Monday, June 26, 2017

#50: Things Fall Apart

Manasquan Inlet

26 June 2017

My fiftieth lifetime century was, as most of them are these days, a decision made mid-week while brushing my teeth and staring at a map of central New Jersey hanging on the wall outside of the bathroom.

Saturday looked to be a goner from all accounts, complete with tornado warnings. I slept through the downpour, resting up for Sunday and working a memorial to Don Sprague into the July Freewheel.

My back hurt on Sunday when I got up at 5:50 a.m. This happens sometimes when I spend a day doing nothing. A long hang on the inversion table set things right, and I was off on Kermit for Allentown at 7:20 a.m.

I loaded the route to Manasquan into the $500 Piece of Shit. Of course I didn't trust it and had sent the file to Tom (the Belt, DeLorme legacy) and Jim (the Suspenders, Garmin "Alan" Touring). I also had my trusty, hand-written cue sheet. I had based the route on one I'd done with John K last year. Tom had tweaked it and had even found a good rest stop right on the beach.

So, of course, the $500 Piece of Shit crashed three turns in, a few tenths of a mile from my house. It crashed so hard that the screen froze and none of the buttons would respond. Somewhere between Route 33 and Old York Road, I shoved the damned thing into my pocket next to my cleat covers.

The Belt and Suspenders were already at the Reed Recreation Area. Jack H had ridden in from Mercer County Park. Pete was still getting ready, which gave me time to curse out the Piece of Shit and hold the power button down for a good long time. The screen finally shut off and the thing restarted, resuming the recording and the route as if nothing at all had happened. "Fucker," I told it and fastened it back on the handle bar. John K, in the lot for a JDRF training ride, laughed then left.

Wind to our backs, we made good time across the state. I asked for a water stop when we crossed Route 9. I found myself some orange juice and Jim found himself an odd fellow who had built his own trailer onto the back of a hybrid bike. The chain was painfully rusty; it must have taken Jim quite a bit of restraint not to go digging into his bag for some oil. I noticed various hand-written lyrics scribbled on the frame. "There's no easy way to be free." I had the Who's "Slip Kid" lodged in my head the rest of the way to the shore.

We were somewhere between Route 9 and Allaire when Jim called out from behind me, "Where's Kermit?"

"What?" I reached back to my saddle bag. Kermit was gone.

"The pin's still there," Jim said.

Sigh. That particular puppet has been on the back of my bag for at least fifteen years. "I have other Kermits," I said. At least two. I never expected not to lose them sooner. And there's always eBay (Geez, the price for a turn of the century Starbucks finger puppet Kermit has gone up!).

The Sandy Seagull in Manasquan is an unassuming shack on the outside. It's bigger on the inside. The first thing I noticed was the coffee. I honed in on the labels. I know that shape. I know those colors. Homestead coffee, all the way from Upper Black Eddy! Flores Komodo, too, my current fave. 

I had to be weird and ask at the counter. Lucky for me, the woman I talked to was the buyer. "I really like them," she said. "They're really nice and not corporate, y'know?"

Outside, we lounged about...

...and goofed around.

I'd routed us onto the closest pavement to the beach, a narrow strip of blacktop shared by pedestrians and sand. I got a little ahead of the guys and was on my own when a fellow on a hybrid bike with a walkie-talkie parked himself in front of me and told me that bikes were not permitted (his being the exception, naturally). Seconds later, Pete called. The guys had been kicked off too. We found each other back on the street and proceeded the few remaining blocks to the Manasquan Inlet.

The water was hella choppy.

There were rocks. I had to climb onto the rocks, even though it meant getting sand in my shoes.

I was emptying out my shoes when a guy parked his fat bike next to mine.

(This picture was an accident, but I like it anyway.)

I maneuvered my wheel next to his to show the world the difference.

Jack H came over and peered at the tire, trying to figure out the recommended psi. It was 30. I run my tires at 110. It probably takes him longer to fill his than for me to fill mine.

Winding our way out of Manasquan took some doing. We had three functioning GPS units, any two of which were in agreement at any given time, but we were always on course according to my trusty 3 x 5 card.

