Thursday, March 29, 2012

Off-The-Books Hill Slugs Ad Hoc, Sunday, 1 April

29 March 2012

Jeff Lippincott (not the one who sang "Superbad" while descending a mountain; the other one) and I have been going back and forth over email about a route from Frenchtown to Easton.  He did a similar route few weeks ago.  Months before this, I'd come up with a draft route that I'd intended to try out during the summer.  But once I saw Jeff's photos, I decided I didn't want to wait.

So now we have a route that we both like.  It starts in Frenchtown, crosses into PA, gets up in the hills, goes on some roads with funky names, leads back down to the river, stops for food, and makes its way across the Lehigh and then the Delaware.  After that it's all river riding, first on the NJ side to Riegelsville, then on the PA side to Milford, and back to the NJ side to Frenchtown.

The route is about 52 miles.  There's less elevation gain than I've been putting the Slugs through lately, so we should all be able to handle it.

Meet at the parking lot on the river side of the Bridge Cafe in Frenchtown.  This is the lower lot, which, I think, has been paved.  The ride starts at 9:00 a.m.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Housewife for a Weekend

25 March 2012

I don't know how normal people do this.  I tend to let these things pile up until I get a bike-free weekend to come down to earth and take care of this stuff.

Jack has been down with a fever since Friday evening, and I was on a self-imposed exercise-free weekend.  Not quite sure what do do with myself, this is what I ended up doing:

1.  baked cookies for a visit to Jack's mother's house, which didn't happen, so I'm carting them off to the lab;

2.  did a henna treatment on my hair while I was baking, leaving it in way too long, so that parts of my hair are flaming orange;

3.  slept for something like nine hours, only waking from tinnitus once (a new tone has joined the chorus);

4.  drank strong coffee and listened for the tinnitus to return to its caffeinated volume;

5.  shortened a beaded watch, replaced the face, mailed it off to a first-time customer in California, and brought home a pile of meds for Jack's apparent flu;

6.  washed windows, inside and out, and washed a few sets of curtains;

7.  went food shopping;

8.  ordered a zillion beading-style watch faces online; 

9.  made soup, from a mix, in the slow-cooker until midnight;

10.  tried to sleep even though I wasn't tired and woke up five times to focus on the tinnitus;

11.  cleaned my ears, releasing a huge gob of wax (ew!) in the loud one, hoped this might help at bedtime, and wondered if I should get behind-the-ear aids when I go for a fitting in a week;

12.  got my hair cut (an inch or two!  too short!)

13.  mopped the hallways and kitchen;

14.  did laundry;

15.  vacuumed;

16.  paid bills; 

17.  realized all that was missing from this frightfully dull weekend was that I hadn't scrubbed any toilets;

18.  scrubbed toilets;

19.  changed the batteries in the smoke and carbon monoxide detectors;

20.  began work on what will be a very expensive necklace;

21.  and wrote an exceedingly dull blog entry.

Wanna know why I ride?  All of the above!

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Happy Cat Day!

24 March 2012

three weeks

five weeks

The little guys are one year old today.  They're officially finished with kittenhood.  Here they are, practicing cathood, with their big brother, Burnaby.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Overtrained Already?

22 March 2012

I guess this is what happens when we have no winter.  In late February I started biking into work twice per week.  That's in addition to weekend rides and gym workouts.  I've done something sweaty for 11 days straight now, and it's taking its toll.  I've got disrupted sleep, no energy, and in Cheryl's spin class last night I couldn't get my heart rate out of the 120's.

This weekend's weather looks to be crappy anyway, so I'm going to do nothing.  Maybe I'll start sleeping through the night again.  That beats listening to my tinnitus at 3:00 a.m.

See you all on Saturday, April 7, when we'll do the traditional Chocolate Bunny Ride:  50 miles, 62 if you want to leave with me from my house.  Stay tuned for details.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Honking Up the Hills

Where Routes 523 and 579 meet

18 March 2012

The last few rides I've led have gone easy on the Slugs.  I figured I'd punch it up a little, which is an easy thing to figure on a Thursday morning, sitting at my desk at work, contemplating a route.  By Friday evening, around 10:45 p.m., when I finally got around to mapping one, I wasn't feeling so tough.  But, because I'd already posted a veiled threat to get medieval, I pretty much had to do it.  I plotted a bailout alternative just in case, scribbled down the directions, and went to bed.

