Saturday, April 19, 2014

Be a Wiseass, Get a Bunny


19 April 2014

It's a good thing I brought along so many chocolate bunnies today.  I stuffed my front pack full of them.  When he offered, I gave Chris a few to carry in his massive handlebar bag (he'll find them again in June).

The wisecracks were popping up like dandelions.  It went with the weather: bright, sunny, slightly chilly, and a touch of wind after a week in which summer (80 degrees on Monday) did battle with winter (snow on Tuesday night), and spring won out.

The tone was set when Chris busted on me for looking ready long before it was time to push off.  Then, when the four of us (me, Chris, Ron, and Jim, but not Snakehead) got to Pennington, Cheryl presented me with the Golden Bunny award for having led so many Chocolate Bunny rides over the years.  I asked her to hold onto it until the end of the ride.  After that, as we were about to leave, one more person pedaled in.  Jim said, "It's a Johnny-come-lately," to which I corrected, "It's an Eoghan-come-lately."  He'd gone from Kingston to Princeton before realizing he'd left his water bottles behind.  Have I mentioned he's fast?

Being an early season, high-mileage event, the traditional Chocolate Bunny Ride is fraught with catastrophe.  I was resigned to it and not at all surprised when Bagel Hill Barry got a flat four miles in.  As Ron and Barry peeled off the busted tube, John K went off to find a tree.  He came back while Ron was fiddling with the valve on the spare.

Cheryl said something obscene about valves.  I gave her a bunny.  John, enticed by the reward for questionable humor, said, "While John emptied his bladder, Barry filled his."  I gave him a bunny.  "Hey," he said, "If you put those in your back pocket, are they keister bunnies?  I handed him another one.  He whooped with joy.

We followed our traditional route up Stony Brook, over Mountain Church, across Ridge, and up Lindbergh.  Here, I broke with tradition in order to get us away from the skinny part of Amwell Road.  We went down Zion and through Neshanic.  On Riverside Road, two riders cruised past us:  Snakehead and his prickly colleague.  "There you are!"  I called out as he went by.  By all accounts, he was supposed to have been with us this morning.

The Bagel Bistro had a few small tables outside, which most of us crowded around.  There were more of us than chairs, so I sat on the cold cement and offered up, of course, the remains of my muffin, my "bottom."  Cheryl nabbed it.

Cheryl showed us a picture of the beach near her soon-to-be house in Florida. Someone asked how far she'd be from the shore.  "Twenty minutes," she said. I said, "In a few years it'll be ten."

Joe and Dave C were smart: they were sitting across the parking lot, in the sun.  I went over there towards the end to try to warm up.  Joe was eating a huge sandwich. He assured me that he wasn't going to eat the whole thing.  I said, "No worries.  I know you can hold your pork roll."

We left soon after that, and by the time we reached the traffic light on Amwell Road by the canal, I was on the grass, peeling off my outer leggings.  There were a few off-color comments as people crossed the street to wait on the other side. As he passed, John said, "Now we get another chance at Laura's bottom."  I gave him another bunny when we got onto Canal Road.

Cheryl and I started talking about next week's Spring Fling.  She didn't lead enough rides last year to earn a jersey.  I did, but I chose the wind vest instead.  I lamented the uselessness of my long-sleeve windbreaker.  It's more like a parachute.  Cheryl said, "I don't ride with mine.  I use it for other things."  John, on my other side, said, "Do tell."

I handed him another bunny.

At Six Mile Run, as we were leaving a pit stop, who should come flying up Canal Road but Snakehead and his buddy. This time he stopped.  He explained his absence from the Slugs as he pointed to his front wheel (a sew-up with an inner tube, because, um...):  "I didn't get this fixed until 9:30."  I handed him three bunnies and told him to share.

At the Griggstown Causeway, Eoghan headed for home and we headed west. Here, Dave C remembered a wrong-turn-u-turn that I did two years ago.  He's been razzing me about it ever since.  Geez, y'know, it's easy to get mixed up when one has to navigate the intersection of Harlingen and Harlingen.  I didn't goof up this time, but that didn't stop him from asking, "Weren't we supposed to turn back there?"  I whipped out a bunny.  "Here," I said.

