Saturday, December 8, 2018

'Tis the Season

There are only 17 days to Christmas and the joy and/or anxiety that it brings. The days are getting shorter and colder so it is becoming harder to get out and ride. Two weeks ago I did an off the books ride with the usual crowd. We did a my winter Englishtown loop. It was your barely 40 degree cloudy day. I had a 50 mile loop planned but at the rest stop we took the shorter way home and ended up with 44.

Last week I didn't feel like crossing over Rt 1 to go to Laura's ride so I decided to try the Cranbury C+ with Steve. Instead of doing a normal Cranbury route Steve decided to go across Rt 1 to Montgomery. We ended up stopping at the Bagel Barn on 206 so it felt a little like a Jim ride. The way back was on some busy roads that I would normally avoid but I did end up on two new roads I haven't been on before and might use one of them on a future ride.

This week it was too cold to get out on the road as the temperature barely went above freezing. I decide to post a ride on the Lawrence Hopewell Trail so I could get some riding in. I got a decent turn out for a cold day. Chris, Ricky, Pete, Andrew and Tim showed up. Jim and Laura were absent because they had other commitments.

It was just over 30 degrees when we started the ride but it was sunny so once we got riding it I didn't feel cold. We had to wait for Chris a few time because his fender was hitting his wheel. Eventually I told him to just take the fender off and stick it in his backpack.

We made our way through Lawrence and then eventually to the Mercer Meadows. There were a couple of puddles of ice here and there but the trail was actually in good shape and it didn't feel as soft going up the hill in Mercer Meadows as it usually does.

When we got to Rosedale Lake Pete had a brake problem and headed for home. At the top of Wargo Tim had some knee issues so slowed up a little. We made the usual stop on the bridge on Province Line for a couple of pictures.

It was then up the hill and into ETS. Andrew left us for home before we turn into ETS. The path into ETS was overgrown and a bit wet in places. There were even a couple of small logs across the path. I didn't have a problem getting over them but Ricky tried and failed to bunny hop over it. No damage done. I managed not to get lost in ETS this time and so we were back on the trail without me pulling out the map. We lost sight of Tim so I went back for him and found him fixing a flat. We were only a few miles from the end so once the tire was fixed we were quickly back at the start.

I will be away next weekend but we have officially entered the winter riding season so will get out for short rides on the road or trail, when I can, until warmer weather gets here.

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Winter Forecasts

After spending a week on the beach with 70 degree temperatures it has been a little bit of a shock to come back to the cold November weather. Last Sunday I ended up doing Jims's Ride. And this week I lead a ride from Bordentown. On both rides the temps were in the low 40s. Jim's ride was a little colder and cloudier but both were normal fall rides. As long as you were dressed correctly you could stay warm. There is that annoyance factor of riding in the cold of having to decide what to wear so that you are neither too hot or too cold and then dealing with the either being a little too hot or too cold during the ride itself.

Some people stop riding when it gets too cold. Others go down to Florida but neither is an option for me. I will just ride through the cold winter weather as best I can and try to have some fun doing it. These cold rides got be looking at the long range winter forecasts and the outlook is not promising. Both the Farmers Almanac and NBC10s long range forecasts are the same. They both call for a cold and snowy winter. I don't put a lot of faith in these long range forecasts as the models are very complicated and not very accurate. In fact there are more ways their models could be wrong than right. However with that said all the predictions seem to be in agreement so I believe them a little more than I normally do(especially after getting 5 inches of snow this week).

Because of that and because is was sunny for most of the ride. I decided to extend Saturday's ride a few miles and go around Mirror Lake in Browns Mills. We stopped for a few pictures as we rarely go around the lake. We ended up with close to 50 miles. It was a little cold on the way back because of some clouds and a stiff wind. I'm glad we put in the extra miles because base on the long range forecast this may be the warmest and longest ride we do for a while. 

Friday, November 9, 2018

A Relaxing Week on the Grand Strand

Because my wife was off from work and I had a few extra vacation days this year we decided to take a trip south to a beach to get a few more days of warm weather. We went to the Myrtle Beach area (also known as the Grand Strand). It was close enough to drive to but far enough to be 10-15 degrees warmer than home. Because we took our dog with us we decided to rent a house instead of a hotel room. The small house we rented was in an ocean side retirement community. The reason for renting in a retirement community was that it looked like a nice quiet place and it had an indoor pool we could go to if the weather wasn't warm enough to be outside.

