Sunday, June 6, 2010

Backlog Blog

Burnaby Snoozes on my Stomach, May 2010

6 June 2010

I ran over a squirrel's tail while descending Woolf Road at high speed yesterday. Fortunately for both of us, the squirrel scampered off and I didn't fly over my handlebars. That didn't stop Mike B from shouting, "You sliced that squirrel in half!"

But I'm getting ahead of myself. I have pictures going way back to April that I need to show you before I get to yesterday's adventures.


April 18 was a perfect day to walk along the Pennsylvania side of the Delaware River from Frenchtown to Milford. With Jack, Terry, and Gordon in tow, it seemed like a long way from the Frenchtown bridge to the start of the Delaware Canal towpath, maybe half a mile west of the river.

Gordon and I spent a lot of time trying to capture the light on the flowers on the other side of the bridge. This is the best I could do with my point-and-shoot:

It was still early enough in the spring that some trees were still bare. Gordon said he likes this time of year best because he can capture the green bud haze on the trees. I liked the silvery gray sky behind the twisting branches.

They're fond of red bridges on this side of the Delaware.

Mallards in the canal:

Our goal was to get to the Homestead General Store in Upper Black Eddy for lunch. I kept thinking it was just around the next bend. I was wrong half a dozen times.

This kitty, next door to the general store, is not Burnaby.

This is Burnaby:

I brought a backpack with me so that I could carry loads of coffee home: Dead Man's Brew and Steady Eddy Decaf, two bags of each.

We crossed the bridge in Milford, hoping we could find the canal on the NJ side. It peters out somewhere between Frenchtown and Milford; that much we knew. But as we walked along Route 29 the whole way home, passing several fenced off toxic waste sites, we never found the canal.

On the way home we stopped in Stockton, where the farmer's market was just about closing. I still had time to snag a few bags of beans from the Fresh Coffee Scoop, and Terry found us some chocolate covered pretzels.

Jack was wandering around in the wine shop next door. Being that the taste of alcohol makes me spit, I'm sure I'll never try grappa. But I like the bottles:

Dead Man's Brew, by the way, even when cut 50/50 with Steady Eddy and consumed in the late afternoon, can keep me wide awake well past my bedtime (which is in ten minutes, but I'm on Dead Man's time now).

So, on to May 1, when I led a ride from Lambertville to Upper Black Eddy. It was my first genuinely hot-weather ride of the season, but that's always welcome to me because trying to dress for days that go from 45 to 60 degrees in the space of a few hours is really annoying.

I decided to ride from home, taking 18 miles to get there and avoiding the big hills. Why, you might ask, would I do this? Because, when I was checking the route on (it works for me, Rhet), I saw how far I was riding a year ago and realized how much this winter's weather had set me back. Adding 18 each way to a 50-mile ride would give me 86 slightly hilly miles. It seemed like a good idea at the time.

I took the silly names route and pointed them out as we made the turns: Whiskey; Boar's Head; Goose Island; Rake Factory; Senator Stout; and Hog Hollow. On Joe Ent Road, we saw this barn. Blake said it must be Joe's house.

The view of the Cokesbury ridge from the north end of Joe Ent is much more spectacular than my camera ever lets on. I tried before to capture it and it didn't work then either.

West of Quakertown (there's no there there, unless you count the Maid Brigade and the place that sells tombstones), past the intersection of Senator Stout and Hog Hollow (there really should be a statue of a pig in coattails swimming in a tub of hundred dollar bills), we rode the ridge towards Frenchtown. The sky looked like a scallop shell, and the clouds held the pattern for hours. I could still see it on my way home from Lambertville.

We took Horseshoe Bend to get out of the valley, which was a lot of work. The payoff was flying down 519 the rest of the way. If you've never tried it you should. For a 500-level county road it's wide open and relatively empty.

Despite a large cup of iced Upper Black Eddy Darkness (there was no Dead Man on tap), I was pretty trashed by the time we got back to Lambertville. I sat in the grass and ate the rest of my PB&J in a patch of shade. It was the height of dandelion season. I looked at the flowers through my spokes.

I crawled back up Route 518. Coming through Pennington I couldn't see how I'd have another fourteen miles in me, ever, to do a hilly century.

(Okay, it's past my bedtime now, so we'll continue this tomorrow. Not that I'm tired, but I really should sign off.)

(Right. It's tomorrow, I've had no caffeine, and I'm exhausted. The blame is shared between yesterday's coffee and the cat, one making my ears ring and the other putting his purring nose in said ears.)

Anyway, I didn't get many Hill Slugs to follow me to Hillsborough, where the ride to Clinton started. There were only five of us, which turned out to be a good thing.

I'd spent hours coming up with the route, but a lot of it was on roads I'd never been on, or only been on once a long time ago. Getting lost was a distinct possibility.

