Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Jim's Misty Sunday Ride

Route 518 Near Route 206

18 October 2017

Plain Jim's planned route for Sunday was only 38 miles. Before feeding it to Son Of, I moved the starting point to my house and pulled the end there too. I told Jim I'd leave the group after the rest stop. I'd get 54 miles in, which would make up for having sat on my butt all day Saturday.

When I left the house the roads were still damp and there was something between mist and fog between me and Rocky Hill. I did't stop for pictures along the canal because I was worried I'd get there only on time rather than early.

I let the tailwind help me pedal beyond my pay grade. I only let up when I caught up with Andrew halfway up Canal Road. I slowed down; if he wasn't worried about being late, I wouldn't either. We got there with at least ten minutes to spare. I had time to go across the street to get a couple of pictures of the canal and the Blackwells Mills bridge.

The mist had let up at the Mercer-Somerset County line. Jim, Andrew, Jack H, John B, and I set out on dry roads. Once in a while we'd catch a few raindrops. We twisted through Hillsborough, Franklin, and Montgomery, sticking to the flat roads east of the Sourland Mountain.

There was that one annoying little hill at the north end of East Mountain Road. At the top, Jack H took off. Jim mused that he'd probably ordered a pizza and would be eating it by the time the rest of us caught up. 

On Route 518, close to where it intersects with 206, there's a farm field. The sun was almost out and the light was perfect for a handful of dramatic cloud pictures.

Andrew left us when we crossed Route 206.

We stopped at that bagel place on the corner of 206 and 518. I never remember the name. I suppose I could look it up, what with me sitting here at a computer and all. Bagel Barn. It's that cavernous, crowded place where you have to walk all the way to the back, get in line, place your order, and wait.

I ordered a pumpkin muffin. "Do you want pumpkin coffee too?"


Both women at the registers laughed.

"Pumpkin belongs in baked goods and on doorsteps, and that's IT!"

The muffin was worth the long wait.

As we were finishing up, Bob N appeared, in gym clothes and sweaty from a spinning class. He'd hurt his back after the Sourland Spectacular ride and wasn't ready for the road. We belong to the same gym, sort of. It's run by a local hospital and has a handful of locations. Management has gone and done a shitty thing: they've made all of their employees sign noncompete agreements. This makes no sense for fitness instructors, who cobble together paychecks from as many gyms as will give them a class to teach. Anyone refusing to sign was fired on the spot. Two of my friends lost their jobs. "Maybe I'll just run on the treadmill," I griped, not eager to put Beaker away for the commuting season*.

The guys turned north on a side street in Rocky Hill. I went straight, snaked along Crescent, found River Road, and spent the last ten miles pushing against the wind that had helped me in the morning.

There was enough grit on my legs, my water bottles, and on Kermit that I hosed the bike down at the end of the ride.

Jim is likely to lead with this route again. If you're looking for a mellow B recovery ride, this is a good one. If I have the legs for it I'll be starting off from home.

(*This is my seventh season commuting to work by bike. Each year I push the start date a little earlier and the end date a little later. Sunset seems to creep forward in the spring and rush back in the fall. I'm getting bolder about riding home in the dark. Sooner or later, though, despite my 3000-lumen headlight, there are going to be too many sticks and leaves in the shoulders for me to feel safe at night, and I don't want to have to change a flat in the dark when it's 45 degrees out. We move our clocks back an hour in a couple of weeks. I'm going to have to hang it up and grab a spin bike whether I like it or not.)

Hill Slugs with Substitute Leader

18 October 2017

I'll be in a glassblowing studio all weekend. Tom Hammell will lead Saturday's ride. Surf on over to his blog for details.

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Oldwick Derp Ride

Fox Hill Road, Oldwick, Hunterdon County

7 October 2017

Total derp.

We had a new rider today, and I did the usual new rider things throughout the ride, like ask if she was a member, ask how well she knew the area, narrate the route, and ask who she usually rides with when she goes on club rides. She must have thought I was an idiot, because, after the ride was over, when I went to photograph the sign-in sheet to send it up to the official ride recorder, I realized that the new rider was the Thursday night hilly B ride leader, Cristina M, and that we'd met once before, during the bundled-upness of winter, and that she could have kicked all of our asses with one leg tied behind her back, but she didn't, because she's cool.


I saw Andrew walking his bike across Route 206 at Amwell Road as I was driving to the ride start. He was drinking coffee from a paper cup, and he continued to do so as he mounted his bike on Amwell Road. I pulled into the Bagel Bistro lot to get a quick couple dozen for long-term storage; the bagels are worth the trip. Five minutes later I was in the Woodfield Park lot with Jim, Andrew (he'd finished his drink), Prem, Ricky, and the aforementioned Cristina.

The route I'd picked out wasn't particularly hilly. I really only wanted to catch the view from the top of Fox Hill Road. I could have been a true bitch about getting there, but I chose roads that went between the nasty stuff. It's October. Fuck it.

I always go into the Thor Solberg Airport parking lot to see if there's anything interesting going on. There wasn't, but we stayed a few minutes and took pictures anyway.

There's bridge out and then there's bridge out. "Nine times out of ten we get through," I explained to Cristina. "Nineteen times out of twenty," I added, figuring in the times we've waded through water and slogged through mud.  This was not to be one of those times, on Pulaski Road between 42nd Street and School, although if there hadn't been a friendly construction worker explaining the detour, I'm not sure we wouldn't have slogged or waded.

We went around instead, adding three miles.

The beef cattle on Mill Road weren't in the water today.

I saw Jim had stopped to take a picture of this groovy sycamore, so I did too.

