Paul on the way up Forge Hill Road in Changewater, NJ
I was in desperate need for a morale boost when my friend Al reminded me we needed a permanent for the month of June. Exactly one week from the date of the DNF in Virginia we scheduled to ride my New Jersey Transit Permanent. As it turned out my friend Paul was also available on that date and would join us. We decided on a 6am start to stay ahead of the worst of the predicted heat. Also, to avoid potential thunder storms for later in the day.
The three of us meet at the Mountainview Plaza in Hillsborough for the early start. Nothing in the shopping center is open so we roll into the Hillsborough Diner next door to get our brevet cards documented. We start the ride right on time. The temperature is a pleasant 61 degrees and we roll smoothly towards the Watchung Mountain Ridge and big climb number one up Morning Glory Road. The climb goes by smoothly as we turn to the east headed for Sky Top Drive, the final climb up the Watchung Ridge. The three of us separate a bit on the big climbs re-grouping at the top each time. After reaching the top of Sky Top we quickly arrive at the Summit Control. So far the ride feels easy, but the next stage to Budd Lake could easily change that.
Leaving the Summit control we turn to the west for what all riders agree is the most relentless stage of the route. This section features constant rolling terrain with some steeper climbs mixed in. Generally since the direction of travel is mostly to the west there is a headwind to add to the challenge. However, today I notice immediately that something feels different. For the first time I can remember we have a slight tail wind helping us along. Paul has his climbing legs on today and leaves us behind early on the stage. Al and I stay loosely together tackling the rollers in good form. Even the few steeper grades don't have their normal bite today. Upon arriving at the control I remark that I've never felt quite so good at this point in the ride before. Paul is there waiting for us having arrived ten minutes ahead. We take a twenty minute break before moving on.
The terrain on the next leg is not as difficult. We are at the top of Schooley's Mountain having worked our way gradually uphill since leaving Summit. We head towards the Muscanetcong River and have some nice fast descents on the way there. An information control is reached at Changewater after which we climb Forge Hill Road.. After the descent on the other side of Forge Hill we go through the tiny down town area of Hampton and face another significant climb. After which the Spruce Run Reservoir appears only a few miles before the Tiger Mart control. We arrive there feeling remarkably good despite the fact that it is beginning to get quite hot.
After a short break we depart the Hampton control knowing that we will be facing about ten miles of serious climbing before the route flattens out for the final miles to the control The big lump on the route is Wilson Avenue which is quickly followed by Herman Thou Road which is almost a twin to Wilson. Just as ones legs feel ready to buckle there is another climb up Haytown Road followed by a one mile knee breaker up Cokesbury Road. It all goes quite smoothly with none of us suffering to any great degree. After turning off Cokesbury we are downhill to the river and then flat to the Bedminster control. I'm a little surprised how easy it's been so far. With only seventeen miles of mild terrain left we are all in good shape to beat our prior times on this route, by a lot.
The last stretch proves to be no real problem. Al suffers a bit from leg cramps with the heat and climbing, but he is confident he can make it through these final miles without too much trouble. It's a bit downhill to the town of Raritan followed by a flat section along side the river. Upon turning away from the river back towards Hillsborough there is a rather timid climb up Beekman Road and a similar climb up East Mountain Road. From there it is an easy three mile roll to the finish. We hit the Gulf Express and document our time of 11hrs 18min. The fastest the route has been ridden year to date. For Al and I it was a course PR. Paul had ridden a faster time in 2009. The most incredible thing for me was that I felt like I could head out for another lap, where in the past I was always fully cooked when ending this route. It went a long way to helping me forget about the Virginia experience.
NJ 600k next weekend. Stay tuned.