Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Saturday: Ride for McBride -- Sunday: Hopewell Valley Stapmede Tour

16 September 2014

The Ride for McBride is this Saturday, September 20.  I will be leading a team of FreeWheelers on the 50-mile route starting at 8:00 a.m.  I plan to keep an honest strong B pace; in other words, we'll probably average in the high 16 mph range.  Those who wish to go faster should go faster without us.  To save time at registration, you can download and print the insurance release form ahead of time.

On Sunday, I'll be leading a completely different sort of ride:  the Hopewell Valley Stampede Tour. The ride will start at 9:00 a.m. from the Hopewell Crossing Shopping Center at Route 31 and Denow Road in Hopewell*.  Depending on who shows up, we'll go either 36 or 46 miles. Look for me near whatever store is closest to Route 31. We will be stopping a lot so that we can inspect every ox we encounter.  When we get to Hopewell and Pennington, we'll eat and drink as much as we feel like eating and drinking. I wanted to list this ride as a no-pace ride because, honestly, I have no idea what our average is going to be.  When we have ox-free stretches, I will keep a B pace, but I'm also cool with going more slowly if that's what people are into. There will be a few small hills and one big one, so factor that in when you choose your bike.  (*I might bike from home to the ride start, which is about 5 miles each way.  If you're interested in doing that, please contact me.)

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Sourland Spectacular, Larry's Horses, and What Happens when Jim Doesn't Sweep

A Chicken with Attitude (Gravity Hill Farm)

14 September 2014

I'm behind on my blogging.  This post will squish what ought to have been three posts into one.


Jim herded us Slugs at some indecent hour, an hour that would be perfectly acceptable in July, for the September 6 Sourland Spectacular.  I got a picture of the sun over Montgomery High School while Jim was making sure he had all of us corralled before we began the 60-mile route.

Michael H was in charge of the routes, and it showed.  There was a lot of doubling back built in so that we could visit a few local farms, and because Michael's philosophy is "Why climb a hill once when you can climb it twice?"  The event T-shirt said, "It's a hill.  Get over it."  Get bent.

Oscar, from Hart's Cyclery, had a repair tent at the registration area.  I said hello to him, and said, gesturing towards Miss Piggy, "She's doing great."  This usually lasts a couple of weeks before I'm back at the shop again for a shifting adjustment.  She won't stay tuned.  I've come to accept that.

I know every road that was on the route, but I'm not sure where I took this picture.  I think it was on Pleasant Valley Road.

We were on Pleasant Valley so that we could get to Gravity Hill Farm.  There's a long, winding driveway leading to the farm store.  I got off my bike and hunched down in the grass for these pictures:

This is the view from not quite the top of the driveway:

The view from the top:

At one of the rest stops we ran into three Etra flatlanders who informed me that, after I'd broken my spoke and headed for home on that ride last Sunday, the group came in at 19.5 mph.  This led me to start grumbling to Jim about ride leaders needing to change their ride descriptions.  B pace, my fat ass.

The route put us on Rainbow Hill at mile 50.  I cursed Michael H as we made the turn because I knew that after we finished this we'd have to tackle Long Hill.

Halfway up Long Hill, Miss Piggy decided to throw her chain into the rear spokes.  The last time she did that was on last year's Sourland Spectacular.  This time I was able to clip out and stay upright. I used the shifters to get the chain back on, and was climbing again in less than a minute.

The ride began and ended with Fairview.  I'd wanted this picture in the morning:

I made my way back to Oscar, who did what he could for Miss Piggy. "Y'know," I said, "I really oughta learn how to wrench so I don't have to keep bothering you."  Oscar replied that he's going to be teaching a bike repair class for four Thursday nights starting in October.  I plan to sign up as soon as I can find the details (there's nothing on their web site yet).


