Sunday, July 24, 2016

Summer Winter Roads and Cable Crud

Brookville Hollow Road

24 July 2016

(It's my blog and I'll exaggerate if I want to.)

For three Saturdays of the last four, I've been the designated driver for an evening of drunken gluttony. I watch as others order far too much food and command the restaurant's entire supply of wine glasses. I end up with half a plate of carrots, half a glass of wine, paying twice what I owe, and ferrying a carful of loudness away from the restaurant. I wake up in a mood that only a bike ride can cure.

(Right. Rant finished.)

John K was planning a recovery ride out of Hopewell for 8:45 Sunday morning. I wasn't sure I'd have the legs or the sleep for it, but I rolled out of bed at 7:00 a.m. anyway. I got to the start seconds before John. A friend of his, Jonas, was already there, midway through his own ride, stopping by to say hello and ride with us for a few miles. One more rider, Jerry, from too far away for this hour arrived shortly thereafter.

I'd thought, this being a 30-mile recovery ride, that we'd be tooling around in lazy circles, staying off the mountain, the way a recovery ride should.


We were headed to Lambertville by all the usual roads I take when I'm whipping a passel of winter Hill Slugs into shape.

OK, then. This is gonna suck.

Only it didn't. We kept it slow, and, unlike yesterday, the humidity and temperature were down. 

I'm so rarely up this way in the summer that, if I ever knew corn was grown all along Rocktown Road, I've forgotten.

Behind this crop is the Sourland Mountain.

Garboski Road, when stuff is green:

So green that it looks better in black and white:

We stopped at Rojo's, where, this being Sunday, we found seats. As we were about to leave, Blake walked in, halfway through doing his own thing. I suggested he go back with us for a while, which he did, up Quarry/Rocktown.

Even when Blake is chillin', he's faster than the speed of light. He was less riding with us than waiting for us in the shade at the top.  He headed down Dinosaur Hill. We went straight across the ridge, from Rocktown to Mountain, across Linvale, and into the Cathedral.

On our way back into Hopewell, I tried to remember what Dustin's designation was on Rileyville Road. Not the highest point in Mercer County; that's over by Pleasant Valley.

"Highest road."  That's splitting hairs, but we'll take it.

Miss Piggys' shifting was starting to get annoyingly sloppy. I've been adjusting the cables myself, but today her behavior was reminiscent of the mess from the past five years: losing the middle, chain rub, and difficulty moving the front derailleur up the rings. I figured I'd best run her by the good folks at Hart's, to make sure everything was in the right universe before I started messing with the cables again.

Oscar put Piggy up on the stand, declared the cables very loose, and then worked with the shifter. He noticed it was making a creaky noise, and popped open the plastic cover on the underside of the bottom bracket where the cables are internally routed. He noticed some corrosion.

"How could that happen?  It's sealed?"

"Stuff gets in up here," he said, showing me where the derailleur cable emerges from the frame. Blimey.  He squirted some penetrating lube into the hole, gave it a few seconds, and went back to shifting. "It's better," he said, but I'll need new cables soon enough.  Best to go with teflon-coated ones, he said, as if I were going to mess with internally-routed cables myself.


"Park Tools has a kit," he said, "with cable guides and magnets."

Nuh-uh. I'm neither that smart nor that brave. And sure as hell not that patient.

"I want my bikes to work," I said. "I'm giving the internally-routed ones to you guys."

So, November 1 to July 24 is just about nine months, during which I've put a paltry 899 miles on the frame. I've adjusted the cables myself twice and brought it back to the shop just this once. Not bad for a bike called Miss Piggy.  I'm not even sure I'd count today's trouble as a true Piggy Problem. I'll have to consult the judges.  You know who you are.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

"I toldja we shoulda taken the shorter route."

Remember this in February.

23 July 2016

See this contraption?

It came in the same day my back went out. It's called an inversion table. I lock my feet in, lie back, and go upside-down for a few minutes. It arrived on Monday. I assembled it late at night on Tuesday. I rode my bike into work on Wednesday and Thursday.

"It could be total confirmation bias," I told my doctor yesterday.

"No. You stretched out and gave your disc room to pop back into place."

That it did, because today I did 61 miles in the heat with no pain anywhere at all -- a first in a very long time. 

This evening, as I finished hanging upside-down, Burnaby showed me the biggest benefit of the inversion table:

Anyway, enough about that. About today's ride:

Tom was on it. We started with eight. We finished with seven.  We are, apparently, very good at coincidence. And we can't even blame it on our carbon bikes because we were both using metal today.

One of our riders already had 23 miles under him, having taken Route 206 from Princeton. One can do that in the early hours of a Saturday morning. One would be looked at strangely by the assembled Insane Slug Posse, but one could do that. He asked if anyone would be able to give him a ride home at the end, just in case. I said I could.

