Sunday, July 29, 2018

Recovered Recovery Ride

Flower Farm, Route 518, Montgomery, NJ

29 July 2018

After a much-needed week off the bike* I woke up far too early for a Sunday morning and rolled out of the house on Kermit at something before 7:00 a.m.

Forty minutes later I caught Andrew at the light where Canal Road meets Route 518. We reached Six Mile Run State Park five minutes before Jim's ride was scheduled to depart. There were a few people still getting ready when we crunched up the half-paved driveway.

Jim is getting himself quite a following for these Sunday morning recovery rides. Today there were eight of us, enough for him to recruit Dr. Lynne to sweep.

We got spread out at times, with Ricky and Prem always up front. This is the same Ricky who climbed with Jim and Tom yesterday. The man does. not. get. tired. 

I only stopped for pictures once, as we passed the flower farm on Route 518 just west of Route 206 in Montgomery. 

Lynne dutifully waited for me, which she needn't have done because we were practically across the street from the rest stop. That's the sign of a good sweep!

At this early hour -- 9:30 a.m. -- my little, home-made, peanut butter sandwich was more of a second breakfast than an early lunch. I did pass up a chocolate chocolate-chip muffin behind glass though. That was tough to do.

We were in Rocky hill when there was a simultaneous double mishap: George's chain snagged mid-shift and Andrew's front derailleur snapped. George hit the pavement at low speed , scraping his elbow and (as I am finding out at this very moment via Messenger) cracking his helmet (which he didn't discover until he got home). Andrew was behind him, bent over his own bike, jiggling the derailleur. The two events weren't related but they looked as if they ought to have been. It would have made perfect sense if George had dropped his chain and Andrew had slammed into him.

After that we stuck closer together through the old money streets in Princeton. When the group turned towards campus I peeled off on Mercer Street for my regular commute route home.

The week off the bike did me some good, and the timing is perfect. Next week is the first weekend of August, the traditional date for the Princeton Event. We're not holding the Event this year. Instead, Tom has whipped up a handful of Event-like routes. He's planning to lead a metric. I'm going to lead the century because for the past fourteen Events that's the route I've done. Why stop now?

(*but not away from weight lifting or the elliptical cross-trainer because I'm addicted to exercise)

Saturday, July 21, 2018

#54: As Long As We Can See Our Shadows

Jetty, Belmar, NJ

21 July 2018

Last week Jack H came up with a new rule: On every ride we need to blame something on Tom. This would be especially tricky in that Tom would not be with us on Saturday.

Between Wednesday and Friday rain sneaked into the forecast, earlier and earlier every time I checked. Maybe we'd stay dry all the way to Belmar from my house and back, or maybe we'd get wet trying. Hedging our bets, I whipped up a bailout route that would turn us back at the Manasquan Reservoir.

There were four comrades in crazy signed up by Friday morning. Friday night saw two more. Well, if they weren't worried about the rain I wasn't going to lose any sleep over it. I even got to bed early. If the ride were to go as planned I'd have my second century for the season. My goal is a minimum of two. Given the way everything's been achy and my power has been declining, I would do well to take some time off after the ride.

Three guys started with me from home for the hundred-mile round trip. One was Ricky, who did his first century on one of our Belmar rides. Brad, who rode with us to Pittstown last month, was on board, as was Len, who must've woken up before dawn to get all the way up here from Gloucester County for the 7:15 a.m. start. Len was new to the group, although something in the back of my mind nagged me that I'd ridden with him before (hold this thought for later), although, given where he was coming from I couldn't fathom how.

We rode through some of the NJ State Triathalon cones to get through the park. I was surprised the officials let us through. There were cones on Old Trenton Road too. Jack H, who we picked up on the far side of the park, had to navigate through the race course too.

Jim and Winter Larry (Winter Larry!) were in the Etra park lot when we rolled in. Jim was having trouble processing our arrival because we were fifteen minutes early. Chris arrived while I was down by the lake taking pictures.

The wind was out of the east and would be picking up speed as the storm, set for 2:00 or 3:00, depending on where we looked, approached from the south. At 8:45 there was plenty of blue sky. As long as we could see our shadows, I figured, we'd be fine.

