Saturday, October 18, 2014

Additional Birds, Bicycle Belle

18 October 2014

I've been in the Boston area since last night. I'm here on my annual bead show pilgrimage that involves staying with my college roommate, buying beads, and eating Etheopian food.

The bead buying was this morning, after a workout at a deserted gym (bereft of equipment, staff, and other customers), while my friend took a Pilates class at a private studio next door.

At the show it was a light buying day by comparison; two of the artists I regularly buy from were absent. That freed up more cash for silver findings. I did well in that department.

We've added to our tradition be eating lunch at the Red Lentil vegetarian restaurant around the corner from the show in Watertown. My body was 80% sweet potato by the end of the meal.

A craft-oriented do-it-yourselfer, my friend dragged me to a do-it-yourself frame shop, where I waited while she pieced together the necessary bits. 

At the counter, a postcard under glass caught my eye.

"Additional Birds," it read (pardon the reflection of the overhead light).

"Birds added into old paintings accompanied by various other bird related illustrations."

I looked up, puzzled. "Well, that's a niche market," I said.

The clerk pointed me towards a painting in the back of the workshop.

Boston is trying for the weird title again.

We went on to the Taza chocolate factory so that we could load up again since our last visit in August. In walked a commuter cyclist wearing a helmet disguised as a sun hat. We got to talking, of course, and she told me I should visit the shop where she bought the hat-helmet.

So off we went, a few minutes down the road, to Bicycle Belle, for a little bike porn.

The place was aimed at women commuters. I tinkered with a few horns designed to make the most plugged-in jogger take notice. I decided not to buy anything. If the students I regularly slalom around ignore my regular old bell -- a recognizable sound -- what would they make of the strange skwawk coming from a $65 device? A student jumping straight up in the air would still be in my way, just taller.

I was ready to leave when I noticed something. "Y'know what I like about this place? There's not a fast bike in here."

We ended the evening at an Ethiopean restaurant with another friend from college (Jack's roommate), talking about everything from poop to nuts.

Tomorrow morning we're taking a glass blowing class. Although everything about my personality and skill set would suggest I should be good at this, I fear I will suck at it.

Whatever molten disaster I create, you can be sure it will appear on this blog tomorrow.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Batsto to Oyster Creek Metric

Timberline Creek (Wading River watershed)

15 October 2014

Barry's van was in the Peter Muschal School parking lot when I drove in at 7:45 a.m. I'd woken up to darkness again for one more Saturday-moved-to-Sunday ride from Tom, the self-coronated Rain King. Marc pulled in next, then Tom.  He gestured towards Kermit, for me to load into the back of his truck. Marc, wanting to put miles on a new transmission, said he'd follow us.  That left Barry.  I said, "Better drive yourself so when you break down you won't have to wait for us."

We were heading to Batsto, where we'd park outside of the village to start the ride.  Most of the drive was south on 206.  When we got to Atsion Lake, Tom turned left down a dirt road, Quaker Bridge, which he said would across Wharton State Forest to Batsto Lake.

A few hundred meters in, we met a water-filled crater and turned around.  We took county roads instead.

This is the boat launch parking lot at Batsto.  We were the only ones there at 9:00 a.m.

"I promised you flat.  I didn't promise you scenic."

That's what Tom said when I asked him if we'd be in the forest for the entire ride.  It's pretty and all, but -- and I say this as someone who spent a few years studying in the Pines and used to be able to name most of the plants in Latin -- after a few miles, it gets dull.

"The scenery will change in half a mile," he promised.

It did.  This is the Timberline Creek, a tributary of the Wading River:

We entered Bass River Township, and later crossed the Wading River on a lift bridge. There was a lift bridge where we crossed the Mullica, too.  The cement ugliness is the counterweight for the bridge when it opens.

I zoomed in on a windmill on the shore to the northeast:

The river and brackish marsh:

Our rest stop was at 38 miles, in Smithville, at a CVS.  There was a flock of domestic geese in the parking lot.  They crossed the road to a cemetery:

Tom bought a pack of cookies to share.  I read the label out loud:  "Chocolate flavored chip cookies. Not chocolate chips.  Chocolate flavored chips." I ate an almond Snickers bar instead.  Not the best rest stop.

Tom lead us to Oyster Creek, where I'd been once before (we were chased by flies on our way out that time; today was too cold for that).

A great egret, I think:

Cattle egrets, I think.  (This is what 20 years away from having to know this stuff does to one's memory.)

This is every picture taken on the east coast:

This is a salt marsh, with Atlantic City in the distance.

