Thursday, August 25, 2016

Hill Slugs Ad Hoc, Saturday, August 27

25 August 2016

Asbury Coffee Mill brews Homestead coffee. I can get us there, and be less cruel than I was last week, by starting all the way up in Frenchtown at 8:30 a.m.

Meet in the parking lot closest to the river, on River Road, off of Bridge Street, in Frenchtown.  The route is 54 miles long, with the rest stop exactly half way (that was a happy accident) and most of the hills in the first half. The last quarter of the ride is along the Delaware River, starting in Riegelsville, where the proposed PennEast pipeline promises to wreak havoc on one of our favorite places.

See you Saturday.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

After All, I Have a Reputation to Protect


Fox Hill Road, Tewksbury

20 August 2016

My most regular of regular Hill Slugs had better things to do today. I figured there'd be a good chance I'd be riding from Hillsborough to Oldwick by myself.

I was wrong. Jack H was there, and Andrew, recovering from a recent fall. Two sometimes Slugs, a not Plain Jim, and Ricky, were standing in the shade when I arrived.

"I came up with this route at 10:30 last night," I warned them. "There's one big hill --"

"Just one?"

"It was described to me by Ron as 'it goes on forever and ends in tears,' and Jim said, 'Oh, like a Wagner opera.'"

Not Plain Jim laughed and said, "So this is the Opera Ride."

Sure, why not?

I like to stop at the Thor Solberg Airport to see if anything is going on.


There was no wind (really!) and a lot of planes near the runway.


On Old Route 28 in Lebanon, we passed a house being torn apart by a large backhoe.  Andrew said, "Won't they be surprised when they get home!"

"Oops. Wrong house." I added.

On Mill Road, I kept an eye out for cows in the water. I wasn't disappointed.


This poor kid is covered in flies. Wait'll they smell me.


Rockaway Creek:


Not Plain Jim said, "I didn't think it was possible to come up this way without big hills."

"Yeah. I kept it in the river valley to keep the miles down."  I'd zoned out while mapping the route, picking good roads and a few nasty hills, and I brought it in at 78 miles. My goal was 55. I cleared the screen and started over, staying mostly to the east of Oldwick. Never map late at night. 

We crossed over Route 78, and I warned everyone that the easy part was over. We started up the lower end of Black River Road, which feels just about flat. "You know," I told N.P. Jim, "I'm being a total asshole." We were passing Vliettown, 21 miles into the ride. "We're really close to Oldwick. We could be there in a couple of miles. But I'm doing this asshole loop up Hollow Brook instead."

In Pottersville, we turned left onto our first major climb.

"Is this better?" I asked N.P. Jim.

Then we turned onto Hollow Brook Road, the Wagner Opera. The surface was freshly-paved. The road was in the shade, the Lamington River trickling at the bottom of a steep slope below us. I knew there was work ahead, but for now, everything was pretty.

"Ah. There it is."  I dropped into my granny gear.  We got quiet and spread out.  The road got steep. The road got steeper.  I kept an eye on Jack H, his white jersey visible until it dropped behind the asphalt, a sure sign that he'd reached the top (no, not that he fell; that was just that once).

"Hill enough for ya?" I asked Ricky.

"Murder, she wrote."

"Better?" I asked N.P. Jim. He was too busy catching his breath to curse me out properly.

The reward was the descent on Fox Hill, with fresh blacktop. We passed a couple of riders on their way up. The second one had stopped. I pulled over. 

"You okay?"

"Yeah. It's the dropout. Every time I stand up, the wheel shifts and hits the frame." He was  riding a 30-year-old, restored, steel Raleigh, quill stem and all, bless him. He'd been messing with the dropout set screws to no avail. He was resigned to walking the rest of the way. He looked like a strong guy who didn't need any bigger gears in the rear, but I pointed to Miss Piggy's 32 and said, "Moutain bike gearing. I can't climb for shit."  He thought that was a good idea.

Today's haze made for good blues on the mountains in the distance.




