Skip to content
February 25, 2017 / bikesbytesbites

India, February 2017 – Getting the News

I’ve traveled abroad a lot, starting in graduate school, continuing through several jobs.  In the early years, pre-internet, one of the most troubling aspects of these trips was satisfying my obsession with reading the NY Times.  I remember one trip ( both pre-internet and pre-credit card), when I spent the summer in Italy and France and was starting a year’s job in France.  I had miscalculated the date I would get my first paycheck (whoever heard of getting paid once a month?), so was running short of cash. I needed to live by a strict budget: the budget included the daily issue of the International Herald Tribune and skimped on coffee.

Fast forward to now. I still have the NY Times obsession – but tempered: I read the weekday papers online, but prefer Sunday’s on paper, so I can schlep it around easily (and messily) and do the crossword puzzle on paper. I also like to read local newspapers, when I can read the local language.  Both of these desires can be satisfied in Chennai India. I’ve got my computer and phone, so the Times online is easy to come by. However, the International edition (in newsprint) is nowhere to be found.  So, I was delighted when I picked up one of the local papers available in English, the Deccan Chronicle, and found the Times crossword puzzle.  I don’t think it was Saturday’s or even Friday’s (it was too easy), but still.

The Deccan Chronicle is undoubtedly not the paper of record of India; that’s the Hindu , which I’ve been reading, courtesy of the hotel, all week.  The articles include local and international coverage, most of which seems to have been written by Indians.  (Differences in Indian vs. American English become pretty obvious.) The Deccan Chronicle on the other hand, had lots of articles supplied by press services, with more American language. And those, unfortunately, included today’s front page article with the headline: “Indian techie shot dead in Kansas hate crime“. There was also a fascinating OpEd article  about US politics.  Hmm, maybe I’ll have to start reading the Deccan Chronicle online when I get back home.

January 11, 2017 / bikesbytesbites

Leadership Training

Years ago, I wanted to be able to lead bicycle trips (day and weekend) for the Five Boro Bicycle Club.  They offered a training course for potential leaders. I passed the course and led some rides. Soon after, I became the leadership coordinator for the club and taught the course for several years.

Since this was a course in leading bicycle trips for a particular club, it had several sections that were relevant either to just that club (good places to meet and ride in and around NYC) or to bicycling (how to fix flat tires and other mechanical difficulties; how to ride safely.)  However, it also had sections that were more general — how to shop, cook, and organize meals for a group of people; how to lead that group of people.

The topic that has stuck with me the most (over all these years) was “How to make decisions that affect a group”.  Since this was a bicycling course, the examples given pertained to a bicycle ride.  However, I’ve used the principles I learned  throughout different aspects of my life (especially my work) since then.

The crux of the topic is that the group leader has available (at least) three ways to make a decision for the group. You have to determine which technique to apply in which circumstances.


  • Example – Should we stay an extra day here (because of the weather/because it’s so attractive) and miss another attraction/route?
  • Principle – Group buy-in is critical, as the group will have to live with this decision for a while.


  • Example – Wow! Restaurants! Should we have Italian or Chinese for dinner? Majority wins. Or maybe we could even (temporarily) split the group.
  • Principle – A non-critical decision with no long-lasting effects.


  • Example – Rider1 just had an accident and is lying in the middle of the road.
    Rider2: Stand here, to divert traffic.
    Rider3: Call 911 to report the accident. (At least now I probably don’t have to preface this with “Find a phone, so you can …”)
    Rider4: Take charge of the rest of the group and lead them to our destination for the evening.
    Rider5:  Call the hotel/camping area/hostel and tell them we may be a little late.
  • Principle – Very high stakes and immediate, definitive action(s) required.


November 22, 2016 / bikesbytesbites

Belated Report – Chennai India

How I Got There

Business Trip! Accenture’s India Development Center (IDC) is in Chennai, in southern India (the province of Tamil Nadu). The people at the IDC actually wrote most of the code in the project I’ve been helping plan.  Time to get them involved in figuring out what’s going to break when we upgrade the software infrastructure.  That led to a week-long trip — well, five work days, plus two more days of travel.

The Hotel

A Hilton is a Hilton, right? Well, kind of. Unless it’s in India (or probably many other countries in the world), which require a TSA-style package- and body-check for anybody to get into the hotel. Disturbing at first, but you get used to it.

You know it’s a hotel that caters to international travelers when all the electric plugs are universal — they’ll take any kind of national standard of electric plug.  No more having to look for the right converter plug. That’s good, because I couldn’t find my old US-to-India plug.

The first day there (I arrived Sunday at 3 AM, after having left Friday at 10:30 PM; love that International Dateline) I went for a swim. The rooftop pool is absolutely gorgeous.


