Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The Cokesbury Ridge

25 July

I've planned this as an easy ride: a slow ascent we'd hardly notice for the first 20 miles, a pile of hills, and then down the way we came up. We're even starting just north of the Sourlands so we don't have to climb that mountain.

There's a lot of water in the air when we start out. We finally get a decent view from Higginsville Road.

It's soybean and hay bale season.

Just north of Route 22 on Mill Road is the Readington dairy. The air always smells funny, somewhere between cow and milk that's gone bad. Around the bend in the trees is a pasture of cattle.

We're all taking in the peaceful pastoral until we pass the farm's sign. Beef. So much for that.

There's one warm-up hill on Halls Mills and then we cross Route 78.

Smolenyak hauled us up Deer Hill a few years ago. I remember it being tough then, but I was tired and I weighed more than I do now. But no, the hill is still a pain. It dumps us out near the top of the Cokesbury ridge, a mile or so from where we can see Round Valley Reservoir.

People catch their breaths at the top. Mike is circling, only he's going too slowly, he can't clip out, and he teeters over, busting his saddle on the way down. The front of the seat has come off the rails.

Fear not: "I have duct tape." I've been carrying about a foot of it around for years, just in case. I strap the seat to the rail as best I can. We only have a little more climbing to do before the first rest stop anyway.

The Mountainville General Store had been closed for years; now it's got new owners. Eddie comes out and reports that it's a sit-down place with not much to offer. "We could go on to Califon," I suggest, but the Mikes have the saddle off the post and are trying everything they can to get the two pieces back together.

I get in on the action. It's soon clear to us that only a machine could do what's needed. I take the saddle and go inside. "Do you guys happen to have any tape?" The woman behind the counter has a roll of masking tape.

Now we're in business. Here's where having gone to a piss-poor state school for my graduate degree comes in handy. I turn the seat into a tape and vinyl version of turducken.

By this time we've decided we might as well eat here. The cafe has some muffins and bready things, and a few fruit-ish drinks. The coffee is OK and they let us use the bathroom. We sit outside under the trees by the edge of the driveway. Across the street a machine is apparently moving gravel in a back yard. This is the heart of Mounainville: a cafe and half a dozen houses halfway up Cokesbury Mountain.

Philhower Road gets us to the top in a fashion that's much less gentle than Guinea Hollow, the next road to the east.

I hear a pop and Mike curses. The prongs of the rails have come out of the rear of the saddle. When we stop at the top to wait for stragglers I look under the saddle, straighten out, and slam my palm into the back of the seat. It slides into the rails. "There," I tell him. "Fixed."

It holds all the way down the mountain, up the next ridges as we go east on Fairmount, following it up and down for miles and miles. I double us back on Homestead and we cross to Hill and Dale. We've come back down the mountain a bit; maybe we're two thirds of the way up it now. I drop us down on Rockaway and double us back again onto Potterstown Road.

I know there's a short, steep hill coming, but it should be the last. In my rearview mirror I see Hilda turn around. What is she doing? I have a hunch. The rest of us haul ourselves up and over.

Wow. Even if nobody were behind me I'd stop here. I'm thinking, "This is what Nantucket would look like if it had hills,'' and then, "This looks nothing like Nantucket."

I'm standing next to an orchard.

I'm going to take a picture of grass. Maybe it'll make a good desktop background.

Hilda pops up behind me.

"I saw you turn around. Were you getting up a head of steam?"


We coast into Oldwick, where I get a picture of Mike's saddle.

From here it really is almost all downhill. Now it's getting hot; we always bake on the straight, open roads south of Route 22 to Pleasant Run. All the trees have been cut down so there's no shade to hide in.

As usual I get turned around on Locust near Lazy Brook and we wind up back on Pleasant Run again. No matter. I can get us home from here. Near Neshanic I check the map again just to be sure. Ever since the Neshanic Station general store closed years ago I hardly ever come through here.

We're back in the parking lot at exactly 60 miles, just as I'd advertised. Pure luck, that.


A propos to a conversation in Oldwick, although I'm fond of "slattern," "tart," and "bimbo," the reigning favorite is still "slut."

Should we finally tire of that one, here's a selection of popular terms from the eighteenth century, courtesy of Jack:

hussy (we need to use this one more often)
laced moton
trollop (this one too)

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Hill Slug Ad Hoc, Saturday, 25 July

Let's go to Mountainville and Califon and Oldwick but let's not climb too much. If we start at the Woodfern Elementary School (see the map below) in Hillsborough we won't have to go over the Sourland Mountain.

The route is about 60 miles with most of the climbing between the rest stops. A handful of the roads are new to me, so if you hear me shout, "I'm sorry!" you'll know why.

Anyway, meet at the school at 8:30 a.m. Wet roads cancel, pace pushers not welcome, and all that.