"What's this for?"

"To shut you up.  Put a bunny in it!"

Jim ran over some glass as the rest of us got through the intersection at 206.  Ron and I turned back, but the light was so long that Jim was halfway to being finished by the time we got there.  Then we had to wait for the light again. Across the street, Dave was lying on his back in the grass, soaking up the sun.

At the southern end of Hollow Road, where I haven't been in ages, I saw a pair of emus and stopped.

Next to them were two alpacas and a goat.


Jim said, "You know they're not cows, right?"

"They're Bolivian cows," I said.

We turned onto Province Line Road.  One hill ahead of us was another group of riders.  We were slowly gaining on them.

On the last hill I caught up with Bill and Metta. Even though I hadn't seen either one of them on a bike in years, I knew who they were from behind, in time to have bunnies ready when I called out their names.  I recognized Barb, too, having spent many a hilly mile in her wake.  She got a bunny, and so did Michael T. I handed him another one to give to Bob P, who was already across the intersection.

On Cherry Valley Road I wondered if I had enough chocolate left to hand out to the Hill Slugs at the end of the ride.

At the Carter Road traffic light, I said, "Straight on from here."  It was a free-for-all with a tailwind.  At Moores Mill two more riders got mixed in with us. One of them turned at Titus Mill.  The other went with us halfway to Pennington before asking, "Have you seen my buddy?"

"He turned," three of us said.  He'll need to re-define buddy, I told him as he stopped.

Outside of Pennington we regrouped.  John was ahead, but the rest of us rode in together.

"Wow," I said, pulling into the parking lot.  "There was no drama today!"

Joe lifted his head, arms outstretched.  "Drama!" he exclaimed.

Dave opened his trunk and three containers of Little Bugger Bunny Balls. That's the official name, he said.  I said, "You'll never put a better bit of bunny balls in your mouth."

"Oh, god," he said.

"Never thought that'd come back to bite you, didja?"  For those who don't know, Dave C is responsible for "You'll never put a better bit of butter on your knife.

I had enough bunnies left to hand out, with a few to spare.  Now there was room for the Golden Bunny.

He's aerodynamic.

John took a picture for us:

Moxie is watching me blog.

He just left.  Jack has opened a can of tuna.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Chocolate Bunny Ride, Saturday, 19 April

17 April 2014

Saturday is the fourteenth annual Chocolate Bunny Ride.  Hewing to tradition, we will start this 50-mile route at the Hopewell Administration Building on Main Street, across from Ingleside, in Pennington.  We will ride over the Sourland Mountain to Hillsborough and return along the D&R Canal.  The ride will end with the handing out of chocolate bunnies.

The ride will start at 9:00 a.m.  Those who want to do a metric can start with me at my house at 8:30 a.m. Doors open at 8:10 a.m.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

The First Warm Ride of the Year

Racist Buffalo?

13 April 2014

Five Slugs joined me today:  Ron, Cheryl, Marc, Barry, and John K.  

We left from Lambertville, headed up Lower Creek, and took Pine Hill to get to the top of the ridge.  I only ever take Pine Hill this time of year because there's plenty of time to catch the view of the valley between the bare trees as we plod up at zero point something miles per hour.

John was riding a steel, lugged, 7-speed Serotta from 1988.  It was his dream bike back in the day, and when he found it for sale while he was on a business trip, he bought it.  "I put the frame on the other bed in the hotel room," he said. "I kept turning on the light to look at it." He placed a big order with Nashbar, and when the parts arrived, "I stayed up until 3 a.m. building it."  He took it on a group ride a few hours later.  I told him about my quest for a lugged steel frame (still the stuff of a future post).  He told me about Folk Engineered frames, made right here in Newark, New Jersey. Follow the link and look at the lug design in the last picture.  I'll wait.

Pretty cool, huh?