Getting to the Office


Yes, there is traffic in India. Occasionally, the flow of cars was interrupted by a cow on the highway, but, more generally, the flow of cars was simply slowed by the flow of more cars … and motorcycles … and scooters.  I wouldn’t try to drive in India. The company had followed standard practice, and hired a car and driver to drive me and my co-worker on our daily commute between the hotel and the office.

The hotel dining room overlooked the National Highway that went through Chennai (and a newish metro platform). A cow had just wandered out of the frame when I snapped this photo, but what else is strange about this multi-lane highway?  There are no lane markings.  It actually wouldn’t make that much difference — lane markings are merely suggestions anyhow; why fit only one car per lane if three cars will fit across two lanes, maybe with an additional motorcycle or scooter thrown in.


The Office

Some aspects of the office were similar to tech offices in the US and/or Silicon Valley: An open floor plan (yech); buses to ferry people out to the office from the city; a huge complex; people speaking English, but with various accents and various degrees of success.

Some aspects of the office were entirely different: No coffee or eating allowed at the desks! (But excellent coffee in the snack areas and cafeteria.) No vending machines!  Men wore “western dress”, but all of the women were in “traditional dress” — salwar kameez, not saris.  (This was different than other offices I’d been in, in other areas of India. I was told that Southern India might be a bit more conservative than the tech centers in Gurgaon.)

The office day was governed partly by traffic. It took about an hour to travel the 20 kms there (some on the highway) if we left the hotel a little before 9. It took about the same time to get home if we left the office around 5:30. The buses left at 6:30.

I think it was a productive trip. After knowing the people in India only via IMs and emails, it was good to meet them. Also to figure out which names belonged to women and which to men. People really should put pictures in their corporate accounts. Especially when a language barrier prevents you from recognizing a typical female or male name.

The Day Off

I (stupidly) scheduled only one extra day in Chennai when I wasn’t working. It was the Saturday at the end of my stay. The company agreed to pay my driver for the extra day. It was up to me to decide how to spend the day — I didn’t want to spend it in the car, but wanted to take advantage of having the car.

I spent the morning and early afternoon in Mahabalipuram . It was worth the 50-km drive. It is the site of an ancient (7th century!) Dravidian city, with many temples and sculptures maintained by the Archeological Survey of India. The temples and sculptures are monolithic — that is, carved from a huge block of stone. The accomplishment — especially considering 7th century technology — is phenomenal.



Unfortunately, I didn’t get to see much of Chennai. It needs a return trip. I’d also like to get to Pondicherry, a city settled by the French (the French?) and still showing some French influence — about 100 miles south of Chennai.  Oh well, another work trip is tentatively scheduled.

September 6, 2016 / bikesbytesbites

Weekend in Luray (with a Triathlon)


I was originally signed up for the Luray Olympic Triathlon, happening on Saturday, . August 20. However, on reflection (on my lack of training, mostly), I decided it would be better for me to do the Sprint distance, happening on Sunday, August 21. I switched about two weeks before the event; it was easy, with  a $10 change fee.


I already had my hotel reservation starting Friday night, so I drove out on Friday afternoon. That gave me a chance to do some work (sigh. have computer and wifi will travel), ride over to Lake Arrowhead (very convenient from the Days Inn, Luray), attend the orientation meeting, go for a brief swim, have dinner with my triathlon team,  Team Z, and get back to the hotel at a reasonable hour.


Saturday I planned to go for a short bike ride and to explore downtown Luray (before and after going out to Lake Arrowhead to cheer). My bike route happened to overlap with some of the triathlon’s bike course, so I got a preview of how hilly the course was going to be.  I was on the course after the racers had completed the bike, but the run was still going on. That afternoon, I headed back into town, to pick up my packet for Sunday’s race and to continue exploring downtown Luray. Highlights: a series of murals commemorating a 1950’s car dealership;


the Outdoor Outfitters where packet pick-up was; Hawksbill Bicycles, where the store owner had a classic (late 60’s-early 70’s) Raleigh bicycle for sale in the window; the old railroad station, converted into a museum and the town tourist office;


the farmers’ market; the Hawksbill bike/ped trail along a stream through the center of town. Then early-to-bed, early-to-rise for my race the next day.

