May 2019: NYC to Philadelphia Independence Ride

Welcome one and all to my latest bike adventure. For the next few days I will update you on this exciting cycling trip.

Many of you followed my previous bike adventures of 250 Miles in Maine 8/17, 440 Miles in New Orleans 1/18, 350 from NY-MD 8/18, and the 400-mile Freedom Ride in Alabama in December.

The Route – I call this the Independence Ride because I will be riding through significant historical Revolutionary War areas between New York and the City of Brotherly Love.

The route is roughly 250 miles, The big ride is on the first day, mostly flat, with a break day on Saturday, and the return trip will take me through the DE Water Gap at the base of the Northern Appalachians, finishing at home in New York, New York, the city so nice they named it twice.

The schedule is as follows:

Friday: NYC to Philadelphia
Saturday: day of rest, although a special blog post is planned
Sunday: rain permitting, Philadelphia to southern New Jersey
Monday: southern New Jersey to NYC

I decided on this trip because I wanted to visit my sister-in-law Nghi, who, after graduating NYU Stern, has taken a primo job with Vanguard and is now happily living in Philadelphia.

Temperatures are looking good for spring weather, between 50 and 80 F. Just need to dodge the rain a bit, but spring is in full bloom!

The Bike – Since I was able to leave from home, I get to ride my Mikkelson cruiser. This is a bike that was custom-built for me in 2003 by Bernie Mikkelson in Alameda, CA, which I upgraded to nearly-all American parts last year, with the exception of a Bianchi carbon fork, which was a holdover from my first real Italian road bike.

The bike is Chromoly steel with the aforementioned Bianchi carbon fork. It’s fitted with Sram Force 22 groupset and velocity wheels holding Conti gator skin classic 25mm tires. Cockpit and seat post are aluminum by Ritchey and the saddle is my comfortably worn Brooks Swift. It all weighs about 23 pounds plus gear. For this short trip, I’m carrying roughly 15 lbs of gear, plus 3 liters of water on my back.

The Dedication – This ride I’m dedicating to my sister in law Nghi. She is just kicking ass and taking names in the finance world.

Today’s Journey:
The ride today set out to be my biggest single-day distance ever. Leaving NYC at 72nd and Broadway, in order to avoid the ferry and ride the whole distance, I have to go first north 7 miles to cross the GW Bridge into NJ. From there, it’ll be 100+ miles to downtown Philly. The route consists of a combination of city streets, suburban streets, and a gravel road on the Delaware and Raritan Canal. My riding buddy Mike Gormley decided to join me for the first couple hours of the trip, at least until we got to breakfast. He met me at the house at 6:40am, and off we went from the Upper West Side.

After crossing the GW Bridge, Mike and I had to fiddle a little bit to find the proper route. But we finally got going.

For those of you who have assumptions that New Jersey is an ugly place, here is a gorgeous river view to change your mind.

The sight below is one I ended up seeing several times during the day. I’ve often encountered Canadian honking geese on golf courses and in parks, but I’ve never actually seen their chicks. Today along the train, I saw five sets. Which I surmise to mean they all breed around the same time, and this is hatching time.

After a number of twists, turns, and morning traffic in southern NJ, Mike and I landed in the charming township of Maplewood, with a view of their adorable city hall.

We parked the bikes at Maple Leaf Diner and headed in to grab some breakfast.

Before I left, I had started the day with coffee and a cranberry scone, but after 33 miles, I was hungry! So Mike and I dug in and each downed a corned beef hash and egg skillet with english muffin and potatoes…

…and capped it all off with a piece of blueberry pie. God I love calorie burning days!

Sadly, this was the end of the road for Mike. He had to train back for other obligations. Fat and happy, he took off for the train and I took off for Philly.

As I followed the road towards southern New Jersey, the bulk of my route was along bike trails that used to be the tow path for the Delaware and Raritan Canal. It stretches dozens of miles through NJ and into PA. The views were lovely…

…and the gravel roads weren’t too bad for the most part. Most of it was packed gravel, with some loose coarse gravel where they had recently repaired the roads.

The most fascinating parts of this trip were reading the signs about canal life in the 1800s and seeing the lock mechanisms.

These canals were primarily used for transporting shale and coal from PA in the early days of petroleum excavation.

The canal was only half the interesting view. To my right along the way were gorgeous woods where General Washington moved his army north from the Battle of Princeton. At one time, you can imagine these forests housing a bunch of soldiers. Now instead of hostels, they are filled with hostas, these lovely large-leafed plants which nature designed to collect water like cisterns.

I spent more than 25 miles on the canal road, which moved a little slower at about 12 mph, but was worth it since I wasn’t in a particular hurry.

Finally at the end of the canal road, I arrived in Princeton, NJ. Even before I saw the gates to this institution, I knew I was close due to the large amount of nerdy looking people walking through the town.

