Sunday, December 31, 2006

Sunday on the Schuykill

A beautiful vacation Sunday morning allowed Annie and I to ride today in daylight. As I've mentioned we're usually on the road at 5:30 A.M. and it is only just getting light when we return home at 7 A.M. But today we slept until 7 and were on the road at 8:30. This also gave me an opportunity to take my camera with me and show you some of the sights of the Schuykill River Path. Aside from the rare daylight ride I keep thinking that the weather has to worsen to the point where taking pictures will not be an option. But with the sun still beautifully shining and the temperature at a balmy 35 degrees, it was most comfortable for stopping and taking in the sights. We start at the back of the Philadelphia Museum of Art (that is, the pictures begin there; we've already ridden about 2 miles to this point.)My family already knows well that I am not the world's best photographer but that is the back of the Museum that you're looking at here from just in front of the Azalea Gardens.

Not to overdo things just two or three more: The first is just one of my favorite views as we come around an early curve in the path, beyond the famous boat houses.

The next is the first view from the Falls Bridge crossing from the Eastern leg of the loop, Kelly Drive. It took me a few weeks to achieve this view and I can remember the first time I finally saw it I was very pleased to say the least. Now I see it every morning, but it never fails to re-kindle that first experience.

Finally, the view of the city skyline coming back into view as we head back into town along the western side of the loop around the river. All in all a beautiful ride in the midst of a great city. Annie left me after the first loop and I continued along for a second loop, bringing the daily trip to 22.5 miles. I happily met up with my friend Harry who rode with me along the western portion of the loop for a couple of miles before tearing back himself for another ride around. Then home for me, buckwheat pancakes, an afternoon at the University of Pennsylvania Anthropology Museum followed by a satisfying Eagle win and the prospect of play-off games on upcoming Sunday's.

Friday, December 29, 2006

I've been blogged

Well in the event anyone looked for me yesterday (not likely) I wasn't here. I don't blog on the Sabbath which for me is Saturday.Since I have been on vacation this past week, yesterday was an opportunity for me to enjoy the Sabbath without working, which is how its supposed to be, but isn't for clergy. Anyway, our two sons are still here from Los Angeles and our daughter and son-in-law came down for the day with our granddaughter, always a wonderful event. Here they all are:

Our granddaughter is too young for a bike yet, just approaching her first birthday, but her father is an avid cyclist and my two sons have taken up riding having been inspired by my and Annie's example and I've chosen her second birthday present already: a glider rider, a bike without peddles that teaches kids as young as two to ride without having to go through the training wheel stage. Check it out at which I have added to my links list. That reminds me: I've been blogged. Cycling Dude featured the inaugural of this blog on his site on Friday, introducing me to the cycling blogger fraternity. Thanks Dude. Check him out via the link in my sidebar. Cycle Dude was good enough to inform me that my links were both inaccurate and inoperative, but all that's been fixed. So check out some of the folks who have inspired my present efforts. Today promises to be a beautiful day here in Philadelphia so more bicycle musings tomorrow.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Citizen's Maiden Voyage

There you have view of the Citizen Alloy, 6 speed, 20 inch silver frame assembled and folded into its carrying case. Pretty neat both ways. It is a bit bulkier than I'd hoped. Great for travel, as when I have to go to Arizona and speak later this year, but how it will work taking it around town remains to be seen. First, for the maiden ride:So it took me awhile to get comfortable, not being used to straight across handle bars, (mine curve back toward me)and needing to get the seat and handle bar heights set up. All in all it took about 4 minutes. But my first ride lasted only a block before I realized the brakes were situated below the bar and I couldn't reach them (small hands.) I'm too much of a novice to know whether some people like them there, but I had to retreat into the house to find an Allen wrench and re-position them. Then out again, this time feeling very comfortable and very happy with the performance of the bike. I took it around the street for awhile near my home and then headed up to the Schuykill path just to see how it would go. Around town it seems like it may be great; on the path it was a chore. Not because it doesn't ride beautifully and handle perfectly, but mostly I think because of the 20" wheels. It's just a lot more work to get a lot less distance. I only took it to the Museum (the path was closed there for the moment as they were doing some tree work but that's as far as I'd planned to go.Annie and I had already done our 12.5 mile loop earlier.) It took the fairly steep hill by the Museum better than I expected, but it was a workout. So now we know the bike works great. How practical it will be for my in-town needs remains to be seen when I go back to work with it next week.

