Thursday, October 23, 2014

Hill Slugs Ad Hoc, Saturday, October 25

23 October 2014

Saturday's ride will be on the Columbia trail.  It's a flat, 30-mile, out-and-back MTB/hybrid trip that should be beautiful this time of year.  We'll start at the High Bridge side, go to the end, double back, and have our rest stop at the Califon General Store (they love us there).

The trail is very well maintained, wide, and mostly crushed gravel.  Mountain bike tires at 50 psi are fine.  Hybrids are fine too.  The pace will most likely be a low C+, but the effort to get that speed will feel like a B.

We'll start at 9:00 a.m.

More information about the trail can be found here.

This is how to get there:

From 31 north, turn right on West Main St (Route 513).  Follow 513 to the right and under the railroad tracks. Follow 513 to the left.  The parking lot is on the left past the borough hall. For GPS coordinates, use the Borough Hall at 71 Main Street in High Bridge Borough.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

OLPH Blows Glass

"Sea and Sky" garden globe with dichroic accents

21 October 2014

There were two instructors and eight newbies in the glass blowing class that Chris and I took at Luke Adams Glass Studio (the link isn't much, so I'll spare you).  We were going to make two pieces each.  In the first round we could make an ornament, a garden globe (essentially a huge ornament, with an extra charge for the extra glass), or a pumpkin.  In the second round, we could make a fluted vase, a tumbler, a bowl with a foot, or a fluted bowl.  We had a choice of basic colors that we could mix. Adding dichroic glass would cost a little more.

We broke off into two groups of four as the instructors gave us a lesson on the instruments we'd be using, and that was it.

I dared go first in our group. That ended up meaning that I had no idea what was coming next, and that I was the demonstration project for everyone else.  The blue and green glass mixture was called "sea and sky," and I added some dichroic glass for sparkle.

This was a team effort.  We started with a thin pipe that was dipped into an oven of white-hot clear glass. We learned how to turn the pipe so that the molten blob on the end would stay round as we rolled it onto our choice of crushed colored glass.  The instructor then blew quickly into the end of the pipe and sealed the opening.  A small air bubble appeared in the glass.  He brought the pipe to the work bench, where I was to help roll the pipe back and forth, and to pinch the end of it while he twisted the rest.  Chris sat at the end of the pipe to blow into it when she was instructed to.  A fourth person was the shielder, holding a thick piece of wood between the glass and the arms of those of us working on the piece.  The instructor did all the difficult maneuvers.  At the end, I didn't feel as if I'd made the piece; I'd only helped.

When it was Chris' turn (she made an ornament), I was the blower.  When it was the next person's turn, I was the shielder.  

Molten glass is hot.  Standing more than a foot from the glass I was shielding,  I could feel the heat radiating through my jeans.  When I wasn't working, I kept my distance from the oven we used to melt our colors onto the glass.

The third person (he has a PhD in robotics!) made a pumpkin.  Here it is being finished off:

The propane flame keeps the top hot while the instructor gathers glass to make the stem.

The glass is dipped into a mold to make ridges.  Cooling a little, the glass is now red instead of white as the instructor drips the stem onto the pumpkin.

In seconds, the instructor wraps the glass around a metal rod, removes the rod, and ends with a twist.

As the glass cools, the stem turns green.
For the second project, I went first again.  I chose a fluted bowl in amber with dichroic accents.  This time we gathered glass, rolled in the dichroic, melted it, gathered more glass, added color, and then more glass.  This time we opened up one end, and that's where the best part came in.  The glass is heated again, then spun.  As the spinning slows down, the glass slumps, and the bowl is formed. Here's our instructor working on a bowl for the third person in our group:

Someone in the other group was making a bowl too.  Here they are finishing off the bottom by heating the spot where the pipe was before smoothing it out:

When the pieces are finished, they go into an annealing oven, where they stay at high temperature and slowly cool.  That's my bowl in front.

Chris, as well as the fourth person in our group, opted for the fluted vase.  Here's the molten glass, with the air bubble inside, being slowly swung so that it elongates before the end is opened.

This is Chris' vase, a lime green to pink fade, being finished off.  The glass is still hot, but the colors are beginning to emerge.

Annealing takes two days; my pieces would have to be shipped.  Chris picked hers up today.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Additional Birds, Bicycle Belle

18 October 2014

I've been in the Boston area since last night. I'm here on my annual bead show pilgrimage that involves staying with my college roommate, buying beads, and eating Etheopian food.