This is the Theological Seminary at Princeton, representative of much of the architecture.

Along the way, there were all sorts of odd architectural sights, including this colonnade, which was actually designed by Thomas U. Walter, who later designed the dome for the US Capitol Building in Washington, D.C. The colonnade itself was originally part of a manor house, but the manor was subsequently demolished in 1957. It now marks a memorial erected in 1918 in memory of unknown American and British soldiers who died in the Battle of Princeton during the Revolutionary War.

There were a number of historical signs along the way (too many to show), but this one identifying Washington’s Inauguration was a key one as I entered into Trenton, NJ.

I’d never been to Trenton, and had no idea how charming it was. It’s filled with Federal style architecture…

…and numerous honoraria to various Revolutionary heroes, such as this one to commemorate Nathan Hale.

By the time I reached Pennsylvania, I had put in a good 80 miles. The breakfast wasn’t enough to keep me going, but I’ve been recently testing out pro-bars and Cliff-Shot Gels to bulk up on sugar and caffeine. For the most part, they seem to work pretty well. I had gone with relatively little stopping since I left breakfast, taking brief breaks for fueling. I’d had very little fatigue, or hand or seat numbness, and my muscles felt strong. I attribute this to the muscle building I had done over the fall. You’ll learn more about that tomorrow!

I made it to the edge of the city around 5:30pm with only about 25 miles to go, thinking that I would get to my destination relatively quickly. But coming to the north side of Philadelphia, I found the bike trail ran down this street that was very poorly times with stoplights, so it took me nearly forever to go the last 15 miles. But I did finally make it, as you can see from the Inquirer smoke stack.

Since I had already surpassed my longest one-day ride by double digits, I felt I was entitled to a victory lap. I cruised around Ben Franklin Blvd and got a selfie in front of the Rocky steps at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

Arriving at my final destination on Market Street, I was received with a warm welcome from my sister in law Nghi…

…who was only too happy to celebrate my accomplishment of a daily personal best of 117.26 miles.

And so the party began! We headed off to Nghi’s favorite French restaurant, where I started with a Tanqueray 10 martini up with 3 olives…

…followed by deviled eggs with fresh crab…

…escargot and champignon…

…and an entree of veal scaloppini with wild mushrooms and sautéed spinach on the side.

I finished with a walk to the gelato place for amarena and pistach. I noticed along the way this evening that Philadelphia has a vibrant restaurant scene, so i’m really looking forward to exploring that further. All in all, a fabulous day. Great weather, a personal best, and great company.

Here are the day’s stats:
Miles Today: 117.26
Total Miles So Far: 117.26
Miles to Go: 140
Ride Time: 9.5 hours
Total Ride time: 9.5 hours
Elevation climbed today: 1,000ft
Total Elevation: 1,000ft
Calories Consumed: 3,300
Total Calories Consumed: 3,300
Calories Burned: 5,950
Total Calories Burned: 5,580
Geese encountered: 5 sets with chicks

Proud of the ride yesterday and deserving of a rest.

Since I have no cycling planned for today I am taking this opportunity to hopefully entertain you with the story of my L’Eroica ride last month as I teased in my Birmingham log.

The journey began for me last fall when I kept stumbling across vintage bikes and part listings on eBay referencing Eroica. Curiosity piqued, I found the L’Eroica site.

Apparently, in 1997 an Italian in Chianti, Giancarlo Brocci worried about the preservation of the famous white gravel roads called the Bianchi Strada in the wine country.

So he gathered fellow cycling enthusiasts and launched a vintage bike rally. It was effectively the Mille Miglia for bikes.

The rules were strict. All bikes and equipment must be 1987 or prior. This year was important because it for the most part assured the following:

  • Steel only bikes – No Aluminum or Carbon Fiber
  • Friction Shifters on the downtube – No integrated or index shifting
  • Basket clips on the pedals – no modern quick release shoes and kleats
  • Big chain ring with corn cob cassettes – No compact or triple gearing
  • Tubular tires at 25mm or thinner – No wide knobby tires
  • Wool clothing – no technical wicking material

The course is 30% gravel and 200km or 130 miles at is largest. Of course shorter options were available.

The first race in Chianti had 90 riders. Today there are 5000 and it sells out a year in advance. Rather than modern gatorade and Gu, the rest stops are filled with local fare like sausage, Italian pastries and bottles of Chianti. Every October it’s a giant party.

It’s since expanded to 10 additional cities around the world.

After obsessing over every article and blog post, I was hooked. I planned my attack. The Eroica California takes place in Cambria California. (San Luis Obispo – Hearst Castle)

I figured to get a bike, practice on the California rides and work up to Chianti in 2021.

