Thursday, August 27, 2009

Summer Knits

During our travels there has been lots of small knitting going on.

First, and foremost is the Whisper Cardigan. I spied this in Interweave Knits a while ago and decided that I had the perfect, handspun, yarn for it. And so, I spent months knitting it. That's what happens when one knits a cardigan in laceweight yarn.It came out nice but I'm not crazy about it. It's one of those things that looks better in the magazine then on my body. Oh well, live and learn. I probably still wear it occassionally.

Then there were socks.

And socks.

And socks.
The first pair (right-most sock) was started just before the New Year and finished up just as July began. They are mine. The yarn was purchased in Lancaster, PA last summer so I really had to finish them before this year's trip.

The second pair (center sock) was knit in fairly short order as my "camp pick-up waiting" pair and is for the lovely Squidette. The yarn is a Regia something that we picked up at Webs in February.

The third pair (left-most sock) was my "don't need to look" pair that was started during a viewing of the latest Star Trek movie, continued during Harry Potter, had more inches added while my eyes dilated at the opthomologist, saw some action on the trip to Pittsburgh and was the ONLY project taken on the bike trip. The second sock gained major inches in the corn maze and while sitting around a campfire and was finally finished on our way back from a short trip to the Catskill mountains earlier this week. The yarn is a Regia or a Socking or something like that -- I lost the ball band a long time ago. Squidette picked it out at Webs and it was always designated as socks for Mike. "Blind" knitting often takes the shape of socks for Mike since he has such large feet that I don't have to worry about measuring for very long stretches of time.

And finally, we have Squidette's new gloves. Sport weight alpaca dyed and purchased in Lancaster, PA on our most recent trip. There is more than enough left over for a pair of matching mittens which I will probably start in the next day or two.

Currently on the needles:

the biking socks started last year for the Tour de France Knit-Along,

a cob-web weight shawl which I work on every 6 months or so,

a lace weight shawl which was started a few weeks ago after I finished Swallowtail,

and, a pair of socks for Little Squid which were started today and are about 2 inches in.

I think that's it.

On the spinning front I am working on the main color for Mike's sweater and am making steady if intermittent progress on it. All of the ancillary colors are spun and plyed though only one is skeined so far. I'll skein the other two right before I start plying the main color. That's when I'll finally need the bobbins for my Journey Wheel.

One more day of summer vacation....

Friday, August 21, 2009


Following our adventure on the Great Allegheny Trail, we spent the weekend in Pittsburgh with my brother and his lovely wife.

They took us all over town and we sampled much of what Steel City has to offer, starting with a visit to the Heinz History Center. (Yes, they have a display of ketchup, why do you ask?)
(Interestingly enough, the new Heinz ketchup pin that Little Squid is sport on his hat did not come from here but was given to him a week later at the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania in Strausburg. Heinz has a lot of history with the railroads, including special cars to ship their products.)

We wandered around the museum for quite a while and hit what my brother considers to be the high point, an exhibit which explains the "Pittsburgh" dialect. Very educational.
Moving on, we strolled the Strip, discovering that Nothing happened in one location,

and having great fried fish in another (no, not at this church).
We finished it up with an over the top dinner for Josh's Birthday. (I was mostly off line for the entire trip, hence not birthday post for my youngest brother.) Don't they look cute!
Taking the dog for a walk, in an attempt to tire him and Little Squid out, we passed a street devoted to garages. I kid you not. It was not a back alley but a real street type street but all the houses fronted on other streets with their garages on this one.
As you can see, the tiring walk only lasted for so long ...
On the last day of our visit we got a tour of Carnegie Mellon University with it's Sky Walk
and painted fence. Apparently the paint is rarely dry on this fence, students keep repainting it. It used to be much thinner ...
CMU has sculpture scattered randomly around the campus. Little Squid particularly liked this one. It made him feel cool on a 90 degree day.
Then, off to the University of Pittsburg's Cathedral of Learning with its historically themed classrooms.

These are supposed to be true-to-life recreations of classrooms in other countries at other times but I suspect that the desktops were added for the convenience of the students who take classes in these rooms. Yes, they are really used for classes.

Josh's favorite is the Israel room with its white board hidden behind the mosaics below.

The common room. Can you imagine this full of students?

After visiting all of the open historical rooms we hiked back, had some lunch and hit the road. More adventures have followed and I promise to share some of them with you soon.

