Sunday, September 22, 2013

Some Rambling and Ranting About the Speed Thing

another one from Voz

22 September 2013

As the All-Paces ride was organizing itself this morning, I was trying to figure out which group to ride with.  I hadn't slept well at all.  Too much coffee, probably. Although I'd made it to the park without feeling draggy, I didn't know how long that would last.

Almost all of the time I choose the group where most of my friends are, regardless of pace. I arrived early enough that the lineups weren't clear.  Like me, others were trying to figure out where they fit in.

I found the honest B first, then coasted over to the faster B.  Of those gathered, there was only one rider whom I could trust to keep an eye out for me were I to fall off the back.  The others I either didn't recognize or knew to be far faster than I am.  I asked the leader how fast he'd be going.  I could tell he was hedging to the lower end, and even that was more than my legs had in me this morning.  "You can handle that pace," he said.

"Yeah, no," I said, and went back where I belonged, with a mass of B people, some of whom I hadn't seen on the road all year.  I didn't want to "handle" a pace today.  Jim was milling about, trying to decide where he'd belong.  "I'm not riding with them," I said, referring to the faster group. "I have nothing to prove."  When he decided a few minutes later to stick with us, I expressed my relief.  "Now I won't have to feel bad when I read about some crazy-ass 20 mile-an-hour pace he did today."  People laughed, but I regretted having said it right away.  There was still a part of me that thought I should go faster, that I should push myself with a group of strangers.

I got talking with someone who recognized my name from the book.  She's been reading this blog (hi, Phyllis!).  She recognized me from pictures on Jim's blog.  "Gah.  I hate seeing pictures of myself.  The first thing I do is look at my stomach."

"Me, too."  For the record, her stomach is flat.  Mine is not. (Now don't go scurrying off to Jim's blog to look at my body fat.)

I don't remember how we got to the subject of speed and racing, but I said, "I wade through other people's piss five days a week.  The last thing I need is to be wading through it out here."  She wholeheartedly agreed.

I'm glad I picked the group I did.  First, I got to talk to a lot of people I hadn't seen in a while.  Second, I met three new people.  And third, we had a strong headwind on our way back.

As is usual for big rides in the flatlands, the group shattered before we even got to the rest stop.  Some people had cue sheets.  I was behind Chris, in a front splinter group.  We were getting up in miles and close to Allentown, and we made a turn that made the most sense to get us into town.  It turns out the half dozen of us were wrong and had shaved off a couple of miles, but we all met up outside of Woody's and Bruno's (a few doors away from each other) anyway.

On the way back to the park, the group fell apart again.  It was a straight shot up Old York Road to Gordon, standard fare and the most direct route.  I found myself pushing to catch up to the only people I could see.  There were three people in front of me.  I caught them just in time for the middle rider to nearly knock Phyllis off the road as he swerved out and slowed down without reason or warning. She let out a mighty scream, which probably saved her.  I got mad and called out,"Watch it!  You're in a pace line!  You can't do crazy shit!"  She pulled off the rear and thanked me. We spent the last few miles on our own, talking.

We arrived just as the picnic was gearing up.  Other riders from our group trickled in, two or three at a time.

I found Cheryl.  She chided me for beating her up yesterday.  She said we were too fast.  I had trouble parsing that; we'd all stayed together.

Then I got talking to a couple who had ridden with me long ago, back when I was still going around the big hills instead of over them.  He's a racer.  She's a wisp of a thing that held her own in today's headwind.  She said she's trying to get a group of women together to do the Event century next year.  Another woman, whom I'd met for the first time today, thought it would be a good idea.  Again I had trouble parsing.  "I don't think about it as men and women," I said.  "Sometimes I'll be ten, fifteen miles into a ride before I realize I'm the only woman.  There aren't many women riding at our level.  They're either racing or breeding."

She said she wanted to get stronger and faster.  That's fine, but I had to say what I always say when this comes up:  "Being a faster rider doesn't make you a better person.  It does increase your potential to be an asshole."  It really gets on my nerves when people try to convince me that if I'm not trying to get faster then I'm not applying myself.  There are other ways to be in a world of hurt at the end of a ride.  I choose steeper hills and longer distances.