Breaking his breakdown streak, Barry finished the ride without falling off the back, hitting a desk, bending his derailleur, or snapping his chain.  His bike still gets the Miss Piggy Award for September, though.  There must be something about bright green bar tape...

We ended the ride a few tenths shy of 65 miles.  This was the longest ride I'd done in a while, and, given the time of year, might be the longest I'll do for a while.

Bike commuting season is over too; it's too dark at 6 p.m. these days.  This morning I was back in the gym for Spinning class.  March can't some soon enough.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Hill Slugs Ad Hoc, Sunday, October 12

10 October 2014

Tom's ride has been moved to Sunday, so I cede my leadership to him. If you don't want such a long day, ride with Winter Larry from Cranbury instead.

8 October 2014

I can't tell you much about Sunday.  Here's why:

Tom has a ride listed for Saturday, but the weather forecast doesn't look good.  Given his talent for being rained out, he's planning to move the ride to Sunday if Saturday is wet.

So, if his ride ends up being on Sunday, I'm going to send all you Hill Slugs to his ride, because we'd rather ride together than compete for all your lovely Slug attention.

The best thing to do is to check Tom's blog on Friday after 5:00 p.m.  When he knows what he's doing, I'll know what I'm doing and post accordingly.

If I do lead, I'll do something flat from Mercer County Park's East Picnic Area.

Stay tuned.

Peace Valley Reservoir

Peace Valley Reservoir

8 October 2014

Note to self:  Prallsville Mills, in Stockton, is not the same as Bulls Island, which is not in Stockton. I figured this out ten minutes into the drive to Tom's ride.  In Stockton I pulled over to call him, unsure if I'd get to the start in time.  I did, but just.

He was kind:  He gave us half a mile of flat warm-up before launching us into our first incline. We stopped at Peace Valley reservoir, where Tom used to start the Lake Nockamixon rides.

A couple of the guys queued up at a porta-potty while Tom and I went down to the paved path around the reservoir.

"Shh," Tom said, motioning me towards him.  I figured he had another devious hill that only I'd be privy to.  It wasn't that; it was a great blue heron, standing in the grass less than ten feet away.

I walked a little closer and zoomed in. The bird didn't seem to care.

The wind ruffled the bird's feathers.  That's all that moved.

I looked away, towards the rest of the reservoir, and up to the guys in the lot.  When I looked back, the heron was still there.

I took some pictures of the reservoir from where we were standing.

And then I turned back to the heron.  Yep. Still there.

I walked back up the hill to get my bike, and walked it back down to the path.  Still there.

By now the guys were heading towards us.  "We're going to go around the lake," Tom said, "and then up a nasty hill."  At least he warned us this time.  As we pushed off, Joe exclaimed, "A heron!"

Jim and I stopped to look a the cormorants resting above the water.

They were all cleaning themselves.

We climbed the nasty hill, heading towards Perkasie.  I don't know where we were when I took this picture.  My camera has GPS built in, but it's no good when I don't remember to turn it on, is it?

We were plodding up a roller when someone called out to stop.  Bagel Hill Barry had dropped his chain clean off his bike.  Joe and I were at the top of the roller.  "Once," I said, "Just once, I'd like to be on a ride where Barry doesn't get into trouble."  We waited a bit. Then I said, "Might as well go back and enjoy the entertainment."

I'm glad I did, because I got to watch Jim replace a link with his snazzy Whippermann chain links.  I really need to learn how to wrench.  Sitting by the side of the road, I got a few pictures:

As long as Barry stayed in his small ring, he was good to go.  For miles we were on Callowhill Road, which includes, at the end, the 400-foot, 20% grade hill that gave Tom his Lying Bastard reputation. I knew it was coming, but Tom had sworn me to secrecy. The best I could do to warn Jim, who hates the hill (which is why Tom put it in), was to say, "You'll wanna be in your small ring soon."

Well, the road has been repaved since the last time we were there.  We were up and over and we didn't even stop at the top.  Our reward was a break at the Down to Earth Cafe.  The coffee is good. I ate the top of a pumkin-chocolate chip-espresso muffin.  Jim had no trouble with the rest of it.

On our way home, we got turned around and around and around again in Ralph Stover State Park.  It was a pretty spot to double back several times; we were in a valley by a stream with a tall, yellowing canopy overhead. We finally found the bridge over the stream and we were on our way to the last nasty climb of the day.  We descended towards the Delaware on Cafferty Road, which is a worthy descent, and pretty, but no good for snapshots.

