Howe diary: Things to do in Pittsburgh when it's cold

What does one do in between races while visiting family? I like to bake pies, sleep and ride my...

What does one do in between races while visiting family? I like to bake pies, sleep and ride my bike. The week between USGP rounds three and four and Thanksgiving I got to spend with my family in Pittsburgh [Pennsylvania] doing just that.

The first few days the weather was unseasonably warm and rode in just shorts and a jersey, unheard of in November in Pittsburgh. By Thanksgiving the weather had turned into the weather I know and love: cold and raining. Friday it was even colder and I had plans to ride the Critical Mass in Pittsburgh. I've never done one before, even though there are two near where I live. Usually by Friday evening I'm either tired or getting ready to race the next day. Since I had neither excuse while in Pittsburgh I made a plan with my brother to do the ride. Friday was quite cold, but dry. As the evening time drew near I rode over to my bother's house dressed in most of my warm clothes. His house is a downhill coast from my parents' house and I was freezing by the time I got there. So I borrowed an extra coat from him. Right before we were about to leave someone showed up to look at a truck he had posted on Craig's List so I headed off on my own.

It was dark by the time I headed out and snow flurries were starting to fall. It's been a long time since I've ridden in the snow. The temperature was low enough that the roads stayed dry and there was very little traffic on the roads. Upon arrival at the appointed meeting place, a life size diplodocus statue in front of the Carnegie Museum, I was disappointed to find no one there. The night was critical but no mass. Maybe the masses showed up after I left, but considering the temperature, I wasn't really interested in waiting too long to find out. So I rode back to my brother's house and then up a large (but not too steep) hill to my sister's house and enjoyed some hot lasagna. Riding around in the dark with snow flurries caressing my cheeks drew me into a Zen-like daze. The streets were all but deserted and for a moment it felt like I had the city all to myself.

Saturday morning is the start of the big day I've been looking forward to for months, The Dirty Dozen. A true Pittsburgh classic, the Dirty Dozen celebrated its twenty fifth year on the Saturday, November 24, 2007. What is the Dirty Dozen? A ride that goes up the thirteen steepest hills in Pittsburgh with points awarded to the top ten finishers on each hill. It was started by two-time RAAM winner and endurance cyclist Danny Chew, and you can find out more about it here www.dannychew.com. The winner walks away with huge prize money, podium girls and ever-lasting fame. Well, not really, but the winner does get some serious bragging rights.

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