Aug 31, 2010

Camping at Gilbert Lake State Park

Last weekend my wife and I met her parents and some close friends of ours at Gilbert Lake State Park in Oneonta, NY. The weather was sunny,cool and breezy; perfect conditions for camping. Temperatures dipped down to the mid 40's at night and we were pretty cold. This is where having a dog comes in handy. We let Doris burrow under the blankets and we used her as a hot water bottle.

We usually eat very well when we camp and take advantage of the fire to cook foil-wrapped vegetables, meat and desserts, but this year we took our culinary skills to a whole new level. We gave my wife's parents a camping oven as a gift. It's basically a collapsible sheet-metal box with a thermometer on the door. It sits on top of a Coleman stove and the oven temperature is set by adjusting the burner. We had some doubts when we ordered it from Campmor but decided to give it a shot. All doubts were extinguished with the first bite of home-made peach pie! ("camp-made"?) The oven turned out to be a huge success. Among the things we cooked in the oven were fresh mozzarella & tomato on multi-grain bread, peach pie, apple pie and even a quiche! I think we're going to have to make a lasagna next time... Below are some photos of the meals we made while camping as well as some other camping randomness.

Above: Natasha helps to stake down the tent.

Above: Our new Eureka! Tetragon. Got it on sale at Campmor and love it!

Above: There were fossils everywhere. Lots of sedimentary rocks. I found this one while collecting fire wood.

Above: Natasha's mom and sister creating what would be our first quiche made on any camping trip. It was excellent!

Above: Peach pie. Note that lattice work on top (Nice job Becky!)

Above: An apple pie that was every bit as wondrous as the peach pie...

Above: How about a little fresh mozzarella & tomato?

Above: I also ordered a couple of Pie Irons. These things are fantastic! I made a ton of different pocket pies and sandwiches with them.

Above: Here I am, marveling at the ease at which I made a grilled cheese with salsa sandwich. Those Pie Irons really are the best.

Above: Becky and Natasha enjoying the camp fire.

Above: Doris, our hot water bottle, emerges from the blankets in the morning.

Aug 27, 2010

Camping

It's 5:45am. Ordinarily I'd be ironing a shirt and getting ready to catch a train to work at this time. Today however, I'm off. Natasha and I are going camping upstate (4 hours north) at Gilbert Lake State Park. I picked up the rental car and loaded it with our gear last night so we're pretty much set to go. We'll be meeting Natasha's parents and some close friends of ours for a few days away from the city. Camping at a state park is a summer time tradition that we do every year. We won't be roughing it; its the type of place where you park your car and pitch your tent right off the side of the road. There are showers and water pumps and we'll probably go into the closest town for dinner one night. It's pretty low key and we always have a blast. I intend to spend a lot of time in the hammock! Expect a full report early next week.

Sunday will be a hectic day for me. We have to get up early, break camp and be back to the city by 1:00 so that I can make a 3:00 train from NY to DC. I have my first meeting with WMATA on Monday morning. I'm stoked! DC has a great Metro system; I used it a lot when I lived there. I never thought I'd be helping to provide the Nation's capital with new subway cars. Life is good.

Aug 24, 2010

MSR Pocket Rocket

With my big 4-day trip to the Adirondack's on the horizon (only two weeks away!) I thought I better test the new backpacking stove I picked up. Deep in the woods, tired and hungry is not the most ideal time to find out your stove is defective. So, tonight I fired up my MSR Pocket Rocket and boiled water for coffee. This stove is a veritable blow torch! So far, the only drawback I can foresee is the small diameter of the pot supports. The diameter is a mere 4 1/2 inches. Aside from that, the gas flow is easily regulated and connection to the Iso-Pro (80/20 mixture of isobutane & propane) canister is as simple as threading it on by hand. The stove folds up very small and compact to fit in a hard triangular plastic case. The weight of the stove is only 3 oz! It makes my stoves of the past, seem so HUGE and clunky by comparison. Just look at those old clunkers in the background!


Aug 23, 2010

After dark

One of the downsides of working for a Japanese company are the international conference calls. I had to go back to work at 7:00 this evening to talk with the Engineering Group at Kawasaki Heavy Industries in Kobe, Japan. After finishing I caught a train back to my neighborhood and spent some time fooling around with my new Canon point & shoot in the park next to the 190th Street Station. For these shots I set the aperture priority to f/2, used the self timer feature and set the camera down to expose.

Aug 21, 2010

Picture of the day

Photo taken from the overlook at The Cloisters in Fort Tryon Park with Canon S90. Selectively desaturated in Lightroom 3.

