Off the Back in the Gunks

A year ago, when I first rode in the B STS, we had the option of riding a graduation ride in the Shawangunk Ridge, west of New Paltz, New York. I passed on riding with the group because I was already signed up for the Ride to Montauk, and both rides were happening on the same day. But ever since then, I have been tempted to ride up there, even if it was on my own, just to see how challenging it could be.

Forward to this year, 2014, and I still hadn’t ridden up there.

Yesterday, two guys from this year’s STS group and I drove to New Paltz and rode through the Gunks. We followed the 68-mile Medio Fondo route of the Grand Fondo Gunks. (There is also a 110-mile Grand Fondo course, but we weren’t interest in such madness.)

A Medio Fondo in the Gunks

The ride including two long climbs. One is a three-mile climb on NY-52 between the Walker Valley and Ellenville, known as Cragsmoor for the road and small village at the summit of the hill. The second climb is about five-miles long along US-44/NY-55 to the top of Minnewaska State Park. Both were much more gentle than I had anticipated, and I was able to pace myself and still remain in my second and third smallest gears for most of the time on those climbs. You can see the two climbs on this elevation profile.


Another reason why the ride didn’t seem as hard as I had feared was because I occasionally stopped to take a few photos of the sweeping views.

Nevele from NY-52

And of course, what better way to capture a panoramic vista than with a panoramic photograph.

Road riding on Minnewaska

Seeing the Sights

There were many points of interest along the route.

First, we spotted a BBQ smoking pit in Verkeerderkill Park, a public park in the town of Pine Bush. It’s not something city folk like ourselves expect to see on a casual Sunday morning.


Sadly, it was not in action.

Second, heading up to Minnewaska on US-44/NY-55, there lies a shuttered building that housed Oscar, a now-closed casual dining restaurant.

Coming Soon… Rough Cut Brewing Company

According to the sign, a brewery, Rough Cut Brewing, is coming to that location. However, in the half minute I spent searching for “Rough Cut Brewing,” I found no references to a New York-state brewery, only an IPA brewed in Oregon. Also, that sign looks more weathered than the signage for the closed restaurant.

Perhaps the strangest sight of the day was the Redwood Driftwood sculpture garden on Clove Valley Road.

Redwood Driftwood Sculptures, Minnewaska

An artist named Pamela Phelps sells prints of these redwood driftwoods. According to her description of the work, these driftwoods are the product of both industrial forces and natural causes:

This is one of many Redwood Driftwood pieces, remnants of the 1860-1930 logging era, shaped by natural forces. In early years the trees were uprooted as they were logged from millennia old virgin forests. When it was realized that new trees sprouted from left in the ground roots, the practice was discontinued.

The driftwoods were carefully arranged along a field on Clove Valley Road in Minnewaska. It is hard to miss these pieces even as we were racing down this road at about 20 MPH.

We Ride to Swim

We finished riding just before 6:00 PM and arrived at the Ulster Country Pool Complex in New Paltz.

Post-Ride Swim

The facility was great because it served as a free parking spot, allowed us to take badly needed showers, and, yes, it is a pool so we took a short swim before they closed at 7:00 PM.

Had we staged a foot race to the car from the pool, this would have been my first triathlon.

Apple Shutters Development of Aperture

Since I became more serious about photography in 2010, I have been using Aperture to edit and manage my photo library. While most every other DSLR photographer I’ve ever met prefers Adobe’s Lightroom or Capture One, a small niche of photographers have stuck with Aperture. I preferred it to Lightroom partly because I bought it for about $60, thanks to a substantial academic discount, and because I have had some problems with Adobe software in the past that I would like to avoid in the future.

Earlier today, the small niche of Aperture users learned that Apple will stop development of Aperture and migrate us to their new Photos app, due in 2015.

With the introduction of the new Photos app and iCloud Photo Library, enabling you to safely store all of your photos in iCloud and access them from anywhere, there will be no new development of Aperture,” said Apple in a statement provided to The Loop. “When Photos for OS X ships next year, users will be able to migrate their existing Aperture libraries to Photos for OS.

