Wednesday, May 26, 2010

NJ 400k Volunteer Ride - Spinning through the Pine Barrens!

View of Downtown Salem, NJ the half way point

On Sunday May 23rd six riders gather at the Hightstown Days Inn to undertake the NJ 400k pre-ride, or volunteer ride as it’s known. The purpose of the ride is two fold. First and foremost is to check the route for hazards, road closures, etc, while testing the cue sheet for errors. Secondly, the ride allows those who are helping with the event to receive official credit for the distance even though done in advance of the actual scheduled date. At 4am organizer Paul Shapiro along with volunteers Katie Raschfdorf, Janice Chernekoff, Jon Levitt, Walt Pettigrew and yours truly depart Hightstown for points south.

Hightstown to Button Hill Campground 65 Miles
It is a pleasant 63 degrees with some humidity. The weather forecast calls for off and on showers throughout the day. With my rain gear safely stuffed in the rear pack I head out with the group in the pre-dawn darkness knowing it will be dark again when I return. Katie and Janice opted to ride at their own pace so the four of us pulled past them just beyond the downtown section of Hightstown. The riding conditions were quite nice. I found myself enjoying the quiet stillness of the early morning hour as we headed towards the first control in the New Jersey Pine Barrens. We cross I-195 and pass through Allentown heading towards the Fort Dix/Maguire military installation. Which upon our arrival we are greeted with daylight. We continue our southerly trek to Chatsworth which begins what is known as the Pine Barrens region. We enter the Wharton State Forest on CR 563 which leads us to Green Bank. Lots of canoeing and Kayaking takes place in this area as a well known estuary is nearby. From there we turn west onto CR 542 into Batso Village and the remaining couple of miles to the control at the Buttonwood Camp Ground. On the day of the ride there will be volunteers with food and beverage at the ready when riders arrive. Today there is nothing here, so after looking around the place briefly we push on in search of a commercial establishment. We follow the route to CR 623 and continue through Pleasant Mills and into Ellwood, where at the crossing of SR 30, White Horse Pike, we come upon the Elwood Deli. The rustic little place serves us well as we replenish fluids and intake a few calories. The temperature is up near seventy at this point so I opt to lose the arm warmers for the next leg. I notify Katie and Janice the location of the deli but they reply that they are turning back at Batso to enjoy a somewhat shorter day on the bike.

Button Hill Campground to Salem 55 Miles
Leaving the deli behind we head west towards the state of Delaware. Our control stop in the town of Salem is on the New Jersey side of the river. We notice the wind has picked up quite a bit giving us a fairly strong push from behind. This makes for some nice fast riding as we pace line our way past the cranberry and blueberry farms. We are keeping a nice average speed, but know that unless there is a shift in direction we will have to face a strong headwind on our return route. For the time being it doesn’t dampen our spirits as we enjoy the scenery change from the woods of the barrens to the open farmlands. So far we have encountered only a few sprinkles of rain. The rain gear remains in the pack. This is perhaps the most enjoyable leg of the route for me. The lightly traveled roads and open views of the area bring about a tranquil feeling. We continue our pace lining efforts with each of us taking turns at the front. While it requires a bit more effort on the front of the line I am enjoying my time there as it offers the best opportunity to look at the scenery not having to keep a constant eye on the rider in front. Although, as in most parts of our state one does need to keep watch for pot holes (more on this subject later). We pass through Alloway which has a lake somewhere and a lot of farms like the rest of the region. We encounter a brief shower that lasts only for a few minutes. Soon thereafter the outskirts of Salem appear and we are quickly in the down town area. The town is quiet on a Sunday. We find ourselves as the only lunch customers in the Bravo Pizza and Pasta, which is our control. The other years I’ve done this ride I’ve always enjoyed the pizza here. It doesn’t disappoint this time either. This stop is almost the half-way point at 120 miles. I enjoy the food, the rest and chatting with my ride companions.

