Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Bar Harbor Evening

Rooftop of Geddy's, Bar Harbor, ME

27 May 2017 (posted 30 May 2017)

Last time I was half in the time before that. This time I would be in the now, in Bar Harbor for four nights, unrestrained by any schedule, free to go where I please and stay as long as I want.

Jack has never been to Maine. I promised him lots of moose paraphernalia. He promised he'd be a good sport if I were to sit on a rock and watch the ocean. We're going to spend from Saturday night till Wednesday morning in Maine. Then we'll drive to Saratoga Springs, NY, for one night. The next day we'll drive to Ithaca, where Jack will bury himself in manuscripts at the Cornell library and I'll join a handful of Hill Slugs for a long weekend of hilly rides. Once again, Jack is being a good sport.

Both of us want simply to chill out. Work has been stressful for both of us lately. Demands on our free time has sapped us both. It doesn't help either that preparing for a trip stresses me out: there's so much besides packing that has to be done before we leave the house. That I was in the lab ten hours the day before we were to set out didn't help one bit.

In the back of the car is Miss Piggy and five rides' worth of clothing. Our bags form a ring around the blanketed lump.

We hit the road an hour later than I'd wanted to. Without stopping, from home to Bar Harbor is between 8 and 9 hours of driving. I drink coffee while I drive. We stop a lot.

There's almost nobody on the road at 9:00 a.m. It's Memorial Day weekend. We don't hit traffic until Connecticut (surprise!), but even there, we only come to a complete stop on Route 84 once (that's got to be a record).

At the Maine border we pull off the highway for a rest at the Welcome Center. It's on Delorme Drive. We pass Garmin headquarters. I still haven't called them about the $500 Piece of Shit I'm taking on this trip. If it weren't past 5:00, I'd have half a mind to march right in there with the thing in my hand and demand, well, I don't know what. Good thing it's after 5:00.

On the plus side, there is this moose at the rest area:

We pass road signs that warn us of moose in the roadway. We should be so lucky. We aren't; Jack has to settle for the signs. He's getting snarky on Facebook as I drive.

At 8:00 we reach the hotel, the Bluenose Inn, a mile or so from the center of Bar Harbor. Our room is on the second floor. It has a balcony. I step out and get my first look at Bar Island and Mount Desert Narrows.

Bar Harbor is crowded. I find a parking spot near the docks.

And there it is. The ship that photobombed half my harbor shots last year. What is this thing?

This late there aren't many restaurants still open, but Stewmans is. I'd suggested it because I'd remembered the name from last year. While we wait for our table, I walk to the edge of the dock.

And start bouncing up and down like a little kid.

I'm in Bar Harbor! Mount Desert Island! Acadia National Park! Again! Sunsets! That cold, low-tide smell! Granite rocks and pine trees! Waves crashing on the crags! Barnacles and snails and seaweed! Boing, boing, boing!

We have to have ice cream, so up the hill we go to Ben and Bill's, because I remembered it from last year. But, um, lobster ice cream? Not for the natives.

We walk back to the car. I show Jack the rooftop moose, a beacon.

I'm exhausted. Our room faces east. If I can wake up in time, I could get pictures of the sunrise.

Saturday, May 27, 2017


Belmar the way I like it

27 May 2017

I'm a week late again.  This post is coming to you from Bar Harbor, Maine. More on that later. 

As of May 19, Miss Piggy had more miles on her for the year than Kermit did. A flat century from my house to Belmar would fix that.

Jim met me at my house under cloudy skies. The wind was steady out of the east as we pushed off a bit before 8:00 a.m. We'd be fighting the wind all the way to the shore, more or less. We weren't even five miles from home when Jim's GPS, a Garmin Touring, lost the route. My GPS was still functioning.  As always, I had my hand-written cue sheet. The route wasn't the usual one I take, and I'm a doofus on the east side of Route 1 anyway.