Luray Sprint Triathlon

Lessons Learned

  • My swimming-in-a-straight-line is getting better, but still needs some work.
  •  In general, the speed of my swimming needs some work.
  • I thought that maybe this was going to be my first triathlon wearing a wet suit, but the water was too warm.  (I was told it usually is too warm.)  Just as well, because my transition times could use some improvement — I can’t imagine how much more I would have to add to T1 to get out of a wet suit.
  • Setup at the transitions was smoother than it had been previously, so maybe I am learning something. Everything was organized well, and there wasn’t anything that I discovered that I had forgotten at the very moment I needed it.
  • I biked in my Shimano sandals, a mistake.  They are cooler on long summer tours, but gave no appreciable benefit in this triathlon.  Plus, it meant I had to pull on socks for the run on top of my sweaty feet instead of on top of my wet feet. Next time, my regular bicycle shoes, and the socks go on after the swim.
  • I participated without my triathlon watch which bit the dust a while back.  (Fitbit was also non-operational — bit the dust last week.) Garmin tri watches are on sale at REI this week — time to get a replacement. Not the fitbit — that’s history. (Lousy support and lousy functionality. And this is the third one that broke. Since the warranty is based on when I purchased the first one, no replacement is available, except with a 25% discount. NFW. )
  • The bike course was challenging but doable.  The most major hill was at the end of the ride. Or was it at the end of the lollipop in the middle of the ride? Which means I would have to do it twice in the Olympic distance.
  • Ditto the run course. For the first time in a race, I wore my running Camelbak, not full so it didn’t slosh around, but much more convenient than either carrying a water bottle  or trying to sip out of cups at the aid stations.  So, add another 10 seconds to T2, to get the Camelbak on…  Mostly a nicely shaded course, with some sunny spots.  Some hills I walked …


Second in my age group! Collected a glass and a trophy/plaque/whatever the appropriate word is (thanks Anne & David for bringing this home; I wasn’t aware I was going to get a trophy in addition to the inscribed glass.) The woman ahead of me had a MUCH faster swim … also slightly faster in every thing else, but the swim was the biggest difference.

View More:

Sunday Night and Monday

My hotel reservation extended through Monday morning. I wasn’t surprised by how much the hotel cleared out on Sunday afternoon. But I was a little surprised that there seemed to be bunches of people staying there Sunday night. Maybe to visit the local Wrangler wholesale and supply store?  (I passed it on one of my bike rides; it’s huge.)  Or to visit the Page County Fair, happening that week?

The highlight of the evening was seeing a movie at the Page Theatre, a grand old cinema downtown that has been plexed unmercifully. The Page is taking up a collection — they need to digitize their projectors, or else, pretty soon, they won’t be able to display any movies.  Maybe a side-effect of their film projection system was that all I saw was the movie — no ads or coming attractions; those must be available only in digital.

I am not fond of driving. I had another weekend away planned for the weekend after Luray, this one bicycling with friends in Winchester (at the northern end of the Shenandoah Valley). Rather than drive back to town on Sunday (2 hours) then drive back out to Winchester the following Friday (an hour and a half), I found an AirBnB in Winchester. On Monday morning, I took the scenic route (US 340) from Luray to WInchester (1 hour).  I resisted the urge to stop in Front Royal, to bicycle on Skyline Drive. Next trip.


I loved Luray and the Luray triathlon. I would seriously consider doing the International next year, provided I can get/keep my training on track.  Next up – the International at Miami Man. They don’t offer a Sprint distance, so it’s either put up or shut up.  I’m still looking for a (local, preferably)  triathlon where I can wear the wet suit — I assume that’s not gonna happen at Miami, either.

August 15, 2016 / bikesbytesbites

Catching up on Cheap Eats

In my quest to visit all 100 restaurants on the Washingtonian’s Cheap Eats list, I usually post a report on each restaurant as I visit.  Alas, I’m behind — three restaurants to report on, each with a different rating.

Cheap Eats #83 – London Curry House – Alexandria (Cameron Station). Indian.

  • Summary: Some of the best Indian food I’ve had, including some dishes I hadn’t seen anywhere else,  in a lovely atmosphere.
  • Rating: A great discovery, worth a return visit. In fact, I’ve already been back.
  • Bike Ride: Did this originally as a club ride, so scouted a fantastic and scenic ride, along some portions of the Holmes Run Trail

Cheap Eats #84 – Taqueria el Mexicano – Hyattsville. Mexican (duh).

  • Summary: Maybe worth the trip if you adore Chicken Mole and other not-so-easy-to-find Mexican specialties.  But the two servers are harried (and English-challenged), and the Mexican music (instrumentals; not bad, actually) is playing a little too loudly.  Storefront.
  • Rating: “I’ll try anything once.”
  • Bike Ride: Actually just rode from Fort Totten to the restaurant then to Silver Spring. Not many alternatives I could find to sections on Riggs Rd (without the bike lane) and University Blvd (used the service road and parking lots, where they exist).