The Bike: I thought about restoring one, vintage bikes are cheaper than new pikes and parts are readily available on eBay. It would make for a fun project. But then while searching I found an amazing bike in my size: a 1980 Olympia Campiozone. The bike is Italian with a full Campagnolo Nuovo Record Groupset and 3TTT handlebars.

Olympia is the second oldest bike company in Italy (Bianchi is #1). They have a rich history but never sold in the US. Some of the old artwork is spectacular:

To see the bike in all it’s amazing detail, check out this site.

The bike was light, finished and gorgeous. It had amazing pantograph detail, an approach where Italian bike artisans would route out metal for weight and then paint in the space.

By November the bike was in NYC ready to ride.

I found era appropriate pedals, shoes and clothing. Happily my well worn Brooks Leather saddle was also age appropriate.

Time to train.

Riding a bike of this era gives you great appreciation for the riders of the 70s and 80s like Fausto Coppi, Eddie Merckx and Marco Pantani.

First I had to get use to the shoe clips. I had memories of falling in my kleats 20 years ago. So I was super careful for the first few rides trying to understand the mechanisms and timing with the straps. I finally figured out you either leave them loose or else you have to reach down and loosen them each time way before you stop.

Thankfully I made it through the adjustment without any falling.

On modern bikes like my 18.5-pound Pegoretti dream bike (Story and Pics coming in a later post) I can be a lazy rider. I can sit back in the seat, shift at the touch of a button and grind on the nearly 1:1 gear ratio.

Although this bike was still fairly light at 22 pounds, I had half the gearing and had to take a hand off the handlebar and get things just right. It’s a bit like playing a trombone for the first time. It makes it so you don’t want to shift unless you absolutely have to.

Modern bike – Slight hill or want to push? Finger click and start spinning.

Olympia – Slight hill or want to push? USE YOUR LEGS DUDE!!!

Then you have half the gearing so when you run out of the gears? GET OFF YOUR ASS AND STAND UP!!!

I spent 200 miles riding more aggressively than ever before. I even adopted an alter ego for the bike.

Here is Fausto Montare (Auspicious Climber):

Fausto put on more than 5 pounds of muscle in 6 weeks of training just by climbing with the Olympia. In March I shipped the bike to California and got ready to race.

While the bike was en route I got in a few more rides on my modern bikes but stayed on my big chain ring even on big hills so Fausto could stay in shape.

For the California Eroica, I signed up for the 75 mile route. 5500 elevation. 20 miles of gravel. I set up the bike with 25mm tubular tires (tire and tune sewn together into one unit.)

There would be about 1000 riders at the event.

I spent 2 days getting reacquainted with the bike in San Jose. A local bike shop gave me a lovely route on Los Gatos Creek road that had gravel, hills and lots of bike path.

I got in a 20 miler on day one.

I had one incident on a steep gravel hill where I was slow to get my foot out of the basket and took a spill banging up my shin on the rocks. Nothing to do but walk it off and get back on the bike.

I was staying at friends Amy and Kelsey and their dog Mochi was happy to help heal me.

That and Kelsey loaned me his compression boots each day. Don’t know if they actually work but they sure felt great.

Next day I went out and attacked the hill again. This time success. A 42 mile ride with plenty of hills and gorgeous views.

On Friday we headed down to Cambria for the festivities. My friend’s Tim and Karen graciously hosted Amy Kelsey and me in the lovely town of Cambria.

After a great dinner and wine on Friday we headed to the Eroica venue so I could register. There were sponsored booths from Bianchi, Brooks and others, but the highlight was the swap meet for parts in the back and the Concourse D’Elegance showing off lovely restorations on bikes dating back to the 1930s.

I picked up a French Simplex front derailleur for my buddy Jeff who is restoring his 70s Peugeot which he intends to ride in Eroica next year.

Then I took off for a Saturday warm up ride up the coast so I would be ready for Sunday’s race.

I road from Cambria up to San Simeon, home of Hearst Castle.

My time in California was blessed with a super bloom and the flowers would show along the coastline in huge color all week.

After an 18-mile ride I was ready. I felt great. I even considered attempting the 107 mile ride. but that would mean starting at 5AM instead of 8AM and that would mean skipping the wining and dining with my friends. So I decided to stick to the 75 and enjoy the day. It would be my first attempt at this event and I wanted to have fun. I had nothing to prove to anyone.

I had a great dinner with my friends and a good night sleep. The morning came and my friends joined me for the start.

It was time for Fausto to race.

We started in a pack of about 50 and headed down the coast about 17 miles.

The ride was easy and cool. At the first stop in Cayucos, there was an odd combo of breakfast burritos and chocolate dipped strawberries. After fueling up we headed inland and up the first major hill.