The bead buying was this morning, after a workout at a deserted gym (bereft of equipment, staff, and other customers), while my friend took a Pilates class at a private studio next door.

At the show it was a light buying day by comparison; two of the artists I regularly buy from were absent. That freed up more cash for silver findings. I did well in that department.

We've added to our tradition be eating lunch at the Red Lentil vegetarian restaurant around the corner from the show in Watertown. My body was 80% sweet potato by the end of the meal.

A craft-oriented do-it-yourselfer, my friend dragged me to a do-it-yourself frame shop, where I waited while she pieced together the necessary bits. 

At the counter, a postcard under glass caught my eye.

"Additional Birds," it read (pardon the reflection of the overhead light).

"Birds added into old paintings accompanied by various other bird related illustrations."

I looked up, puzzled. "Well, that's a niche market," I said.

The clerk pointed me towards a painting in the back of the workshop.

Boston is trying for the weird title again.

We went on to the Taza chocolate factory so that we could load up again since our last visit in August. In walked a commuter cyclist wearing a helmet disguised as a sun hat. We got to talking, of course, and she told me I should visit the shop where she bought the hat-helmet.

So off we went, a few minutes down the road, to Bicycle Belle, for a little bike porn.

The place was aimed at women commuters. I tinkered with a few horns designed to make the most plugged-in jogger take notice. I decided not to buy anything. If the students I regularly slalom around ignore my regular old bell -- a recognizable sound -- what would they make of the strange skwawk coming from a $65 device? A student jumping straight up in the air would still be in my way, just taller.

I was ready to leave when I noticed something. "Y'know what I like about this place? There's not a fast bike in here."

We ended the evening at an Ethiopean restaurant with another friend from college (Jack's roommate), talking about everything from poop to nuts.

Tomorrow morning we're taking a glass blowing class. Although everything about my personality and skill set would suggest I should be good at this, I fear I will suck at it.

Whatever molten disaster I create, you can be sure it will appear on this blog tomorrow.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Batsto to Oyster Creek Metric

Timberline Creek (Wading River watershed)

15 October 2014

Barry's van was in the Peter Muschal School parking lot when I drove in at 7:45 a.m. I'd woken up to darkness again for one more Saturday-moved-to-Sunday ride from Tom, the self-coronated Rain King. Marc pulled in next, then Tom.  He gestured towards Kermit, for me to load into the back of his truck. Marc, wanting to put miles on a new transmission, said he'd follow us.  That left Barry.  I said, "Better drive yourself so when you break down you won't have to wait for us."

We were heading to Batsto, where we'd park outside of the village to start the ride.  Most of the drive was south on 206.  When we got to Atsion Lake, Tom turned left down a dirt road, Quaker Bridge, which he said would across Wharton State Forest to Batsto Lake.

A few hundred meters in, we met a water-filled crater and turned around.  We took county roads instead.

This is the boat launch parking lot at Batsto.  We were the only ones there at 9:00 a.m.

"I promised you flat.  I didn't promise you scenic."

That's what Tom said when I asked him if we'd be in the forest for the entire ride.  It's pretty and all, but -- and I say this as someone who spent a few years studying in the Pines and used to be able to name most of the plants in Latin -- after a few miles, it gets dull.

"The scenery will change in half a mile," he promised.

It did.  This is the Timberline Creek, a tributary of the Wading River:

We entered Bass River Township, and later crossed the Wading River on a lift bridge. There was a lift bridge where we crossed the Mullica, too.  The cement ugliness is the counterweight for the bridge when it opens.

I zoomed in on a windmill on the shore to the northeast:

The river and brackish marsh:

Our rest stop was at 38 miles, in Smithville, at a CVS.  There was a flock of domestic geese in the parking lot.  They crossed the road to a cemetery:

Tom bought a pack of cookies to share.  I read the label out loud:  "Chocolate flavored chip cookies. Not chocolate chips.  Chocolate flavored chips." I ate an almond Snickers bar instead.  Not the best rest stop.

Tom lead us to Oyster Creek, where I'd been once before (we were chased by flies on our way out that time; today was too cold for that).

A great egret, I think:

Cattle egrets, I think.  (This is what 20 years away from having to know this stuff does to one's memory.)

This is every picture taken on the east coast:

This is a salt marsh, with Atlantic City in the distance.

Breaking his breakdown streak, Barry finished the ride without falling off the back, hitting a desk, bending his derailleur, or snapping his chain.  His bike still gets the Miss Piggy Award for September, though.  There must be something about bright green bar tape...

