Category Archives: GPS


Here we are at the end of a year, staring down the long, black barrel of another.  I hope 2012 didn’t take your feet out from under you too often.

The wife-type and I purchased (mortgaged to the hilt) a house last February.  That was stressful, but it happened more or less uneventfully.  We live on a dead-end street with, ahem, interesting neighbors.  Two of them are fairly sane.  One is bat poop crazy.  One has barking dogs.  They bark.  And bark and bark bark bark bark bark bark.  They really bark at the bike.  If I’m on a bike with a bell I try to start ringing it before I turn the corner.  That really gets them wound up.

Bike miles.  I put more miles on the bikes in 2012 than the previous two years combined.  My counting method varied from the GPS on the phone, to the DeLorme, to one of those computers that counts wheel revolutions, to don’t-give-a-fuck-let’s-just-ride.  In other words, I’m not entirely sure how far I went, but I’d guess it’s north of 1,500 miles.  July saw 540-something miles, including my first ever metric century.

Today is Christmas.  Christie gave me a Garmin Edge 200.  I’m going to track every last 2013 mile on it so that I can give the curious masses an accurate number a year from now.

Speaking of 2013, resolutions.

More S24O.  I think I did 3 during 2012.  This year the overnights will be themed.  Feel free to ride along.  Bring a tent; mine is too small to share.

  1. S24O on every bike I own at least once.  Right now I have the MB-2, High Plains, Collegiate, Pacer, 550 and I think something else maybe.  That’s at least 6 overnights.
  2. One should be a bikepacking adventure.  Gravel, single track, no racks, strap the crap right to the frame.
  3. Return to Pine Grove Furnace.  30-ish miles from home.  Doc discovered a super secret spot in the State Forest on the ridge east of the park.  It’s a bit of a climb, but coasting down the hill in the morning is a good way to wake up.  There are hiker showers near the lake.
  4. A fully loaded S24O.  Front and rear panniers.  Bring way too much stuff.  Go slow.
  5. Credit card S24O.  Ride one of the road bikes to a B&B.
  6. Not strictly S24O, but do another micro-tour.  2012’s was a big, fat winner.

Ride with the girls more.  I think the Megan is big enough to do an overnight on the bike.  The important part is just having time together.  They jabber.  Don’t believe me?  Find a kid you like and go for a ride.  They will talk your ear off.  It’s a blast and we don’t do it enough.

I’m sure there’s more, but I have bikes on the brain and can’t bring myself to bore you anymore.  Here’s hoping your 2013 brings you less bad and more good than 2012.  Peace, love and go ride your bike.


July 28, 2012.  I swung a leg over the Silver Bullet and shoved off toward Mercersburg.  This was, I hoped, not to be a repeat of my first attempt several years ago, which ended 25 miles early at a McDonald’s, soaking up their AC and trying not to puke while I waited for the cavalry to bail my fat ass out. It had been my longest day in the saddle ever.  Nearly 50 miles.  Part of my new motivation was simply the fact that there would be no bail out, no matter how far I fell, which meant I’d have to find a shady tree and take a nap under it.  The horror.

Back then I was 25 pounds heavier with a pack-a-day habit.  July the 28th bore forth a man lighter than he’d been in a decade, an ex-smoker, with over 400 miles behind him during the last few weeks.  A veritable god among men.  OK, maybe a demi-god.

Hero of the Republic?

Circus clown?  Let’s go with circus clown.

My weapon of choice would be a Surly Pacer.  The Silver Bullet.  A steed I had almost forsaken, thinking she was too big, too stretched out.  I had ridden her most of July and grown quite fond of the fit and feel.  Several years of trial and error and Christie’s money had shown me what was best in a bike, and I had kitted her out appropriately.  Cloth bar tape and a firm leather saddle.  Down tube shifters mated to a nearly new Shimano 600 rear derailer.  A Carradice Bagman supported a canvas saddle bag, which in turn held my abundance of crap – rain shell (didn’t need it), Lara bars (didn’t eat them all), tools (never touched them), wallet (empty), phone (dead) and GPS (the only useful bit in the whole bunch).

I rolled out at 6am.  By the time I arrived in Carlisle, I had to pee.  Like, now.  The first convenience store displayed a sign in the window – “No public restroom.”  I feigned ignorance.  The middle-eastern girl behind the till showed indifference.  I grabbed the nearest candy bar, dropped it on the counter and offered up the cash.  She pointed to the “employees only” door at the back corner.

