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Posts Tagged ‘Philadelphia’

Well this post is a bit overdue but better late than never I say!  A few weekends ago Patrick and I participated in the Multiple Sclerosis Society’s “City to Shore” ride.  We started in Cherry Hill, NJ (about 8 miles from Philly) and ended up in Ocean City, NJ (about 75 miles from Philly).  We did some fundraising to help the Society find a cure for MS but mostly went on the ride to say we did it and have fun!

City to Shore finishers!

The ride is a two-day event and we had originally planned to camp beach-side upon our arrival in Ocean City.  After a week of rainy-weather forecasts we booked a hotel room at the last-minute.  This meant less gear to schlep with us so when the alarm went off at 4:00am on Saturday morning the bikes were already packed and ready to go.  We set off through empty city streets toward the light rail that would take us to the start line.  We had a quick pit-stop at the 24-hour convenience store to pick up coffee drinks (have YOU ever tried to bike at 4:00am without caffeine??)  We shared the train car with several other cyclists and more got on at each stop.

We're going to do what now?

The starting line was conveniently located at the Cherry Hill train station’s massive parking lot.  Bright street lights pierced the pre-dawn darkness, thousands of cyclists milled about waiting for the start and the line for the porta-potties seemed to stretch on forever.  We had arrived early enough to join the first wave of “century cyclists”– people like us who wanted to add an extra 25 mile loop to their day to bring that day’s mileage up to 100 miles.  Unfortunately the aforementioned line prevented us from setting off early so we ended up waiting at the head of a mess of about 6,500 cyclists for the “official start”.  As we waited in the fairly quiet queue we heard someone’s over-inflated tire burst with an impressive “PSSSSSSSSSSST”, bummer!

Sunrise at the starting line

Waiting to roll

Finally we were on the road at the official start time of 6:40am.  The route wound through sleepy Cherry Hill neighborhoods and into the countryside.  We slipped past fields still blanketed in mist, a cloudy sky preventing the sun from peeking out to burn off the morning dew.  The miles seemed to fly by quickly and I gleefully called out each mile marker.  We soon pulled into the first rest stop for a potty break and some breakfast.

The Whiz Palace

Feeling energized from some bananas and Cliff bars we almost decided to skip the next rest stop to keep our rhythm up.  But as we breezed past the rest stop entrance I heard a volunteer shouting “THIS IS THE LUNCH STOP!”  I’m not one to pass up free lunch so we quickly pulled over to scope it out.  There were huge tents set up with boxes and boxes of prepared sandwiches, ants-on-a-log and fruit.  Another tent had freshly grilled chicken sandwiches and all the fixin’s.  Normally I would have gone crazy on all this good stuff but it will still only 9:30am and a chicken sandwich did not sound appealing.  So I grabbed some stuff to eat later while Pat the “Iron Stomach” Kelley inhaled two chicken sandwiches.  We both grabbed a few extra Cliff bars, a habit that would continue throughout the ride.

9:30am "lunch"

The next dozen miles rolled past easily on the mostly flat course.  We flew past NJ’s famous blueberry fields, some of which are surrounded by gigantic Jurassic Park-style fences.  I made pterodactyl noises for a few miles to entertain us.  Soon we found ourselves at the turn-off for the Century Loop.  The loop was scheduled to close at 11:00 but we were there with plenty of time to spare and we eagerly turned off to join the “hardcore” cyclists.  As we chugged along I noticed that there were very few ladies on the Century Loop.  C’mon girls!

Feel the burn! 45.5 miles to go!

There was a really nice rest stop on the Century Loop.  Kids enthusiastically filled our water bottles and handed out energy bars.  There was a feeling of camaraderie but also pending exhaustion among the cyclists.  I ate my lunch and felt instantly better.  We picked up some “Century Cyclist” patches and hit the road again.  After 15 more miles we were dropped back onto the regular route.  At first I thought I was having deja vu but then realized we had joined the regular route a few miles BEFORE the Century Loop turn off.

We're feeling OK!

People clog the entrance chute of the next rest stop where we turn off to get more water.  I noticed that the “elite” riders were also the most discourteous riders all day.  One team in particular, The Flamers, seemed to think they were especially entitled to not follow the race rules.  It was disappointing but luckily most cyclists just wanted to have a nice time like us!  After a very quick stop we hit the road again, determined to get into Ocean City around 3:00pm.

