and tell that him we're going to try to make it in tonight. We have about 2 and a half hours of daylight remaining in which to go the final 20 miles; I think we can do it.
We race out of the campsite, increasing our pace to over 16mph -- not an easy feat with a loaded bike on dirt roads. We zoom by a lot of beautiful scenery, reaching the end of the trail in McKeesport before 6pm.
McKeesport was quite a shock. Within a few miles you go from a beautiful trees and countryside into what looks like a post-apocalyptic city. Abandoned and decaying buildings, torn up roads, and glass littered streets abound. No time to stop, though, as we have to navigate unfamiliar streets to get ourselves to Pittsburgh.
The Great Allegheny Passage is eventually supposed to connect up all the way from downtown Washington DC to downtown Pittsburgh, but there's currently a gap of about 16 miles between Pittsburgh and McKeesport. The official detour involves biking on the highway, so I thought I'd be clever and map out our own route. Well, it turns out my route wasn't so good, taking us up and down the crazy steep hills near Pittsburgh, giving us one of the most challenging rides we've ever done, then dumping us onto the highway anyway when we missed the end of the South Side trail.
Out of the woods, into the industrial zone.
For anyone contemplating this trip before the final section of trail is finished, I recommend that you take the Steel Valley trail from McKeesport to Clairton, then follow the Montour Trail west to Library, PA. In Library, you can take the trolley, known locally as "the T", straight downtown. That would be much better than dealing with the mess of biking on busy highways on the direct route.
We finally made it downtown around 7:45pm, where Ben was patiently waiting for us. It felt great to finally get into the city, especially after the number of miles we put in today.
My friend Ben and I near Station Square in Pittsburgh.
We made it!
Riding the T to Ben's house.
We took the T to Ben's place in the Mt. Lebanon neighborhood, then went out for a celebratory dinner at PF Chang's.
Celebratory dinner. No, all that food isn't just for me.
We're completely exhausted, but it was totally worth it.
|Thursday, May 17th, 2007|
|DC to Pittsburgh, Day 6 (8 miles)
Our clothes weren't dry when we woke up and Tara is still feeling sick, so we took a "rest" day today. First thing, we went hiking up the mountain in the Ohiopyle state park to look for eagles.
Hiking in the Ohiopyle state park. Everything is so green.
The overlook at Baugman's Rock at Ohiopyle.
Then we biked over to Frank Loyd Wright's Fallingwater. It was only 4 miles from town, but little did we know that it was also up a mountain.
Frank Loyd Wright's Fallingwater.
Fallingwater is fantastic. Designed by the famous Frank Loyd Wright in 1935, it literally sits over a waterfall, with the river integrated into the house. The interior is pretty amazing as well -- Wright's design was way ahead of it's time with large open spaces and rooms that flow into each other.
We weren't allowed to take pictures inside the house; you can only take indoor photos if you take the fancy $50 tour. We took the much more reasonably priced cheap tour of the house, which was excellent, except for the pictures part.
This snake was on the path at Fallingwater. Was it real?
After touring Fallingwater, we headed back into Ohiopyle, this time with a bonus 50mph decent down the mountain. It was so fun that we would have ridden back up the mountain just to go down again if it wasn't such a tough climb. Plus, this is supposed to be our rest day.
Tara showing off her rock climbing skills.
Later, we hiked around the rocks nearby the Ohiopyle falls, nothing too crazy, then cooked pasta for dinner outside of our motel room.
Admiring the Ohiopyle falls.
Even though this was supposed to be a rest day, I don't feel any more rested. The lesson is that there are no easy days while bike touring.
|Wednesday, May 16th, 2007|
|DC to Pittsburgh, Day 5 (51 miles)
We got up at 5:30 AM and packed up our camp to avoid the discovery of our not-so-stealthy stealth camp site by any early morning trail users. That's way earlier than I could ever get up back in the real world, but things are different on a bike tour. The key is to ride hard enough during the day that you're tired enough to fall asleep as soon as it gets dark.
Fortunately not our trail.
Early on today's ride we crossed the Eastern Continental divide, meaning that we're officially not on the east coast anymore.
Crossing the Eastern Continental Divide.
The trail goes on and on...
We got a few hours of riding in before stopping for our usual breakfast of oatmeal. While eating breakfast, and old man in fantastic shape passed by and stopped to chat. Turns out he's a former Navy Seal, now retired, and he rides along this trail every day of the year, regardless of the weather. He was also packing two pistols; I don't know what he expected to encounter on the trail, but I guess one pistol just doesn't cut it.
Cooking oatmeal for breakfast. I'm much more organized than I was at the beginning of this trip.