Back in June I got the damn fool idea to join a challenge.  “Ride 500 miles in July” says they.  “Durr, OK” says I.  So I stopped again at 31 miles into my quest.

500 miles, suckers.

I was skeptical of actually meeting this goal.  So was everyone else, I think, though they were mostly supportive.  25 miles a day, most days, at oh dark thirty with Bill and Owen.  And it’s up there in lights a photo on the Internet.

Newville is a pretty little town that sits at the crossroads of 641 and 233.  Both are busy roads (and I’d be riding them again in the near future).  I approached Newville on a farm road and only had to deal with 641 for a couple blocks before making the left onto 233, and then a couple blocks more until peeling off to the right in search of the Cumberland Valley Rail Trail and 11 miles of flat and easy all the way to Shippensburg.  I missed my turn and went a few gorgeous miles out of the way along Big Spring Road before correcting my course.

Nealy and Bullshead. Middle of nowhere. Very big, protective dog on his way. Didn’t stay long.

So maybe 8 miles on the rail trail.  Their sign-age is funny.  In addition to a stop sign at every cross road there are a myriad of unenforceable requirements.  No weapons.  No riding after dark.  Walk your bike across the intersection.  And cyclists please, oh god, pleaseohplease wear a helmet.  I think the signs are there to make the trail commission feel better about being safety conscious or some such.  Granted, it is technically private property, owned by a non-profit.  So I suppose they could have come out there and told me I was trespassing and made me leave or whatever.  Feel-good-ism and CYA above all else, I guess.

The trail doesn’t extend into Shippensburg as suggested by Google Maps.  That’s a future expansion.  It currently ends at a park just north of the University.  This turned out to be a nice place to stop.

The Pacer taking a much needed break. BTW, I made it to Shippensburg without bonking!

I realized at this point that I hadn’t taken my chain off the big ring since leaving home. And thus was hatched the most retarded scheme in history – I would ride all the way to Mercersburg without touching the front shifter.

As I approached Letterkenny and then Chambersburg, I knew I was truly in southern Pennsylvania.  The proof was at a yard sale, though I didn’t have the opportunity to take a photograph of the woman as she climbed down from the lifted 4×4, wearing heels, jogging shorts, beer gut and tube top.  Her shirtless companion, in flip-flops and cut off BDUs was easier to purge from the memory banks.  I’m fairly certain her image is permanently etched upon my retinas.

The sun was in full fry mode by this point and the weatherman’s “partly cloudy” really meant “clouds everywhere except between the Sloth and the sun.”  Traffic was heavy south of Chambersburg, too, and I started to look for a place to find some shade for a few minutes.  A Pepsi machine appeared on the left, as if summoned by Mordenkainen himself, and beckoned me to partake of the fizzy.  It turned out the diet button was really a Pepsi Max, but getting a refund proved difficult.  I drank it anyway and sat in the shade for a few minutes.

When it was time to go I looked down at the computer and noticed something funny. 62.69 miles. You know what that means, don’t you?

Metric century!

Hot damn! I was stoked.  I had just ridden 100km and felt pretty good.  Hell, I decided, I’m going to start training for my first 200k brevet.  This was easy.

Back on the bike and rolling, I burped up every last molecule of carbon dioxide, along with whatever reserves I had left. There were only 10 miles to go, and I was about to hate every last one of them. The man with the hammer had been hiding in that Pepsi bottle the whole time. Even the slightest incline, grades I wouldn’t notice at any other time, required all my strength. But I still wouldn’t shift the chain off the big ring. The chain, over most of that last 10 miles, was in 53/28. But I made it. 72.9 miles.

I might not be ready for that 200k, but at least I didn’t puke.


Utlilitaire 12, Week 3, Controle 5

We’re down to the last 2 days for week 3 of Utilitaire 12 and I hadn’t done any riding at all. Deciding to have Neato Burrito for dinner was easy. I’m always up for burritos. Riding there is kind of a prerequisite. Otherwise, I can’t justify the calories. We didn’t eat our lunch until after 4pm, so I’m calling this dinner for the purposes of filling out the control card. Also, a friend turned me onto Strava yesterday, so this is my first use of that service. Here’s the ride map.

So far, Strava is pretty cool. The Android app uses the GPS to track the ride and then automagically uploads everything to their site. In the past I’ve used either a dedicated GPS device or the My Tracks app, and then fiddled around with uploading a GPX file to a service like Ride with GPS or Daily Mile. This Strava thing is much easier.

