OLPH has this friend she calls Winter Larry. He's only seen me once before. He wanted to see me again. She told him that she'd bring me out into the hills on Saturday if he'd promise to come out on the ride. I'm not sure she trusted her strength, Larry, or me, because before she gave me any chain lube and filled my tires, she got that new Piggy Cannondale creature ready to go. In the end, she picked me. I'm the Tommasini. I'm better than anybody and she knows it.
When we got to Pennington, there was another blue steel beauty trying to steal my thunder. Winter Larry cooed over me, so I felt a little better about everyone flocking to Celeste's hand-made steel machine made with uncouplers so that she can take it anywhere. I shine; she sparkles. Call it even.
There was a good amount of metal around today, for a change. Tom had his Feather. And who was that? Mighty Mike and his Bianchi! Without a helmet! Pete, who lives a few minutes away, went off to fetch a spare while Mike got ready.
Somebody asked, "What big hill are we doing today?"
OLPH answered, "Province Fucking Line." Tom looked dejected. He wasn't expecting OLPH to be such a bitch. Before she died, Miss Piggy told me about what Tom made her do over the summer; I think he hastened her demise. If OLPH were to break Tom or his Feather today, that would be fine with me. Turnabout is fair play.
OLPH wasn't taking the usual route to Lambertville. She said she didn't want to fall into the Cranbury trap of same-old-same-old, so instead of getting there and back in 35 miles, the plan was for 48. The path was circuitous all right, but at least it gave us all a long warm-up before we got to Province Fucking Line.
Province Line Road follows a line drawn in the 1700s that divided the state into East and West Jersey. Not much of it remains. We can get to a few miles of it in West Amwell, and there's a long stretch north of New Egypt. Some of it is Quakerbridge Road now; nobody takes a bike on that stretch. There's a commemorative plaque in stone where the road crosses Route 518:
North of 518 is where the tough part is. The hill starts off mellow enough. OLPH stopped to get a picture of a turkey vulture on an old silo.
She told Larry that she had to make up for not getting a picture of the vulture on the gold steeple in Cassville last week.
Vultures are regulars on Province Line Road. Right where the trees start is where the road gets steep. The birds like to hang out there, where they can see the field and any riders that drop from exhaustion.
Tom almost dropped, but he rescued himself. So close...
This is a favorite photo spot, where Province Line meets Hopewell-Amwell Road.
The Hill Slugs collected themselves on Lindbergh at Ridge Road. OLPH takes too many pictures of tree tops. She should be taking pictures of me. I'm beautiful.
At the corner of Bowne Station and Queen, outside of Lambertville:
We were nearly 30 miles into the ride by the time we got to Rojo's in Lambertville. The owner wasn't around today. When he is, he sometimes comes out to admire us while our riders are inside. Too bad for him, what with two blue steel beauties leaning against his wall and all.
Tom was confused again when OLPH made a left instead of a right on Route 29 in the center of Lambertville. She had planned to take 179 for maybe a quarter of a mile, then make the first right onto a residential street where she'd never been before. But when she took a look at the grade on that road, she went right on past it. She said I didn't have the gearing for it. Wrong: She doesn't have the legs for it. Wuss.
From the chatter coming up the line, though, it sounded as if the other Slugs were grateful she didn't make that turn. We plodded along 179, passing the spot we'd have emerged not too much farther up the road. No wonder nobody goes there; there's not much reason for it. OLPH said something to Jim about somebody named Ed who would have charged up that hill. She said, "If I had Miss Piggy, I'd have done it." Screw you, OLPH, and that stupid Pig of yours.
We had one more big climb, on Marshall's Corner-Woodsville Road. "It's a double-humper," OLPH said. "The second one looks much worse than it is. You'll see it from the top of the first. Don't panic." I think some of them panicked, but we all made it up in the end.
The Slugs waited for each other.
OLPH said, "Hey, you know how it's a flock of birds? What's a group of slugs?"
"A plague?" Celeste offered. "Like a plague of locusts"
Someone else said, "A slime."
OLPH said, "A grumble?"
I got back home with nearly 60 miles on my new wheels. OLPH likes the way they feel, and she said she's going to keep them. She promised Jim she'd fix my brake adjusters too.
OLPH wasn't sure who she'd take out on Sunday, if she went at all. It would depend on how much sleep she got after a small party she and her husband were hosting at the house.
She brought one of the guests down to look at Miss Piggy, and I was jealous, until she showed him my snazzy new wheels. After the party, though, it was Miss Piggy she brought upstairs and gave the water bottles to. She must have been pretty tired.
But in the morning, she carried the Pig back down and filled my tires instead. I'm the one that got to ride in the car to Cranbury. That's because my big ring is bigger than Piggy's big ring. I go into 53-11 real easy.
When she took me out of the car, she called Raj over. He was on a carbon Colnago. I was happy to see another hand-made Italian bike, even if this one was carbon. Raj admired me, but we all knew that his Colnago is far better than I could ever hope to be. I'm willing to cede my status to a carbon frame, but just this once. Just this once.
