Sunday, November 23, 2014

Adventure - Epilogue

Or, what I did, what worked, what I'd do differently.

Except for that time when I was a Girl Scout camp counselor, and took a whole crew of kids on a bike overnight (yes, I had NO CLUE what I was doing.  Helmets?  What were those?  And so on.), I had never done any bike touring.  This was to be a credit card tour; the goal was to get to New Jersey, with a bit of sightseeing on the route.

Earlier posts discuss the Banjo Brothers pannier rack bag, and I will say that it worked perfectly.  The new rack (Racktime Fold-it) was also excellent, even if it wasn't silver.

What I carried with me:

  • a single set of cycling clothes - shorts, knee warmers, wool sports bra, short sleeve wool jersey, wool arm warmers, socks, cap, shortfinger gloves, wool overgloves, booties, helmet cover, Showers Pass jacket, Gore Visibility vest, Rainlegs, reflective ankle bands.
  • a single set of off-bike clothes - Mountain Hardwear pants which rolled up to capris, ls Smartwool half-zip shirt, underwear, socks, Timberland Radler camp shoes.  If I needed a jacket, well, the cycling jacket would do.
  • minimal set of toiletries.  I was staying in motels; they'd have soap and towels!
  • all the cue sheets for the entire ride, permanent cards, and addressed, stamped envelopes for the cards after I finished each of the three permanents.
  • plus the usual stuff I carry on any brevet/perm - tools, spare parts, tubes, spare tire, etc.
  • two water bottles
  • big ziploc bags for the clothes, just in case it got very wet.
  • phone and camera chargers.

I didn't need any of the cold weather gear except for the first perm pop - it was raining, but not cold, so I just added arm warmers, and the 200k perm, where I wore everything I had, and only removed the Rainlegs when it stopped raining.

Motels which feed you breakfast are the best kind.  Even though I was staying at Sleep Inns, their breakfasts, while basic, were entirely adequate, by which I mean eggs, meat, cereal, yogurt, coffee, juice, and toast.

Lock - I bought a little Pacsafe lock, which means that if someone wanted to just grab the bike and go, it might hold them up for a little bit.

I should mention, that over the 6 days of riding through Virginia, DC, Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey, and that teeny bit of Pennsylvania, no one menaced me on the road.  No honking, no crowding, no yelling, nothing thrown at me, no rolling coal.  Not once.

What I'd do differently - bring more than one pair of cycling shorts :-)  They were washed once, on the unplanned layover day, but still...

Motel reservations - don't make the kind that are unchangeable and nonrefundable, in case severe weather moves in and you need to wait it out.  I got lucky.

New Jersey - Intermission

Besides having a wonderful time visiting with family, I rode a 200k perm, the Independence Hall 200k, Princeton Start.  I did have someone to ride with me, but she broke her wrist a few days before, and couldn't ride :-(  Other folks thought about it, looked at the weather, and decided to pass. (50% chance of rain, clearing off by noon, NNW wind).  Riding solo again.  This being New Jersey, the cue sheet was 4 pages...

The night before, I had a lot of conversations with myself about riding.  Or not riding.  But it was just about my last chance for my October 200k, plus states nine and ten.  And I did want to see the Liberty Bell.

I was staying with the aunt and uncle who lived reasonably close to the start, and my aunt dropped me off at the start.  As my fellow rider was to be bringing the cards and she couldn't be there, the perm owner left a card in a baggie under a chair outside the coffee shop.  Found it!

The start was the Grover's Mills Coffee Shop, with a heavy alien theme - War of the Worlds, the actual Grover's Mill being right around there.  Coffee and a pastry, and I started out.  It was raining, off and on.  The forecast had me thinking I'd be blown all the way to Philadelphia, and have to work on the way back, but the wind spent the whole morning being undecided.

I had loaded the track into the MapsWithMe app on my phone, which was fortuitous because the gps app I was using decided the route had no cues (yes it DID), and it being wet and gloomy, I ran my light all day, which precluded keeping my phone charged.  I only got misplaced a few times on the way back, it being dark, and all.