The hill was a steep climb on dirt up and over the coastal range. The training paid off. I was mostly able to grind it out standing. I did stop once at a super steep point and walked for about 5 minutes. But once I got my heartbeat down I got back on the bike and finished riding up the hill to stop #2. It was tough, but I was pleased with my performance. After a bit of fruit and a cookie, I was off again.

The route took me through a steep rutted dirt downhill. Navigating off road on skinny tires was challenging, but not impossible. It took focus and concentration for a good 8 miles.

Once back on pavement, it was mostly winding rollers in the Paso Robles wine country. I was often on my own as the crowd thinned out. But also at times I would group up with a couple other riders. We would admire each other’s bikes and share some stories while riding. At mile 50, we hit the lunch stop.

Lunch was at a winery and was ok fare. Soup, fruit and PBJ sandwiches. The other rides had caught up here so there were lots of bikes to ogle and lots of people to talk to. A few had been to the actual Chianti event and were only too happy to share their experience.

The ride post lunch was an easy 5 miles just before heading up Crestview ridge. This was the longest and steepest of the hills, and all dirt. I cranked as hard as I good but it was just too much hill for the 42/23 combo. Several people were actually shocked I had gotten as far as I did on this gearing. They had upgraded to modern gearing which is somewhat common in the California race but fiercely frowned upon in Chianti.

I however was not the only one walking up this hill. And I did it proudly. I felt good about sticking to the spirit of the event and felt connected with the heros of before. I walked about a mile and finally hit the top. I truly at that point felt the fatigue that Eroica meant to be shared.

All that was left now was a steep, winding downhill toward the coast and then 10 curvy miles to the finish back in Cambria.

Just before we took off the sheriff announced at the stop that there was a tough downhill curve coming up in the gravel. He parked a couple of units nearby advising us to slow down when we see them. “I have no need to clean up the mess of any more of you guys today.”

Sure enough, about a quarter mile down, I saw the flashing lights and slowly made my way around the curve.

Then came the downhill. The dirt was hard but when the road turned to pavement it got steeper and windier. It didn’t take long for my hands to become sore managing the grip on those 40-year-old brakes.

I really didn’t think there would be much difference in the brakes since the mechanics were essentially the same, but I have to give credit to the modern bike engineers for figuring out how to get more leverage with less of a squeeze.

This downhill was long, technical and grueling for about 3 miles. I heard several veterans complain about how their hands hurt from the old style grips.

Finally I reached the more level 8-mile run to the finish. Just as I was cruising along, I picked up a couple of bogeys in my mirror. Up came 2 thirty-somethings and as they started to pass, Fausto kicked in.

I got a second wind and the race was on. out 25 to 2We jockeyed for position running about 20 -25 mph. Every time they got ahead, I would push and catch up. Then I would pass and they would draft.

Finally with only about a half mile left they made a hard push. the one in front riding a beautiful Cinelli looked at me and shouted in an obvious Italian accent, “DUDE! Your Pace! She’s Amazing!!!”

I smiled and yelled as they passed, “What do you want from me??? I’m an old man!”

My day had been made. I crossed the finish line and caught up with my challengers to get a pic. The Italian is on the left, and Evan in the middle is the owner of a wonderful vintage bike shop in Long Beach, The Bicycle Stand.

Evan would host me for an all-new bike experience which I share below.

The race was a success and I was happy with my performance. I was done with Cambria but not with the Olympia. I needed to get a sense of how strong I really was on the Olympia. I wanted to truly understand Fausto’s capabilities.

As it happened I stayed Monday night at my friend Justin’s house in Oakland. He lives near the base of Tunnel road which is a long climb to the top of the Caldecott tunnel in the Berkeley hills. I had ridden this hill many times on modern bikes, but never on such low gearing.

I took off, and 30 minutes later I had conquered the 5 mile climb without a stop. Not even a tough workout.

I was treated to a great San Francisco bay view.

The Olympia had done its job. It was time to retire it for the season.

Next day I drove down the coast to Southern California and witnessed the most beautiful coastal bloom I had ever seen.

I picked up my Folding Dahon which I had left in Manhattan Beach from my last trip and went to San Clemente to visit my friend Jack Daly.

Jack is an incredible athlete at 70 conquering marathons and Ironman competitions on multiple continents.

It was time for him to meet up with Fausto on the road.

Jack and I had 2 great rides including one down to Camp Pendleton. All in all we put in about 70 miles of coastal riding in 2 days.

On my way back to LA, I stopped to see Evan in Long Beach and he invited me to check out the Velodrome at Cal State Dominguez Hills. Apparently Sunday is there event night so I went to see this incredible venue and get on a track bike for the first time ever.

The arena is a 1/4 kilometer wood ring with 48 degree banked turns.

The bikes are fixed gear which means no shifting, no coasting and no brakes! You have to keep spinning.