Salem to Button Hill Campground 55 Miles
After the nice break we set out. We’re headed back to the pine-barrens region via a slightly different route than the outbound, although we are on some of the same roads for periods of time. As soon as we leave the city limits of Salem I immediately notice the headwind. I knew it was coming, and mentally prepared, but unfortunately my legs aren’t all that thrilled about it. I take my turn at the front, after which I feel blown up. This next section becomes my low point of the ride. I am not able to pull much. My fellow riders pick up the slack for me, giving me a lot of time to sit in the draft. I’m looking forward to the wooded sections of the barrens where our direction becomes more northerly, and there will be trees to block the wind. I watch as our average speed slowly dips from 16.7 mph to 16.5 mph. There is no way to keep the same pace as the outbound. A strong shower douses us for about five minutes and then stops. I notice as the passing showers move in the wind increases like squalls. The temperature is warm enough that it doesn’t pay to don a rain jacket. It’s easier to just get wet and then air dry when the shower ends. We decide that we will need a food stop in lieu of the empty campground at Batso. We detour off route to the town of Hammonton and stop at the Wawa, which is a control on the NJ 600k. I badly need this stop and eat heartily in an attempt to regain my prior energy level. It showers hard while we are sitting outside eating. Fortunately, we are sheltered under the roof overhang. The rain ends shortly and without delay we head back out towards our next stop in Vincentown.

Button Hill Campground to Vincentown 37 Miles

We work our way back to the route and into the pine-barrens. As anticipated the wind is not as difficult here. We continue with the pace lining and I begin taking some pulls feeling a little better. Walt, Jon and Paul are all taking longer and stronger turns at the front than me, but at least I feel like I’m contributing something. As we get to Chatsworth Walt hits a viscous pot hole and gets pinch flats on both tires. We pull off in front of a house to undertake the repair. I assist by putting a new tube in the front while Walt attends to the rear. It all goes pretty efficiently with Paul assisting by pressuring up one of the tires. There are little bugs eating away at us so we can’t wait to leave. With everything back together we start to head off when Paul yells from behind that he has a flat. After pulling apart the rear tire he finds a puncture in the tube and a sharp stone in the tire. The repair goes quickly, partially motivated by our desire to get away from the bugs. Just prior to leaving we get a call from Katie and learn that her and Janice have made it safely back to Hightstown. With all punctures repaired we continue on our way. Soon we find ourselves on Sooy Place Road which heads west away from the barrens. Even though the winds have subsided some west is a nice direction to be headed. I am beginning to enjoy the ride again feeling somewhat renewed from the food and the rest. We soon find ourselves crossing route 206 and pull into the Vincentown Wawa for our final rest before the finish. It is turning dark so we plan to leave with night gear and lighting on. While we are taking our break in the front of the store it rains hard. Again the roof overhang keeps us dry. The temperature is dropping making me feel a bit chilly. I decide to leave there with arm warmers and a wind vest for the final leg. The rain is reduced to a sprinkle as we depart for the final leg.

Vincentown to Hightstown 39 Miles

This next section is the most difficult to navigate. The cue sheet is very accurate, but it is night, there are a lot of turns, and we are all pretty tired. Fortunately, Paul has the GPS functioning to keep us on track. We follow the cue sheet as well to check it, but I confess to having a little trouble focusing. Although, between the four of us we manage to check all the cues and find they work fine. The roads selected are pleasant and mostly free of traffic. We stay on the quiet country lanes until Allentown where we cross I-195 and make a bee line for Hightstown on county roads. The rain picks up seriously as we near Hightstown. Then absolutely buckets for the last couple of miles to the finish at the Day’s Inn. I am very pleased to be done. Our finish time is 19hrs 30min, well below the 27 hour limit. I’m pleased with the outcome. Especially given that I felt rough for part of the time.


This is indeed a fun ride. The flatness of the route suits riding in a group. It was great to have three other riders, who I also consider friends, to share the miles with. As well as to share the work load. That is not to say that it’s particularly easy. The route has its own set of challenges. The winds can be bad in some of the more open areas. In addition, I find that 400k of essentially the same terrain can be difficult in and of itself. The lack of hills requires one to spin steadily for a very long time. Taking a toll on the muscle set involved. I find myself quite tired the next day and in need of as much recovery as a hilly ride of the same distance.

I look forward to seeing the main field of riders this coming Saturday!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Noximixon 200k Permanent - Number two of a two brevet weekend!

Paul walks his bike over the Milford bridge on the return to NJ

For my second 200k in as many days I had agreed to meet my friend Paul to ride his Noximixon route.  Our start time is 7:30am at the McAfferty's in Princeton Junction, NJ.  I'm up at 6am to get ready and make the 35 minute drive to the start.  I feel a little stiff from the prior days effort on the Hawk's Nest 200k (see prior post for details).  It takes the next 45 minutes to get the bike and gear  loaded up.  Leaving me enough time for the drive over and  a few spare minutes to wolf down some oatmeal before the start.  All goes according to plan.  I meet Paul in front of the store at the appointed time.  For the first time in memory we actually start a permanent on time.