So, riding varied from rural to suburban.  Lots of little towns.  Fields.  Suburbs.  Some office parks.  White Pine Rd, and don't go bombing down it, there are some killer potholes.  There was a road closure in Jacksonville, but the fireman blocking the road very kindly told me how to get back on route.

Quiet road

The longest stretch with no turns was Union Mill Rd, leading up to the control at a Wawa Market.  I had gotten quite fond of these on the ride up from Virginia - as long it was one of the gas station stores, there was a consistent selection of the important things in life - chicken nuggets, V-8, soft pretzels, nuts, Fig Newtons, cheese sticks, bananas, and Gatorade.

Shortly after the control, the route turned west, and headed toward Camden, NJ, by way of Cherry Hill.  Lots of riding along the Cooper River, and then I found myself in Camden.  Riding through Camden was slow - not that it was long, but there were lots of traffic lights.  Also lots of police (!)

From Camden, I was to ride over Ben Franklin Bridge to Philadelphia.  This would be fun.  There were steep stairs leading up to the pedestrian/cyclist path.  That wasn't fun.  But then I was heading across the bridge, and it was wonderful.  The roadway is below, and the view was fantastic.

Steep steps on the Camden side

Pedestrian deck, Benjamin Franklin Bridge, Camden to Philadelphia

The bridge dumped me right into old Philadelphia.  Got a drink at the control, and then scooted over to check out the Liberty Bell from the outside of the building.

The Liberty Bell

Also Independence Hall.

Independence Hall selfie

But time was getting short and I needed to get moving.  I was over the bridge, through Camden, and out to Cherry Hill in considerably less time than it took to get through there the first time.  Hmm.  Maybe the wind decided to help out?

The rain had given it up by the time I got back to Camden, not to be seen the rest of the day.  It didn't warm up much, though; I was wearing all the extra riding gear I had carried and not yet used on the trip.

What else?  The route goes by many Shop-Rite markets :-)  Back through all the little towns and suburbs.  Called my aunt at about 26 miles out.  They planned to get dinner at the restaurant right by the finish, and get some takeout for me (another trip goal - east coast Chinese food!).

It started getting dark soon after that, making navigation a rather more challenging.  Traffic had picked up, and the headlights didn't help.  Mercer Park was a wonderfully quiet oasis.  Almost done...

Wait, this road doesn't seem right!  Another visit with MapsWithMe, and I navigated myself back to the route.  Finally pulled into the shopping center.  My aunt said she couldn't miss me, I was so lit up and visible :-)

Certainly not the fastest 200k I have ever ridden, but completed in plenty of time.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Riding up the Jersey Shore, Part 2 - Tuckerton to Freehold

(brief aside - this is post 500 on the blog.  Thank you all ever so much for reading!)

This was the day I had been looking forward to.  Not necessarily because it was the last day of the journey - because it was the day I would revisit my childhood haunts.

I was born in Pt Pleasant Beach, while my dad was stationed somewhere in the Air Force.  My mother's parents lived there.  My father's parents lived in Bradley Beach.  After a few years of living in various small towns in New Jersey, my parents moved far away, to Scottsdale AZ, then Rochester, NY, then Huntsville, AL, and finally, Houston, TX. (yes, I was a Rocket Kid; my dad worked in the space program industry).

But we'd go back every summer, and I'd stay for a couple of weeks, maybe longer, visiting around with grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins, great aunts and uncles...

So, this day's route would take me through Pt Pleasant Beach and Bradley Beach, then to Freehold via the Allaire State Park.

The hotel at the golf course had a continental breakfast - bagels, fruit and coffee.  It would do for a start.  Of course, rolling out, I noticed that I had a rear flat (!)  Walked over to the snack area, with benches and tables, repaired it, washed my hands, and finally headed out.

The first 21 miles were all on Rt. 9.  Wide shoulder, tailwind...  Not bad, really.  I eventually was able to turn east a bit, and ride through some quiet neighborhoods and marsh.  Then I crossed the Toms River, and ended up IN Tom's River, with a street fair in process right where I was meant to ride through.  Then I saw the souvlaki stand and decided right there that it was (early) lunch time!