That explains why Apple hasn’t updated Aperture since November 2013 and why it still bears the antiquated Aqua look on its buttons and dialog boxes. Adobe has already began courting Aperture users promising that will double-down on its development of Lightroom. And Capture One’s pricing doesn’t look half bad should the new Photos app not do it for me.

New Amtrak Baggage Cars to Hold Bicycles

Amtrak will be getting new baggage cars on their long-distance trains. Those trains include the Lake Shore Limited, a twenty-hour train between New York and Chicago, and the Cardinal, another train that travels between Chicago and New York but takes twenty-six hours. The most exciting part of the baggage cars is that they will enable passengers to bring their bicycles on the train without boxing up the bikes.

The new baggage cars will be used on all 15 long-distance routes, which means the benefits of improved reliability and an enhanced climate-control environment for baggage will be available to our long distance customers by the end of 2014 . Also, the new cars will be equipped with built-in luggage racks that will be able to secure unboxed bicycles…

Yes, it’s exciting to see one nineteenth-century form of transportation (the train) supplement another nineteenth-century form of transportation (the safety bicycle). It also makes taking a train a viable and affordable option for traveling to distant bicycle events, such as October’s Hilly Hundred in Indiana. Last year, I had to box up my bike, take it to Newark, and then ship it to and from Indianapolis.

I Took the Plane, My Bike Took the Train

As great a step forward this is, it’s still not the same as allowing bicyclists to walk their bikes onto the train, as is the case on certain trains in California and the Midwest. It’s also nice to have that option aboard our the Metro North and Long Island Railroad commuter lines.


Allowing bicycles onto Amtrak trains that run north of New York City would immediately open up new destinations in upstate New York, such as Rhinebeck and Hudson, and parts of Vermont for some great foliage rides.

And if you want to read about today’s passenger rail travel in the United States, Kevin Baker takes a long-distance trip on the “Twenty-First Century Limited” in this month’s Harper’s.

Does Amazon Have a Cycling Team?

Consider this my first fashion post.

Searching for short-sleeve wool jerseys on eBay, I found a lot for sale consisting of an assortment of wool jerseys at a pretty decent price. I was intrigued by the orange color, and upon further shopping, it appears that these jerseys bear the Amazon logo with a cycling gear inset.



Sadly, they're out of my size, but if you keep them free of moth balls, I have a feeling that one of these jerseys could easily outlast Amazon as a company.


Multiple Exposures on Canon EOS 6D

One of the many great features of the Canon EOS 6D, aside from its full-frame sensor, GPS, WiFi, and its price, is its support for multiple exposures. Canon released a video earlier this week showing how to use the feature.

The first time I used this feature was almost by accident during the Center for Holographic Arts closing party in April. I was trying to capture both the backlit plate on the overhead projector and the two men standing in faint light.


Ultimately, I settled on using HDR to make the photo because the lighting for those two subjects was too different to use multiple exposures. But I’ll play around with this feature now that I better understand its purpose.

Better Than Perfect

Last night, while I was watching my friend premiere his first feature film at the Lower East Side Film Festival (yes, there is such a thing), Clayton Kershaw pitched what LAist’s Carman Tse called “the most dominant no-hitter ever.”

It’s easy to get carried away rooting for the home team, but Tse is basically right. Using Game Score, the Bill James–designed formula that every novice sabremetrician likes to use for comparing a pitching performances, Kershaw pitched the second best nine-inning game of the last 100 years. Only Kerry Wood, who as a rookie struck out twenty Houston Astros and inspired a generation of Cubs fans to proudly don t-shirts bearing the phrase We Got Wood, did better with a Game Score of 105.

Pitcher Date Pitches Hits Strikeouts Walks Game Score
Wood May 6, 1998 122 1 20 0 105
Kershaw June 18, 2014 107 0 15 0 102

Kershaw’s no-hitter is also one point better than Matt Cain’s perfect game from 2012, where he tied Sandy Koufax for the most dominant perfect game ever. Cain and Koufax each earned Game Scores of 101 in retiring twenty-seven consecutive batters.

