Saturday, February 6, 2016

Salt and Sparkle

Grandview Road

6 February 2016

After a five year hiatus, Gonzo has returned to duty as my winter bike. With old racing wheels replacing older sludgy ones, the bike moves forward when I want it to, not when it wants to.  That helped in the small hills today, but Gonzo is still a tank, and I can feel it in my back at the end of a ride.

There was the small matter of snow and ice from yesterday morning's little storm. I'd asked my scout in the Sourlands what the roads were looking like; she warned me to stay away from her part of the mountain. 

The road I live on is north-facing and shady. It's a good proxy for the hills in winter. If there's room for friends to park in the street, there's room to ride up north. As luck would have it, I'd already come up with a route that would keep us on the southeastern part of the Sourlands. I decided to stick with it; if things looked grim, we could bail and wing it without having to cross the mountain twice.

Snakehead and Pete met me at my house. In Pennington we picked up Chris, John K, and John's buddy, Marty.

For the most part, the roads were clear on our way up. Once in a while we'd have to swerve around a frozen runnel. Just as often we'd run through puddles or veer around an errant mound of road salt. Our dark tires would turn white, then wet, then white again.

I feared that the worst roads would be at the top of the mountain, but that's where they were clean and dry. We took Stony Brook to Van Dyke:

We followed Featherbed to Rileyville, climbed to Ridge, hauled ourselves over the last hump on Lindbergh, and turned onto Zion.

I've been riding long enough to remember when Hollow Road was a preferred means of descent. Then came the potholes and repaving. Now, coasting down is like riding over a washboard. I thought I had a flat or that my fork was coming loose. Note to self: use Hollow for climbing only.

We collected at the wooden bridge on Grandview:

After that, the traditional view-gawking and subsequent straight-line plummet:

We made our way east to Canal, where, against all odds, the road was not even a little flooded. The Griggstown Causeway had been under water, though, if the mud-ice in the parking lot is any indication.

Two thirds of the ride were over when we got to our rest stop at Main Street in Kingston. Pete's phone had been ringing for miles; work beckoned, and he left for home without going inside. Marty had never been there before and was in awe. Snakehead, ever ready to use his panniers, bought macaroons to take home. Inside, we talked about beer and wine.

Our trip back to Pennington had a few more hills in it than I'd remembered, my knowledge of the roads from Kingston to the Princeton Ridge being somewhat less than thorough. Chris trash-talked at John: "He's not 29 anymore." I said, "Neither are you."

We had our chance to hammer downhill during the last handful of miles. Plain Jim not being present, I dropped into 53/11 with impunity (55-60 rpm, I'd guess, and only for a minute).

As we reached Pennington's Main Street from our side-street home-bound shortcut, we stopped for traffic and noticed a new sign in the cluster of shops across the street. "Coming soon," it said, "Sourland Coffee." Hmm...

Back in the parking lot at Pennington, John gave me a bag of coffee beans from the Trenton Coffee House. It's at 750 Cass Street, open whenever, and run by a fellow who roasts and sells one small batch at a time. John is fond of the place and the owner. You can read about them here and here. It might be a destination for a cold-weather MTB ride down the D&R canal and through the city.

On the way home, I mused to Snakehead, "We could start a ride at Sourland Coffee, ride somewhere to get coffee, and end with coffee. I'd never sleep."

"You're like one of those little dogs," he said, "You know, the ones that have to stop at every bush?" He should talk. He didn't go straight home from my house. He went to Rojo's in Lambertville to pick up beans, and then to Pure Energy (bikes and coffee!) to pick up a new pair of carbon wheels.

I need to stop blogging now. I have wheels to build, and Gonzo needs a bath.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Saturday's Hill Slug Ride is ON

5 February 2016

The ride is on with a delayed start. Meet in Pennington at 10:00 a.m.

Hill Slugs Ad Hoc UPDATE

5 February 2016

Check this space tonight and tomorrow morning for updates. The ride depends on how much snow is left in the roads at sunset today.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Hill Slugs Ad Hoc, 6 February 2016

4 February 2016

Saturday's ride will be in the hills. I'll try not to torture anyone. We'll go 40-45 miles. Meet for a 9:30 a.m. start at the Hopewell Administration Building on Main Street, across from Ingleside, in Pennington. Extra-milers can start with me from my house at 9:00 (RSVP).

