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 almond-ginger and almond-honey balls.

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.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Lambertville to Clinton on a Cold, Gray Day, with Steel Frame Fantasies

how to make a 350-foot drop disappear:  zoom in

25 March 2014

The route was perfect for a mild, cloudless, slightly breezy, spring day. Unfortunately, Sunday was not a mild, cloudless, slightly breezy spring day.

We pushed off from Lambertville at 40 degrees, under a blanket of clouds, with a steady northwest wind.  The wind got stronger, we never saw the sun, and the air never warmed more than a few degrees.

But we had a good time anyway.

The first dozen miles were mostly uphill.  I've been on almost all of these roads before; however, I'd managed to forget that 519 out of Stockton is a double-humper.  Having warned the group about the first ascent, I spent the second one apologizing.

I thought all would be well and good when we got to the ridge.  That's where we hit the wind, the sort of wind that, when one is on a slight upgrade, makes one ponder why one is moving under 15 miles per hour on an apparently flat road.

We passed through Pittstown.  Jim knows the spot well enough now to point out my favorite sign:  "Do not enter.  This is not an exit."  Perricone's, where we used to have our second stop on the Double Reservoir Ride, which was always perfectly chilled and roomy inside, which had a shaded picnic table outside, which was the only place between High Bridge and Frenchtown that I could think of stopping on a hilly metric, which had gone from a deli to a restaurant in the past year, is now out of business completely.

There wasn't much time to ponder the fate of Perricones, because as soon as we turned onto 579 we were climbing again, 415 feet in 2.9 miles, straight into the wind.

Our reward was the descent on Baptist Church Road.  It doesn't look like much. It never does when my camera is involved.  Trust me, though: between the field and the hills is a 350-foot drop and an interstate highway.

We tried to figure out which ridge we were looking at.  Snakehead wondered if it might be where Fiddler's Elbow is, but I knew that we were two ridges and one river south of that. The best I could figure was that we were looking at the ridge that hides Bloomsbury. Now that I have the online maps to geek out over, I can tell you that we were looking at Musconetcong Mountain.  On the far western side is Bloomsbury and the Musconetcong River in the Delaware watershed. If you follow the ridge to its northeastern end, you'll get to Schooley's Mountain, where Tom likes to drag us at least once each summer.  Streams on the southern face of the ridge drain into the Delaware on the western side and into the Raritan on the eastern side. Route 579, where we'd just been, seems to be the dividing point. I tell you all of this because I'm sure you were desperate to know.

At the bottom of the drop, we still had 5 miles to go.  We continued downhill. My fingers began to freeze, I was hungry, and I needed to take a furious wizz.  I forgot all of that, though, when we pulled into Clinton.  The renovations by the river are complete.  Now we can walk to the water's edge.

The spillway:

The water wheel below the spillway:

Duck butt:

The river's edge:

More mallards:

The plaza by the river:

Snakehead, Bagel Hill Barry, Needs A Nickname Ron, and Plain Jim

It was here I remembered to ask Jim about the frames hanging in WheelFine.  "Lugs?"

"Lugs," he said.

"I want a steel frame with pretty lugs," I said wistfully, knowing full well that Kermit has fine lugs, albeit hiding under psychedelic paint.

Jim said, "If you get a frame, I'll build the bike."

Oh no.  "I can't get another bike," I whined.  "I have three in heavy rotation already. I use them all.  What would I do with another one?  Where would I put it?"

Inside Citispot (which, to my relief, has neither closed nor burned down), Jim said, "There was a bit more climbing than I expected."

Barry said, "I knew what to expect," and to me, "You need to stop apologizing for the hills.  It's a hilly ride."

"Yeah," I conceded, "If you wanted a flat ride you'd be out with Larry right now."

I never meant to eat the whipped cream on the top of my mocha, but when I got to the bottom, the whipped cream was gone.

Jim had to sing us through the tangle of intersections on our way out of town.  I was aiming for the view on Sidney Road just after the turn off of Pittstown Road.

Looking west, towards the ridge we'd been on:

Looking southeast, where we were headed:

Are those my Dr. Seuss trees?  I think those are my Dr. Seuss trees. We'll know in about ten minutes.