He told me to take a peek at Ellis Cycles too.  There's some sexy stuff at that link too.  I'll wait.  Go.

It's still not as good as what I have on order.  But that's the stuff of another blog post.  Let's get back to the scenery.

This was our first warm day of the season.  The air was sticky and hazy.  Here's a view of Pennsylvania from the top of Gallmeier Road at Everittstown Road.

I didn't stop for any cows last week.  On Stamets Road I finally broke down and stopped for pictures.  The sheer number of them here should make up for all those I passed by.

The calf didn't move at all.  "You lookin' at me?"

These are Belted Galloway cows.  Michael H calls them "Oreo cows."

Homestead General Store was crowded with both kinds of bikers:  the Spandex kind and the leather kind.  We also met three little bulldogs, one of whom was named Knuckles.

I'd given the group the option of hammering down Route 29 all the way home, but we opted to stay in the hills instead.  Outside of Frenchtown we took Horseshoe Bend, and from there Spring Hill.

I hadn't been on Spring Hill in many years.  The first time (perhaps the only time) I was there, I remember cresting a hill and coming face to face with a pissed-off looking buffalo.

The hill we crested was steep. I stopped for a picture of a messy pile of hay.

Cheryl passed by.  "Cross this one off your list," she said.

Cheryl spotted the buffalo, way down at the end of a long, gravel driveway.  To me and some of the rest of us, it looked like a rock.  John, Ron, and I turned around to get another look, not quite believing that we weren't looking at a rock.  Just then an SUV pulled out of the driveway.  A woman who looked to be in her thirties, with two kids in the back seats, rolled down the window.

"That's Gussie," she said.  "She's 20 years old, has one eye, and doesn't like black people."

Excuse me?

I hope I made a face and I hope she saw it.  Who the hell says that?  Why say that?  Who the hell teaches a buffalo to be racist?  The car pulled away and I said, "There are no racist buffalo, just racist owners."  I can only hope the kids have a different fate.

John said, "It was the white man who killed all the buffalo."

I'm going to cross this road off my list.

We had fewer than ten miles left to go when I turned off of Kingwood-Locktown Road onto Wickecheoke.

Dirt.  I stopped, pulled out my phone, checked where we were, and decided that the best route was forward.  When I mapped this route, I noted that there were two names for this road, the second being Upper Creek, which I've been on many, many times.  "It's gonna turn to pavement," I said.  John rode ahead and I followed.  For over a mile we rode on gravel and hard pack.  We came to an intersection I hadn't anticipated, an intersection of gravel and gravel.  By the time we found blacktop again, we'd been on 1.5 miles of dirt road.

So, um, duh.  This is what I get for not checking Dustin's maps.

As a result of the combination of boneheadedness and bad-assery that took us down 1.5 miles of dirt road that I could easily have avoided, I punched everyone's Hill Slugs Waders Club cards when we got back to Lambertville.

When I got home, Jack and our college buddy, Rob, were jamming on their acoustic guitars in the living room.  As I engulfed the last of my pasta with kale, they were finishing Bob Dylan's "You Ain't Goin' Nowhere:"

Climb that hill
No matter how steep
When you get up to it

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Hill Slugs Ad Hoc, Sunday, 13 April

10 April 2014

The Delaware this time.

Meet at the CVS parking lot in Lambertville at 9:00 a.m. For a 50-ish-miler to Upper Black Eddy.  We'll do some climbing on the way out. Our trip home can be flat or hilly. We'll figure that out over a cup of Dead Man's Brew.

(Note: If wet roads postpone Tom's ride to Sunday, we will ride with him instead. Check here for updates.)

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

I'm Built For Comfort, I Ain't Built for Speed

Vliettown Road

9 April 2014

Saturday, 5 April:

NOAA:  "Breezy."

8:53 a.m.
NW 17 mph
Gusts 32 mph

Never mind that.  It's a tailwind all the way to Mercer County Park.  Tom is getting the band back together, and I want to be there.

The paved path through the woods is cracks and mud in a steady rhythm on the blacktop.

