Sunday, June 20, 2021

Somewhere in the Flatlands, Revenge of the Seat Post, and Spiders

20 June 2021

I: Somewhere in the Flatlands

Tom invited a few of us to an almost-metric out of Mansfield in Burlington County. Only Plain Jim and I were able to join him. Tom leads this ride at least once every year.

After a week of climbing in Maine, it was a relief to be out in the flatlands. Our first stop was at the Ranger's Station in Brendan Byrne State Forest. The building is open now, but the bathrooms are still closed. I amused myself by trying to take pictures of a cobweb spider up in the eaves of the shed, but my point-and-shoot camera cannot handle macro and zoom at the same time. Every picture came out blurry.

I took my traditional picture of the shed door:

We crossed Route 72, which is becoming as difficult as it used to be in the before times. Jim and Tom had to wait for me at Burrs Mill Brook, where I took approximately a thousand pictures.

We went on to Nixon's in Tabernacle, which is the Sergeantsville General Store of Burlington County, but without the dumplings. There were two other groups of cyclists when we got there. One guy appeared to be mansplaining bikes to another couple. I steered clear.

Now that the statewide mask mandate has been lifted for us vaccinated folk, I do a little should-I-shouldn't-I dance with my mask in the doorway. On one hand, if the place isn't crowded, I'm in no danger and I'm putting nobody in danger. On the other hand, I might be in GOP country, amid conspiracy theorists and anti-vaxxers, in which case, best mask up. But then am I signaling that I'm not vaccinated, which might make others uncomfortable? I figured it out in Maine: If I can't give myself six feet of personal space, I mask up. Nixon's looked spacious enough for me to show my nose.

Somewhere on our way back, not to far from the end, we passed the bottle tree to end all bottle trees. 

I have two boxes of stuff that didn't sell, and a vacant wire frame in the back yard. Hmm...

Then we passed a field, beyond which was a stand of ivy-covered trees. They reminded me of the Dr Seuss trees at the top of Sidney Road, now thinned out and grown up, that I used to photograph from Payne Road on our way out of Round Valley.

And that one on the far right looks like a rabbit who has had just about enough of this and will catch y'all later.

Jim led a flat ride to Raritan Borough the next day. Our destination was the Italian Bakery, a place a colleague had recommended to me. I hadn't been through Raritan in probably fifteen years. We went around the Duke Estate to get there. The consensus was that the bakery was worthy. It's one of those places where the pastries probably look better than they taste, and where few could withstand a ride in a jersey pocket. The iced coffee was good, and the bathroom clean.

We rode through Raritan, Somerville, and Bound Brook on the way home. Despite the roads being somewhat chewed up and not at all empty, I enjoyed seeing these towns for the first time. The route was almost all flat, too, which was a pleasant change.

II: Revenge of the Seat Post

I wanted to lead a century to Belmar today, but it's a Hallmark holiday for breeders, and I got no takers. So, to save face, on Thursday night I moved it to next week. Tom and Jim had already listed club rides, too, and I didn't want to split up the Slugs. Also, I didn't feel ready for a hundred miles. 

Tom's Saturday route was hilly. Wanting to get some distance in, I decided to ride the dozen miles to the start from home. Miss Piggy, whose seat bolts had been coming loose ever since the unfortunate incident in Yonkers, had done well in Maine, saddle staying firm through three days of climbing, two of them in gravel.

So, when we were heading west on Back Brook Road, after having climbed Grandview, Long Hill, and a bunch of others, and my back started to hurt, I didn't think it was anything more than me being tired. I started to fall behind, though, and stopping to stretch wasn't helping me much. 

Only when we got to Carousel in Ringoes for our stop and I went to lift Miss Piggy into the bike rack by lifting the saddle, did I find that the the thing was loose again. Very loose. 

Frustrated, I tightened the rear bolt until neither of them were loose, because bending over to reach the inner bolt hurt my back even more, so I didn't bother.  It set the saddle at a downward angle, but it would do. Jim offered to straighten it out while I went inside for water. 

"Get a new post," Tom said. Jim and Ricky agreed. 

The route home took us up Rileyville to Ridge. The bolts were holding, but every time I shifted my weight or stood up to avoid a bump, I heard a disconcerting creaky-crack, the sound only carbon components can make. I decided that I'd best cut the ride short and stay on Rileyville into Hopewell. From there it was only another ten miles home. It would cut my distance from 70 miles to 60, but at this point my back hurt and I had no idea how many times I'd have to stop to tighten the bolts again.

Despite the creaking, the saddle held all the way to Hopewell. I stopped at Boro Bean to take a muffin home. Boro Bean has the best muffins around. The tops are big and have the right stiffness for holding and separating, and the insides are sort of gummy, which is exactly the way I like them.