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Why I Don't Take Pictures on Cranbury Rides

 Lake Manalapan, Thompson Park, Jamesburg

31 January 2016

Winter Larry told me to bring my camera. Jim and I met in Plainsboro for extra miles. He was on the Krakow Monster, now laden with fenders and a pannier. I'd swapped wheels on Gonzo, who was now outfitted with Beaker's cast-off prima donna racing wheels. I wanted to find out how much of the tank feel was coming from the wheels.  A lot, it turns out, but not all.  I'd forgotten to put the cycle computer back on; today would be a day free of distance and speed until the end, when I'd have to ask Jim's GPS how far we'd gone.

We were a small group: Larry, Rick, Peter, Marc, Jim, and me.

When we turned into Thompson Park and I saw that the lake was frozen over, I called out that I was stopping for a picture.

Ahead of us was a hill, and at the end of the hill, a short driveway that leads to Perrineville Road. Anyone who has dragged herself out of bed in the dark to get to the Pumpkin Patch Pedal before dawn knows this hill, because it's the one that leads off the 100-mile ride. "I'll meet you at the end," I said.

the picture that got me in trouble 

I was quick about it, and I could see riders on the long, curving hill ahead. When I got to the top, though, nobody was there. The road through the park continues past the driveway, and I followed it down a long, curving descent towards a playground.

I didn't see anyone there.

Maybe I missed a turn?

I doubled back up the hill to the driveway and turned south on Perrineville. Larry had told us that the rest stop would be at Le Chateau de Ptomaine; south was the reasonable turn to make. Still nobody. I went all the way to the next traffic light before I stopped and pulled out my phone. I was at Schoolhouse Road.

I called Jim first, then Marc, then Larry. Nobody picked up. As I was leaving Larry a message, Marc appeared. He was on his way home because he had to be somewhere in the afternoon.  "They're back at the lake, looking for you," he said.

He went on, and Jim called back. "We're at the lake," he said.  "Larry wants you to come back." Before I could pack up my phone and turn around, Jim called again. He put Larry on. I had new instructions. "Take Schoolhouse," he said. "We'll meet you at the end."

There was a surprise hill along the way, and I was certain I'd never been on this road before. I got to the end before the others did, putting a few more miles onto my trip than the others would have.

Jim arrived first. I told him I wasn't sure if I should apologize or complain. I told Larry, "Ride leaders are supposed to wait at the top of a hill, and they're supposed to keep their cell phones on."

"I didn't know that," he said, knowing that I'd know that he did know those things.

Larry had picked Clarksburg as the rest stop because he wanted to stay well away from shady roads and Old York's potholes. "They've renovated a little," he added.

That didn't stop me and Jim from pestering him to go to Roy's instead. We continued to pester him even as we pulled into the Chateau de Ptomaine parking lot.  From the outside, I could not see a difference.  The inside was the same as it has been for years.

Worse, even, because this time there was no running water in the bathroom. I had to wash my hands in the slop sink outside of the bathroom. There was no soap.

The people who work here handle food.

I bought coffee (boiled water) and a muffin (wrapped). It's been years since I've been to Le Chateau. It will be years before I return. I'd rather bounce over potholes and skid on ice than enter the Clarksburg General Store again.

I did stop for one more picture at Etra Lake at Milford Road. This time I made sure it was okay and that the group would wait. I was quick about it.

"Oh, you're taking a picture of the lake," somebody said. "I thought you were going to take a picture of us!"

"Okay," I replied, even though I rarely take pictures of people.

Larry, Peter, Rick, and Jim

In the end, despite the Thompson Park mishap, we got back with the right number of miles and on time. I'll probably keep the fancy wheels on Gonzo, at least until the next spoke breaks. They take the edge off of the effort needed to get the bike rolling. On the other hand, I don't like having to glance down at my rear wheel every few miles to make sure all the parts are where they should be.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Nor'easter/Northeaster/Ed's Eighteen Reasons

30 January 2016


Let's get last week's obligatory Nor'easter pictures out of the way first. Jonas is the reason that Tom, Ed, and I went to Pennypack Park today.

A week ago, we all knew that none of us was going anywhere. Jack and I woke to snow-drifted windows on the leeward side of the house:

The best thing about a blizzard, from a cat's point of view, is the bird feeder:

Snow was piling up on the deck:

I set Gonzo onto the trainer on the porch and pedaled through my 2016 cycling playlist as I watched the snow around the house and the steam around my head. I was dressed for January but shed to September in the first fifteen minutes.