It was already in the mid-80s when we pushed off from Mansfield. Tom had a 50-mile and a 60-mile route. We'd be able to make a decision 32 miles in about whether we wanted to be hot or to be hotter.

On Four Mile Road, I gave the finger to the Rutgers Pinelands Field Station, as is my tradition, and Plain Jim joined in.  Chris said, "Without that place you wouldn't be a doctor."

"Not without, Chris. In spite of." 

We stopped for water at the Ranger's Station in Lebanon State Forest (both Tom and I still call it that), and then somehow managed to get across Route 72 without being run over. Then came our decision point. A few people wanted to do the shorter route. A few people wanted to do the longer route. The rest didn't care. So we went left, heading for Tabernacle and 60 miles.

We stopped at Nixon's, where I could easily spend $100 on penny candy.

John bought a pickle, and we had lots of fun with that.

A few miles out, I asked the rider who had 23 extra miles how he was doing.  "Great," he said. "Why?"

"Just checking in," I said.

We were on Eayrestown Road in Lumberton when the crash happened. None of us knows what caused it. He went down and then dragged himself out of the middle of the road. Blake called 911. Jim inspected his bike. He eventually sat up. His right shoulder was bleeding through his jersey.

"I toldja we shoulda taken the shorter route," somebody said.  We were at 50 miles.

Jim ran him through a mental assessment, which he passed, in a slow, quiet voice that didn't sound like his normal self. The paramedics (big ups to the Lumberton Rescue Squad) checked him over; he refused any treatment. A policeman, to whom I explained, "We're a bunch of stubborn jerks," directed traffic around us.

He insisted that he could at least ride to the Olde World Bakery five miles away. At first he kept up with us, but very soon he began to lag. Jim stayed with him and I doubled back. Halfway to the bakery, we stopped again. He slowly dismounted and limped into the shade, where he called his wife and we gave her directions. He insisted on continuing to the bakery, so Jim stayed with him while the rest of us went ahead. I had time enough to fill out he accident report while we waited.

We left him there, looking dazed and waving us off.  He emailed me in the early evening to thank us for everything, and to say that he'd cleaned up, taken a nap, and was now in the phase where everything hurts. He wasn't planning to see a doctor; I suggested he might want to reconsider.

Of course, now that it's coming up on midnight, I'm wondering if one of us should have stayed with him at the bakery (at the time there didn't seem to be a reason to do that), or if there had been a road hazard none of us had seen, or whether, with 70 miles on him, he was feeling the heat more than he'd let on. Pride makes people stupid, but so does heat.

Several riders have told me that they'd noticed he hadn't seemed quite right before he fell, after I'd checked up on him.  I'm adding a new line to my pre-ride spiel:  If you see somebody acting unsafe or unusual, tell me right away.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Hill Slugs Ad Hoc, Saturday, July 23

21 July 2016

Tom and I are joining forces on Saturday for a flat ride in the shade of the Pinelands. 

We'll go 50-60 miles at a 16-point-something mph pace with at least one rest stop. The distance will depend on how hot we feel mid-ride.

The ride will start at 8:00 (I know, but heat wave) from the Mansfield Township Park on 24594 East Main Street (thanks, Jim!) in Columbus. The park entrance is a little tough to spot; it looks like a driveway. If you're coming from the west on Main Street, cross Atlantic Avenue (the Columbus General Store is on the right) and start looking for the park sign. The entrance is almost across the street from a church.If you see Berkley Drive on the left, you've gone too far.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Two Trips to Clinton, the Wrath of the Kickstand, and My Spine Sucks

Still Life with Wheel and Weed, Clinton, NJ

17 July 2016

The curse of the Synapses continues.

Despite Tom's ritual Blessing of the Bikes with the Holy Kickstand (Jack H, on his replacement Fuji, rolled back in fear), we lost Blake to a bald tire 1.5 miles into our ride from Lambertville to Clinton.  "One down, five to go," I warned as we pushed off again.

It wasn't very hot out, yet, but I was playing it conservatively. Tom noticed that I was spinning more than usual. I was tired. I hadn't really recovered from two weekends of centuries. This was also my first hilly ride since the wind nearly took me out in Maine. I was lagging behind but I knew I'd be in front on the way home.

We passed the Sergeantsville General Store.


"New windows."


The awning Sun fought the township for, and the "bikers welcome" sign, were gone. We can only hope that they'll be back up when the paint dries.

There are still a few roads between Sergeantsville and Clinton that I haven't been on. I aimed to remedy that by taking parts of Perryville and Cooks' Cross, and doubling back on Race. The group was getting quiet. Hot and hungry, probably.

The wheel wasn't turning at the mill as I took the obligatory Clinton picture.

Geese hung out in the surf.

A fisherman chatted with his partner, who was casting from the bridge.

And then there was the giant duck.

