Saturday, September 24, 2016

Chilly Flat Damp Delicious

Delicious Orchards, Colts Neck

24 September 2016

The order I placed for a new cycle computer got lost in the ether; I dug out an old one whose receiver is held to its mount by electrical tape, and used more tape to affix the too-small mount to my fat handle bar. It served me well today, and if the new computer doesn't arrive soon, the tape on this one might be gummy enough to hold it through the rest of the season.

It was with a certain amount of restraint that I didn't ride from home to Tom's house today.  If I'd worked at it, I could have lengthened the trip over and back enough to make a century. I resisted the compulsion to find an extra ten miles somewhere, and instead met Jim and Tom at Tom's house to add a more reasonable 4.5 miles each way.

Good thing. "It's kinda sorta raining," I said by way of a greeting.

It kinda sorta rained on us on our way to Etra Park, where Pete, with his car, a rare thing, exclaimed, "What is this?"

"I'm sorry," Tom said. "I forgot to add you to the email about extra miles."

John B pulled in on his bike.  It was still kinda sorta raining.

It kinda sorta rained on us for the better part of 30 miles. 

Much of this was through suburban and exurban neighborhoods, which is far less scenic than most of us are used to. There was more traffic than we'd like. I guess this is why we rarely go out to Colts Neck.

We took a shortcut through a neighborhood that displayed the very definition of McMansion, up to and including not one, but two driveways with plaster lions as sentries. I never understood the plaster animal thing. I guess I'm not rich enough to get it.

When Tom stopped to change batteries in his GPS, at the corner of Casino and Ketchum, I took a picture of the most rural thing we'd seen so far, an empty lot behind a wire fence:

A few miles later, on Merrick Road, we got to some good stuff. It was now truly raining.

Pete, Tom, and John waited under a tree half a mile away while Jim and I took pictures.

Once in Colts Neck, it was clear we were in Trump territory. ~Shudder.~ 

"If I were here with a car I'd buy all the pretty things," I told John as we sat down to eat at Delicious Orchards. 

If you've never been there, imagine what a farm stand would look like if it were a big box store. Imagine a single brownie as big as a sheet of regulation copy paper. 

Pete was eating one of these when I sat down:

"What is that called?" I asked,

"A Circle of Death," he said, and when he finished it, started in on another, because everyone knows that a cyclist needs two circles to keep moving. Jim was eating fried bread. Whatever Tom had looked more reasonable. I ate the top off of a pumpkin muffin. It was good.

How Jim and Pete didn't barf on the way home is a testament to their metabolisms and proof that a B pace really is too easy for them.

We were about five miles away from Etra Park when the sky began to clear to our north. To the south, the clouds rolled out, and when we got to the park, I took pictures.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

The Synapse Curse Returns, Sort of; and the Sixth Annual Ride for McBride

 Lower Creek Road, Delaware Township

18 September 2016

We both brought our Synapses, yet Tom didn't bless us with the Holy Kickstand before the ten of us took off from Pennington on Saturday. That's why Plain Jim cut his tire badly enough that his fix didn't hold and he had to turn back before we got out of Hopewell.

Sending Jim off to find his own way back to where we started was penance enough for the disaster gods, and they left the remaining nine of us alone for the rest of the ride. If you don't count my mirror, which, despite repeated bending and repositioning, refused to remain on my glasses, despite having done so all season. Halfway through the ride, a piece fell off into the grass, and I gave up, which meant that I was leading half-blind (that's how it feels when I can't see behind me) and half-deaf (because I am hearing impaired and rely on the mirror to see cars before I can hear them).

Normally, when I lead a ride to Sergeantsville, it's winter, and I try to keep the distance down. Without a cue sheet and without much thought, I can bring the ride in at 42 or 43 miles no matter which way I go. Saturday was different; the weather was perfect. I'd dug out a route from a few years ago that throws in an extra few miles of elevation before the rest stop.

On Lower Creek Road, we passed by the Wickecheoke Creek, a protected stream that is threatened by the PennEast pipeline (yes, I'm bringing that up again).