The guys chose to sit in the shade near the back door, rather than in the Adirondack chairs on the lawn of the Oldwick General Store.

"You know that hill we just came down, on 517?  I'm gonna be an asshole and take us up it again. Unless you want to cut out 5 miles."  There were grumbles all around.  They were considering worse things to call me.

"Hey. I have a reputation to protect. I'm slow enough as it is. I have to be tough or nobody will come out on my rides."

I chose to be an asshole and go back up the hill. The ascent between the store and Hill and Dale wasn't bad, after all that. There was much more beyond it. "But we're not going up there," I told Jack H.

"Good," he said, "'Cause if you were, I'd knock your bike to the ground and kick you while you were down,"

We turned onto Hill and Dale, which was also brand new blacktop. I pointed out Hell Mountain and said we'd not be going up it today, you're welcome.

Then it was onto Rockaway Road, fresh blacktop, and Taylor's Mill, chip-seal and bumps.


Retracing our steps, we returned to Mill Road (the cows were gone) and to what was left of the house on Old Highway 28:



My plan was to take South Branch (the one on the west side of the Raritan, not to be confused with the one on the east side) to Pleasant Run.

Right away we saw road closed signs. "Road closed 1500 feet." I went right on by. If we had to double back, we would, but the crew was getting tired.  The rollers that had seemed like nothing on the way out were getting to us on the way back. This always happens.

"Road closed 1000 feet."

Yeah, yeah.

"Road closed, 500 feet."

Whatever.

Road closed. Bridge out. Jack H threw up his arms in jest.


Pleasant Run must have overflowed in a serious way.



Never mind that. We could get across,


with a little handing-off of bikes,


and some climbing over barriers.


Typical Hill Slug stuff.

Are You Sure This Isn't a Tom Ride?


Bridge over the Delaware River, Stockton

20 August 2016

Between preparing for the public hearing for the PennEast Pipeline DEIS (an 1100-page NEPA violation) and the September Freewheel deadline (I remained calm this time!), I let last week's blog post slip through the cracks.

When Blake offered to lead us through the hills out of Stockton on Sunday, August 14, we knew the heat index was going to top 100 degrees.


I suggested that he should take out the tough hills and go easy on us.  He thought that was a good idea.  Jim and Jack H also took him up on the offer. Tom, who knew better, begged off.

We started early. I have trouble being hungry before 7:30 a.m. I tried to eat breakfast before 7:00. It didn't work out very well; most of it went into the compost bin. I did drink all of my home-made cold brew coffee, though, so I figured I'd be all right.

We started out by finding a closed road.


Jim asked, "Are you sure this isn't a Tom ride?"


"If this were a Tom ride, we'd be walking through the mud," I explained.

I don't know what Blake's route would have been had we been riding on a cooler day, but it sure didn't feel as if Blake were going easy on us.  I don't usually have to use my granny gear in Buck's County; I don't usually have to stop at every corner to wipe stinging sun block out of my eyes; I don't usually find myself channeling Cheryl on the infamous Double Reservoir Ride.

We wound up at the bottom end of Ralph Stover State Park, where a dirt road was between us and where we wanted to be.

"You sure this isn't a Tom ride?" Jim asked again.

We passed the spot where Tom wiped out on the gravel, which one of us always points out, whether Tom is with us or not.

(Jack teases me about how long I spend blogging. Here's the thing: The more entries I have, the more entries I can link back to, and the longer I spend searching for them. Keywords only do so much.)

After climbing out of the park, I was pretty much out of steam. Stopping for a picture at Van Sant airport was a good excuse to catch my breath.


Then there was more climbing.  I was last. Dead last.

"What the hell hill was that?" I asked.

"Cafferty."

"I'm taking the flat route home on 29. I have too much on my mind and not enough in my stomach."

Jim said, "You might have company."

"We're pretty much on the ridge," Blake assured us.  He was pretty much right.

We were going over a roughly-paved bridge when Jack H got a flat. We found shade while he fixed it. Blake nearly got hit with a flying tire lever that leaped a good three feet from the rim rather than hang on and do its job.