I never think of myself as a woman first and a rider second.  I think of myself as Our Lady of Perpetual Headwinds, a well-padded tank who climbs worse than she hammers, who stops to take pictures; a cynical, sarcastic, decidedly unfeminine ride leader who spends more than half her time on a 16-year-old steel bike.

Out loud, I said, "I don't think of the people I ride with as men or women," I said. "I think of them as friends."  Somebody, maybe Jack H, said, "You ride with people your own pace, men or women."  We were doing our best to convince her that, as I undelicately put it, "whether or not I have boobs" doesn't matter.  I don't know if we convinced her, but by the end of the conversation I had recruited two new Hill Slugs.  Jim passed by at this point; I drew him in and let him take over the recruiting.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Rojo's to Rojo's Ride

 Jack H captures the spirit of the ride

21 September 2013

Today's ride is all about coffee.  Readers of this blog might ask, and rightfully so, "How is that different from every other ride?"

Well, first, I haven't had any caffeine before the ride.

Second, it's Cheryl's birthday, so I'm riding the mile from my house to hers with two bags of beans hanging from a Rojo's bag on my left wrist.

Third, we're going to have two rest stops in less than 50 miles.

There are nine of us in a strung-out line on Princeton Pike.  I'm in commuter mode.  Somebody has to shout to slow me down.  I'm not on my way to work with Gonzo; I'm on Miss Piggy, leading what is supposed to be a mellow ride.  Oops.

The Princeton Rojo's opened a few weeks ago.  It's a small space, with only two tables and no bathroom. "We're riding from here to the Lambertville Rojo's," I tell the woman who rings me up.

"How cool!"  she exclaims, and she appears to mean it.

A corner of Palmer Square looks almost European.

Getting out of Princeton and back into our usual territory the most direct way takes us down Rosedale, through ETS, up Carter, and over to Crusher.

Morning haze over the Hopewell Valley

This house is for sale.

We pause here for a diversion into FreeWheeler history.  Bagel Hill Barry is on the ride today.  It's time for me to get the story from the man himself, as we finish climbing Stony Brook Road.  When I ask if the Bagel Hills were, indeed, named after his ritual of feeding his riders, he says, "Yep.  That's me.  But it's not the hills everyone thinks.  It's not the ones in Roosevelt."  The real Bagel Hills are the Sweetmans Lane rollers.  Now that we've cleared that up, we return to the ride.

Getting to and from Princeton eats up too many miles for me to take us on anything other than our usual roads.  Fortunately, we have unusual things to look at, like a freaky four-way, truck style, exiting Route 202 onto Queen Road:

They're attached to each other, a 40-wheel caterpillar.

The rest of the group is waiting for me at Alexauken Creek Road.  "I stopped to get a picture of those trucks."

"We figured you would," Cheryl says.

Alexauken Creek Road remains one of my favorites.  Taken top to bottom, any season, the road is beautiful, with the stream and its forest on the right; and horse pastures, barns, and woods on the left.

Jack H is behind me.  In my mirror I see a stalk of foxtail grass hanging from his mouth.  "That's perfect!"  I tell him.  "It's the true embodiment of today's ride.  I need to get a picture.  It'll be the cover photo for the blog."

Jack laughs, keeping the stalk between his teeth.  "I'd be honored," he says.

David, the owner of Rojo's, is milling about the Lambertville shop when we arrive.  I tell him what we're up to.  He's pleased.  "Are you FreeWheelers?" he asks.  When I tell him we are, he says, "That explains it. You're hard-core."

I'm putting my water bottle back into my bottle cage when he comes out, carrying a big bag of bags of beans and several boxes of filters towards his car.  He stops to admire our line of bikes and asks about my wacky gearing.

Back inside we get chatting about which beans he'll have available when, and what's going into what blend.  After I buy my coffee and a biscotti, I notice the jar of brownie bites.  "Just baked," he says.  They look like tiny muffins.

"Can I trade this biscotti for one of those?"

"Nope," he says, and hands me a brownie bite.

I take it to the low, round, metal table near the front where most of the Slugs are seated.  David wanders past and asks about the unpainted titanium bike outside.  "Mine!"  Jim says with glee, and they get talking.  As he's walking away, I've just tasted the brownie, passing the bottom to Cheryl.  "Tell him these brownie bites are awesome," I call out to Jim.  He calls over to David, who comes back and  lists the ingredients, a long list of addictive substances that one would not put into a brownie.  Like bourbon.

