What compels you to ride your bike? How about some one else’s bike? How about before sunrise & when it is below freezing? And for 500 kilometers?!
Unlike my inaugural Festive 500 accomplishment, which was facilitated by group rides, sunshine & no steep inclines, the 500 kilometers I logged in a combination of New Jersey, New York & Pennsylvania was characterized by frigid temps, nearly no wheels to suck & and its final rides were mired in sketchy black ice patches & snow drifts.
I had no time to pen posts per day as I did last year, so this 2012 edition will be condensed to a single entry. Enjoy.
Day 1 | 12/25/12 | 23 Miles to Grandparents in Martinsville
Daunted by the idea of accomplishing the challenge while visiting my family in New Jersey, I started small. A modest 23 miles with an extra loop on River Rd. south of my Aunt’s house en route to my Grandparents for dinner.
I’d like to emphasize that none of these rides would have been possible with out the generous & balleur DA equipped Litespeed loaner from my homie @ThisisClay. Clay is a New York City based freelance Hair Dresser. He has even created styles for the runway at New York Fashion Week. Hit him up for your hair in you’re in NYC: claycutshair.com!
My improvised route north to my Grandparents’ home included some serene rural farmlands only a stone’s throw from the suburban sprawl of Route 202. Beautiful views and many entirely new to me despite having regularly visited this area since my childhood.
I looped around through downtown Raritan & up towards Martinsville. Climbing Steele Gap & Mt. Horeb were feats I’d long been looking forward too. No photos of Steele Gap but since I was a kid we’ve referred to it as ‘roller coaster road’. It hurt.
Day 2 | 12/26/12 | 72.4 Miles to Lake Nockamixon & back
Wheels down at 5am. I was layered in wool & relying on Gokivo for navigation & the #soviz combo of the Rapha Hardshell & Vulpine gilet. I could wax poetic on how key the Hardshell was for me on this trip, but no one can wax poetic like Brian at the washingmachinepost. ; )
So Gokivo did a splendid job of helping me deter busy roads & of course, getting lost. The cool thing about these kinds of GPS route finders is elevation is not considered. I consider that a perk. Views like that above are only accomplished with climbs and views like that at dawn are some of the most basic perks that cycling can offer and certainly one of the things that compels me to ride my bike.
Above was the reward right after I ventured across the river into PA from Frenchtown. I found Uhlerstown Hill Road: a narrow, 20% gradient hill that is closed off from motor vehicle traffic during the winter. I had to focus on not popping a wheelie. Whoa.
“It’s so steep and narrow that it’s really unsafe to climb when there are any cars on it with you. Last time there, I rode around two other people that fell over on their bikes in front of me, before tipping over into the uphill side of the road when I tried to go around the third.”
The route beyond the Delaware River into Pennsylvania was a sublime collection of rolling hills on remote forested residential roads. Still reeling from Sandy, there was the lingering feeling of carnage that the storm had wreaked on this area, even this far inland. Above is my turnaround spot at Lake Nockamixon, the centerpiece of Nockamixon State Park.
Crikey! It was cold. I kept a winter collar from Starlight Apparel over my face & ears on each ride this trip. Above are the only shots I managed to snap from my journey to PA & back.
Day 4 | 12/27/12 | 24.3 Miles Another Sprint to my Grandparents
Of course, hiviz is nothing new to cycling & I spotted my first fellow cyclist of my trip on this ride. He also was doing his best to stick out on these rural roads. Mid KOM effort, I waved & continued to ape it. ; )
The silky smooth streets & scenic views in Bridgewater were a preface to the grueling pavement devastation of downtown Plainfield and industrial wasteland of Newark, Jersey City & Hoboken.
Day 6 | 12/28/12 | 100.2 Miles
You go big or go home! That’s gonna be a helluva day
– @RollingMike in response to my proposal to ride from my Aunt’s in central Jersey to the George Washington Bridge
Again aided by gokivo I navigated the dark streets of Dunellen, Plainfield, Union & as the sun rose the urban thoroughfares of Newark & Jersey City making my way to the sublime skyline of NYC. What a relief. No crazy traffic to speak of really as many people weren’t up at 5 or 6am and even by 7am in Newark. I assumed holiday vacations were what spared me from confronting congested roads. I arrived a few minutes after 8am, just in time to rollout. 3 hours & 50ish miles in, my training ride with the Rapha NYC team kicked off.
It felt good to draft. The sunlight felt good. The rolling terrain & views of 9W felt good. Keeping up hurt ; )
We reached a turning point. I didn’t have the time to continue onto Bear Mountain with Jayson & Mike, pictured above, so I turned around to head back towards the city with Matt (former Rapha Condor PRO) & the one and only James Nord.
James & Matt pulled me back South on 9W. This was tough. Both super strong guys, they nearly dropped me on some of 9W’s little hills. Luckily we took a slower route near the water for a section & had a chance to chat & for me to catch up. I did do my best to take some pulls but I was certainly feeling the burn.
I may have beaten James up only one hill, he says because he was gram’n ; ) AWESOME ride guys! Thank you!
Day 7 | 12/30/12 | 56.7 Miles of snow & ice
I was sore. I was tired. And now, due to the weather, I was disheartened. But this far in, I couldn’t give up.
It had snowed the night before, and not just a little bit. I was unsure if a ride would be possible at all.
Well, once again I woke up EARLY. I rolled out at 4am. Yeah, 4am. WAT. Initially it was fine but soon I found myself in a neighborhood that hadn’t been thoroughly plowed/salted. SOLID ICE. I dismounted. Decided to stroll down the frozen hill that was between me & Washington Valley Rd.
I reached the bottom only to find that my speedplay cleats had accumulated snow into a frozen block. Clipping in was not possible. WTF.
I had to stop at a desolate but lit gas station to take a window washing squeegee to beat my cleats, literally. Not the best tool for chiseling but I broke the ice out & continued on a now quiet & nicely plowed Rt. 202 North to Morristown.
The key to success was staying on major roads. This meant smooth sailing with no snow or ice & cars weren’t a concern as the weather & vacations kept motorists at home. I was home by 8am to play with my son Otto in the snow.
Day 8 | 12/31/12 | 24.6 Miles to Coffee with my Mom & Back
My last day started with a (comparatively) not so early start of 6am to head north to Bedminster to have coffee with my Mom. This was also our last day in New Jersey. This ride was a great way to say goodbye to my Mom and wrap up the Festive 500 as well! The route to her house was no joke. All false flats & crowned with Schley Mtn Rd. All roads I’d thought of riding for years and now got to give ’em a go.
The return ride was mostly down hill. I ape’d it as I still had packing to do. And I needed do do a careful cleaning of Clay’s bike before dropping it back off in Queens. I came in at 501km & felt relieved. It is this kind of challenge accomplishment that may compel me to ride the most. Sure riding is fun but whether it is the daily commute, a criterium or some bizarre Strava contest. Competitiveness keeps my cadence up!
For making this ridiculous accomplishment possible I offer a sincere thank you to Rapha for the idea & stellar apparel, Strava for logging it, Vulpine for keepin me visible, Starlight Apparel for keepin my face & neck cozy & Clay for the bike, Mike for organizing the Rapha ride & especially my wife Stacey for putting up with my obsession.
I’m already looking forward to The Festive 500 in 2013!