The Delaware River at Bulls Island is always good for a few pictures.  This is facing north:

And south:

We decided that we're done with hills for a while.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Kittatinny Weekend Part Two: Shades of Death

Shades of Death and Hope
photo by Snakehead Ed

3 October 2014

Larry is drinking coffee on my toilet.  The coffee he is drinking is from the electric stovetop caffeteiere that I brought from home and filled with the good stuff, not the crap out in the lobby that we got for free along with the instant oatmeal, orange juice, and the racetrack owner woman who inserted herself into our breakfast.

"This is good!" he says, but he doesn't have much time to nurse it.  We have to be ready to go in fifteen minutes.  Today Tom is leading us on his Shades of Death ride, a loop mirroring the shape and distance of yesterday, but pulled southeast off the Kittatinny Ridge and onto the rolling hills that surround the Great Meadows.

We start in Allamuchy Township.  Tom promises that today's ride won't be as hilly, which is to say it'll be maybe a thousand feet less hilly.

Today's ride is far less rural, but it's prettier because there are more open views.

We stop at Turtle Pond to ogle the great blue heron.

We follow the Pequest River, which we can see once in a while through the trees.  I stop to get pictures of a wildflower border at a farm.  None comes out the way I want.

We turn into Kittatinny Valley State Park and follow the walking trail to New Wawayanda Lake.  A few of us get off our bikes and walk down a short trail to the lake's edge.

The leaves have begun to turn up here.  Ed says he's holding out for the oranges and reds.  I'm content with the yellows for now.

Ed spots the chickens in a driveway across the street.

At the edge of the driveway is a desk.  Where's Bagel Hill Barry when you need him?

I'm off the back for most of this ride, not so far off that it's a problem, but far enough that I notice.  I'm looking at one ivy-covered dilapidated barn after another.  I catch the end of a conversation between Jack and Tom.  Tom says, "That's the first time that's happened."

"What happened?" I ask.

Jack says, "A bird shat on my head."

A minute later he adds, "A bee just stung me in my crotch."

"We'll call you Three-Balls," I offer.  Jack being Jack, neither the bird nor the bee slows him down.

Tom says that there might not be a real rest stop.  We're headed for Johhnsonburg, where there might or might not be an open store.  On the way I stop for more farm pictures.

A horse looks out of a barn window.  I try to focus but I miss it.

Tom wants us to pass under the tunnel for a picture.

We come into Johnsonburg.  The only sign of life is a lone horseback rider a block away.  Somebody makes the obvious crack about a one-horse town.  The rider disappears around a corner.  We stop in front of what was once a liquor store.  There are two houses across the street that might be inhabited. It's hard to tell.

I take a picture of the sky.

This sign is posted by the door of the former store:

There are more shuttered buildings as we leave town.

At one intersection, Tom says, "Well, this is it."

"This is what?"

"Shades of Death Road," he says, "But they took the sign."

So I take a picture of a mailbox instead.

"This is the Great Meadows," Tom says.  We're looking out onto a bowl of farm fields.

We have a real hill as we pass Jenny Jump State Park.

At the other end of Shades of Death we find our road sign.  We're at the intersection of Shades of Death and Hope.  I lie down at the foot of the sign.

Shades of Death is up there in the list of worthy road names, but it pales in comparison to the one that everyone passed by except me:

I've fallen behind again because I stopped for the picture.  I catch up and call out to Tom, "You missed Buzzard's Glory!"

Tom checks his map at the end of the road.  I have time to take a picture:

We turn onto Danville Mountain Road.  "I haven't been on this one," Tom says.  We're at 42 miles out of 50.  

There's a collective groan at the grade in front of us.  "Trust Tom to put in the biggest hill at the end of the ride," I grumble.

Ed says, "Fuuuuuuuuuuuuuck."

Larry deliberately hyperventilates, thinking it'll give him some more air.  "Don't do that," I warn him.

To Tom's credit, we do have a righteous descent into Hope, or Independence, or something rah-rah named like that.  This time there's a store open.

Apples always taste good, but sometimes an apple tastes even better than that.

What's a general store without a bait vending machine?  It's out of order, but still...

The Great Meadows from the other side:

When the ride is over we drive uphill to the deli in Allamuchy for lunch.  Snakehead Ed and Winter Larry are going to scope out Castner Road, Fiddler's Elbow, and Merrill Creek Reservoir on their way home.  Tom, Jack, and I have a longer trip ahead of us, so we skip the detour.  It's 4:30 p.m. when I get home.