This was meant to be a relaxing vacation to de-stress from our normal life. The house we rented ended up being your typical shore house. It was a little worn in spots but comfortable. The houses in the community are very close to each other but since these are vacation homes with mostly retired people it is one of the quietest places I have even been. About half the houses are empty and the people that are here aren't very active. Its so quiet that I could hear the ocean waves from the porch and the ocean is a couple of blocks away.

In this community everybody rides around on golf carts to get to the beach or the pool or the community center. It was very strange at first but our house came with its own electric golf cart and once we used it to get to the pool or beach it made total sense. It was just so much easier to jump on the cart and go some place. In fact at Myrtle Beach you can even take your golf cart on the beach.

The weather was actually sunny and warm enough to get some beach time and while we were sitting on the beach people were driving by in carts. The beach is very hard sand so it would actually be possible to ride a bike on the beach as long as you had wider tires.

Besides the beach there are a lot of attractions to keep people busy. There are amusements and rides an of course lots of shopping. On one of the cloudier days we spent a couple of hours at an outdoor mall walking around and visiting the local aquarium. It was small but had some interesting exhibits like some cool looking jelly fish.

They also had the usual large tank with sharks and stingrays which we enjoyed sitting around and staring at for a while.  The mall was built around a large lake which was filled with catfish that you could feed. They were well trained because if you looked over the railing you would see a bunch of catfish opening their mouths waiting for you to drop some pellets. It was actually a little scary looking at them and reminded me of a couple of horror movies that I had seen.

This place like all vacation spots is filled with places to eat. Being by the shore means there are a lot of seafood places. Being in the south means a lot of fried food. This included hush puppies which is fried cornbread. I have had hush puppies before but the ones in Myrtle Beach are the best I've ever had, especially went pair with cinnamon butter. I'm sure my arteries are a little more clogged than they were a week ago.

While driving around looking for a place to eat we found an interesting biker bar name Suck, Bang, Blow.

I know the name sounds like the plot to every porn movie but its actually referring to the internal combustion of a motorcycle engine (intake, combustion exhaust). I didn't have enough tattoos to stop in for a drink.

The weather for week ended up being better than expected as we had only one day where it rained. That let us get to the beach for a couple of hours most days. I also took a few hikes since there are not any good places to bike around here. The best hike I took was in Huntington State Park. This park is mostly marshland by the ocean and is filled with birds like egrets and storks. I spent a couple hours walking around the trails taking pictures of birds.

In New Jersey you are lucky if you get a fleeting glimpse of a heron. In Huntington State Park there are at least 10 or 20 egrets or storks in view most of the time along with a lot of other birds.

It was a good relaxing week that was a welcome break from the normal grind of life. We enjoyed our time in Myrtle Beach and at the retirement community. It's definitely a place we may come back to if we need to get away and relax a little.


Monday, October 22, 2018

This is My Happy Place

(sign on the door of my hotel bathroom)

There is a reason that I have done the Philly bike club trip to Gettysburg four times. It is just a great way to over indulge in biking and forget about everything else for a few days. This year over 230 of us bikers descended on the town of Hanover. This is unlike any other bike gathering or tour. There is no set routes or regimented ride organization. It's more of a temporary bike commune where nothing else matters but riding, eating and having some fun.

This year I only was able to get Jack an Dorthy to join me on the trip but I know enough people in the Philly club to not worry about finding other people to ride with. I got to the hotel at 11:30 am on Friday and Jack and Dorthy were only 10 mins behind me. Once they got there Jack and I decided to go on a ride around Lake Marburg. It was a hilly 27 mile ride that was reasonable scenic. The weather was mostly sunny in the 60s so all I needed was arm warmers. Unfortunately the leaves haven't started turning yet otherwise we would seen some spectacular vistas.

After the ride I checked into the hotel room to clean up then went down to the conference to socialize with the rest of the bikers.  I decided to lead a ride on Saturday and put it on white board in the conference room to let everyone know.

Saturday morning was in the mid 50s. It had rained overnight but the sun was coming out so the roads were slowly drying.I end up getting 10 people to join me on my ride to Loganville to visit a farmers market (think Delicious Orchards only in the hills). Besides Jack I didn't know any of the other riders although I had talked to a few the night before. They all seem not to be afraid of the hills or the fact that I had modified the route to not exactly follow the queue sheet. I had done a slightly shorter version of this ride a few years ago but the farmers market was closed and I had always wanted to go back.