Between the leaves, the blue sky reflected on the water:

The Green Sergeants Covered Bridge behind the trees:

I instructed the crew to turn left onto Pine Hill.

"What's the grade?" Nevada asked me.

"I have no fucking clue."

Somebody said, "Sometimes that's better."

The fellow on the recumbent did an admirable job on the triple-humper. We weren't even very spread out either. When Pine Hill turned to dirt, we turned onto Pavilica. I'm an asshole, but I'm not that much of an asshole.

At the end of the road, Nevada asked me, "Did you see the goat on the porch?"

"No! Where?"

One house back from the corner, there he was.

"Well, why not?" I asked the goat. "Why not indeed? If I were a goat and I had a porch, I'd hang out on it."

The goat -- or was it a dog with horns? -- didn't seem the least bit perturbed by my babble.

Locktown-Sergeantsville Road:

Sergeantsville is at the bottom of the hill, more or less. We didn't go that way; we went the other way and climbed some more hills instead.

The newly-salmon Sergeantsville General Store was crawling with cyclists. Mike and Theresa, late of early Hill Slug fame, were there. Tom and I sat with them and talked about Yosemite, grizzly bears, Alaska, polar bears, Maine, and cycling up Cadillac Mountain. I thought I had it bad with the wind; Mike did it with an upset stomach and left souvenirs along the way.

Blake took this picture while I was inside talking with the WDVR DJ.

You know the guy. He's always in there drinking coffee. White hair, ponytail, mustache, striking up conversation while you get your coffee. We talked about PennEast. I'm sure I started it.

I went north again after the break just so that we could get to the top of the hill where Routes 523 and 579 meet. It's like biking into a painting, some What Dreams May Come shit.

We coasted on down into the painting, south to Ringoes, east through the Wertsville rollers, and then dragged ourselves up Runyon Mill. Stony Brook, newly graveled from near the top of the hill all the way past the golf course, was b-b-b-bumpy but a far cry better than the moonscape it had been in recent years.

Peter navigated us through the detour around the Wargo Road bridge construction. I know, I know, but sometimes even I am willing to follow a detour.

Since I started from home, the 50-mile ride was almost a metric century for me. This wasn't the best of plans, considering that tomorrow I'd be on the 50 mile course at the Ride for McBride.

At least I was able to salvage the missing piece from my mirror from an older one, and bend the arms the way they should have been bent so that the thing would stay put on my glasses. I might be trashed tomorrow, but at least I'd be able to see the lack of other riders behind me.

Somehow, I managed to sleep almost enough, and recover almost enough, to keep up with Marc, Dave H, Chris, and Jim in the morning.  My computer's transmitter, however, gave up the ghost 23 miles into the ride. No battery change is going to save it this time. It's over a decade old; I can't get parts. *Sigh.*

The rain held off, although the humidity was creeping up all day. The Plumsted rest stop for the 25- and 50-mile rides, appeared well-populated for a small event.

We haven't changed the routes in three years, and nobody seems to mind. The top of Hill Road, the part that's west of the Walnford Mill, is a good place to gather and regroup.

Joe's son, Jared, who is our de facto  leader of the small charity, presented this year's scholarship winner). He's also the webmaster, and he's a bit behind on posting the scholarship award recipients, what with his PhD and marriage and move to LA and new job and all.

I sat next to Ron M, who told us a Joe story I hadn't heard before, of Joe's rather candid description of a certain child's athletic abilities.

On my way home, I stopped on Sawmill Road to take a picture of a yellowing crop of soybeans:

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Hill Slugs Ad Hoc, Saturday, September 17

14 September 2016

The sixth annual Ride for McBride is on Sunday. I plan on riding the 50 mile route at 8:00 a.m. if you want to join me.

Meanwhile, I'm in the soon-not-to-be-book* for Saturday. How about we leave from Pennington? We haven't been local for a while.

Meet at the Hopewell Valley Regional School District parking lot, 425 S. Main St, across from Ingleside, for a 9:00 a.m. start and a 50-mile ride with some hills and a rest stop.  Extra-milers can meet me at my house for an 8:30 a.m. start (contact me if you plan to do this).

