Sunday, July 6, 2014

In Which I Don't Suffer for my Art

 The Delaware Mocha at Milford

6 July 2014

I've been putting off my annual rest week for about a month now.  I haven't taken more than two days' rest after any of this season's centuries.  The weather has been too good not to bike to work, so I've been doing that two to three days each week for most weeks since early March.  I've been pumping iron at the gym, too. 

After last week's century, I never got my full power back.  I could feel it on the hills today.  It's not that I felt tired; I had fresh legs and a bloodstream full of coffee, after all.  It's just that I couldn't get my legs to do what I wanted them to do.  And now I'm home, feeling fatigued and dizzy, as if I'd been on a hilly century, but without the tired legs.  Right.  The week off starts now.

The ride that put me over the edge wasn't very difficult.  There were a lot of fast people on it, though, which only accentuated my lack of power.  It didn't bother me, though, because Tom's rides are always social.

As we wound our way up the ridge on the NJ side of the Delaware above Bulls Island, Tom and I talked bike routes.  I want to follow the Delaware as far as we can on the NJ side.  The problem is that Route 80 gets in the way at the Water Gap.  We might have to dart over to PA up there.  Stay tuned.

Tom took us up 519 towards Rick Road, and from there to Hartpence (where I'd never been) and Woolf.  On Hartpence I had to shift into my granny gear, yet another sign that I was off my game.  When I went to shift back to the middle ring, Miss Piggy did it without complaint.  As I passed Jim, who was dutifully counting riders at the top, I said, "I should give Miss Piggy a dog biscuit or something every time she shifts without a problem."

Tom gave us the descent on Hickory Corner, where I once ran over a squirrel's tail.  I didn't stop for pictures when there was an expansive view of the ridge to the north; I figured they'd come out looking flat. Tom tried it, though, so surf over to in a few days to see if he's posted his photos.

We descended into Milford after that.  This week's storms did a number on the river. The water was high and, through my sunglasses, red.

At Homestead General Store I put in a coffee order for me and Terry C.  We have a deal:  whoever gets there buys coffee for both of us.  The plan was to pick it up after the ride.

Then we were headed up Bridgeton Hill, where I chanted, "wheel on the ground" until we got past the steepest section.

It was a few turns later, near Ralph Stover Park, where I stopped for the pictures that would get me dropped from the ride.

They didn't even come out the way I wanted them to.

Jim stopped to take a picture of me taking a picture, because he likes being meta. We saddled up again, talking about how, with digital cameras, we don't have to hold them to our faces when we focus.  In every picture of me taking a picture, I've got my arms stretched out.  I do this so that I can zoom in as much as possible without relying on the digital zoom (which pixellates).  We were just winding up that conversation when we got to the end of the road.  Nobody was there. Ahead of us was a sign that read something like "no thoroughfare."  Having been here before, my hunch was to go down that road.  But, to our left, on a dirt road, I saw a biker in an orange jersey and thought it must be Bagel Hill Barry. So we turned left.

When we got to the end, the orange biker was nowhere to be seen. There was, in fact, nobody at all to be seen.  So we turned right, which seemed to us (even with Jim's professed lack of directional sense) the logical way to turn.  Still nobody. When the road ended in a T at Cafferty (a name I recognized), we stopped and I called Tom.  (Cafferty, it turns out, goes on roughly forever.  If I've been on this road, or past it, before, I have no idea where.)

By now they'd figured out that we were missing, but for us to turn back to catch up would be the work of at least ten minutes (they'd gone up a few big hills).  I could hear Tom rustling paper maps.  Jim checked Mister Garmin.  Both came to the conclusion that, despite the fact that we were running more or less parallel to each other, there was no meeting up to be had.  So Tom sent us on our way, downhill, on a glorious stretch of road that I might have or might not have ever been on.  Jim and I decided that this stretch of Cafferty, between Tory and Route 32, requires a revisit.

When we got to the bridge over the Delaware at Bulls Island, we decided to wait for the rest of the group here instead of in the parking lot.  I apologized perfusely for the missed hills and distance.  Jim was not at all perturbed.  Neither was I. If I'm going to be dropped, this is the best scenario for that to happen. We agreed that Jim should get his Hill Slugs Waders Club card punched because I'd taken him down a dirt road unnecessarily.

Out of the corner of my eye I saw two fawns walking along the towpath towards the bridge.  I grabbed my camera, found a perch at the wall, and waited for them to emerge.  I caught sight of them in the shrubs:

This picture makes getting dropped worth the experience:

The red Delaware River:

The river as I see it through my sunglasses, more or less (more less than more, but you get the idea):

A kayaker paddles through the mud:

Jim and I had a conversation in Gearspeak, the parlance of Wrenches, which I am not. Yet. We were talking about shifters and 11-speed cassettes and wheel spoke position.  I said that I'm a Luddite when it comes to shifters:  I don't see the point of electronic ones.  "Why?"  I asked.

"They save a smidge of weight," Jim says.

"Pfffff!"  I said.  "Sean says that even index shifters are untrue to pure mechanical form.  He says that with index shifters you're never between gears.  I told him that I'm between gears all the time with Miss Piggy."