Monday, August 17, 2009

A Taste of Lancaster

A few days ago we made our annual pilgrimage to Lancaster, PA. This year, for the first time in three years, we camped out.

The tent is brand new, having discarded our two older (and smaller) tents during the great b*d bug debacle of 2007. Two of our sleeping bags are also brand new as the kids have outgrown the child-sized ones that they used to use.

Squidette was put in charge of erecting the tent with Little Squid assigned to assist while I started a fire. Experience has shown that if we do not start a fire by 5 or so then we will not eat until really late. (Mike was unloading the car and doing a small amount of unwinding after a nerve wracking drive through some really nasty rain.)

They did a great job until it came time to raise the roof. At that point the stronger (and taller) adults had to step in and help. We also had to put the fly on as neither child has the height or jumping ability to get it over the top of the tent.
Yes, it is huge but it served well and we were all as comfortable as one can get in a tent on a hill.

Little Squid woke up each morning in a heap at the bottom of the tent. The rest of us managed to mostly maintain our positions on our mats but he and I had the more slippery sleeping bags and with his lower mass, he had a lesser ability to stick to the slanted surface.

After a dinner of locally made / grown, slightly undercooked, sausage, corn on the cob and (fully cooked) bread,--and s'mores for desert, we sat around our pitiful fire and knit / read. A quiet and companionable evening as we listened to guitar music coming from a neighboring campsite.

The next day we trooped off to a local corn maze for another annual tradition and got ourselves good and lost and then found again as we wended our way through the maize.
I got a good amount done on this year's Corn Maze sock.
A hefty lunch at Good and Plenty (another tradition), some shopping and then back to the campground to swim and just hang out for the afternoon. We did not even attempt a fire until after dinner, dining instead, on cold (cooked) sausages, fruit and bread, all obtained from a local market. Yum! Then, we finally lit the fire and sat around trying to think of campfire songs and instead singing all sorts of silly stuff.

Our neighbors, they of the guitar music (which I realized was recorded) stayed up way beyond our bedtime, chatting loudly. I couldn't really fault them, they did turn off the music at 10 (the campgrounds quiet time) but it started the night off badly for all of us and not one of us slept well.

Waking by 6:30 (habits are hard to break, especially when you haven't slept well to begin with), we breakfasted, read, and stared in awe at the incredibly dense fog that obscured our view of the cornfield just 100 yards away.

Once the fog had lifted a bit, we went off to the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania. We've been here once or twice before and really like looking at the old trains. It was their family weekend so they had some retired engineers there to explain some of the engines to us. After a full two hours we pulled ourselves away and went to Jakey's for lunch. It was our first time dining there but not our last! Mike, Squidette and I all had bar-b-que sandwiches of one sort or another--Little Squid was less adventurous and had a hamburger.

A trip to That Fish Place, That Pet Place then ensued with the acquisition of lots of food and supplies for our turtles-in-residence and for Little Squid's soon-to-be blue tongued skink. Then a "quick" round of mini-golf at a new-to-us place (with a good amount of shade!) and back to the campground for more swimming / reading / relaxing.

Our final campfire was more successful than our first two and we managed to successfully brown our corn and smoked sausages which were eaten with fresh cantalope and more local bread. Mmm ... whoopie pies finished up the meal. Sitting around the fire we passed around my BeBook with it's collection of books and read a variety of selections from Grimm's Fairy Tales. Mike started a story from Arabian Nights (on his Nokia tablet) and we laughed and joked and generally enjoyed each others company.

All of us slept much better--probably because we were so very tired from two nights of little sleep--and were abruptly awoken by our neighbors noisily rising at 5:00 a.m. Grr ...

I managed to fall back to sleep and the kids didn't hear them but Mike was up for the day at that point and woke me up when he finally decided to start packing.

And so we are now home, though not at the end of our summer travels. I know I promised you Pittsburgh and, of course, there is all the knitting that always happens while we travel. Please be patient, I will get to all in good time.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Squid on Wheels: The Great Allegheny Passage ... Day 4

Belle Vernon, PA to Mckeesport, PA

To answer Ina's question, yes, three of us did the ride on Bike Friday folding bikes. The bikes are made for touring and did a great job of it. Little Squid rode a Specialized Dolce road bike simply because he is still a bit too small for a Friday. If we do this again before he is big enough, we will try to get him a bike with fatter tires. He did fine on the skinny ones but they made for a slightly more nerve racking ride on the rough surfaces.

