Despite the fact that I am the owner of this permanent, which received RUSA approval in November of 2009, I've never ridden the entire route, prior to now. I did finish the ride successfully in 2007 when it was on the calendar as a 200k brevet. Also, I rode every section separately before applying for permanent status, but I never went all the way around. The severity of the course has kept me from undertaking it while adapting to the recumbent Now that I've logged five-thousand miles on the bent, I figure I am ready. With my wife out of town for the weekend, and no other conflicts for Sunday, the timing seemed right. I contacted my friend Todd to see if he would be interested in joining me. He quickly agreed. Later in the week another friend, Al, called to see if I wanted to ride Sunday. I invited him to join as well. Al rode most of this brevet with me in 2007, but, suffered a crash 15 miles from the finish, which resulted in a concussion and a DNF. He wasn't sure he was up to the distance this time, but with some trepidation agreed to take the start.
Raritan to Summit
The three of us meet at the official ride start, the Quick Check in Raritan, a few minutes before the agreed 7am start time. We get brevet cards verified and set out in a light rain. The temperature is a comfortable 67 degrees. We head to the north through the small town of Raritan and cross US 202. We are on Country Club Road for seven miles to Bedminster where we answer an informational control question. We then follow Washington Valley Road to the east for the remaining miles to the control. The terrain is moderate for most of the way as we are on the lower ridge of the Watchung Mountain. However, just a few miles prior to the control we encounter Sky Top Drive. Which is a gradual but long climb, to the top of the Watchung Mountain Range. With fresh legs the three mile climb feels fine and we arrive at the East Side Deli in good spirits. Fresh bread pudding is consumed while brevet cards are validated. We are quickly on our way.
Summit to Budd Lake
Just out of the control the route turns to the west, and, into the wind. The wind is fairly negligible at this point, but, rather suddenly the rain picks a up a few notches. As we approach the overpass to I-78 I hear a bike tire blow out. Al's rear tire flatted as a result of the bump going on to the bridge. Al rides Zipp deep dish carbon rims and it is a bear to get the tire off. With the three of us working on it we finally manage to get a new tube in it leaving only the task of inflating the tire. Al realizes he forgot his quick fill tool and only has a cartridge. As a back up he has a mini pump, but, that doesn't seem to work at all. Todd offers his CO2 tool, using Al's cartridge they attempt to inflate. It doesn't work. It appears Todd's device is broken as well. I get my C02 tool out of the pack and successfully inflate the tire. We finally resume riding having spent about one-half hour with the repair.
Following Glenside Avenue through the Watchung Reservation we soon make the turn to the north and undertake a short but steep climb. We ride through the town of New Providence and another short steeper climb brings us into Chatham Township. After only making about seven miles from the control I hear Todd's tire let go while we are stopped at a traffic light. We get off the road and break down the rear tire. The rim tape on the wheel was compromised, one of the spokes poked through the tube. Fortunately, Todd has a tire boot kit which we use to cover the spoke hole. We put everything back together. I get out my CO2 tool and attempt to inflate the tire with no success. The gas will not flow into the tire. I open the tool and all the gas releases into the air. The cartridge was properly punctured, but something is blocking the flow. I try another cartridge with the same result. The tire will not inflate. We are now screwed! Between the three of us we have no way to inflate a tire. Unless we can think of a quick solution our ride is now in serious jeopardy. Todd tells us to leave him and he'll work it out on his own. I decide I would rather blow off the ride than leave a friend forty miles from home with a broken bike. Having some familiarity with the area I conclude there has to be a bike shop somewhere nearby. Al and I set out in search of a shop to buy a C02 tool or a pump. In less than a mile we come upon the Chatham Township Police Station. I suggest we stop in to ask directions to a bike shop. The officer manning the desk directs me to a shop only two miles away. The bad news is they don't open until 12pm. It is now 10:45am. We decide to ride over there in the hope that someone is there early who can help us. We arrive before 11am to a nice bike shop that is locked up tight. The sign on the door confirms the 12pm opening time. I decide to call Todd on his cell to let him know we will wait for the shop to open. He answers and tells me that a passing cyclist, with a pump, helped him out. He is waiting for us at the next cue sheet turn. We ride back to meet him. Upon meeting up with Todd, Al announces today is not his day, he wants to pack it in. He chooses to ride the thirty-seven miles directly back to his car.
Todd and I continue on towards the next control. The remaining 26 miles consist of continuous rolling terrain. Some of the rollers are fairly long requiring a good deal of energy. My initial plan was to take it easy during this stretch, to conserve for the big climbs which would come later. That idea is now out the window as we are facing a control closing time. We've lost at least 90 minutes with the two flats. There may be just enough time to make it if we keep a steady pace, make no stops, and suffer no more mechanicals. We continue our pattern of up and down past the historic park at Jockey Hollow, through Mendham, Mount Freedom, Ironia and Flanders. The rain has stopped and for now the temperature is in a comfortable range, although it is a little humid. Finally, we arrive at the control in Budd Lake which is a Dunkin Donutsl. The closing time is 1:44 we are in at 1:20. We should work this stop like a fire drill, but we are tired, so we spare an extra ten minutes for coffee and a bagel. After which we top off fluids and head out for the next segment.
Budd Lake to Washington
We retrace out of the control facing some more rollers for the first few miles. Then things get somewhat easier. We have gained some elevation on the last stretch so we find ourselves at the top of Schooley's Mountain without a big climb. It stays moderate for awhile, we do our best to make back some time. We arrive at the informational control in Changewater memorizing the answer to the question to save time, we will fill in the cards at the next stop. A few miles past the info control on a flat section of Changewater Road we encounter a black bear. At first sighting I thought it was an enormous dog on the loose. I was actually relieved to see it was a young bear and it seemed only interested in crossing the road. After soft pedaling a bit to give the animal some space we resume our pace. A few small climbs present themselves before the control. They are no problem for us as we've had some recovery on this stretch. We arrive at the control 36 minutes before the closing time of 4:08. We spend twenty minutes refueling before mounting up again.