I lead my centuries in stages so that people can pick their distance. I wasn't sure if we'd have any 85-milers. The parking lot for the East Picnic Area at Mercer County Park was full when we got there. This wasn't the first time I'd led a ride from there the same day as the Attitudes in Reverse 5K run.  The lot was full of cars and dogs and runners, but no Hill Slugs. We moved on to Etra Park.

"It feels like we've been climbing for 18 miles," I said to Jim as we slowed in the lot at Etra Park. Jack H was there. He'd started from Mercer County Park, but, having arrived early, rode to Etra on his own. 

Ricky, meanwhile, had started from his house in Monroe. "This will be my first century," he said, somewhat offhand. "Eat," Jim and I said. As we started over the shallow rollers of the Bagel Hills, I coached him. "In the words of one of my Spinning instructors," I said, "You have a full tank. Sip on it. It's gonna be a long day."

We passed the Manasquan Reservoir, always worth a picture stop.

With impeccable timing, my GPS got confused minutes before I missed a turn. We figured it out. Now that I know what that intersection looks like, I won't miss it again. My GPS found itself once we made the turn. A few drops of rain fell. Jim reported that he was going to blog that it started raining as soon as we got lost, not because it was true, but because he liked the way it sounded.

We reached the beach at Sea Girt (that name always bothers me; I turn "girt" to "grit"). The wind was whipping something fierce along the coast as we blended in with MS Coast the Coast riders.

Our usual stop at 16th Street was pleasantly empty.  I made my helmet into a Sean Spicer impersonation (Google it).

These fine cruisers belonged to a group of young women who, upon bursting out of the Dunkin Donuts, exclaimed, "Cold!" before pedaling away.

We didn't need the reminder.

I wandered over to the boardwalk for the requisite beach photographs.

The beach I like best is the beach with no people.

Yes, we had a tailwind helping us along our return trip, but the added effort during the first half took its toll on me during the second. I was more tired than I wanted to be.

At a crucial turn, my GPS lost the route. We found our way, but my GPS never did. "My Garmin 820 is a $500 piece of shit," I said. "That's how I'm going to start my blog post." (I turned it into a long Facebook rant on the Freewheeler's group wall. It garnered quite the thread of responses. The jury is divided on whether or not I own a lemon or if its owner is a dope.)

In Hightstown Ricky peeled off. "I feel fine," he said, with 15 miles to go.

"Congratulations!" we all called out.

"Sonofabitch didn't even break a sweat," I said as we turned onto Old York Road. "He's a natural."

We had two miles to go when I began to question whether or not I'd do a century past one more for an even 50. Jim was sure he was finished with 100-mile rides altogether.

The first century of the season is always the roughest. I was a hurting puppy for the rest of the evening. I even backed out of a morning 10-mile recovery ride with a friend (one I'd asked to join) because I wasn't sure I'd have it in me. Instead, I stayed up late to finish the June Freewheel and slept past 9:00 the next morning.

I got up and decided to cook breakfast, which is something I never do. It takes time, which I something I never have. I got out some potatoes I'd roasted earlier in the week, and set about making an omelet with a few vegetables and egg whites from eggs that I probably should have discarded a while ago. The pan being too big, what I wound up with was something between an omelet and a scramble. A scromelet. I need a smaller pan.

By mid-afternoon I was feeling better and texted Sean about maybe doing a recovery ride. He said yes, and in half an hour Rowlf and I were ready for a 25-miler that Sean promised wouldn't be hilly. I

It wasn't, until we got to the top of Cherry Valley Road (Sean had to wait for me to get there) and decided that there was no way we could pass up the newly-paved Hopewell-Princeton Road descent.

Rowlf, who isn't geared for climbing, was made to descend. If I could take Miss Piggy up every hill and Rowlf down, I would. Man, does that bike hug the road!

At the bottom I doubled back to take pictures of Beden brook that runs next to the Saint Michael's Preserve.

We climbed out of the Hopewell valley on the Great Road. I hadn't been on that stretch in years. Sean had to wait for me again there too.