Being Our Lady of Perpetual Headwinds, I found myself mostly pulling the guys through the wind to Clarksburg and south towards Jackson. I figured I could spend a little more energy than usual in the first half and have the tailwind make up for it on the way home. Also, the sooner we could get to the shore the less likely it would be that we'd get soaked on the way home.

Brad and Len had never been out this way. They were agog at the scenery. I warned them that things would get ugly the closer we got to the shore.

Somewhere in here Len told me this was his first century.

Our first break was at the Minit Stop in Jackson. For us century folks it came at 33 miles. I caught the second half of a conversation between two of our riders. The first was poking the second in the stomach. "Lose this first," he declared.

"Hey!" I broke in. "No fat-shaming on my rides!"

We kept the break short and pointed ourselves southeast towards the Manasquan Reservoir, where, as promised, I stopped for pictures and to check the radar.

I like the secluded spot to the south of the main reservoir. Today we were treated to a hot-pink hibiscus.

I checked the radar app on my phone. The background is black; storms are in color. In the late morning glare all I saw was black. The sky was only partly cloudy to the east. We could still see our shadows.


I pulled through the headwind again until Ricky, Jack, and Winter Larry helped. From Farmingdale we got onto Belmar Boulevard. It was a straight shot in from there, and as we got closer to Belmar the traffic got worse.

I was heartened to see people walking towards the beach. We could still see our shadows. We turned into our usual spot at the corner of 16th and Ocean. That's where the food is.

Two of the outdoor tables were already occupied by cyclists. Among them was a PFW leader jersey.

"Free Wheelers!" I called out.  Judy's group had started from the reservoir. Ben's had come from Brookdale Community College. Both had planned longer rides along the shore but, given the forecast, were going to turn around instead.

Ben I knew from the PFW Board meetings. Judy reminded me that she did once ride with me. "I was in your blog. I was the one that was screaming on that big hill." I remembered the scream and the hill; I didn't remember that it was her. (Hold this in your head for later.)

I always buy iced coffee from Dunkin' Donuts while the guys go next door for pork roll. The staff were having communication problems. I asked for a large, no sugar, no milk. "Iced tea?" the server asked at the end of the transaction. "Iced coffee," I said. She gave me one loaded with milk and sugar. The woman in front of me had the same problem.

I'd forgotten how large a large is. I set the bucket down and sat with most of the Slugs (we spilled onto two tables). Chris looked at the coffee and said, "Not feeling confident?"

"I always get this," I said. "You wouldn't know 'cause you're not strong enough to go on these rides."

The guys broke out laughing. "Ooooo, burrrrrrrn!" I said, and added, for the benefit of the noobs, "Chris has been harassing me since 2000."

Larry showed me that he was putting his wallet in a plastic bag. "Thanks," I said. "Because you did that we're not going to be rained on."

"We need to find something to blame on Tom," Ricky reminded us.

"We can blame the rain on him if we get wet," I offered. Jack and Ricky agreed.

"This was great!" Len exclaimed.

"We're not done yet," I said.

I went across the street to the boardwalk for obligatory pictures. I looked for a spot with the fewest people and zoomed in on a fishing boat.

and zoomed in on a fishing boat.

Then I found the jetty and had some fun waiting for waves to break against it.  "Stay off the jetty," the sign says.

One more, of the streetlamps along the boardwalk, zoomed in after the fact to cut out all the people:

Back at the tables I checked the radar.  There was nothing over us at the moment. I zoomed out. Way out.

"Guys," I said, and held the phone out for Larry. "We gotta get out of here." I showed it to Judy, who was already suiting up.  "I know," she said.  I put my camera in a plastic bag I'd brought along for the occasion.

We headed south first and then turned west at Lake Como. Instantly things got quiet. We no longer had wind in our ears.

We rode that tailwind all the way out of town, past Wall Township, and through Allaire. Our shadows were with us, but fading. Len was exalting the ride in the past tense again. "We're not finished yet," I said.

In Freehold we stopped again at another Dunkin' Donuts. I suggested we keep this one quick. We did, but within five miles Jack came down with a flat. It was quick work fixing it; Jim didn't even have time for his favorite riddle: How many Free Wheelers does it take to change a tube? (How many ya got?)

"I'm blaming this on Tom," Jack said.