The Somerset Wind Farm, visible from the trail. It looks like the future!
Unfortunately, our beautiful, sunny morning turned cloudy, then to a drizzle, then a downpour. Since the trail surface is dirt, crushed stone, and gravel, that means mud. We got covered in it. Plus, Tara's cold has gotten worse, and she can't stop coughing.
I didn't know it was monsoon season. Notice the fog on the mountains.
We rode on to Confluence, PA, where we found a diner to stop at for lunch and to dry out a bit. I had a grilled cheese sandwich, which turns out to be the restaurant food of choice for vegetarian cyclists touring through less populated areas. Our bikes were so muddy at this point that we just left them outside without locking them. They don't look so appealing with a thick coating of mud over them.
Covered in mud.
Tara really wasn't feeling well at this point, but I persuaded her to push on another 11 miles to Ohiopyle. The terrain out here is the most impressive yet, and I'm sure we would have enjoyed it much more had we not been cold, soaked, and muddy.
Ohiopyle, PA. What was once a railroad is now a bike trail.
When we got to Ohiopyle, we decided to splurge and treat ourselves to a night indoors. When you're used to camping, staying in a motel feels like a real treat. They even had a hose outside we could use to clean off our bikes, our bags, and ourselves before going in.
Another group of cyclists had arrived at the same time as us, so we took turns hosing everything off. They were the Mt. Lebanon cycling club, headed from Pittsburgh to DC. It seems like we picked the wrong direction to travel -- every cyclist we've met along the way is doing this trip from Pittsburgh to DC, as the terrain is a bit easier going in that direction. Oh well, we just have more of a challenge, then.
Getting the mud out of our clothes.
Our muddy clothes got a soak in the bathtub, and all of our gear went on the desks, dressers and tables in our room. The rain had finished in the afternoon, so we walked around town a bit. Ohiopyle is a very cute town. The cafe across from the motel, the Firefly Grill
is very good and has plenty of vegetarian options. There's also tons of hiking and mountain biking trails here, plus we're near by Frank Loyd Wright's Fallingwater, which I'd like to see, so we're planning on taking a rest day tomorrow to see the sites.
All of our gear lined up on every available space to dry.
|Tuesday, May 15th, 2007|
|DC to Pittsburgh, Day 4 (37 miles)
It's a lot warmer today, so no fog on the river this morning. Our campsite was at mile 173, so we only have 11 miles to Cumberland, MD, and the end of the C&O canal.
Lock 75, the last lock on the C&O canal.
As we pass the last lock, I stop to reflect on our journey so far, from the excitement of starting this journey among the crowds of downtown DC, biking the first section with my sister and her boyfriend, to the long and quiet days since then. This is definitely a trip I'd like to do again -- there's so much to see along the way, it's hard to appreciate everything when zooming by on a bike.
Approaching Cumberland, MD.
Cumberland? Cucumberland? Finally, a real town.
Cumberland, population 21,591 (metro area ~100,000), is the largest city on the route between DC and Pittsburgh. Coming into the city, I'm looking forward to a good lunch, doing laundry, and finding a real grocery store.
We've finished the C&O towpath. The Great Allegheny Passage is next.
Lunch in Cumberland.
Downtown Cumberland is quite nice. There's a pedestrian mall lined with shops and restaurants where we had lunch and stopped to relax in the 90 degree sunshine. It reminds me of Burlington, VT in the peak of summer.
After lunch, we found a grocery store where we stocked up on bike tourist staples: oatmeal, pasta, and rice, plus some tomatoes and tofu that I'll use for dinner tonight.
Now we go up.
The Great Allegheny Passage (GAP) picks up where the C&O leaves off providing us with another 150 miles of traffic-free trails. The C&O was originally planned to run all the way to the Ohio river in downtown Pittsburgh, hence the name "Chesapeake and Ohio" and not the "Chesapeake and Cumberland" canal. However, by the time the C&O was finished to Cumberland, it was already under serious competition from the railroad making it economically infeasible to extend the canal. Regardless, plans were originally drawn up to route the canal along the Flaugherry, Cumberland, Casselman, Youghiogheny, and Monongahela rivers, all the way to downtown Pittsburgh, a route which the GAP trail closely follows.
Yeah, seriously. (Click for a closer view)
Unlike the C&O towpath, the GAP trail isn't flat, and begins with a 22-mile climb between Cumberland and Big Savage Mtn. Although the climb reduces our pace to 9 mph, the grade isn't that steep and the views over the mountains are spectacular.
Way up there.
Tara managed to catch a cold somewhere along the way, and started to fall behind. I hope she gets better after resting tonight.
Here she comes.