(*That's right, kids!  The Freewheel is going paperless in January. 'Bout damn time...)

Saturday, September 10, 2016

#48: Manasquan, Iced Lemonade, Hot Wind, and Pickles


10 September 2016

I almost typed "10 August 2016." With the heat index hovering around 100 degrees, today might as well have been a month ago.

John K had a JDRF training ride planned for Saturday. He announced that it was going to be a 70-mile out-and-back trip from Allentown to Manasquan. Many of his regulars begged off.

Well, seeing that it's 15 miles from my house to Reed Recreation Park, 70 gets me 100, and I'd never been to Manasquan.

I didn't look at the weather forecast before I committed to the ride. I'd finished half a water bottle before the two of us left the parking lot. 

While John got the Cool Blue Halo ready, Kermit posed against a fence.

Cool Blue Halo, all cleaned up and shiny for the Lake Tahoe century:

As we were moseying down Ely Harmony, a fat-free carbon woman flew past us in her drops. She looked as if she were training, because she didn't even acknowledge our presence as she blew by.

We caught up with her at the Minit Stop in Jackson; she was already in line with drinks when I came out of the bathroom, my bottles full of water. "Is that water OK to drink?" she asked me.


"I never trusted it."

"I haven't died yet."

I ordered a frozen lemonade, which took some time to make. When I got back outside, the racer and John were deep in conversation. She was a triathlete, training for a national event in Miami in the fall. She left, and other cyclists came in. We left, and waited for a big group to pass by before we turned onto Farmingdale Road.

My usual route to Belmar takes me east and north of the Manasquan Reservoir. John's route went south, and after we passed the reservoir entrance there, I had no idea where we were.

Because it was just the two of us, and because John is goofy, I had no qualms about asking him to pose against the sign when we turned onto Easy Street, south of Allaire State Park, halfway between Howell and Wall Townships.

I got in on it too.

As long as we were moving, the heat wasn't too bad. The wind was out of the south-southwest, but as we got closer to the coast, it seemed to shift. When we turned southeast onto the bike trail in Wall, the wind was in our faces.

I was getting grumpy, hungry, and hot. The rough pavement and the headwind slowed us down to the point where checking my average at the end of the ride would be worthless.  It was worth being out of traffic, though, John assured me, and then chose to stop at the Sunburst Pie Company on Main Street in Manasquan. Already, I liked Manasquan better than Belmar.

We hung out there, inside, with air conditioning and every late-1990s alternative rock song you've ever forgotten playing through the speakers.

"Can we go to the beach?" I asked.

It was another couple of miles down the road. There was no boardwalk, just an asphalt path. There were no cheesy surf shops and fast food chains at the end of Main Street.

A small fence was all that separated the beach from the path. John, doing his best Plain Jim impersonation, felt compelled to photograph me photographing the fence.

On our way back out, a strong tailwind pushing us west, I stopped on a bridge over an inlet. It reminded me of Ghent, only with more power boats and less European architecture.

Or maybe not so much, now that I've dug up the Ghent picture:

We got back on the bike trail, this time with a tailwind.

Five miles later, we were smacked in the face with a headwind that didn't let up. I found myself spinning in low gear, moving forward at a pace more suited for a hill.

Back in Jackson, we pulled into the Minit Stop again. I got another frozen lemonade. Why not? As long as the ride is symmetrical, my snacks might as well be. If we're going to do OCD, we should go all the way with it.

John bought pickles and offered me one. It hit the spot.

We got to the rollers near Millstone right around the time I slammed into regular century wall, somewhere between 70 and 80 miles, the one that happens when I haven't eaten enough. I tend not to be hungry after the halfway point, and I have to force myself to eat. I hadn't been doing that today. The only thing to do was power through it and eat something as soon as possible.

At 80 miles, we stopped under a tree, where I chomped down three ShotBloks and watched storm clouds gathering to our south. At least they'd keep the sun off of us.