It’s precision riding. You must go at least 16 miles an hour just to stay up on the banks. Then your position relative to other riders is controlled by moving up to the outside lanes or down to the shorter path.

Evan set me up with a Trek rental. I brought my own shoes and pedals.

Evan trained me well and by the end of the evening I learned to trust the bike and was able to ride with confidence and in formation.

Our last ride was 3 of us in formation for 20 laps. At every two laps, the front rider would move up allowing the other two to pass underneath. The lagging rider would call out the lap number.

We hit speeds of 30 mph banking around the corners. It was exhilarating. It felt like Formula 1 on bikes.

That’s me in the yellow jersey.

I am grateful to Evan for this experience and will do it every time I am in LA. They have an outdoor track in Queens but I hear it’s just not the same as this $15 million Olympic class venue. (The 1984 Olympic Velodrome was a concrete precursor at this campus, now converted to a soccer field.)

Here is Evan, me, and a gorgeous Cinelli Pista. If there were an indoor Velodrome in the East, I would make this my 5th bike.

It was a great week and only one thing could cap it off…


I picked up an al pastor on the way to my room and got a great night sleep.

So there it is, The Eroica California journey. A great success and I happily have two buddies prepping bikes to join me in Cambria next Spring. Feel free to come along. maybe even come to Chianti in 2021.

Tomorrow I am back on the road from Philly heading home to NYC. This time with some climbing through the Delaware Water Gap near the Appalachian Trail.

The bad news is that today was a complete rain day in Philly. The good news is that I got a second day of rest before the 150-mile ride home through the mountains.

And I got an extra couple of mealtimes to share with my sister-in-law Nghi.

With the flash flood warnings in effect, I did what any dedicated cyclist would do… I scrapped today’s ride and headed for the cinema to see Avengers: Endgame in 3D.

Rather than give you a recap with spoilers, however, I am going to share some sights and eats from my day and a half in the City of Brotherly Love.

First the sites…
I’ve walked about 15 miles in town since getting off the bike. For those of you who have never stopped in Philly, it’s actually a charming city and has been attracting a lot of millenials that don’t seem enamored with NYC or Washington DC. And of course it is close enough to either of those places for a quick visit.

I started at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, which currently has a Japanese woodcut and a large impressionist exhibit going on (my favorite are Monet and Van Gogh).

There is a wonderful statue of George Washington on the plaza in front. It gets a lot of attention.

But not as much attention as the Rocky statue in front of the building, where there is a 15 minute wait to get your picture taken. Pretty Sly.

The building itself is beautiful and sits high on a hill.

Inside I happily saw one of my favorite impressionist paintings. Van was finishing her Yoga teacher training and loves sunflowers, so I sent her this pic to encourage her by saying (wait for it…)

Go Van Gogh!

After a few hours in the museum I had my fill of Rodin, Miro, Matisse, Lautrec, etc., and headed out to South Street. It was a beautiful day to walk.

I passed through John F. Kennedy Plaza…

…and by City Hall.

There were plenty of charming and historical streets to view. On previous trips here I had seen Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell, so this time I enjoyed the less touristy areas.

Today I got to walk through both Drexel University – Go Dragons! …

…and University of Pennsylvania, home of the Wharton School.

UPenn is the Ivy League school founded by Benjamin Franklin.

On the way back I passed this cool bridge, typical of the blending of old and new in this city.

And just around the corner was this lovely garden, which is actually part of the Mutter Museum at the College of Physicians of Philadelphia. The garden is actually all made of medicinal plants for the college, which was founded in 1787. You can share this pic with your mom since it’s perfect for… Mutters’ Day.

Now the food…
Philadelphia’s food scene has really grown. I had several good meals here. Local knowledge helps. Nghi brought me to this wonderful hummus place which is owned by the famous Philly deli family, the Dizengoffs.

She also sent me to the local fave for cheesesteak.

Forget about Pat’s and Geno’s. Woodrow’s on South Street is the bomb. Their standard “Wiz Wit” has truffle in the cheez wiz, half-grilled onions, and a cherry pepper mayo. Awesome. This is why I ride the bike.

Nghi’s choice for dinner was a jazz club that served an excellent Manhattan, which accompanied a roast duck breast and crispy potatoes with shishito peppers.

My last treat in Philly was near the Penn Bookstore at a local combo coffee bar and clothing store called United by Blue. Their clothing is a nicer Urban Outfitter type, but their biz model is cool. For every piece of clothing you buy, they clean a ton of trash from a waterway. Check out their site!

Their pastries were excellent, including this Gruyere popover and egg croissant/quiche.

The weather looks clear for the next few days so I can start my trip back home. I plan for 3 more days of riding about 50 – 60 miles per day.

No new stats for the day.

Day 4 and I’m finally back on the road after the rain. I had a really wonderful visit with Nghi, but I was ready to hit the hills.