Pitcher Date Pitches Hits Strikeouts Walks Game Score
Cain June 13, 2012 125 0 14 0 101
Koufax September 9, 1965 0 14 0 101

But by notching one more strikeout than Cain or Koufax, Kershaw bested them by one point. However, reading the description of each game, Kershaw seemed to dominate in more ways than Game Score can measure. Let’s see, here. Kershaw faced 28 batters, and one reached due to a Hanley Ramirez error.[1] Kershaw punched-out fifteen of the remaining twenty-seven batters, which leaves twelve batters. Eight of those put the ball in play but failed to get the ball out of the infield. That leaves four batters who, according to the accounts I read, made soft contact, managing to only lift some lazy fly balls to the outfield. Let that sink in: there were only four lazy fly balls hit to the outfield! By comparison, in Matt Cain’s perfect game from 2012, there were seven balls hit to the outfield, and that seemed freakishly low at the time. In either case, it shows how dominating Cain and Kershaw were in these historic games, turning big league hitters into beer league players.

One was perfect, but one was better than perfect.

  1. Hanley Ramirez seriously owes Kershaw a nice gift for blowing that play, like a sports car or a year of college tuition.  ↩

Light Beers that aren’t “Light” Beers

One of the beers of the summer has been JÅN Olympic White Lagrrr! by the Astoria, Queens–brewery Singlecut. As you can tell from the name, it’s a white lager, something you don’t see very often.

When we went to Peekskill on Sunday, I had another white lager at the Peekskill Brewery that was made with the same hops that “power” their sour beers, most notably their Simple Sour and The Aristocrats.

As you can tell, it’s white! Or at least it’s pretty light. The Styriana was a pretty solid beer, which scores really high with Beer Advocate reviewers.

This reminded me of a beer I had on the other side of the country at the Angel City Brewery in Los Angeles. It was the White Nite stout. Again, as the name implies, it’s a white stout.

Most white beers, or witbiers are made with wheat, which makes for a light yet tart flavor found in a lot of summer beers. But the Angel City stout does not taste like a wheat beer, it tastes like a stout. Beer drinkers more knowledgeable than I note flavors ordinarily found in stouts: coffee, chocolate, and earth.

Casual beer drinkers will certainly note flavor first and associate color with that flavor. How many times have you heard someone ask a bartender for a “light beer?” What’s different about these beers is that despite their light color, their flavor is quite strong.

Unless this goes to the logical extreme of brewers producing clear beer, I’m all for watching these independent breweries producing some novel brews.

Riding for and Remembering Sarah’s Dad on Father’s Day

Sarah’s dad passed away last March, and we miss him everyday, especially on Father’s Day. One of the things that David loved to do was ride a bike. When I first visited the family home, I saw his road bike hanging in the garage. The bicycle is a beautiful English-made Raleigh steel frame with drop-tube shifters, Campagnolo components, and a classic Brooks B17 saddle, and it serves as a testament to his love of cycling. Some time in the 1980s, he and his brother Charles started the tradition of riding the Hilly Hundred in southern Indiana, which I rode for the first time as the family revived the tradition last year.

Selfie Plus One

To remember David on Father’s Day, Sarah and I rode to Peekskill, New York. There’s nothing significant about Peekskill with regards to Sarah’s dad, but we chose that destination because of a few practical matters:

  • I know a few different ways to get there,
  • It’s a comfortable distance from the city,
  • There are some good eating options in town,
  • There is a Metro North station that will get us home relatively easily.

Let’s Ride

To get to Peekskill, we followed a similar route that Andre and I took last fall when we rode to the Peekskill Brewery. Most of the ride was on the South and North County Trails in Westchester County.

Bronx to Peekskill via SCT-NCT-NY35-Blue Mountain Reservation

That made for an easy ride because it was relatively flat, and there were no cars anywhere on the trails. To avoid the bothersome junk miles in Queens, Manhattan and the South Bronx, we elected to ride the subway to Van Cortlandt Park and cycle to the start of the trail in Yonkers. My initial plan was to take the 4 train to Woodlawn, but the 4 train was not running past 149th St-Grand Concourse. Instead, we took the D train to Norwood and pedaled the rest of the way to the start of the trail.