Street fair and gyro in Tom's River, NJ

After that tasty pause, I headed through town, and ended up on Hooper Avenue, which was clearly a place I shouldn't have been riding.  High speed, no shoulders...  I stuck myself on the white line, and it all worked out.  I was not crowded.  No one honked.  But certainly not fun.  I pulled off at a gas station just to figure out how much more of this I had to go.  Fortunately, not much.

From here I was headed toward Mantoloking, back on the barrier islands.  This is totally a Jersey Shore town, even though all the houses are new - rebuilt from when Sandy flattened everything.

Bridge to Mantoloking

Then a turn onto Ocean Avenue (all shore towns in NJ have an Ocean Ave), and there I was, in Pt Pleasant Beach.  As soon as I could, I rode up onto the Boardwalk.  It is all rebuilt as well - I couldn't find any Skee Ball or Pinball places.  Or, for that matter, my Great Uncle's salt water taffy store.  But it was still Jenkinson's Boardwalk, and I was a happy camper.

I was born here.

Jenkinsons Boardwalk, Pt Pleasant Beach, NJ

From there I rode up Arnold Avenue, which was/is the main street.  Of course everything had changed.  Many of the original buildings are still there, but with new and different tenants.  Turned right onto Lincoln Ave, site of the former A&P Grocery, coasted the three blocks down (all the big estates on the river side of the road are now filled in with other homes), turned right onto Walnut Ave, and there it was.

My maternal grandparents home

The current owners are keeping it very nice.  Green shutters rather than blue, but the front porch almost appears to have the exact same wicker furniture, and the hydrangea bushes are still in front.  The son of the owners (he was outside, we talked) said they like to keep the house true to its roots.  They even rebuilt the maid's quarters in the back, which previous owners had torn down.

front porch, maternal grandparents home

Maternal grandparents home, back porch

From there I rode the block over to the river.  What used to be a few houses and woods has been built up with large homes.  I looked in vain for the beach I played on for days on end, damming up the storm pipe, harassing the horseshoe crabs, paddling around (unsupervised) in those plastic boats.

This WAS the beach I played on for days on end

After thinking about it, I decided that the storm drain was extended out into the river, and the new house put in a lot of riprap and then terraformed and terraced themselves a flat lawn out to the river.  No beach remains.

From there I rode by the Pt Pleasant Beach public library - still in that old house!  One summer I tried to read through the entire children's section.

Spent one summer trying to read the entire childrens section

Time to head north to Bradley Beach.  As a kid, I always liked driving over the Brielle Bridge.  Now I got to ride over it, after the bridge lift ended.  There were signs to walk bike across bridge, but with that huge shoulder... nah.  I should mention that I never saw anyone pay attention to any of the bridge prohibition signs (no crabbing or fishing from bridge, etc).

Quick turn off east, riding through Brielle, and into Sea Girt, where I picked up Ocean Avenue and the boardwalks again.  This was fun.  The boardwalks have all been rebuilt, and, it being off-season, bicycles are allowed.

Belmar Beach

Another bridge lift at the Shark River Inlet, where I (and the other cyclists) ignored the Walk Bikes On Bridge signage.  Quickly found myself in Bradley Beach, and turned left on 2nd Ave, up to my other grandparents' home.

My paternal grandparents lived here

Paternal grandparents home, front view

It also looks well kept, but the bushes along the east covered patio are awfully tall and bushy, blocking the view :-)

Trip down memory lane complete, it was time to head inland to Freehold.  I went inland a bit, then turned south and then west again.  A stupid brief stretch on Rt 35, then off into the semi-rural roads which make up so much of central and south New Jersey.  I had routed myself onto the Wall Township Bike path, which turned into a couple other bike paths, crossed by a cool general store which I did not stop at (too close!), but went by and ate lunch the next day, and then rode through a section of Allaire State Park.

bike path in Wall Township, NJ

Allenwood General Store, on the Wall Township bike path

Back onto the surface roads, riding through Farmingdale and back out in to the semi-rural countryside.  Not too far now...  Look, a cyclist coming the other way!  I know him!  Yay!

My uncle rode out from Freehold to meet me

My uncle and I rode the last couple miles in together.  I had ARRIVED!  Success!

Arrival in Freehold!