See ya.

View Larger Map

Sunday, July 19, 2009


18 July

Nixon's in Tabernacle has rocking chairs.

Century #21 will be the Princeton Event. We're getting a group together, so if you're interested email me. My address is in the ride book.

Garlic Blogging

16 July

I have a share in an organic farm a few miles from home. This year they've been drying garlic by hanging it up on the sides of the barn.

This is a garlic scape:

Schooley's Mountain

12 July 2009

Everything about Tom's Schooley's Mountain ride was pretty except Schooley's Mountain. We busted our butts to get up that thing but there was no view from the top. Which is good: it means the trees haven't been cut down.

In a previous blog post I talked about a particular view on Rockaway Road that I didn't photograph but wanted to. Well, now it's four months later and the trees have obstructed the line of sight. I stopped on the bridge and took my obligatory stream picture instead.

You'll have to imagine a slope full of cows off to the left. There were no cows this time but they were there in March.

The road we took up the mountain is called Naugtright. Living up to its name it began with an 18% grade around a curve. You know it's bad when a car coming the other way is hitting the brakes.

At the top there's a park. No view there either.

A little farther on, at the intersection of Springtown and Schooley's Mountain Road is a church: Our Lady of the Mountain.

Phyllis got the title for the day. She popped up each hill as if it hadn't been there.

Tom made sure we stopped for the statue. We think it's supposed to be an eagle.

Four Bridges Road has a descent so steep I hung my rump off the back end of my seat to keep my bike in control. Farther along the road I had to stop for yet another obligatory river photo:

I wondered aloud which river we'd just crossed.

Glenn said, for no particular reason, "The Raritan."

When I got home and looked it up I sent him an email:

You were right. The pictures I took of the river were of the South Branch of the Raritan. I am now convinced that any picture I take of a river makes that river become the Raritan, no matter where I am nor where it is. In fact, I think every river in New Jersey is the South Branch of the Raritan River. Even the Delaware (I have lots of pictures of that, too).

Minutes later he wrote back,

I am sure you're right. South Branch of the Raritan River is the generic name of not only every flowing body of water within New Jersey, but of every river in the whole world. In fact, the name might even apply to bodies of water that don't flow--lakes, swamps, oceans, toilet bowls, cats' water dishes, laboratory carboys, and so on.

By the way, here's a picture from our rafting trip in Colorado (on the South Branch of the Raritan River, of course...)...

I wrote,

If that's a picture of the Raritan then surely the rafters are navigating a sewage outflow. That takes some skill.

Yeah, I'm taking a cheap shot at Jersey. I've lived here long enough now; I'm allowed.

Anyway, here, take a look at a few images of the Raritan River watershed. This one is a bunch of USGS quads strung together showing the entire river. This one is just the Raritan River's South Branch. Now it all makes sense. No matter where we ride west of Route 1 in central New Jersey north of the Sourland Mountain we're in the Raritan's watershed. And, because of the Delaware and Raritan Canal, even the Delaware River, on the western boundary of the state, is connected to the Raritan, which flows east to the Hudson.

We had one little hiccup on the way back.

But we went on anyway. It wasn't too bad. There used to be a road under the gravel, and the rough stuff didn't last long.

Tom took us down Black River Road. This is a hill you have to concentrate on. It's very pretty, though, with the river in a ravine on the left and more or less a forested cliff on the right.

At the intersection of Black River and Vliettown a woman crossed by us on a white horse. Tom and I were shooting into the sun. Even with my camera's visor I couldn't quite tell what I was looking at. It looks like I timed it exactly wrong: I've lined up the horse and rider with the barn behind them.

Ta-da! Making its seasonal debut, the first hay bale photograph of 2009.

It's those dots in the distance.

Chris and I had carpooled up together, Phyllis and Mike following behind. We reversed course in the afternoon, trying not to make the same wrong turns again but only partially succeeding.

We unloaded at my house. Jack came out to talk and we all sat on the front stoop, talking about everything and nothing. Before any of us knew it, two and a half hours had gone by.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Hill Slug Ad Hoc, Saturday, 18 July

16 July

For two days I'd been staring at maps trying to decide where I want to go next. I was halfheartedly trying to figure out a route from Lambertville to Round Valley, or Milford, or Frenchtown from Pennington, or something. I was pretty much stuck, too zapped from work and lack of sleep to think straight.

Then Tom sent me an email suggesting Bordentown. Even better, he has a route in mind. Problem solved. I don't have to think.

So, we'll meet at the Peter Muschal School on Ward Avenue in Bordentown at 8:00 a.m. An early start gets us home before the chance of rain picks up.

The route is flexible but plan on about 60 miles. Extra-milers can meet at my house at 6:45 a.m. It's about 15 miles from Larryville to Bordentown.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Bloomsbury Again

28 June

The daylilies are everywhere.

