Sunday, October 27, 2013

There and back again (that'd be Texas)

Many people think that the traveling around is fun and glorious. I want to say at the beginning I enjoy being "there" but the travel is not fun, but I make the most of it. The reason for that introduction is, I got to spend 24 hours traveling to Austin... my flight was delayed, and the Air Canada lounge makes it a bit more tolerable but you're still waiting fo
r 2 hours, after driving through traffic to get to airport and through the ticket counter. I ended up spending the night in Chicago, and left later in the afternoon. I spend my morning working on AutoCAD drawings, drinking the maids coffee supply down (she just smiled the fourth trip to get two packs of coffee), and I was able to phone my Brother and wish him a happy 50th.
The store in Round Rock is in great shape as far as the progress of the work, so the days work is "normal" and we just piled through on Thursday catching up with the contractors work, so the product was well lit. The afternoon was perfect and after a quick shower, one needs to go out and ride the Hills of Austin.

I've stuck to the same loop but have changed it every time, trying to avoid some of the 20% grade, you can't avoid an average grade of 13% on some sections but I'm not worried about speed at this time of year so "enjoy the ride".
The next day was once again work and getting just up the controntractor so the merchandise that is on new racking is well lit for the weekend, and then it's weekend for us, we get the weekend off as most know. Jared (the 20 year-old I'm working with) and I discovered this bar that has tone's of microbreweries on tap and long happy hour, which lets you try a couple over a period of time and not get loopy. They also have free WiFi, and Jared enjoyed talking to the Bar keeps as that is how he met Curtis (Robert's son), and started working for ALS.
When in Austin you have to eat out a couple of times, and if you head south of the Colorado river it's where all the cool kids hangout so expect to wait in line to get served, and Home Slice Pizza, is the BEST pizza in Austin, according to Yelp, Google and by the line up. We had to wait, but the evening was nice and just people watched. When it came it was delicious!
Saturday even though I'm out of town is still chore day and laundry had to be done, and bit of bike maintenance. With one car and two \people I had to arrange with Jared's schedule so I could get out and do the EpicTexas ride from epicPlanet training video. The day was around 18°C (64°F) and I had on an under shirt and my jersey, the cyclist we saw were wearing winter coats, tights and full fingered gloves. If I had packed my arm warmers I would have them on, I have over the years acclimated to the cold, fairly well... I still wear more than some of my Canadian friends but this was very nice weather. The day was cloudless and the sky was very blue (my phone is dying so the photo's are off in color). The loop went out to Johnson City, and there was an artsy gallery and a coffee shop with WiFi were I stopped and had a cappuccino, back home we don't do coffee rides, no one seems to want to stop during a ride so this was a bit of a novelty for me.  
The "cool" bar shot... All the cool kids do this now.
I emailed Jared at the Johnson City Café and he had his timing down perfect, he was standing in the parking lot waiting and he said for only 5 minutes.
Back to the house and shower and shave to get ready for the "main event" of the weekend we had planed this since our last trip, out to Dripping Springs for The Salt Lick BBQ, and it was an event. you have to drive a bit through some new development, and Austin is EXPLODING! Then you're on a dark road and come over the hill and there is the HUGE parking lot ligthing up the sky. You have to stand in line to get your pager, and remember this is a cool night and Texas like it warm so our 20 minutes in line was short for this place. You BYOB and sit out listening to live music, so the wait is not an issue.

The Lone Star was not mine... I had Shiner Bock

As you can see there is a huge crowd. They have winery next door, where you can purchase "Salt Lick Winery" wine. We talked to the guy drinking the Lone Star beer, who was friends with couple performing. Our buzzer went off and then the feast began... 
The warming pit...They were bring the meat from the back

service desk

pecan pie, the cobbler is what they are know for
We cleaned up two plates like this.

 When we went for left-over the following week, we both thought we had left some meat to eat... there was not much, that's about 2 pounds of meat each. After this we went back out and listened to the performers, and then helped them break down and be their roadies, and we got invited to a party. Jared and I were the only non musicians. Everyone else was in a band, Austin is the Music Capital of the world.
This made for quite the late night and we slept in on Sunday, which was another amazing day. I want to be outside on amazing day's but Austin's hills are hard and I need a days rest between rides. So I started looking for something to do outside. I found just up the road from us Bull Creek Park and Greenbelt, so out for an afternoon hike.

