I'm not my best at three am. With all my gear ready, the Jamis Sputnik in the van from the night before, I drive to Princeton Forestall Village, arriving fifteen minutes in advance of the four am start. The four other riders are there already making final preparations. I'm riding with Todd, Paul, Roy and Jon. All but Todd will be on fixed-gear bikes.
|The Village of Kingston at 4:10am|
|Todd (L) and Roy (R) at Bagel Junction, Whitehouse Station|
|Roy and Paul walking Ryan Road|
|Despite running the biggest gear of the group Jon climbed strong all day|
|Pain and suffering ahead|
|A grimace on his face as Paul tops Westervelt Road in Washington|
|Roy and Jon re-grouping at hill top|
Hacklebarney State Park
After a bit of rest at the store we descend off the mountain into the town of Long Valley. From there it is a short distance to Califon, where there is an information control followed by the final big climb of the day. The slow, steady grind up Route 512 actually buoys my spirits as I know that this is the last of the extended climbs. All riders make the climb upright. We continue on to Fairmount, near Chester and the control at Hacklebarney. Once on State Park Road we hit a few smaller hills, but nothing compared to what we've been through. Basically, the severe terrain is behind us. Upon arrival at the control we are greeted by Todd's friend Leslie, who has graciously volunteered to provide food and drink for our small group of pre-riders. We relax and enjoy warm slices of Pizza. After a nice break we reluctantly resume the ride. We have a couple of hours of daylight left and forty-five miles to the end. We plan to make an optional stop at Three Bridges to switch to night riding mode.
Push to the Finish
A few steep kickers hit us on the way out of the park. After which we manage with a long, bumpy downhill into Pottersville. This is followed by a run along Black River Road. We are headed downriver, moderately losing elevation all the way to the crossing of US 22 at Whitehouse. We pass by the shopping center where we enjoyed bagels many hours ago. The final thirty-miles from this point follows the identical route as the outbound. Everything is familiar as we work our way to US 202 at Three Bridges stopping at the Wawa Market. We keep our stop brief departing with lights and reflective gear functioning. We still have some daylight left although the sun is quickly sinking. Like horses to the barn we are covering ground quickly and efficiently. We reach the tiny town of Neshanic Station as daylight yields to darkness. I've ridden this section so many times I've no need for a cue-sheet. Methodically, we work our way through South Branch, Montgomery Township, Franklin and Kingston. The final one and a half miles on Academy Street feels like a sprint. Although, night riding has the perception of feeling faster than the reality. None the less we are soon enough at the finish in the Forrestal Village Parking lot. We took 17 hours and 22 minutes to cover the hilly route. All said and done it's a successful day on a fix.
My friend, and fellow Randonneur, Nigel Green posted a writing by Jane Flanders entitled the Hard Way. http://eprider.blogspot.com/2012/05/friday-writings-for-randos-hard-way.html
I found the short piece thought provoking and relevant. Why would anyone do anything in a manner that would make the task more difficult? According to Jane Flanders this is done frequently in error, but just as often by intent. The point being; sometimes it's the difficulty factor that makes something fun to accomplish.
I confess that my fixed-gear season is somewhat of a fluke. I never originally set out to do this. It all began when I took a trip west and brought along the fixie as my only bike. I wound up spending months away from home in a very hilly region with nothing else to ride but a 46x18. I made the best of it. And, of a warm winter, by racking up many miles, and RUSA kilometers, on the single cog. When I finally returned to the east I had little desire to ride anything but the fixed. I expect at some point that will change, but for now my intention is to take it as far as a can. Hopefully, accomplishing a full series on fixed, and, possibly a repeat K-Hound award. With every one of the 10,000 kilometers ridden.......the hard way.