I really appreciated this sign. The other state crossings are unsigned.
Stealth camping on Big Savage Mountain.
The GAP trail, being much newer, doesn't have as many services or campsites as the C&O. We're pretty tired after climbing Big Savage, so we decide to stealth camp in the woods near the trail. I cook a dinner of couscous with garlic, tomatoes, tofu and dill, after which we set up our tents and slept.
|Monday, May 14th, 2007|
|DC to Pittsburgh, Day 3 (63 miles)
I awoke on day 3 to a very cold morning and a beautiful display of fog lifting off the river.
Sunrise on the river.
Fog in the morning.
After cooking oatmeal for breakfast, we packed up camp and moved on to the final third of the C&O towpath. The C&O canal had stiff competition from the railroad during the later part of its existence. Although the railroad ran directly parallel to the canal and provided a much more efficient transportation link between DC and Cumberland, the canal was seen as a more reliable alternative, as it did not rely on any kind of fancy technology -- just mules pulling boats down the stream. A 22 mile stretch of this former railroad has been converted to the paved Western Maryland Rail Trail, providing modern day travelers an alternative to the dirt towpath. We took advantage of this trail, giving us a nice speed boost for its duration.
The railroad was cut straight through the mountains.
Today's ride took us through Hancock, MD, where we had lunch at Weaver's restaurant, a tradition for towpath travelers. I think they just appreciate the all-you-can-eat salad and pasta bar. Tara and I managed to finish off 7 plates of food between the two of us.
Lunch and resupply in Hancock, MD.
Re-energized, we continued down the towpath, crossing back into West Virginia. The most interesting feature along today's ride was the Paw Paw tunnel. Taking 24 years to build, it was one of the most complicated construction projects of its time, cutting through 1km of solid rock, and shortening the canal journey by 5 miles.
Entering the Paw Paw tunnel.
Very cool tunnel surface. (Long exposure, no flash).
Wow, it's dark in here.
Out the other side.
Despite the cold morning, today turned into a nice, warm, sunny day, perfect for putting in more miles. We're never quite sure how many miles we'll be able to cover in a given day, often just stopping when we get tired or run out of daylight. This freedom is part of the allure of bicycle touring -- every day you're able to pick whatever pace and distance you want, stopping to see whatever sites are interesting along the way, without a set schedule. The only goals we set are that we're going to ride our bikes from DC to Pittsburgh, and that it should take us about a week to do it.
We stopped for the night at the Spring Gap Recreation Area, another beautiful pay site ($10 per car again) along the river that happened to look remarkably similar to last night's site.
Camping at the Spring Gap Recreation Area.
This evening, however, we were visited by abundant wildlife, including a family of geese, a stray cat that we had to chase away, and the sounds of many birds, including owls and woodpeckers.
A goose family at our campsite.
I cooked pasta again for dinner, and slept much better than last night. I'm starting to get the hang of camping and my spirits have improved. Maybe I can handle a longer trip than this. We'll see...
|Sunday, May 13th, 2007|
|DC to Pittsburgh, Day 2 (59 miles)
We left the hostel around 9 AM after a breakfast of bagels with peanut butter. Before starting our serious mileage for the day, we carried our bikes up a spiral staircase on the footbridge to the historic section of Harpers Ferry. We locked our bikes to a tree and walked around the town, visited the museums, hiked up the hill to the town graveyard, and had lunch at a cafe.
Climbing up the stairs to Harpers Ferry.
The foot and train bridge to Harpers Ferry. No cars this way!
The historic Harpers Ferry, WV.
Shops in Harpers Ferry.
The Harpers Ferry cemetery. Most of the graves are for people who died around the time of the civil war.
The storms last night had soaked the trail, so even though the day was beautiful and sunny, we were covered in mud before too long.
Miles 86 - 88 on the canal were built along a ledge on the base of a cliff which has since been destroyed. Hence there's a short detour on scenic western Maryland farm roads -- actually good change of pace, plus we got to see some cows.
Getting back on to the trail.
We rode pretty hard today, stopping in Williamsport, MD where we hoped to find a grocery store. We made it into town around 5pm, but the store was a bit pathetic, having no fresh fruits or vegetables, so we decided to push on to our campsite. The C&O towpath has free hiker/biker campsites every 5 to 10 miles, which typically consist of a space for tents, a fire ring, a water well with a pump, and a chemical toilet. We wanted to camp around milepost 110 at the North Mountain hiker/biker site, but there were these two scruffy looking guys there drinking and sitting on a pile of blankets. That wouldn't be a problem, except that I also noticed that one of the guys was cleaning a foot-long knife. Rather than worrying about getting shanked by some drunks in the middle of the night, we moved on to another site a mile up the trail, the much nicer McCoys Ferry Recreation Area, which is also open to car campers. Somehow when you're out riding your bike in the woods all day, you don't mind having a few other (non crazy) people around at night. This site was quite pleasant and right next to the river. The fee was $10 per car, which we had zero of.
