Sunday, January 15, 2017

The End of the Canal

The End of the D&R Canal, New Brunswick

15 January 2017

Some things you have to see because they're there.

I took Grover and my new bionic ears up to Blackwells Mills to meet Tom and Pete for a ride to the northern end of the Delaware and Raritan Canal towpath.

Pete looked at my tires and Tom's tires and said, "You know I'm not one to give bike advice, right?"

"Uh huh."

"You guys gotta get slicks." Especially me, since I'm never going to be bouncing around in the woods again.  [Done. Cheap, but the wire bead is gonna make my knuckles bleed.]

This is the first time I've taken my new ears on a bike ride, my audiologist having assured me that I won't destroy them with my sweat. Not that we were going to get sweaty this morning, with the temperature barely above freezing and a noticeable breeze coming at us from the northwest.

Yesterday's dusting of snow and freezing rain left a shallow, crunchy crust on the towpath.

And damn, that crust is loud under wide tires! How do you people stand it?  I could hear Tom and Pete nattering away about satellites, both of them being satellite programmers, but I couldn't catch the details over the crusty din. 

A few miles into the ride, my right hearing aid battery decided to quit, signalling with a cascade of tones every few seconds, which is impossible to ignore. I think Pete was impressed with how fast I can change a pair of batteries (if one goes, the other is about to) under freezing temperatures. I used the opportunity to snap a few pictures, since I had my lobster gloves off anyway.

At South Bound Brook, the Raritan curves north and I-287 curves south. The towpath goes under the highway twice. I stopped under the first bridge to gawk at this graffiti. That's one steady hand that must have painted this from a boat.

At Landing Lane in New Brunswick, the curated crushed shale gave way to single track for about a quarter mile.  And then, there it was, the end of the line:


Even Pete took a picture.

On the way back, we spotted some ducks in the river. We didn't know what they were, so I took a couple of pictures in order to figure them out later.


Buffleheads. They were moving fast along the river. A good close-up was impossible.

Where the Millstone meets the Raritan, we stopped for a quick rest.  The Millstone is left center; the Raritan is just off center above the spillway:

I walked back to try to see everything at once: the canal (left), the towpath with Tom and Pete (center), the Millstone (center right) and the Raritan (right):

By now the snow had melted and we were turning ourselves red-brown from Brunswick shale mud. We weren't plastered as badly as two weeks ago, but I still had to put Grover under the hose before I brought him inside.

So.  It took me seventeen years to ride the entire Delaware and Raritan Canal towpath. "For the amount of time I've been riding," Tom said yesterday, "there's still so much of New Jersey I haven't seen." 

This is as good a time as any to announce that the theme for the Hill Slugs and the Insane Bike Posse in 2017 will be Weird New Jersey. We've been brainstorming already. Come along!

Saturday, January 14, 2017

MCP on Foot

Winter Sky Over Mercer Lake

14 January 2017

I was stuck on my screened-in back porch, with Gonzo, on the fluid trainer, during last week's snowstorm. There was just enough light left for a few pictures after the snow stopped.

Tom and Jack H invited me to an easy hike in Mercer County Park today. Never having been on the trails on foot, and not having been in the woods there in something like 8 years, I pushed my scheduled ride to Sunday and bundled up for a loop around Mercer Lake.

I haven't been on a hike in two years. The loop through the park almost doesn't count. It was enough, though, to unglue the soles of my 22-year-old boots halfway around the lake. Jack H had duct tape, and it held.

The trails we followed were ones I'd seen many times on my mountain bike. The places I remembered most, though, were the ones where I'd chickened out or fallen in memorable ways.

Stopping for pictures is easier on foot.

Mercer Lake on the western side of the park:

Near the dam is a small hill that looks a lot steeper from two wheels.

We ducked through a gap in the chain-link fence over the Assunpink River dam, the dam that created Mercer Lake.

On the other side, we headed east again.

We wound up crossing and skirting the golf course, and traipsing through the woods next to the green. The ground was littered with stray golf balls (I tossed a bright yellow one back onto the course), glass trash, and a crock pot.

While we were walking, Chris texted me, having seen our cars in the parking lot. He was on his mountain bike. He came across a rusty bike wedged in the crook of a tree and sent me these pictures:

I sent him a picture of my feet.

Some logs are scarred with gouges from mountain bike chain rings. Others are speckled with fungus.

Out of the woods again, we were behind the Caspersen Rowing Center, where the US Olympic rowing teams train.

One team was training on the lake. 


Deep in the woods is a foundation from a small house:

Bridge Zen is a cinch on foot.

View from the bridge by the East Picnic Area:

Behind the tennis center:

When we got back to our cars, Chris was in his truck. If he wasn't waiting for us, he sure made it look like he was.

Jack H is suggesting we go to Baldpate Mountain next weekend. I'll need new boots first, ones that don't have my feet sloshing around despite thick wool socks, that are lightweight, waterproof, sturdy, and willing to live in the closet most of the time. Because as soon as I can get back on the road with the Hill Slugs, I will.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Hill Slugs Ad Hoc Probably Sunday, 15 January

13 January 2017

Saturday's forecast has taken a turn for the worse. The ride will be on Sunday instead. Details are below.

12 January 2017

Sunday will be a few degrees warmer, but, given the forecast, the towpath will probably be in better condition on Saturday morning. Meet in the parking lot at Blackwells Mills on Canal Road for a 9:00 a.m. start and a 27-mile route.

Check in again mid-day Friday for updates.

10 January 2017

Heads up, Slugs!

As of today, Saturday's forecast looks iffy. It's likely that I'll postpone the ride to Sunday. If it's too cold for the road and towpath conditions are favorable, we'll head north to the end of the canal on the Raritan River side. Stay tuned. I'll post something here on Thursday.

Friday, December 30, 2016

Millstone, meet Raritan

 D&R Canal Towpath near Griggstown

30 December 2016

Yesterday's rain froze then thawed, coating me, Tom, and our bikes with red, Brunswick shale mud.

It was worth the mess, though, because we got up close to the confluence of the Millstone and Raritan Rivers, and I get to write "Zarephath," because that's where we were when we climbed down to the riverbank between Manville and Zarephath.


We turned around here, about 11 miles north of Griggstown. I know this because my GPS worked. It also told us that we'd climbed all of 75 feet during our round trip.

It was one of those days where the bike gets hosed off and every piece of external clothing, from Camelbak to booties, goes straight into the washing machine.