The route heads through the town of Princeton, then heads to Lambertville where the bridge into Pennsylvania is crossed.  From New Hope. Pa we head to Carversville, then Quakertown, passing by the Noximixon Reservoir, for which the permanent is named.  I notice I don't have the climbing legs that Paul has today. He is out climbing me on all the hills en-route to the first control in Lambertville.

We get through the control smoothly and cross the bridge.  Shortly thereafter I get a flat on the front tire.  It takes forever to find the cause of the puncture.  Paul actually scrutinized the tire and found a tiny sharp gravel fragment embedded in the rubber which barely broke through to the tube.  We lose about a half-hour total with the repair.  When we arrive at Richlantown we are only about 25 minutes ahead of the control close.

After a bite to eat we head to Milford with one big climb in between.  We arrive and are still only 25 minutes in front of the closing time.  We were hoping for a sub eleven hour finish, but we were both kind of doubtful that it could happen. We make quick order of the Milford control.  Our next control is Ringoes where we agree to keep the stop to ten minutes.  We manage to live up to that promise and head east for our penultimate control in Kendall Park.

I notice we have picked up a lot of time since Milford.  With thirty miles to the finish I start doing the math in my head to project a finish time.  I figure it is now possible to meet the original goal, if we keep a good pace and do a super quick stop at Kendall Park. After a quick discussion with Paul the plan is in effect to shoot for under eleven hours.  There are two good sized climbs in front of us the first being Lindbergh Road which climbs up the Sourland Mountain Ridge.  It comes upon us quickly.  The climb starts gradually, then steepens near the top.  I manage to climb steadily avoiding the use of my smallest chain ring. Once over the top it is downhill to Route 518, then a flat run on 518 to Rocky Hill.  We are making good time when we spot a cyclist on the opposite side of the road, who appears to have a mechanical issue.  When we check to see if he needs help he asks if we have an allen wrench.  I see him eyeing up our oversize rear packs.  I'm sure he's thinking there has to be an allen wrench in one of those packs.  We cross over to his side and both produce a multi-tool allen wrench from our packs.   It turned out his saddle had come very loose.  It took him a few minutes to tighten it up and we were all back on our way.  We continue east and pass through the small town of Rocky Hill.  Our final climb appears, which is Old Georgetown Road.  This is a substantial, but manageable climb.  Once to the top we are minutes from our control at Kendall Park. We use an ATM receipt for documentation and continue without delay.

We have only about 11 miles to the end.  The terrain is as flat as a pancake.    I'm tired, but am now smelling the barn.  Paul and I work together smoothly to cover the ground with lots of time to spare.  We pull into the shopping center and obtain an ATM receipt that is stamped at 6:10 pm.  Our total time computes to 10hrs 40minutes.  Right on par with the 200k ridden the day before.  I'm happy with the accomplishment.  It's the confidence boost I needed for the 400k next weekend.

Stay tuned!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Hawk's Nest 200k - Number one of a two Brevet weekend!

Al riding along a rural New Jersey Road near the Delaware Water Gap

 Mid May is usually a pivotal point for me.  The longer brevets are just around the corner and I question  whether I'm prepared.  In prior years I completed a fleche in April which provided the confidence boost I needed.  This season I passed on the fleche due to work obligations.  I needed a substitute.  I'd already completed a hilly 300k on a very hot day in early May.  To top that effort the thing that came to mind was something done on consecutive days.  I had a free weekend and found that the PA Randonneurs were holding the Hawk's Nest 200k on Saturday.  On Sunday, I would schedule a hilly 200k permanent. If I could get through both rides without trashing myself I would feel somewhat ready for what was to come.

Water Gap, PA

 As luck would have it my friend and R12 riding companion Al was interested in doing the ride with me.  We drove together on the hour plus journey to the starting point, at the scenic Delaware Water Gap.  With forms and paperwork ready we check-in with RBA Tom Rosenbauer.  There are eighteen riders gathering in the parking area of the Water Gap Diner for the 7am start.  It's on the chilly side at 54 degrees, but the weather forecast calls for a mostly sunny day with the high near seventy and winds up to 20mph.