(Bottles of Nuun fizzing away in West Newton)

After a lovely night in the Belle Vernon Comfort Inn and a nice breakfast, we loaded our gear up and took off towards Mckeesport and the end of the trip.

Knowing that there were only about 27 miles ahead of us we figured that we would be back in Pittsburgh by noon or so.

(Hamming it up in West Newton -- the BEST bathrooms on the trail!)

(Ice cream and frozen yougart at the Yough Twister)
What we did not bargain on was encountering another family riding Bike Friday's! Just outside of Boston, after a rather uneventful ride (albeit one that finally featured ice cream) Mike spied two Bike Friday's in a back yard and pulled over to chat. Turns out that the family was in the last stages of a cross country trip. Gulp! They'd already done 2600 miles from Spokane, WA and were headed for Ocean City, MD. They had had 10 flat tires the day before and wound up camping in a kind strangers back yard for the night. Check out their blog, it is really good reading.
We chatted with them for a half hour or more and gave them some inner tubes for their Friday's and a spare folding tire. Hopefully that gave them an "umbrella" against future flats.
(Final bathroom break in Mckeesport)

The rest of the trip continued to be uneventful, even the road riding as we got into Mckeesport. We (thankfully) found the car right where we left it, just as we left it. I'd be lying if I told you that I wasn't a little bit worried about leaving it in a strange town for four days.

Once the car was packed up we called my brother and arranged to pick him up so that we could gain access to his home. Warm showers and cold drinks were followed by two lovely days with my brother and sister-in-law touring Pittsburgh and eating fantastic food. The tale of the days in Pittsburgh, however, will have to wait.

Total biking mileage: 137 miles over four days. Also, about 3 miles of hiking in Ohiopyle, a town I highly recommend for a weekend get away if your idea of a good time is hiking, biking, and rafting.

Over all, a highly successful trip, one that may spur other long distance biking trips though perhaps not as long distance as our Friday friends.

Squid on Wheels: The Great Allegheny Passage ... Day 3

Ohiopyle, PA to Smithon (Belle Vernon), PA

After a comfortable evening in Ohiopyle, we set out once again, this time back the way we had come. Our goal was the Fairway Inn in Smithton, roughly 40 miles away.

Shortly after we started, Squidette mentioned that she was not feeling 100%. With that in mind, we took it slow though still at a quicker pace then the day before, simply because the route was mostly down hill. We stopped periodically to rest and to make sure that we were all drinking enough and rolled into Connellsville about 10:00.

In Connellsville, we found a supermarket and bought muffins for a mid-morning snack and sandwich fixings for lunch.

After another break and the consumption of the muffins, Squidette started feeling better and was able to eat her lunch when we stopped at the Roundbottom Campground.

We had a nice lunch and chatted with some day-trekkers. While dining, a 20-something, riding the entire trail with his friend, came over to us to ask how far they were from Connellsville. After providing the information, we gave him and his friend our leftover sandwich meat and bread.

Moving on down the trail (mostly slightly down hill) we traveled for a few miles before Little Squid started complaining that he wasn't feeling 100%. See a pattern here? (It actually started with Mike the night before.) We persevered to the Smithton trailhead and gave him a while to rest. We were way ahead of schedule so time was not a big factor and we knew we still had two miles or so to go.

Since we were running so early, Mike and I wanted to continue to the Ceder Creek trailhead, an alternate exit for our night's lodging, and did what we could to encourage Little Squid to continue a few more miles north.

(Old Overhold Distilary Swining Bridge remnants)

Finally, we resorted to bribing him with a geocache that was 4/10th of a mile from our location on the way to Ceder Creek. It worked and after quickly retrieving the cache, we continued on to Ceder Creek Park. There, Mike called the Inn for directions and was told that the route from Ceder Creek was much easier than from Smithton. So we started climing out of the park. And climbing. And climbing. Squidette and I had to resort to walking our bikes up part of the hill while Little Squid (he of the stomach ache) plowed his way up the entire hill with Mike. Mike later admitted that he had his rear kicked by that hill and barely made it up himself. Just goes to prove how much the gear was weighing us down.

We found our way to Highway 51 and worked our way to the Inn, passing several other motels along the way.

