Saturday, September 21, 2013

Oh What a Beautiful Morning, Oh What A Beautiful Day ....

At Laurel Hill Cemetery overlooking Kelly Drive
and the Schuykill River. It was a gorgeous day!
So I spared my friends the agony of listening to me sing out loud but that song was my earworm for the day. As one of the organizers of the ride said "You could ask for a better day, but you wouldn't get it.".

The Cycles and Cemeteries ride is organized by the Schuylkill River National and State Heritage Area. And very well organized at that. For a very modest fee we were well fed, hydrated and cared for the entire day. I was alerted to this event by my friend Kristi Y and she and her fiancé Tom and I did the event together.

We arrived shortly after 8 am at Montgomery Cemetery in West Norriton (not to be confused but often is with Norristown). After checking in we were treated to a tour of the cemetery. Our guides gave us the history of Winfield Scott Hancock, Samuel Zook, and nurse Elizabeth Brower who was a Norristown native.

You knew I would take this one:)
At 10 am we started off on our 14 mile ride to Laurel Hill Cemetery. We rode the street for only a couple of blocks until we got to the Schuylkill River Trail. I only wish I had a helmet camera. It was such a beautiful day. The trail was packed though with riders, runners and walkers. Our morning trip East toward Laurel Hill was a bit nerve wracking in a few spots, especially when some cyclists tried to pass between people going in both directions. Along Kelly Drive the trail was packed with volunteers and participants of the 20 in 24 event which had been rescheduled from July. They certainly lucked out with the weather! As we approached Laurel Hill along Kelly Drive I was already figuring I was going to have to walk my bike into the cemetery. If you've ever ridden this stretch you know that you have to look UP...way up to see the cemetery from the street. Fortunately we entered at a lower point off Kelly Drive. We made it safely to Laurel Hill Cemetery in about an hour and a half.

I enjoyed seeing how all the trails connect. Previously, I've only ever gone east as far as Conshohocken from Valley Forge on the SRT. I've come west from Manayunk along the tow path as far as the old abandoned train station with Pete and the trail group but usually turned around there. Today I saw the piece in between. I also made the connection from Lock Street at the start of the towpath to where the trail comes down off Forbidden Drive. It all makes sense now!

At Laurel Hill we were fed a very nice lunch. Salads, sandwiches and cookies as well as iced tea, water and Gatorade. We spent some time walking around the cemetery before taking the return trip back to Montgomery Cemetery. For the return trip the trail was much less congested.

I had a great time and have set my thoughts on the next year's ride. They announced today that they are planning a 3 day ride from Hopewell Furnace to Valley Forge to Independence Hall. The trip includes a tour of Independence Hall. It would be very cool to take that ride and get the tour from Tom who is a National Park Ranger at Independence Historical Park.

I had a great time today.  I'm very glad the 28 miles was broken in two parts. If I want to do longer rides (like next year) I must get bike gloves and padded shorts!

Here we are with Major General George Meade

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

No Whining

Allergies suck! Period. End of story. Yeah yeah, I know. In the grand scheme of things that I could suffer from - this is so minor. I have to keep reminding myself and stop whining.

So focusing on the positives of life lately -

1) It got down into the 40s last night. Can the first frost be far behind? Ok that's kinda like whining still so moving on....

2) I got out on my bike two days in a row last week. See "Lacking Consistency" to understand how much of an accomplishment that is (but ignore the whining of that post please).

3) Spent two days in Harrisburg this week for work. Had a great walk to and back from dinner on Monday night. Across the river in gorgeous moonlight with a real nip of fall in the air.

4) Walked into Media tonight with Dave for "Dining Under the Stars". Another beautiful night. It's was more about the walk than the dining but both were enjoyable.

I'll leave you with photos of from this evening and promise to come back soon with less whining.

People watching while waiting for our meal. One little girl
(not this one) was skipping and laughing the whole way
"Daddy, I'm running on the trolley tracks"

Entertainment tonight courtesy of the
Penncrest Glee Club.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Lacking Consistency

I am having a terrible time getting back into a fitness "routine". I don't really want a routine I just want to move purposefully on a regular basis but I'm struggling with that right now too. I've managed a few very fun trail runs at Ridley Creek State Park and Carmen and I had a nice hike in BC but that's about it since the doc cleared me for fitness activity July 19th. 7 weeks and I'm still floundering for some sense of fitness stability. Someone asked me the other day if I was itching to get back to training an event. What I'm itching for is two consecutive days and a group outing.