Here's what the back yard looked like mid-day:

This is on the inside of the porch, exposed to the northeasterly wind:

I couldn't see out the door.

While I was sweating out back, unbeknownst to me, Jack was shoveling out front. I felt guilty. There was a lull in the storm in the late afternoon, so I went out to shovel the additional six inches that had fallen. Across the street, snow extended beyond my neighbor's roof:

I took another peek at the deck before bedtime. The accumulation on the deck railing is usually a good indicator of how much snow we've had.

Sunday was sunny, and by mid-morning, all of our nearest neighbors were moving snow. One of them was learning how to use her parents' snow blower and offered to clear our driveway and sidewalk. She looked like she was having fun, so I gestured for her to go ahead. She did in minutes what would have taken me an hour.

I cleared a path around the side of the house, hoping to reach the porch. All was well and good until I turned the corner into a four-foot snow drift.

I dug out from the back of the garage instead:

Then I took some more pictures:

Summer in winter:


Driving to northeast Philadelphia's Pennypack Park for a ride on the paved and plowed trail was Tom's idea. I said yes right away. Others begged off for perfectly legitimate reasons. Ed was waffling. I told him not to be a waffle. He listened, and at 8:50 a.m., Tom arrived with Ed, their bikes on the back of Tom's truck. Grover and I piled in. Half an hour later, we were at the Pine Road entrance, the northern terminus of the trail.

The blacktop was clear, but the bridges weren't. Back in my  mountain biking days, I would have crunched and slid through the melting snow. Now, with a stern warning from my doctor five years ago that one uncontrolled fall could mean back surgery, I'm a complete wuss and walk my bike over the slippery stuff. Watching Tom, on a mountain bike, and Ed, on a road bike with wide tires, fishtail through the mush, made me feel more justified in walking.

Tom had said at the start that today would be about taking pictures.

The round trip would be 24 miles. We were probably less than five miles into it when we encountered the closed bridge.

Pah! Since when does that stop Tom? Two weeks ago, he led riders across an I-beam. What's a little wooden fence?  Up and over we went.

Grover on the other side:

The trail ends in Holmesburg, at the Delaware River:

Low tide:

Scenery from the return trip, northbound:

This is the first time Tom has crossed the same closed bridge twice:

Ed photobombs Tom, who is at the far end of the bridge, taking a picture of the spillway behind us.

The spillway:

This bridge was completely covered in ice and compacted snow, so I got some pictures before going across:

Around the corner, on the other side of the Pennypack Creek, is a church on a hill:

The trail has a handful of short, steep rollers that are tougher to climb going north. I tried, I really tried, to get a picture that would show how steep the path is.

Bigger hill, better picture:

Ed's Eighteen Reasons Riding in Pennypack Park is Better than Spinning Indoors

"If I had a blog," Ed mused on the drive home, "I'd post eighteen reasons why riding in Pennypack Park is better than spinning indoors." Ed doesn't have a blog. He doesn't spin indoors. I do have a blog. I do spin indoors*. The task would be mine.

1. Not having to wake up at 6:00 a.m. and exercise before breakfast;

2. Not having to stare at a screen that mocks me with my sub-par power output**;

3. Not having anything to look at but a roomful of sweaty spinners;

4. Breakfast;

5. Coffee;

6. Carpooling with buddies who talk about techie stuff like satellite technology for half an hour;

7. That feeling you get when you pull your bike from the car and put the front wheel on;

8. That feeling you get when the sun hits your face;

9. That feeling you get when you take the first pedal stroke;

10. Wind in your face;

11. Wind at your back;

12. Snow, water, and bare trees;

13. Curvy descents;

14. Spinning up the hills***;

15. Stopping for pictures;

16. Watching Ed devour a chocolate fudge croissant doughnut****;

17. Lunch; and

18. A warm shower.

* For six more weeks. Then we change our clocks and I can bike to work again instead.

** My favorite instructor set a goal for me this winter. He wants me to be able to hold this number for thirty seconds. I've come within 12 watts of it twice, but only for a few seconds. I have six more weeks to try. I don't think he knows that I'm doing this on an empty stomach. If he's read this far, he does now.

*** Watts training!

**** I said, "That's four separate things." He offered me a bite. It tasted like fat, sugar, and salt.