Our flat warm-up was a 15 mph headwind. Eddie called along the way and we waited a good long time for him to catch up. He had a teen-aged racer in tow, or, should I say, the racer had him in tow. And it got worse when, halfway up the steeper side of Round Valley Reservoir, his rear axle retired. We left him and his racer to find a flat way home and continued around my favorite puddle.

Andy was constantly looking at his computer and GPS, announcing his watts and our elevation. I finally told him to stop looking at the machine and take in some scenery. He could look at the data when he got home. "Yes, ma'm!" he said.

We got a little turned around coming into Clinton, but we eventually found what I was looking for: Citispot, one of two coffee shops on the block, by the river.

There was a bit of bathroom trouble. The folks at Citispot told us to use the ones at the restaurant at the far end of the building. Of course, there was a sign on the door announcing that the restrooms were for restaurant patrons only, but the room was outside of the restaurant, there was nobody around, and I went in. Mike and Andy, though, got stared at from a woman who apparently ran the little frame shop next to the bathroom. Cheryl solved the problem by prominently displaying her coffee cup as she went through. So that's one kink in the route.

Before we pushed off again we stopped to look at the river. Three guesses which river it is.

Once in a while the water wheel would turn, sometimes in one direction, sometimes in the other.

I didn't get a shot of the three ducks hanging out at the top of the spillway. They'd drift closer in, and, inevitably, one would go over the edge, only to flap its way back to the top mid-fall.

Here's the bridge over the river:

I'd never been on Sidney Road before. It started with a short, steep incline. At the top I did something I rarely do: I said, "Wow" out loud, even though there was nobody around me.

Yeah, I know. It doesn't look like much. You had to be there. The photo flattens everything out. Don't wuss out next time I lead a ride from the Bagel B.O.P. in Hillsborough.

That is, if I can straighten out the other major kink. Before the second kink, though, was the oops. Now, according to Dustin's map, Old Clinton Road heading south from Kickeniuk has a 100-foot climb over half a mile. We'd just done 500 feet up and down, so I didn't even think much about the hundred feet. I just saw the start of the hill and figured we must be in the right place.

For a hundred feet, it sure was steep, but it was just a hundred feet. I found out later, thanks to Andy and his on-board distractor, that the climb was actually 475 feet. This just goes to show you how numbers can psych you out (or in, as the case may be). Had I known the true elevation (had I looked at the elevation profile from mapmyride) I might have freaked out and picked a different route, when, all along, it was perfectly doable.

That was a minor kink, though, compared to the concrete barrier we encountered when we tried to cross Route 31. Even Google Maps failed me on this one. I envisioned us darting across two lanes of traffic, hurling ourselves and our bikes over the barrier, and making a mad dash for the other side. But we didn't do that; we rode south for about a quarter mile to where the barrier ended. There, across the highway, was the road I was looking for. We still made a mad dash, albeit was a much safer one.

At the next turn, onto 513, we found ourselves on blacktop that was so freshly paved it hadn't even been striped yet. In heavy traffic with no marked shoulder, this was no fun, and, to top it off, I missed the turn I was looking for (the road sign had gone missing and it looked like a driveway to me). I wasn't lost, though, so I turned at the next opportunity. It added a few miles, but it was probably prettier than what I'd originally planned.

We got back in time for Cheryl to change her clothes and drive across 206 to where a small dog rescue group was holding an adoption event. One week later she became the proud (and harried) new owner of two rescued puppy mill pooches: Cindy Lou Who and Tracy Mae. I don't have pictures yet.

I do have a picture of one of the two irises that bloomed in our yard this year. Notice I'm not writing that both of our irises bloomed. No, far from it. We must have twenty, half in the front yard and half in the back. To get two to do their thing is a big deal around here. Too much shade.

(Bedtime again. Coming up tomorrow: Rosedale Park, a craft show, and a creepy warehouse in Frenchtown. Stay tuned.)

(Right. I had my caffeine early today. I've got almost two hours before bedtime. Let's get this thing wrapped up.)

I spent the next day off the bike. Jack, Cheryl, and I took a walk in Rosedale Park. Although I've lived here going on eleven years, I've never been past the pavilion, where we hold our autumn Freewheeler picnic.

There's a lake, rife with one of my favorites: red-wing blackbirds. I like these little guys because of their epaulets, because they're noisy, and because when I hear them I know there are wetlands nearby.

Here's a link to a better picture and their call.

The Stony Brook runs through the park. The Stony Brook drains to the Millstone which drains to the, oh, never mind.

I got so turned around I don't know if this is the lake or a separate pond.

This is a barn at the edge of the park:

A tree swallow sits on a bluebird house:

Another off-the-bike thing I did was a craft fair with photographer Nancy Martin. It was held at her church. The price was right: $20 for a table.