Tom and company pulled in right around then.  Many years ago, I accidentally dropped him, an event that has given him much verbal mileage.  Now that he's inadvertently dropped me, we're finally even.  Not that we won't find a zillion other things to razz each other about.

After the ride, I drove back to Upper Black Eddy to pick up our coffee and order a PB&J sandwich.  On the way home, I conjured up another route to try.  While I got gas somewhere near Amwell, I emailed Tom and Jim the idea:  579 minus 519 equals 60.  It'll have to wait for a dry, temperate day.  Stay tuned.

As for all the Gearspeak, there's a reason, but that's the subject of another post. Now I'm off to dinner, the start of a week during which I will not be permitted to eat anything that's not nailed down.  Phooey.

Friday, July 4, 2014

July 5 Ride Canceled

4 July 2014

I wasn't thinking when I'd listed an Event century training ride for July 5, sandwiched between the All-Paces and a hilly ride from Tom H.

As of 7:30 a.m., July 4, the roads are dry.  I'll see you at the All-Paces, where I'm scheduled to lead.  If we get rained out between now and then, I'll see you on Tom's Delaware River Hills ride on Sunday.

UPDATE:  Jim blogs so I don't have to.

Sunday, June 29, 2014


29 June 2014

I went out with Statler and Waldorf again yesterday.  

Neil had planned a flat to rolling route in the high 70-mile range.  He wanted to go to Delicious Orchards in Colt's Neck ("I need some doughnuts," he wrote). When I wrote back that I was thinking of tacking on enough miles biking from home to Cranbury and back to make it a century, he threw in another rest stop. I told him not to go out of his way for me, but he confirmed that he likes route mapping as much as I do.

I always prep my bike the night before.  Kermit's rear tube was flat again.  I guessed that I'd missed whatever was still in the tire from the last one, and went about changing tubes.  I found a small nick in the tire, but it didn't appear to have gone all the way through.  In the morning, the tire was still full, so I set out at 6:50 a.m. in order to give myself plenty of time to get to Cranbury.  

I had a headwind, and my speed was lower than it ought to have been.

We were about 11 miles out when we hit a bumpy patch.  I started to fall behind. Two miles later we rounded a corner, and that's when I felt the rear wheel go mushy.  We stopped so I could pump it up again.  "There's no point in changing the tube," I said.  "I can't find the puncture."  I got it back up to something approaching 100 psi.  Neil kept looking at my wheel, though.  It was going soft again.

Semi-soft is good for cheese.  Not so much for tires.  So we stopped again, Neil being determined to find the culprit.  It took all four of us, but we did.  The nick had, indeed, ever so slightly gone all the way through, enough that a grain of sand could get in and pierce the tube (Neil extracted said grain).  The leak in the tube was so small that it took Steve five minutes to find it.  Mark had a patch that he stuck on the tire.  We filled it up.  "So much better!"  I said.  "I can feel every bump in the road again."  I like running my tubes at 115 psi.  This time it held. No wonder I'd been so slow on the way to Cranbury.  "You don't notice it until it gets below 100," he said.  "You were leaking air all night."

At Delicious Orchards, Neil was dejected.  There were no apple cider doughnuts. "I got two brownies instead," he said.  I was perplexed, because he was holding two foil pans, each about an inch deep, four inches wide, and six inches long.  He was holding two brownies, and he was going to bring these things home in his Camelbak.

Now, I'm no stranger to hauling things home.  Usually it's coffee.  Sometimes it's pastry.  Once it was a loaf that Mike B carried in his front pack for ten miles.  I'm pretty sure that Neil's load was heavier than anything I've carried back.  Anyone who has ridden with Neil knows, though, that the weight of two gargantuan brownies is but a tiny fraction of his usual load.  I once witnessed him remove a can full of change and a tub of Gatorade powder. So in the brownies went.

About twenty miles later, Neil said,  "My back is killing me." I suggested that we could eat some of his load, but he said his wife would see right through that.  Oh well. We stopped at the Manasquan Reservoir for water and readjustment.

 Neil and Steve

The stop was Mark's idea.  One of the shore cycle groups uses this place a lot.  It has a ranger station with real bathrooms and a water fountain, and a couple of vending machines for drinks.

We watched an egret and a heron, and talked with a park ranger who told us about the pair of bald eagles and the osprey who live on the edge of the water.

He told us about the cat collar that the rangers found in the eagles' nest when they were banding the chicks. Keep your cats indoors, folks.  The birds'll turn on kitty sooner or later.

The wind shifted, because this was a ride with me and Neil.  As headwinds go, it wasn't much, but it was enough for us to keep our reputations.

The route back was through the low rollers of Millstone.  It was enough to start to wear us out.  In Monroe, Steve peeled off for home.  At the edge of Cranbury, I went straight as Neil and Mark turned towards the park.  I found a tree to sit under and grabbed a quick snack, then headed for home, into the wind.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Delaware Water Gap

Delaware River and Arrow Island from Mount Tammany Summit

22 June 2014

I hadn't been on a hike in two years when Our Jeff Lippincott invited me and a handful of others to a 12-mile hike in the Delaware Water Gap.  The plan was to climb Mount Tammany, cross part of the Kittatinny Ridge, visit Sunfish Pond, and hike back.

