Saturday, November 23, 2019

Following Tom

Delaware River from New Hope, PA

23 November 2019

Tom calls us the Insane Bike Posse because we'll follow him anywhere. 

He and I make sure to coordinate rides because the Posse and the Slugs are, for the most part, one and the same. Usually one of us will have an idea for a ride and check with the other to see if the other hasn't got something better in mind.

For the past three weekends I didn't have any good adventures planned. Two weeks ago, neither Jim nor I had a better idea for a cold Sunday, so Tom dragged the Posse down to New Egypt. I didn't take any pictures. Jim did, and you can read his account of it here.

Last Saturday was cold again. Tom suggested we dust off our mountain bikes and ride along the D&R Canal towpath. We met at Washington Crossing and walked our bikes across the bridge to the Pennsylvania side.

Somewhere south of New Hope I got these pictures:

On the outskirts of town, Jack H found an apartment patio on the river and gestured me to follow him so that I could get pictures. We might have been trespassing.

At Bulls Island we crossed the river.

There's a bike repair station on Bulls Island. It's stocked with screwdrivers, wrenches, levers, a pump, and a bike stand. There's one like this in Cranbury's Village Park now, too, thanks to the efforts of the Princeton Free Wheelers.

When we reached the northern end of Lambertville, Martin and Pete wanted to ride on the Lambertville Station side of the path. Tom took the rest of the group on the more well-groomed side.

I knew this old rail car was here. I'd seen pictures of it, and had seen it through the trees from the other side of the path. Now we were right up against it, and we stopped to get a better look.

I noticed a giant leaf by Martin's foot.

"Looks like an Adam and Eve fig leaf," he said.

"You wish."

While Pete was enjoying the burn, I picked up a tiny maple leaf and handed it to Martin. "This might be more appropriate."

Double burn.

"Hey, it was just lying there," I said.

Martin, who has no shame, had picked up the big leaf and was posing, waiting for me to turn my camera his way.

We met up with Tom's half of the ride and continued south.

I forgot to mention that this was my first ride with Grover's new saddle and seat post. I had to raise it twice within the first couple of miles. After that, though, it was perfect.

The next day was Cranksgiving, held at the new, gold-plated gym in Plainsboro, where membership starts at $120 per month. No, thanks. I pay less than half of that now and get everything I need ten minutes from home.

Stripped of her commuting lights, Beaker was fun to ride again.

Anyway, Jim had a good group of Free Wheelers. It was cold, but warm enough that we didn't freeze after the first grocery pickup stop in East Windsor or the second one at Trader Joe's in West Windsor.

It was only when one of our riders snapped her chain that we cooled down. I took a picture of the sky while we were waiting. Jim fixed it in good time and we hurried back to Plainsboro.

Later, Anna, the event organizer, told us that we'd filled three SUVs with food, and more was still coming from donations at the gym. This was the most food she's collected since she started the Princeton Cranksgiving event a handful of years ago.  It's not too late to donate to the Trenton Area Soup Kitchen. You can do it here.

This past week was crazy busy and also just plain crazy. Neither Tom nor Jim nor I got our acts together in time to list any rides. I registered for Prem's fast B at the last minute, only to get an email from Tom several hours later. He was planning to go on Tru's C+ ride at 10:00, an hour later (and an hour warmer) than Prem's ride. Ricky said he'd be there. Jim said he'd be there.

Well, amicitia quam celeritate. I canceled my registration and drove to Tom's house instead.

"It's a Slug invasion!" I called out to Tru as Tom and I rode in, Ricky behind us. A few minutes later, Winter Larry arrived. It was a regular party out there in the parking lot.

Tru warned us to be extra careful at the start and end of the ride. He'd had bad luck lately, with people losing attention at the end and winding up on the blacktop. "The past three rides, something has happened."

Well, one of our number decided to make it four. We'd just turned onto Main Street when the rider hit the side mirror of a parked SUV. He took the whole mirror down with him. His front wheel inexplicably popped off too. He and his bike fared better than the mirror. After dusting himself off and putting his wheel back on, he went to talk with the driver, who was completely calm about the whole thing, maybe because she'd just come out of the church she was parked in front of. The rider decided he was done for the day.