The miles seemed to somehow become longer and I started to get that feeling like I was riding through Jell-O.  As we rounded a curve I felt my front tire slip and thought that I must really be getting exhausted.  I convinced Pat to stop at the final rest stop so I could re-group.  As we pulled in I realized my “exhaustion” was caused by a flat front tire!  Fortunately the ride provided free mechanical service at all the stops.  20 minutes and one new tube later we were ready to hit the final stretch!  Words cannot express how happy I was to discover that flat at the rest stop and not on the side of the road.  From mile 1 we had seen cyclists with their wheels up, fixing a flat or waiting for help.  Most of them were little skinny road bike tires that had been over-inflated.  Gotta love those weekend cyclists!

FLAT!

A nice mechanic fixing bikes

As the last 9 miles slowly disappeared behind us we started seeing more and more supporters on the roadsides.  A group of kids waved homemade signs and cheered for us, a little girl sat on her bike at the end of her driveway yelling “GO! GO! GO!” and a boy scout troop handed out free lemonade at their own impromptu rest stop.  My weary legs felt a burst of energy from all these kind people showing us that they knew we could make it.

Ocean City neared and I started hearing grumbling in the ranks about “the bridges.”  As in: “save your energy for THE BRIDGES” or “last year I couldn’t make it over THE BRIDGES”.  I would be lying if I didn’t say I was a little concerned.  But I put it out of my mind, no way I was taking a SAG wagon ride at this point!  I could smell the salt water in the air and my bum longed for a stretch so on we pushed.  The line of riders jammed up at a series of stop lights and we found ourselves in a holding pattern for about 20 minutes.  Pat played the defence with his pannier- keeping stupid cyclists from whizzing past the stopped line of bikes (to go where, exactly???).  Soon enough I could see the dastardly bridges in the distance.

I was scared.  They looked like the first hill on a reallybig roller coaster and, to my tired legs, they seemed about 10 miles long and 50 miles steep.  But I was also thrilled to see them.  I had 98 miles behind me and nearly 7 hours in the saddle.  Would I let a couple of small (GIGANTIC) hills keep me from obtaining my goal??  No way.  So up, up, up we chugged and down, down, down we breezed.  I wish I could say the view was worth it but honestly most of my brain was focused on keeping my legs pumping.  We avoided possible calamity as those dang Flamers squeezed past us and the traffic to our left, without even the smallest whisper of “on your left.”  Pat reminded them not the be fools ;)  We cleared the second bridge as well and soon rolled into Ocean City.

With one mile left I started to get delirious from exhaustion and happiness.  The streets were lined with people waving signs and cheering.  A man in a wheelchair shouted “thanks for riding for ME!” and I nearly lost it.  The finish line chute was bordered with gates and people who don’t even know us screamed “congratulations!” and “you did it!” while clanging cow bells.  The finish line announcer was pretty anti-climatic in his announcing as we rolled under the banner, “You are at the finish.”

Finish line and supporters

I feel proud! (and tired)

I hear someone shouting my name from the sidelines and soon pick out one of my volunteers from work!  He’s there to support a friend but congratulates us on finishing too.  He also breaks the news that Ocean City is in a dry county so we won’t be having that celebratory beer I’d been looking forward to for about 45 miles…  Instead we hit up the free food tents, grab our finishing medals and t-shirts and then walk the boardwalk.

Best dang hot dog ever!

Walking "the boards"

God's smile :)

It’s a beautiful afternoon and we treat ourselves to some gelato and cheesy fries.  As we walk to our hotel we see a beautiful rainbow form over the ocean.  My heart bursts with pride at our accomplishment and the beauty of the day we just shared.  We retire to our hotel to stretch, take long, hot showers and to regroup.  We decide that the day was just perfect and that a 75-mile ride back the next day would be too much.  We sign up for the free bus that leaves in the morning and slip into a deep and well-deserved sleep.

YUMMMMMM!

Congratulations to US!

This thing is legit!