Early on, a butterfly landed on the back of one of Nancy's displays. These are cell phone photos:

My jewelry, though, is in a no-man's-land somewhere between flea market and juried exhibit. There wasn't much foot traffic to begin with, and, while nearly everyone who stopped at my table fingered the jewelry and said, "Beautiful," they walked away empty-handed when they found themselves wanting a $50 bracelet.

In the end I sold two pieces, one of which was one of my most expensive ones. So on paper I did quite well. So did Nancy, who sold scads of inexpensive notecards and one framed print. We're trying again on June 19 (more details later).

Here's my entire inventory. You can see how empty this craft fair was. Our tables were near the middle.

Now we jump ahead to May 30, the day Crazy Season officially started because I rode my first century. The Joes have a Memorial Day weekend tradition of biking to Belmar. I rode from home, met Steve at the far end of Mercer County Park, and continued on to Etra Park for the start of the ride.

I got lucky: I was riding with three tall men whom I could duck behind in the event of a fierce headwind. We had a strong-ish crosswind that turned into a headwind by the shore, and, to make matters worse, the wind changed direction to be in our faces the whole way home. Big Joe did pick a pretty route, though. Well, it was pretty until we actually arrived in Belmar.

Belmar is not pretty. Ever. It's full of sunbathing and surfing teens and twentysomethings, standing in line at Dunkin' Donuts or Subway, across the street from an elevated cement walkway that completely obliterates the view of the ocean. But we can get there from home. And, well, it's tradition.

When I got home I felt pretty good. I used the foam roller to get the knots out of my legs. The next morning I was ready to ride again. The first thing I saw when I woke up was this on the wall:

No, it's not some sort of holy, angelic manifestation, nor an alien being. It's light coming through a stained glass panel behind a curtain.

Pretty cool, huh? A minute later it was gone.

June 3 was the first Thursday pick-up of the season at Cherry Grove Organic Farm. There's never much to pick up during the first few weeks, just a little arugula, spinach, sugar snap peas, garlic scapes, collard greens, two kinds of kale, yarrow flowers. And snapdragons:

So, Saturday and the squirrel. Betcha forgot about that already.

It was a Heffler ride, and both Mike B and I were nervous. Heffler's rides are pretty much vertical. He'll climb the same ridge three different ways just because the roads are there. He'll send a group up a steep incline four at a time so that those who topple over won't cause a domino effect. By his own admission, he has no sense of distance nor time, and is often over the listed mileage by a good ten miles by mid-afternoon. That having been said, though, he has a reputation for finding the prettiest roads on either side of the Delaware River.

Mike and I were preparing for the worst. We knew the destination, and I have a vague knowledge of the roads from Frenchtown to Bloomsbury, so I figured that if things got too crazy we could find our way home. Tom was there, too, so I felt pretty safe. He knows all the roads.

But Heffler went easy on us. The first twenty miles were flat! He took us along the Delaware to the Musconetcong and on in to Bloomsbury with only one little anaerobic bump. I had a flat in the first couple of miles. Tom used his pump to get the tire back to 100 psi. That wasn't enough; I could feel the wheel dragging up the hill. In Bloomsbury I added ten more psi and as soon as we took off again I felt the difference.

Heffler saved the hills for the second half. I was well-fed, well-caffeinated, well-inflated, and ready. Turkey Hill is one of those climbs that never seems to end. It looks like loads of fun to descend though, which I'm going to do as soon as I get anywhere near the ridge that divides the Delaware watershed from the other one.

We were short on miles, so we took a detour up another ridge. On the way back down was when I squashed the squirrel.

At the bottom of the hill Heffler pulled out his map again to double-check the way home. Somebody asked how many miles were left. Someone else said, "You mean how many kiloHefflers." We had to come up with how many miles there are to the kiloHeffler. I suggested that one Heffler is 2 vertical miles per horizontal mile traveled. Heffler smiled as he said, "A fifty percent grade!"

Not only did he go easy on us with the elevation, but he also came in under the listed mileage. He's lulling me into a false sense of security, I just know it.

He wanted to show us the Lovin' Oven, a bakery just south of Frenchtown on Route 29. He said that next door, sharing the warehouse space, is a "tchotchketorium" that we had to see.

He wasn't kidding. The place is called Two Buttons, and outside is a massive Buddha, onto which people have laid coins. Mike said, "Look at how much money that is!" It was quite a collection.

It should be called "Buddhas R Us." Big Buddhas, small Buddhas, stone Buddhas, wooden Buddhas, life-size Buddhas in crates. Ganeshas and Kalis, liked up cheek-to-jowl as far as the eye could see. I pulled out my phone and tried not to be obvious.

Creepy puppets.

While we were standing there, trying to make sense of the place, a man next to us laid claim to a Ganesha. (Fifteen minutes to bedtime and I'm trying not to make a terrible pun about needing an elephant in the room.)

I can't leave you with those puppets as the last image. You'll have nightmares. Here's a tiger. He's for sale, too, if you want him.

I'm going to bed. Good night!

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