Then it was back into the headwind, but I felt better. To be on the safe side, on my way home, I stopped at the deli around the corner from the park and gulped down a bottle of orange juice.

On Old York Road I had a tailwind and decided to stay with it all the way to Sharon Road. This would make my route completely symmetric.  If I'd finished with exactly 100 miles, the OCD would have been complete. Unfortunately, I overshot by 0.7. Oh well.

Inside, I washed my hands, grabbed a jar of homemade refrigerator pickles (I'm not yet brave enough to try real pickling), and sat on the floor, my feet on the stairs leading down to where Jack was sitting, and ate a few spears while I cooled off. He'd been busy announcing on Facebook that I was crazy. I didn't argue the point, adding only that I was also stinky and sweaty.

Eventually, I got up, cleaned my water bottles, washed my helmet and glasses, peered at a map to figure out where, exactly, Manasquan is, and pet a couple of cats.

After I showered, I sat down to a proper snack of milk and pickles.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

A Pipeline Runs Through It

Part of the proposed PennEast pipeline route

8 September 2016


The Draft Environmental Impact Statement for the proposed PennEast pipeline dropped on Friday, July 22. Hours later, the FERC online docket library went down and stayed that way for most of the weekend. FERC had set September 12 as the comment deadline. The document was over 1100 pages long, the meat of the thing 417 pages, and the rest of it maps and appendices.  Like a good little enviro-nerd, I got cracking, putting trivial things like paying bills, mowing the lawn, and blogging aside.

One sham of a public hearing and 34 written pages later, I'm finished commenting on this massive National Environmental Policy Act violation. It's in FERC's docket now, to be ignored, right along with thousands of other comments like mine.

I hadn't planned to blog about the pipeline, but three days before my scheduled August 28 ride, I found myself staring at my Hunterdon County map, looking for a spot I hadn't been to in a while. 

Riegelsville. Miles of river, train tracks, road and cliff. 

And, if PennEast, a consortium of natural gas providers who want to build their own pipeline and claim that there is demand for the pipe as a result (it's called "self-dealing"), has its way, a 36-inch natural gas pipeline cutting across the river south of the bridge and snaking its way through forests, preserved open space, preserved farmland, protected streams, and past the front doors of rural New Jersey residents who refuse to give in to PennEast.  70%, to be more or less exact, and they're holding fast against surveyors and easements.


So there I was, plodding away on ridewithgps, flipping back and forth to NJ Bikemap because Warren County is terra ingognita. Our destination would be Asbury Coffee Mill, smack dab in the middle of five miles from nowhere.

We started in Frenchtown, where the Bridge Cafe seems to add another vintage-looking coffee poster every few months:

(Source: PennEast DEIS)

Tom was on vacation, which must have been a relief for Jack H. Jim made the long drive, as did Ricky (rapidly becoming a Hill Slug regular). Blake was back after missing a week by taking an epee to his palm.

We warmed up along the river to Milford, then headed up the ridge on Kappus Road. Every now and then we'd see a yard sign: Stop the PennEast pipeline.

(Source: PennEast DEIS)

We also started seeing "GF" painted on the road, and we appeared to be following it. Uh-oh. Terra incognita and all that.

"What's that stand for?" somebody asked.

"Gran Fondo."

"Gargantuan fuckery," I suggested.

"Good food?"

The GFs stayed on Michelin Corner; we turned west, then north onto Baptist Church, because there's no way I'd come all the way out here and skip that descent.

I'd been on Charlestown Road before, but it didn't look familiar. We took a right on Hackett, and that's where the climbing began. First, it went up. Then it went up some more.

At the top, we were greeted by a yuge, hand-carved, wooden American flag, topped by the letters T-R-U-M-P in blood red. I refused to take a picture; to do so would have given this white nationalist, homophobic, mysogynistic voter attention he does not deserve.  At that moment, I wanted a suction dart with the word "loser" on a little white flag.

Farther on, there was a break in the trees, and we could look south towards the ridge that hides Spruce Run Reservoir.