After hearing about the Etra flatlander pace, even Jim was reluctant to do the ride the next day.  There was no way I was going back, especially after a hilly metric.  We decided to gather a group to do something on our own.  We didn't have to, though. Lucky for us, Winter Larry was starting his Sunday rides again.  That's where we went, and gladly.

Winter Larry loves the church on Emley's Hill Road.

He's also in love with the white horses on Route 518 outside of Cassville:

On our way back, Larry and Jim launched into show tunes again.  "Good thing Tom's not here," I said. His ears are still bleeding from last time.  The three of us also had a serious discussion about ride leaders, paces, and ride descriptions.

We cut through the Assunpink Wildlife Management Area, and then Larry took us on a side road in Roosevelt. There, we found another white horse:

We also found a friendly donkey.

The ride ended with just enough time for me to get fed and cleaned up before meeting one of the Etra regulars to paint J arrows for the September 20 Ride for McBride.  "The pace was more civilized today," he reported. "I came in at 18.1." By this point I'd realized that my rear wheel had sacrificed a spoke in order to protect me.

During the week, Jim, Snakehead, and I had a 20-message-long email conversation about ride classifications and pacing.  I followed this up with an email to a couple of FreeWheeler Board members, who broadened the recipient list to all of the B and B+ ride leaders. 26 messages later, the Etra ride was voluntarily reclassified and the Board agreed that leaders should be reminded to stick to their advertised pace.

All along, my message was simple, and I'll repeat it again here:  Ride how you want to ride. Lead how you want to lead.  Just be honest about it.


The weather gods made it rain yesterday.  Tom moved his 65-mile Sandy Hook ride to today. The route is mostly flat. Kermit's spoke was repaired, so I got him ready for the trip.

I haven't been to Sandy Hook in years.  When I have gone, it's always been hot. The first time I went I burned my feet on the hot sand.  I had blisters on my toes and the balls of my feet.  That wasn't going to happen this time because we weren't going to walk on the beach.  That, and summer is over:  we were wearing arm warmers.

From Monmouth Battlefield, we passed through Freehold.  There were nine of us at the start:  Tom, Dave C, Snakehead Ed, Jack H, Ed G, John B, Gary S, Bagel Hill Barry, and me. Jim was notably absent, having promised TEW the FreeWheeler's fall picnic and All-Paces ride at Mercer County Park. Dave C did his best to keep count in Jim's absence.

There are three big hills along Navesink River Road. We'd finished all of them, me and Dave bringing up the rear (Kermit is steel, remember) and were across the street from our rest stop, a QuickChek in Atlantic Highlands, when Dave C asked, "Where's Barry?"  Dave and I had assumed that we'd been dead last.  The last time Dave had seen Barry was somewhere on the second hill.

Tom sent us along to the QuickChek while he and Snakehead doubled back to search for Barry, who was the only one on the ride without a cell phone.  "This is why we need Jim," Dave and I agreed. "We can blame this on him," someone suggested. Eight miles later, Tom and Ed returned.  Barry was nowhere to be found, and the two of them had done the Navesink hills twice.

We proceeded on to Sandy Hook, where we followed the paved bike trail all the way to the end, stopping at Gunnison Beach.  We climbed the old gun turret for the view of the beach and the Manhattan skyline.

Part of Gunnison Beach is a nude beach, although no signs declare that.  It's on Google Maps as a nude beach, though.  Go figure.  We were too far away to see anything even if people had chosen to bare themselves on this chilly day.

The Manhattan skyline:

The beach entrance:

I had a flat, Tom's saddlebag fell off, we stopped again for food in Little Silver, and we never did see Barry again.  His car wasn't in the lot when we returned.  "Good!" Tom said, "That means he's alive to yell at me."

Wednesday, September 3, 2014


I get help.

3 September 2014


He was tiny, damp, a bit stinky, and purring when I lifted him out from under the car in Terry C's driveway. The kitten had been hanging around Terry and Gordon's house all day.  Not being a cat person, she tried to ignore him, as she had tried to do for all the others who had been showing up in her neighborhood all summer. When she told me she'd taken the advice of a friend and squirted water at the little fella to deter him, I took objection.  "He could make somebody a great pet!  Call a rescue group!"