I got a full eight hours of sleep, and drank some coffee in the morning.  I didn't know who was going to show up in Pennington, but if it were to be a strong crowd, I'd have to be prepared.

Chris had written that he had "too much shit to do," so I was pedaling up to Pennington solo.  The fog seemed to be getting thicker.  Wiping off my glasses in the parking lot helped clear things up.  There was dew on my bike too.

There were seven of us:  me, Cheryl, Jim, Little Joe, Joe B, Ron, and Pete the New Guy.  We started off foggy and damp.  The sun broke through about five miles in.  "Stopping!," I called out at the turn onto Harbourton-Mount Airy.  "Strip break!"  I announced, and Pete the New Guy stopped short, causing Jim to plow into him and land square on his dignity.  He dusted himself off and we crammed as much of our extra clothing as we could into what pockets we had.

The chic Mount Airy calves wear earrings.  Cheryl talked to them.

As we approached Sandy Ridge I was starting to get nervous.  I always do when I'm about to tackle a big hill I've been warned about, even if it's on my own ride.  We swung around the cemetery and went down to the covered bridge.  Cheryl went through while the rest of us waited.

I said, "I need an honest assessment from you guys.  Does anyone here not feel good?"

Cheryl said, "You're going to do Pine Hill, aren't you?"


"I knew it!"

Joe B said, "You've never done it before?"

I said, "Nope.  What do we need to know?"

"It goes in stages," he said.  Having been down it, I added, "It's like Goat Hill, but," and I moved my hands together as if to squash what was in between.

"My leg is cramping a little," Cheryl said, "but I'll be all right."

"You'll get bragging rights," I told her, knowing that would be motivation enough to get her up the hill.

"If you've got a small ring, get familiar with it," I said, and we were off.

The first section is moderately steep.  To our right, through the trees, we could see the Wickecheeoke valley.  "Is that a municipal building down there?"  somebody asked.  "Nope." I said.  "It's some rich fuck's house!"  Swearing helps get me up hills.

There was a break, and then the second ascent.  I was next to Little Joe.  "This is steep," he said.  I leaned forward.  "I think my front wheel is going to come up," I told him.

I considered switching into the granny, but if I were to do that, my chain would be in Ohio and I'd be on my ass.  There was nothing for it but to stay in 38/32 and just honk up the hill.

Photo courtesy of Sean Ireland

Are we geese or are we slugs?

At the top, Little Joe said, "You have an assignment:  find out how steep that was."

Ridewithgps says 17.6%, but none of us believes that.  Any hill that makes a bike want to pop a wheelie has to be steeper than 17.6%.

Having prepared the route just before bedtime, my eyes half shut, I didn't bother to check elevations.  So, when we were finished with Pine Hill I thought we were through with the ascents until after the rest stop.  Wrong.  We descended  into the Plum Brook valley and climbed out again.  Cheryl grumbled at me, and I deserved it.

On Locktown-Flemington Road, a narrow little thing in the woods, despite its major thoroughfare-sounding name, I was looking to turn onto Ferry.  I found an intersection without a street sign.  I was pretty sure this was it.  Little Joe, reversing a route in his mind, verified this while I pulled out my phone to check with Google Maps.  Which put us in the middle of a farm field.  "You didn't bring a paper map?"  Joe asked.  "Nope," I said, reminding myself again why composing a route less than twelve hours before a ride is a bad idea.  Just then, a walker came along and told us where we were.  Joe was right, and we were on our way.

Coming into Sergeantsville from the north, I took pictures of town from an angle I hadn't seen before.

In the front yard of a house next to the deli:

The house, for sale:

The deli, as it looks from 523:

The feed store is about a quarter mile uphill, but this fallen sign is pointing towards our feed:

I got to the counter just as Cheryl was using her bragging rights on two riders from Bucks County.

Cheryl and I had vowed, finally, to say something to Sun about the coffee.  The Colombian "dark" came out of the spout lighter than iced tea.  "You guys hafta make the coffee stronger," I told him with a smile.  Cheryl agreed.  Sun smiled.  He always smiles.  "You come here how many years?  Ten?  Why didn't you say something?"  Easy:  I wasn't a coffee snob ten years ago.