When we finally got there we discovered that it was a tiny, 10 room establishment attached to a bar. And that the proprieter had not started the grill for the day and was therefore not serving any food. This was rather annoying since one of the reasons we reserved rooms there was because the proprieter had clearly stated over the phone that there was food available at the inn.

Figuring that we would have to walk to the gas station for sandwiches, we went to our rooms to stow our gear. And immediately walked out. Both rooms stank. One of cigarette smoke and the other of ... I really don't know but it was gross and disturbing.

What I did know was that there was no way we were staying there and that I was willing to eat the cost of the rooms.

We turned around and carefully pedaled back along the highway to the Comfort Inn where they happily provided us with two clean, odor-free rooms. And then, immediately and pleasently refunded one room when we realized that just one of the two was more than big enough for all four of us. It was HUGE! Plently of room for the bikes, two queen beds and a small table to boot. And ... they had agreements with nearby establishments to deliver food to the hotel!

So, after a dip in the pool (!) we showered and ordered a huge dinner from a local pizza place. Breakfast was included in the room rate so we were totally set for the night.

The next day we headed back to the other inn to drop the keys in the drop box and realized that had we climbed up from the river at Smithton, we would have had an easier climb and we would not have seen the other inns. In this regard, that rear-kicking climb was a true blessing

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Squid on Wheels: The Great Allegheny Passage ... Day 2

Connellsville, PA to Ohiopyle, PA
The day started out overcast and dreary. Since we only had about 20 miles to go for the day, we hung back at the hotel for a little bit and played a couple of hands of Uno. Once we saw that things were neither getting better nor worse, we set out.
The first 3 miles were just spent getting from the hotel to the start of the trail where Squidette had a spectacular slide-out. She hit a groove in the trail badly and her bike slid out from under her. She managed to stay upright and literally ran off of her bike as it fell. Riding behind her, I witnessed the entire thing while attempting to not run into her. Truly an amazing save.

That kind of set the stage for a rockier ride than the first day though the trail was still fairly decent.

The day was damp and periodically the clouds would drip on us. First lightly, then a bit more heavily, then lighter again. We donned and undonned our ponchos a couple of times before just giving up. With the "adults" in black and Little Squid in yellow, we looked like three grim reapers and a duck! I do so wish we could have gotten a picture of that.

By the time we'd ridden about 10 miles the sky had stopped dripping and our only complaint was our increasing need of bathroom facilities. Ultimately, the men did as only men can do and Squidette and I decided we could hold out for a bit longer. Finally, with about 6 miles to go, we came upon a raft take-out area with a porta-pottie. Never has one of those smelly closests looked so good to me!

After a few more miles we started seeing people on the trail, day trekkers and folks with young kids out for a stroll or bike ride. And then ... Ohiopyle!

Ohiopyle is a town that really seems to exist for the sole purpose of providing rafting trips on the Youghiogheny River. On one side of the Ohiopyle Falls there are class III and IV rapids and on the other there are class I and II rapids.

Our hotel was all of two "blocks" from the trail. I put the word in quotes because the whole town is only about 3 NYC blocks long and maybe 2 blocks wide. O.k., there are some homes a bit further out from the river, but not many.

Small as it is, Ohiopyle is a cool place. The people were uniformly friendly and the atmosphere calm and quiet. Our hotel--the Yough Plaza Lodge--was clean with large rooms that opened out onto a covered porch. We were able to park our bikes in the wooden rack right in front of our rooms using the "piddly" locks (NOT NYC quality locks!).

After a nice lunch at the Firefly Cafe, we changed our bike shoes for tevas and divested ourselves of anything that couldn't take a swim. Little Squid even changed into a bathing suit. The rest of us figured that our bike clothes would dry quickly enough if we decided to get wet. Setting out on a hike, we noted that it took us far longer to cross the bridges into town on foot than by bike.

We walked through the woods and after some interesting detours found the Natural Water Slides. Only Little Squid was brave enough to try them--and only after I first watched another family do them. We took our cues from the adult male in the group. He would go down a length of river in the slides and then give a thumbs up or down to the kids and female in his group. The mom would then watch as her boys went, one by one, down the slide. Once they had navigated each length of rock, I told Little Squid to go on and I followed on foot. Finally, the gentleman we were watching spun around a few times on one stretch and gave a thumbs down. The mom and I worked together to get the four boys from one side of the river to the other and the adventure ended.