I’m breaking up the trip back to New York into 3 days. My target today was to head northwest to the town of Easton, PA, which is 75+ miles of Pennsylvania hills along the Delaware River. For those who don’t know, Easton is the home of Binney & Smith, the maker of Crayola, so I’ll color this post with selections from the Crayola rainbow.

I struggled a little getting out of Philadelphia because of construction (lots of Vivid Tangerine construction signs), but finally I got on the Schuylkill Path.

I noticed a number of bike packers along the way. The ones with small backpacks I assumed were commuters headed into work. But the ones with the panniers I imagine were people who had been outdoors for the weekend and got stuck because of the (Aquamarine) rain. Like me!

The path was lovely and took me past boathouse row. Here’s a picture of the (Brick Red) UPenn boathouse:

It was obvious that this path was at one time a major thoroughfare, as demonstrated by this lighthouse:

The Schuylkill Path eventually became the Wissahickhon Creek Trail. I have to say, the ride today along this route was one of the most beautiful I’ve ever seen. So beautiful, in fact, that pictures cannot do it justice, although I did stop to take plenty along the way. Here’s just one example:

I highly recommend that if you ever get the chance, ride from Philly to Easton. Don’t even think twice – just go. That being said, there was a lot of off-road biking, and a mountain bike might have done well. I caught a lot of (Fuzzy Wuzzy) mud in the process because of the (Pacific Blue) rains the day before.

The rugged trail also took a toll on the equipment, as you can see by the failure of my (Razzmatazz) water bracket:

But being resourceful, I simply wrapped it in a(n) (Inchworm) jacket, stuck my (Indigo) shoes on the outside, and headed on down the path.

By this time I was done with dirt for the morning. I started to come across tons of interesting historical sites that I’ve never seen, including this home for wayward children:

And inside the gates, they’re actually rebuilding the castle:

Later on I came across this rather large and pretty university I’d never heard of before, Gwynedd Mercy University (school colors Red and Gold):

I also saw lots of interesting old houses along the way:

Once I was out of the river area, I ended up on this lovely 10-mile suburban bike path…

…that went all the way to Doylestown.

Fortunately I was able to find a bike shop, where they not only gave me a very sturdy new (Burnt Sienna) bottle holder (shaped like a dove!)…

…but also turned me on to a wonderful chicken restaurant called Lovebirds. It turned out that chicken would be the theme of the day. I encountered several more pairs of geese along the towpath, where it seems they had been nesting. I encountered several couples with broods of 5-8 chicks. Most would move over to the side of the path. One pair, however, decided to chase after me, and giving me flashbacks to dogs chasing me on my Louisiana ride. I did get to see one set where the parents were swimming in the canal with chicks, one parent in front and one behind. Unfortunately I wasn’t fast enough to get out a camera and snap a pic, but it really was amazing to watch.

Back to my lunch at Lovebirds: I had a wonderful chicken BLT with avocado, with a side of (Macaroni and Cheese) mac and cheese. The only thing missing was MY lovebird <3

After lunch I headed off into more incredibly scenery. I passed through the town of Carverville. This is the Carverville Inn. It’s so beautiful and this picture just can’t do it justice.

Hopefully you can get a sense of how gorgeous (and Forest Green) things are by examining this (Gray) stone house. It’s in ruins, but you can tell once upon a time it was beautiful.

Finally I made it out to the (Wild Blue Yonder) Delaware River, which is accompanied along the side by the Delaware Canal:

Along the canal, you could see lock after lock after lock:

In fact I saw so many locks that only one thing was expected to complete the day. That was, of course (wait for it….)


The (Salmon) lox–I mean locks were interesting enough. But what was even more fascinating were these flood gates, used on all the streams to control the flow of water into the canal:

After a while, the trail turned into a single, narrow track.

You can see by my tire how narrow the path was:

It doesn’t seem like a big deal, but between all my gear on the bike and the gravel on the path, it made for some challenges. It also caused some concern because I was traveling close to a fence. Which if you check out the sign…

…could have resulted in a (Goldenrod) jolting experience.

For those of you who having been thinking about living on the water, this house may make you want to reconsider. Check out the the (Blue Bell) dates that mark how high the river flooded that day:

There continued to be historical signs along the trail, including this entryway to the very first Boy Scout camp:

And along with history came beauty (with Scarlet and Fuchsia and white azaleas):

Since this was originally the towpath of mules, there had apparently been an art project…

…but this was the only one that seemed to be left:

For anyone who thought covered bridges only existed in New England, there was no shortage of them here:

Just as I was hitting the 60 mile mark and starting to feel a little peckish, I stumbled upon Hometown Roasters and their coffee shop, quite well suited for a bike stop.