Jack stopped again in the shade of the rollers on Lamb Road. The screws of his front bottle cage had come loose. He fixed that in no time, only to have to stop again in another mile or so because he hadn't seated his frame pump properly when fixing the flat.

I think we were all worried about the rain. Our speed picked up and so did the wind. We had no shadows.

We got a little spread out on Disbrow Hill Road and congealed again at Etra Park. "Looks like you guys'll get 94 miles of rain-free riding," Chris said. That sounded strangely specific, given that we century folks were at 85 miles.

We didn't spend much time at the park. Jack, who had ridden from home to Mercer County Park, said he was feeling so good that he'd follow us back to my house. Len was feeling ecstatic too.

"Most centuries aren't this easy," I warned him. I was getting tired, of course, but I was getting tired much later than usual.

When we crossed over Route 130 at Conover onto Hankins I suggested to Jack that we ride over to Tom's house, jump in his pool, and make him take us all home.

Instead I felt a drop of rain on my face. I smelled petrichor.  That's all it was, though, as we turned onto South Road toward Windsor:  a few drops and the smell of rain.  "Notice how it rained only near Tom's house," I said.

Between Mercer County Park and home the streets were wet in places. "Talk about isolated showers," I said as we passed through a patch that was only a few hundred feet long.

Jack stayed on Princeton Pike when we turned off. He'd have 115 miles for the day. As we turned onto my street we had 101 miles and a for real rain shower. It lasted long enough for us to put our bikes away.

Brad confessed that this was his first century. He didn't want any of us to know. I called him and Len "boogers" for making their first centuries look so easy. Ricky is a booger too because he never gets tired. I need to rope all of these guys into being a regular century team. Len can be the engine.

I gave the guys some water and showed them the glass pieces I'd made. Earlier Len had asked, "What do you make?"

"Mistakes," I told him. I showed them my favorite mistakes.

Len and I talked outside for a while after everyone else had left. The more we talked the more I had the nagging feeling that he'd ridden with me once before, back in late winter, when we'd both been so bundled up it's no surprise we wouldn't have remembered each other.

Later I dug through the sign-in sheets for this year's rides. Yep. There he was, back in March, when we'd all been so bundled up it's no surprise we didn't remember each other.

I'm apparently no good at remembering riders who put in only one appearance. I guess it takes me at least two rides, or an embarrassing reminder, to register a face or a name or both.

It's 9:35 now and still raining. It's going to be rainy all week and possibly into Saturday as well. I'm okay with that. I'm planning a week away from the bike and don't want the temptation of seeing my shadow to dissuade me from a much-needed rest.

Sunday, July 15, 2018

All Greased Up and Nowhere to Go

Carson Road, Lawrence Township

15 July 2018

5:16 a.m.

Laura, Ricky, Jack -

I just cancelled. We'll try again another time, maybe.


5:30 a.m.

I turn off the alarm, set it for 7:00, and go back to sleep, during which I dream that a trainer at the gym is making me ride uphill in sand and I'm in my big ring.

7:00 a.m.

It's dark outside. 25% chance of rain. I don't know why Jim canceled. I set my bar at 60%. Gary hasn't canceled his ride out of Etra. I'm sure to lag behind the Fastboys.

8:25 a.m.

This coffee isn't any good. So much for Crooked Porch; I'll stick with Acadia. I have a 28-minute drive to drink it anyway. I'm going to need it.

The sky is completely cloudy, but they're those high clouds that never do much. Except that one gray one hanging over East Windsor.

The first splash of rain hits the windshield as I reach Hightstown. The drive down Etra Road is in a torrent. The gravel parking lot is empty. I drive into the park; that's empty too.

I check the radar. There's a little blob overhead now, and, after that, nothing for a while. Ralph rides past me and I wave him down. He's smiling, of course, and he's going to continue his ride, of course, because, he says, "I'm already wet," and because he's Ralph.

I head home. If it's dry I'll do my own thing.

Wait. Alan K has that C+ thing out of Mountain Lakes. I pull over to get the address from the ride calendar. That's when I see that Gary canceled. Either I missed it or he canceled minutes after I left the house.

It's 9:16. Google says the trip will take 16 minutes. Might as well try.

9:28 a.m.

Harrison Street at Nassau. The sky to the west is thunderstorm gray. 1.2 miles to go, 6 minutes. Not happening. I turn left towards home.