Water Gap, PA to Promised Land, PA 34 Miles

After a brief rider meeting we are released by Tom.  We are out of the tiny town in less than half a mile working our way towards some serious climbing.  According to the profile the first section is mostly uphill.  The next control is about 1200 feet higher in elevation than the start with some up and down on the way.  Once the climbing began it was fairly relentless.  It served to warm us up nicely. I started the ride with just a long sleeve under liner, a short sleeve jersey, shorts and knee warmers.  I expected to feel chilly for the first mile or two, but knew that I would warm up quick.  The sun beating down was a big help in that regard as well.  The climbing continued up to a town called Sky Top.  As indicated by the name we would descend some from there to the Promised Land area, which appeared to be a large State Park.  Our control which was just past the I-84 access was an Exxon Mini Mart.  We decided to make short order of the stop and moved through rather quickly.

Promised Land, PA to Barryville, NY - 30 Miles

The next control is over 1000 feet lower in elevation leading me to believe this would be a fast leg.  We are parallel to the Laxawaxan River which is on our right.  The roads are pleasant, the traffic light and the scenery is spectacular.  Fisherman with wading boots are in the river everywhere.  We ride for a time with the RBA, Tom, who caught  up to us along the river.  I enjoy conversing with him for a bit and then we let him go as his pace was a little more than we wanted to muster.  We would see him again at controls and on the route.  Shortly after we came across Harold and Christine who are on their first ever brevet.  They are from Long Island and compete in triathlons.  They reasoned this ride would be good training.  We cross the Laxawaxen River Bridge together and very shortly after the Roebling Aqueduct Bridge where the Laxawaxan joins the Delaware.  The cross of the Delaware brings us into the state of New York.  Just after the bridge we turn right onto NY 97 for a four mile run into the town of Barryville.  I take the lead and hold a steady pace to the control, which is a quaint country store.  I enjoy a sandwich and coffee while chatting with the many riders seated on benches outside the store.  Grace and Laurent who are regulars on our New Jersey rides arrive as well.  It is a very enjoyable rest with good conversation and perfect weather. After a bit we reluctantly push on for the next segment.  Harold and Christine decided to leave with us.
Tom Rosenbauer (L), Larry (Center), Chris (R) at Barryville Control

Barryville, NY to Port Jervis, NY - 18.5 Miles

Photos: Views of Hawk's Nest with Christine in the top photo

This leg wins the prize foe easiest to navigate. It basically follows one route, NY 97, to the next stop.  It also gets my vote for the most scenic as it passes through the Hawk's Nest area which is the rides namesake.  The roadways are pleasant with numerous large rolling hills (250 to 400ft elev gain).  They are not particularly unpleasant to me as we are mostly with the wind.  Al  struggles a bit on this section and we wait for him at the top of some of the climbs.  We use the time to take photos of the stunning scenery.  The Hawk's Nest is a river gorge.  At the highest point the river is hundreds of feet below the roadway.   The scenic value is amazing.  Soon we find ourselves joining NY 6 again and are back into a populated area.  Our control is the Port Jervis Diner just ahead on the right.  Tom is there at the counter and signs us in.  Since we've just eaten at the last control less than two hours ago we forgo food and refill water bottles at the mini-mart across the street. Harold and Christine opt to join us again for the upcoming segment.

Port Jervis, NY  to Layton, NJ -17 Miles

Upon leaving Pert Jervis we cross back into New Jersey where we will remain until the final crossing of the Water Gap to the finish.  In the meantime, we have a control between us and the final control.  This section is relatively uneventful.  While the winds have been strong throughout the day they have not been unfavorable to us.  Mostly we enjoyed tail winds with occasional cross winds.  We make good progress on the quiet northern New Jersey roads and soon find ourselves at another very quaint country store.  After a snack and a coffee five of us depart for the final push home.  We are now joined by Larry, a regular on the PA rides.