We plummeted down Bridgeton Hill Road to the Homestead General Store, from which we were in no real hurry to depart. Jack H checked his GPS. In 25 miles, we'd climbed 2400 feet. So much for going easy on us.







We walked across the Milford Bridge.


Then we big-ringed it for fifteen miles along the river. Jack H got ahead of us. Where he found the energy I'll never know. We caught up with him two miles from Stockton. He was by the side of the road, not hurt this time, but fixing another flat. 

"Actually, I faked it," he said. "I really needed the rest."  The tire lever went flying off again.

Are You Sure This Isn't a Tom Ride?


Bridge over the Delaware River, Stockton

20 August 2016

Between preparing for the public hearing for the PennEast Pipeline DEIS (an 1100-page NEPA violation) and the September Freewheel deadline (I remained calm this time!), I let last week's blog post slip through the cracks.

When Blake offered to lead us through the hills out of Stockton on Sunday, August 14, we knew the heat index was going to top 100 degrees.


I suggested that he should take out the tough hills and go easy on us.  He thought that was a good idea.  Jim and Jack H also took him up on the offer. Tom, who knew better, begged off.

We started early. I have trouble being hungry before 7:30 a.m. I tried to eat breakfast before 7:00. It didn't work out very well; most of it went into the compost bin. I did drink all of my home-made cold brew coffee, though, so I figured I'd be all right.

We started out by finding a closed road.


Jim asked, "Are you sure this isn't a Tom ride?"


"If this were a Tom ride, we'd be walking through the mud," I explained.

I don't know what Blake's route would have been had we been riding on a cooler day, but it sure didn't feel as if Blake were going easy on us.  I don't usually have to use my granny gear in Buck's County; I don't usually have to stop at every corner to wipe stinging sun block out of my eyes; I don't usually find myself channeling Cheryl on the infamous Double Reservoir Ride.

We wound up at the bottom end of Ralph Stover State Park, where a dirt road was between us and where we wanted to be.

"You sure this isn't a Tom ride?" Jim asked again.

We passed the spot where Tom wiped out on the gravel, which one of us always points out, whether Tom is with us or not.

(Jack teases me about how long I spend blogging. Here's the thing: The more entries I have, the more entries I can link back to, and the longer I spend searching for them. Keywords only do so much.)

After climbing out of the park, I was pretty much out of steam. Stopping for a picture at Van Sant airport was a good excuse to catch my breath.


Then there was more climbing.  I was last. Dead last.

"What the hell hill was that?" I asked.

"Cafferty."

"I'm taking the flat route home on 29. I have too much on my mind and not enough in my stomach."

Jim said, "You might have company."

"We're pretty much on the ridge," Blake assured us.  He was pretty much right.

We were going over a roughly-paved bridge when Jack H got a flat. We found shade while he fixed it. Blake nearly got hit with a flying tire lever that leaped a good three feet from the rim rather than hang on and do its job.

We plummeted down Bridgeton Hill Road to the Homestead General Store, from which we were in no real hurry to depart. Jack H checked his GPS. In 25 miles, we'd climbed 2400 feet. So much for going easy on us.







We walked across the Milford Bridge.


Then we big-ringed it for fifteen miles along the river. Jack H got ahead of us. Where he found the energy I'll never know. We caught up with him two miles from Stockton. He was by the side of the road, not hurt this time, but fixing another flat. 

"Actually, I faked it," he said. "I really needed the rest."  The tire lever went flying off again.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Hill Slugs Ad Hoc, Saturday, August 20

18 August 2016

Let's go to Oldwick. We haven't been there in a while.

Meet at Woodfield Park, on Marshall Road, off of Amwell Road, in Hillsborough, for an 8:30 a.m. start. Plan on 50-60 miles. I haven't had time to map a new route yet, but I have a couple of old ones I can dig out.

See you Saturday!


Saturday, August 6, 2016

#47: Stinky Century

Burlington County Panorama

6 August 2016

I left home at 6:15 a.m. Five miles later I was soaking wet and it wasn't even raining.