We turned on Rosedale Road, where we became part of stopped traffic while a good Samaritan picked up a rather large snapping turtle with his bare hands and moved it off the road. From there we went on to Carter Road, to Cold Soil, and around the Pole Farm.

I stopped to take a picture of Monday's weather rolling in.

The ride went a little long, but it was worth it, not only because I finally got to ride with Sean again, but also because it took the soreness out of my legs. Also, including the previous week's commute, I could now say that I'd ridden three of my five road bikes over the past four days. It helps to be able to justify a fleet once in a while.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Hill Slugs Ad Hoc, Saturday, May 20: Choose Your Distance

18 May 2017

Saturday's weather will be perfect for a ride to Belmar. We might even have a tailwind on the way back.

This ride will have three starting points. There will also be three rest stops.

100 miles: Start with me from my house at 8:00 a.m.

86 miles: We'll meet you at the East Picnic Area in Mercer County Park around 8:30 a.m.

69 miles: We'll pick you up at Etra Park a little after 9:00 a.m.

Please let me know if you're coming along and where you'll start.

See y'all Saturday!

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Oomphless, Grumpy, Pinelands, Wind

Hawkin Road, Red Lion, NJ

15 May 2017

Sunday continued the trend of the core group of Slugs being unable to ride together. Plain Jim had to be somewhere in the early afternoon. Snakehead was who knows where. Pete and Ricky, the newest of the Slugs, weren't in the parking lot of the Mansfield Township park either.

Tom and Jack H were, though, when I pulled into the gravel drive with a good ten minutes to spare. They were talking to a cop.

"You guys in trouble already?" I asked.

"We're giving him bike advice."

That was an easy way to fill ten minutes.

The forecast was for partly cloudy skies, a stiff wind out of the west, and a decent chance of getting wet if we stayed out past 2:00.

Tom took us south, west of Fort Dix, and into the Pinelands. We stopped for water at the Ranger's station in Lebanon Brendan Byrne State Forest. There, we met a retiree who travels around the country in an RV. We talked about ticks, and about a camping trip where his dog got stoned on a hiker's discarded pot brownie.

From there we went to Chatsworth. The general store there, known as "Buzby's," has been around since 1865. Its owner is in bad health and has been trying to sell the place for years. It's closing for good in mid-June. It was closed when we got there, too, because we were there on a Sunday.

Across the street from the store is a cutesy totem pole.

Then we headed into the wind for ten miles. I hadn't been feeling particularly strong up to this point, and now grumpiness was setting in. I kept it to myself.

At Nixon's General Store in Pumpernickel Tabernacle, we ran into Mary and Tru, randonneurs out for "only" a century (slackers!).

Tru immediately checked me for pollen. I was clean.  They had about as many miles left to go as we did. They went north; we went northwest.

We'd been in the Pinleands for much of the ride, but I hadn't stopped for any pictures. We'd passed a lot of cinnamon ferns (the center, spore-bearing fronds do look like cinnamon), so when a small creek crossed Hawkin Road in Red Lion, I stopped for some pictures.

There's a bridge out on Smithville Road in the middle of Smithville. I was surprised that Tom didn't go plowing on through. "When I know there's a bridge out, I plan for it," he said, and we turned left onto Railroad.

I hadn't been on Railroad in years, not since the days when Chris led rides out of Bordentown. It's a quiet little road, covered in trees, with the Rancocas Creek down to the right. On the left, the woods give way to a landfill, and then we were in the center of Mount Holly.

Then we turned east again and caught some tailwind. We didn't have many of these stretches.

We turned back onto Smithville Road, where I had to stop for some cows.

I talked to them, and they turned toward me.

Maybe they wanted some grass from my side of the fence.

I didn't give them any; the guys were waiting down the road.

We stopped again at the Olde World Bakery in Smithville. There were only six miles to go after that, but even after the rest I didn't get my energy back.

I drove home in the sun on I-295. From Crosswicks I could see a thick, gray storm cell hanging over Mercer County, and my house was under it.

