Saturday, April 22, 2017

'Cause We're Crazy Like That

"Miss Piggy needs a bath." 

22 April 2017

I wanted to do a metric. Tom wanted 50 miles in the hills. Bored with routes from Pennington, I came up with a hilly 52.5 miles from Hopewell. From my house to there and back would give me 20 more miles.

When I checked the weather forecast last night before going to sleep, there was only a 30% chance of rain for about an hour mid-day.

When the alarm went off at 6:00 this morning, it was awfully dark out. Right away I checked the weather. What the hell? The chance of rain was up between 50 and 60% all day! Hmm. I checked all of my weather apps (because a ride leader has to have at least three in order to hedge bets on a day she really wants to get a ride in). Although they were all over the place, they all agreed that, at some point, we'd run the risk of getting wet. From the projections of total accumulation, it looked as if we'd be dodging little showers all day long.

Here's where not having a central platform within our club is a problem. I could post to my blog, but some feed readers don't update when a post is changed. I could post to Facebook, but not everyone in my posse is on Facebook. I could send out an email, but I wouldn't be sure if I'd left anyone off. The launch of our online ride list calendar can't come soon enough.

I had to take Jack to the train station around 7:30 a.m. Plain Jim was going to start the ride with me from my house at 8:00. We'd meet everyone else in Hopewell at 9:00. I decided that if he were to cancel, I'd cancel the ride. He hadn't texted by the time we left for the station; I knew he was on his way.

The ride was on.

A couple of showers came and went before 8:00. It was still spitting a little when we left for Hopewell, but that stopped within a few minutes, and the roads were dry. We passed a big group of teenagers cleaning litter on Carter Road. It was an Earth Day thing, I guess. We called out our thanks as we rode by. (Later on we'd pass at least one more cleanup crew.)

From the top of Cherry Valley into Hopewell, Hopewell-Princeton Road is being repaved. Today it was milled, which, one could argue, is an improvement. We were early so we decided to take a detour down Crusher Road instead.  Adding a couple of miles 8 miles in can come back to bite you in the ass at mile 60. We didn't worry about it.

Ricky, Andrew, and Peter H were at the elementary school. Tom was not. The fink. For that alone, I needed to do the full route and stay dry. Anything less would earn me at least a few minutes of ribbing.

We'd hit a temperature sweet spot somewhere in the high 50s. It was warm enough to go without leggings and cool enough not to sweat all over everything.  Once in a while we'd catch a few drops of rain.

I liked the sky to the east as we headed north on Rockafellows Mill.

"Ominous," Peter said.

"Nah," I replied. "Dramatic."

We approached Round Valley from the south. At the top of the hill we ran into a few minutes of real rain.

"Why is it," I asked Jim, "It only rains on us when we're descending?"

I pulled into the boat launch anyway. The rain stopped.

Although New Jersey is no longer officially in a drought, the water level at the reservoir is still far from where it should be. It hit a record low of 65% last fall; when we were there last, it was at 67% capacity.

Jim noticed that the boat launch dock was still a good 50 feet from the water's edge.

"Do you want a group picture?" Peter asked.

"Nah," I said. "I hate the way I look."

He found a willing bystander who snapped a few pictures of us. I edited myself out.

The bystander was with an older couple, and the woman wanted a picture of herself with us and the bikes. She held Peter's bike while he took a picture with the bystander's phone.

Andrew left us there, on his way to Bloomsbury to meet his wife for a hike at the Musconetcong Gorge. His plan was to get lunch at the Glen Warren Market. I asked for a report; I'm always looking for new places to stop. "Lunch and then a nap," he mused.

On our way down to Whitehouse Station, it rained again.

We stopped at Jerry's Brooklyn Grill. We sat outside. The rain picked up. We squished ourselves onto the metal bench under the awning and waited out the rain.

When the rain stopped, we started, and everything was going just fine until we turned from Forty Oaks onto Readington. There, a layer of red dust (good ol' Brunswick shale) from a construction site had turned to mud from the passing rain. It coated our shoes, our bikes, our bottles, and our backs.

Ricky said, "I know what I'm doing tomorrow."

Jim said, "Miss Piggy needs a bath."

Then we hit the missing bridge on South Branch Road.

Although ridewithgps had let me map through it, there was no getting over this one.

Fortunately, because this bridge had been out before, I'd looked into a detour. Peter confirmed it with a driver. We rode through a residential neighborhood for a mile and looped around to the other side on Pleasant Run.

"How are you planning to go back?" Peter asked.

"River to Amwell to Zion, Long Hill, Spring Hill," I said.

"I have another way," he offered. "It's probably shorter."

So I handed the reins over to him. We went west of Neshanic, on Woodfern, which I always like. From there we decided to go west on Amwell Road; it's got a good shoulder and there's not much in the way of traffic. For half a second I considered Rainbow Hill.