I made friends with Roger and Bob, coming down from their trek on mountain bikes:

At this point, I had gone as far on the tow path as possible and finally crossed the (Pine Green) bridge from PA back into NJ:

Then I was treated to another gorgeous scene that was indicative of the beauty I had witnessed all day along the river. And even this picture still just doesn’t do it justice!

As I headed for the last 2 miles, I passed one of the largest solar arrays I’d ever seen…

…and finally landed at my Airbnb after a day of 76 miles and 1,500 feet of elevation:

Now it was time to take a shower and put on the feed bag. In perusing Yelp, I stumbled across a small family-owned restaurant off the beaten path called Ashley’s…

…and I was not disappointed. I was greeted by wonderful bartender and former NJ State Trooper Frank, who set me up with an Uncle Val’s Martini straight up with 3 olives.

I began with duck pierogis. They were a wonderful mix of crispy, soft, cheesy, and ducky:

Next came caprese salad with beet caviar, tomatillo, and fig:

I wanted to try to make the beet caviar at home, but when I spoke to Jason the Chef, he explained to me the molecular gastronomy process that would require thousands of dollars of equipment and a masters degree in physics. That or a few hundred oompa loompas to carve tiny balls out of beets.

Next came a lovely french onion soup, in all its cheesy toasty goodness:

Finished off by a cocoa- and chili-rubbed pork loin stuffed with bacon and Apricot preserve, Brown butter yam, and a bourbon glaze:

After a glass of wine for dessert, I was about to head home, but then I heard Frank talk about putting Burnt Orange peels into smoky Manhattans. So I stuck around to watch him torch one up:

All in all, a lovely day.

Here are today’s stats:

Days of riding: 2
Days in Philly: 2
Miles today: 76
Miles so far: 193
Miles to go: 100
Elevation today: 1500 ft
Elevation so far: 2500 ft
Calories consumed today: 3100
Calories consumed so far: 6400
Calories burned today: 3800
Calories burned so far: 93800
Geese encountered: countless

Tomorrow I head to Hopatcong, NJ. It’s a short tide of only 40 miles and the weather looks beautiful, 55-75, so it should be another great day.

After a good night’s sleep at my Ashram…

…I headed out from Phillipsburg about 9am. The process of getting ready to leave in the mornings is a long and meticulous one. No matter how hard I try, it takes me 2 hours from the time I get up to get everything together, check my equipment, and get on the road. Most mornings, my Airbnb supplies coffee or there’s a coffee shop nearby, but not always. This trip I’ve been trying out some different caffeinated athletic nutrition. I’ve been putting 5 of these energy tablets…

…in my water backpack, which is about 2.5 liters, every time I fill up. The tablets have both electrolytes and caffeine, which help keep me going along the way. Since I couldn’t get coffee this morning, I took one of these Clif Shots…

…which had both a sugar and caffeine boost to get me through the first 12 miles before I stopped for breakfast. And it’s a good thing I did, since a good part of that 12 miles was uphill! I managed to get to get to Belvedere, NJ, and the Thislldous Eatery. If you can’t figure out what the name is all about, let me help you: this ‘ill do us!

It was an adorable classic diner like the ones you see so often on the eastern seaboard.

I ordered a brisket hash with eggs, jalapeño, rye toast, and yes, my favorite in the upper right hand corner, scrapple!

People often wonder what I do with the bike when I go inside. I do carry a lock, and for the most part, if I can’t lock it, I don’t stop it. I feel better when I can keep it in sight. I don’t worry so much that someone will steal it, but more that someone will mess with it. I do take the pedals off the bike to make it harder to ride away 🙂

After breakfast I headed down the road. Most of it was highway with a wide shoulder. I get to see lots of sights as I ride, but I can’t stop at all of them, because taking pictures slows me down. I was very tempted to get a hot dog here. And if I hadn’t just eaten such a huge breakfast, I probably would have!

I also often see funny street signs. This one intrigued me, because the thought of taking all the a-holes and sticking them all on one court actually seemed like a nice idea.

Then as I hit the Pequest River, I stumbled across a fish hatchery.

Here is the demonstration lake. If you look carefully at the other side, kids are being taught to catch and release fish.

All those trout get released into the river that I was riding alongside.

The beauty continued along quiet roads…

…and through the forest.

Then Google made a suggestion to take an off-road trail for the next 20 miles. But to be honest, I’d had enough.

After 2 days of off-roading, I decided to stick to the original purpose of my bike and stay on the road all the way to Lake Hopatcong…

…But that wasn’t without still having to climb 1000 ft of elevation in the last 10 miles. I finally reached the Lake and totaled out at 44 miles.

It felt as fatiguing as the 76 miles the day before, so I did what any rider would do at the end of their day: I treated myself to a Yuengling.