Hilda has a box of doughnut holes she shares with the small crowd in the Mine Brook Park lot. I'm not so sure eating doughnuts before a slightly hilly ride is a good idea, but Mike B. has no problem popping them into his mouth. Chris shoves the box into his handlebar bag and disappears over the bridge by the stream. He comes back with a ski cap dampened by creek water and lays it over the doughnuts to keep them cool.

We're going to Bloomsbury and Upper Black Eddy again. I'm stealing Larry's route but taking some different turns on the way over.

These guys must've been bored, drunk, stoned, or all of the above when they made the maps up here. The road names have to be an inside joke. Bonetown? Whiskey? Boar's Head? Hinkley is a dirt road so we won't be able to get to those today.

"Anyone who finds a goose or an island gets a doughnut!" We find neither. The entire road cuts through woods.

On Rake Road we pass a little bird with a broken wing. Hilda turns around; Chris and I follow. We try to guide it to the side but in the end I have to pick it up and move it. "Let nature take its course," Hilda says. Better a vulture or a snake than an SUV.

Where there is sun there are daylilies.

Where Joe Ent meets Quakertown Road we can see the Cokesbury Ridge.

I think the Fucking Hill is over to our right somewhere. I suggest wandering that way for a bit to find it, but the road looks daunting from here and we just don't feel like it today.

Good thing we didn't go that way; going left instead we pass the Fucking Hill about a quarter mile down the road. I take a detour to the top of it just so I can tell the story again. Cheryl agrees it doesn't look as bad today as it did last year.

The intersection of Senator Stout and Hog Hollow. Does it get any better than that? I wonder if that house is for sale.

More daylilies.

A wall of green in front of us is getting closer. On the other side is Bloomsbury. Halfway up is the intersection of Sweet Hollow and Myler. This is Myler:

This is Sweet Hollow. There aren't many roads out there with a stream on both sides at once.

The top of Myler is the top of the Cumulus Ridge and the home to a herd of alpacas.
It must be a daycare center; these can't be all her own kids. They follow her wherever she goes, bleating all the way.

And daylilies.

Flying down Staats Road I catch a glimpse of the ridge across the Muscontectong. But I'm going too fast to stop for a picture. Next time.

We're pretty hungry when we get to Bloomsbury. I have to take a picture of the general store in order to remember the name.

On the other side of the Musconetcong we can see the Cumulus Ridge. I look to my right to figure out where that spectacular view from the ridge was. From here I don't see much at all. The ridge is a green wall.

We follow the Musconetcong again to the Delaware River. Somewhere along here Larry went off the cue sheet. I'm trying to remember what he did. I recall going under a bridge and crossing tracks. My cue sheet says, "L on River," but I see a bridge next to a set of tracks. We go straight. It seems familiar.

But if that's the Musconetcong on our left then it's pretty big. Too big. Chris and I are wondering out loud. When we come to an intersection I check my map. That's the Delaware River and we're heading north. "Turn around!"

Hilda remembers turning onto River Road at a small steel bridge. She's right; things look like they should again. The Delaware is on our right and we're following it downstream.

We follow a county road slightly uphill. By chance I look to my right at a narrow road. There's the underpass I'd been looking for. The potholes give it away.

"Turn around!" We follow it back to the river and we're where we're supposed to be.

This is a view of the Milford bridge from a dead end just north of town:

We cross the bridge, heading for the Homestead General Store. I have big pockets ready for two packs of coffee beans.

On the back patio is a tortoiseshell kitten. She rubs against chair legs, says "Meech," but won't let me touch her.

Hilda says it's because she hasn't been handled by people.

I ask inside. The owner says the kitten was brought here and they've been feeding her. "She rubs against my legs," the owner says, "but that's it. We named her Callie because she's a calico." Except she's not; she's a tortie.

After we walk over the Frenchtown bridge we have to climb back up the ridge towards Flemington. We're in the full sun. It's getting a little hot and we're getting a little spread out.

More daylilies.

I start thinking about the blog. These days when I ride I'm riding two rides at once. One is the ride itself and the other is the story that unfolds as the ride goes on. I don't tell everything; I can't. Some of it is too personal, stories people are living that they aren't ready to share yet, maybe will soon, maybe never will.

The daylilies are everywhere though, bright orange, impossible to ignore, like one of those unspeakable stories that is going to burst through the surface any day now.

Up here the roads have already been oiled and chipped, something that doesn't usually happen until August. It must be the stimulus money grinding underneath our tires. We stick to the back roads that parallel Route 12, turning south on the last possible road, Featherbed. We zoom down Hardscrabble and coast into the parking lot, coming in at exactly a metric century.

Chris chucks the rest of the doughnuts.