Saturday, October 29, 2016

Going to Lambertville to see Union Street

Sculpture by Delores Dragan, Union Street, Lambertville

29 October 2016

Nine of us left Pennington for Lambertville this morning. Two of the riders, Rajesh and Tim, were new to the Hill Slugs. Winter Larry made the trek, which he does once each year if I'm lucky. I felt obligated to show them all the best of what the Sourland Mountain has to offer, with the hope that the hills would convert a few more flatlanders to our way of life.

That, and Pete telling me about a stretch of milled road on Cherry Valley, led me to ditch my cue sheet and wing it.

Elm Ridge Road has been freshly paved, so we took that. Bayberry was chip-sealed not long ago; it was still bumpy. Rajesh asked, "Why don't they smooth it?"  

"They let traffic do it," I told him. "Welcome to Hunterdon County." We were still in Mercer. D'oh!

It's been a while since I've done the descent from the top of Carter Road into Hopewell. Chris and I agreed that, until the road is paved again, this is one to skip. There are too many potholes now.

Halfway up Rileyville, I decided that the newbies needed to see what the road looks like north of the top of the Sourland Mountain.

I stopped the group at Mountain Road to tell them where to turn next, and why. Tim started laughing. "She's like a docent!" 

I have been known to narrate my rides.

This is the view from Rileyville Road that I wanted everyone to see:

I took the group across the mountain sideways, on Saddle Shop Road, so that people could enjoy the view of the next ridge, to our right, and the woods at the top of the mountain, to our left. In between are farm fields.

We passed a curious sign on Rocktown Road:

We weren't almost there. I needed to pack in another ten miles before the rest stop.

Winter Larry is fond of white horses, and a farm on Alexauken Creek Road has two of them. 

The "stop PennEast" yard signs that were so prevalent here were gone today. I'm involved enough to know that the fight against the pipeline has not ended, so I'm not worried.

This is the first house we saw when we turned onto Union Street in Lambertville:

Rojo's was crowded.

Three college students, from Penn State, were collecting donations for their annual cancer charity drive. I gave them a dollar and a handful of candy from the bag I'd been carrying all this time.

One door down, a woman and her son were soliciting donations for the Boy Scouts. "Almost there," said their sign. I was still in the dark about where "there" was, but, whatever.

Half of us wound up sitting outside. I was taking my time, as I always do, when Pete peered into my coffee cup to see how much longer he'd have to wait. I got up then.

"We're gonna go slow on Union," I said, for a good reason.

I was taking pictures of this house when the owners drove in to park in front. The woman in the passenger seat, holding a small dog, thanked me for liking her house.

"How long did it take you to do this?" I asked her.

"I paint new dolls each year," she said.

"Where do you keep them all?"

"In the basement. They pack up nice and small."

When I looked down the street, I didn't see any of the Hill Slugs until I pulled up in front of  the growing masterpiece that is the work of  Delores Dragan. The nine of us made up half the crowd in front of the house.

Cats, looking like cats do every day of the week:

She can even make a flower look creepy:

This one, though, is serious. Dead serious.

Each candle and each dead bird is next to the name of a black person, murdered by police or vigilantes, dating all the way back to Emmett Till. Each label has the name and age of the victim.

Zoom in.

Across the street, neighbors have added to the spectacle:

Pete couldn't take all this milling about anymore, and took off. We were down to eight.

A tailwind pushed us out of Lambertville as we climbed Rocktown Road. I backtracked across Route 31, onto Mountain again, then up Linvale.

Rajesh and Ricky were ahead of me. Not by much, but by enough that when I called out the left onto Snydertown a good quarter mile before the turn, I didn't think they heard me.

I called out again as the red barn came into view. I put out my arm, hoping one of them was looking in his mirror.  "Leeeeeeeft!  Leeeeeeeeeeeeeeft turn!"


Rajesh and Ricky continued down the hill, oblivious. At the start of the ride, I'd warned, "You ride ahead, you're on your own." I turned left. There was enough spread behind me that I figured the two ahead would see the last of us and turn around.

We got spread out on Snydertown. When we recollected, I was surprised that Rajesh and Ricky weren't there. I'd seen that Rajesh had a GPS, and I figured that they'd decided to use it. They'd get back to Pennington long before we would.

We were down to six.

Where Stony Brook Road meets Route 518, Andrew peeled off for home.


This was starting to feel like an old school ride, before the Hill Slug moniker was official, with one exception: back in the day, I'd have followed the two errant riders and adjusted course. Not today. I no longer chase people down, and that goes double if it means climbing back up afterwards.

Near the southern end of Stony Brook, I stopped to catch the afternoon light on the trees:

Our last stretch, the few miles on Pennington-Rocky Hill Road, were into a strong headwind. We got spread out enough that I stopped to wait before we reached Pennington. I didn't want to lose anyone else.

When we pulled into the parking lot, Rajesh and Ricky's cars were still there. Uh-oh. I checked my phone, which hadn't rung or buzzed in all this time.

Tim said, "I don't know whether to love you or hate you right now."  Yeah, yeah, say something I haven't heard before.

I passed around the bag of candy. The guys wouldn't take more than one piece each. Sheesh.

I plopped myself down on a bed of pine needles and called Ricky. "Where are you? We were calling out 'left turn' but you didn't hear us."

"Woodsville Road," he said. "We were at 31 but we climbed back up." He wasn't angry at all, and took the blame on himself, which, I think, is a first, so thank you, Ricky and Rajesh!