We were on open road again, on Easy Street (yes, and it's near Casino Drive). The $500 Piece of Shit lit up to tell me that our next turn would be in 2.5 miles. Then it lit up again. "Make a U-turn." Um, no? "Off course." Again, no. "Recalculating." Yeah, you go ahead and do that. "Off course." On course, you piece of shit. You just told me that a minute ago! "Recalculating. Continue to Princeton Pike." Well, yeah, in, like 35 miles.  And that was the end of Charon, the $500 Piece of Shit.

We stopped at the Minit Stop in Jackson. Enticed by the sign for frozen lemonade, I ordered one, not knowing that the woman behind the counter was a novice at iced lemonade, at the end of her shift, and in some kind of leg pain. I'd have canceled the order, but she was too deep into it, cursing out the plastic cups and smiling at me. I went into the bathroom, where my water bottle, that I had just filled, fell out of my jersey pocked and splattered onto the floor. The lid was in two pieces. I cleaned things up and screwed the cap pieces on the best I could. I put the bottle in the seat tube cage so that it would at least face upright.

That didn't work out too well. Somewhere on Ely-Harmony Road, off to the side in the weeds, is half of the cap. Every time I hit a bump I took a bath. What I didn't drink I wore. It kept my thighs refreshingly cool anyway. Pete had a good time watching me try to drink from the rim of the bottle.

Jack and Pete smelled the barn on 526. Jim hung with them for a while but dropped back. He always dances with those what brung him.  I could feel a cramp coming on and slowed down. I don't get cramps often. At a red light I swallowed a salt tablet. I took another one in the parking lot, finishing what was left of the water from the broken bottle. I still had a full one on the front cage and turned down both an offer for more water and a ride home from Pete ("The air conditioning sure feels cool in here," he sang at me as he pulled away).

I had 14.5 miles to go. The worst would be Mercer County Park's vortex. The wind had picked up and was coming straight at me. My leg started to cramp up again. Not only my hamstring or my calf. My whole damned leg. That was new. At the Hughes Drive park entrance I stopped and ate part of a bar even though I wasn't hungry. It helped a little, but I'd be damned if I was going to walk the last three miles or two miles or one mile. By the time I stepped inside, I felt like barfing.

Fifty centuries and I still don't have the nutrition thing down. I'm rarely hungry on a century. It's the one time I can ever eat freely, and the one time I ever forget to eat.

Looking back, I'm certain that I didn't drink enough the day before. We'd been to an outdoor party up in Jersey City. I hadn't been paying enough attention to hydration, and by the time I got hungry all the food was gone.

Anyway, after a shower, a long sit-down, and a meal, I felt better. I'd make it to Don Sprague's memorial service after all. I wasn't sure what to expect there. I hadn't seen Don in years. I didn't know his wife's name until he died. I figured I'd be standing around among strangers, awkwardly waiting my turn to offer condolences to someone I'd never met.

It wasn't like that at all. It was like that Lyle Lovett song, "Since the Last Time:"

I went to a funeral
Lord it made me happy
Seeing all those people
I ain't seen
Since the last time
Somebody died

Everybody talking
They were telling funny stories
Saying all those things
They ain't said
Since the last time
Somebody died

In the end, six of us who used to ride together back in the day, plus Jack, went out to dinner. We ate outside in Princeton and had ice cream after.

Garmin is taking the $500 Piece of Shit back and giving me a new one to mess with. I have a cabinet full of water bottles. Deep in my biking backpack are two spare Kermits, and another one from eBay is on its way. For Don's widow, the Freewheelers have circled the wagons. "It's going to take time," she said, "but we'll be okay."

Thursday, June 22, 2017

UPDATED: Hill Slugs Ad Hoc, June 25, 2017


23 June 2017

The forecast for Saturday has improved, for now. Regardless, the ride will be moved to Sunday, with an 8:30 a.m. start.

22 June 2017

I'm going to hazard a guess that Saturday's ride will be rained out.  As always, check back here after 7:00 p.m. Friday and again after 7:00 a.m. Saturday to find out if the ride is on, postponed, or canceled entirely.

If we go, we will start from the Reed Recreation Area on Route 526 Spur in Allentown at 9:00 a.m. The route will be mostly flat and 70 miles with several rest stops. Anyone who wants to make it a century can start with me from my house at 8:00 a.m. (please contact me first).