Princeton Pike looks like it got some rain.  The roads in Lawrence are dry.

9:40 a.m.

In the driveway I check AccuWeather. Rain in 62 minutes. I can squeeze a ride in. I unload the car, get my helmet and shoes on, and tell Jack, "I'll be back in 25 miles or rain, whichever comes first." I leave the camera at home.

I don't have a route in mind, other than to stay west of Route 1 and head toward the leading edge of the next storm cell.

I take Princeton Pike to Lewisville, then Denow to Federal City. There are a few drops of rain on my GPS. Ahead of me a guy in an orange jersey blows the Lawrenceville-Pennington light. It's green when I get there. I stay the same distance behind him all the way down Keefe and Cold Soil. Maybe I'll catch up to him, maybe I won't. I haven't even decided if I'm going to turn on Van Kirk or go straight.

He turns, so I turn. I'm trying to catch him, which I know I won't do. And even if I did, I'd have to work too hard to keep up. There's no point. Still, I don't stop for the cows herded near the creek on Van Kirk. They're too far away and there's no snow. The light is all wrong.

Orange jersey turns onto Tall Timbers, so I do too. He has turned around at the far end of the road. We wave to each other as he passes. It's still only drizzling.

10:25 a.m.

When I stop on Carson Road to take pictures is when I hear the thunder.

The rain is coming down a little harder now. I turn onto Province Line, cross 206, and fly down Princeton Pike.

I finish with only 14.68 miles, which would hardly even count as a ride save for my average speed, which I'll never again match until the next time I put myself on the leading edge of a storm.

Kermit only needs a little wiping down, which I do on the back porch, screened in from the rain. The cleaning only takes a few minutes. By the time I wheel him inside there's more thunder and the rain is coming down harder.

11:02 a.m.

I send a quick email to Jim, Jack H, and Ricky:

I’ll have a blog post up after I dry off.

1:30 p.m.

Reports are coming in from the field.

John K posts to Facebook:

Well well.
It wasn't the planned 43 miles, thanks to heavy rain and thunder in the area. We even took refuge in an enormous barn with a Mexican family (I believe). They probably recognized me as Charlie's human companion and so they offered us shelter.
We were soaked, and to top it off, I got a severe flat in the last 2 km. I couldn't ride it in, and these are new wheels, so I fixed it in the rain. ugh!
I just got my bike cleaned and dry, newspaper stuffed in my shoes, and kit in the laundry!
Thanks everyone who showed up! If anything, it showed our sincerity to turn Type One into TYPE NONE!

There's an email from Jack H:

Laura, RULE # 9!!!!!  Jim take note: Laura rode, I rode. I rode from Pennington to Six mile lot (because I did not check my laptop) then to Cranbury to use the portajohn, then home to get more water (then it started to rain(Hard) so what do we do (keep riding). I rode up to Washington's crossing crossed back over to NJ and over to Pennington. 70 miles and home by 12:30 . AND ITS NATIONAL ICE CREAM DAY. Plus the final game of the soccer tournament.Plus the tour. Could this day get any better? WOW. Am I in heaven ? 
Rule # 9  BUT there needs to be one more rule: ALWAYS CHECK TO SEE IF THE RIDE IS STILL ON.

2:43 p.m.

Wait, what? It's National Ice Cream Day?

I'm outa here. I have shopping to do!

Saturday, July 7, 2018

This is the House that Jack Built

Jack H's Pool, After the Insane Bike Posse Splashed Around

7 July 2018

The heat wave broke on Friday. We're back to early June weather: low humidity, clear skies, and open-window temperatures.

Jack H and Dorothy moved to Yardley last year. The idea to start a ride from his new house was Jack's idea. He enticed us with the promise of a cookout after the ride, and told us to bring our bathing suits. 

Tom came up with the route. "It's gonna suck," he said as Jack H, Jim, Bob and I gathered in Jack's driveway at 8:30 a.m.

"Why is it gonna suck?" I asked. I'd only had time to glance at the route the night before while I was loading it into my GPS. I knew Eagle Road, the hard way, was in there among the 3000 feet of elevation gain in 50 miles.

"We're going through a bunch of neighborhoods to get off the main roads," he said.