I headed us home in the same roundabout way I'd gotten us to Sergeantsville.  We went north again on 523, all the way to the border of Delaware and Raritan Townships, where 539 comes in.  I waved everyone around me as I stopped to pull out the camera.  Jim waited with me.  "You gotta get one with the guys riding," he said.  I snapped three, hoping that at least one would be in focus.  They all were.  Click to enlarge.

The descent made all the day's agony worth it.  Add this road to my list of favorites.

We were just east of Ringoes when we found ourselves behind a very fast, very small, very skinny kid in racing gear.  He kept looking back at us as he sprinted along, but we caught up with him at a red light where Old York Road crosses a morass of highways -- 31, 202, and 179.  When the light turned green, he was gone.  We turned onto Dutch Lane and that, I thought, was the end of that.  But, at the other end, he was in our group, having turned around.  Jim took a liking to him.  On Wertsville Road the kid sprinted off again, and Jim had to restrain himself from giving chase.   "He's what, twelve?"  I said, "And a quarter your weight?  Give it up!"  Jim said, "I could smoke him," but he knew better.  Pete the New Guy said, "Somebody should tell that kid that he doesn't have to grow up to be like us."  He won't; we're not racers.

"Hey, Cheryl!"  I called back.

"Yes, dear?"

"Fried chicken!"

Years ago, back when Kermit was still green, had a steel fork, and only 27 teeth on the big cog, Cheryl and I did a hilly ride with a guy named Jeff K.  Jeff was quiet, but he was a good riding companion.  On this hot day, we'd gone farther than we'd planned, and we found ourselves heading back over the Sourlands on Runyon Mill Road.  I hadn't been there before.  Cheryl and I were tired, and hadn't been shy about saying it.  Jeff, on the other hand, hadn't said anything.  "I bet you feel like a spring chicken," I said to him.  "Nope," he replied.  "Fried chicken?"  I asked.  He nodded.  A little farther on, he said, "No sprinting," to which I replied, "I am sprinting."  And that was before the steep part.  Since then I'd been up Runyon Mill only once.

"Right turn!"  Today would make twice.

Pete the New Guy kept going while the Slugs gathered at the top.  We ended the ride with 49.5 miles.  As she pulled her car out of the lot, Cheryl called out, "Erin go braghless!"

I was pretty close to 62 miles as I approached home, so I rode in circles around the neighborhood until I reached the metric.

Winter Larry's tour of duty is almost over.  The crowds are going to come back to Cranbury soon.  I'll stop going then; I don't like riding with 25 people who pretend they don't know where they are until they're seven miles away from the end of the ride.  None of them will agree to take the heat off by leading separate rides, even though most of them have been riding these roads for more years than I've been in central New Jersey.  Today Larry was looking at me and Jim to take over.  Nothing doing.  I'm staying in the hills, where so few people follow me that I can count them without having to stop my bike.

"I have two routes,"  Winter Larry said.  "One is towards the Sourlands--"

"NO!"  I cut in.  "I'm tired."

So we went to Cassville.

There's no point in re-hashing; I'll point you to Jim's blog instead.

Larry missed last week's ride because he was dealing with an overabundance of tree branches and a handful of late tree surgeons.  I didn't get today's full story, but the guys were talking chainsaws and branches when I arrived.

He has clearly been tormented.  Each pile of sawed-off branches in the street  (there's a lot of that this time of year) or the sound of someone's chain saw set Larry to a howl of agony.  Mark made sure to rub it in every time we passed a tall blue spruce.

Meanwhile, I used my camera as an excuse to stretch my back.  This is a farm on either Emley's Hill Road or Jonathan Holmes Road:

While we weren't riding in fog, the sunlight was diffuse enough for me to point the camera straight at it:

At the intersection of Jonathan Holmes and 528, Larry fell in love with a white horse.  He pleaded for a picture.  I declined at first but changed my mind.  "You guys go ahead," I said, and rode my bike down a short, gravel driveway to get closer to the paddock.

A few minutes had passed by the time I returned to the road.  I shifted into 53/11 and mashed.  So many people have questioned why I even need that gear.  This is why:  a tailwind and a flat road.  I'd almost caught up to Larry when I saw the swamp.