I cooked my first meal on my new alcohol burning stove, basmati rice with indian potato and chickpea curry from a sealed pouch I had been carrying.
Setting up camp. My first self-contained camping night, so I'm still a bit disorganized.
Ready to sleep.
I'm feeling a bit down this evening. Our inability to find a grocery store in Williamsport, our encounter with the weird guys at the last campsite, plus the toil of two consecutive 60-mile days give me doubts about my ability to complete my dream tour of the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route. It also got very cold tonight, with temperatures dropping into the low 30s, so I didn't sleep that well.
|Saturday, May 12th, 2007|
|DC to Pittsburgh, Day 1 (59 miles)
The 4 travelers (Tara, my sister Jackie, her boyfriend Dylan, and I) woke up to a huge breakfast consisting of bagels, tofu scramble, and fruit salad, courtesy of my parents. We loaded all four bikes plus gear into my mom's minivan and drove to DC.
Everything in the car.
Cowboy, my sister's puppy, comes along for the ride.
After saying goodbye to family, we started riding around 10:30 AM from Milepost 1 of the C&O canal towpath (unfortunately, the towpath no longer exists between mile 0 and mile 1). Riding a bike loaded down with 50lbs of gear was a new experience. The bike felt really unwieldy at first, like trying to steer a boat, but I got used to it over the course of the day. Fortunately, the C&O towpath is virtually flat, so I didn't have to haul all that gear up any mountains just yet.
Heading out from Georgetown.
The C&O canal was completed in 1836 and ran 184.5 miles from Cumberland, MD to Georgetown in Washington, DC. The canal is currently preserved as a national park and there are many historical sites to see along the trail. The canal has 74 locks to raise and lower boats, as Cumberland is at about 600 feet higher elevation than DC. Each of the locks was managed by a lockkeeper, who was given a lockhouse to live in plus a small stipend in exchange for his services on the canal. The lockhouses currently exists in various states of upkeep, with a few fully restored as museums, a few boarded up in disrepair, and most of the rest with only their stone foundations left in the ground to show where they once stood.
Lockhouse 7. This one has been renovated.
The scenery along the trail is beautiful, with the Potomac river to our left and the canal on our right. The appropriately named Great Falls has some pretty spectacular waterfalls with some serious-looking kayakers practicing in the rapids.
We pushed pretty hard to mile 30. At that point my sister was exhausted; she had never ridden more than 20 miles or so in a day before, and she hadn't been eating much throughout the day. She looked like she was about to collapse when we stopped for lunch.
They made it! Now we're down to two...
After a lunch of sandwiches, my sister was able to make it to mile post 35, where Dylan had left his car the day before. I was really proud of my sister for toughing it out and finishing her planned ride. After saying goodbye to Jackie and Dylan, Tara and I rode on to milepost 58 where we left the trail to find the Harper's Ferry Hostel, our planned stopping point for the evening. Little did we know that the hostel was 2 miles up a monster hill, not what we needed after a long day of biking.
Waiting for the train to pass so we can head up the hill.
The hostel is very nice. The beds are dormitory style, 12 per room, but it's only $20 per night. It felt really good to take a shower and wash off all the dirt and sweat accumulated throughout the day, a luxury we wouldn't have in the coming days. I cooked 1.5lbs of pasta for dinner (1lb for me, 0.5lbs for Tara), then read for a few minutes before feeling too exhausted to do anything but pass out.
Cooking dinner at the Harpers Ferry Hostel.
The hallway is one huge map.
There were strong thunderstorms all night. Fortunately, we were sleeping inside tonight.
|Friday, May 11th, 2007|
|DC to Pittsburgh, Day 0
Tara and I drove from New Haven, CT to Columbia, MD with our bikes and gear. We arrived around 3:30 PM after a 6-hour drive and immediately went for a 20-mile bike ride on the local paths and trails to get the blood flowing to our legs again after sitting in the car all day.
Packing my gear.
Warmup ride. Unloaded!
Tara showing off her 1337 mountain biking skillz.
That evening, my parents, Tara, and I met up with my sister and her boyfriend for dinner at Great Sage, a local vegetarian restaurant. As usual, the food was excellent and I ended up finishing everyone else's meals. Gotta "fuel up" for the upcoming trip...
|Wednesday, April 18th, 2007|