Sunday, June 18, 2017

I Broke My Slugs.

Tom, Jim, and Andrew

18 June 2017


That's the sound of the summer's humidity blanket covering central New Jersey until further notice.

I removed all of the routes from the $500 Piece of Shit and loaded in Saturday's ride. I also hand-wrote a cue sheet in my usual way: in three columns on a 3 x 5 card. Still, to be safe, I sent the route to Tom and Jim to load into their GPSs. I told them that they could decide between themselves who would be the belt and who would be the suspenders. Jim chose suspenders right away. Tom was left with being the belt.

We were good to go when I went to sleep on Friday night. When my alarm went off at 6:30 a.m. on Saturday, it looked awfully gray outside. I checked the weather. Yeah, no. The belt and the suspenders had already sent bail-out emails. 

I canceled by email first, sending a message to everyone who had told me they'd be in Lambertville for the 8:30 start. Then I posted the cancellation on the PFW Facebook wall (the other ride leaders were busy canceling there too). Next I updated the blog. It was all done before 7:00 a.m. I went back to sleep for another half hour. I checked my phone every few minutes until 8:30, and, seeing nothing, figured that everyone had received my message. 

Not so much. I found out later in the day that Ricky, Pete, and Rajesh had showed up and had been heavily rained on. Pete later emailed that he'd never been so wet on a bike. I feel bad, but only a little. When it's that dark out after sunrise, best check the radar and with the ride leader.

Sunday morning looked much brighter. Still, when six of us set off from Lambertville, we were met with sticky all over. I warned the group (Tom, Jack H, Jim, Andrew, and John K) that we'd be on some new roads. "Some of them might be dirt," I said, because I hadn't remembered to check.

I didn't give my usual two-mile warm-up on Route 29. Instead I headed for Alexauken Creek and Lambertville Headquarters right away.  At the top, John K, who had been doggedly training his JDRF riders in the hills in the rain yesterday, and who had spent the night standing at a concert in the seat-free Electric Factory in Philly, was feeling a bit rough and did the discretion over valor thing. Wise move. We were only going up from there.

Looking back on all of my Lambertville to Clinton routes (there are seven), this was neither the longest nor the hilliest version. It did, however, start steep and stay that way for the better part of a dozen miles. Humidity is nearly everything on a hilly ride; it can turn an otherwise heavenly route into one of the outer circles of Hell. So it was today.

We got to the ridge eventually. Our first real descent was into Pittstown, where I took a sucky picture and later edited it halfway to decency.

Jim took a better one so I have stolen it from his post:

That really is Pittstown. There's no there there, apart from this barn, an old inn across the street, the pizza joint that used to be our rest stop back when it was a deli, and the strange building with the "do not enter this is not an exit" sign.

Right. On to Clinton, via Cooks Cross and Perryville, neither of which I'd been on before, and neither of which were dirt, so that was good. I also crossed over 78 and took 173 most of the way into Clinton, which was okay, but Frontage Road on the south side of the highway is much better. Lesson learned.

After a frozen mocha from Citispot, I took the obligatory pictures, which were also sucky so I'm only posting a couple, which I had to crop to make halfway decent.

This is the picture everyone has to take. Jim did. Tom did too.

I've taken various routes out of town.

To the west is Sidney Road, a long, smooth, curving, 500-foot ascent with a couple of decent vistas along the way.

Farther west than that is Baptist Church, which lands on 579 close enough to the 3-mile Rick Road descent that I always have to do it.

To the south is a long, flat stretch that follows the Raritan River.

Part of Hamden Road is closed to cars. The pavement is slowly being taken over by weeds, and in a few years won't be much fun to ride on. Past that, the road turns to gravel on hard-packed dirt (maybe it was paved once) for something less than a mile. None of this was a surprise to me or to anyone who remembered that I've gone this way more than once. Jim, who is proud of the fact that he can't find his way out of a paper bag, let alone remember that he's been in the bag before, viewed the whole thing as an unplanned accident.

The river was to our left, and to our right was a wall of green hill. Jack said, "This has to go up eventually, doesn't it?"

"Yep. And boy howdy will it."

Andrew wanted to know if there was a tunnel. I suggested a cog railway would be in order.