Next to me, John K whispers, "Hash."

Cheryl hears him.  "You've been quiet the whole ride.  Now you're nothing but jokes."

There's a headwind taunting us up Quarry and Rocktown.  We crawl up Dinosaur Hill, cross 518, and go straight to 579.  A few landscaping trucks need to get around us at the corner, so we let them pass.  While we wait I catch a reflection in a window:

We turn up Woosamonsa and get spread out again.  When everyone arrives we're still talking.  Cheryl is telling us a story about a pair of hikers at Glacier National Park, married 8 days.  Seems the wife decided she didn't want to be married and pushed her husband off a cliff.  John suggests that's where Cheryl ought to have taken her ex.  I suggest they call it "Black Widow Trail."

John looks over at me and says, "I heard about it on the web."

"Ouch.  You know, bad jokes have a way of showing up on my blog."

not a black widow web

I shocked my arm on the electrified fence to get this photo.  You're welcome.

A few miles from home, Jack H says he's beat.  I've been able to keep up with him, mostly, today.  It must be the fit.  Then he explains why he's beat:  he gave blood yesterday.

"Now I know how to keep you in check," I tell him.  "You show up for a ride, I show up with a bag.  And a needle."

When we get back to her house, Cheryl has bananas and juice and muffins and two little dogs that need to be walked.

You can get one of these magnets for yourself here.

By the way, Miss Piggy's Guru gets an A+ too.  Last Saturday was just one of those bad days.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Hill Slugs Ad Hoc, Saturday, 21 September: Rojo's to Rojo's Ride


(stolen from the Web)

18 September 2013

It's Cheryl's birthday and we'll ride like she wants to:  mellow, yet caffeinated.

Rojo's Roastery, our regular Lambertville hangout, has a second location in Princeton.  Cheryl needs caffeine.  So, here's what we're going to do:

We'll start in Lawrenceville, near Cheryl's house, and ride the 7 or so miles it takes to get to Palmer Square, where we'll have the first cup of the day.  Then we'll get going for real and head to Lambertville, where we'll have our real rest stop and another cuppa.

Meet at the Woodmont condo complex, off of Franklin Corner Road, in Lawrenceville.  From Route 1, head west on Franklin Corner Road, past the light at Princeton Pike.  The entrance to Woodmont will be on the left, 0.2 miles from the light.  Make the first right onto Jackie drive. Park along the street but not next to the tennis courts.

The ride starts at 9:00 a.m.  Pace-pushers had best ride with someone else.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Testing the Guru: Sergeantsville and Ride for McBride

Bucolica with Warehouse, Pumpkins, and Silt Fence
unknown artist, Hill Slug School, early 21st century

15 September 2013

I got Guru'd on Monday.

Ever since I herniated my L5-S1 disc, I've had to deal with the muscles around the injury seizing like writer's cramp when  descending or riding in the flatlands.  It was a lot worse in the early days of rehab, but Ross helped fix things by giving Kermit a different stem.  Sure, it made Kermit look like a giraffe, but it allowed me to go an hour or so without stopping (a quick dismount and back arch is all it takes to reset).  Unfortunately, my neck and shoulders suffered.

In the hills Miss Piggy rarely gave me the writer's cramp problem, but I never felt that I was running at full power.  I couldn't seem to pick up any steam on the rare flat road between hills.  Plus my neck and shoulders would hurt on long rides.

It was time for a custom fit, my first ever in over 13 years of obsessive road cycling.

I crammed Kermit and Miss Piggy into my car and wheeled them into the store at 6 p.m. on Monday.  Ross took measurements from both bikes and then from me.  He measured my shoulder width with a tape measure and standover height with a spring-loaded wooden device I was to straddle and balance.  It looked less obscene than it felt.

Although we'd long ago made all of the standard measurements for both bikes match each other, the ones that the Guru needed revealed that there was as much as 1 cm difference between the two.  To an outside observer that doesn't sound like much, but to a sore cyclist, it might as well be the distance between here and the moon.

The Guru suggested a setting based on my measurements.  I climbed aboard and started pedaling.  With the tap of a few keys, Ross made millimeter changes.  "Which feels better, this or this?"

"I...I don't know."  I couldn't tell what he or the Guru were doing.  I'd feel my body move, but I couldn't have said which way.