Aug 15, 2010

Reunited with an old friend

An old friend and I have recently gotten back in touch. When we were growing up, he and I used to hike and camp almost every weekend . As life would have it, we kind of lost touch over the years but it feels great to reconnect. We used to do an awful lot of all-seasons camping. We've hiked in New Mexico together as well as the High Peaks Region of the Adirondacks. We've meadow-crashed beneath the stars without a tent and we've built and slept in snow shelters. One fond memory that comes to mind is the time we climbed Blue Mountain (Elevation 3,759ft) on snowshoes by the light of the moon. So on Labor Day Weekend we'll be canoeing across 7th Lake, just outside of Inlet, NY for some more camping. Hopefully the lean-to will be vacant, but if not, we'll pitch a tent. A trip up Blue Mountain is definitely in order though there will be plenty to do. 7th lake is one of eight lakes in the Fulton Chain of Lakes. We could paddle down to 6th lake or up to 8th lake and explore those areas. I know there is a bridge between 6th & 7th lake that is a lot of fun to jump off of. Bear Mountain lies just north of where we'll be camping and is only a 3 or 4 mile hike to its summit. I imagine we'll be doing quite a bit of swimming, hiking, fishing and most of all relaxing and catching up with each other.

I don't want to bring my big DSLR with me for this trip so I picked up a Canon point & shoot. The S90 (shown above) is an amazing little 10 megapixel camera. It shoots RAW, allows full control of shutter speed and aperture, and even takes video. It has a rugged all-metal body and fits right in my pocket. Today I took it out on the streets and played inside of the 181st Street Station. Image quality is great if you ask me. I'm looking forward to taking this camera camping!

Aug 13, 2010

Axed

This is the latest object of my desire. What you may only see as an axe, I see as a beautiful tool. When I was little, my father had a great axe which was always sharp and well kept. It was a single-bit felling axe with a smartly arced helve for optimal swinging leverage. Its red paint had faded to an almost pink color and the wood had become exceptionally smooth from years of heavy use. Reminiscing, I can vividly recall watching my father swing it, as well as the many times I put it to use. When we would camp in the Adirondacks, it was the handiest of tools for splitting logs and pounding tent stakes.

Best Made is a Manhattan based company who has taken the simple beauty and efficacy of the axe, glorified it, and offered it to all of us (Honey, I hope you're reading... I'm pretty sure I'm making the Good List again this year). They offer axes made with helves cut from Tennessee Hickory and Hudson Bay style blades of fine grain steel. Best Made also brandishes the axes with attractive paint and stain jobs creating an appeal to those intending to use them, as well as those with iconic display intentions.
rail splittersAdditionally, my Grandfather fought during World War II in the 84th Infantry Division. During the first World War the 84th Division was named the "Lincoln" division as it was primarily made up of units from Illinois, Kentucky, and Indiana (The Lincoln states). The insignia (Shown above) shows a white axe splitting a rail on a red background and signifies Lincoln's youthful use of the axe. This gave cause for the division's adopted nickname; "The Rail Splitters".

Aug 11, 2010

Rat Rock

I brought my climbing shoes and chalk bag to work this morning and when I got out I met my friend Kreuter at Rat Rock in Central Park. It's been a while since we've bouldered on natural rock. Climbing outside in Central park was a welcomed change of scenery; it's such a beautiful park. To be able to wrestle boulders in the middle of NYC kind of makes my head explode. (I love this city!)

We practiced traversing Rat Rock in the traditional manner from left to right and I'm proud to say that, for the first time, I completed the traverse AND topped out! The crux of this traverse has been an impassable challenge since this spring and now I've got it under my belt. Even though the score is Rock: 100; Mike: 1, it still feels great! There are however, many more difficult routes on Rat Rock and I'll bet the route I've been climbing is only a V1 or V1+ at most.

After Rat Rock we walked around the skating rink and checked out Cat Rock which neither of us had seen before. A lot of guides indicate that it offers easier routes than Rat Rock but we still had a hell of a time. I managed to top out an easier route although I was not at all comfortable doing so. I was too high and we don't have a crash pad. I would have been seriously hurt if I'd lost my grip. Side note: A problem with Cat Rock is that there are plenty of boulders around it which make it an excellent "dumping ground" for the homeless. Apparently we were not the only ones offering our bodies to the rock. Below are some iPhone snaps from this evening's fun.


Above: Kreuter battling the crux on Rat Rock.
Above: Kreuter offers his body to Cat Rock with a respectful "WTF?"
Above Left & Right: Myself planning to top out and doing it.

Above left: Kreuter. Above: right: Myself.

Aug 9, 2010

NYC tilt-shift time lapse video

I'm inspired. The video below was featured over at John Nack's Adobe Blog this past weekend. Sam O'Hare created the video from over 35,000 still shots captured using a Nikon D3 and D80 with a 24mm tilt-shift lens. For an interview with the artist click here.