This was just great weather, tons of people out, and loads of dogs having great time in the crystal clear waters!
Monday night I drove down to Mellow Johnny's, and my phone would not take a photo there, but I've been there, then off to the bridge to try and see the bats again... It was great day until it came to bat time. The clouds rolled in and was quite dark, making it impossible to get a good photo of the bats. That's twice for me. One day maybe.
Tuesday was my last day in Austin and last day to pound those hills. It was great afternoon for riding cool but not too cool so I made my loop with one big hill in it that I got a PR on.
And I stopped a got a photo of Lake Austin, before my phone froze up... Stupid Phone!
Wednesday was moving/driving day to Houston. The Houston Store was more typical work, where they are moving along at a "normal pace", we arrived got set up and began the usual, getting drawings, locating our "stuff" and we managed to get started on lights. We then head to our condo, and a planed dinner with my Dad, but first I had to stop at the old house which Dad sold in June... nothing's left. HA!
We went out to eat more BBQ and I forgot to get a Family photo, afterwards I thought I had Thursday night... but dad had to go into the hospital and Jared and I were on our own. We both are about as full of Brisket as one can get, so it's time for Mexican and if you do Mexican in Houston you have to go to The Original Ninfa's "on Navigation"

Because it's only a couple of miles from the condo, we came back and I sat out on the balconies and enjoyed the views.

The next morning up early and to the airport where I flew home, then my family and I went to see Les Misérables, in Toronto. I have to say that Toronto is losing it's allure for me. Condo's and Traffic... and they're going to tear down the Princess of Whales Theatre and the Restaurant Row by the Theaters, so not much left to see or do there. I'm sure there are little nooks still left if your a local but why drive in traffic both ways (at midnight home), to watch a show? A bit disappointing, I used to enjoy going in to TO. 

And as always I'm home and the dogs expect their walks on Saturday which even though it rained all day it was a very nice evening!

Sunday, October 13, 2013

In Austin, Texas for work and riding hills

Wow, first and foremost I had forgotten how hot Texas can be, but it's a different heat than Ontario.
I flew down on a Tuesday evening with Robert Brehn, with a layover in Chicago we arrived at midnight. We were up at work a little later in the morning. The store was ready for us, and we managed to get a lot of work done, despite the scaffolding company had given us the runaround about delivery, in the end it was delivered to the Houston store and they sent it over to us.
Back at the "house" after work the first task of the day is to assemble my bike, I was quite tired from Tuesday being a long day so I just pedaled around the neighborhood, which is very hill, to make sure the shifters were going to work. The route I had planned for Austin is from epicRides a cycling training video company, and epicAustin literally passed outside of our house. So I had it all setup for Thursday and after grocery shopping Robert and I went out for BBQ brisket. On to Thursday where we had another very productive day at work at the store. I then headed out on my epicAustin ride, in 33°C (92°F) heat, which is not bad for flats but it takes so much effort on climbs it is very hot, some of the grades are at a max of 20% and I'm about 10 pounds overweight so I felt every percentage point and every pedal stroke.

You might observe in the route a lot of "pig tails" in order for epicAustin to punish you and get the steep climbing they head off of main roads. The video/Map my Ride route also starts and finished under the MoPac by the river, not in front of my house. Texas has a rugged beauty and I do miss it a lot.

Friday was another day at work and rest in the afternoon then Robert and I went downtown to watch the bats come out from the bridge and he then treated me to a fantastic Mexican dinner... Some bosses are "OK". :P
Saturday I ran Robert off to the airport and I went out for Mexican breakfast. All this for under $5 including a 15% tip! BTW that's eggs with cactus 
Back home, and I did a little bit of office work, try and fix my map so I could find my way around the Colorado River, Garmin Connect likes to have a good internet connection and we don't have much more than a fast dial-up at this rental, ARGH! I then got ready for my ride and grabbed my flashing rear light as it might rain at 2:00 p.m. and out to do the full epicAustin.
And it sure did look like rain when I got down to Westlake drive...
So I attached my flashing rear light and headed into the clouds the rain held off till I was on Riva Ridge at the end of the climb, which was nice. For those of you who are not cyclist climbing on steep hills in the rain is very difficult because your wheel will slip on the tarmac especially on grades over 7% and Riva Ridge is one of the climbs that has a max of 20%. It poured rain I could not see anything in front of me on the shoulder of North Capital of Texas Highway. When I turned off the hill at Hidden Valley was a sit in the saddle the whole time to keep the rear wheel from slipping too much, it has gone from down pour to a sprinkle and by the time I got to the top of that it had stopped all together. City park is an easyish downhill all the way and an easy return 4% or less, so I was in a nice rhythm and working on my mental skills for getting up Jester, it's long, and it's at the end of my ride so this time I wanted to be prepared for it, and I just started a bit slower at the bottom, because I knew that it would slow me down anyway, climbs like that are best when your done with them, the last tail home is not hard and as I was coming up Smokey Hollow the Taxi was dropping Jared off. I met him, took a shower and a nap.
For the evening I had planned on going to the Pecan Street Music Festival, and Jared was game. Great fun and we got to hear some good music.

The rest of the week was a bit more work and cooking at home. Because of Austin's hills I just could not ride every day. Tuesday I rode on "flat" and Thursday I made a run to Mellow Johnny's as Jared went golfing. Some how my bike computer did not charge up and did not record all of Thursday's ride.
We went out one night to Rudy's and had more Brisket... sitting outdoors drinking Iced tea.