I was at Mercer County Community College for the Princeton Event century.  

In previous years, I've assembled a team ahead of time. This year I had nebulous plans to ride with Tom, who would go if it wasn't too hot, and Bob N (N for New Slug), who had never gone 100 miles. One week out, the weather looked iffy and I hadn't heard from Bob.

So I asked around to see who would be willing to take on a Slug as part of a team. Brandon, who'd been on a few of Tom's High Point rides, was cool with me tagging along.

A light rain started as I pulled into the registration area.  Ira was scowling wryly (he does everything wryly) at the sky. "We're gonna lose money," he said. It was early, though, well before 7:00, the official century starting time. 

The rain stopped, Brandon found me, and Bob appeared.  With Brandon were Ralph (a powerhouse) and a couple of others -- Joe and Ken -- whom I didn't recognize (but who knew who I was because of my, um, reputation).  Brandon said something about meeting someone at 30 miles: "I'm only going to stop for water at the first rest stop. I'll catch up with you guys later."

I texted Tom that we were leaving; he'd ride from home and meet us at the first rest stop.

Brandon was off like a shot, Ralph and Joe up with him. Sometimes I closed the gap, but I knew better than to push hard in the first couple of miles. Bob and Ken stayed behind with me. At intersections we'd regroup. 

At the rest stop in Clarksburg, Brandon took off, Joe and Ralph with him. The rest of us waited for Tom. 

I was so wet from the humidity that when I made a fist, water dripped from my gloves.  It rained for a minute. Tom arrived. I took a picture of Kermit while Tom grabbed a snack.


Somewhere between the first and second stops, one of my bottle cage bolts wriggled loose, again. I'd already tightened it before leaving the house. I asked if we could stop so that I could tape the bolt and cage to the frame. My hands were so wet that I couldn't get a good grip on the duct tape I carry with me. I managed a mangled piece, which would be good enough until we got to New Egypt.

We were just finishing when Brandon pulled up behind us. Right away, he took the lead.

In New Egypt, I got lucky: Al, working the rest stop, had a roll of electrical tape with him. I need to start carrying foot-long strips.


Statler and Waldorf arrived. "We're doing the metric," Neil said. "I don't want to get caught in thunder and lightning."  His tendency towards getting soaked matches mine and Tom's. It's generally understood that if one of us is riding south of the Pinelands, whoever is with us will get wet. I was ready to take my chances. "Looks like cells are forming already," he said as he pushed off.

Another curse bites the dust: We didn't get rained on. 

Bob had a flat at mile 65 (70.5 for me), which was the perfect time for a flat. None of us complained. I stretched in the grass while he and Tom put in a new tube.

We got rolling again, only to have Bob's tire go flat within five minutes. As luck would have it, Chris, doing his annual duty as SAG, arrived to help.

While that was going on, a lone rider pulled up behind me. "Is there some kind of organized bike ride going on today?"  He was new to riding, soon to switch from sneakers to cleats, to better sunglasses, to a bigger water bottle. He stayed with us all the way to the Pinelands Nursery rest stop, where I emailed him the August Freewheel. He lives in Bordentown; I think we'll be seeing him again on A rides.

Brandon was starting to fade, and Ken with him. It didn't help that the route took us into Bordentown, where we crossed Route 130 three times, stopped for lights, met with traffic, and got annoyed at what seemed to be a loop of roads that we really didn't need to be on.

Whenever we stopped at a light, I picked up a scent of stinky biker, and I realized it was me.  That was motivation enough to keep moving.

Somewhere east of Bordentown, Brandon and Ken disappeared off the back. In Groveville, Tom declared, "I'm done."

"When's the last time you did a century?" I asked.

"A couple of years ago.  I do centuries every few years to remind myself why I don't do centuries"

Fair enough. 

Bob, meanwhile, was getting more energetic as we got closer to 100 miles.  He had this one in the bag.