Aug 7, 2010

Beautious day for a ride

I was up and at em' this morning at 6:45. By 9:00 I had paid the bills, washed the dishes, scarfed down an omelet at the diner, and was on my way down to the bike shop for a new cable guide. The cable guide that mounts under the bottom bracket [BB] shell on my Cannondale simply snaps in place rather than being fixed by a fastener. A rock must have smacked it loose from the shell a couple of rides ago. Without the cable guide firmly fixed, my rear derailleur would not react to the shifter pulling cable in the larger cog range (The guide would move instead of the derailleur). This is quite annoying when you're grinding up a steep trail and mis-shifting loudly along the way: "Ch-ch-ch-chung, chung, CHUNG!".

$7.68 later, I had a new cable guide and was headed back uptown, (angrily I might add). Riddle me this: If a customer pays $2,500 for a bike at your shop and this small cheap piece breaks, why on earth, would you nickle & dime him the $7.68? I was pissed and shook my head as I paid. I cannot stand Sid's Bike Shops here in NYC. The staff I've interacted with all have shitty attitudes, are not helpful and their merchandise is overpriced compared to other shops in the area (OK, I'm done bitching).
When I got home I performed some quick maintenance on the Cannondale. I removed my Grapefruit Spoon Chain Guide (which wasn't very effective) and reinstalled my front derailleur. Since I'm only running a 32T ring up front, I adjusted the limit screws such that the front derailleur was working as a chain guide instead of a shifting component. With the new cable guide snapped into place I adjusted my rear derailleur, cleaned & lubed my chain and was off to catch a train out of the city.

The weather today was perfect; mid 80's and sunny with a slight breeze. The trails were bone dry again, but made for rip-tacular riding. I was completely "on" today and cleaned a section I've never gotten past before. Last winter it tossed me over the bars breaking my front brake lever body and messing up my left knee pretty bad. I took a few breaks to snack and take in the scenery. Chipmunks scurried all over the place. I swear there are more chipmunks per square foot at Sprain Ridge than anywhere else in the world. I came across a huge dead dragon fly and wondered how it died and why it wasn't eaten. It looked to be ideal bird food to me (Click here for a 1:1 close up of his crazy eyes).

Lady in red

After weeks of not climbing, my friend Kreuter and I got a couple of hours of hours in at Brooklyn Boulders. We were both surprised at how easily we conquered a couple of 5.8 and a 5.9 routes right off the bat. However, there were a couple of 5.10's that shut us down. We each gave the routes several attempts but just couldn't make it past the crux of the climbs. Next time.

I took the R train out to Brooklyn. After a couple of stops the lady in red boarded and took a seat next to the cab bulkhead. I couldn't resist trying to capture her with my iPhone. How I wished I had my DSLR with me. I got a decent shot of her and then processed the image in my phone using Tiltshift Generator for selective focus/blur and vignetting. I love the way it came out. It reminds me of an Edward Hopper painting.

Aug 6, 2010

Doris' trip to the hospital

Last night, around 8 o'clock, we gave Doris a bath. She hates this. But, as parents it's our job to keep her clean and healthy. The hardest part of washing Doris is getting her into the tub. It's like trying to stuff a cat in a mailbox (Not that I would know. ...honest). I managed to get her in there and we commenced with scrubbing her terrified, shaking body. When we finished we dried her but she wasn't as happy and frisky as she usually is when she gets out of the tub. She usually hops about and tears around the house at warp speed. We noticed that she was licking her front left paw and then realized that she was bleeding! We quickly found that her dewclaw was bent completely backwards! I think that in getting her into the tub, her dewclaw must have snagged my tshirt. It's the only cause that I can think of.

So, we quickly searched the internet and were able to find an animal hospital downtown on 55th street. Not having a car, Natasha's father happily drove by and picked us up. After an evaluation, the doctors told us that the dewclaw had broken very close to the bone and that the quick of the claw was exposed and very tender. She then removed the dewclaw and bandaged her leg. The bandage will come off today and the dewclaw should grow back over time.

Poor Doris. She was still quite sedated (As shown in the picture above) and was drowsy when we got home around 11 o'clock last night. She wanted to hop up into bed but just couldn't make it. She slept soundly through the night and was doing fine this morning while I got ready for work. In fact, when I got out of the shower, she had made it up onto the bed and had taken my spot, as usual. Looking up at me, she wagged her tail letting me know that she'll be fine.

Aug 4, 2010

Spamalot...