Today's ride leader wasn't Winter Larry. Winter Larry wasn't there. Today we were led by JeffH, who said we were heading "due east," to face the headwinds on our trip home.
We were two miles into the ride when he led us down a closed road. OLPH led a group down this road many years ago. It was a moonscape back then, and her riders complained. Today we had to be carried over a barrier and our tires were full of dirt. But at least there weren't any potholes. OLPH has a reputation for crossing closed roads like this; she said she had no right to complain. She was amused, but she wondered if the other riders were. Chris was, and probably Jim, too.
The dirt went on for quite some distance, including under the Turnpike. At least the dirt was level, though. That's an improvement from years ago.
After that we were good for a while.
Then we hit traffic on Sweetman's Lane. Usually the Freewheelers turn off after the bridge, onto Kinney, to get away from traffic. Today we went past Kinney. That's where a car came within one foot of knocking me and OLPH over. OLPH was pretty grumpy after that. She wanted to catch the car at the traffic light and knock on the window. The car was long gone by the time we got there, though. And the traffic was even worse on the other side, all the way through Englishtown, and the road surface was less than hospitable. OLPH let her opinion be known at the rest stop. I think she unintentionally insulted JeffH, and she felt bad about that, but they were talking while they ate, so I guess everything was more or less okay.
The route back towards Cranbury was quieter.
OLPH said her feet were getting cold. Dressing properly this time of year is tough. Today was warmer than yesterday, but today was cloudy and a little clammy. She should have known better than to go out without foot warmers.
A handful of miles east of Cranbury, OLPH was with Jim, Chris, and Barry, behind JeffH. The rest of the riders were far enough ahead that when JeffH signaled a left turn (from Dey Grove to Dey Grove, go figure), they didn't hear him. We turned. He motioned to us and then went straight on to catch the others. We thought he was telling us to go ahead; the rest of the group was fast enough to catch us anyway. So we went ahead. Jim asked OLPH, "Do you know where we are?"
OLPH kept looking in her rear-view mirror for them. They weren't there.
Chris knew the way home, though, so we followed him.
We followed him straight to another closed road.
Chris was showing Jim a picture of the road not too long ago. OLPH said, "Are you going to make me cross an I-beam? I'm not very good at that."
"Maybe," he said.
I gave up Princeton Pike at rush hour for this? I'm getting my feet all dirty!
There was no I-beam, only dirt.
OLPH said to Barry, "I'm the one with the reputation for this kind of stuff, but I think I'm going to have to give it over to these guys."
Barry said, "Let me know next time and I'll bring my mountain bike."
Jim said to OLPH, "Are you sure you're not leading this ride?"
If the rest of the group had followed us, they'd have caught up to us by now. If they'd gone straight, we'd have run into them or even been behind them at the next intersection. There was nobody there.
We had a few minutes of peace along a wooded stretch of road. OLPH looked down at my new wheels and decided for sure that she'd keep them. To be fair, though, she could run square wheels on me and I'd still be awesome.
OLPH likes to drop the hammer on Cranbury Station Road. It's the last couple of miles before the traffic light at Route 130 in Cranbury. I was all ready for the 53-11 thing, but she never did click it in. Maybe she didn't because there's another warehouse (like we need another warehouse) going up and the road is a mess. Maybe she was too grumpy and tired.
We waited around in the parking lot for the rest of the group to return. They did, after maybe five minutes. They'd turned around and taken the dirt bridge too. OLPH and JeffH grumbled about the condition of Cranbury Station Road. "It used to be fun," she said.
OLPH stood for a long time in the shower, waiting for her feet to warm up, and thinking.
On one hand, people are getting tired of the same old routes out of Cranbury. Leaders are trying to do different things out there, but, little by little, we're losing the good roads. Nowadays, the only decent routes have to go south towards Bordentown or Allentown or New Egypt, or maybe Jackson or Cassville. But some of those places are so far away that the leaders have to adhere to prescribed routes in order to keep the distance reasonable.
Kermit has told me about the last few times OLPH had taken him to Cranbury. Two out of the past three rides went north. One of them was to somewhere near Spotswood or something; there was no scenery to speak of, and the roads weren't the best ones to be on. Another time, the leader didn't show up, and the one who volunteered took the riders through some gnarly roads near the Princeton Junction train station. Kermit said OLPH didn't enjoy either of those rides. So much for originality.
On the other hand, OLPH thought, as she stared out the window onto the gray November sky, being on a bike is much better than being in the gym. OLPH was thinking that perhaps she should lead a few Sunday rides from Mercer County Park. From there, one can go in almost any direction without encountering the bad stuff. She could take me, or Kermit, or even Gonzo, out for a recovery spin with a group that could go a little slower than the fast boys on JeffH's rides. He wouldn't have to try to keep two groups together the way he has to now. OLPH thinks she might try a few off-the-book Sundays and see what happens.
Meanwhile, she really needs to fix my brakes. I look so stupid with my quick-release levers sticking halfway up.