Saturday was an all day trip home... then Sunday was church, and the church picnic at Mohawk Park, with a great fall day, and in the evening I took the dogs out for a run, then off to work in Burlington on Monday.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Go East for them Hills!

I have been in two cities I did not know too much about, but have driven through the area. The first city is Pittsburgh, I was here for a few days and I just was mostly working and I did not fare too well getting served in a locals restaurant, and that happened to me again on this visit.

I arrived to do the store here with Robert Brehn, with our bikes in tow. I think that if it was not for Karen all the Brehn boys would eat only spaghetti and burritos! So while he was here I at Chipotle which is a burrito chain, a pretty good Oriental place and a burger joint... So food (or is that fuel?) was consumed!

On the first day after work we headed out south, to find out we needed to make a few detours as bridges were out. I later found out that Pittsburgh had had two major floods this year that had taken out several bridges. Detouring routes around bridges or cyclo-crossing over bridge construction became the "theme" of Pittsburgh riding. So without any further adieu here are the Pittsburgh rides:

These are by my lonesome:
This one the "pigtail" to the West is where on a descent the paved road just disappeared, turned to a rock road and it took me awhile to slow to a stop and turn around.

Friday after my ride I went to the southside flats where the "hipsters" hang out, here there wanna be's and really just college students on bikes. But I found a very nice restaurant with an inexpensive dinner (bonus). While down there I found Pittsburgh Pavé.

Now on Saturday it was Thunderstorms (feels like a theme for this summers travels), then it cleared up about 2 p.m. So should I ride or see the town, I went out to see the town. There is a tram that lets you see the whole of the city and the stadiums.

It seems that there are very few cyclist for all the great riding, but no shortage of bikers, and if your into sports and bars to watch sports in this would be a fantastic city. 

Sunday a.m. I was up early to head off to my next assignment Baltimore, but via Gettysburg... I grew up with a Civil War buff, and I took Civil War history at A&M with one of the great scholars before he retired. I did run Strava on this, just to see where I had gone, but if you do get a chance, a bike is a great way to do it, but bring a MTB or a cross bike with shoes you can walk in, and a lock. I had the lock and a change of shoes, but riding up Big Round Top I met up with people walking down and I had to dismount and walk the rest of the way up, in road cycling shoes. If you don't know what they are well go here. I have a lot of photos of the fields and views but here are just a few...
David Wills on Lincoln Square where Lincoln stayed while in Gettysburg

This is general Unknown, but there also by state plus all the known.

The plak from cemetery ridge

The real thing

view from Warfield ridge of little round top and artillery ridge

artillery ridge looking at Devils den.

Then on to Baltimore, I arrived not knowing much at all, and found out I was in the middle of the shoppers mecca of Baltimore. Monday was a nice evening and I sat at my computer looking for the best place to ride, I had picked a few areas that were drive and ride (not my first choice). Tuesday it rained and rained and thunderstorms, so I went looking for food, and Yelp failed me BIG time, shoppers mecca means chain food places, and no real good places to eat. I was depressed no ride and no good food. 
Wednesday it rained and then looked like it wanted to rain, but a co-worker had told me about Fells Point and Bertha's Mussels. It is a historical part of Baltimore and in a revival. I had parked down at O'Donnell and  Boston at a park and talked to several dog owners, this is Michael Phelps home turf. I walked down the waterfront promenade to Fells Point, which is where Meg Ryan lived in "Sleepless in Seattle" and had nice evening looking at all the old buildings.
Oh BTW Baltimore Pavé

Thursday RAIN again, but again a co-work had told about a place call Iron Horse for good food and Nati-Bo's on tap. I binged on "junk food" I had $5 pound of wings with, OF COURSE, in Baltimore Old Bay seasoning and Sweet Potato fries, ah well not healthy but good, and this place was out of town a bit... on rollling hills. "Oh my what's a cyclist to think?"
Friday as some may know from my post it was raining after work and I began my laundry which was FREE at this hotel, score! As soon as I got the first load in the sun came out! Stupid Baltimore weather! So I planned Saturday while laundry was going. It was going to be tricky, light showers in the a.m. cloudy afternoon and a T-Storm at 4:30. The weather was not quite so stupid, it became sunny around 1:00 and I got a little red, and the evening was cool and fantastic (cept the mosquitoes).

Sunday I wanted to see the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum so after hotel breakfast off to see planes and spaceships! The engineer in me.

Once I got back to the hotel it was just too nice not to go riding so... 
Monday was just a very long day of work, then hop in car and drive all the way up to Long Island, getting late. Today rained but after work it cleared up. I was oh so tempted but just too too exhausted, so I made the Thai Curry recipe that Greg Niemialkowski had given me, its easy and forgiving for travel with small grocery stores. Tomorrow's ride is planned and no rain in the forecast!