Layton, NJ to Water Gap, Pa - 26 Miles

In keeping with the river theme of the ride we depart Layton riding close to the Delaware River en-route to the mother of all river crossings at the Delaware Water Gap.  The riding is quite pleasant with easy to navigate roads.  We stay pretty much together on the rolling hills and pass through the tiny town of Wallpack.  After the little town we are on a park service road for about five miles and then we turn on our road to the finish which is Old Mine Road.  There is about 13 miles of tree lined roadway and one substantial climb between us and the river crossing.  I've ridden this before some two years back on the PA 400k.  I have some recollection of the climb, but Al, Christine and Harold were unaware.  The climb starts steep and stays steep for about a mile and a half.  Since I haven't used the triple chain ring all day I decide to keep the trend alive remaining in the middle ring.  I manage to find a comfortable rhythm and keep it to the top.  I breakaway from our group and catch up to RBA Tom at the very top.  We descend down to the back side of the hill to a stop sign at a T intersection.  At the stop sign I decide to wait for Al.  Tom continued on.  To my delight the first of the group to come flying down the hill was none other than my buddy Al.  He managed to keep a steady pace on the climb leaving the rest of the group struggling behind him.  There is no doubt he is becoming well programmed to this distance. We continue on with the river showing up on our right.  We gain back some of the lost elevation in gradual inclines.  The rest of the group has caught back up.  Al fades a bit on these last few miles.  The effort on the climb had to take something out of him.  The road finally narrows to a point where it is only one lane.  A traffic light, kind of in the middle of nowhere, allows traffic to alternate.  We come across Tom and Grace waiting at the red light.  It is a three minute cycle before it turns green.  When it changes Al has not yet arrived so I decide to wait for the next cycle.  Al comes shortly after the red and we wait the three minutes seeing one car come through the other way.  When our turn comes we ride through and arrive at the bridge high above the river which is part of I-80. We use the pedestrian walkway and enjoy the view of the river far below.  Once across it is a coupe of quick turns to the starting point.  Our finish time is 10hrs 44 minutes, which is a 200k PR for Al by over an hour.  He seemed happy with the accomplishment.


We enjoy a slice of Pizza with a number of the other riders before heading out.   On the way home I get a call from Paul who wanted to ride the 200k permanent with me the next day.  We set a 7:30am start time which will afford me a chance to get a good nights rest and have bike and gear ready.  I'm hoping the legs will be ready too.  Stay Tuned!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

NJ 300k Volunteer Ride -- The first hot ride!

 The view of an Allamuchy, NJ farm

This was my third consecutive year riding the volunteer edition of the Princeton 300k and second year as the ride organizer.  I was accompanied by my friend and fellow volunteer Paul.

Princeton to Whitehouse Station 31 Miles 

We departed from the Princeton Forrestal Village lot promptly at 4:00am.  The temperature was already over 60 degrees.  The first thirty miles being almost entirely flat would serve as a pleasant warm up.  We saw as many as 30 deer along the way.  Some were meandering in the middle of the roads.  A donkey greeted us on Summer Road shortly after crossing US 202 in Three Bridges.  I couldn't believe how loud the hee-hawing sound coming from that animal was.  I'm sure no one nearby slept through it.  Daylight began to show itself over the next few miles and shortly after we arrived at The Bagel Junction in Whitehouse Station.  This is our control and breakfast stop.

Whitehouse Station to Blairstown 54 Miles 

After a bagel and coffee we departed in daylight with overcast skies. I removed the arm and knee warmers as the temperature had already broken into the low seventies. The climbing began subtly with a gentle uphill on Rockaway Road next to the river.  Once the little town of Mountainville was reached we felt the first lump on Guinea Hollow Road.  This was just a small prelude of what was yet to come.  The climb is followed by a screaming descent into the little town of Califon.  After negotiating through the tiny downtown area the turn onto Sliker Road was made for what is a serious climb.  As Paul put it "it starts out so unassuming."  From a gentle beginning it would pitch up to a substantial grade.  With the climb behind us we descended to Anthony Road only to have to climb back up to Point Mountain Road which then descends down to the Muscenetcong River.  The descent is a real twisty one and in prior years featured a fair amount of gravel on the road.  I was pleased that this year it was gravel free and reasonably smooth. Although the turns required some braking as they are pretty sharp. None the less I found it to be pretty fun.  We crossed Rt 31 in Mansfield Township and began another climb up to Rockport Road.   A little more uphill once on Rockport and then just rolling terrain with pleasant scenery lead us into the town of Hackettstown.  There was no control here, but given the heat we made a stop to refill water.  There is a Quick Check Market on the route where we did a quick in and out.  The next challenge was the fairly big climb up Ryan Road in Allamuchy Township.  There were a few less sizable hills prior to it and another fast descent.  At Ryan Road I dropped into the granny gear for the first time of the day.  With the mercury rising there were many more visits to granny later in the day.  The climb is quite steep for a bit, but, fortunately is not all that long.  There is a fun descent following, although somewhat hampered by a merge onto Alphano Road. Once on level ground I enjoyed the views of the surrounding farms.  The terrain is flat for a bit as we crossed under I-80 and turned onto Route 612 heading for Johnsonburg.  The views here are equally rural northern Jersey vistas as we rolled smoothly for five miles into the tiny town.  On main Street which is literally one block long we passed the General Store which is habitually closed. Another two miles and we intersected Route 94.  We turned towards Blairstown only to turn off to the north again to undertake a hilly loop to the northernmost point of the route, Stillwater Township.  Which is about as far north as one can go before leaving the state.  This twelve mile section is beautifully scenic, but makes you work for it with pretty significant climbs like Sunset Lake Road.  It took us some time to work our way around and arrive at the control in Blairstown.  We had to utilize a back up control here as the primary one closed early on Sunday.  We stocked up on calories and fluids at Dale's Market and  quickly continued the route headed for Jenny Jump State Forest.
Paul climbs Sliker Road  

