Sunday, March 22, 2015

Following the Pipeline

Rosemont-Ringoes Road at Lambert Road

22 March 2015

Today's route was a bit much, considering the temperature, the wind, and the winter that won't quit. I took the Slugs to Sergeantsville on a route that followed, to some degree, the proposed PennEast pipeline (you can see the full route here. This involved adding five extra miles to the 22 or so that get us to the general store on a normal day.  Considering the legs that showed up, I figured it wouldn't be a problem for any of them.

Marc and Plain Jim met me at home. At the edge of Pennington we picked up Pete G and then Jack H. I felt like a piece of flypaper. In Pennington we gathered John K and Bagel Hill Barry.

Woosamonsa Road is a good test hill.  If you feel like shit on Woosamonsa, you'll feel worse on the rest of the ride.  One of our number figured this out and turned back, which was wise, because even our strongest riders were feeling wrung out before we made it back over the Sourlands on the return trip.

This is all totally okay.  We've had the worst winter in recent history, and no amount of indoor training can substitute for a long day on the road. I have no doubt that the legs that quit today will be kicking my butt next week.

Anyway, the pipeline.

I pointed out the farms and preserves it would sever, our roads it would cross, and the streams it would disrupt.  I played the role of policy wonk; the guys had a lot of very good questions. 

All in all, they were good sports. We could have bagged it in Lambertville, but we didn't. I think we all feel as if we need to make up for lost time.

The proposed pipeline cuts through the village of Mount Airy, which is an historic district.  The top of the hill is where we regroup and photograph cows.

From Pennington to Sergeantsville, yards were festooned with signs. "Stop the PennEast Pipeline." "Stop the Fracking Pipeline." "Save the Sourlands."  We noticed a lot more "no trespassing" signs, which are part of the strategy to keep PennEast surveyors off people's land and force them to take each landowner to court individually, thus costing PennEast both time and money. So far, few landowners are granting permission.

At the corner of Seabrook and Brookville Hollow was a "posted and patrolled" sign.

We riffed on that one, imagining mercenaries guarding the woods, shooting first and asking questions later, burying the bodies.

Eventually we got to Sergeantsville, where the gawked at the Inn that caught fire on March 9.

Geez. Are we going to lose one iconic building each spring? At least this one is going to be rebuilt. Peacock's has been leveled.

We took our time at the general store. Jack tossed out the idea of a pool party. I said, "I have no problem with Spandex, but I'm just not comfortable wearing a bathing suit."

John K said, "You could not wear a bathing suit."

I looked over at him and said nothing. The guys erupted. Jack was pretty sure I'd burned a hole straight through John's skull.

We took a direct route home. We had a tailwind too.  On Woodsville Road, I stopped to use the bushes. I crested the first hill to see the guys climbing the second. They looked like a line of ants on a wall.

In two weeks I'll be leading the Chocolate Bunny Ride. I wonder how much snow we'll have between now and then.

Pinelands in the Snow

Cranberry Trail, Brendan Byrne State Forest

21 March 2015

Everyone within a half-mile radius of home is at a conference. The rest of the usual weekend dinner gang is either at a conference or commitment. It's Friday morning, it's the first day of spring, and it's snowing again. By evening we'll have at least five inches on the ground with no hope of a thaw by ride time tomorrow morning. 

I wonder if Our Jeff is leading a hike.  I don't want to spend Saturday doing taxes and cleaning the house. I send him an email.  

Yes, he writes, a 7-mile hike in Brendan Byrne State Forest, a hike that had been rained out last Saturday.  Count me in.  I feel better already.

I meet Our Jeff at his house for an 8:30 departure.  We drive south to Funkadelic's "first ya gotta SHAKE THE GATE," because Jeff has a multi-CD changer and a PhD in funkology.

I've been down to the Pinelands a bunch of times since grad school, all on my bike.  This will be the first time on foot since I took my last field sample. I wonder how close we'll get to that little bend in that creek where my sampling sites were. I wonder if I'll recognize anything at all. I wonder if I'll ever get used to not calling it Lebanon State Forest.

We get to the Ranger's Station with close to an hour to spare. It's enough time to assess the snow situation and take pictures of the sky. 

For snowshoes, Jeff says, one needs at least 8 inches. We're standing on three, maybe four, wet and melting fast. "We'll bare-boot it," he decides. Sounds kind of obscene, but an hour of Funkadelic will do that.

Jeff digs out an old trail map for me to keep*.  It still says "Lebanon State Forest." Newer ones are the same map with "Brendan Byrne State Forest" stickers slapped slanted over the old print.