At the bottom of the hill was a sign that told us we were next to the only quaking bog in Hunterdon County. We took a left around it, onto Black Brook (I'm typing all these road names with the hope that I'll actually remember them for next time), and when that met Charlestown again, there was this magnificent example of whatever it is:

Enter the town of Hampton, take a left, left again, and cross the Musconetcong River into Warren County:

Gradually, we made our way out of the valley towards the next ridge. When we turned onto Cemetery Hill Road, there was a sign for the Blue Army Shrine. In the distance, poking out of the trees at the top of a hill, was the tip of something that vaguely resembled a church. As we ascended, the shrine disappeared into the trees, but the little blue signs continued to point the way.

Less than a mile in, there it was, poking out from behind a wall of trees. I stopped for a picture.

Everyone else went ahead except Blake. "I'm gonna go check it out," he said. I turned around and followed him in, up a steep hill, onto a long driveway dotted with sculptures.

OK, this is so weird. There's, like, a Jesus and some other dudes and the Grim Reaper.

Oh. It's just a pope.

The shrine:

Don't blink?

I'd have to look this up later.

We coasted back down the hill, figuring that if one of the guys hadn't already doubled back looking for us, I'd get a call. Fortunately, we came upon Jack H before he'd gone past the shrine. "We had to go see it," I said.

"Yeah, that's what I figured."

Next stop, the Asbury Coffee Mill.

It's on a mostly residential street. The place has been open since Memorial Day. They serve Homestead Coffee, have a well-stocked deli counter and pastries, and are decent enough to have installed a bike rack out front.

This place had better stay in business now that the general store in Bloomsbury is a thing of the past. It seems a strange place for a hipster outpost, but I'll take it over a fascist yard sign any day of the week.

"I have a confession," Blake said. "That Trump killed the hill for me."


We climbed a little more on Asbury-Bloomsbury Road. We weren't anywhere near as high up as we'd been in Hunterdon County, but here we could see for miles.

Yes, this is New Jersey. Now go home.

Whoops. Sorry about that hill on Winters. Have some cows on Snyders as a reward.

"I'd better make your blog, woman. I've got things to do, you know."

Then the Delaware River at the south end of Alpha. It looks like this for miles, all the way to Riegelsville,

where this could happen:

(Source: PennEast DEIS)

Blake and I kept an eye out for the Gilbert power station, where part of the pipeline will jut out to make a connection. Two scars for the price of one.

(Source: PennEast DEIS)

Blake said, "This ride needs to be part of the canon."

And it will be.


My legs were too tired, and John K's ride too early, for me to bike over to Allentown from home for John's recovery ride, so I drove.

John noticed the field on the 539 Spur on his way in, so we stopped for pictures. John said it encapsulated summer.

We both were riding 30-year-old steel bikes. We were passed by a rider on carbon with wide tires. We didn't care.

Rowlf, in front, with the Cool Blue Halo behind the tree, at Baird Road Park:


Then it was September, the Saturday of Labor Day weekend. Blake suggested we start in Yardley. Tom was still away, Plain Jim was traveling, and we never heard back from Jack H or Snakehead. 

Nevada and I met Blake at the Park and Ride. The air was cool, with wind out of the north and metallic gray clouds, ahead of a tropical storm that might or might not wash out the rest of the weekend.

We rode along the Delaware River to Washington Crossing and walked across the bridge.

We wound our way out of the valley from Titusville to Harbourton to West Amwell and Ringoes. We passed this house on Boss Road:

When we got to Alexauken Creek Road, I showed Blake where the pipeline would cut across the stream. And I told him about how PennEast double-crossed the City of Lambertville and plans to cut off their water supply.

At Rojo's, a flier posted on a bulletin board gave a clear picture:

We walked across the bridge to New Hope.

And I was in terra incognita again. Blake tried to explain the roads to me, from north to south perpendicular, more or less, to the river. Aquetong. Street. 202.


And Eagle, the "easy" way.


I finished the DEIS comments on Sunday. If you want to slog through 34 pages, the link is here. That is, if the FERC site isn't down again.