Blairstown to Hacklebarney State Park 57 Miles:

The departure from Blairstown is a gradual climb on Route 94 from which we soon turn off of onto Camp Wasigian Road.  There is a minor amount of climbing on the five miles of road to the approach to Jenny Jump forest which serves as a warm up for the three more significant climbs to come before the control at Hacklebarney is reached.  We crossed I-80 for the second time and then arrived at State Park Road which immediately began the climb.  I never know how I will feel on Jenny Jump until I'm on it.  For me it is one of those climbs that never feels the same.  Right away I could tell it was going to be tough, yet I decided to stay on the middle chain ring.  Mashing my way up the steep sections was quite a struggle.  Paul who started the climb in front fell back some.  I could see he was using his granny and I wished I'd made the same decision.  The last part of the climb was fairly excruciating.  I was quite relieved when the pavement finally levelled.  I stopped to wait for Paul who was just a little behind.  When he came alongside he said he needed a few minutes to recover.  I didn't know it yet but he was beginning to get sick.  The day was then very hot. Well into the nineties and I suspected it was beginning to take a toll on us.   After a few minutes rest we resumed riding by flying down the other side of the mountain.  The terrain for the next few miles was quite mild and much needed as there were some big hills not too far ahead that we would have to deal with in the brutal heat.  The first to show itself was Westervelt Road a short but quite steep kicker that can catch one off guard with it's immediate steepness.  I made another visit to granny just before the turn to the hill.  With no expectations other than to make it to the top without walking I grind my way up with Paul slightly ahead, also in the granny mode.  A few more gentle miles delivered us to the town of Washington and an information control at the Anderson Hotel.  We took a minute rest at the control knowing that one of the most brutal of climbs lies just ahead.  That would be Penwell Road which is a seven mile, steep in some places, approach to the top of Schooley's Mountain.  Before starting out I realize I am almost out of water. Paul filled one of my bottles from his camelback.  We planned to stop at the General Store on top of the mountain.  We headed for Penwell Road which is less than a mile from us.  The steep section of a little over a mile was excruciating, but once past the remaining miles weren't too bad.  Paul climbed aggressively on the steep parts putting a bit of distance between us.  Once on the more gradual inclines I was able to crank it up a bit.  I caught back up to him in the next mile.  We rode pretty much together for the rest of the way to the store.  The covered porch in front was an ideal spot to rest for awhile with some calories and fluids.  I noticed that Paul wasn't eating anything.  He said he was stating to feel a little queasy.  The heat was at the peak of the day and at times I was feeling a little wobbly, although my stomach had not rebelled on me.  We took a long break before setting off again.  We wound our way down the mountain with a screaming descent down Naughright Road.  A fun drop, but, somewhat hampered by a hard right on Fairview Road.  Then we turned onto Route 513 towards Califon.  Paul faltered a bit here, but mostly hung tough to the information control in Califon.  We stopped to update our brevet cards with the requested information,  Paul announced that he was feeling awfully sick.  We decided to rest for awhile to see if he could recover.  He was looking pretty ill at this point.  I was hoping that five or ten minutes rest might help him right his ship.  Unfortunately, it was not to be.  After resting awhile he said I should go on without him.  He would call for a ride. The stomach upset was preventing him from eating or drinking.  He was apparently dehydrated with no way to rectify the situation.  After staying with him a bit longer I reluctantly moved on with the agreement that I would call from the next control.  Just past our resting spot was the last major climb of the day on Rt 512.  Another visit to granny got the job done with a few leg twitches that I recognized as pre-cramping.  I am rather prone to cramping in hot weather.  It was a good thing that the last significant climb was behind me.  I arrived at the control with no problem and promptly placed a call to Paul.  He informed me that he had resumed riding and was headed to Whitehouse Station by direct route.  He expected to be there soon and would pick up a ride from there.
Top - Jenny Jump sign    
Middle - Paul on Jenny Jump   
Bottom - My bike resting at Hacklebarney