The first part of the ride headed past Lake Marburg again although we got there quicker with less hills. After that we broke off the queue sheet onto the modified part. I modified the route to head up to the top of the hills to get some views of the surrounding valleys and have a couple of fun downhills. This was unexplored territory for me. I had checked it out on google maps as best I could be I did not really know what I would encounter. The group spread out on the climbs but nobody really complained (much). The roads were quiet with almost no traffic and the views where good.

We did run into bridge out because Tom can lead for different clubs in different states but you can't get rid of the Tom-ness from a ride.

This bridge out was a slight challenge as the original bridge was gone and they only had the cement beams and steel plates of the new one laid down. We had to go through some gravel, climb up onto the foundation then up on the beam and walk across. Although this was not my normal group of insane riders we quickly scoped out the situation and I got a couple of people set up to hand the bikes up and down from the bridge beams and help everybody across.

After that we were on our way to buffalo valley. Now there were never buffaloes here and there weren't even many cows around so I have no idea how it got is name but I came along here mostly because of the name of the road  and the fact that it offered a two miles of downhill fun.

The view at the top was as nice as expected. I want to come back here someday when the leaves are at their peak.The downhill was worth the climbing and detour to get to it(At least I thought so). After that we had a few miles of flat before some more climbing to get to the actual farmers market. Because of a new development that was added in Loginville we couldn't find a couple or roads but figure it out and made it to the farmers market which is at the top of a hill.

The market itself is very much like Delicious Orchards with a bit of a country flair. They had a full deli, bakery and coffee shop. Jack was looking for some donuts but they only sold then in boxes of 6.

At the break 2 people on the ride meet some of their friends who got there with a different group and decided to go back with them. I forgot their names. In fact I didn't know anybodies name on the ride. I ended up referring to people by the color of their jacket or some other distinguishing feature. So Mr Italy (he had an Italian racing shirt on) and his buddy, blue jacket, stayed back while Jack, Dave orange, yellow, backpack guy, tall guy and blue number 2 came back with me. Even though I didn't know any of them besides Jack and Dave before the ride they ended being a good group of people to ride with.

The profile looked less hilly on the way back and was more wooded along some lakes and streams. As soon as we made a turn off the main road to head down toward the first lake there was yet another bridge out sign. This was the rare two bridge out Tom ride. Since I really didn't know how to detour we took our chances again. This time it wasn't a bridge that was out but an entire DAM.

Luckily the actual bridge across the dam was bikable so they must have been working underneath it. As part of working on the dam they drained the reservoir to make it easier to fix. We stopped for a couple of pictures and then moved on.

After the dam we road next to the rail trail before heading uphill again. There were a couple long climbs that weren't that steep but the group got spread out and so I stopped a few times to gather them up. Even though the profile shows less climbing on the second half of the the ride if felt worst than the first part.

The last part of the ride was through some back roads pass a haunted Halloween village and then a couple of miles over some rollers on a semi busy road. I'm going to modify the last part of the route if I do it again to see if I can find a way to stay off the 2 miles on Hanover Rd. It wasn't dangerous but I think there are better back roads that we could take.

I had one last surprise a half mile before the end of  the ride. I made a short detour for some ice cream. Half the group followed me the other half went back to the hotel. After 50 miles and 3500 feet of climbing the ice cream was well deserved. It was good home made ice cream and Jack talked about coming back after dinner(which we didn't end up doing).

After getting back to the hotel and cleaning up I attended a talk, at the hotel, given by Daniel de Visé, a Pulitzer price winning Washington Post writer who just wrote a book about Greg LeMond "The Comeback Kid". He talked for 40 minutes about bike racing and Greg LeMond. It was a very interesting talk. Although I do not follow bike racing the story of Greg LeMond is an amazing story so I will probably get the book soon.

Saturday night was the usual dinner with at a restaurant with the whole group. We sat next to a tandem couple who had done some interesting trips. The one from Pittsburgh to DC sounded like a must do so now it is on my list of possible bike trips.

Sunday turned colder and was 40 degrees and windy when I stepped out the door before breakfast. Not ideal riding weather but Jack and I still planed to do a shorter flatter ride since we were here.

We did the Horse Farm loop. Its a 35 mile loop around the horse farms in the area and relatively flat. It would have been a perfect way to end the trip if it wasn't for the WIND!!.  The cold wasn't bad once we got started but between mile 8-17 there were a lot of times that we were straight into a 25mph+ wind. During this stretch I sometimes was having a hard time maintain 10mph on a flat road and I'm thinking to myself am I really enjoying this or do I just enjoy the suffering.