I was starting to panic a little.  What if I were to make the wrong choice?

After a few more tweaks and this-or-this questions, we found a setting that I could definitely say was better.  He opened up a window that displayed my cadence and smoothness of pedal stroke.

"Now I'm going to enter in the Waterford," he said, and tapped in Kermit's settings.  My upper back moved and my cadence dropped a little.


"See that?"

"Now the other one." he said.

"Miss Piggy."

"Miss Piggy," he grinned.

My cadence dropped a lot, by 5 rpm.  Was I doing that on purpose?  He went back and forth between the Guru and the Pig.  There was no doubt.  "I can hear your cadence dropping," he said, as the settings were switching.

So that settled that.  Both bikes would be adjusted.  Kermit would get wider handle bars and a different stem.  Miss Piggy would get a new stem too.

They were ready in a day.

This weekend was the road test.

I invited a handful of people along for a Saturday ride; only Jim and Ron could make it.  I had the destination, Sergeantsville, in mind, but no route past getting to Poor Farm.

Jim met me at home and chatted with Jack while I put on my shoes and finished my coffee.  We picked up Ron in Pennington.  For these first few miles I really couldn't tell what had changed.

"If I can beat Ron up Poor Farm then I know it worked."  Ron and Jim finished ahead of me, but I came as near to sailing up Poor Farm as I ever will.

I also started to notice that I was keeping my hands on the hoods a lot more often.  On most hills I'd been moving them to the top of the bar.  I was able to hammer on the flat sections of Wertsville Road too.

Hey, Tom!  I did this for your benefit.  Do I look fast now? 

On Route 579 in Ringoes, an abandoned group of hay bales:

Upon closer inspection, I wouldn't want to touch a bale covered in poison ivy either.

A rusty mailbox across the street from the hay:

Sun and his wife want to sell the Sergeantsville general store building and the business with it.  "We're old," she explained.  "We want to retire."

Whoever buys this place will have some huge shoes to fill.

Some places we pass regularly yet never stop to notice.  Here we were stopped for some wardrobe change or another.  Can you guess where this is?

Unionville Winery's Bel-Well Vineyard, vines covered in cloth to keep out the birds:

By the time we dropped Ron off at his car, my back was a little sore.  When I got home, though, aside from a quick hang from the pull-up bar, I didn't stretch or do any PT.  I ate lunch, showered, ran errands, and by late afternoon my legs were so tight that they were pulling on my back.

This happens sometimes after hilly rides.  There are also days when my back hurts because I did no exercise at all the day before.  Aha.  I did nothing yesterday.  I didn't know what to think.

I mapped the route we'd taken:  over 3000 feet of climbing between the Pennington start and finish, with a pace higher than the usual Slug fare. No wonder I was tired.  As I was doing my stretches I got worried.  Was this just my usual hill-climbing fatigue?  What if the adjustments were worse for my back than before?  Had I gained power at the risk of making my injury worse?  Would I even sleep?  Would it hurt to turn over? Would I have anything left for tomorrow's Ride for McBride?

I went to bed heavily medicated, with a nine-year-old cat purring on my head.

The next thing I knew, my alarm was going off.  I got out of bed pain-free.  Nothing was tight as I did my morning PT.  That was a good sign.

I met Jim and Ron at Ron's house in Robbinsville.  The sun was low in the sky.  My fingers were cold when we set out for the 11-mile ride to Tall Cedars.  Kermit felt different the  minute I got onto the saddle.  "I feel like I'm eight hundred feet up," I mused.

Nothing hurt.  I wasn't tired. I could keep my back straight and my shoulders down without moving my hands to the top of the handlebar.

On Gordon Road, as we approached the warehouses, we  noticed the pumpkins.  Getting a good picture was difficult.  I'd try again on the way home.

We were just saddling up again when a car stopped next to us.  "Get out of the road!"  Tom called from his open window.  We traded a few barbs before I told him to get out of the road.  "See ya at Tall Cedars!"

We cruised the rest of the way into Hamilton.

A good quarter of a mile before our last turn, onto Sawmill, Jim's GPS was beeping its little beeper off, signaling the upcoming turn.  Remember this.  It will be important later.  This is called foreshadowing.

Seventeen people wanted to ride with the Hill Slugs.  Ira would take another handful half an hour later.