Hacklebarney State Park to Princeton 44 Miles

Whitehouse Station was on my return route and was only about 14 miles away.  I decided to ride hard in the hopes of catching up to Paul to render any assistance I could until he was picked up.  I descended out of the park to the small town of Pottersville. From there I stopped again to place a call to Paul.  He had indeed arrived at the strip mall at Whitehouse Station but had not been able to reach anyone to pick him up.  He was considering riding the thirty miles to the finish. I did not think that was a good idea. I placed a call to my wife.  Fortunately, she was available and agreed to head out immediately to pick him up.  I called  Paul back and insisted he stay put until she got there.  The route from Pottersville to Whitehouse is mostly downhill to flat terrain.  I rode it hard and arrived there just as Paul and my wife were loading the bike in the car.  Paul looked a little better than when I last saw him, but far from normal.  I was glad he would not be trying to ride back.  After they were underway I put on my night gear and resumed my route to the finish. There was just thirty miles of easy terrain between me and the Princeton Forrestal Village.  At that moment I felt like I could ride another hundred miles.  There is an old expression when it comes to ultra distance, "no matter how good you feel, or no matter how bad you feel......... it wont last."   Truer words were never spoken.  I knocked off about 20 of the thirty miles to the end, putting me some where in the South Branch area, when an overwhelming sense of fatigue hit me. I was struggling to maintain 10-12 mph on level ground.  Small pimple like hills felt like major climbs.  After struggling up a small hill on East Mountain Road I decided I better eat something.  The only thing I had left was a single Peanut Butter Cliff Bar.  I would have preferred a gel or something with a lot of sugar for an energy burst.  But, the Cliff Bar was the only show in town so I ate it while plodding along.  I felt some improvement after a few miles but still was no where near riding strong.  I managed to hold 14-15mph for the remaining miles to the end.  Not my usual, smell-the-barn pace, but it was satisfactory.  I finished at 9:45pm for a total of 17hrs 45min.  Slow, but acceptable given the adverse weather conditions.  When dismounting the bike I had a moment of light headedness that caused me to grab onto my car. Thankfully, it passed quickly.  The first hot ride of the year is always a tough one.  Fortunately, it was over.  Boo-Ya!

Cranbury 200k - Wet and Wild!!

Photo:  The Amusement Park at Keansburg, NJ or was it Maine?

This was my fourth time riding this route.  The first time being in 2007 which was a night start. It was originally called the Shore by Night, as it's loop would take one to various shore towns before turning in-land and returning one to the finish in Cranburry. The other two times were day time rides which were not held as brevets but more as organized practice rides scheduled between some of the longer rides of the season.  This time the ride was a fully accredited ACP brevet.  Wanting to do my part to add to the US total of homologated kilometers I signed up along with my friends Al and Jon.  Our  agreement was that we would attempt to ride fast, under 10 hours.  The flat route should allow for that should it not be too windy.  What we hadn't planned on was rain, cold or both.  One of my riding buddies always said it's one thing to be out there and end up riding in the rain, but totally another to start riding in the rain.  This ride would definitely be the latter as it rained all through the night.  It was coming down steady at the 7am start and worse it was cold (mid forties).  Not by any means a desirable combination.  Amazingly nineteen riders where there to clip in at the start.  Both Jon and Al showed up as agreed neither one even hinting at the idea that we may not want to take the start.  I was proud to be part of this hearty group of riders.