A bit of wine to celebrate, a shower, clothes that I hadn't been wearing for five days straight...

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Riding up the Jersey Shore, Part 1 - Cape May to Tuckerton

After spending the night in Lewes, I planned to catch the 8:45am ferry to Cape May, NJ.  So I got to sleep in, get breakfast at the motel, then pedal the 4+ miles to the ferry dock.  It wasn't entirely clear where I was supposed to go, so I pretended I was a pedestrian and took myself inside.  No extra charge for the bike.

Waiting for the Cape May Ferry

Sat around outside for awhile, then, as the ferry approached, moved myself to the Bicycle Staging Area.  When it was time to load, I got to go first, park my bike in the racks, then head up to the passenger deck.

Sweetpea in the bike racks between the stanchions on the ferry

View from the MV Cape Henlopen ferry to Cape May, NJ

The crossing took about 90 minutes, and I had great fun coffeeneuring (how often does one get to coffeeneur on a floating coffee shop?) and standing outside enjoying the ride.

Coffeeneuring on the Cape May Ferry

Cape May Lighthouse

This day's route here.

Welcome to New Jersey

Last off, and I headed toward Cape May.  The route took me up along the barrier islands which are the South Jersey coast, mostly riding right along the shore and boardwalk, but occasionally heading a bit west to cross over a river.

Riding on the Ocean City Boardwalk!

Flying kites on the beach

The bridges were all toll bridges, but not for bicycles. :-)  Sunny day, wind was generally from the south.  Lovely.

Toll Bridge

Marsh or estuary

Lots of this from Cape May to just before Somers Point

the shore

Bridge to Somers Point NJ

After Ocean City, I rode across a big enormous causeway over Great Egg Harbor Bay, to Somers Point, ending up on a bike path all the way through Linwood, Northfield (lived there as a child), and Pleasantville.  Other than it had signs requesting that cyclists WALK across every single street, it was quite nice.  For the record, I saw many cyclists, and not a one of them walked across the streets.  For that matter, they didn't even stop.  I at least did that!

That's not going to happen

Pleasantville, NJ

Then I turned northwest, because the only way across the next river (for nonmotorized transport) was inland, in the Pine Barrens.  More bike path, then on a very major road past the Atlantic City airport.  But it was freshly paved and had a wonderful shoulder; no worries.  I had noted that the Last Chance for Food before my endpoint was at the intersection of that road and the White Horse Pike.  Of course, it was on the most difficult corner of the intersection to get into and out of :-)  More Wawa soft pretzels, a banana, nuts and Gatorade.  The White Horse Pike was busy, with high speed traffic and no shoulder, but I wouldn't be on it long.

Frankfurt Rd - I thought it was nice and quiet after the White Horse Pike...

Turned off onto Frankfurt Ave (all the streets were named after German cities), and it was immediately ever so much nicer.  A few miles later, I was to turn onto Indian Cabin Rd.

Wait.  What?  Sand?  Couldn't be sand for too long, and it looked rideable.  Mostly it was, but for a few bits.  Got to the next road.  Sand.  And the next road.  Sand.  I figured the NEXT turn would be onto pavement, and it was, but some time was taken.  At least it was flat, and only a little over 2 miles.

Oops.  Found another sand road.

Almost done with the sand

So, back onto pavement, and headed into the woods.  You wouldn't think New Jersey would have places this remote, but it does.  Crossed the river; only 14 more miles for the day.  It was a long 14 miles.  Not because it was difficult or anything, but there just wasn't anything there, but for a couple of taverns.  I was starting to think I'd never get to Rt. 9...

Bridge back in the Pine Barrens

When there wasn't shore, there was often marsh.

After riding through the state forest (full of pines, naturally) and crossing over the Parkway, there were finally signs of human habitation :-)  Then, finally, left on Rt. 9, into Tuckerton, and over to the golf club where I was staying for the night.  Not many places to stay in Tuckerton :-)

There was a brief discussion about where to put the bicycle - in my room, obviously, but not so much to them.  I promised they would never know it had been there.

Dinner that night was in the club restaurant.  There were tablecloths, real dishes and flatware, and golf on the TVs (I felt right at home).