Among our number was Jeff
The Derailleur Nailer
, whom I hadn't seen since shortly after his adventure with the  pork roll.  He got a flat and diagnosed wheel damage when we were less than a quarter mile out.  We were down to sixteen.
We held together surprisingly long, given the talent spread.  Things got messy around mile sixteen.  We splintered into three groups, the middle one waiting for the slower one when there was a mechanical problem.  As soon as we got started again, we splintered again. I was with the middle group, which was really those from the fast group who thought to wait for the rest.  No problem, I figured. We'd all regroup at the rest stop a mile or two down the road.

Except for this:  At the rest stop, as Cheryl was pulling in, she said, "Jim and Bruce just went past without stopping.  We were shouting.  He didn't hear us."

Strange, I thought.  The road arrows are clear.  The rest stop is listed on the cue sheet.  There's a huge, painted sign with gold letters that say, "Plumsted Township Recreational Field."  Maybe they didn't want to stop.  Maybe Bruce wants to take it slow and steady.  Maybe we'll catch them later.  Maybe Jim is gonna be hella pissed off.

That last thought hounded me.

"It's always safe to presume," he constantly reminds us, "that Jim does not know where he is."  Maybe he'd turn around and come back here before we all take off.

As we were getting ready to leave, I told Cheryl and Ron that I was feeling great.  "I kinda want to go with the fast group, see what I can do," I said, gesturing towards Kermit.

"No problem," they said.  "We'll see you back at Tall Cedars."

We all left at the same time anyway.  As we approached the light on Main Street where Route 528 comes in, we saw Jim and Bruce going the other way.  Had they gone to Wawa instead?  Jim shouted something.  All I heard was "rest stop."  He looked angry.  Cheryl and Ron were a little bit back from the rest of us. There was time for Jim to swing around and catch them.  I looked in my rear view mirror but there were too many bodies behind me to tell what was going on.

I turned my attention to hanging with the group.  I wondered how long I could keep it up.  When we turned onto Hill Road I stayed in my big ring and stayed with them.  When I climbed out of the valley -- finally in my small ring -- I passed almost everyone and joined Tom at the front.

We were at mile 40.  For the next 10 miles I was in the front most of the time.  Yay, Kermit!  Hooray for Guru!

Then, on Route 528, I found trouble staring me in the face.  Trouble in the shape of bright orange barrels standing between us and our next turn, the cue arrow painted well beyond the blockade.  Shit.  Well, here we are again, me and Tom and a closed road.  I knew what to do.

"Follow me," I said, and weaved between two barrels.

The road was closed, but clear.  Good thing I was the one who came up with this route.  Cheryl helped me paint the arrows for this half, so she'd know what to do.  Joe would be with Ira, so he could get them through. That would be most of the FreeWheelers.  The rest, well, if they follow their cue sheets or their GPSs, they'll figure it out.

But there was a nagging echo:  "It's always safe to presume that Jim does not know where he is."  If he misses this turn I'll never hear the end of it.  Bruce has been riding these roads for years, though.  He'll know how to get through.

A few miles later we were pulling into the gravel driveway at Tall Cedars.  The first person I saw, strolling towards us, camera out, was Jim.

"What happened?"

He wasn't the least bit angry, at least not anymore.  In a convenient concoction of missed turns, doublings back, and an A-level pace, he got here before we did with more or less the same mileage.  He'd left his anger on the road, somewhere in Arneytown.

So all was good, and in time for Jared, Joe's son, to announce this year's scholarship recipient:

Jared's mother, Judy, looks on:

One of Joe's former students also spoke.  There's one thing he said that I vowed to memorize:  "I learned to channel my inner Joe and use it at the right time."

On our way back to Ron's house, we stopped again for the pumpkins.

"This is the quintessential New Jersey," I said.  "Warehouses, farm fields, silt fences, and mud."

It's 11:00 p.m. now.  After 56 hilly miles yesterday and 72 flat ones today, I don't even feel as if I've been on a bike this weekend.  The jury is still out on Miss Piggy, but Kermit's Guru gets an A+.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Hill Slugs Ride for McBride, Sunday, 15 September

14 September 2013

UPDATE:  Wear red if you've got it.  Anyone who wants 20 extra miles (10 before and 10 after) email me and I'll give you the details.