"I'm not feeling it," I said, and we turned onto Cider Mill instead, which had been the plan anyway, because it's pretty.  And it has cows.

At the end of the road, I checked our distance. "I don't think this is a shortcut," I said. "You guys are at 50 miles. The route was 52."

"Are you figuring in the detour?" Peter asked. I hadn't. I was still doubtful, though. We still had to get up and over the Sourland Mountain. After that, Jim and I would have 10 more to get home.

"You guys are going to be doing a century," Ricky chided.  I was feeling pretty good, but not 38 more hilly miles good. Plus, I was slightly damp and more than slightly covered in dirt.

We had our choice of routes back up the mountain. I picked Rileyville because we'd already been on Lindbergh. I wasn't sure I'd been up Rileyville from this direction with my carbon bike. Probably not, because it was much easier than I'd remembered.

Of course, it rained on us during the descent into Hopewell and stopped when we got there.

"57.5 miles," Ricky said.

I looked over to Peter. "Some shortcut!" He laughed and shook his head, certain that our detour around the bridge would explain it all*.

"I bestow upon you," I said to they guys, "bragging rights. It's raining. And it's April."

The rain started again as Jim and I plodded up the milled road towards home. The milling wasn't too bad, as milling goes, and, in a way, I felt safer on it because the ruts helped channel the water away. The few spots of fresh blacktop were a relief, but I didn't like the look of the water beading on the surface. It suggested an oily slickness.

It rained on us all the way down Carter Road. "Y'know," I said, "I never really mind getting rained on when I'm on my way home. I've been caught a couple of times commuting."

We finished with 79 miles, which was more than I'd planned, but not more than I'd been able to handle.

I wheeled Miss Piggy around to the back of the house and hosed her off.

(*Our detour was 2.8 miles, which means that Peter's shortcut added 2 miles. That's okay, though, because my route wouldn't have been as pretty; and, as Peter pointed out, descending Spring Hill in the rain is a really, really bad idea.)

The Runny Bunny Ride

Sheep and Goats, Bayberry Road

16 April 2017

Pete, Andrew, and Jeff turned out for Sunday's ride. As an official Not the Chocolate Bunny ride, it was uneventful, which is good, and hot, which is bad, because it melted the chocolates I was carrying.

Hot cross bunnies. What a mess.

They didn't melt right away, though. When we stopped to look at the sheep on Bayberry Road, I handed a few off to a couple of women out for a walk.

My usual routes from Pennington to Lambertville come in between 35 and 40 miles. I'd promised 50 this time. Squeezing in an extra 15 miles makes for a sinuous route, which is how we wound up on Bayberry in the first place.

Eventually, though, after all the noodling about, I put us on Alexauken Creek Road, a regular and a favorite.  Today the woods were awash in yellow flowers.

We all stopped on the narrow bridge at Mill Lane to take pictures.

Rojo's was pleasantly empty. We spent a long time there, talking about stuff that people over 50 talk about. I'll never look at Gatorade the same way again.

While we were inside, my bunnies were baking outside.  A few at the bottom hadn't melted. I hid them under my leftover snack and hoped for the best.

Our circuitous route home found us at Route 518 on Woodsville Road. When I said we were climbing New Road next, Andrew decided that now was a good a time as any to make the long trek back to his house. I gave him a few bunnies that were still semi-solid.

At the top of the hill were robbed of an easy flat and fast descent by the 20 mph headwind out of the west. In Pennington, Pete peeled off for home.

By now, I was feeling hot. The air was still dry, though, so it wasn't necessarily unpleasant. At the bottom of Lawrenceville-Pennington Road, Jeff turned off. In an attempt to hand him a pair of bunnies while we were both still moving, I managed to squish one and fill his fingers with molten chocolate.

A little farther on, I saw Sean coming the opposite way. We both stopped. I turned around and we stood on the side of the road for a few minutes. He downed a couple of  liquid bunnies before we went our separate ways.

When I got home, I checked the temperature. It was 86 damn degrees outside.

Urban Wildlife

Rock Frog on Footpath, Heinz Wildlife Refuge

15 April 2017

I had a not at all interesting reason to be in Philadelphia on Saturday morning.

The skyline changes every time I look at it.

Cherry trees were in bloom.

After the uninteresting stuff, and before we met up with friends for dinner in the city, Jack and I went down to the Heinz Wildlife Refuge at Tinicum, situated next to I-95 and the Philadelphia International Airport.

The last time we were here was before I was diagnosed as hearing impaired. I thought the traffic was loud then.

We walked on the path that follows Darby Creek.

The near shoreline is dotted with swallow houses, some in better shape than others.

Turtles sunned (well, clouded) themselves):

Beavers had cut a stand of trees and built a dam along the shore:

There were a dozen or so swans around the creek.