We ended the ride a few tenths shy of 65 miles.  This was the longest ride I'd done in a while, and, given the time of year, might be the longest I'll do for a while.

Bike commuting season is over too; it's too dark at 6 p.m. these days.  This morning I was back in the gym for Spinning class.  March can't some soon enough.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Hill Slugs Ad Hoc, Sunday, October 12

10 October 2014

Tom's ride has been moved to Sunday, so I cede my leadership to him. If you don't want such a long day, ride with Winter Larry from Cranbury instead.

8 October 2014

I can't tell you much about Sunday.  Here's why:

Tom has a ride listed for Saturday, but the weather forecast doesn't look good.  Given his talent for being rained out, he's planning to move the ride to Sunday if Saturday is wet.

So, if his ride ends up being on Sunday, I'm going to send all you Hill Slugs to his ride, because we'd rather ride together than compete for all your lovely Slug attention.

The best thing to do is to check Tom's blog on Friday after 5:00 p.m.  When he knows what he's doing, I'll know what I'm doing and post accordingly.

If I do lead, I'll do something flat from Mercer County Park's East Picnic Area.

Stay tuned.

Peace Valley Reservoir

Peace Valley Reservoir

8 October 2014

Note to self:  Prallsville Mills, in Stockton, is not the same as Bulls Island, which is not in Stockton. I figured this out ten minutes into the drive to Tom's ride.  In Stockton I pulled over to call him, unsure if I'd get to the start in time.  I did, but just.

He was kind:  He gave us half a mile of flat warm-up before launching us into our first incline. We stopped at Peace Valley reservoir, where Tom used to start the Lake Nockamixon rides.

A couple of the guys queued up at a porta-potty while Tom and I went down to the paved path around the reservoir.

"Shh," Tom said, motioning me towards him.  I figured he had another devious hill that only I'd be privy to.  It wasn't that; it was a great blue heron, standing in the grass less than ten feet away.

I walked a little closer and zoomed in. The bird didn't seem to care.

The wind ruffled the bird's feathers.  That's all that moved.

I looked away, towards the rest of the reservoir, and up to the guys in the lot.  When I looked back, the heron was still there.

I took some pictures of the reservoir from where we were standing.

And then I turned back to the heron.  Yep. Still there.

I walked back up the hill to get my bike, and walked it back down to the path.  Still there.

By now the guys were heading towards us.  "We're going to go around the lake," Tom said, "and then up a nasty hill."  At least he warned us this time.  As we pushed off, Joe exclaimed, "A heron!"

Jim and I stopped to look a the cormorants resting above the water.

They were all cleaning themselves.

We climbed the nasty hill, heading towards Perkasie.  I don't know where we were when I took this picture.  My camera has GPS built in, but it's no good when I don't remember to turn it on, is it?

We were plodding up a roller when someone called out to stop.  Bagel Hill Barry had dropped his chain clean off his bike.  Joe and I were at the top of the roller.  "Once," I said, "Just once, I'd like to be on a ride where Barry doesn't get into trouble."  We waited a bit. Then I said, "Might as well go back and enjoy the entertainment."

I'm glad I did, because I got to watch Jim replace a link with his snazzy Whippermann chain links.  I really need to learn how to wrench.  Sitting by the side of the road, I got a few pictures:

As long as Barry stayed in his small ring, he was good to go.  For miles we were on Callowhill Road, which includes, at the end, the 400-foot, 20% grade hill that gave Tom his Lying Bastard reputation. I knew it was coming, but Tom had sworn me to secrecy. The best I could do to warn Jim, who hates the hill (which is why Tom put it in), was to say, "You'll wanna be in your small ring soon."

Well, the road has been repaved since the last time we were there.  We were up and over and we didn't even stop at the top.  Our reward was a break at the Down to Earth Cafe.  The coffee is good. I ate the top of a pumkin-chocolate chip-espresso muffin.  Jim had no trouble with the rest of it.

On our way home, we got turned around and around and around again in Ralph Stover State Park.  It was a pretty spot to double back several times; we were in a valley by a stream with a tall, yellowing canopy overhead. We finally found the bridge over the stream and we were on our way to the last nasty climb of the day.  We descended towards the Delaware on Cafferty Road, which is a worthy descent, and pretty, but no good for snapshots.

The Delaware River at Bulls Island is always good for a few pictures.  This is facing north:

And south:

We decided that we're done with hills for a while.