I arrive 10 minutes early to more than one person telling me, "I thought you'd be on Ed's ride." This is why these guys don't ride with me anymore.  I shake my head, blow a raspberry, wonder how this happened. 

There's time for me to hand out Waders Club cards. Joe reads, "Because we'd rather cross this stream than climb that hill" and says, "Bullshit. You'd cross the stream AND climb the hill."  I tell him about Bloomsbury: "There was a bear up there!"

Dave C is here, and Mighty Mike, Ron, Herb, Cheryl, Al, and Mary.

9:53 a.m. 
NW 22 mph
Gusts 33 mph 

We lean into the crosswinds blowing over empty fields.  We take our time. We talk and talk and talk.  Sometimes Tom finds a tailwind for us. 

Dave is on a snazzy carbon bike he got second-hand. I ride next to him and talk about bike frames. [There's news on that front, but it's the stuff of another post.] We talk about cooking.  He's been making his own rice cakes and energy bars. "I love cooking," he says. To me, it's a chore.

Cheryl tells us about her house being built in Florida, where it is, and about her neighbors on Laughing Gull Lane.  Mighty Mike asks if that's the street she'll be on. "No," she says. "I'm on Latitude Drive."

Mighty Mike says, "The Attitude on Latitude."

"That's right," she says.

"That's gonna stick," I say as we turn into Imlaystown.

10:53 a.m. 
NW 22 mph
Gusts 32 mph 

Tom says, over and over again, "The way back is gonna suck."

We stop at the Wawa in New Egypt.  I reach out to the group, the remains of my muffin in hand. "Who wants my bottom?"

I don't hear the whole conversation after that, but I do hear Dave say something about eating his balls when we get back to the park.

The return trip is crosswinds and headwinds. Tom takes us over Hill Road, northbound, the easy way. We regroup at the Walnford mill bridge. Mighty Mike says, "Well, that resembled exercise."

Then we continue uphill and into the wind towards Allentown.

11:53 a.m. 
NW 17 mph
Gusts 32 mph

Gordon Road is dead-on into it. I keep my climbing gears on my flat-road bike for days like this.  I look down at my speedometer as I spin in the wind tunnel between the warehouses and the long greenhouse. 12 mph.

12:53 p.m. 
W 16 mph 
G 33 mph

Dave opens a container of home-made date-cashew-honey-vanilla/ginger balls (I avoid the ginger ones).

Wow. "I could eat these buggers all day long," I tell him, but I stop at two.  

Ron and I head out of the park on the road.  I prefer the wind to the thumping path. Halfway into the park again, Ron peels off towards home.

On Youngs Rd, I see somebody who looks like Sean.  He waves. I wave and holler, "Yo!" I consider turning around, but he has continued on, so I don't stop. The  wind is burning my eyes behind my sunglasses.

1:53 p.m. 
NW 17 mph
Gusts 32 mph

Home at 1:20 p.m., I text Dale to find out if it was Sean I'd seen. It wasn't Sean. (Some guy out there is probably a tad confused right now.) Sean is heading out in an hour.  Wise choice, I text back.  The wind is supposed to die down a little by then.

My legs are tired.  I do a round of PT, go out to dinner with the usual gang (minus Jack, who is lecturing at a conference in DC), and stretch again before turning in for a solid 8 hours of cat-accompanied sleep.

Sunday, 6 April

I'm expecting Ron, Plain Jim, and Snakehead.  I'm glad to see Barry too.

But the others make me nervous. They're not Hill Slugs.  They're Rocky Hill Raiders.  John and Jane are honorary Slugs, true.  Pete G tolerates my slow pace. But Arnie S?  Peter frickin' H?  

"You don't belong on my ride," I tell Peter. 

"I just had hip replacement surgery," he assures me.

I have to remind myself that this happens every spring. The Fastboys, getting a late start on the season, use me as a warm-up.  Once.  Then I never see them again.