The good news is - except for the itching, sneezing and general fatigue that comes with my end of summer allergies - I feel pretty good and I'm about 90% sticking to my nutrition plan. I also had consistency in the arm challenge which Dave and I successfully completed even while on vacation. In one month we went from
  • 5 pushups to 50
  • 5 dips to 120
  • 10 bicep curls to 150
  • 10 second air punches to 150
My September challenge is to continue 50 pushups and 120 dips and to increase the number I can do at one time. I started the pushups in 5 sets of 10 and each day I take two off the last set and add them to the first set. I should get to 50 in one shot on September 27. I started the month doing 4 sets of 30 dips and for September I take 6 off the last set and add them to the first set. I take a rest day every third day just as we did for the arm challenge. So far so good. I also added planks at the rate of the date times 10 seconds (so today is 70 seconds) and 1 burpee for the date (so today is 7 burpees).

A word about burpees - it's enough of a word by itself don't ya think? As a kid we called them squat thrusts because that is the action that performs them; squat then thrust your feet out behind you and back and then back to standing. I was not fond of them in gym class and I cant' say I'm all that thrilled now either. HOWEVER, I am pleased as punch that after the arm challenge in August I have enough strength in my arms and upper body to actually DO them. They are so not pretty but I really don't care about that part. To be able to do 30 at the end of the month when I couldn't even do 1 on August 1st is going to be way cool!

So today is about accepting my condition (Achoo!); vacuuming and dusting (which is way overdo); then heading out to see our nieces and my brother in a presentation at Wheatland; then dinner with the rest of my brothers family and a trip to Udder Choice farm for ice cream. I said 90% on the nutrition plan, remember? :) It may be a little less this week since I will be joining some of my favorite fitness buddies for September's Ice Cream run on Wednesday. YOLO.

Tomorrow Maggi, Mike K and I are setting up support spots along the Perkiomen and Schuylkill trails for some of Perkis People who are running long. I think we may outnumber them though!

Ok so thanks for reading. You helped me feel better. Off to do chores now so the family partying can begin. :)

Keep smiling and keep moving.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Amtrak Adventure 2013 - Labor Day Weekend

First the statistics (some of them anyway).

5 different Amtrak trains plus 1 Septa train.
7 legs of the journey (took Septa twice to and from Media)
1232 miles of rail travelled
35.5 hours from leaving our home to returning the next day

Our Route. From Philly to Pittsburgh we took the
upper route across Pennsylvania. And between
Albany and New York we were on the left hand route

Stealing an idea from my sister KT who - while we were touring PA and NY via rail was returning from an awesome trip to Alaska! She has way more excuse to 'list' her trip than I do but I'm doing it anyway. So here are the highlights of the trip.

If you'd like to see our annotated photos click here.

Leg #1 - Media, PA to Philadelphia's 30th Street Station scheduled 11:09 a.m. to 11:40 a.m.
August 31, 2013
  • Rode a 'new' Septa train
  • Joined on the ride by tons of folks heading into the city likely for the Made in America concert
  • Fond memories at the station of our cross country Amtrak trip to Seattle