Nine of us are signed in, including one person whom I haven't seen in a few years. I say something, and this person looks at me, confused.  "Who are you?"

I smile and try blow away my bangs.  "You know me." Reconnecting is weird at first; this person has walled off the past and I am part of the life left behind.

I know something about all that. I've tried to do it more than once. In the end, though, there's only so much running we can do before we have to let then back into now. It sounds trite, but it's easy to forget that the past makes us who we are.  That I'm thinking all of this as I traipse through the forest I called home during the Lost Years is not lost on me.

For flat terrain, this is rough going.

Snow is tumbling from tree branches onto our heads. We stop to remove layers more than once. My socks are too thin, my boots too loose; my feet hurt. I haven't worn these 19-year-old boots on a hike in many years. I've forgotten that I need fat socks, not toe warmers, to keep my feet happy.  I invoke Rule #5.

This brings back memories of hummock-hopping.

We break for lunch at Pakim Pond. Even half-frozen, the water is brown. Snow covers sand.

In the shade of the pavilion, I have to put on layers again. My ankle brace is making my knee sore. I'm working on a huge blister on my other heel. I'm the only one not dressed in technical wear, save for the gaiters Jeff has lent me. Until I get my foot situation sorted, I'm not investing in any high-priced clothing for the rest of me.

After lunch we walk over to the spillway that separates Pakim Pond...

... from Cooper Branch.

We come in at 7 miles. Trust Our Jeff to get the distance exactly right. After we change back into our street shoes, five of us head for the Red Lion Diner. Diners and traffic circles go together in South Jersey; one cannot exist here without the other.

As we drive home, it's nearing 50 degrees. The roads are clear and dry. I'm sunburned and happy. Tomorrow we can head for the hills.

(*Which I will later find, halfway to mush, in the dryer.)

Saturday, March 21, 2015

RIDE IS ON: Hill Slugs Ad Hoc, Sunday, 22 March

21 March

Let's do this!

It's time to get back into the hills. Meet at the Hopewell Administration Building on Main Street, across from Ingelside Road, in Pennington, for a 9:30 a.m. start. We'll go 40-45 miles with a rest stop. Extra-milers can meet me at my house for a 9:00 departure.

20 March 2015

Dear Winter,

Today is the first day of spring. Take your snow and go home.


The Tulips

Saturday's ride is postponed due to weather fuckery. Check in again tomorrow evening for an update.

19 March 2015

If the roads aren't messy, Saturday's ride is on. Check back here on Friday evening. We might have to change the starting location or go on Sunday instead. 

Friday, March 20, 2015

First Day of Spring

                       Botany Major

20 March 2015

On my way from the lab to my car (which was under 5 inches of snow):

The snow was wet and heavy. I finished shoveling in the dark.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015


17 March 2015

Or maybe they get behind me in a headwind because they know I'm dumb enough to pull them for miles at a time without complaint.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Being One of the Guys

Things Only Skinny Cyclists Can Eat

15 March 2015

In recent posts I've been whingeing about my insecurities.  I see no reason to stop now.  Today's navel-gazing is about being the only woman on a ride.

It happens a lot.  It happens most of the time. It happens because the other PFW women I know are either faster, more competitive, or not interested in the sort of epic ride I'm interested in.  Also, because I've never bred, I'm out of sync with my cohort.  While I'm out riding, the breeders are out being parents or training for triathalons.

I don't mind, really. I've never identified with the stereotypical woman (and I wonder how many women do, now that I think about it).  The last time I wore makeup was in college when I dressed as a corpse for Halloween. The last time I bought a dress was something like a decade ago, and that was only because I had to. When I'm not barefoot or in my bike shoes, I'm in sneakers. I don't do chick flicks. I hate Valentine's Day. None of  my furniture matches. I don't have that pixie look that the ideal woman is supposed to have.  I have biceps and triceps and quads instead. Throughout my adult life, without prompting, friends have tended to refer to me by my last name.

When there are other women on the ride, I feel the need to prove myself worthy of their athleticism. I hear the guys referring to their male egos when they get competitive or foolish. I'm no different; I just rarely have the temptation.

Instead there is another sort of pressure. These are my friends, and they're stronger than I am. If I want to keep hanging out with them, I need to keep up with them. But, being XX and not XY, there's only so much power and muscle I can obtain without doping, no matter how much winter training I put  myself through. They never have to work as hard as I do, which puts me at a disadvantage on the day of the ride and the next day too. 