Bob wanted to test his theory that I have bad GPS juju. We'd both loaded the routes in, his as .tcx and mine as .fit. Jim had the .fit file in his older unit. Tom's was in whatever format they used back in the stone age on his stone age device.

Jim's crapped out in the first half mile. He got it back. Then my screen froze and I had to reboot. Bob gloated until Tom deliberately took us off course, through Tyler State Park, at which point all three of us rode with digital bricks until we reached the main road again.

The Neshaminy Creek at Tyler was muddy from yesterday's rain.

I zoomed in on the thing sticking out of the water in front of the spillway. I thought it might have been a bird but it's an algae-oozing stick.

We saw a little bit of Newtown and then continued north towards Eagle Road. My front tire conveniently went flat before we got there, which gave us all a break. It was the same slow leak as last week. I couldn't find the cause of it then, and we couldn't find it now either. I emptied a CO2 cartridge into the new tube and hoped for the best.

Two thirds of the way up Eagle Road I said to Tom, "This hill isn't worth the effort." He agreed. "There's no view at the top." The climb is only half a mile with a couple hundred feet of elevation gain. It's all under trees, and it's pretty enough. Other than for bragging rights, though, I can't see a reason to be there.

On the other hand, there's the descent.

Aside from Eagle, Jack had suggested we climb the ridge above New Hope so that he could show us the old house he used to live in. We passed my favorite Bucks County intersection of Pidcock Creek and Windy Bush and turned onto Old Windy Bush. I tried not to dwell on that last one much.

Jack's old house was at the top of the hill, in the woods, with no other houses around it. He'd put a lot of work into it, restoring the outside, knocking down walls inside, and building a free-standing garage (which required moving boulders).

"In the winter," he said, "with the leaves down I could see all the way to Bowman's Tower."

I asked, "Why did you leave?"

"Nobody would come up here and see me," he said. His job and his friends were in Trenton, so he moved to Ewing.

A few miles later, where Stoney Brook intersects with Sugan, Jim, Bob, and I stopped to take pictures of the remains of a towering stone building. I'd tried for pictures once before from up on Stoney Brook. They hadn't come out very well. Today's were better.

Through one window we could see another. Inside looked modern. The far side of the structure had been renovated, with modern wooden siding extending from the old stone. I didn't get any pictures of it. Jim figured that a complete renovation would happen piecemeal as the owners got money.

When we stopped at the Wawa on the ridge above New Hope I could have ended the ride there. If we're at at Wawa with Jim we will see him with an apple fritter. I asked to try a piece. It had that heavy taste of fried dough, surrounded by a coating of thick sugar. Not a fan of fried dough (the taste makes me a little nauseated), at first I couldn't imagine eating the whole thing. As junk food has a way of doing, though, my revulsion was replaced by a sugar craving. I wasn't dumb enough to oblige; had I been, I'd have been blowing chunks off the side of the road within five miles.

We still had 20 miles to go. I was tired. I began to question why I beat myself up so much. Surely I could stay fit without having to be in so much pain. Why was I doing this? To keep up with my friends. To lose fitness might mean to lose them as well.

Four miles later we found ourselves at the bottom of a hill on Street Road (dumbest. road. name. ever.), facing "road closed" signs, a cement truck, and two construction workers rather violently waving us back the way we came. "Make that 51 miles," Tom said as three GPS units razzed in confusion at the detour.

"We have to go back up Eagle Road," Jack said. "It's the only way."

"I don't believe you," I told him.

We were back on track in under two miles. The closest we got to Eagle was Thompson Mill, which climbs the same ridge. Coming from the north, though, it wasn't nearly as steep.

Somewhere on Highland Road, up on another ridge, I stopped for hay bales.

When we had ten miles left, Tom pulled over for a gel snack and I texted Jack (Moose) to tell him that we'd be back at Jack H's in an hour. Cheryl and Blake, out on their own ride, would meet us there too.

I'd packed a change of clothes and a couple of towels. I hadn't packed a bathing suit. The last time I wore one was 1997 or so. If I decided to jump into Jack H's pool, I'd go in with my cycling clothes on. I figured I'd ask Dorothy if I could use her shower instead.

When I saw the pool I changed my mind. I took out my hearing aids, took off my shoes, removed my socks, and stepped onto the first rung of the ladder to get a sense of the water temperature. It was warm. I dove in.