In the past we'd done the climb on Spring Hill, which is wooded and has a scenic gap in the trees halfway up. It ends on Sidney, but not at the top.

Today we were going to try Cherryville-Stanton Road. I'd only been on it once, descending, at the start of the latest iteration of the Double Reservoir Ride out of Flemington. I remembered that it was high and steep. I remembered being able to look out and down into the Raritan valley. I'd looked at the profile ahead of time. I knew what we were in for. The steepest segment would get us up 178 feet in three tenths of a mile. The whole thing would go up 529 feet in 1.7 miles. I didn't bother checking the grade; ridewithgps isn't very good at that.

"Finger Lakes people!" I called out. "Think the climb out of Seneca." This was going to be a slog.

Jack H, Andrew, and Jim, among the strongest of my regular climbers, were out of sight in the first half mile. Tom and I, who had taken a good, hard look at the map, were down in our granny gears, conserving energy. There was a pause in the action. "There's more," I warned him. He figured we were almost finished. I wasn't so sure.

I got a little ahead, and facing me was a wall of asphalt. On it, Jack H was tacking across the road and back. Then Jim got off his bike and started walking. And then Andrew did too.

I broke my Slugs.

"One and done," I thought. There would be no reason to try this route again.

I dropped into the lowest of my low gears, 29-32, and focused on keeping my front wheel on the ground. To distract myself, I broke the climb into intervals between mail boxes.

When I cought up to Jim and Andrew, they both got back on their bikes ahead of me. Tom was behind, out of sight. We pedaled to the next flat spot and waited.

"One and done." I said.

"On the way up I figured out exactly what I wanted to say to you," Jack H said. "Fuck, fuck, FUCK you!"

Yeah, pretty much. I deserved that.

Tom caught up. His heart rate had spiked so he'd stopped and walked a little until it came down.

"I broke my Slugs," I whined.

"I know how I'm going to start my blog," Jim said, and proceeded to expound upon the closed road (it's only closed to cars), the gravel (we've seen worse), and the hill (we'll give him this one). "I know it's not true," he said, "but I like the way it sounds."  This will do wonders for my reputation.

We really didn't have much climbing left after that, but every little ascent invoked complaints from the crowd.

When we hit the dirt road, Zentek, a little stretch connecting Lambert and Rosemont-Ringoes, Jim had more fuel for his fire. Now I know why I'd never been here before. It was passable and short.

The humidity had gone down, but the hot sun was out now and the wind had picked up. At the top of Lambertville Headquarters at Sandy Ridge, we collected the spread-out Slugs.

From there it wasn't quite all downhill, but compared to where we'd been, it was close enough.

For the record, my muzzy-headed GPS, cleared of all but one route, guided me perfectly. For those of you keeping score at home, that's the fourth time since the end of December.

"Where are you going next week?" Tom asked me as we put away our bikes.

"Dunno," I said. "But it's gonna be flat."

Thursday, June 15, 2017

UPDATED Hill Slugs Ad Hoc, Saturday, 17 June

17 June 2017


15 June 2017

As of Thursday evening, Saturday looks rideable, at least into the early afternoon. Let's get an early start for a hilly 50-miler from Lambertville to Clinton.

Meet at the CVS parking lot on Route 29 in Lambertville at 8:30 a.m.

If the forecast changes for the worse, our plans will too, so check here again after 7:00 p.m. on Friday.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Expected Metric


11 June 2017 (posted 14 June 2017)

Ron M sent me an email, and added,  "BTW are you writing a blog on yesterday's ride?

"Eventually," I wrote back. "I'm still writing about Ithaca. I'm very far behind. I took too many pictures."

Well, it's 11:43 p.m. on Wednesday night. I'm going to bang this out in the next 15 minutes and be caught up. There's a ride list to stuff into the Freewheel, and edits to make. Bleah.

So, anyway, I sat on my butt all day Saturday at a meeting. Tom and a few members of the Insane Bike Posse wound up with an unexpected metric.  I didn't quite know what I was going to do Sunday morning until my alarm went off at 6:30 a.m. and a text from Chris was waiting for me. His ride from Allentown was on. I'd start from home before 8:00 and meet the group in front of Bruno's at 9:00.