If I'd been paying attention, or been more curious, I'd have figured out what the duck was about. I didn't; I had that heat-hunger-distance myopia thing going on. I noticed the paper duck cut-outs lining the shop windows and figured it was just one of those small-town things that we outsiders didn't have to bother ourselves with.

More pictures.

We followed the Raritan out of town, along River Road, part of which is closed to cars and overgrowing.

Jack H said, "You found a flat way out of here."

I said, "Wait for it."

"I don't believe you."

I pointed to the right at the next clearing. "We're going up that."

Spring Hill Road, halfway up, looking north:

West Sidney Road, home of Cheryl's Fucking Hill, and now a very special road sign:

West Sidney was our last big ascent, and the only big one that was in the sun. As we made our way across the ridge, I took a wrong turn, but it hardly mattered. "It's a big grid up here," Tom said. At least my wrong turn had shade in it.

When we got back to Lambertville, Michael H's group was still milling about after their ride to Milford. He and I did some route geeking. The roads I take out of Clinton are ones he doesn't, and the ones I want to try are the ones he uses regularly. I'm always amused at how different ride leaders see the world.

After a quick de-griming, I walked over to Rojo's to stock up on beans, then stopped in the drug store because it was there and I needed some stuff. When I stepped out again, it was pouring. The rain was hot.

I was about to pull out when Blake pulled in.

And Blake, having angered the Holy Kickstand through benign neglect of his equipment, did appease the gods with new tires and verily did he carry himself up Uhlerstown Road in penance.

I stopped in at Wheelfine and Hart's on the way home and got back with time enough to shower before heading out again to a party in Jersey City. We were there late, and returned home well after midnight. Somewhere in there, I ought to have done a round of PT for my back. I didn't.

I woke up after 9:00 a.m. with a stiff back. I stretched, worked on the Freewheel to the point of being almost finished, and then Jack and I took a trip back to Clinton to see what was inside of the Hunterdon Art Museum.

That duck thing?  I ought to have checked. The town was packed. The bridge was closed to traffic. We found the last parking space in a lot two blocks from town.

The walk afforded us a different view of the Raritan River and the mill.

That duck thing? A rubber duck race, starting at 2:00 p.m. It was 1:40.

If, yesterday, I'd looked up at the giant yellow banner across Main Street, I'd have known.  The west side of town was packed. Main Street was empty. The race ended at 2:20, as we were in the middle of lunch at a quiet restaurant. By the time we'd finished, the crowds were gone and the duck had passed out.

There's not much to the Hunterdon Art Museum. The top floor had an exhibit of works by homeless children and their parents. It was part of a program at HomeFront. It was sad and hopeful, and most of the adult artists were women.

The museum is pretty okay for something so small. I could have taken pictures of what was inside, but mostly I took pictures of the Raritan River.  What is wrong with me?

Zip ties!

The duck had regained consciousness:

Now it was hot. Jack grudgingly let me have a couple of minutes near the water on the way back to the car:

I drove the scenic route out of Clinton, hoping to show Jack the Dr. Seuss trees. But they've grown in; he could only barely see what I was getting at as we passed them at the top of the ridge.

At home, I locked myself in front of the computer again, for hours, finishing the August Freewheel for the proofreaders near bedtime. Once again, I gave my back only a brief PT session.

And in the morning, I paid for the neglect. For the first time since 2011, when I'd flown home from Vancouver without knowing I needed to wear a brace on long flights, my back hurt so much I could hardly walk. Bending was out of the question. I hobbled into work. When I knelt down to put tubes into the incubator, it took me a long time to stand up again. I started taking NSAIDS every four hours. By the third dose, my walking speed had picked up to almost normal.

The pills also helped my neck, which has been crunchy since May, thanks to a bad pillow and worse genes. For that, my doctor has prescribed a continuation of all the weight lifting I've been doing, plus posture checks. And an inversion table.

This, of course, had to be the day that the 50-pound inversion table arrived, lying flat-packed across the front steps. I had enough drugs in me to carry it inside, with Jack's help, but it was Jack who brought it downstairs. The humiliation. My spine sucks.

By the time we were finished dinner, my mobility was back to normal.  I was tempted to put the table together, but there was the matter of fixing the Freewheel text (my sharp editors went easy on me this month) and getting it out to the publisher. And blogging. I had to catch up on that, too.  I knew that once I sat down at the computer, the risk of wrecking my back during table construction would be eliminated.

I'm not going to ride my bike to work tomorrow, nor will I go to the gym, which shows just how much discipline I've managed to muster. Cheryl always says, "Listen to your body." I didn't, I paid for it, and now I'm behaving.