13 September 2013

Sunday will be the third Ride for McBride to honor the late Hill Slug, Joe McBride.  We are family and friends raising money for a scholarship at the University of Pennsylvania's School of Social Policy and Practice, where Joe taught.  You can read about the first award winner here.  This year's recipient will be announced at the picnic* after the ride.

The Hill Slugs will be riding the 50-mile route.  You can blame me for anything that sucks about the course.  I've been the route-planner every year.

We'll start around 8:00 a.m. Online registration closes Friday at midnight (a little more than an hour from now), but you can still register in person.  To speed up the process, you can download the insurance release form here.

Meet at Tall Cedars Picnic Grove on Sawmill Road in Hamilton. I'll be hanging out near the registration table.

(*There will be burgers, drinks, and sides, served up by a large number of McBrides.)

Monday, September 9, 2013

Because I know you want to see it...

9 September 2013

...Saturday's fish head on Mountain Road:

from Jackie's helmet camera

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Jack's Birthday on the Sourland Mountain

Burnaby's birthday is September 14.  He'll be 9.

8 September 2013

For weeks I'd been telling Jack we'd do whatever he wanted to do on his birthday. I'd suggested a trip to New York City, but that fizzled.  I suggested that if he wanted to spend the day lounging around in his underwear, he could do that, too.

Then, when I got home from yesterday's Sourland Spectacular and told him that we'd had a rest stop at Hopewell Valley Vineyards, we started talking about the (de)merits of New Jersey Wine.  When he said, "I wouldn't mind taking a tour of a New Jersey winery one of these days," I jumped on it.

So off we went to Unionville Vineyards today.

Now, I don't drink.  I don't like the taste.  My scale runs, as Jack puts it, from "zero to negative one hundred."  But I try to be a good sport.  He's had to listen to so many years of bike talk that the least I can do is understand wine talk.

Lately I've even been volunteering to taste some of the vile stuff.  Only if it's white, though, and only if he thinks I won't spit it out.  Reds are out of the question.  He and a few of our oenophile friends say I have a good sense of taste for wine.  I'm good at naming the tastes as they hit.  The problem is that I inevitably end my description with, "and it's barfy."  As in, it tastes like barf.

Anyway, as I was saying, off we went to  Unionville Vineyards.  I took the scenic route, which included a drive past where we saw the fish head yesterday. The winery is on Rocktown Road where it meets Linvale Road, just off of Wertsville Road.  In other words, we pass this place all the damn time on our bikes.

This is the view from the lower vineyard, looking south towards Wertsville Road. On the hill across the road is another of their vineyards, covered in netting to keep birds from eating the grapes:

Little tiny grapes a week or two away from picking:

A vine trained to guide wires:

The tour was neither as long nor as interesting as the one we went to in Rioja, Spain, last year.

Our guide dissed the Sourland Mountain.  He mocked its size, as everyone does. I quietly set him straight:  "It might be small, but it's our mountain."

Later, inside, as Jack spent his time tasting, I geeked out over the aerial maps of the winery's numerous vineyards.  Our guide, and the woman behind the tasting counter, were useless when I asked for details.  Eventually I figured out where most of them are.  One is at the intersection of Rocktown and Mountain, yet another spot we pass all the damn time on our bikes.  A second is somewhere on the south side of the mountain in Hopewell.  A third is near Milford.  "Mountain Road," our guide said, "Near Frenchtown, in Warren County."  I tried Googling the address right then and there, knowing full well that there's no Mountain Road in Milford near Frenchtown (try it and you'll see), and that Milford is in Hunterdon, not Warren, County.  So that one's still a mystery.

Jack bought a couple of bottles, because the wine was "not bad.  It's more to support the vineyard than anything else." Better bad wine than another housing development.

The couple next to us had driven up from Collingswood (Camden County). I got the chance to wax poetic about our mountain and the efforts to preserve it. The couple has made a point to visit every New Jersey winery.  Not for the wine, they explained, but for the scenery.  Somehow the conversation got to Vermont.  "I see the bikers going up those hills," the woman said, "and I feel so sorry for them!"

I smiled.  "Never feel sorry for a biker," I told her.  "It's self-inflicted."

