22 April 2017
I wanted to do a metric. Tom wanted 50 miles in the hills. Bored with routes from Pennington, I came up with a hilly 52.5 miles from Hopewell. From my house to there and back would give me 20 more miles.
When I checked the weather forecast last night before going to sleep, there was only a 30% chance of rain for about an hour mid-day.
When the alarm went off at 6:00 this morning, it was awfully dark out. Right away I checked the weather. What the hell? The chance of rain was up between 50 and 60% all day! Hmm. I checked all of my weather apps (because a ride leader has to have at least three in order to hedge bets on a day she really wants to get a ride in). Although they were all over the place, they all agreed that, at some point, we'd run the risk of getting wet. From the projections of total accumulation, it looked as if we'd be dodging little showers all day long.
Here's where not having a central platform within our club is a problem. I could post to my blog, but some feed readers don't update when a post is changed. I could post to Facebook, but not everyone in my posse is on Facebook. I could send out an email, but I wouldn't be sure if I'd left anyone off. The launch of our online ride list calendar can't come soon enough.
I had to take Jack to the train station around 7:30 a.m. Plain Jim was going to start the ride with me from my house at 8:00. We'd meet everyone else in Hopewell at 9:00. I decided that if he were to cancel, I'd cancel the ride. He hadn't texted by the time we left for the station; I knew he was on his way.
The ride was on.
A couple of showers came and went before 8:00. It was still spitting a little when we left for Hopewell, but that stopped within a few minutes, and the roads were dry. We passed a big group of teenagers cleaning litter on Carter Road. It was an Earth Day thing, I guess. We called out our thanks as we rode by. (Later on we'd pass at least one more cleanup crew.)
From the top of Cherry Valley into Hopewell, Hopewell-Princeton Road is being repaved. Today it was milled, which, one could argue, is an improvement. We were early so we decided to take a detour down Crusher Road instead. Adding a couple of miles 8 miles in can come back to bite you in the ass at mile 60. We didn't worry about it.
Ricky, Andrew, and Peter H were at the elementary school. Tom was not. The fink. For that alone, I needed to do the full route and stay dry. Anything less would earn me at least a few minutes of ribbing.
We'd hit a temperature sweet spot somewhere in the high 50s. It was warm enough to go without leggings and cool enough not to sweat all over everything. Once in a while we'd catch a few drops of rain.
I liked the sky to the east as we headed north on Rockafellows Mill.
"Ominous," Peter said.
"Nah," I replied. "Dramatic."
We approached Round Valley from the south. At the top of the hill we ran into a few minutes of real rain.
"Why is it," I asked Jim, "It only rains on us when we're descending?"
I pulled into the boat launch anyway. The rain stopped.
Although New Jersey is no longer officially in a drought, the water level at the reservoir is still far from where it should be. It hit a record low of 65% last fall; when we were there last, it was at 67% capacity.
Jim noticed that the boat launch dock was still a good 50 feet from the water's edge.
"Do you want a group picture?" Peter asked.
"Nah," I said. "I hate the way I look."
He found a willing bystander who snapped a few pictures of us. I edited myself out.
The bystander was with an older couple, and the woman wanted a picture of herself with us and the bikes. She held Peter's bike while he took a picture with the bystander's phone.
Andrew left us there, on his way to Bloomsbury to meet his wife for a hike at the Musconetcong Gorge. His plan was to get lunch at the Glen Warren Market. I asked for a report; I'm always looking for new places to stop. "Lunch and then a nap," he mused.
On our way down to Whitehouse Station, it rained again.
We stopped at Jerry's Brooklyn Grill. We sat outside. The rain picked up. We squished ourselves onto the metal bench under the awning and waited out the rain.
When the rain stopped, we started, and everything was going just fine until we turned from Forty Oaks onto Readington. There, a layer of red dust (good ol' Brunswick shale) from a construction site had turned to mud from the passing rain. It coated our shoes, our bikes, our bottles, and our backs.
Ricky said, "I know what I'm doing tomorrow."
Jim said, "Miss Piggy needs a bath."
Then we hit the missing bridge on South Branch Road.
Although ridewithgps had let me map through it, there was no getting over this one.
Fortunately, because this bridge had been out before, I'd looked into a detour. Peter confirmed it with a driver. We rode through a residential neighborhood for a mile and looped around to the other side on Pleasant Run.
"How are you planning to go back?" Peter asked.
"River to Amwell to Zion, Long Hill, Spring Hill," I said.
"I have another way," he offered. "It's probably shorter."
So I handed the reins over to him. We went west of Neshanic, on Woodfern, which I always like. From there we decided to go west on Amwell Road; it's got a good shoulder and there's not much in the way of traffic. For half a second I considered Rainbow Hill.
"I'm not feeling it," I said, and we turned onto Cider Mill instead, which had been the plan anyway, because it's pretty. And it has cows.
At the end of the road, I checked our distance. "I don't think this is a shortcut," I said. "You guys are at 50 miles. The route was 52."
"Are you figuring in the detour?" Peter asked. I hadn't. I was still doubtful, though. We still had to get up and over the Sourland Mountain. After that, Jim and I would have 10 more to get home.
"You guys are going to be doing a century," Ricky chided. I was feeling pretty good, but not 38 more hilly miles good. Plus, I was slightly damp and more than slightly covered in dirt.
We had our choice of routes back up the mountain. I picked Rileyville because we'd already been on Lindbergh. I wasn't sure I'd been up Rileyville from this direction with my carbon bike. Probably not, because it was much easier than I'd remembered.
Of course, it rained on us during the descent into Hopewell and stopped when we got there.
"57.5 miles," Ricky said.
I looked over to Peter. "Some shortcut!" He laughed and shook his head, certain that our detour around the bridge would explain it all*.
"I bestow upon you," I said to they guys, "bragging rights. It's raining. And it's April."
The rain started again as Jim and I plodded up the milled road towards home. The milling wasn't too bad, as milling goes, and, in a way, I felt safer on it because the ruts helped channel the water away. The few spots of fresh blacktop were a relief, but I didn't like the look of the water beading on the surface. It suggested an oily slickness.
It rained on us all the way down Carter Road. "Y'know," I said, "I never really mind getting rained on when I'm on my way home. I've been caught a couple of times commuting."
We finished with 79 miles, which was more than I'd planned, but not more than I'd been able to handle.
I wheeled Miss Piggy around to the back of the house and hosed her off.
(*Our detour was 2.8 miles, which means that Peter's shortcut added 2 miles. That's okay, though, because my route wouldn't have been as pretty; and, as Peter pointed out, descending Spring Hill in the rain is a really, really bad idea.)