Cheap Eats #85 – Crisp Chicken & Bar- Hyattsville. Mexican (duh).

  • Summary: Interesting place. OK burger (was warned that the chicken was quite spicy), with great trimmings. Good sides. Open only for dinner; probably more of a bar than a restaurant.
  • Rating: Worth trying again, if I’m in the neighborhood and timing is right. But there’s so much else in the neighborhood.
  • Bike Ride: .A fascinating ride through Shaw and Bloomingdale — those neighborhoods change every time I pass through.


June 29, 2016 / bikesbytesbites

Bicycle Tour of the Finger Lakes

A friend recently organized a 5-day tour of the Finger Lakes region of New York state. It was a wonderful (and challenging) bike ride. There were 6 people: 4 riders doing longer distances faster than I could; me; and a friend who was driving between the nightly stops, and walking and/or bicycling from those stops.

Day 0: Driving Day (MD to Horseheads) (15 miles)

Not my car. I rode to metro with a triathlon transition bag on my back, packed with my stuff for the week, and got off in Glenmont to ride to my friend’s house. She drove us to Horseheads. Destination was the Hilton Garden Inn, a lovely hotel, but (unfortunately) along the interstate near the Corning-Elmira Airport, and not closer to downtown.  That gave me the opportunity to get in a short ride, to explore downtown Horseheads. Not much there: a well-preserved business district with some vacant storefronts, surrounded by older homes, surrounded by suburban subdivisions.

Day 1: Horseheads to Ithaca (68 miles)

There was one bonus from the hotel being just north of the interstate (I-86) — the ride was headed south, so crossed under the highway.  The overpass had a gorgeous bas-relief (in brick) on Horse Heads!


A lovely route, getting into the Finger Lakes region. The four other riders were doing a longer ride, so I was on my own.  That was fine, because it gave me the opportunity to talk with some locals. And non-locals. The highlight was when I saw two guys at the side of the road.  At first I thought they were hikers, since they had fairly large packs.  But then I saw their helmets. It turns out they were a father-and-son team, rollerboarding (longboarding?) from Washington DC to Ottawa Canada. Capital-to-Capital.  They were averaging 30 miles per day, but had done 45 (hilly!) miles the previous day.  I actually ran into them twice more that day, the last time as I was exploring downtown Ithaca (adding an extra 10 miles to the day’s total), and they were headed for a skateboard store near the Cornell campus before finding a place to hang their hammocks for the night.


I, on the other hand, was staying in a hotel. And eating in a lovely restaurant.

Day 2: Ithaca to Canandaigua (48 miles)

The organizer of the tour made up a special route for me for today — going through Seneca Falls. I was not going to come to the Finger Lakes region, and not visit Seneca Falls, home of the first US convention for women’s rights — in 1848!

My special route was almost entirely on NY state highway 89. Unfortunately, that meant more traffic than the route the other riders were taking.  However, it did offer lovely views, especially when the route left 89A and went down to ride right next to Cayuga Lake. One of those detours led me to the Busy Bee, which was delightful, and where I had the best oatmeal cookie (locally baked) I think I’ve ever had.


Also along Route 89 was an outstanding example of some folk art.  (Saw lots of that during the trip, unfortunately most times didn’t stop to take the picture.


The highlight of the day was Seneca Falls. I met Barbara (my friend driving the car) there, and we had an excellent lunch in a historic hotel (Gould’s).   Seneca Falls  has a well-preserved downtown, right on the Seneca River. Unfortunately, the building at the site of the women’s convention was closed (Mondays and Tuesdays), but we stood on the spot:


I would have accumulated 74 miles on the bike if I had completed the route, but in Seneca Falls I got in the car for a leisurely drive to Canandaigua.  I got there in time for a nice (ok, short-ish) run from the hotel, touching the tip of Canandaigua Lake, and a stop in the nearby Starbucks (sigh) and Wegman’s. (Wegman’s! Originated in NY state, and much more frequent there.)

Day 3: Canandaigua to Geneseo (50 miles)

The route today was not along a lake front, it went inland.  The first highlight was the  Ganondagan State Historic Site and Seneca Indian Cultural Center. The Cultural Center emphasized the history of native Americans in NY state, and reminded me of all the signs we’d been seeing along the road of native American vs. new American battles that took place during the Revolutionary War, in the Sullivan Expedition. (Interesting tidbit: Sullivan’s dead horses were where Horseheads got its name from.) The Cultural Center featured a video of the Iroquois Indian creation myth:  It features a fight between two brothers.  I think I’ve heard that in more than one other creation myth.   (Sigh)

After Ganondagan came more peaceful, rural (mostly flat) miles. The Honeoye Falls are not that spectacular as water falls, but the town was another standout.