Friday, May 12, 2017

To New Egypt, Covered in Pollen

Perrineville Road

12 May 2016

Mid-week the weekend forecast was looking crummy. I wondered if the guys were still going to the Philadelphia Bike Club gathering out in Somewheresville, PA. They were. I wasn't; I'd put the idea aside and never got back to it.

The forecast for Saturday got better and better as the weekend approached. I started from my house and met Pete at the bottom of the hill. There were some clouds over us as we made our way towards Mercer County Park. Later in the day there might be some rain. What we noticed more was the headwind, blowing steady in the mid teens.

We picked up Ricky and Andrew in the park. That I was leading us into the wind for the first 25 miles and with it for the rest of the ride was pure luck.

In the woods on Perrineville Road, yesterday's rain was still under the trees. I stopped for a picture as the guys moved on.

When I caught up to them, I said, "I coulda sworn I saw Kermit in there."

Pete immediately began to sing, "Why are there so many songs about rainbows"

I joined in. "And what's on the other side,"

We went on for a bit, with me doing the best Kermit voice I could muster.

But let's let the frog do it:

When we got into the Assunpink Wildlife Management Area, Andrew mentioned having seen radio-controlled airplanes in the field near the boat launch. I admitted that I'd never taken the road to the launch. So we decided to go off-course, which ended up being on-course because I'd goofed when I'd mapped the route.

And I saw the Assunpink WMA's part of the Assunpink for the first time.

From there we pushed into the wind all the way to the eastern side of New Egypt. Then we cut west through open fields before we got into town.

"You're all green," the guys said as we loaded our bikes into the rack outside of Scott's market. I was covered in pollen. It was on my face, my arms, my legs, my gloves.

"So are you!" It must have been the sticky sun block that made me greener than they were.

We did enjoy some tailwind on the way back to the park. Pete griped that I'd chosen a rather hilly flat route. It's all relative.

Pete and I had our eyes on the clouds as we made our way back through the park. Ahead of us was a mass of steel gray. We'd been skirting it for miles while it seemed to be moving north with us. Whether or not I'd follow Pete all the way to 206 would depend on what the clouds decided to do. They held off so I hung on.

At home, I took a good look at my arm under the bright bathroom lights. I was covered in tree jiz.

It never did rain on Saturday. Sunday was milder but every bit as windy. I slept in, with grand plans of an afternoon recovery ride. That never happened. Instead I got tangled in a massive invasive ivy tear-down and created a three-foot by three-foot pile of roots and runners that I dragged as a solid mass to the curb.

The guys out in PA got a little wet on Saturday and washed out on Sunday. I felt slightly less bad about missing the trip.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

In Which I Am Cool for Five Minutes

A Pre-Ride Espresso

7 May 2017

I was stressed nearly to the breaking point, with life squeezing me from all sides. I wasn't able to ride on Saturday, and the upcoming week was going to be a rough one. 

A couple of Slugs were up for a Sunday ride on April 30.  Snakehead said he hadn't been to Frenchtown in a while, so I put a route together that went there from Hopewell.  

I thought Snakehead was going to meet me at home, but the time to leave came and went without him showing up. I pushed off on my own, riding the ten miles at a leisurely pace. I had time enough to detour around Carter Road, which had been milled the week before from Cherry Valley all the way into town. When I approached this time, I could see fresh blacktop starting at the Crusher Road intersection. 

Who can resist a 1.5-mile descent on pavement so new it hasn't yet been striped?

Snakehead was in the parking lot, hot coffee in one hand and pastry in the other. I'd already had my usual dose of caffeine, but, with so much time to spare and Boro Bean around the corner, I went into town.

You've seen him*: the solo biker drinking an espresso on the porch of that little cafe in that little town. He looks so fit, so chill, so damn cool. 

I clomped up the wooden steps, went inside to the counter, and ordered an espresso. I took it outside to a small, wooden table, and faced the road, Miss Piggy in the bike rack next to the street. For five minutes, I was that fit, chill, cool guy.

Then reality set in, because Snakehead, Ricky, and Pete are far more fit, chill, and cool than I'll ever be**.