In a store full of brand new bikes, what did my eyes go to first? The two vintage steel ones, of course. A Schwinn and a Raleigh. He's only asking $450 for that Schwinn Super Sport circa 1974. What are you waiting for?

The Le Tour hasn't weathered the years as well:

The B+, B, and C+ rides were merged, being that, aside from the three ride leaders, there were only three of us. Chris had come up with a route to Bordentown. Ron, Sue, Ken, Emir, and I followed. Our discussions centered on how much Garmin sucks (the hive mind has convinced me to wipe my $500 Piece of Shit clean and only load a couple of routes at a time), local history (Chris knows all of it and periodically stopped for lectures), and me rabbiting on to Emir about local roads and biking stories (because we all love it when a new rider shows up).

I always like the view from Mount Pleasant Road. It's almost a hill.

Chris told us that this house features in Weird New Jersey, but with six blogging minutes left, I don't have time to look it up.

We stopped at the deli in Bordentown. I guess I haven't been there much in the summer. We should stop there more often. They have pitchers of iced coffee, iced tea, and strawberry mint lemonade on the back counter.

On our way out of town we stopped at the river overlook.

I had over 50 miles when we got back to Bruno's. Whenever I'm there during or after a ride, I get a mango smoothie, hold the ice cream. I just want the juice and the slush. 

I got home with 68.9 miles. It took a fair amount of willpower not to ride around until I hit 69 or 70.

OK. It's 11:59 p.m. I'm done. All caught up!

One Last Little Ithaca Ride

I have no idea where we were when we passed this.

5 June 2017 (posted 14 June 2017)

I've been drinking coffee for four days straight. Today is a dry-out day. The roads are dry too.  We're on for a little 21-miler. I've loaded the route into the $500 Piece of Shit, and, of course, it's nowhere to be found when I try to call it up. We're leaving from the house this time.

As we get ready to go, mist passes over Cayuga Lake.

When we're ready to push off, the mist is gone.

The first thing we'll do when we turn off the main road is climb for two and a half miles. We've just begun the slog when Tom stops, and Jack H with him. I'm ahead (because I didn't hike yesterday). They're stopped for a long time. I'm not going back down there. I'll wait here unless I see them turn around. They get going again after about five minutes.  I wait for them to catch up.

"What happened?"

"My front derailleur is messed up," Tom says. I should mention that he has a Cannondale Synapse built a year before my first Miss Piggy. "A piece fell off."

We stay on the ridge for a while, heading south, and then descend into a valley. We turn into Robert Treman State Park.

"Is this where you guys were yesterday?"

"Yeah," Jack H says, "But not here." There's a trail map on the other side of a little bridge. He shows me where they'd parked and how far they'd walked to get to the falls.

There is a little waterfall here too. We're not sure it qualifies as a waterfall. It would back home, but up here, it's nothing.

"Man! I can't stop sneezing!" I complain to Jack H.

The climb out of the valley is slow and gentle. Tom has done well by routing us in reverse from the way the local bike club has it.

There's this thing on a barn:

Tom has to reset his GPS every so often. We're up on the ridge again when he does, so I go for one last picture:

Jack H and Dorothy leave while I'm in the shower. Moose and I are next. Tom wants to make one more pass through the house.

It's almost noon now. We'll get lunch on the road somewhere, because the natural food supermarket at the edge of town scares Moose off when he steps inside. I don't blame him. There's only so much tofu and quinoa one needs to see at one time. We end up instead at a Friendly's outside of Binghamton, because that's all there is, and it's as sad and sticky as one would expect. We marvel at the calorie counts on the menu. There's a dessert with almost 3000 calories (meant for sharing), and most of the main meals have more calories in them than I want to eat in most of a day. I stick with a salad, hold the chicken. We'd have been better off with quinoa. Oh well.

With a mere three hours left of drive time, I'm surprisingly awake for a decaffeinated day. The car thermometer reads 70 degrees, but I have goosebumps. And I'm sneezing. And my nose is stuffed. And now the everything that hurt on Friday morning is making retroactive sense.

This is the price I pay for standing barefoot on a Bar Harbor balcony at 4:36 a.m. to watch the sun rise, I guess.

It was worth it. All of the past ten days has been worth it.