About ten minutes later, Ron asked, "Are those those trees?"


On his way to the trees, Marc's chain pulled a Miss Piggy and jumped between the cassette and spokes.  I feel somewhat vindicated, because Marc has a 32-tooth cog in the back, as I do.  It's a new bike; the cables have stretched.  "I swear it's making me slower," he said.

"The wind is making you slower!" Jim answered.

We could forget about the wind for now.  It would be at our backs for most of the ride home.

Here's the view from the intersection of 579 and 523:

Our tiny little Sourland Mountain is in there somewhere.

Although we regularly take Sandy Ridge-Mount Airy Road to Lambertville and Sergeantsville, this is the first time I've taken pictures from the intersection  at Bowne Station Road.  We would follow the power lines all the way back to Lambertville.

For the record, lest one assume I stop for every cow, we passed lots of cows on this ride.  Until now I did not take pictures.

After the ride I drove to Upper Black Eddy to pick up an order of coffee from Homestead.  There, I met the roaster and found out that they'll ship for $7.99, free if the order is over $100 (between me and Terry C, we've got that covered).  They're starting a subscription service, too.  If enough of us go in on this, I could be handing out 5 pound bags of coffee from my living room.  Let me know.

I decided to take county roads most of the way home, and in doing so I saw the views on 519 and 579 again.

As usual, the Boys were asleep when I got home.  Their slogan is "We nap so you don't have to."

Burnaby, 9.5, and Mojo, 3

Jack and I went out to dinner with Terry C, Gordon, Terry S, Dale, and Sean. Over heaps of Mexican food, I told Sean of my lug lust.  We hatched a plan.  "I could get a frame," I mused, "and put Gonzo's components on.  It would still be my commuter bike."

Later that night I fleshed it out even more in an email to Jim, adding that I could donate the LeMond frame (which I've never liked because it's lugless and badly painted) to the New Brunswick Bike Exchange.  Jim could occupy himself all winter by building not one, but two bikes.

The next morning I mentioned the plan to Jack, not being sure how much of it he'd heard over the din at the restaurant.  He said, "Why not get another bike?"

This, dear readers, is a good husband.

I explained why it wouldn't be prudent.

I let Jim know that Jack would not kick me out of the house if I brought another frame into the house.  Jim wrote back,

"...Jack has not heard and been seduced by the siren song of tools. He hoards them not; he does not compare and contrast materials and manufacturers; he does not have opinions on, for example, the relative merits of chromoly vs. stainless. He wastes his substance on such fripperies as wine, literature, and fountain pens. He will never know the joy of a perfectly-torqued bottom bracket, and the silence that betokens its excellence. My hands twitch with the anticipation of the setting of the torque wrenches...As if the getting of another bike is the end of the building, adjusting, and tweaking process! No, a new bike would be even worse, because EVERY measurement and specification would be subject to adjustment, not merely to attempting to match the bikes you already have! (I suppose I could just leave the new bike the way it comes from the shop... no, on second thought, I couldn't; I am constitutionally incapable of such a thing.)

Oh, my stars. I'm all a-twitter now; I may have to download and install a new operating system [or] something just to calm down."  

So.  If anyone out there sees a 54 cm electric blue or cherry red steel frame with polished chrome lugs, let me know.

Meanwhile, I'll run the Lambertville to Clinton route again when it's 60 degrees and sunny.  Which, the way this year has been going, will be, oh, some time in July.

Is it snowing out yet?

Yes, it is.  The grass is coated.  Again.  I'm going to go bang my head against a wall now.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Hill Slugs Ad Hoc, Sunday, March 23

20 March 2014

We haven't been to Clinton in a while.  Let's go from Lambertville to Clinton.

I haven't worked out the route yet, but count on something around 55 miles.  The ride will start at 9:00 a.m. from the CVS parking lot on Route 29 at the northern end of Lambertville.

This ride will be a little tougher than the last few have been because we'll be going from valley to ridge to valley in both directions, and we're in the windy season.  On the plus side, what goes up must come down.

See you Sunday.