A beautiful end to the day

Collection of "extras" from the rest stops, lol

Big wheel at sunset

The next morning we load our bikes into a moving van with hundreds of other cyclists who will join us on a school bus ride back to Cherry Hill.  The drive takes about 1.5 hours, a hilariously short time compared to the 7.1 hours it took the day prior.  Soon we’re pulling into the train station parking lot, our bikes are unloaded and we board the return train.  A police officer at the Philadelphia stop congratulates us, noticing our matching City to Shore t-shirts.  Breakfast is at Famous 4th Deli where we both tuck into massive omelets and bottomless coffee.  It’s the perfect end to a challenging and rewarding weekend.

Truck full of bikes

We rode 100 miles at an average speed of 15.2 MPH.  From start-to-finish the ride took 8 hours, 7.1 of which were in the saddle.  We ate at least 8 Cliff bars each and drank about 1.5 gallons of water each.  One flat tire, 2 finisher medals and tons of fond memories.  Thank you to all of our sponsors and supporters!

The Kelley's in Ocean City

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This summer my museum’s special exhibit is Mummies of the World, a fairly new traveller from American Exhibitions Inc.  When I first heard that we were getting this exhibit I was stoked, I mean really excited.  Since I’ve worked at TFI we’ve hosted two blockbusters about ancient Egypt (Tut and Cleopatra) and although these were fantastic exhibits with beautifully presented artifacts, they were seriously lacking in the wrapped-up dead people.  And I mean, c’mon, isn’t that the thing we living humans are REALLY interested in?  Okay, maybe just me and all the 10-year old boys out there…  Anyway, Mummies of the World boasts 70 human and animal mummies all sharing a well-designed 10,000 square foot gallery space.

Our Public Relations department did a great event for the press during the load-in process.  They got some uber-serious security guys to escort the exhibit cases and personally load in the mummies.  I am a little embarrassed to admit that all I could think of the whole time was what a great practical joke it would be to hide someone in one of the cases (wrapped in bandages, of course) and then have them pop out right after the Philly Tourism Board spokeswoman exclaimed, “Philly’s More Fun When You Sleep Over!” with a sign reading “FOREVER.”  But I guess that’s what working in a haunted house for 3 years will do to a person…

The "short guy" was probably 6'3"...

And I thought I had a weird job.

"With Love" campaign banner, cute!

When the education team met earlier this year to plan out what programs we wanted to offer, one of the ideas we kept coming back around to was how cool it would be to let people touch mummies.  Since the exhibit curators wouldn’t look too kindly on us prying open cases for guests we decided to take a slightly different route: frogs.  So in February we ordered an army of frogs (dissection specimen, we didn’t catch them…) and set to mummifying them in a variety of ways.

Buddy and his many mummified frogs

The specimen were dried, baked, salted, pickled and frozen and all turned out surprisingly well.  During the press event we were able to meet with Dr. Heather Gill-Frerking, the lead scientist/mummiologist (a special word made up by the exhibit) on Mummies of the World.  I was a little nervous at first, worrying she might take our demonstration the wrong way and think we were making fun of her work.  Fortunately she was thrilled.  Her own PhD dissertation examined mummies and she created a similar experiment with fetal pigs in the bogs of north Germany.  An anchorwoman from a local news station was really interested and did a fun spot with Dr. Gill-Frerking and the frogs.  More pictures from the event here.

The anchorwoman loved it ;)

We’ve had the “Mummification Station”, as the demonstration is now called, on the museum floor for a few weeks now and it seems to be a really big hit with our guests.  After the press event we ordered a kitchen vacuum-sealer and encased the frogs in freezer bags.  This way guests can still get a good idea of how the various mummification techniques look and feel.  The one specimen that I have some reservations about is the frozen frog, or “Flash” as he is affectionately known around the office.  Even though he spends the day packed in an insulated cooler surrounded by ice packs he still ends up a bit mushy by closing time.  This might be one of those instances where our imaginations are better than the real thing…

Meet Flash

The exhibit itself is really interesting and I definitely recommend it.  There are mummies from all around the globe– South America, Europe, Oceania, Asia and of course Egypt.  The exhibit focuses mostly on what scientific techniques and technologies are used to learn more about mummies.  It also talks about the history of mummification though you will have to look and listen closely to get the religious and cultural lessons in some galleries.  The art historian in me was a little let down BUT the exhibit is meant for a science museum venue so I really can’t complain.  I left the exhibit with a greater understanding of how other cultures handle their dead and some new science knowledge.  Oh and the gift store has some pretty hilarious merchandize like onsies that make your baby look like a mummy and “I <3 my Mummy” t-shirts, I must resist it’s fun wares daily ;)

 

*Because they keep things under wraps!!!  Hahaha, of corpse that’s the answer!