We passed a passel of Morris Area Free Wheelers. I can always tell them by their giant cue sheets.

We passed a patient cow on Rockaway Road.

Up on Sawmill I heard* bells, quiet little bells, peaceful little bells, zen little bells, bells I could listen to all day. The bells were attached to the necks of a flock of sheep, and when they walked or shook their heads the peaceful little bells would clink and chime and I wondered what it would sound like if a predator got to one of them and so much for zen.

I got more zen looking at the Rockaway Brook from high above:

The Rockaway-Sawmill stretch is one of my favorite places in Hunterdon County.

Fox Hill Road holds one of my favorite vistas. It's never the same view twice. Today we looked out into haze. There are two clearings. The first affords a view of what I think might be the Watchung Mountains.

The second clearing is halfway down the hill. The glimmer of white near the center of this picture is the road at the bottom:

As I was coming down, Cristina was climbing back up. She was preparing for next week's Covered Bridges Ride in Pennsylvania. I apologized for leading such a flat ride.

This is the view from the bottom of Fox Hill, looking back towards the top:

At the Oldwick General Store we ran into the Morris Area Free Wheelers we'd seen before, and then, as we were getting ready to leave, a guy in another group of riders called out my name. He looked vaguely familiar, but they all kind of do. He said he'd ridden with me years ago and that he knew Cheryl. I asked his name; it didn't help me remember. He said he wanted to take my picture and text it to Cheryl. "I don't like having my picture taken," I said. "Tell her you saw me." She knows what I look like.

On our way back, we found ourselves grinding through a stretch on Holland Brook that had been stripped to its skivvies. We were riding on red dirt and deep gravel, slightly downhill and around curves. It was something less than fun.

I told Cristina that unexpected dirt roads were par for the course on Hill Slug rides. When we found pavement at the next intersection, Jim said, "We can not do that again."

Next up, headwind. "Wind from the south has rain in its mouth," Jim said, and it probably does. Tomorrow looks to be a sad day for us Free Wheelers.

(*This is one of those times when hearing aids are worth every penny.)

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Hill Slugs, Saturday, 7 October 2017

5 October 2017

Start: 9:00 a.m., Woodfield Park, Marshall Rd, off of Amwell Rd, Hillsborough Township, NJ, 08844

Destination: Oldwick

Hills: Yeah

Scenery: Yup

Muffins: Uh huh

Distance: 51 miles

Elevation Gain: Whatever

GPS Route: Nuh uh

Cows: Maybe

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Hills, Clouds, and Turtle Bars

Doylestown, PA

4 October 2017

Tom had threatened a "Leg Beater" ride, which, I pointed out to him, was a euphemism (as far as that goes) for "Lying Bastard." He knew we'd show up no matter what he threatened, and he was right. He'd sent me the route on Friday evening. Looking it over before downloading it into Son Of, I realized it wasn't that bad. He and I had done a similar route late last October.

For the Insane Bike Posse, Jack H and I were there to represent. Ken G and Marc made us five. We started by walking over the Bulls Island Bridge, where I stopped immediately to get a closer look at what appeared to be a stray prop from Whose Line Is It Anyway.

After that I blew my "no more pictures of water" rule right out of the water. I think it might have been worth it.

We climbed up Fleecydale, took the second left out of Carversville, and after that I have no idea where we were, even though I'd looked at the map twelve hours ago.

We went through Doylestown, where Tom had to stop to change the batteries in his GPS. It was a little early for that, and, as it turned out, the first of at least three battery changes. Wary of buying a new GPS after hearing the rest of us bitch about Garmin, he's nursing his old DeLorme along for as long as he possibly can. Ken, wary of Garmin for the same reasons, had his phone on with an earbud.

We had a scenery stop in Peace Valley Park. We took the bike path from the southwestern edge, over the dam, and a little way around the northwestern side of the lake. The sky was dramatic over the lake from the dam.

Last year Tom and I had tried to get a good picture of the canoes. This year I zoomed in from the dam and hoped for the best.

I tried to zoom in on a great blue heron.

Around the corner I stopped for a gull posing on a dock.

More of the canoes:

We climbed out of the valley to find sky that we needed pictures of:

I didn't realize that a flock of geese were photobombing until I got home.

Next we found a road with a bridge out.

Then we stopped at the Down to Earth Cafe.  On the counter was a stack of homemade chocolate somethings. "I'll have a large coffee and one of whatever those are," I said to the woman behind the counter.

"Turtle bars," she said.

"Made with real turtles."

"Of course!"

Ken walked up just then and asked what the bars were.

"Turtle bars," she said. "It's oats and chocolate. And baby turtles."

"But free range baby turtles," I suggested.

"Of course! We only use free range baby turtles."

So Ken got one too.

(Now don't y'all go starting an online petition to demand that Down to Earth stop using baby turtles in their pastries. Taste one of those things first.)

I waited at the one open table and took a few pictures of the dice that were there for whatever reason.

As promised, the turtle bar was very sweet. I asked for waxed paper and took most of it home.

On the way back to New Jersey we stopped for cows. The pasture was divided, adults on one side, calves on the other. Almost every one was lying down. The grownups stood when we stopped.

One approached the fence, curious.

The calves stayed on the ground and mooed.

I took more pictures of the Delaware River as we walked across the bridge back to Bulls Island.

I didn't go straight home; I had to stop by the lab to take care of an errant cage of mice. Then the lawn needed one last mowing. I was tempted to change straight into my pajamas after my shower but there was food shopping to be done.

It's four days later and the rest of the turtle bar is still in the refrigerator.