"Be careful crossing the street!" Tru called out after him.

Jim was grinning. "This is gonna be good," he said.

"Composing the first line of your blog?" I asked.


I told Tru that our ride was now pre-disastered.

As an afterthought,  I wondered what would have happened if the rider's front wheel, which must not have been properly seated if it came off so easily, had come off at speed instead. In a way, he got lucky when he hit the mirror.

We weren't without incident after that. Jim got a flat within a mile of our rest stop, and after the break, Tom's pump, not fully in place after Jim had used it, fell out and hit Tom's rear wheel. He didn't fall, fortunately.

Tru's route would be a good one for a day that might threaten rain. We never got far from Cranbury, zig-zagging through the Windsors and Princeton Junction. We went 40 miles without going anywhere.

Tom and I got ahead of the group towards the end, which was fine, because they knew we'd be leaving for Tom's house soon anyway. I followed him home, because following Tom is what I do.

Sunday, November 3, 2019

First Chilly Weekend

Harbourton-Mt Airy Road

3 November 2019

The first chilly weekend of the year is always a shock. By now I've pretty much figured out exactly what I'll have to put on and now much I'll have to remove during a particular ride's temperature range. That doesn't make stepping out of the front doorway any easier.

Enough Slugs were otherwise occupied on Saturday that I didn't bother to list a ride. Instead I drove to Cranbury for the first time in lord knows how long.

Prem was leading. While he'd listed the average pace at 16 mph, I knew it wouldn't be that low. There's no Cranbury fastboy who can keep it down to 16. The group was small and half Slugged (me, Bob, Jack H, and Andrew). I didn't know any of the others.

I almost didn't bring my camera, but without the camera there are no pictures, and without pictures there's no story, and without a story there's no blog post, and without a blog post, the Hill Slugs cease to exist. 

The starting pace was more effort than I was hoping for. I got the sense that Prem and the others were holding back. I stayed with the group well enough, but I knew I'd pay for it the next day.

On Route 524 I took my turn at pulling to give Prem a break.

Not until we arrived at Phil's outside of Allentown did I check our average speed and pull out my camera. Our average was, by my cycle computer, on the verge of no longer being B. Our Garmins had us above that. I felt better about the effort. 

The camera was for the goats in the pasture next door. Now I'd have something to blog around.

Andrew and one of the other  guys left us before the ride was over. The wind slowed us down a little on the way home.

Had we not set our clocks back that night I'd never have been able to lead my ride the next day. Fortunately, only Ricky and Pete showed up, both at my house for extra miles. I'd swapped wheels on Miss Piggy, her original set of Mavic Axiums having worn thin at the rims. Now she's sporting Beaker's old Ksyrium Elites, the ones that are a bitch and a half to put new tires onto (one of which had come unseated on its own the night before, at 11:00 p.m.). I was too tired to be able to discern if the ride felt different or if it was me that felt exhausted.

I didn't have a set route. We started going northeast but I tacked west when we got to Titus Mill. We crossed Route 31, went up Woosamonsa, and then turned right on 579.

"Where are we turning off?" Pete asked.

"Next left," I said. "Harbourton<&emdash;>Pleasant Valley-Harbourton."

Pete blew right past it. Ricky and I called after him to no avail. "I guess he'll meet us up there somewhere," I said, and started running through the possibilities. Sheesh; he'd have to turn on Harbourton-Mount Airy and hope to run into us when we turn onto it from Rock Road.  Maybe he decided I was just too slow this morning and went off on his own.

I don't think I've ever stopped on this road for pictures except at the very end, where it intersects with Pleasant Valley. Today I stopped at the bottom of a hill to take pictures of what Google Maps suggests is a tributary to Moores Creek.

I didn't hurry, hoping that Pete would appear at the top of the hill behind me. He didn't. We moved on.

Ricky and I were on Goat Hill, deep into a conversation about nothing important, when a third shadow emerged and said, "Car back." It was Pete, who had turned around and caught up with us.