Jack H dived in. Jim dived in. Bob dived in. Tom dived in.

I don't remember the last time I was in a real pool. I let muscle memory take over. I took a few more dives and did a messy cannonball. I went to the shallow end, opened my eyes underwater, and did a handstand. I did an underwater forward flip and an underwater back flip. I got water stuck in my ears. I got water up my nose. In other words, I did all the pool things I used to do except actually swim. I did the crawl for a few strokes to check off that box too.

Without thinking about it I raised myself out of the pool by pushing myself up to the deck from the water. "There's a ladder," Dorothy said. Muscle memory. I hadn't even considered the ladder.

Tom's camera is waterproof. He was taking pictures. He got one of Jim diving:

And he got one of me diving too, in my full cycling gear:

Jack arrived as we were bobbing around in the water. One by one we got out.

Long-distance bike shorts don't dry very well. I grabbed my bag of clothes and went inside for a shower.

When I got out Blake was ringing the front doorbell and Cheryl was already out back. Jack H had burgers on the grill. We took our food to the patio at the far end of the pool and ate under the umbrellas in the shade.

Later Jack gave us a tour of the house, showing us the work he'd already done on it and what he planned to do next. When we emerged from the basement Dorothy and Moose were talking in the kitchen. We loaded our plates with dessert and went back outside to the shade.

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Another Sticky Day

Smithville Road: "What part of 'no' don't you understand?"

4 July 2018

Holiday All-Paces rides are a Princeton Free Wheelers tradition. Anti-All-Paces Rides are a Tom tradition.

Given the weather forecast and the usual crowds that the All-Paces rides attract, Tom opted for an earlier start and a longer distance from Bordentown.

Tom, Ricky, Jack H, and I headed south into the thick haze of another sticky morning. We passed through Crosswicks, Jacobstown, Cookstown, Browns Mills, New Lisbon, and Buddtown before we stopped at the Vincentown Wawa.

Everything on me was soaking wet. It wasn't very hot -- only about 80 degrees -- but the humidity was over 70%. There was no shade to speak of. We parked our bikes in front and gathered on the side of the building. I slumped down against the wall with 32 ounces of some sort of almost-no-calorie lemonade and tried to eat some of the peanut butter sandwich I'd brought with me. It was 10:00 a.m; I wasn't hungry yet.

Our route home took us into Smithville, where the bridge has been out for-roughly-ever. As is our custom we went right up to it, having been able to get around the construction in recent attempts.

Not this time.

Behind the customary orange and white striped barriers was a concrete Jersey barrier, and behind that a chain-link fence that wrapped all the way around the site.

"We've been crossing over," Tom explained to a neighbor who was among a handful of walkers crossing the street from one side of the park to the other.

"We all have," she said, and told us that we could take the path through the park. We'd done that once before; Tom knew the way. I took pictures when we got to the other side.

I found myself counting the miles as we approached Bordentown. Tom and I were more wiped out than we normally are. Ricky and Jack H probably weren't because neither one of them ever gets wiped out.

"Can we get a breeze up in this bitch?" I asked as we dismounted in the parking lot. I was dripping again.

"Nope," Tom said. "Normally I'd have done a metric today, but not in this weather." We were 8 miles shy of one.

It was 12:00. Maybe the All-Pacers were still out on the road, or beginning to trickle back to the park. I was glad to be finished early.

It's more than 8 hours later now. I've taken a nap, which I normally don't do, and I'm strangely achy. A few ligaments are twinging too. Every summer I have to re-learn how much a heat wave takes out of me.

The weather is supposed to break on Friday. This weekend we'll be back to not having to worry about the heat index.

Sunday, July 1, 2018

Recovering From the Recovery Ride

Moxie and a clean backpack

1 July 2018

There's something about summer riding that's extra sticky. 

Jim's recovery ride started at 8:00 a.m. today. I wasn't going to ride from home to Blackwells Mills. I loaded the car, first with my backpack and mug of iced coffee. In my haste I knocked the mug, and the lid popped off, spilling primo cold brew into a deep brown puddle on the driver's seat. I grabbed the nearest towel and mopped it up, then scurried inside for more towels and the remaining cold brew. 

Always have backup coffee in case of emergencies like this.