Here's How This all Started

How does a 58 year old theologian/Rabbi /Poet become an avid bicyclist, let alone a blogger? Here is the story in a nutshell:
Back in May of 2006 my wife an I went for a Sabbath walk from our Center City Philadelphia townhouse up to the Schuylkill River Park. This beautiful multi-use trail was recently extended down near to our home. It goes from there to Valley Forge National Park. We sat on a bench that Saturday afternoon and over the course of the hour or so we were there a wide variety of bicyclists rode past us from fully outfitted folks who looked like they belonged at the Tour de'France, to elderly couples on old coasters (a term we didn't know them.) I remarked to my wife that bicycling looked like fun and after a brief discussion in which she agreed, indicated she'd like to try it too and that we'd never really developed a hobby together despite my attempts to get her to play golf and her attempts to get me to enjoy dancing, we decided bike riding might be the thing. So I began to visit bike stores and search on the internet for information. I was astonished by the prices. And because we were both small in stature, the few bikes I had tried on for size at local shops were not comfortable (some day I'll come back and comment on the dumb salespeople who didn't tell me that smaller frame sizes might be available, probably because the model and make of bikes they were pushing didn't go down to the 14 inch frame I would need.) Then a friend suggested Craig's list and sure enough within a day I'd found a guy selling bikes out of his garage. I had ignorantly decided that I wanted a bike without handbrakes or gears, since that's what I remembered from my childhood. I bought a 26 inch Coaster Schwin for myself and a twenty inch Winabago folding bike for my wife. The first time we rode out together I couldn't comfortably stop, reached out to use my wife as a support and we both hit the pavement together. I was probably riding an 18 inch frame. A few days later my wife had a terrible medical emergency that landed her in Intensive Care for a week on a respirator followed by a month's recovery (not related to our biking mishap.) When she was well enough to ride her anger at my having pushed her over was gone and, frankly, we'd both come to realize how precious life is, so we set out to ride again. But this time we knew we needed new bikes, with gears and hand-brakes and smaller sized. Once again we went shopping stupidly (it's amazing how much money you can waste trying to save money!)Her new bike, a 24 inch Schwin came from Toys R Us and my 24 inch Mongoose cost us about $200 together, twice what our used bikes had cost. And I must say that they served us well. They helped us become familiar with using the gears and the breaks. We took them with us on our Pocono Mountain vacation and rode everyday. By the end of two weeks I had conquered the six mile ride around the developement we were staying at. The first time out I had given up after about half a mile. My wife was still covering a bit less ground, but we were having great fun. Back at home we began the daily practice that we've maintained since then of rising at 4:45 AM in order to be out of the house by about 5:30 to ride the previously mentioned Schuylkill River trail. At first 3 miles round trip, then 4, then 5; now we do the entire 12.5 mile loop every morning. But soon enough things began to happen to our box-store bikes. Chain falling off every day, gears slipping. It was time for a visit to the local bike shop. And then again. And then we were told that he could keep fixing our bikes but they were not going to stay fixed and he explained the difference between a good bike, even at low-end prices and what we had. He also informed us that 24 inch wheels were for children and no matter how short we were we were adults. He explained about frame sizes etc. So we set out to search for bikes again, this time visiting multiple bike shops, researching more knowlegably on-line and ended up each with TREK Navigators, the bikes we now use everyday and love. My wife still rides the 12 mile trail with me everyday, but on the one day a week she goes to visit our grandaughter I ride myself to Valley Forge and back - the whole fifty miles. Who would have thought! and I've lost forty pounds since July, bought a whole new wardrobe, joined the League of American Bicyclists among other groups etc. Meanwhile my morning ride just isn't enough, so I'll end this introductory post by sharing the fact that in order to ride more around town during the working day and not have to worry about using two and three locks to secure my bike, today there arrived two new Citizen folding bikes for Annie and me. It was too late in the day to ride them, but they look great and I might as well start by describing their maiden voyages tomorrow. And then, since I ride and think about bicycling everyday, I intend to write here every or almost everyday. One of the first things I'll write about after the new Citizens will be the many wonderful bicycling blogs that I've come to read everyday and inspired me to join this aspect of the wheeled fraternity.
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