We were giving Terry a ride to dinner.  On the way over she said, "Gordon named him Mozart." [We pause from blogging to play wiggle-the-toy-mouse.  'Zart is rammy at the moment.]

Over dinner, conversation kept coming back to the kitten.  We stood outside in the drizzle to figure things out.  Jack and I would take Mozart to our back porch, which is screened in. [He's chasing his tail.  I put him in a sideways paper bag.  That'll keep him going for a bit.]

I set out a litter box, some dry food, and a bowl of water.  I opened a can of Fancy Feast (a.k.a. kitty crack). He wolfed it down in under three minutes.  Jack sat nearby with his cell phone camera.  Snap, snap, snap, Facebook post, snap, snap.

The Boys looked on, jealous.  "Yo.  We never even get a whole can between us, and you're giving this skinny interloper the whole thing?  What gives?"

Onto the dry food, a special diet meant to stop urinary crystals (Burnaby's fault), Mozart ate and ate.  Jack and I pulled him away every now and then.  "Take a break, little guy."

He did, heading over to the door to peer into the giant eyes of giant cats.

I could feel every rib, and his backbone.

To our surprise, and relief, he knew how to use the litter box.  This wasn't apparent until his second or third can of Fancy Feast.  Since then I've been calling him Sir Poopsalot.  [Yowza!  A big, orange tomcat just came 'round to the side door to look at Mozart, and 'Zart didn't even notice. The tom looked at him, then at me, then at him again, and sauntered off.]

While this was going on, Terry texted Jack and asked if she and Gordon could come by the next day to visit. They wanted to take Mozart in.  Sean and Dale asked to visit; they offered too.  Via Facebook, my cousin was smitten.  That's three offers in under 24 hours, and the skinny stinky wasn't even up to fighting weight yet.

When we went in for the night, I watched him pace the porch, crying "Meech!  Meech!  Meech!" Eventually he settled down.

The next morning, before I left to lead my Anti All-Paces ride, I spent some quality time with Mozart.  I was late leaving the house, and when I got to Lambertville, I begged the Slugs for a few extra minutes so that I could buy some kitten food at the CVS.

While we were out getting diesel-smoked and admiring leashed iguanas, Jack was on the back porch.  Kitten smitten, he was taking pictures and videos.  He was posting to Facebook.  He introduced Mozart to Sean and Dale.

What a difference a good night's sleep and three cans of Fancy Feast will do ya.

I got myself some 'Zart time when I got home.  I also made a vet appointment.  We couldn't keep him on the porch forever; but until we knew he was FIV-, feline AIDS-, and whatever else-free, he could do no more than share curious peerings with the Boys inside.

He learned how to pose,

and how to be a goof:

All that cuteness tuckers one out.  I took this picture from inside a closed door after we went in for the night. I didn't want to wake him up and set him to crying again.

That he was sleeping with his belly exposed was a good sign.  It meant that he was comfortable, unafraid.

On Tuesday morning (after I called in late to work), we took him to the Carnegie Cat Clinic (part of Princeton Animal Hospital).  Terry met us there.  She was entirely sure at this point that she'd take Mozart. The vet said that 'Zart was about three months old.  At three pounds, his weight was okay.  "But I can feel his riblets," I said.  She assured me that he'd fill out now that he was being fed.  They did the feline AIDS and FLV tests; ten minutes later, Mozart was given a clean bill of health.  He did have ear mites in his mighty ears, and it was likely that worms were sharing the Fancy Feast in his distended belly.  A mouthful of Ivermectin (Mozart made a yucky face), more Ivermectin in the ears, and a dose of Frontline would be taking care of the parasites.  He had no fleas.  He didn't have signs of any upper respiratory problems either, but, still, we were to keep him separated from The Boys for at least a week.