The last rest stop was on Sharon Road. This is the stop where all the cool people volunteer. Plain Jim and TEW were there, and Joe M for a few seconds. I hadn't seen Don S in ages.

Amid all the greetings, Brandon limped in, finished, but not done. Ken was with him, not looking a whole lot better. Tom was trashed.  Bob was raring to go. I was full of Gatorade and bananas.

I'm not sure if Ken and Brandon left with us, left long before us, or were still at the park when we pushed off for the remaining 7 miles to the college. All I know is that, when Tom peeled off for home and Bob and I turned onto Bresnahan, we were the only two on the road.

We weren't going to set any speed records, but we were going to finish strong.

When I got home, I headed straight for the shower without eating or stretching first. I did a load of laundry right away because my wet clothes were stinking up the bedroom.

Jack and I went out to run errands in the evening. That's when the rain finally hit. As the sun set, the sky cleared. In the parking lot of a local restaurant, I took a few pictures: 




Saturday, July 30, 2016

Cocoluxe: The Curse is Broken

Larison Road, near the Black River Wildlife Management Area, Chester, NJ 

30 July 2016

Hey!  Tom led a ride today and I was on it and Blake was on it and Jack H was on it and nothing bad happened! We didn't even get rained on! The curse is broken!

We started in Peapack-Gladstone, up the road from Cocoluxe (I bought my pastries before the ride and placed them gently in a cooler).

Tom said he was running his regular route in reverse. I have maybe half a clue of my whereabouts up in the top end of Somerset County, no clue at all in Morris, and it's been a year since I'd been up this way. I recognized an old schoolhouse in Peapack and a road name here and there.

If I've ever been on Larison Road in Chester, I don't remember this view:


 Storms were in the forecast for the afternoon, but the sky looked like this for the first 30 miles:


When we crossed into Hunterdon County, I knew where we were again. Valley Brook Road, where we would soon be upon the Antler House:



I zoomed in on a horse, who didn't seem to mind posing one bit:





Farther along Valley Brook, before the 450-foot drop into Califon:


Tom, in his inimitable evilness, did not take us directly into Califon. No, he wanted to add more hills before our break at 30 miles.

He did promise that the worst hills were over with, but when we veered left instead of right out of Califon at Academy Street, I knew better than he what we were in for. There's a reason I've only ever veered left once.  He said something about "ripping off the Band-Aid," which is exactly what I say when I'm about to do something cruel.

He rewarded us with a 5-mile descent, down Guinea Hollow


and Rockaway (where I had to stop at the Gingerbread House, for sale, still, or again):


Notice how it's clouding up above us.


Tom didn't remember the climb from Rockaway to Oldwick on Potterstown Road either.


And then we had those two annoying humps on Vliettown on our way to the bottom half of Black River Road. Tom and I were expecting hay bales at the bottom, but it's all soybeans this year.

The trip back to Peapack was indeed easier than the trip out. Also, we only had 15 miles left.

To get back to Peapack, from Black River Road, we took the long slog on Pottersville Road. The last time I went this direction was when the trees were full of cicadas. I did find some hay bales along the way.


The air was so humid that, even after we'd cooled down and packed our bikes away, and were simply standing in the parking lot under clouds, I was still dripping sweat.

The drive home took an hour. First it got a little dark. Then there were a few drops of rain. By the time I was within a few miles from home, it was coming down so hard that the traveling speed on Route 1 was about 25 miles per hour.

This is what the driveway looked like two hours later, as the rain continued to pour down, when I went to fetch Jack from an eye exam.



Water was slowly flowing across our screened porch at the back of the house. My neighbor's yard was flooded. I hadn't seen this much water since tropical storms Irene and Bill swept through in 2011. There was so much water on Princeton Pike that it was starting to flood at the top of the hill. I had to reroute at the bottom because the Little Shabakunk Creek was overflowing into the road. I got to Jack eventually, and home again. At least all the sap and bird poop has now been washed off of the car.

Here's where I think we went today. I'm two miles off, but it's close enough.  (Thanks for the corrections, Tom!)