Until today I've never stopped on the final hill up to Mount Airy where the cows are. I explained to Pete and Ricky that art had to happen.

Every time we roll past this barn there's one more hole in the structure and one more new slat somewhere else.

We stopped at the Bagel Barn deli on Route 523, downhill from the Sergeantsville General Store. "My everything hurts," I whined as I rested Miss Piggy on a railing.

After the break I said, "I want to find the least painful way home."

"Uber," Pete said.

We went east, riding with a tailwind into Ringoes. Pete suggested we take the dirt section of Stony Brook, assuring me that, despite half a week of rain, the gravel would be dry.

This was, if nothing else, a good test for the wheels. If I hadn't known I'd changed them, I might not have noticed a difference in the ride. As it was, it felt both sludgier and stiffer at once. Go figure.

We took a slight detour through Pete's neighborhood so that he could show us a house that had gone up in flames when a construction worker breached a gas line. (You can find the story online but I'm not going to give the satisfaction of linking to it; they post far too much clickbait.)

When I got back to my own neighborhood I noticed that all of my neighbors had raked their leaves. I hadn't. Ours is that one yard that isn't looking tidy. We have an oak tree in the front. While some of its leaves are down, most aren't. If we get lucky, the next windy day will do the work for us. If not, I'm sure my next door neighbor will cast a disapproving eye my way.

Friday, November 1, 2019

Fall Color Halloween Ride

Hopewell-Amwell Road, 26 October 2019

1 November 2019

Welp, the pretty part of autumn is over. Between last Saturday and now we've had five days of rain and a tornado warning. Tonight there might even be frost.

Our goal last Saturday was to get to Lambertville to see That House on Union Street. Ricky met me at my house, where I fed him some coffee. We rode up to the Pig to meet Pete, Jim, Racer Pete, Rajesh, and Luis.

I didn't have a set route in mind, so I went east on Cherry Valley to Province Line Road. Everyone stopped at the top of the second hill. "There's the color we were looking for last week," Jim said. I wasn't the only one taking pictures.

We found some more on the other side of Province Line, at the top of the last hill.

The view towards Hopewell-Amwell Road was good, as always. There are tall evergreens hiding the red farmhouse now.

We continued on and collected at Ridge Road, where leaves were falling all around us.

The owners of this vineyard (which I thought was Unionville but the plot was for sale last year and now Unionville doesn't list it) have put green mesh over their grapevines.

Working without a script, I led the group down Gulick Road and then down Route 179. I always forget just how far to Lambertville it is. We ducked off on York Road, hung a left somewhere, and got to Union Street.

The first house was relatively tame, with a heart-munching ghoul to welcome us.

Farther north was this tree-clinging skeleton surrounded by decades of telephone technology. Not knowing what to make of it, we called it "art" and moved on.

And, finally, The House. The sculptor, Dolores Dragan, adds new characters each year. I think this rabbit-child might be one of them.

I think this guy might work in my building.

"Nice aero tuck!" Rajesh said.

Zoom in for the names of innocent people killed by cops:

The House from across the street:

Farther up the block:

Oh hell no.

We lounged around Rojo's long enough for the next bike shift to arrive, this one on two tandems, which we gawked over on our way out. One has battery assist and independent cranks. The other has uncouplers and a carbon fiber chain.

I meant to turn on Alexauken Creek Road. I missed it and went up Lambertville Headquarters instead. That took us well out of the way, but at least we got some good color before we reached the other end outside of Ringoes.

"How far back to the Pig from here?" Jim asked. He had afternoon plans.

"I have no idea," I said, turning east. "Ten? Fifteen?"

From there on, I took the most direct roads back and didn't stop for pictures.

It was fifteen.


Between the Pig and the spa next door was a hand-written sign that could have belonged to either of them.

Because bourbon is a cultivar of the Arabica coffee bean, coffee is often flavored with vanilla, and Mani/Pedi could well be the name of the estate from which the beans came. Or it's a foul-scented goop they stick between your toes.