After about an hour, we realized we were never going to get all the way around the trail's loop.

So we turned around. We'd been hearing red-wing blackbirds all afternoon, and now their calls picked up. Of the dozen shots I took in an attempt to get one or two with their epaulets showing, the only semi-worthy pictures are these:

Dinner was at one of those small, noisy, expensive, BYO places, somewhere in the Northern Liberties, with a hip, pretentious name I've nearly forgotten already.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Hill Slugs Ad Hoc, Saturday, April 22

20 April 2017

Sunday's forecast isn't looking good, so let's burn it all up on Saturday.

I have a 52-mile hilly route from Hopewell to Round Valley with the option of an extra 20 miles* to and from my house.

Meet at the Hopewell Elementary School parking lot (35 Princeton Ave, Hopewell) for a 9:00 start. If you want to start from my house, please contact me. I'll be leaving around 8:00 a.m.

(*It's 10 miles each way, with the final few miles on what might be milled road. I'm waiting to hear from a scout about whether or not we'll have to detour. If we do, it'll be about 12 miles each way instead. I'm fine with riding on a milled surface if you are.)

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Hill Slugs Ad Hoc: SUNDAY, 16 April

13 April 2017

Not the Chocolate Bunny Ride!

Distance: 50 miles (tradition)

Terrain: Sourlands hills

Rest Stop: I checked and it'll be open

Starting Location: Twin Pines athletic field, 255 Lawrenceville Pennington Rd, Pennington; entrance is north of Federal City Rd

Starting time: 10:00 a.m.

Extra Miles: 4 each way, starting at 9:35 a.m. (Contact me for details.)

Chocolate Bunnies: If I get my act together.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Like Gnats (Looking for the Bald Patch)

Bear Tavern Road

9 April 2017

Like gnats on a warm evening, everyone with climbing gears was in and around the Sourlands today.

The ride was Pete's, called together the day before. Jim, Snakehead, and Ken G (The Mayor now, because he knows everyone) met our leader at the Twin Pines athletic field on Lawrenceville-Pennington Road, where I might be starting my local rides from now on.

It's fun being led in my home territory. Pete sees routes differently. Taking his roads gets me out of my rut and gives me new ideas. Not that I'll want to be crossing Route 31 at Diverty any time soon, but it's been years since I've been down that way, for no good reason.

We were on a mellow, counterclockwise route that got us to the southern side of the mountain. This being early April and a perfectly clear day, we all noticed the bald patch and the water tower at once, and wondered why none of us (all but Jim being able to navigate the Sourlands in our sleep) could place it.

Pete told me that I should title today's post "Looking for the Bald Patch," and that figuring out what it was would be my assignment.

No problem:

The northern exit from Montgomery High School, on Camp Meeting Road, faces the patch directly. Go to Google Maps. Find the high school. Zoom out. Go to Earth view.

Gibraltar Rock.

It's a quarry. We pass the entrance, on 601, just north of Dutchtown Zion, all the time. Climbing D-Z, we're too busy getting up the steepest part of the hill to look through the trees to our right. Not that we'd see anything, but that's where it is.

We took a break at Michael's convenience store in Hopewell. I asked why we weren't going to the much better Boro Bean, down the road, or Brick Farm Market, across the street. Pete and Ken said, "Too crowded."

As if on cue, a dozen cyclists coasted into Brick. We, on the other hand, had the place, and a stale chocolate muffin, to ourselves.

From there, back to the mountain.

At the top of Stony Brook, we merged seamlessly into Cristina's fastboy crowd. I was acutely aware that I was the only one in the group without the raw talent required to keep up. However, Cristina's crew was taking it easy, not having spent the winter on their bikes as we have, and our group mixed with hers all the way to the top of Rocktown Road, where we turned onto Dinosaur Hill and headed for home.

We passed loads of other cyclists, including John K and Fran; Kiyomi and Brad (so I'm told; I don't know either of them); others that Ken knew; and total strangers, alone or in groups.

We were on Bear Tavern Road when Pete hit the little rock with his rear wheel. The rock flew across the road at an urgent speed, and the tire went flat. 

While he worked on the wheel, I squished across a field, finally able to take pictures without disrupting the ride.

We didn't get much farther when Pete hit a pothole and flatted out again. With the wind in my ears and a gap between him and me, I didn't hear the call. Ken caught me a few hundred yards down the road, where we stopped along a stone wall, talked, and waited.

I think the wall is old enough to be earn the sepia treatment.

The repair seemed to be taking too long, so we went back to help out, which Ken did by inserting "That's what she said" into the conversation, the less sensical the better.

The weather was perfect. There was a little wind, but nothing worth complaining about. The sky was clear. The air was dry. We didn't sweat. We didn't shiver. There are few days like this in central New Jersey. We'll see a few more before humidity descends upon us like a heavy blanket and stays until summer is long over.