11.27.2011

Thanksgiving Traditions.


Tradition.

Fiddler on the Roof- Tradition
I enjoy this story and its musical presentation
nothing to do with my likeness to the protagonist... Tevye

we all have traditions
over the years my family has developed some holiday traditions
some of these traditions seem to be more routine than tradition
but there are traditions tucked into the routines

part of our Thanksgiving routine is to visit my in-laws in suburban Pittsburgh
within that routine I have created a personal tradition of
bringing a bicycle and doing some sort of riding
as riding a bicycle is a good option since a family football game has been a presented option but never gathered any interest

routines and traditions?
traditions and routines?
maybe in some cases routines are traditions
just as traditions are routines

over the years I have tried a variety of rides
years ago early on I brought a mountain bike and tried to find some dirt trails in the South Hills area
usually the earth was soft and slick and the trails I found were more unofficial "social trails" rather than mountain bike trails proper
sure I found some okay mini loops and a BMX track... but not exactly what I was looking for

then it evolved into my bringing my cyclocross bike for some late season solo cyclocross practice
up to the present where I have decided that a ride to the multi-use Montour Trail for some rails-to-trails fun is my best option
Pittsburgh with its history of industry has no shortage of railroad tracks
may tracks still active
maybe as many tracks no longer active

The Montour Trail


I will draw up some sort of synopsis that brings in elements of two rides I did on this Pittsburgh visit
in an effort to give an interesting tale of a less than epic set of rides that manage to bring a smile to my face each Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving Tradition
it is our family Thanksgiving Tradition to visit my inlaws... the grandparents in Pittsburgh in the town where my wife grewup
durning this visit my boys also get to see their cousins
this is always an adventure
as said... I have developed a bit of an informal Thanksgiving Tradition of going for a Thanksgiving Bicycle Ride
this year was to be no different

in an effort to miss the worst of the holiday traffic we stagger our trip
leaving for Pittsburgh on Wednesday morning
I packed my bags the night prior
when loading up my wife Lisa's car with all of our bags and a rear mounting rack for her VW Passat wagon I noticed one thing when I grabbed my Specialized Tri-cross... it did not have pedals
rather than grabbing a pedal wrench and making a quick swap I just grabbed my Trek road bike
this bike seemed like a fine selection... the weather was expected to be mild
unlike years prior... I did not expect the Montour Trail to be covered in hard packed snow

we made the drive with way more traffic than expected
but arriving with plenty of time to meet the family for pizza... Wednesday night pizza on the eve of Thanksgiving with the grandparents and the cousins has become a bit of a tradition
then the next morning came without much planning

morning blending into afternoon quicker than expected and I realized that I needed to suit up and mount up if I expected to be riding before guests arrived at my in-laws house for what is always a magnificent feast with family

with my permission slip signed I jumped into my DCMTB kit excited about the opportunity to escape the sound and sight of FOX NEWS AND FOOTBALL on the flat screen... in less than 24 hours in the in-law's house I had already reached a year's worth of FOX NEWS AND FOOTBALL... I am not such a fan of FOX NEWS AND FOOTBALL... no offense... just not within my scope of interests... okay FOX NEWS OFFENDS ME... FOOTBALL DOES NOT ENTERTAIN ME

so... suited up in what I believed would be enough gear to keep me warm but not overheating on this unseasonably warm Thanksgiving Day
with helmet on my head and cycling shoes on my feet I pulled out my bike and lubed up the chain and topped off the tires with some air
then tucked pump, tube, and mini tool and cell phone in my jersey pockets and then threw my leg over the saddle and started my ride

my inlaws live in a nice house on a hill in Upper St. Clair
the terrain in this area does not offer much for warming up
the road go up and down and then go up and down some more
so I pedaled fast downhill in an effort to warm up before the brutal climb going up hill

as I started my ride I thought about the rear tire on my road bike
I thought about the wear and the little slits caused by glass that had caused flats in the past and wondered if the tire was going to withstand the rigors of the day
I thought about the need to swap out that tire then accepted that I had a spare tube and a cell phone if I were to suffer a puncture

out of the neighborhood onto a moderately busy road I rode as far to the right as I felt safe
on the sharp turns I moved more to the center lane fearing that the fast passing cars were at risk of a head on collision
so I think not only for what is best for me... but what is best for the cars around me

it is the usual set of variables
cars passing obnoxiously fast and obnoxiously close
being a stranger in a strange town I refrained from any profanity or finger waving
I also realized that many of the passing cars were not locals
but other visitors in town for the holiday weekend

cars rushed past me to make it to their Thanksgiving gatherings
when one car passed too fast and too close I moved further to the center of the lane
thinking to myself SUBMISSIVE CYCLING ENABLES AGGRESSIVE DRIVING
thinking to myself that the only person that cares about my well being in this situation is me
so it is best for me to do what is best for me... which is also best for all around me

mini vans were angering me more than pick up trucks... go figure
the usually insanity swarmed around me
several unnecessary passes were made... the usual quick fast pass only to cause me to slow down as they pass in front of me and then are forced to stop so that they can make a turn

on the downhills I went fast... fast with caution... never knowing if a car will pull out of the driveway or the side street in front of me
on the climbs I was given the option of dropping things down into an easier gear of stepping things up and working harder to get to the top
I opted for working harder

my lungs were pumping and my legs were throbbing and my ride had just begun
I tend to avoid hills when I ride my bicycle... there is no avoiding the hills when riding a bicycle in the Pittsburgh area

ah... sanctuary from the madness of car culture
approaching Al's Cafe I could see the new bridge where I would leave the hilly roads and take to the flat rails to trails trail
it is a nice bridge.. this JR Taylor Memorial Bridge... but it does not really get me where I need to go
yet nice just the same

on the trail I wet my whistle with some water from my water bottle
I fumble on the return to the water bottle cage
forcing me to skid to a halt and reverse my direction to retrieve my water bottle that has rolled off the trail and into the grass
I grab the water bottle and take another slug... then start pedaling again... I try to get some momentum as I place the water bottle back in its cage
this time not dropping it

the Montour Trail is well used
on this day there are all sorts of people walking with family... walking their dogs... running... and riding their bikes
there are other people using the trail... but it is far from crowded
I made fast smooth passes with an audible ON YOUR LEFT and a whisper of HAPPY THANKSGIVING
some people are spooked as people often are
it can be shocking to see a bicycle on the bike path
the people may be spooked but everyone is friendly

