17 August 2014
Beaker came home on Friday. I didn't load her* up with the lights and bell right away. First, we were going to play in the Sourlands, so that she could loosen up and I could figure out how she rolls.
The first thing I did was attach the saddle bag and the light. Then I took pictures. This one is framed the way it is because I have a picture on my desk from Big Joe's funeral. It's a black and white photo, circa the 1970's, from the looks of it, of his steel bike, leaning against a garage door.
It was Ross Hart's idea to put a blue stem clamp on. It was a surprise when I saw it.
I would have preferred a more old-school looking chain ring. There's only so much I'm willing to spend, though. Nothing new in the size I wanted was quite what I pictured in my mind. Still, it's Ultegra, so...
Carbon bottle cages aren't old-school either. I picked them because my aluminum coffee mug rattles against Gonzo's metal bottle cage. It's distracting.
The Mavic wheels are a far cry from old-school. They are, however, unused, from 2007. In bike years, that's not new.
On Saturday morning, Jim and Marc met me at home. Marc was on his new climbing bike. Jim said he felt left out. He was also drooling over Beaker.
From the moment I clipped in, it was as if Beaker and I had known each other for ten years. She felt as comfortable as an old pair of jeans.
Well, okay, sure, everything will be just dandy for the first ten miles on fresh legs, even on a rented clunker. I didn't suppose this feeling would last.
We met Blake, Bagel Hill Barry. Pete, and a very tall Mark on a very tall Serotta, in Pennington. It wasn't until Jim asked, "Where are we going?" that it dawned on me I hadn't come up with a route. "Sergeantsville," I said. I also suggested we might stop at Wheelfine so that I could show Michael the finished product. I promised we'd have no big hills.
Taking one of my usual routes out of town, we encountered a freshly-milled stretch of Pennington-Rocky Hill Road. Pete suggested a neighborhood detour. As we turned off the bumpy stuff, I said, "I have a steel fork. It don't bother me."
I thought that Beaker might be twitchy on turns. She's not. What are the odds that Beaker's rake is the same as Kermit's? Beaker has a curved fork. It'd take some real measurements to figure it out. I'm not that motivated.
On Stony Brook Road, as we approached Mine Road, I said, "We could hang a left here and find out what she's made of." (Pause) "Left turn!" (This is how Cheryl and I went up Mine the first time: I called "left turn" out of the blue.)
Jim, Blake, and Pete were, naturally, the first ones up. Mark sailed up too. I was my usual distance behind them, and that was a surprise. I'm supposed to suffer a lot more than I did if I'm hauling a steel frame up a hill.
Halfway up, Marc stopped. When he got to the top, he explained. "I was looking for that tenth gear. It locked up." Miss Piggy never lets me forget that it's her I'm on when I'm climbing. I have that tenth gear, but it'll take some double shifting to get to it.
The view from Route 31 of the Hopewell Valley at Mine Road:
Marshall's Corner-Woodsville Road has two hard rollers. If Beaker was going to be jumpy on a descent, here's where I'd find out. She wasn't.
At the top of the second roller, I looked back through my rear-view mirror and saw Barry walking into the woods. Jim couldn't see him, and, as the good sweep he always is, said, "I'm going back." I figured Barry was simply in need of a tree to duck behind, and that he and Jim would be along in no time. It took a little longer than that.
When Barry appeared, he looked shaken. I was confused. "What happened?" There were some cuts on his legs.
"I dropped my water bottle," he explained. "I was looking for it when I crashed into a desk."
"So you crashed into it when you were off your bike," I said. "That must've been right after I saw you."
"No," he said. "You saw me after I crashed. I was on the bike when I hit the desk."
He assured us he was fine. On we went.
At South Hunterdon High School we turned onto Mount Airy Road. This would be the test of descending twitchiness. Nothing.
Halfway up Sandy Ridge Road, Beaker decided that she didn't like being in one particular gear. Either side of it was fine, but the 32-tooth cog was a non-starter.
When we got to Sergeantsville, Jim took a look and tightened the cables.
Inside the general store, I headed for the coffee, as I always do, only to nearly walk into a shelf. They've rearranged the place! I'm not sure that's allowed. The coffee, while not the flavorless brown water that used to be brewed here, still has a long way to go.
Breaking the Golden Rule of Bike Routes -- Thou Shalt Not Double Back -- I doubled back all the way to South Hunterdon High School. Somewhere in here I realized that if I were asked, I wouldn't be able to answer whether I was on Kermit or Beaker.
Even Dinosaur Hill seemed easy. (This is wrong. It's never easy. Tailwind?)
Rock Road dumped us across from Wheelfine. Michael was outside. "Mister Johnson!" I called. He looked up from the tiny two-wheeler with the twisted chain and the fellow who was doing his best to untangle it.
"Oo La La!" he said. He wasn't surprised at my description of the feel. While we talked, the other guys poked their heads into the store. This is something everyone should do at least once, just to say they'd seen it.
I've been working with the Hopewell Valley Arts Council on bike routes for the Stampede (the routes aren't up yet, so I won't bother linking). There's one ox in particular that the Mayor of Hopewell Township wants the routes to include. I tried to argue against it, seeing as the ox is at the bottom of Poor Farm at Woosamonsa, a blind curve at the junction of two hills on a narrow road with no shoulders. She didn't agree with me, and she thinks the ox is special.
Well, it's not, and a car had to weave its way between us bikers as we attempted to stop safely by the ox as we came barreling down Woosamonsa. I mean, okay, I get that it took a lot of work to encase this ox in armor. But, meh. It's not worth crashing for.
On our way home from Pennington, we stopped at a yard sale we'd seen on our way in. I stopped feeling weird about having four road bikes:
**I had a temporary, part-time job in the winter of 1995. I lived in Maple Shade at the time; the job, with an environmental consulting firm, was wetland delineation along the NJ Turnpike at Exit 4. The office, though, was in Flemington, an hour's drive from home. There's little I remember about the drive except how slow Route 31 could be, and a particular view of a valley as the road rounded a curve. The first time I saw it, I was listening to the radio. One of those bland '90s songs by a bland '90's band was playing, with the refrain, "It's the world I know." Ever since then, every time I round that curve...
***Of course I named her. I started off calling the bike "Romano," after the person who left the bike to my colleague. But my colleague looked up at me and said, "I think it's a she." So we re-named it.