Snakehead's carbon bike was making a rare appearance, his steel Love Child up on the rack for repair, which made us an all-carbon crew.

The route meandered through the Sourlands. I don't remember why we stopped on Mountain Road, but it was a good opportunity to snap a picture of a typical Sourland forest, complete with the requisite boulder and ponding water.

In Ringoes, I took us up Route 539, all the way to where it meets 523. We've done the reverse many times; this was the first time I'd gone north. It's open, rolling terrain, the last mile a gradual ascent. On the far side of the road was a bovine huddle that I had to stop for.

On the other side of 523, 579 takes a steep jump for half a mile. I'd warned the guys about it. Ricky and Pete were far ahead of me and Snakehead. Ricky thanked me, in a voice dripping with irony, when we met them at the top.

That was the worst of it, though. We rolled along the ridge, turning on Boar's Head Road.

It was easy going from there, except that Ridge Road into Frenchtown is a mess of divots and lumps of blacktop with the occasional orange construction barrel. I'd stay away from there for the next little while if I were you.

There were half a dozen road bikes in the rack outside of the Bridge Cafe in Frenchtown. Inside was the Free Wheeler C+ hilly ride, led by Bob P. Michael H called me over, and we spent a good long time catching each other up on PennEast.

(I'm going to catch you up now. FERC requires three Commissioners for a quorum. In January, one Commissioner resigned; his replacement requires an appointment that the Senate must approve. No appointment has been made. PSE&G, the sole NJ partner, pulled out of the consortium. In April, FERC issued its final EIS, giving PennEast an undeserved advance, but not giving them the required Certificate, because, without a quorum, they can't issue any. Almost immediately after this, the Army Corps of Engineers submitted a statement that PennEast does not have enough survey information to apply for its required permits. Days later, the NJ DEP said the same thing, and gave PennEast 60 days to acquire the necessary surveys. PennEast can't do these surveys, however, because 70% of the NJ landowners steadfastly refuse to allow surveyors onto their properties. A week or so later, news spread that a second of the three FERC Commissioners would be resigning in the summer. PennEast's spokeswoman, however, continues to spin all of this as if it were just a flesh wound.)

Before we headed out, I took a few pictures of the bridge.

We climbed out of the valley on Horseshoe Bend Road, and then rolled along 519 to Sanford Road, where we turned and I pointed out where the PennEast pipeline route would be. Hint: it's where the anti-PennEast and no tresspassing yard signs are. I stopped to chat with one of the sign bearers, thanking him for being the reason that PennEast is circling the drain.

When we got back to Hopewell, Ricky gave me a pair of socks.

When I got home, life smacked me in the face again. Monday and Tuesday were spent with a colleague up in Piscataway, in front of a machine that we were sure was going to break down on us, again. We spent twelve hours straight up there on Monday, and ten and a half there on Tuesday. I missed the PFW Board meeting on Monday and was so swamped with catch-up lab work on Wednesday that I missed another meeting and spent the night poring over another environmental assessment for another NJ pipeline proposal. I don't even remember most of Thursday. Friday was marked by a much anticipated caffeine withdrawal headache. And Saturday will be covered in the next blog post.

(*Or her, of course. But face it, most recreational cyclists are men. Middle-aged men. Middle-aged men in Lycra. "MAMLs." I'm not making this up.)

(**Nicer, too, apparently.)

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Hill Slugs Ad Hoc, Saturday 6 May or Sunday 7 May


5 May 2017

As of 4:30 p.m., the forecast for Saturday is looking clear enough to ride. If this changes, I will post an update around 7:00 a.m. Saturday.

4 May 2017

Once dampened, twice dry. Let's wait until Friday night to say for sure whether or not we'll ride on Saturday. Check this spot after 7:00 p.m. on Friday.

Regardless of the day, we'll start from Mercer County Park's East Picnic Area and do a flat 50 to 55-mile ride.  Meet at 9:30 a.m.

Extra-milers can get 16 in by starting from my house with me at 8:45 a.m.