I am forced to slow to a near stop as some of the trail users are taking up a great amount of space with their dogs and their retractable leashes
no worries... this is to be expected
I am on a shared trail... not a bicycle race course

I gain some momentum and take in the views
the trail goes through some neighborhoods and then borders some farms
proud majestic horses gather in the field on the side of the trail
green fields and rolling hills as far as the eye can see

ahead there is a warning sign for a detour
a rustic old stone bridge has been removed
esthetic has been removed... the little tunnel is sure to be replaced by a less historic looking bridge
oh well... I guess there was no Historical Society to stand in the way of change

I take the detour... then find myself on the road
there is the option to take some wooden stairs back up to the trail
my selection is a parking lot that brings me close
off the bike and I am running up a short steep hill with my bike on my shoulder
the earth is soft... the cleats on the toes of my cycling shoe are put to good use

at the top of the hill I stall for a second to let a runner pass in one direction and then a young woman on roller blades from the other
the young roller blader is in short shorts and a t-short... I am dressed head to toe in many layers of lycra and other modern age fabrics
after she passed I get on the paved trail behind her
it is tempting to cruise at her leisure pace for a few miles but instead I give a friendly ON YOUR LEFT that goes unheard as she is wearing headphones
lots of headphone wearing trail users
most of which do not hear the gentle ON YOUR LEFT

some of which are spooked and jump as I pass

as I get further from the neighborhoods the frequency of other trail users becomes less and less
the scenery also becomes more rustic
streams and rivers flank the trail
small stream water falls on the hillside

at one point the trail goes over a set of train tracks just as those tracks disappear in a tunnel that cuts through the hillside
this happens just before the Montour Trail cuts through the hill in a different direction
a sign warns of falling rocks, ice, and pot holes
the tunnel is short
I keep my hands on the handlebars bracing myself for for any of these unexpected variables

it is Thanksgiving Day
my ride has a two hour window
which has me estimating a little less than an hour out so that I can get back with a little less than an hour on my return
with about an hour of pedal time behind me I turn around at another trail detour
no need to go any further forward
I make the turn around

I remember this golf course from years prior

in fact... I remember each glorious vista, each wonderful bridge, each amazing tunnel, and each and
every water fall and stream from years prior
I also remember wanting to go further each year
alas no... I need to get back

so... I start my way back
the trail is pretty vacant which allows my mind to wander
I day dream about being a bicycle racer
my body takes on a aggressive bicycle racer position and I push the pedals

the sun is already starting to drop and the temperatures are dropping with it
my shadow is long and at my side
I can see my body position
it seems that my bicycle racer position does make me more efficient and more fast

not unlike trying to look like a cross country skier helps to cross country ski with appropriate form
so goes the same for cycling

I retrace my tire tracks
passing so many of the trail users I passed before
Thanksgiving greetings and smiles are shared as I pass

when I get to the trail detour I take to the road
somehow I manage to pass the trail return... which is fine
I like to get a little lost
I enjoy trying to find a "short cut"

on the road I take a turn... then another turn
attempting to get myself back onto the flat rails to trails trail

the legs are feeling good
I can feel the burn as I motor up the hills
the cars are not as friendly as they could be
but why should the cars here be different than the cars anywhere else in the world

I go up a number of hills... each hill goes up and then down again
of course forcing me to go up again
ahead in the distance I see that the road I am on goes through a small tunnel under what was once the railway
I laugh to myself
I remember this exact spot from a creative short cut from the other direction the year prior
I found the trail fast

again I find a parking lot that is just a short march on soft grass that takes me back to the bike trail
as good as I felt on the climbs... I am not ashamed to take the rails to trails route
not just to be away from the cars
but to be away from the hills

I knock out the final miles of trail and cross that bridge by Al's Cafe
then return to the street
again I ride with intensity
elbows sharpened

for the most part the cars are pretty okay
not entirely logical
but no one being excessively obnoxious
just the usual non-sense

I hammer out the final miles with a smile on my face
it is a brutal set of climbs to get back into my inlaw's neighborhood
but I do not mind
it feels good... I feel good

I arrive at my destination not quite meeting my 2 hour mark which allows for more space before guests arrive
so I grab my younger son Grant and we take a short walk with some pruning sheers to gather some sticks and twigs for his Seneca Indian Longhouse project

after some sticks are gather we head in
I shower up and suit up in civilian gear
Thanksgiving Day... my tradition of the bike ride is behind me
it is time for the Thanksgiving Tradition of over eating!
TURKEY! YUM!

not a bad day
not a bad way to spend Thanksgiving
always good to bring the bike
this year I got in two rides
but really... it is worth it even if I ride once!

these photos are from our trip to the Carnegie Science Center and SPORTS WORKS
we have a tradition of spending the day at one of the Pittsburgh museums
previously we went to the Pittsburgh Children's Museum
this year we mixed it up


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