Miss Piggy Strikes Again

Hopewell Valley Vineyards

8 September 2013

Yesterday saw upwards of 400 riders at the Sourland Spectacular.  I don't know how much money was raised, but I hope it was at least enough to buy an acre or two.

The route stayed on the mountain most of the time, hitting some big hills but leaving out the biggest.  Jim has already summed it up. There weren't any real surprises, aside from the rather large fish head in the shade of Mountain Road.

Miss Piggy has been so well-behaved this year.  It was long past time for her to go wrong, and she did.  First she started clicking when I put any torque on the middle chain ring.  Then she decided she liked the rhythm and clicked in the big ring too.  Nothing felt loose, so I didn't panic.

Then, as I was shifting into low gear at the intersection of 518 and VanDyke going uphill, she threw her chain into the rear wheel, sending me into a low-speed, controlled fall.

It took two of us -- me and Ed -- to get the chain back where it belonged.  I only lost a little skin on my knee, but I wrenched my back when I landed.  It didn't hurt much; I didn't think it was worth holding up the group so that I could stretch.  I didn't think to do it at the next rest stop either.  I paid for that when we got to the other side of the mountain and hit Wertsville Road full-out.  I fell further and further behind as my lower back went into writer's cramp mode and I lost power.

Long Hill was next.  I figured we'd stop at the corner to collect people before going on. I could stretch there.  But I was last, and nobody had stopped.  Long Hill is a long hill.  By the time I got to the top I was so far behind that I couldn't see anyone.  So I stopped and stretched.

That did the trick, as it always does.  I popped into high gear and caught up.  We were only a couple of miles from the end of the ride at that point.  After we parked our bikes I found a low tree branch and hung there.

Jackie saw me and liked the idea.  Then I took another turn.  I might be slow, but I can do three pull-ups after a metric century.  Gotta be good at something.

The highlight of the ride was after we were finished, when Joe and Jim harmonized along to the Beatles' "You Won't See Me."

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Saturday: Sourland Spectacular

5 September 2013

If you're looking for a hilly metric on Saturday, look to the Sourland Spectacular.  Not only will you get 4K feet of elevation gain; you'll also be contributing to the preservation of open space on the mountain we love to ride so much because of its open space.  More open space, by the way, translates to less traffic.  Oh, and there's lunch after the ride, too.

A handful of Hill Slugs will be gathering for a 7:30 a.m. start.  Come on out for a good cause.

Monday, September 2, 2013

A Small Vacation: Providence and Newport

Newport, Aquidneck Island, RI

2 September 2013

If you're a regular reader of this blog and of Tom's, you'll notice that I was not mentioned in any of the posts of this year's late-summer bike trip.

Because I am a doofus.  A doofus that has a bit of trouble putting important dates into her calendar.  A doofus who scheduled two vacations at once.

I chose the non-refundable one, the one involving buying non-refundable Amtrak tickets in order not to lose my frequent-rider points accumulated during my commuting days, made non-refundable hotel reservations in Providence, Rhode Island, and met two of our college roommates for a long weekend.

By "roommates" I mean suite-mates, which is probably why, after 25 years, we still talk to each other.  Andrew lives in Boston.  Chris lives in Dedham, a Boston suburb a mere half hour away from Providence.  Half an hour in no traffic, that is, which, if you know anything about Boston, is something that can only happen early on a Saturday morning.  That's when she drove down.

Jack and I had checked in the night before, just as a Rocky Horror Picture Show convention was ending.  There were three of us at the front desk going, "Aw, man, missed it!"

We walked up to Federal Hill for dinner.  Federal Hill is half a mile of nothing but restaurants (mostly Italian), valet parking, motorcycles, cruising, and people who are there to see and be seen.  We found a Lebanese place.  We were surrounded by hookahs.  The tobacco smelled sweet.

We were staying at one of those conference-style hotels, with escalators, ballrooms, and expensive breakfasts.  We had the expensive breakfast.  It was good.  So was the coffee.

Chris does mysterious software security stuff, but she's really an artist, or would be if a million dollars would land on her doorstep so that she could quit her job once and for all.  For now the most she can do is dabble, taking classes in glassblowing and printmaking and neon and lord knows what else.  So while Jack lost himself in a worthy used bookstore -- any bookstore where Jack's haul is so large he has it shipped home is worthy --  and a wine store he said he'd have to return to, Chris and I strolled the new-ish downtown Arts District.  I spent lots of money at Craftland, where everything was handmade and just a little off.  I walked away with a pile of magnets only scientists and literature professors could love, plus a very expensive bracelet by Patricia Locke that I'm going to have to wear every day in order to justify the cost.