Once we turned around at mile 20 it became a lot easier and I started enjoying the ride. I would like to do this Horse Farm ride again in better conditions as it would be a lot more fun. Although I was sore from three days of riding I actually felt OK by the end. Its rare I ride two days in the row so I'm always concerned about these multi-day trips but what I have learned that is as long as I follow a certain recovery routine I can usually ride the next day and only be sore for the first few miles.

Despite the cold windy condition on the last day I still enjoyed this trip and will do it again. Linda and the Philly bike club really know how to create the perfect environment for a group of bikers to relax and enjoy themselves. This trip always makes me happy and it is a place I know I will return to again. Hopefully next time I can get a few more of the insane posse to join me.

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Following Their Lead

I lead four rides in September and two of those were actually official PFW rides. I don't mine leading but I thought I would give some others a chance to lead. The first weekend in Oct I went on Laura's ride from Twin Pines. We did this route to Sergeantsville Even though there was no rain in the forecast it ended up misting and semi raining during most of the ride.

During the ride Jack was telling me of some roads he wanted to do in the area and I told him I was taking the day off on Wednesday so let's do a ride. I asked him to just send me the roads he want to do and I would put a route together. After a few email exchanges Jack decided he would lead the ride. We started in the middle of Ewing and did some urban riding as Jack took us through the neighborhood he grew up in while telling us stories of him riding his Stingray bike. Since this was the first time any of us (Me, Jim, and Ricky) could remember Jack leading we gave him a lot of shit about the route and leading in general because that is what we do. (The hard part of leading is not creating the route but dealing with all the jerks on the ride.) During the ride we decided we were Jack's Jerks since every ride leader needs a name for the people that follow them.

We eventually ended up on the normal roads out of Pennington and made our way over Goat Hill into Lambertville. Here is the route we did. Instead of stopping in Lambertville we stopped in Ringos at the Carousel Deli. The bathroom is a little dirty but they have a good outdoor porch to sit on and decent food and drinks so its not a bad place to stop in this area.

We had 30 miles by the time we got to the stop. Jack didn't really have a clue how much longer the ride would be but guessed in might be close to 60. Jack didn't really plan the route he was old school and just had a piece of paper with hand written direction on it.

From the stop we ended up heading over the Sourlands and back towards Pennington. Jack tried to take a slightly different way back to Pennington that involved two perilous crossing of Rt 31 but because of a road closed we ended riding on 518 for a while and then going back the normal way.

There was a little more urban riding involved to get back to our starting point in Ewing but nothing dangerous. We ended up with 57 miles and I was a little tired at the end especially since it was 85 and humid. It was a different type of ride and not a bad route. I may follow Jack if he decides to lead again.

This Saturday was a rain out. I was suppose to head down to the shore to meet my wife for lunch but decided to do Jum's ride on Sunday instead. The temperature had taken a nose dive over the last couple of days so when I started from Rocky Hill to get a few more miles it was 45 degrees. As I drove up to Rocky Hill I saw Pete and Andrew riding on Canal Rd so I told them to wait for me and the three of us ended up riding to Blackwell Mills together.

Jim's lead his usual ride at a slow B pace with a stop at the Bagel place on 206. It was a nice relaxing ride although I wished it would have warmed up a little more than it did as I was cold after the stop.

Laura, I and Ricky broke off a the Griggstown causeway and I decided to do Coppermine to get another hill in. Ricky decided not to do the hill and Laura took off at the top to head home and maybe get in a metric. . By the time I got back I ended up with just over 43 miles.

I will be with the Philadelphia bike club next weekend for their trip to to Gettysburg so I may not end up leading any rides this month but that is okay as long as I can follow other people on interesting rides. 

Sunday, September 30, 2018

Stupid Surprise Hilly Highpoint Ride

Back when I was working on my Best Rides Philadelphia book I spend a long day around Chadds Ford exploring the roads in the area for a couple of routes in the book. Even since then I had wanted to come back to this area because it has some good roads. We had tried to plan a weekend down here a couple of years ago but could never pull it together.  So this past week I sent out an email to the posse to see if they would be interested in a day trip to Delaware. I ended up getting Laura, Ricky, Jack, Jim, and Bob to join me. I'm glad Jim and Bob were able to join us as they have been MIA for the past few rides.