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One of my favorite things about Philadelphia is the smooth path lining the Schuylkill river– it’s accessible, gives you a break from the city streets and is well-maintained.  One of my least favorite things about Philadelphia is when people get lost in la-la land while using this path, completely unaware of anything outside their two square feet of pavement.  Undoubtedly (and in deference to my last post) this results in me having to ride cautiously, rather than rip through as the blur of cycling awesomeness I prefer.  Luckily it’s now May and for the next several months the Fairmount Park Commission gives Philadelphians like me the most fabulous treat– the car-free, pedestrian/cyclist/rollerblader heaven that is West River Drive on the weekend!

Take that, cars!

I had planned to ride out to Valley Forge today, I really need to get some more long hauls in…  But when I realized the Drive was closed I just stuck close to home.  I did four laps of the car-free section which I think ended up being around 25 miles.  It was so delightful riding in the sunshine, feeling the breeze at my back, and honking back at the many nesting geese.  These guys know the sound of a trail mix bag…

Don't take food from strangers, silly goose.

Fairmount Park is so gorgeous in the spring.  I definitely did one-lap-on, one-off for this ride so I had plenty of time to admire the scenery.  The newly green trees and pretty little flowers popping up make me grin like the adorable labradoodle loping along next to its owner (I hope my tongue wasn’t hanging out that much though).   All four lanes of West River Drive are closed to traffic, leaving plenty of room for families to ride together, rollerbladers to throw their arms around wildly and for joggers to run right down the middle of the road just because you can.  I love it all. 

Panoramic park

 

Stab that dragon!I think he forgot his suit of armor... and undies (hee!)

Chillaxin

This week I’m definitely back to my 100 mile challenge.  The weather looks like it’s really spring so I have no excuses!

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The city of Philadelphia has launched a new campaign, “Give Respect, Get Respect“, targeting drivers, pedestrians and cyclists using city streets.  I for one am all for it.  Since moving here nearly 5 years ago I have often thought the city’s nickname, City of Brotherly Love, must be some sort of hilarious in-joke I had yet to “get.”   Of course there are some Philadelphians who live up to the nickname but for the most part this city would not get put on Santa’s Nice List anytime soon.  And with no love, you certainly can’t expect respect.  Nothing displays the disunity of city and epithet better than the drama played out on its streets.  I’ve seen terrifying drivers, absolutely oblivious pedestrians and downright stupid bicyclists narrowly avoid catastrophe– I often wonder how many people don’t even have a single clue of how close they were to death while absent-mindedly checking their Blackberry.   Being a daily bicycle commuter in this mess has given me a new perspective on the word “respect”.

The plan will put extra police officers in Center City to write tickets for people jaywalking, texting while driving and riding bikes on the sidewalk.  I must add that this campaign was announced at the same time as plans for new north-south bike lanes in Center City were unveiled.  Of course the announcement was met with aggression from nincompoops like Stu Bykofsky, who probably has a clause in his contract with the Inquirer to be as narrow-minded as possible on issues related to transportation…  But I digress.  Public outrage at the City surrendering more of the streets to cyclists feels like a bad way to kick off a “love thy neighbor”-eque crusade.

Good motto

I hope one day this campaign can be a shining example for other cities– a way to show America that Philadelphia truly does deserve its nickname.  For this to work ALL road users need to start respecting each other by being attentive and polite (that means easing up on the g.d. horns, people).  Additionally, the plan should stress that bike lanes, sidewalks and traffic laws are there to keep us safe, not to suck the fun out of our lives.  I admit, it’s hard to refrain from flipping off the Hummer who doesn’t understand that my riding down the center of the lane is to prevent myself from becoming a pancake, not to tick off a random citizen (behind the wheel of a gas-guzzling monstrosity, oops another digression).  But I for one am willing to try harder.  Recognizing that we all play a part in keeping the streets safe is essential.  The campaign isn’t just about respecting other people, it’s about respecting your own safety too.  