It Starts on a Subway Train

Incidentally, here’s how to get from the D train in Norwood to the start of the South County Trail in Yonkers:

  • Start at Bainbridge Ave and 205th St,
  • Head North on Bainbridge Ave,
  • Continue onto Jerome Ave,
  • Right on E 233rd St,
  • Left on Van Cortlandt Park East,
  • Right on MacLean Ave,
  • Right on Tibbets Rd,
  • Left on Alan B Shepard, Jr. Place,
  • Right onto the South County Trail.

There were a few times we had to leave the trail to continue. The first time is in Elmsford. The South County trail ends there, and were forced onto the local roads. There are two ways to get to the North County Trail, none of which are marked as far as I could tell.

Mile Marker

The easiest, most direct way is to make a right on NY–119, where the trail ends, then a left onto US–9A, and another left turn on Warehouse Ln. From there, the North County Trail is on your right just before you reach the end of the road.

A more bicycle-friendly way, with a lot less traffic, is to do the following:

  • Right on NY–199, where the South County Trail ends,
  • Quick Left on to Vreeland Ave,
  • Continue on Hayes St,
  • At the end on Hayes St, Right on North Payne St,
  • Left on US–9A. Here I prefer to ride on the sidewalk,
  • Left at the next traffic signal, on Warehouse Ln, 
  • Right at the beginning on the North Country Trail.

Another time we had to leave the trail is just north of the Croton Reservoir. Although I’ve never seen it myself, the word on the street is that there is a big sinkhole in the trail that required us to detour onto the roads. The bypass was around two miles long and included the first climb of the day.


The rest of the way was pretty easy. We took the trail the rest of the way to Yorktown Heights and then followed US–202/NY–35 west to Cortlandt. Most cyclists prefer to head south on Croton Avenue to take the Blue Mountain Reservation, and that’s the way we took. A more direct and presumably less scenic route is simply to stay on US–202/NY–35 into Peekskill.

Sarah charging up a hill on US-202 between Yorktown and Peekskill #bicycling

Let’s Eat

Once in Peekskill, we ate at Birdsdall House, a very nice gastropub with ample outdoor seating. I was tempted by the fried chicken plate, but at $25, I passed. The menu and prices reminded me of Alobar in Long Island City, a place with solid food that is priced about 50% more expensive than it should be. Instead of the $25 fried chicken, I opted for the $14 pulled pork nachos. It was delicious option and was made with pork that was either organic or sourced from a neighbor’s yard. Either way, these were clearly not your ordinary nachos. Despite the inflated prices, I would definitely go back since the staff was nice enough to unlock their gate and allowed us to park our bikes in their huge outdoor patio. Also, their cocktails and desserts looks really good.

Beer Here

Peekskill brings to mind a few things. One is that it was the setting for the 1980s sitcom The Facts of Life, even if it was filmed in California. Another is the infamous 1949 Peekskill Riots. But one thing that may not come to mind is the Guatemalan presence in the town. I first noticed it last summer when I passed through Peekskill on my heat stroke ride to Cold Spring. I noticed a Guatemalan bakery on Washington Street, and then I saw a few people driving around town that looked like me. On Sunday, I noticed another panederia on Park Street. I wasn’t sure if it was Guatemalan until I saw their truck parked outside: I spotted a quetzal, the Guatemalan national bird, painted on the side of the truck. Clearly, my people were here.

Guatemalans Live Here!

At the end of the day, after stopping at a couple of other places, we headed down to the Brewery to await the 9:35 train back to New York. Although Sarah hasn’t really been on the road much this season, she did very well on this ride. She was only a few seconds behind me the entire day, and she climbed the hills like a champ.I know her father would be proud of her.


Greatest Sports Month

Since I stopped paying for a multichannel television subscription, it’s been really hard to follow sports. This month, I’ve really noticed the absence of professional, spectator sports because it looks like this could be the greatest sports month ever.

Usually, October is every American sports fan’s favorite month. NHL hockey is just getting started. The NBA is about to start in a matter of weeks, and there are preseason games to watch. The NFL and college football seasons are each in their second month and are just getting interested. And, my personal favorite, baseball is in full-swing postseason mode.