There have been times when I've experienced sexism on a ride.  One fellow, long gone from the club, used to refer to me as "doll," let me pull him for miles, then jump ahead and drop me. Others have seemed offended at the idea that I might be faster than they are, and would do everything in their power not to let me get ahead on a hill or on a fast break.

The guys I ride with, though, treat me like one of the guys, and I like it that way. They razz me and I razz them right back. We take turns pulling. They let me get ahead sometimes. They don't mock me for lagging.  And if it's a Winter Larry ride, they give me a job: I have to pull them in a strong headwind. Any one of them could jump out in front and drop me in an instant, but nobody does. They let me do the work. I don't mind at all.  I'm built for it, and there's something satisfying about it. I feel as if I have a purpose. I'm pulling the boys home. 

And I get to show off a little.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

All Clear in the Flatlands (or, OLPH Shakes Off the Blues and Does a Metric)

8 February 2015

I was cagey in yesterday's post.  I wrote that the roads weren't safe enough for an official ride.  At the time, they weren't, so Tom invited a few of us along for an unofficial 30-mile ride from his house. "Make it 40 and it's a deal," I wrote back.

He didn't think there would be enough road for that, but if I wanted to take my chances on a narrowed Windsor Road, I could start from Mercer County Park for an extra 9 miles round trip.  Snakehead Ed and Plain Jim chose that, too. We'd meet there at 9:30, which would give us plenty of time to get to Tom's for the 10:00 start.

The East Picnic Area of the park is only 8 miles from home, but, given that some of the road in front of my house, as well as my front steps and walkway, was under a sheet of hard-packed snow, I went to sleep certain that I'd be driving to the park.

In the morning, now an hour ahead, I was less sure.  At 8:40 I made up my mind, skipped the rest of my coffee, and got ready to ride to the park. I carried my bike to the end of the driveway, and walked it past the snowy stretch of my street.  The rest was clear enough, the sun bright enough to show me where any ice was.

I could feel my mood lifting as soon as I started.  In the park, I passed many runners and waved to them all.  Most of them waved back.

Jim looked surprised but not surprised when I reached the East Picnic Area.  He made a comment about the size of my balls.

Snakehead was running late.  He called me, I called Tom, and I took pictures while we waited.

We arrived at Tom's house at 9:59. Ron was there with him.

Conditions had much improved since yesterday afternoon.  We dodged ice and puddles once in a while, and it was clear early on that we'd be giving our equipment a thorough wipe-down at the end of the day.

I wasn't paying attention to our speed; I don't think anyone was.  None of us had expected to be able to ride today at all. For the first time in months, I was focused on the present instead of worrying about the future.

We stuck to the open roads and found ourselves in Allentown.  Tom, knowing that three of us had extra miles, offered a rest stop. We parked our bikes in front of Woody's, but Ed, Jim, and I headed instead for Bruno's.  Woody's has good coffee, but Bruno's is a bike store with a chocolate shop in the back.  No contest.

Snow makes for good bike stands. Bruno's makes good hot chocolate.

Here's Kermit, with Ed's bike in the background:

Ron's bike next to Jim's Yellow Masarati:

Inside Bruno's, a candified bicycle hangs over the chocolate counter:

Bruno's daughter makes the chocolates:

It was 10 miles back to Tom's house, then the 4.4 back to the park.  We were into the wind much of the way.  Welcome to March.

Ron asked how many miles I'd have.  Still counting on 30 from Tom, I said, "54."  The roads being better than expected, though, Tom threw in an extra 6 miles.

Back at the park, Ed asked how many miles I'd have.  I looked at my odometer.  "60," I said.

He squinted and said, "Ooooooo."  In other words, "You'd best find two more miles."

So I did, by going around the park instead of through it, and by circling the neighborhood (now clear of ice) a few times.

I wasn't planning on a metric when I left the house this morning.  I guess all of those 1.5-hour sessions on the trainer helped, though, because my legs are much less fried than they ought to be. Today's mellow pace helped, too.  The headwind did not help.

After wiping Kermit down, I brought Beaker out.  I lubed the chain and set the light battery to charge. I filled up the tires and mounted the lights.

On our way to Gordon's birthday party, Jack and I took a detour on Princeton Pike to Quaker Road to scout out road conditions. For most of the way, we could see the shoulder.

Sunset is at 7 p.m. tomorrow.  It'll be above freezing for the morning commute. If I can feel my legs, I'll be biking to work.

My winter of discontent is over.