Finishing our hike, we cleaned up and headed out to dinner and then an evening of game playing on the porch and a chat with our neighbors.
Another excellent day on the trail. 20 miles--mostly up hill but at a slow grade.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Squid on Wheels: The Great Allegheny Passage ... Day 1

Several days ago we set out on a little adventure. Our goal was to ride a portion of the Great Allegheny Passage. The Passage is a rail-trail that connects Cumberland, MD with Pittsburgh, PA. The passage is incomplete at the Pittsburgh end so you can only get as close as Boston, PA without riding on any roads.

Driving first to Pittsburgh, we spent the night with my brother and his lovely wife (and cat and dog) before setting out.

Starting in Mckeesport, PA, about 10 miles north of Boston, we immediately discovered the first challenge as we unloaded and set up the bikes--two flat tires.

The tubes in Little Squid's rear wheel and in Mike's front wheel were quickly swapped out and we took to the road to meet our second challenge:
a tree across the trail. We found a way around it and continued on down the trail until it ran out and continued down a road for a bit until the trail began again. The trail from this point until Boston is not very pleasant. It alternates between asphalt and rough gravel over and over again--with some asphalt areas spanning only a quarter mile or less. It really did not make sense! We were begining to think that maybe this was not such a good idea when, after a few miles, the trail turned to a consistently packed limestone and stayed that way.

We were traveling relatively lightly compared to a family that we met a few days later. They are doing a cross country trek and are fully loaded with both kids pulling their fair share. We had with us 5 paniers and a handle-bar bag. Each adult carried 2 paniers and Squidette carried the 5th. Little Squid was in charge of the snacks in the handle-bar bag.
For the first couple of days we were really conscious of how much we were drinking and being really careful to stay properly fueled and hydrated. We've adopted a new sports drink--Nuun-- and it seems to do the job just fine without giving Little Squid a stomach-ache (an unfortunate side effect of our old sports drink, Accelerade), it also has minimal calories so Mike and I were comfortable guzzling it, something I am not good about with plain water.

See our water source? Just a suggestion, if you ride this trail, make sure to fill up your bottles in the towns and avoid the pumps if you can. The water from the pumps is sulfury and not pleasant to drink straight. The Nuun helped but I still had to force it the liquid down.
The pump above is the one at the Dravo Cemetery and Campground. Nope. Not kidding. The boy scouts built and maintain a primitive biker-hiker campground here. Nice place, actually, and there is a toilet of sorts. (One step above a porta-potty but without the flush of a "real" toilet.) Not bad when given the options.
We passed several creeks and waterfalls. This one looked like it was frozen. I'm thinking that it is due to calcite or limestone in the water. Very neat looking.
Then there is this one, the famous Red Waterfall. The red is due to the iron oxide seeping out of the old coal mines. Basically, pollution. Neat but sad. So much damage was done to the area during the coal and iron mining days. There are piles of mine tailings all over the region just waiting to be cleaned up.
Despite the environmental damage, the trail is lovely. It is mostly surrounded by trees and runs alongside the river for most of it's length. We passed bridge after bridge after bridge. Some, the remnants of the old railroads, others, still in service as automobile or pedestrian bridges over the Youghiogheny River.

After riding for more than two hours, we finally stopped at West Newton which has the distinction of having the best bathrooms on the trail. Or so we were told. Not having tried all of them, we can't really say. But ... they were really good bathrooms! Clean, automatic and ... air conditioned!

Right across the road / trail from these wonders of modern plumbing was the Trailside Cafe where we had a very nice, filling lunch before moving on. And on. And on.

At the end of the day, about 4:15, we rolled into Connellsville, PA and, after asking directions, pedaled about a mile, up hill, to the Melody Motor Inn.

It was clean, reasonably sized and the proprietress was very nice. It was also a distance from any food. The diner behind it closed at 3 and we started to worry that we would have to resort to sandwiches from the Walmart across the highway (or really busy street, one of the two). The motel owner did tell us where there was an ice cream and beer distributership a little bit up the road (on the same side as the motel) and that they served sandwiches. We decided to give that a try before resorting to Walmart. Good thinking! They had hoagies on the menu and, I've got to say, those were the best hoagies I've ever had. Homemade roast beef, real turkey, right off the bird and honest to goodness ham. Yum! And we washed them down with milk shakes. Hey, we'd just ridden 45 miles!

Back to the motel for a round of Quiddler, and one of Uno then some reading and off to bed.

Tune tomorrow in for day 2