The vet gave Terry a kitten starter kit and a syringe of the next Ivermectin dose.  She rattled off the vaccination and neutering schedule so quickly that Terry felt dizzy.  "You don't have to do this," I assured her.  When it came time to pay, we split the bill.  

Mozart would come home again with us until Terry and Gordon got their house kitten-safe and laid in the proper supplies.

I went back to work.  Jack went back to taking pictures and videos and posting to Facebook.  I got my kitten time in later.

Inside, The Boys are clearly jealous.  They're all over us.  We make sure to be all over them, too, as long as we wash our hands thoroughly first.

Terry is coming to get Mozart tomorrow morning.  He's a good starter kitty.  I'll be sad to see him go; on the other hand, I need my life back.

Monday, September 1, 2014

In Which NJ Attempts to Reclaim its Title as Number One in Weird

We can start with the iguana on a leash.

1 September 2014

We could start with the iguana on a leash, but we'd be getting ahead of ourselves if we did.

We'll start with the anatomically correct metal cow sculptures on Route 519, north of Rosemont, instead.  American Gothic meets nightmare.

John K, Blake, Bagel Hill Barry, and I were en route to Clinton from Lambertville.  I was repeating the route we'd done in March because the weather hadn't looked promising enough for me to bother coming up with something new.  As it was, the sky was mostly clear.  The humidity, however, was as beastly as it ought to have been for the entirety of July and August.

Anyway, we had to stop for pictures when we saw the sculpture.

Getting to Clinton from Lambertville is a slog no matter what route I take.  Along we slogged until the big payoff:  the descent into the Raritan River valley on Baptist Church Road.  We turned onto the Route 78 frontage road, which is much more scenic than the name implies, and then crossed over the highway onto Rupells Road.  It was there that a pick-up truck came roaring up the hill behind us.  As it passed, the driver flipped a switch and rolled coal on us.

Through the smoke, John raised his middle finger, which is probably just the reaction the driver was hoping for.  The smoke was thinner than I'd seen in the videos, and it dissipated quickly.

What, exactly, had the driver achieved?  Did he assume we all must be dirty hippies because we're on our bikes?  Given the number of right-leaning cyclists in our midst, clearly this fellow had not done his homework.  To me, it was a sign that his side has lost the war against global warming denialism.  John didn't get it either.  "They go after cyclists, Priuses, joggers, women, anyone they think is doing good." It's schoolyard behavior from adults; it achieves nothing.  I said, "It's all fun and games until somebody gets hurt."  If it makes him feel like a man to temporarily blind people behind him, a coal roller is one sad, sad person.

Clinton was peaceful:

"Raritan River Ribbon," beaded wire, by Katherine Daniels:

We took a long break at Citispot. Blake took over the job as muffin-stump eater, as Cheryl and Jim were absent.  This one was chocolate.  Blake looked as if he'd been shot to the moon.

Leaving Clinton took a little longer than expected in part because of the iguana out for a walk on her leash:

"Where did you find the leash?" an observer asked.

"eBay," the owner replied.  "I typed in 'iguana leash.'"

John wondered if there'd been something in that diesel exhaust.  "Could be that none of this happened," I agreed.

Leaving Clinton, we turned onto Sidney Road.  I pointed out the cell tower at the top of the ridge in the distance.  "That's where we're headed," I said.

John whimpered.

It's a three mile climb.  Bagel Hill Barry showed us how it's done.  When John asked, Barry told us his age.  "I want to climb like you when I grow up," I said.  Dude has 21 years on me.  He smoked us.

Now the air temperature was creeping up.  We were going through our water as if it were summer.  We had one of those hot headwinds that isn't at all refreshing.

Towards the end of the ride, as we were all feeling beat, I had the nerve to remind everyone that next Saturday is the Sourland Spectacular.  Plain Jim is getting a team together.  Check his blog later this week for details.