Cranbury to Union Beach - 29 Miles

After the briefest of pre-ride meetings which basically consisted of "Hey it's time to go. See you all later", by Laurent Chambard, ride organizer extraordinaire, we were off.  The three of us found ourselves leading the ride for the first few miles with no one immediately behind.  Then we were caught by Justin from Philadelphia who was spinning quite smoothly at a very nice clip.  We rode together for awhile then decided to let him go as his pace was a little more than we were up to.  Although, Jon probably could have hung with him.  Another rider caught and passed us as well.  I never did get his name, but we would see him at every control from there out.  The first control was at Union Beach, a Burger King on Route 34.  We kept up a good pace and pulled in having maintained a little distance on the rest of the riders.  We had agreed that we would take zero time here.  We verified our brevet cards with Janice, the volunteer, and went back out to the bikes.  The second place rider left just a couple of minutes before us.

Union Beach to Bradley Beach - 32 Miles

The next section was cold and windy as we were riding right by the ocean at times and the off shore wind was horrendous.  When we hit the Keansburg area the wind was right in our face.  I saw Al falter and drop back.  Jon was continuing to spin through the wind and I decided to hang in letting Al get dropped.  It was a hard thing for me to do, as I've done many rides with Al and we've always waited for each other anytime one of us fell back.  But, our agreement on this ride was to ride fast to meet a specific time goal.  That would mean anyone not keeping up the pace would be on their own.   We passed the Keansburg Amusement Park, which was closed up tight.  It had a rather foreboding look to it in this weather.  Kind of like something from a Stephen King novel.  I wondered briefly if there is a Keansburg Maine?  We rode along the shore for a few more miles and then headed for the Atlantic Highlands for a little climbing.  The climb to the top of the Highlands was much appreciated as it warmed us up.  I think both Jon and I needed it.  Once at the top we didn't bother with the scenic overlook which on a clear day one can see the New York Skyline. There would be nothing to look at on such a dreary day and stopping would mean getting cold again.  Instead we did our best to survive the cold descent.  For the next fifteen miles we weaved in and out from the ocean.  The wind coming off the water was quite strong and cold so the time spent on Ocean Boulevard was not very pleasant. Finally we arrived at the Bradley Beach control, the Hess Express.  Laurent was there to sign us in.  We both began shivering as soon as we stopped.  Inside the market was better, but my hands were frozen and would not work properly.  Gripping a cup of coffee was difficult.  Thanks to an electric hand dryer in the bathroom I was able to rectify the situation.  I had a pair of winter gloves with liners in my pack that I decided to wear upon leaving. Back outside we mounted up again having made fairly quick work of the stop despite being so cold. The rain seemed to be a little lighter. No other riders came into the control while we were there. I was hoping Al would meet back up with us, but he never appeared.

Bradley Beach to Jerseyville - 33 Miles

We shoved off for a few more miles of riding beside the ocean and then thankfully turned inland. The wind was no issue in this direction and we were able to maintain a decent pace. We headed through Allenwood, Lakewood and Howell. I for one was feeling decidedly warmer. The rain had actually stopped for the most part only spitting on us every once in a while. We were both riding well giving me a good feeling about our chances of meeting the goal. The terrain remained flat to the control and we arrived at the Jerseyville Wawa as the third riders. The number two rider was still there, but left shortly after our arrival. Janice signed us in again and offered us water and home made brownies. A very nice treat which we briefly indulged in before shoving off again.

Jerseyville to Cranbury - 31 Miles

The final stretch to the finish had a few small hillocks, to use Laurent's wording.   They usually feel good at this point in the ride but I was getting a little tired from holding the brisk pace. Things were looking pretty rosy for our sub 10 hour time and I didn't want to screw it up by fading on these little hills. Jon is a terrific climber who spins up most anything with a high cadence. To stay close to him I needed to stand and sprint up the bumps. It worked okay with Jon only having to ease up a little on a few of the larger hills. The rain was basically stopped. In fact, many of the roads were dry and there was no wind. Cranbury drew near as the roads flattened out again for the final few miles. We entered the small down town area just a few blocks from the finish. We arrived finding Laurent waiting for us in his car. He singed us in at 9 hrs and 39 minutes which would be the third fastest time of the day. Jon and I were both pleased with the accomplishment.


I found out from Laurent that Al dropped out at the Bradley Beach control having arrived there a mere 15 minutes before the closing time. He had some serious navigation problems and had arrived there cold and miserable. He called family to come to his rescue. Given those circumstances I probably would have packed it in myself. I was glad to learn he was safe.  Rain rides toughen one up even if you don't finish. When I spoke with Al later he said that his main goal, the one he would not let go,  was to stay with us to the first control.  Mission accomplished!!