As soon as I got home, I called Ross at Hart's. If anyone would have a seat post to replace this one, it would be him, because he still sells Cannondales. These days, I only want to talk to him and I only want him to work on my bikes. Fortunately, he was in the store, so I cleaned up and scurried over. After I described what had gone on from Yonkers to today, he declared the seat post a goner. 

The good news was that Ross had one, and only one, seat post in the size I needed. The bad news was that it was aluminum, which isn't the best thing to put into a carbon frame, apparently, but it wasn't dangerous either. "The ride'll be a little stiffer," said Casper, one of the many kids working in the shop these days. They'd look for a replacement carbon post, and I could keep this one, free of charge, until a new one arrives. The supply chain being what it is, I could be using this post for a while.

I went home and did several rounds of PT for my back, hoping it would loosen up in time for Jim's Sunday ride, which would be heading to Boro Bean. 

I rode from home again, meeting the group at the corner of Canal and Butler, where another crop of Dr Seuss trees lines the top of the hill.

The ride didn't feel any rougher than usual, probably because Miss Piggy is my only carbon bike. The rest are steel and feel softer anyway. I'm used to the difference between carbon and steel, which is more than the difference between carbon and aluminum seat posts.

My back still hurt, though, because of yesterday. More than once I thought of cutting out. We were going through the back end of Princeton, then ETS, and it would have been so easy.

But I stuck with it because muffins. Today's take-home flavor is vanilla rainbow chip. With only ten miles to go, I didn't bother to eat anything at the stop. I was nearly out of steam by the time I got back to Route 206, so not eating was probably a bad idea.

With back-to-back hilly rides this weekend, my legs hurt, but I think I'm in a better position to tackle a flat century. It won't be with Miss Piggy. It'll probably be Kermit, with an outside chance that I take Beaker on her first hundred-mile ride. That is, if the weather holds and I get any takers.

III: Spiders for Luis

I'm using poor Luis as an excuse to throw some spider pictures up on this blog.

I don't have the right lens setup to capture macro images at a distance. This emerald jumping spider was several feet away and turning himself in circles. I got a bunch of shots and one good one as he faced the camera. It's the two giant eyes that make these spiders so photogenic.

Under the deck I found a weird-ass spider that I initially misidentified. A naturalist friend set me straight. This is a feather-legged orb weaver. What makes this species different is that the web isn't sticky; it's fuzzy, which suffices to trap prey. And, this spider has no venom; instead, she spits digestive juices onto her prey and slurps it back up. Whatever works.

What I like best about the Uluborus, though, is her pose. She lines herself up with her egg sac, both conveniently the color of detritus, and she hangs there, looking for all the world like some dead leaves.

She has some first-rate leg action too, like a Superman pose:

And this Y-M-C-A thing:

Any spider who hangs around for more than a few days eventually gets a name. I'm calling this one Schmutz.

Meanwhile, I've lost count of the number of orchard orb weavers hanging out between Hosta leaves. I haven't named them because they move around and there are too many. 

They're big enough now that they're relatively easy to photograph.

There are two basilica orb weavers in the yard. One is hanging steady on the part of the rose bush that has grown onto the deck. I should give this one a name.

The other one was living in the Rose of Sharon where I'd followed Jefferson, the marbled orb weaver, last summer. On Friday evening, I noticed that the web was in disarray, and that there appeared to be two spiders next to each other. Using the macro lens to figure things out, I realized that the spider was molting.

Today the spider was gone. All grown up, he's moved out, perhaps in search of a mate. Check the rose bush, fella. 

Saturday, June 12, 2021

Sunset, Sunrise, Sunrise

Sunrise, Frenchman Bay

12 June 2021

This is the final blog post from our trip to Maine. 

I got really good at getting up at 4:30, brushing my teeth, pulling on a pair of jeans, grabbing my camera stepping onto the balcony to catch the sunrise, and going back to sleep 20 minutes later.

Seeing the sunset required a little more planning. The tide was always in at sunset during our trip, so we had to watch it from the harbor dock, which isn't nearly as much fun as watching it from the sand bar. It turned out that the cloud cover was always thick too.

I caught what I could before we had to scurry off for dinner reservations.

The island side of the sand bar has a little stand of little trees that look like a desert oasis:

I'd never noticed the National Ocean Survey marker on the pier.

Sunset is when the LED moose over Geddy's restaurant on Main Street lights up.

There was less cloud cover the next morning.

I like how the silhouette of Sheep Porcupine Island looks against a pink sky.

I was expecting to hear the putter of the sunrise lobster boats. 

It was Sunday.

It was just the lapping of water on the rocks, the birds, and my tinnitus.

I got up at sunrise again on our last morning in Bar Harbor.

It was Monday, and the first lobster boat was out before dawn,

A heat wave was settling in. Through the haze I could see Egg Rock lighthouse beyond the breakwater.

Another lobster boat passed by.

I went back inside, pulled the curtains shut, and fell asleep for three more hours.