One main street, well maintained, with occupied store fronts and several restaurants to choose from for lunch. The highlight was Six Nations, a native American-owned store which sold crafts made by native Americans (throughout the US). some antiques, and art works produced by local artisans.


I bought a small  kit, made in El Paso (you can see it in the lower left of the photo), and am still thinking about the mixed media canvass (?) I left behind.

This was a short riding day for me, so there was time to explore Geneseo.  Areas explored (by bike):

  • SUNY at Geneseo; a huge, modern campus, downhill from downtown. Unexciting.
  • Downtown, designated as a historical district.  Fascinating and gorgeous, with a housing stock ranging from 1822 through the Victorian period and beyond, and commercial/government buildings, such as the Wadworth Library, in excellent condition and still in use.
  • The Wadsworth Homestead, a large estate still owned by the original family, on the edge of downtown

The group stayed in the Big Tree Inn, a historic building where the rooms and dinner were okay, the breakfast was non-optimal, and the web site is broken.  Very conveniently located (right on the main street of town) and very accommodating to a group of bicyclists.

Day 4: Geneseo to Hammondsport (65 miles)

For me, this was the hardest day of riding. It had lots of downs, but also lots of ups, including one 11% grade on a straight road that seemed to go on forever.  (Evidently, the terrain of the Finger Lakes does not encourage or require switchbacks.) But it was also a lot of fun, since I actually did the same route as the four other riders.  (Their planned longer ride was not available because the route through Letchworth State Park was not open.)  We both “saw bears”, as we passed another wonderful example of folk art:


I always carry emergency food on bike tours. I almost needed the emergency food today, since I wasn’t hungry at the lunch stop at Naples (having just stopped for a second breakfast — see “non-optimal” breakfast in Geneseo) about an hour before. So, I kept riding, since the cue sheet said there would be a restaurant ahead.  Wrong.  As Crista warned me, it was closed.  I was saved by the Keuka Trail Farm Market (just after the 11% grade — good timing) — cold Gatorade, colder ice cream, and lovely Adirondack chairs to sit in and enjoy the food and the view.


Hammondsport is a lovely town, on the tip of Keuka lake.  I explored by foot, with, alas, not enough time to do it justice.  I’m sorry I missed the Glenn Curtiss Aviation Museum, on the outskirts of town.  He was also a pioneering motorcycle designer (and racer)!


Day 5: Hammondsport to Horseheads (45 miles)

Today I finally stopped to take some pictures of the gorgeous wild flowers that seemed to line the routes. Now, if only I had had an app that would give me the name for a flower based on a picture – Shazam for plants.  Hmm, I just found Garden — I’ll have to try it.


As on Day 2, I diverged from the official routes.  The official routes went through South Corning.  However, I wanted to visit the Corning Museum of Glass. That meant following the first 30-ish miles of the route; improvising 10-ish miles on roads that had many (well-designed) interstate interchanges; and ending in Corning. But it worked and Barbara and I had a lovely visit to the museum. I learned that the history of glass goes back farther than I ever imagined. And took a picture of my favorite art glass sculpture.  The picture doesn’t do it justice — this is a still life that is probably at least five times larger than life size.


We drove back to the hotel and prepared to pack up for an early departure the next day.

Summary: A wonderful trip, too short. Still lots to see and explore in this glorious region.  I hope to get back there.

March 18, 2016 / bikesbytesbites

Errandonnée 2016

Errandonneuring — doing errandonnees — was conceived by @Chasing Mailboxes. It is a portmanteau work combining “errand” (duh) and “randonnée”, a self-supported bicycle ride. So errandonnées are bicycle rides on which you run errands, and document your ride. The concept was expanded this year to include errands done by foot, running or walking:  errundonnées?

Anyhow, @Mary Gersemalina sends out a Google spreadsheet on which to track  errandonnées, and participants also need to document them.  Here’s the link to my Google Spreadsheet — not finished yet, but working on it … as well as trying to learn WordPress.
Leslie’s 2016 Errandonnées

1. Personal Care

  • Dr Read – in the same K St building as my sports orthopedist
  • Kiehls – On M St in Georgetown; an old reliable, and they welcome the bike indoors

2. Personal Business

3. You carried WHAT

  • A new ceiling fan/light fixture in the inaugural voyage of my Burley Travoy
  • IMG_0578[1]

4. Arts and Entertainment

5. Non-store errand

  • Library – I can comfortably carry one book in my running back pack

6. Social Call

7. Work or Volunteering

8. Store

9. Wildcard