Leg #2 - The Pennsylvanian from Philadelphia to Pittsburgh; scheduled 12:42 p.m. to 8:05 p.m. August 31, 2013
  • 1st time for me on the section between Philly and Paoli. I ride the section between Paoli and Harrisburg three times a year for work.
  • 1st time for both of us from Harrisburg to Pittsburgh
  • Had to sit across the aisle from one another from Philly to Lancaster (when my seatmate left the train). Dave's seat partner was a woman from New York going to visit her sister in Chambersburg, PA. Turns out her husband is an umpire too AND graduated from Manhattan College. This is significant because Dave is umpiring a game at Manhattan College in the Spring. The woman gave us her card and Dave hopes to catch up with them when he goes for the game.
  • The conductor did not announce our approach to the Horseshoe Curve. An error I find serious but chose not to tell him.
  • Got to see the famous Horseshoe Curve. :)
  • The train whistle echoes in the mountains. It's very cool!
  • Amtrak does not own the track past Harrisburg (or on most other parts of the trip). We had to slow down and allow freight trains to pass in several spots. Despite being about a fifteen minutes behind schedule at Greensburg we arrived in Pittsburgh 20 minutes early! It must be all down hill from Greensburg to Pittsburgh. :)
  • Four hour layover in Pittsburgh where we enjoyed Primanti Brothers sandwiches
Leg #3 - The Capitol Limited from Pittsburgh to Cleveland; scheduled Midnight to 2:50 a.m. September 1, 2013
  • Had upstairs seats on this train. Which would have been more impressive if it were daytime and we were going to actually see anything.
  • We slept the entire trip.
  • The conductor wakes you up when your stop comes on overnight trains.
  • Being asleep we don't know the exact reason - likely it was a freight train issue - but we arrived in Cleveland more than an hour late.
  • So our layover here was only 2 hours instead of 3
  • Cleveland is about 6 hours from Chicago and 6 hours from New York so the two trains that stop here - the Capitol Limited and the Lake Shore limited both arrive in the middle of the night. The station opens at 9:30 p.m. and closes at 6 a.m.
  • The station has a self serve ticket kiosk that was out of order. How do we know? Well there was a sign but the machine also 'told' us over and over and over and ..... "This machine is out of service".
Leg #4 - The Lake Shore Limited from Cleveland to Albany; scheduled 5:50 a.m. to 2:50 p.m. September 1, 2013
  • Train arrived on time (All our departures were on time)
  • Headed to the dining car for breakfast as soon as it opened. Seating is four to a table and since there were only 2 of us we get to share and engage in one of the neat things about train travel - meeting people.
  • Jim, and others we met on this trip, thought our labor day loop was a fun idea.
  • Jim and the couple across the aisle from us had been on the Empire Builder into Chicago on Friday. The train was 7 1/2/ hours late. They were lucky to get on this train out of Chicago to head home. Others not so lucky. Amtrak will do their best to take care of you if a connection is missed due to late trains (including putting you up in a hotel if necessary) but seats on the next train, especially in summer, are not always available.
  • At the Buffalo stop we got out to stretch our legs. We had conversation with a young woman who boarded the train wearing a front back and a back pack. I had to ask where she was going. My guess was she was going to hike a trail somewhere. But no, she was moving to Cape Cod after teaching English for a year in Andorra (Spain). She had gone home to mom and dad's to pick up her stuff and was on her way to Cape cod to start a new chapter in her life. How cool!
  • We returned to the dining car for lunch and sat with a lovely woman whose name began with "R" but I am at a loss to remember the rest. Anyway, she was returning home to Manhattan after two months away travelling and visiting her son in Seattle. She, too, had been on the seriously delayed Empire Builder. Amtrak had put her up in a nice hotel in Chicago waiting for 'our' train. She said it was nice to have a bed that didn't move for one night.
  • We arrived in Albany very late. In Albany the train splits. Part of it continues to New York and the other part continues to Boston. Typically there is a significant layover. Due to being so late there was much confusion among the passengers who had to return to the train almost immediately to continue their journeys. We were taking a different train to New York so we just sat back and watched the chaos.
Leg #5 - The Empire Service from Albany to New York Penn Station 4:20 p.m. to 6:50 p.m.
September 1, 2013
  • Not to be confused (but I'm sure it is) with the Empire Builder
  • This trip follows the Hudson River almost the entire way. Cloudy conditions made the pictures kind of dull though.
Leg #6 - The Keystone from New York Penn Station to Philadelphia 7:53 p.m. to 9:15 p.m.
September 1, 2013
  • It was dark now so not much to do but catnap and/or read.
Leg #7 - The Media-Elwyn Septa Regional train
September 1, 2013
  • Our train was early in to 30th Street. This was extremely helpful as now we had time to run to catch the 9:14 train instead of waiting an hour for the next one.
  • Arrived home at 10:00 p.m. 35.5 hours after we left.