I have two cue sheets on folded 3x5 cards, one in each hand.  They have to pick a hand. Left wins. "We're going to..." It takes me a few seconds to unfold it. "Oldwick."

Arnie says the bridge at the end of East Mountain is out. "Well, you'll all get your cards punched," I tell him.  He says it was passable on Tuesday.

I remind them that I stop for pictures.

At the top of Blackpoint, it's Arnie who stops first.  "Something wrong?" someone asks.

Arnie says, "I've never stopped to look before.  I'm always flying past.  You can see stuff in the winter you can't see in the summer."

Arnie has some Slug in him!

The Neshanic River from Blackpoint Road:

Our next detour is the Thor Solberg Airport in Readington.

We watch two planes take off.

A few miles on I stop again for the old tractors on Pulaski Road.

I think by now my stopping is getting on people's nerves.  I have no evidence for this, just a hunch that we really should get on with it.  

We're on Rockaway Road when a team in full kit blazes past us in the opposite direction. Ron says, "Next time we should all dress the same.  I wanna look that good."

"We do look that good.  We're totally cool," I tell him.  

If you ever see me in team kit, shoot me dead.

As much as I want to stop for pictures on Hill and Dale, I don't. I take it all in: the barns, the pond, the sloping pastures, the hills in the distance.

We regroup at 517. Jim and John fantasize about having an expensive sports car.  Jim says, "I'd sell it and get two Priuses." I sneak in a couple of pictures.

The Oldwick General Store has neither closed nor burned down.  Jim got the bottom of my muffin.

Arnie asks which road we're taking out of here.  "Vliettown."

"Ohhhhhh," he says, and that worries Jim a little.

"It's just annoying," I reassure him.

Vliettown Road is a fuck you in both directions, whether you're tired and on your way to muffins, or full of muffins and on your way home.  But the view at Black River Road is always good.  No hay bales this time.

We hammer down Rattlesnake Bridge Road.

The road names here drive me crazy. We take South Branch to Studdiford to cross the Raritan, then turn onto South Branch.  

Immediately after the turn is a short, steep hill that overlooks the river and feels like an overpass.  Years ago, Frank A got a leg cramp here and had to dismount in the middle of the hill. I think of it every time I'm here, which isn't the best light to remember a deceased friend in, but there it is.

We make a left turn soon after. Everyone is across but Jane.  I call out to slow down.  They stop, eventually, ahead of me.  I look back to see Jane at the corner, off her bike. I turn around.  "Something go kerflooey?"

"My legs.  Both of them cramped on that hill."  I tell her about Frank as she digs in her pack for salt.

There's a cat in the yard behind us. Pussycat don't care.

When Jane and I make the turn onto River Road, nobody's there.  We're close enough to home that people know how to get there.  I guess they got tired of stopping.  I'm a little pissed off though.  I take in the scenery, the expansive fields by the river, slightly rolling beneath us.  I'd stop for a picture, but...

At the end of the road, the rest of the group is there.

When we reach the closed road sign on East Mountain, I'm ready to give out my first Waders Club punches.

But we hardly have to slow down through the thin coating of red clay covering the road.  We all agree that this doesn't count. We didn't even have to clip out.

Better luck next time.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Hill Slugs Ad Hoc, Sunday, 6 April

4 April 2014

Because so many of us will have been on the road on Saturday, I'm going to tone it down on Sunday.

Really.  There won't be as much climbing.  We will go 50-55 miles, though.  I can hear you razzing me already.

Meet at Montgomery High School, at the intersection of Route 601 and Skillman Roads, for a 9:00 a.m. start.  Park in the first lot on the right from the entrance on 601.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

This Weekend's Rides

2 April 2014

Tom's rides didn't make the list this month.  If you're looking for a mellow B, surf on over to for details on his Saturday ride.  If you're looking to get some speed on, go with Snakehead out of Piscataway for an honest B in the hills.

I'll be leading on Sunday.  I'll post details later in the week.  The route will depend on where and how far Tom and Snakehead end up going.  I don't want to repeat their routes on the same weekend.  Stay tuned.