Now, I can’t promise to stop yelling at people who ride the wrong way down the bike lane, or to quit forming simply atrocious strings of insults in my head against most cabs and Jersey drivers (sorry), but I CAN do my part by following the rules to the best of my ability and not letting my temper get the best of me.  Come on, Philadelphia… show the love!

Bike luv

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It must really be spring now– beautiful sun-shiny days interrupted by days of drizzle and flood-worthy downpours.  Unfortunately today was a bit of the latter, which resulted in an early closure of the “Science Carnival”, kick-off event of the Philadelphia Science Festival.  My museum is the organizing parter and we all put a ton of work into the Carnival so a little bad weather wasn’t going to keep us down!  We saw a surprising number of people and everyone was in really good spirits despite the rain.  It kind of felt like Halloween at Eastern State with all the crowds and lousy weather ;)  I was so proud of my staff and co-workers though, they really know how to get people excited about learning!  I hope all of Philadelphia continues to explore science after the festival ends.

Since I had an abbreviated weekend we made the most of it with a little backyard BBQ on Thursday night and a bike ride yesterday.  P & E brought over their nifty new “Kelly Kettle“, an ingenious little camp stove they plan to take on their upcoming Appalachian Trail hike.

Beer not included
 It is a rocket-shaped stove that you build a little fire under/inside of and can then use with a “burner” or a grill.  The top part also doubles as a water boiler, a very interesting addition.  It took about 3 minutes to boil a quart of water on this sucker– not too shabby!  Then we cooked a sausage on the grill and everyone decided it had a much “woodsier” taste than the ones off our BBQ grill.  Downsides: must be able to start a fire to get it to work (doesn’t help when everyone’s put a nice little dent in the six-packs…) and it did get pretty smokey.  Pat and I are seriously considering one for our trip/camping kit though so if you know any other pro’s/con’s for these let us know!
FIRE!!!

Yesterday Pat and I rode out to REI which is easy to access via the Schuylkill bike path.  We had a much-deserved lunch at Five Guys Burgers and then enjoyed the outdoor shopping wonderland.  Our mission was to exchange the way-too-large sleeping pads we’d ordered online.  Not only did we do that but we were also able to pick up a rain jacket for Pat, biking gloves for both of us, two cases of heavenly Odwalla power bars and some other odds-and-ends all for the same price as our two returned mats!  We decided on the REI lite-core Self-Inflating pad in the shorter version.  They are so tiny when rolled up and felt pretty comfortable on the floor of REI.  Once the Science Festival is over we’re going on our first camping trip!

You know me, so gangsta

On the way out of the city we saw several large birds soaring overhead.  We pulled over, whipped out the telephoto and got a few good snaps before the birds were too far out of view.  I think they may have been turkey vultures, due to the red heads, but there were about 7 hunting together and I thought vultures were pretty solitary birds (?).  I loved watching them glide on the air currents, not once flapping their large wings. 

Hunting party

 

Click, zoom in for a closer look

WordPress is driving me bat sh*t crazy with formatting issues… so hopefully this post looks something close to normal on your computer!

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A little late but… St. Patrick’s day was super fun.  We both had the day off work, as did P&E, so we joined forces for a drunken, corned-beef-fueled celebration of our Irish heritage. 

Corned beef, veggies and Pete's soda bread YUMM!

Festive garlic & onion dip

Beautiful spring, beautiful people!

It was unseasonably warm and beautifully sunny in our backyard, perfect weather for Tully Tea.

Euchre was a lost cause after that drink

Mr. Meow enjoys a walkabout

 

Can I sit on this?

 

Nope.

 

Proof that Pat tried to fix it

It was a good thing I had the next two days off work as well… I did manage to go on a bike ride to blessed Ikea on Saturday while Pat was working.  I didn’t get an ice cream (too cold) but tomato soup was tasty.  Also completed my second successful Century Week!  This week is looking pretty promising, especially since Valley Forge is on Friday’s agenda.  Today we rode to work in the sleet– not nice!  

love!

  

 

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