The temperature was hovering around 80 degrees with relative humidity to match. As I loaded Rowlf into the back of the car my hands already felt tacky.

I drove to the ride sitting on a damp towel and guzzling cold coffee. I got to the parking lot with five minutes to spare.

Everyone else -- Jim, Prem, Ricky, John W, Bill B, and Doctor Lynne -- was ready to go. I was ready at 7:59 a.m., with a damp butt and a deep buzz.

I hadn't ridden with Lynne, Bill, nor John in a long time. We caught up on each other's lives as we made our way through Hillsborough towards, eventually, East Mountain Road. 

Gah, that annoying hill, twice in two days. I charged at it. I wanted to get it over with. I tried to keep pace with Prem but I couldn't hold it. Bill was right behind me, looking as if he was going to make the jump any second. He never did (he said he was "in the zone" and that "passing requires too many brain cells") which at least forced me to keep a steady pace lest both of us wind up sprawled on the asphalt.

We were very spread out by the time we reached the other end. Jim was last, which he often is when he wants to sweep. He wasn't sweeping today; he was leading. "I'm gonna list this as a C+ ride next time," he grumbled. Now he knows what I feel like every. damned. time.

"Sorry," I said. "I wanted to get up the hill."

"And the other side?"

"What does Rowlf want to do all day?" 


"True. What about everyone else though?"

I had no answer for that.

John left for home. The rest of us stayed together for the route to the Bagel Barn (Hey! I remembered the name!) on 518 at 206. We took our time and then some. Bob N, fresh off a run (of course) stopped by to chat. Another cyclist pulled in and sat near us.  I was too hot to be hungry. I drank a large bottle of Diet Coke (which I tipped over, of course) instead. I used a few napkins to mop up the little spill, and then I used the same napkins to wipe sweat from my hands, because it was so sticky out it just didn't matter. My clothes were wet. My gloves were wet. My helmet was wet. 

I don't remember much of the route home. Jim did a sneaky sidewalk shortcut thing between two streets that don't connect and we got from Harlingen Road to Belle Mead-Griggstown without having to encounter the intersection of Harlingen and Harlingen.

The reason I don't remember much of the second half is that, during the break, I found out that Lynne and Bill had been to Bar Harbor last year. I wanted to know everything they did and everywhere they went. I told them about my mission to find all the online cameras. I realized I should shut up already. I realized that I already miss the place.

"We saw a great cycling jersey on a guy at the top of Cadillac Mountain," Bill said. "Veni, vidi, vomit."  Sounds about right, especially if you make the mistake of looking to the right on that last switchback.

Jim turned towards home as we headed north on Canal Road. The four of us sort of hammered -- as much as one can when the temperature is 90 degrees with 70 percent humidity, which is to say we managed to maintain a steady pace -- back to Six Mile Run. 

The car smelled like coffee. I doused the seat with leftover water and mopped it up with the towel, then used the towel to wipe my sticky self down, because it just didn't matter at this point. I wandered over to the tree that Lynne, Bill, Ricky, and Prem were standing under. "I'm not getting into the car until I stop sweating," I said.

"That's gonna be a while."

"You'll be here til 5:00."

I put a clean towel down on the seat and drove home, drinking the leftover morning coffee, which was now hot. By the time I got home the towel was wet, both from my sweaty butt and the cleaning attempt. I doused the seat again before I went inside.

I looked at the backpack that holds all of my biking gear. I carry it with me whenever I drive to a ride, and I never empty the thing. It now had a salt line where the helmet met the zipper. It was time to dump it in the wash along with the coffee-soaked towels.

I emptied the thing on my bed. I don't know if any of you out there also have a biking backpack, or if you've ever decided to empty it. It's quite the ordeal.

Here's what I found in mine, aside from the t-shirt, towel, sneakers, camera, glasses case, multitudes of long-fingered gloves, arm warmers, and spare Kermit puppets that I knew were in there:

several spare pens, one of which actually worked
lip balm
paper clip
safety pin
three pairs of half-finger gloves (two never worn!)
three pairs of laboratory glove liners
an empty sunglasses case from a pair discarded years ago
a bag full of spare sandwich bags
ancient chain lube
three combs

The backpack is clean now, reloaded, and more spacious than it was this morning.

The car is going to smell like coffee for a while though.