Washington to Spruce Run
This section is the one that has me the most concerned. It features two of the toughest climbs on the route, both are fairly long. With only 11 miles to cover it is easy to fall behind in time. Especially given that we are working with little to no margin. We have just over an hour to make it to the Spruce Run Control. The first climb, Buttermilk Ridge Road, comes up after only a mile. It is not terribly steep, but it is quite long. Todd puts some distance on me as I grind my way up in a pretty small gear. We re-group at the top of the climb continuing on through Asbury. We pass the familiar Asbury Deli which other New Jersey rides use as a control point. Soon after we arrive at the toughest climb on the course, Ludlow Station Road. I'd decided in advance that I would walk this one. Almost all the riders who have done the route on uprights before me have walked it. I dismount and start the trudge up while watching Todd attempt the climb. He makes it up part way before deciding to walk. Pushing the heavy, cumbersome bent up the hill is no easy chore. I am breathing hard, as well as sweating. Rather suddenly it dawns on me how hot it has become. The walking seems to take forever. Finally, I notice Todd just up ahead getting back on the bike. When I reach that point I notice the grade lessen. I stop walking and remount. I am grateful to start riding again. There is only one climb left before the control. Considerably less significant than the other two, but anything feels hard at this point. Todd is riding up the hill just ahead of me when I notice him sort of freeze up, then clip out having cramped up. As I pass by him I start to feel some twinges in my legs, the beginnings of cramping, but I make it to the top before it happens. Todd walks up and resumes riding. That being the last hill before the control we cover the final two miles easily making it in with 20 minutes to spare. We quickly document our arrival. I'm more confident about our chance of success now that we've made it here. As long as nothing goes wrong we should make it all the way. We spend 20 minutes recovering and refueling.
Spruce Run to Bedminster
We Leave the control just after the closing time retracing our route back to Van Syckle Road passing by the Spruce Run Recreation area. It is after 5pm and quite hot. This section is gentle for the first couple of miles, then becomes quite challenging for the next seven miles. I enjoy the view of the man made lake as we glide by assisted by a slight tail wind. The tranquility ends as we turn onto busy route 31 and negotiate a left accross heavy traffic to a very steep climb up Creegar Road. At the top we turn to the right to descend into the small town of High Bridge. Once through the small downtown area we quickly approach another of the major climbs on the route, Wilson Ave. Typically, I struggle with this fairly steep climb which seemingly goes on forever. This time would be no different as Todd quickly puts a gap on me while I am shifting into the granny gear. I spin my way up to the steep section, so far so good. As the road pitches up I concentrate on keeping Mellow Yellow running straight. Things appear to be going well when without warning the bike veers hard to the right. With no time to react the front wheel impacts the guard rail and I fall to the ground with the bike on top of me. My forearm is smarting pretty good as it banged into the guard rail on the way down. I hear a car coming in my lane up the hill. I am in the road, and I can't get up quickly enough to be out of his way. Without slowing the car veers around me and continues up the hill. I'm a bit surprised that no one rolled down a window to check if I was okay, but, no matter. I untangle myself from the bike and get up. A quick once over on the bike shows no damage of any consequnce. I walk up the hill a bit to a slightly less steep section before mounting up and continuing. Just as I reach the summit of the hill a rain shower dumps cool refreshing water on me. It actually feels quite good. While descending the other side of the mountain on the wet roads I encounter a car speeding up the hill in the middle of the road. He gives up no ground as I pass by forcing me to bounce over some rough pavement at about 35mph. Fortunately, Mellow Yellow is quite stable on descents, riding over the bumps with little deviation in direction. After a few more up's and downs we hit the next climb on Cokesbury Road. This is the last substantial hill on the course. Thereafter is largely gentle terrain the rest of the way to the control. Knowing this doesn't make the hill any easier, nor does the continuing rain which now feels more annoying than refreshing. At the top we make a right on Bissel Road which features a nice descent all the way to the river. We follow the river downstream for about two miles, then follow county roads. We come upon a bridge under construction on Burnt Mills Road. The bridge is being re-built and has been closed for sometime. The detour we have used in the past consists of two miles of dirt roads. With the rain the dirt doesn't seem too appealing. We find a way to get through the fence and notice there is a fresh surface on the bridge which two weeks prior consisted of just beams. We have to walk our bikes weaving through a plethora of construction equipment to traverse the span, but it is certainly preferable to the dirt road detour. after securing the fence on the other side we ride the last two miles to the control which is the Burger King. The control closes at 7:56, we arrive at 7:32. We buy apple pie, which is quickly consumed. We set up with night gear as sunset will occur at 8:05. We are back on the road headed to the finish in less than 10 minutes.
Bedminster to Raritan
This mild rolling section is a straight shot to the finish. The winds are still favorable coming from the southwest. I can smell the barn. It feels good to push a bit here. Other than the three traffic lights at the highways we cross, there is little to slow us down. The rain has stopped, I am actually enjoying the run to the end. We roll into the Quick Check at 8:05pm, 13 hours and 5 minutes from when we left. We quickly document our arrival with the store personell. We are both pretty amped that we got through this ride despite the adversity we faced. We were tight up against the closing times at every control, with exception of the first one. The flat tires, the weather, and the hills, all combined to give the ride an epic feel. Which, at least for me, increased the enjoyment. I imagined we would have finished around the 12 hour mark without the unexpected delays, but it wouldn't have meant as much. I'm five months into my R12, I hope to keep it going.