"You guys have GPS?"

"Yeah, on my phone, which I have to keep in my pocket."

"Go back down. It's a great descent." I gave him directions back to Pennington. "You've still got about five miles," I said.

"Go home," he told me. "We're fine. Don't wait. I'll call you when we get back to the parking lot."

I got up, looked at the bag of candy, and put a handful on the roof of each of their cars.

Rajesh texted me later. His GPS and phone batteries had both died. They'd waited a while at the bottom of Linvale, then climbed back up, passed someone who told them we'd turned onto Snydertown, and I don't know what they did next, but they wound up going back and forth on 31 for a while before I called.

Some of this is my fault. I ought to have called them as soon as it was obvious they hadn't turned around. It's not easy balancing ride leader authority and ride leader guilt. At least I didn't drop them off the back. There's no getting out of the shame of that one.

Before he left, Tim said, "I read your blog." (Hi, Tim!  I'm about to embarrass you!)

"I hope you won't be offended by this," he said, "but I thought you'd look different."

"What do you mean?"

"I thought you'd be this skinny, gray-haired, seventy-year-old."

Nope. I'm a lumpy, henna-headed, fifty-year-old. (And quite henna-headed today, too, because I did the henna thing just last night, and the blonde bits are a frighteningly Halloween orange today.)

"Um, why?"

"Because you take pictures. I'm a photographer," he said.

I wasn't offended; I was amused, and confused.

"Do I write like a seventy-year-old?" As I said this, I wasn't even sure what that would mean.

"Nobody likes to stop for pictures," we said in unison.

Unless you're a Hill Slug.

I hope he comes back. His heckling is high-end stuff. I hope Rajesh comes back, too, so I can show him that I usually keep my peeps together. Ricky I'm not worried about. I think he's been on enough of my rides now that he's a proper Hill Slug.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Hill Slugs Ad Hoc, Saturday, October 29

26 October 2016

Who: social B riders

What: Chocolate Eyeball Ride to Lambertville

Where: Hopewell Valley Administration Building, Main St, across from Ingleside, Pennington, NJ; extra miles from my house (RSVP)

When: 9:30 a.m; extra miles 9:00 a.m.

Why: Union Street. 'Nuff said

How: some hills, coffee

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Autumn in Upper Bucks County

Fleecydale Road, Carversville, PA

23 October 2016

Tom wanted to get some hills in and catch the changing leaves in Upper Bucks County. He'd planned for Saturday, but high winds and heavy rain pushed it to Sunday. I'm happy for that, because I spent all of Friday trying to stay awake, slept for ten hours that night, and woke up congested and coughing. Sunday was much better. 

"I forgot that today is the Covered Bridges Ride," Tom said as I got out of my car. That would go some of the way towards explaining why I was the only one who could make the ride. "It's windier than I thought it would be," he added. "We'll get a tailwind home."

"Mrm. Dunno about that. Not with me here."

As we were about to push off, I asked, "No Holy Kickstand?"

"Nah. We'd probably both end up dead."

We walked across the Bulls Island Bridge. When it's just me and Tom, we stop a lot for pictures.

We could feel the wind bouncing the bridge as we stood to take pictures of the river.

I zoomed in on a lonely boat moored in a mat of floating plants:

I coughed along behind Tom as he led us up Fleecydale Road. We were under a golden canopy. I didn't want to stop on the hill, so I didn't take any pictures. Maybe I'd come back in my car after the ride.

The wind was out of the west at a steady high teens, gusting somewhere in the mid twenties. Our bikes jolted sideways more than a few times. I think it startled Tom more than me; after my adventure on Cadillac Mountain, I knew what might be coming. Damned plastic bike. Damned bladed spokes.

We went uphill into the wind to the center of Doylestown, all but deserted at this early hour. I hacked my way up and down rollers to the crest above Peace Valley Park and Lake Galena.

We took the paved path around the lake, stopping every few minutes for pictures.

Tom noticed the bright orange tree behind the row of primary color canoes on the far shore. I hadn't noticed, and my camera's zoom would have been pixellated and blurry. (I've zooomed in at home instead; it's not much better. Check Tom's blog; maybe he got it to work.)

I'd remembered the canoes from the last time we were here. "We'll be down there in a few minutes," I said.

When we got to the tree, we saw that there was too much distance between it and the boats to make the photo work.

Not that I didn't try. I dismounted, leaned Miss Piggy against a picnic table, and trudged down the slope to the boats.


Cropping doesn't help, does it?

A bluebird box along the road above the lake caught my eye:

We had a long climb out of the valley, and a handful of miles to our rest stop at Down to Earth in Perkasie. Along the way we crossed paths with the Covered Bridges riders. 

After the rest stop, and a bucket of coffee, I wasn't coughing as much. We passed through, and were passed by, groups of unruly carbon Covered Bridges riders.

We also had a tailwind. Now that we could look up, we noticed the sky, and found a field with an unobstructed view.

I'm writing this before Tom has posted the route, so I'm not sure where we were. In or near Plumsteadville, as best I can remember.

Aha!  Now we're getting some good color.

Tom said that our return route would take us down Fleecydale again. Yay!

"I'm going to take a lot of pictures," I warned him.

The afternoon light, through the clouds, lit up Bulls Island as we walked back across the bridge.

The lonely boat was still there.

There was a glow on the Pennsylvania riverbank too.

Below us, yesterday's leaves floated on the water.