But this month, there’s even more sports to watch. Last week, a ton of people watched a horse finish fourth. The Stanley Cup Finals finished hours ago with a Los Angeles team defeating a New York team for the NHL title. The NBA Finals feature two of the winningest teams of the last decade, the Heat and the Spurs. Tennis fans have not one, but two, two, two grand-slam tournaments to watch: the French Open and Wimbledon. Baseball is winding down its first half, setting up the races that will remain with us throughout the summer. And if that wasn’t enough, then there’s the FIFA Men’s World Cup!

Best of all, with all these great sports to follow, none of them are college or NFL football games. This really is the greatest sports month!

  1. Brad Adgate agrees that June is the best month for sports, especially for attracting television audiences and said as much last month.

Why I’m Not Renewing Citi Bike…Not Now

Today, marks the one-year anniversary of my joining New York City’s bike-share program, better known as Citi Bike. Because I signed up for the $95 annual membership, I am supposed to renew today. But I am not going to renew. At least not yet.

Citi Bikes need rides, too.

Citi Bikes need rides, too.

Last year, I was really excited about the program. I recommended it as a good alternative to buying a bike if you just wanted something to get around town. You could save yourself hundreds of dollars in buying a bike and ride it only when you needed it. You also never had to worry about it getting stolen because you never parked it for an extended period because it started to rain or you had too many adult beverages. You just found another way to get home.

With a Citi Bike, I can transport a "silk" screen.

With a Citi Bike, I can transport a “silk” screen.

Some people who signed up for the program saw it as a great utility. Dan Frommer emphatically wrote that Citi Bike was as useful as an iPhone, and that it changed how he moved around the city. Citi Bike for me was a great alternative to taking the subway. For days when I needed to make a series of short trips around the city, Citi Bike moved me from place-to-place, with unmatched economy, that hasn’t been possible since the days of the unlimited one-day Metrocard, affectionately known as the “Fun Pass.”

After my Citi Bike fob broke, I now have a wallet-sized card, which has the same dimension as a Metrocard.

After my Citi Bike fob broke, I now have a wallet-sized card, which has the same dimension as a Metrocard.

There was something that “Fun Pass” could do in its day that Citi Bike still cannot do: Citi Bike cannot get me home. Citi Bike was supposed to come to my section of Long Island City in the first phase of the program. But because of Sandy and the financial and technological difficulties the program has faced, it has not expanded beyond the sections of Manhattan and Brooklyn it has served since launch day.

With Citi Bike, I'm a stereotype on wheels. I can transport my $11 salad on a Citi Bike.

With Citi Bike, I’m a stereotype on wheels. I can transport my $11 salad on a Citi Bike.

Ideally, for someone who already owns two bikes, the bike-share program would fill in for those days when I can’t ride my own bike. Today, for example, it rained in the morning so I couldn’t ride to NYU. Instead, I rode the subway into Manhattan. In the afternoon, the rain had stopped, and I could have biked somewhere else, if not home then to meet a friend or whatever. But at the end of the day, I have to either ride the subway or take a bus to get home. In this scenario, which is pretty common because it rains about once every three days in New York City, I may was well not even have a Citi Bike membership.

Because it can’t supplement my own bike or our city’s developed mass transit, I am not renewing my membership. There are however a couple of factors that might change my mind:

  1. I open a bank deposit account at a credit union. Credit union members get a discounted, annual membership for $60 plus tax. If I pay with a Citibank-branded card, I also get a $15 statement credit. A yearly membership, with these discounts, would cost a little more than $50. That’s a bargain.
  2. They expand to Williamsburg, Greenpoint, and Long Island City. It’s still incredible to me that Citi Bike is not available in Williamsburg north of Metropolitan Avenue and nowhere in Greenpoint where rely on G train. Expanding to Long Island City and these parts of Brooklyn would mean I could take Citi Bike to where I normally live, work, and play. In this case, Citi Bike could actually be as useful as an iPhone.

In the meantime, however, I’m sticking to pedalling my own bike and, on occasion, swiping a Metrocard.