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!