Right.  Off to do some PT before bed.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Hill Slugs Ad Hoc, Saturday, July 16

14 July 2016

Let's get an early start on Saturday so that we can avoid the worst of the heat.  Meet in the CVS parking lot on Union Street in Lambertville at 8:30 a.m. We'll head up to Clinton on some roads we haven't yet seen and some we can never get enough of seeing. The terrain will be a hilly 55-60 miles with one rest stop.

Contact me if you plan to join us; maybe we can carpool.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

#46: Salt Water Slugs

Nope. Nothing at all. 

10 July 2016

A crowded beach does nothing for me. Still, if Joe says he's making the trek to Belmar, I'm going to start from my house and make it a century. It's the journey, not the destination. (Gad, I hate it when those stupid sayings make sense.)

Etra is the new Cranbury. Everyone who is anyone is there on a Sunday morning, where a fast B and a reasonable C+ depart. Into this crowd I rode, finding Joe, Carol, Gen, Christine, Chris, Jack H, and Jim, a fair representation of past and current Hill Slugs. As we pushed off, Barry went with us, making us nine altogether.

A tailwind helped get us to the shore. Joe took the reverse route from the one I usually take (I still only trust myself with one route). I was surprised that I had the mental wherewithal to see it backwards and correct a couple of near misses at familiar intersections. I like the backwards route; it gets the rollier rollers out of the way early and puts us in the trees on the trip back.

Halfway to the beach, Carol's front derailleur decided that now was a good time to snap into a handful of pieces. Jim and Chris had the situation sorted out in a matter of minutes, and Carol finished the ride by manually moving the chain between front rings when the situation required it, which, given that this was a Belmar ride, was all of twice.

I was hoping, as we neared the shore, that I'd get some kind of thrill from seeing the ocean. I didn't.

There were too many people and not enough algae-coated rocks. I wanted the people out of the way so that I could look at the waves breaking on the jetty.

Like this:

No, I'm not going to stop thinking about Maine. Ever.

The ride was fun, though, because it was full of people I hadn't seen in  a long time. We stuck together, nobody pushed the pace, the headwind was nothing out of the ordinary, and, when the sun went behind a cloud, we were met with a cool, dry breeze.

I didn't have to go around the block to get my hundred miles, either, and I felt much better after today's ride then I did after last week's century.

Can we have this weather for the Princeton Bicycling Event on August 6?

Monday, July 4, 2016

We are the 4th of July Parade

Old Meets New

4 July 2016

With fewer than 200 miles spread over several months, Rowlf and I don't know each other very well yet. If I were going to forget how Campy shifters work, I'd best forget in a small, spread out group. With that in mind, Rowlf and I pulled into a mob of Freewheelers at Mercer County Park this morning for the 4th of July All-Paces Ride. 

The B group was well over 30 people. I wandered over to the C+ group, hoping to find people I haven't seen in forever. There were a few, but the C+ group was as big as B. I went back to the B crowd and resigned myself to hanging in the back.

Then Larry announced he'd take some people south towards Arneytown. That area is one of my favorites. I was one of fourteen who went with him. That's the largest group I'd taken Rowlf into. I was a little worried, but that didn't last more than a few miles. Nobody was pushing the pace.

It would have been nice, at the bottom of Hill Road, if I'd been able to remember how to shift to the small ring without trying to move the brake lever inwards first. It's the thumb, stupid. Got it.  The left hand is way ahead of the right hand.

Outside of New Egypt, the B+ group overtook us in that silent way that fastboys do. We could hear them coming, the hummmmmmmmmmmmm and zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzip of their deep-rim carbon wheels on the road.

Then we were all stopped at the edge of town. A parade was about to begin. There was some negotiation at the head of the pack, after which we were gestured through. On both sides of the road, spectators cheered as we several dozen, brightly-colored, tricked out, sweaty cyclists coasted through. I'd never been part of a parade before.

If the parade was more than two ambulances, a fire truck, and a handful of flag-waving horseback riders, I missed it. One of our number suggested there were more people watching the parade than were in it. Hell, there were more of us than were in it.

At the Wawa, we had to double up our bikes against the wall. Rowlf ended up behind the most aero tri bike I'd seen outside of a museum. Even the handlebars, flat and wide enough to hold a mug of coffee, and the carbon saddle bag that also served as a wind foil, were designed for speed. Rowlf, who was also designed for speed, 30 years ago, could only lament that he is stuck with me, and I ain't racing, ever.

The wind (which I'm still not allowed to complain about) was in our favor on the way home. The pace picked up, as it always does in the flatlands with fastboys. 

"I'm'a draft me some tandem!" I called out on 539 near Walnford, pulling in behind Jeff and Tricia. They took us back to Allentown in what seemed like 30 seconds.

There were cold drinks and cookies when we got back. I made a point to talk to people I hadn't ridden with, and then it was down to John K, Chris, Ken G, and me, and then Ken and me, and then me, and I took Rowlf back home, a few miles shy of 200 but I wasn't going to do loops around the block.