Ok, well, and a Guinness…

…And a much needed snack of pastrami reuben egg rolls.

And here I thought Van and I were the best Asian-Jewish combo!

I sat on the deck and waited for sunset, and just as it was coming, the sky got completely overwhelmed by clouds and a squall. Lucky for me, I had been paying attention to my Dark Skies app. I cannot recommend this app enough. It told me with a 15-minute warning that the clouds were coming, and I was able to pick up and head over the few blocks to dinner.

There I treated myself to a view of the lightning storm on the lake, as well as pappardelle with mushrooms and scallops, and a large plate of sautéed spinach.

Once I finished dinner, Dark Skies told me I had a 45-minute window, so I huffed it back to my Airbnb before the rain came again. A nice 2-mile walk to loosen up my tired legs.

1 more day to go, and about 57 miles with 2000 ft of elevation. But at least there’s more downhill than up. Getting to bed early tonight so I can get an early start tomorrow.

Here are today’s stats:
Miles today: 44 miles
Miles so far: 237
Miles to go: 57
Hours riding today: 3.5
Hours riding so far: 19.5
Elevation today: 2000 ft
Elevation so far: 4500 ft
Calories consumed today: 3210
Calories consumed so far: 9610
Calories burned today: 3000
Calories burned so far: 12,800
Geese today: zero

Got 9 hours sleep last night, which helped me feel ready for the last day. Despite the 2 hours normally required, I actually got out in 90 minutes today. Of course there was no coffee so I grabbed a Cliff Gel with 100 grams of caffeine to help get me the 17 miles to breakfast.

As I left the Airbnb I looked across the street and saw this van. I am beginning to sense a theme of this trip. Funny enough, I have a Yoga Van at home as well 🙂

The ride today was 100% pavement. Hooray! It would be a little over 60 miles through the small hamlets of New Jersey. It was a mix of semi-rural and suburban with a few cities to traverse as well.

I started in the beauty of Wharton…

…And caught this WWI memorial in Dover…

…Then into Rockaway, where they take their fortune telling VERY seriously.

I made it to breakfast at Missy’s:

I have been using this awesome lock that gets super compact but is secure enough to hold the bike.

I trust the lock but still like to keep my eye on things, so happily I found a window seat to watch the bike.

This place was adorable and had awesome breakfast.

Knowing I still had 45 miles to go and some big hills, I loaded up on a JD Black Special: eggs and Taylor ham and cheese on garlic fried tater-tots accompanied by french toast and coffee, of course.

After some banter with the locals that asked about my trip, I headed out with no intention of stopping again for food. I was anxious to get home, and all signs were pointing to the Yoga Hottie waiting for me. Even apparently signs from God:

Along the way I saw plenty of war memorials.

As I pulled into Paterson I stumbled across this incredible waterfall, I had no idea it existed.

There was also a statue. Who knew I would actually get to see Hamilton today? And it didn’t cost hundreds of dollars to see it. Still, I am not sure what everyone is raving about.

Also in Paterson was another star of stage and screen – Lou Costello. I was at the numbered streets so I checked to see Who’s on First.

I kept seeing unexpected sights like this submarine just hanging out.

By now I was mostly in city traffic and knew I was getting close as I came into Hackensack.

I had the biggest climb of the day heading from Hackensack to Fort Lee where I would pick up the George Washington Bridge. With Chris Christie out of office I felt confident I would make good time across.

I did, and caught a beautiful view of my home city.

Of all my tours, this is the first one where home was the ending point. So I got to catch a shot exactly where I started on Friday.

I passed the 300 mile mark. It was my biggest 4-day total ever. By comparison, my first tour to Maine was 250 miles over 8 days.

The triumph deserved celebration. I was welcomed as a victor by Van (holding the camera), Grunt, and the fish.

Happy to be home.

Here are the final stats:

Miles today: 62.5 miles
Miles total: 300.32
Days on trip: 6
Days riding: 4
Hours riding today: 5.5
Hours riding total: 25
Elevation today: 2000 ft
Elevation total: 6500 ft
Calories consumed today: 2000
Calories consumed total: 11,610
Calories burned today: 3500
Calories burned total: 16,300
Total Geese: 6 pairs with chicks
Flat tires: 0
Technical mishaps: 1 (Bottle cage failure)

Here are some final thoughts:
This was supposed to be a 4-day trip that turned to 6 due to weather and a desire to see some of the area. I like keeping things open ended.

It’s wonderful to see how many interesting places there are riding distance from home.

Google maps has really improved for bikes although they don’t take into account what sort of bike you have as it often suggests roads suitable only for mountain bikes.

Eroica has made me stronger. More strength means more distance. That means more opportunities to explore.

Hope you enjoyed the journey. Thanks for riding along vicariously. Would love to hear what you enjoyed the most.

Till the next ride.