In another store we saw this:

I did not buy it.  Gay moose, yes.  Gay moose with bowties, sure. Hearts, deal-breaker.

Extreme hipster fixie:

After a dirt-cheap Mexican lunch next to a printmaking studio, we were off to the RISD Museum.  We stopped on the bridge over the Providence River so that I could get a picture of the set-up for the night's WaterFire event.

The museum was big enough to keep us entertained for a few hours, yet small enough to keep me from getting past the first signs of museum glut.

We continued up the hill -- granny gear territory, Swan, Franklin, Poor Farm -- towards Thayer Street.  The last time Jack and I were here, probably close to a decade ago, Thayer Street was several blocks of indie stores.  Not anymore.

Chris notices things.

On our way back out, she said, "I want to get a picture of that telephone pole we passed before."


"The one with all the staples in it."

I stopped for sunflowers.

We wound up on Federal Hill again for dinner, sitting outside as the sun set and the motorcycles cruised past with blue and green LEDs illuminating their polished bodies.  After that, Chris went home and Jack and I wandered towards the river to witness WaterFire.

An almost weekly event during the warmer months, WaterFire is the sort of thing I'm glad I've seen but have no desire to witness again.

I mean, yeah,  the pyres are hypnotic and kinda cool to stare at for a while.  But the piped-in, new-age muzak is too much.  And the banks of the river are crowded.

Still, I had fun seeing what my camera could do on its own:

A gondola-style boat carrying rows of black-clad volunteers passed up and down the river, each volunteer loading two pieces of wood onto each pyre as the boat passed.  Their coordination was impressive.  Even the retrieval of a dropped log seemed precisely timed, the log thrown back into the pyre before it had much of a chance to get wet.

At this point my eyes were starting to burn.  I wondered what I was inhaling.

Sparks flew.

In a glade, people paid for stars to support WaterFire:

I waited for a gaggle of obnoxiously drunk, middle-aged women to shut up and make room on a bridge so that I could catch the bend in the river.  It was worth the wait.

The next morning, Andrew and Chris met us at the hotel.  Andrew was driving. Newport had been his suggestion.  A project manager by trade, Andrew had sent me a page of suggestions for the trip.  I was impressed.  The most I'd done when the idea of Newport came up was look at a map of it and think, "This is gonna be under water in a hundred years."

Andrew suggested walking around town first.  We stopped at a waterfront restaurant for lunch.  It wasn't exactly scenic, but it was less obnoxious-looking than, say, Belmar.

We spent much longer than I thought we would just walking in and out of the shops.  I didn't mind because we were catching up with each others' lives.

We've stayed in touch since college.  Chris and Andrew are among the oldest friends I have.  I met both of them before I met Jack.  Chris was in Jack's math class.  I met Andrew at an ice skating evening.  We were all in the same dorm. There was a cat, owned by the grad student living next to Andrew and Jack, who spent most of his permitted hallway time in the living room of Jack's suite.  Chris met the cat. Chris said I needed to meet the cat.  I went with her to meet the cat.  She didn't really want me to meet the cat as much as she wanted me to meet Jack, which I did, and blah blah blah we've been married for over 24 years my god I'm old.


The posh part of Newport, along the coast, where the houses make Rumson look like Levittown:

A herring gull strutted his (her?) stuff.

I climbed down onto the rocks.

Jack, Andrew, and Chris stayed by the road, with two gulls:

Are those rocks really white?

Zoom in.

Cormorants and guano.

In the distance, two cyclists, pushed by a righteous tailwind:

Yep, still hanging out.

We drove back to Providence, had a very bad meal at a very bad Thai restaurant, and then Andrew drove us back to the hotel.  Only we were so engrossed in conversation that he drove right on into Massachusetts before Chris gently reminded him that he had to drop us off first.

We'll be back up that way, Boston this time, in mid-October.  Chris and I are going to a bead show, then the three of us are going to see Mike Doughty in concert.  At some point, Chris and Andrew are going to take me to a glass-blowing class.  We might make Jack come too.