I've been receiving an incredible amount of spam on the blog lately. So much that I've had to start moderating the comments. The Spammers, whether they are real people or robots, have managed to pass the word verification system and leave their garbage on my blog. It's quite annoying. So now, if you'd like to leave a comment, I'll have to approve the comment before it shows up on my blog (Sorry). There shouldn't be much of a delay as I get push notifications on my phone and check my email compulsively. Nonetheless, I apologize for delaying your instant gratification experience that is The Interweb.

Spam (The "meat") does bring back some good memories. Growing up I was a Boy Scout I got my fill of Spam. "Spambled Eggs" for breakfast was a favorite of mine on backpacking and camping trips. Good memories aside; I can't say as though I've touched the stuff in the last 10 years. For your entertainment, I give you the above photo of myself, my father and my older brother taken around '86 or '87 while growing up in Pittsburgh. Can those shorts get any shorter? As much as people like to make fun of scouting, I wouldn't trade the experiences or knowledge I gained in the scouts for anything. To this day, "Eagle Scout" remains on my resume and has actually helped me get to where I am now.

Aug 1, 2010

Mechanical drawing

I've been meaning to get out the T-square and triangles for quite a while. It's been years since I've done any sort of mechanical drawing. So, today I decided to draw a favorite old compass of mine at a scale of 1:1. The compass is an oldie with a large air bubble in it, but I got a lot of use out of it growing up hunting and hiking. I pulled dimensions from it, using dividers and calipers. The process of dimensioning to the nearest thousandth of an inch reminded me a lot of when I used to inspect parts for an engineering firm in Baltimore. While drawing, I realized how rusty I had gotten. I also remembered how easy it is to cut corners and rush through an area. This always results in a sloppy drawing and I didn't succumb to doing it. My lettering in particular leaves a lot to be desired and makes my drawing look as though a first grader had made it. So embarrassed am I, that I have hidden the drawing in this link. The good thing is; now that I've drawn, I'll continue to do so. I can only get better, and hopefully gain back the skills I lost over the years.

I really enjoyed measuring each aspect of the old compass. It has a lot of character. It's a simple design and incorporates a safety pin into its hinge. Through years of carrying it, I thought I knew it very well. Although while measuring the knuckles of the hinge I realized that the knuckle spacing on the bottom plate of the compass was not symmetrical. I wondered why, for a moment and then realized that this allows the safety pin to be completely concealed and not stick out beyond the top and bottom plates. Moreover, one could assume that a large part of the very design of this compass was based upon this standard safety pin being used as the rod in the hinge. The inner diameter of the knuckles were designed to accept the outer diameter of the pin. The knuckle spacing was designed to capitalize on the "grip length", if you will, of the pin so as to mitigate side to side play within the hinge. I know people think I'm strange already but this sort of thing is exciting to me. That's some clever ingenuity and I value it in all of the random old objects I pick up.

Feeling nostalgic for high school days gone by, I played a few Rush albums as I drew. Rush was well before my time, but it was one band that I really listened to a lot of in high school where I took my mechanical drawing classes. Some of the songs I played, I hadn't heard since back in the day. 2112 is still my favorite Rush album.

Yesterday's Blue Mountain blues

Yesterday's ride at Blue Mountain was short & sweet. I had envisioned a long day on the trails but several factors worked against that vision. For starters, I'm still sick. I have had this false notion that I'm fine, despite my constant hacking (this cough won't leave me). So when I got out there and started the first long climb I was feeling completely drained and barely got my singlespeed up the hills. My pace was slow; that's for sure.

The other factor that worked against us was Marc's bike. He had sent me an email the night before saying that he was having problems with his brakes. I thought to myself, no problem, I'll get him rolling at the tail head. Having spent several years as a wrench in bike shops I was positive that I could fix whatever was wrong with his ride. Unfortunately Marc, not knowing any better, had sprayed an obscene amount of WD-40 on his brake calipers to try to "free things up". I was able to adjust his calipers so that they weren't rubbing so badly on his disk rotors but the oil on his brake pads make the brakes pretty much non existent. The other issue with his bike was that the cones in his hubs (both hubs) were loose. They must have been loose for some time because when I tightened them down, by hand, the bearings were super gritty. (Marc I highly recommend you pick up this book!)

We rode for about an hour before we called it quits. I was OK with that. I loved being out in the woods as it was beautiful. The drought we're experiencing has definitely taken it's toll on the forest. Several of the swamps we rode past were completely dried up leaving black leaves and dried out moss where swamp water once was (see pics below). This area sure could use some rain.




As per standard operating procedure we swung in to Peekskill Brewery before catching the train back into the city. I enjoyed a couple of their IPA's (my favorite type of ale) and we all talked about riding, work, life and exchanged ridiculous stories of times gone by. The brewery is a great place to end a ride.