Jeff's hikes are always a highlight of the annual trip to North Creek.  Since I'm not going again this year, how could I say no to a long day on a mountain with Jeff and Marilyn?  I wasn't sure I'd be properly prepared, but Jeff, the consummate planner, sent me a list of what I'd need, half of which I don't own.

We left his house in Lawrenceville at 7:30 a.m. and headed towards Milford to pick up Amy, the fourth hiker, who lives at the northwestern edge of Hunterdon County.

Although we arrived at the Water Gap half an our earlier than we'd expected, the two parking lots at the trailhead were full.  We wound up in one of two spillover lots across I-80, at least half a mile away.

The trails we took were full of hikers of every age and description, including a mother carrying her toddler on her back. We encountered two huge groups, one of which must have contained 30 people, the other at least 15. We heard foreign languages. Jeff ran into someone he went to high school with.  Most of the time, though, it seemed as if we were the only ones on the mountain.

Here are Amy and Marilyn ascending the Red Dot Trail:

There's a view of the Delaware River through the trees:

Halfway up, more or less:

Our Jeff, in not quite a rock scramble:

Getting close to the summit:

Mountain laurels:

At the summit with Marilyn, Our Jeff, and Amy:


More summit:

Jeff then led us across the ridge on a fire trail.  This part was flat and sunny.  The ferns smelled like peaches.  A black snake crossed our path.

Our turnoff to Sunfish Pond was at the head of the Turquoise Trail, marked by a cairn:

Sunfish Pond:

We rested here and had lunch.

We doubled back up the Turquoise Trail to the fire road.  It was here that I noticed a twinge in my left knee whenever we descended. I found a stick that I could use for support, just in case.

The fire road merged with the Dunnfield Creek Trail, which began with a rocky ascent and then a rocky descent.  I found a thicker, longer stick, and just in time, because, with almost six miles left to go, I needed it for everything but ascending.

When we got to the creek, we stopped to rest.  Jeff needed water, so he pumped from the creek through a small filter he brought with him.

The trail crosses the creek at least four times.  I lost count.  Most of the time we rock-hopped.  For the last two crossings, though, I found it easier to wade than risk more twinges.  To the others, my wading must have seemed odd.  To me, it was business as usual.  I explained to Amy the penchant Tom and I have for fording streams.

Jeff slowed the pace.  I apologized as I descended rocks sideways to avoid further injury.  I suppose I was invoking Rule Number Five, but, really, as long as I could walk, there wasn't much of a choice, and I wasn't even close to being hurt badly.

I limped out of the forest, leaning on my limpin' stick.  Here's the Red Dot Trail head sign, with my stick, and a warning about rattlesnakes:

We crossed back under the highway.  On the way, we got a good view of the mountain. The trail summit is the tiny rock outcrop above the big one near the center of the picture.

I plopped down on the blacktop next to Jeff's car, took of my shoes, changed into dry socks, ate my remaining blueberries, and swallowed to naproxen tablets.  We changed clothes in the bathrooms.  I left my limpin' stick for the next hiker.

Across the river is Mount Minsi, not as tall as Tammany:

We stopped at the Log Cabin Inn, in Columbia, NJ, for dinner.  It looks like a combination biker bar, pizza joint, and hick hangout.  It's the only thing for miles around.  They have not one, but two kinds of veggie burgers.

On the drive home, as on the way up, we passed Foul Rift Road, and could see the cooling towers from the power plant across the river.  I'd assumed, wrongly, that it was a nuclear plant.  It's not;  it's the oil- and gas-burning Martins Creek plant. It used to burn coal.

Because it was close by, I suggested we take a short detour up Fiddler's Elbow.  I narrated. Jeff's SUV groaned at the same spot that my bike gave up.  I tried to navigate us back to where we were, but my phone's signal was choppy and I misdirected.  Jeff's GPS got us back on course, and in a flash of memory I recognized the road we were on from a blog picture that's part of my desktop slideshow at work.

We ended up riding on Route 57 for a while.  It was worth it; we could see the Highlands ridges on either side of us as the sun went down.  We made one more stop, for ice cream, at Jimmy's, three miles down the road from where Amy lives. The line was long, and the ice cream not worth the wait, I thought, so Marilyn and I reserved a picnic bench by a creek and talked about strength training.  Amy explained that this was the main hangout in town.  By now, my leg had stiffened up.  I tested what I could do with it.  I could squat.  I could step onto the bench.  I could bend.  There was no swelling.  But it hurt like the dickens to step off a curb.

It was another hour before we got back to Jeff's house, and a short drive home from there.  When I stepped out of the car, I was walking normally.  The stairs at home were no problem.  Nonetheless, I loaded up with NSAIDS and planned to stay off the bike on Sunday.  I slept for 9 hours instead.  Today, other than being pretty much sore from the waist down, I feel fine.  No twinges.

Maybe I'll do a century next weekend.