Rainy Sunday Vineyards

4 June 2017 (posted 14 June 2017)

Nobody is in any hurry this morning. It's not raining yet. Over the lake the sky is heavy with clouds but it's not that impending rain sort of gray. Tom, as always, has checked the weather up to the minute. "It's supposed to start around 11," he says.

Whatever pollen is in the air up here is overwhelming the Claritin. I can't stop sneezing.

I look out of the kitchen window as I make coffee. "It's looking bad from this side," I tell them. A steel gray is coming up over the hill.  By the time we're all finished eating, it's definitely raining.

Dorothy scrolls through a description of the cider distillery they're going to visit this morning. "They make shrub,/a>," she says, and when none of us knows what that means, she looks it up. It doesn't sound all that appealing.

Moose and I are going to drive around to see some vineyards. Maggie recommended two last night, there's one that we didn't get to when we were staying over in Penn Yan, and there's one that we want to go back to.

Dorothy, Jack H, and Tom are going to the cider place and then, if the predicted window of no rain opens up, they might hike to see a waterfall in Robert Treman State Park.

Moose and I drive across the ridge between Cayuga and Seneca. The road names look familiar. I think we were here. When we turn onto Picnic Area Road and pass the Blueberry Patch campground, I now get to see what caused us such misery two days ago.

Wine grapes do well on slopes, so most of the vineyards around here have some sort of lake view. Atwater Vineyards does not disappoint.

Oh, cool!  They've got a diagram of all of the Finger Lakes.

So that's how you spell "Skaneateles." When Pete first said it, I said, "Skinny what?" I had enough trouble two years ago trying to remember Canandagua. Back then I had an excuse: only one of my eyes was working.

There's also a spinny thingy out in the garden. The wind is blowing hard with few breaks, but I get a shot that's clear enough to go back to later because I think I might want one of these.

The riesling isn't bad.

Next up is Boundary Breaks, close to Lodi Point, where we'd been two days ago. Boundary Breaks is our favorite. I even like all of their rieslings ("like" meaning I'll drink half a glass over the course of an hour if Jack reminds me that the glass is there).

As I look out the window, something rubs against my legs the way a cat would. I look down to see the new critter at Boundary Breaks. He's a rescue pup named Ziggy.

We spend a long time chatting with one of the owners. He and his partner have finally quit their day jobs.

Next up is Sheldrake Point Winery over on the west side of Cayuga. On our way, I stop for goats.

The first thing we see when we step inside is a kitty on the deck. I have to make friends with her.

Brown Kitty, they call her. That's the best they can do? Not even Shelly?  Geez. I take one more photo of her through the door as she cleans herself; it's the only time she stops moving.

We're hungry. The folks behind the counter suggest the Busy Bee down the road. As soon as we get there I realize we'd passed this place on our bikes too.

The Busy Bee reminds me of the Sergeantsville General Store: half of the store is shelves of food and souvenirs (remember the gewgaws Sun had for sale in the center aisle?); there's a deli counter; there's a spacious seating area; and there appear to be regulars (think of the white-haired radio announcer from the station next door who's always at Sergeantsville when we are).  There's even an enclosed porch to pass through before entering the store. The food is good, too.

It's 2:00. The rain has stopped. To get to Heart and Hands we drive up and around to the other side of Cayuga.

After that, I text Tom that we'll be home around 5:00. We finish the trip by finishing the circle around the lake.  For most of the way, we can't see it. Of the three lakes we've been to (Keuka, Seneca, and Cayuga), Seneca has the best views from the road.

Tom texts back that they should return around 5:00 too. I only see his answer when I park the car in the driveway, and when I look up, there they are.

"How was the hike?"

Tom has mud down one side of his jeans. They'd gone five miles and it was tougher than they'd thought it would be.

We're going to dinner at a bowling alley. It's a bowling alley with a bar. It's a bowling alley with a bar and a kitchen. It's a bowling alley with a bar and a kitchen and performance space. It's bizarre.

On our way home, we stop for ice cream again.

When we get back, Tom finds a flat (ha!) route and shortens it so that we can get a little ride in tomorrow before we leave Ithaca. If the roads are dry, we'll go.

Meanwhile, I'll upload some more photos and start packing.