I mashed again and got close enough to see the three of them pull into the deli in Cassville.  Damn.  If there's one place that rivals Le Chateau de Ptomaine, this place could be it.  The bathroom, which one accesses by walking through the house's kitchen, is clean enough, but the whole place reeks of cigarette smoke.  I've never found a thing I'd consider food in there.  I took one look at the coffee and decided that the stuff slowly cooling off in my car would taste better in a few hours than this Maxwell House swill would now.  I paid for my soda at the counter, behind which were two people who, if one were asked to describe them, one could say "Piney" and be fully understood.  They're nice enough to us, though, although their fights are apparently the stuff of legend.

We sat outside, where we could breathe.  I showed Larry the horse pictures.  "You need to crop everything out but the horse," Jim said.  They were surprised when I said that I rarely edit my blog photos.  Too much work.

We'd been to Saint Vladimir Russian Orthodox Church before.  I remember taking pictures with my little Krazr cell phone way back when.  I think I did a little better today.

Jim loved the contrast of the gold leaf and the oxidized bells.

There was another theme besides tree branches today.  I found myself saying, "I'm tired, Goldsmith!" a lot.  And "I'm tired, Brittain!" once.  Larry decided to wring every last drop of energy out of me by finding what passes for hills on the way home.  When we turned onto Bittner I called him a poop.  At least he took us up Agress the easy way. 

At the other end, where Agress meets 571, I stopped again to get pictures of what used to be a house.  There was something about the feeble flowering tree next to the collapse that drew me to it.

As we always say when we pass stuff like this, "I bet I couldn't afford the property taxes."

We were almost home when Larry decided to "make things interesting" again and take us down Route 33. There was, at least, a wide shoulder. Over the traffic noise I could hear Mark and Jim cracking wise about broad-shouldered women. When things quieted down, I told Jim that broad-shouldered women make good caryatids. It took him a few seconds to get it. A few miles later we were attaching "hoc possum" to something else in Latin that I've since forgotten. It was clever, whatever it was.

"Look at that tree, twelve o'clock," Larry said. It was a majestic blue spruce.

"Wanna cut it down?" I asked, to which Larry said something about seeing branches.

"It's all in his mind," Mark said.

Jim did one better: "It's all in his YARD!" 

When I got home, I cropped the horse pictures for Larry, and I played around with one of the swamp shots:


I almost forgot.  In response to Jim's post about Saturday's ride:

Laura is  

stronger/smarter/fatter/thinner/better-looking/less clever/more clever/a better writer/less of a writer/far more verbose/a worse photographer

than she thinks she is.

I know.

Shut up, all of you.


One more thing:  Jim taught me how to put Easter eggs into my html, even though it's not Easter yet.  Have fun finding them.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Hill Slugs Ad Hoc, Saturday, 17 March 2012

15 March 2012

Meet at the Hopewell YMCA/Administration Building parking lot on Main Street, across from Ingleside, in Pennington, at 9:00 a.m.  Plan on 45-50 miles.  I have a route in mind but a lot will depend on who comes along.  I've gone easy on you guys for the last few rides.  There will be a little more work this time around.

Extra-milers can meet at my house at 8:30 a.m.

Let's see if Miss Piggy can handle two rides in a row without a breakdown.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Alpacas and a Bike that Works

4 March 2012

I fetched Miss Piggy from Hart's on Friday.  Maybe we should keep a running count of repair-free days.  She did well between the beginning of December and the end of February; if we don't count the minor cable adjustment after the drive train overhaul, that's three months, a new record.  Let's see if we can beat that.  Day one and counting...


The lighting was right today for pictures.  We were mostly in clouds, the front moving east and away as we rode. 

Our meandering route to Ringoes took us past the Candlelight alpaca farm at the top of Manners Road.  These critters cost more than a good bike, but looking at them today was free.

Cheryl had a good time talking to the alpacas.

From the farm, looking northeast:

Looking north:

Looking south:

Hay bales farther north on Manners Road:

Lauren says I have to tell you the joke.  She said, "Did you hear that the NJ Department of Agriculture is going to outlaw hay bales?"

"No.  Why?"

"Because the cows can't get a square meal."

"I'm'a smack you."

Turns out we used to know each other 15 years ago, back when I was living in Maple Shade.  We went to the same gym.  I was an aerobics instructor there, and we often were on the weight floor at the same time.  Today she figured out why I looked so familiar to her.  It took me a while to remember, but when I did, I even came up with something she said to me way back when.  Small world and all that.

On Frontage Road, which runs between Ringoes and the bottom of Mount Airy, there's a pond hidden in the trees.

It won't be long before there's a green haze on the landscape.