As usual, the Sloth’s brain is running on the slow side, and I forgot to take a photo at Neato Burrito. So I took one at home just before unloading the basket. There are two burritos and two sodas in that bag.

The bag is one of those semi-reusable 99¢ shopping bags from the local supermarket.  I bought a few of these a couple years ago and they’re still holding together.  They each have a stiff plastic insert on the bottom, which helps it stand up when it’s full.  These things fit damn near perfectly in the bottom of my Wald basket.  I generally fold it down, lay the cable and lock on top, and then cover the top of the basket with a bungee net.  This setup is very handy, and ensures I can carry just about anything that fits in the basket.

Ooh!  I have to rant about bags.

Grant Petersen thinks my bag makes me look like a hobo.  My bag costs a buck and lasts at least 2 years.  His is $60.  I can get 120 years of cycling out mine for $60.  Who knows how long his will last?  I don’t care if someone steals mine, so I leave it on the bike all the time.  The $60 bag might grow legs if I left it outside.  Mine may make me look like a hobo, but his makes me look like I’m carrying a purse.

So there.

Ride bike!

Arkansas Gravel!

Well, I’ve been in Arkansas for 3 days and just got around to going for a ride.  It’s hot and I, being a first class nincompoop, waited until mid-afternoon to get started, so I kept it short.  About 7 miles.

Aside from State Forest roads, there’s just not a whole lot of gravel in PA.  Pretty much all of the county roads around here are gravel.  Today’s ride incorporated about 3 miles of the stuff.  What a fine test of the Col de la Vie tires!  They passed, for what that’s worth. More on that later.

From Arkansas

Some cows staying cool in a pond. They are, obviously, smarter than me.

From Arkansas


From Arkansas

Since I failed to take the requisite “bike leaning against a tree along a gravel road” shot, here she is leaning against the house after I got back.

From Drop Box

The 650b tires are really quite nice. They’re not the fluffy clouds of heavenly, marshmallowy, Rivendellian perfection that some folks claim, but they do seem to have a nice all-rounder quality to them. They felt slower on pavement than the 700c tires I have on a couple bikes, but there are too many other variables to definitely blame the tires. They most certainly handled the gravel better than 700×37 Contacts or 700×25 Compressors, but not quite as nicely as 1.95 knobbies. Shock absorption was significantly better than most of my other tires.  Get some today!  Be the envy of all your friends!

Peace, love and go ride a bike. But wait until it cools off out there.

30 years

In 1981 Micro-Soft introduced MS-DOS, their Disk Operating System or some such. With it a computer user could boot a PC or clone with an 8086 or 8088 microprocessor. Three of the (probably) most used commands that any kid who had ever sat down at one knew were DIR, CD and RENAME. DIR returned a list of files and directories residing in the current directory. CD stood for “change directory” and did exactly what its name implied. RENAME renames files. Pretty simple.

A GPX file is a file that contains XML-like markup. It’s plain old text, but formatted in a way that your GPS device or mapping software understands. For example, a file that contains directions from here to there might be named heretothere.gpx.

A few days ago I ran a script that turned a Google Maps route into some GPX markup, which I then copied and pasted into Notepad. Finally, I saved it. The little save dialog had automagically assigned a “.txt” extension in the file name box. Since I wanted a GPX file, and not TXT, I simply backspaced over it and gave it the name heretothere.gpx.

A quick transfer over USB to the GPS device quickly proved that my GPX file wasn’t really a GPX file. A cursory glance at the properties window for the file showed that Windows still saw it as a TXT file. Clicking the Advanced tab showed the file’s real name – heretothere.gpx.txt. WTF? Unsurprisingly, Windows 7 provides no means to alter this within the properties window. XP allowed this, but I could see no way to do it with 7.

I am still 100% convinced that I’ve missed something obvious, but I’m simply unwilling to go looking for it. I’m a user these days. I used to like to tinker with this stuff, but not anymore. After 16 plus years of using some sort of GUI, I’d like to think I’m capable of doing simple tasks with my computer without having to relearn how every time MS decides to pretend it’s releasing something new.

From the Start menu, I selected a command prompt. CD to the appropriate directory. DIR shows me heretothere.gpx.txt. RENAME heretothere.gpx.txt heretothere.gpx. DIR confirms the rename command was successful. Exit. Transfered the file to the GPS device again. I went about my merry way from here to there.

Welcome to 2011.  When a 30 year old command line is the way to get shit done.