It was a perfect day for a ride with sunny weather and temps in mid 60s. We met at Bordentown and carpooled just over an hour to the starting point which was a parking lot on the Brandywine river next to a covered bridge. We did this route which is a hilly one. There was no one tough hill or long climb but it was continuous and unrelenting set of small hills with only a few miles of flat roads. I brought my Feather instead of my hill climbing Synapse because I rode the Feather the last time I was down this way was able to make it up the hills. I guess I must have been a little stronger then because the first hill we rode up hurt a lot more than I remember.

We had 400 feet of climbing in the first few miles. The hills got easier and I felt better as I warmed up. The route I had mapped out went through Shadowbrook pond and snuff mill. This road looked like a driveway but I knew from google maps that it went to where I wanted to go. I guess we shouldn't have been on this road as by the time we got to the other end there was fence blocking our way out. We just climbed over it quickly and made our get away.

There were some great downhills to go with the climbing. The 2 mile downhill on Hildendale was scenic and fun. Even though it was a little tougher to climb with the Feather I'm glad I had it for the downhills.

The deli that I had planned to stop at around mile 20 is now a Mexican restaurant so we had a bar break and got water and a bathroom break at the gas station across the street.

From there we crossed Rt 1 and continued to follow to roads up and down the terrain as we made our way towards West Chester the only real town in the area. There were some good views of the surrounding country side so Laura and I stopped for some pictures. There were a few bridge outs and a road closed along our route today as a crew was taking down a tree. We were easily able to get around all these which was good because I don't know the roads well enough to know how to get around the detours.

In West Chester we found a gas station with a convenience store which was good enough for break. From there it was on to something stupid that I promised to show the posse. To get there we had to go on roads with a little more traffic that we had seen so far but we made it though without any real problems. I was feeling the strain of all the hills so I stopped to take a gel pack which I probably should have done sooner.

At 4 miles from the end of the ride we got to the stupid monument that I wanted everybody to see. As I got off the bike both legs cramped up and I had to sit down for a couple of minutes to get rid of the cramps.

The stupid monument was a sign and bench at (or pretty close to ) the highest point in Delaware. At 447.5 feet it is the second lowest high point in the US. (Florida is the lowest at 345 ft). My GPS had 453 ft which is with in the margin of error of my GPS. I took the required picture like I did for all my NJ highpoint rides. As well as a picture of the actual sign.

It was then a quick ride on a bike lane on Rt 92 and a long downhill back to our starting point. I stopped for a picture of Smith's Bridge on the way back.

I cramped again in the parking lot putting the bikes away but was fine on the drive back to Bordentown and felt fine once I got home. It probably didn't help that I gave blood on Monday. It was definitely a hilly ride. According to my GPS I had almost 3100 ft of climbing. Jim had almost 3900 ft. The truth is probably somewhere in the middle.

I haven't been able to get away for a bike trip this year so it was fun to take a day trip to do something different and somewhat stupid with the posse because I do stupid good.

Sunday, September 16, 2018

The Long Rain

After getting rained out last week I finally got my Cocoluxe ride in this weekend. Its seems this summer the rain has been persistent and endless. This past week was a dreary rain filled week and I was concerned that it would spill over into Saturday but it didn't. Saturday turned out to be cloudy but no chance of rain. A few of my regulars had to beg off the ride so it ended up being just me Ricky and Pete.

I have started from this location 6 or 7 times and have been tweaking to route to find some good road, good downhills and minimal traffic. This is a hilly area so you can't avoid climbing but what I tried to do is to do the easier more gentle hills. Of course the climbing starts 3/4 of a mile from the start and doesn't really stop for 20 miles but its mostly in the 3-4% range with a few downhills along to way to recover.

Even though Ricky was on his new old 2001Cannondale (Sorry Jim forgot to get a picture) he was still faster than me up the hills. Pete wasn't far behind him and I was bringing up the rear. We did this route. This route was the same as last years as I couldn't find any way to improve it.

The longest climb of the day was up Rockaway and Guinea Hollow. In 6 miles we gained about 600 feet. It's a slow steady climb so its not a problem and the scenery is good. The climbing continued until we got to Long Valley where we had a screaming downhill before getting to our rest stop at Quick Check.

We had a few more hills to climb on the way back with a few more good downhills including a few we could have taken air on if we wanted to. Besides the roads by the lake at the end of the ride all the other roads were pot hole free. I think I called out "Hole" maybe once during the ride.

For 3000 ft of climbing I felt pretty good at the end of the ride and stopped by Cocoluxe for a couple brownies on my way out of Gladstone.

I know there is more rain ahead as the remnants of Florence are headed this way but hopefully the weekends will remain clear so we can enjoy the fall weather.