September 2018: NYC to DC
Many of you followed my previous bike adventures of 250 miles in Maine 8/17 and 440 miles in New Orleans 1/18.
The list of followers has grown, mostly by choice. For the next 8 days I will be sharing the scenery, food and experience of my ride from New York City to Fairfax Virginia (Washington DC area) in one email at the end of each day.
The Route – Anne Mary helped me craft a perfect route. Starting from my home on the Upper West Side, to the tip of Manhattan where this morning I took the ferry to The Jersey Shore.
After riding to Cape May, I will cross by ferry again, this time to Delaware and then head to Maryland and the Chesapeake bay before riding through DC into Virginia.
The route is roughly 375 miles, largely coastal and mostly flat. The trip is scheduled for 8 days of mostly 35 – 50 miles per day with a century ride (100 miles) scheduled for this Wednesday. I will carry only about 18 pounds of stuff and stay at a combo of motels and Airbnb homes along the way.
The Bike – My previous trips were on folding bikes since I had to travel to the location. This trip I am excited to ride a recently upgraded road bike which was custom made for me in 2003 by Bernie Mikkelson in Alameda. This bike has been excellently set up by the guys at NYCvelo.com in Manhattan. Thanks guys. There is a pic below.
The bike is Chromoly steel with a Bianchi carbon fork. It’s fitted with Sram Force 22 groupset and velocity wheels holding Conti 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.
Of course I am now actually 10 pounds lighter than my NOLA ride so that makes me faster as well.
The Dedication – Many of you know that I have a new Italian sprint bike being built for me on a frame bike master builder Dario Pegoretti. Sadly he passed a couple of weeks ago. Van and I were truly blessed to visit with him. In Verona last March and receive the frame a few weeks later.
This trip and riding the new bike is the best way I know to celebrate this passionate artist and dedicated entrepreneur who continued to work and build bikes so he could keep employing his disciples. Here’s to you Dario! https://pelotonmagazine.com/features/the-legend-of-dario-pegoretti/
Today’s Journey – Today I started at 9:45 AM. Labor Day was a great day to see the Jersey Shore. There were beach parties everywhere and the ferry to Sandy hook beach was a fascinating cultural experience in itself.
I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect but was careful to be wary of “The Situation”
The most interesting part of today’s trip was seeing the recovery from Hurricane Sandy which devastated this shoreline several years ago.
Asbury Park was also an interesting example of gentrification gone well. It oddly, strongly resembles my old home town of Alameda, CA in both charm and architecture.
Van started my day with hard boiled duck eggs. A fun beginning.
Here I am with full gear waiting for the Highlands ferry at Pier 11 in Manhattan.
This is in SeaBright. Most of these platforms are private with a couple that are public access. There using much parking here so the beaches are near empty even on Labor Day. Good for New Yorkers to ferry and bike over for a little quiet beach time. Amazingly These 25 foot beach walls were here already when Sandy waves. rose over them and flooded the entire area.
Asbury Park boardwalk
Food trucks make for easy lunch stops on the bike. I can sit with the bike.
The best part of riding is eating anything I like. Here lunch was a pulled pork Reuben sandwich and soda. Yum.
The Jersey Shore is a bit of Americana frozen in time. The boardwalk has junk food, amusement parks, and then there is still this guy.
Caught a beautiful sunset before dinner.
On the way back enjoying the boardwalk at night.
Only in New Jersey. Check out the menu.
Total Ride Time: 4 hours 10 minutes
Total Miles – 45.44
Miles to go – 330
Today’s ride was along Route 9 of New Jersey, which meant I got to cross over the inlet this morning, which was beautiful. I tried to take pictures, but some of the beauty simply does not translate. You need to see it for yourself.
Some of my friends have asked me what I get from these rides. The answer is: lots of endorphins!!! Joking aside, obviously the physical exercise is great, but I also get good learning, a chance to see lots of culture and beautiful scenery, and an opportunity to witness these amazing parts of America at a slow speed that not everyone gets to see. Things like this interesting building:
This World War I monument dedicated to Native Americans:
And then I get a giggle every so often, like from this sign grouping at an intersection in a town. Of course it would have been funnier if the sign were “No left allowed.”
Last time on my ride in NOLA, I had to deal with cold, which often froze my fingers and toes. Today was one of the hottest days of the year, so I had a chance to test out how fatigue affects me. Instead of going 15 miles in the cold before I had to stop, today I was able to go 38 miles. Of course I was still fueled by the pasta from last night and the leftovers from this morning. In fact, I was so well fueled that I didn’t actually stop for lunch, but just for a smoothie when I finally needed a little rest.
Bike Stuff: Since I didn’t have my trusty seat pump that I have with my folder, I tried a new approach of 16 gram CO2 container with a flow valve to pump up the tires to the needed 90 lbs of pressure. Special thanks to Mike at Toga Bikes for setting me up with that system.
Route 9 can have heavy traffic, so a bike path is always welcome. But bike paths can be tricky. Sometimes they’re dirt path, like this one:
Sometimes they’re a gravel road, like this one:
And sometimes they just… disappear. Like this one:
This is part of the Barnegat Branch Trail, which is actually about 25 miles of old converted railroad tracks, now in use for the community. Sometimes it was a little tough with the gravel, and sometimes it was a welcome respite from the zooming cars. Like this:
Finally, I arrived in Tuckertown, which is similar to most New England-style seaports. This one was founded in 1699:
They created an entire museum of replicated old houses on the water:
It was fun to go down to the marina and see what the retirees were pulling back on the boat. In this case, it was flounder:
After 45 miles and a quick swim in the pool at my Airbnb, it was time to get something to eat. Well, at least to drink. I felt I deserved a beer, so I helped myself to a pint of Yuengling at the local watering hole, which is the best place to people watch in small American towns.
Then a hearty Greek dinner, with spicy fried chickpeas…
Like yesterday, I ended up taking half the meal home. But that’s fine, because I’m readying for tomorrow’s century, and I will need all the protein and carbs I can get.
Miles Today: 45.13 miles
Total Miles So Far: 90.62 miles
Miles to Go: 285
Ride Time: 3 hours 34 min
Calories Consumed: 2200
Calories Burned: 3250 (I also did 9 miles of walking this afternoon and evening!)
I enjoyed the music of Southside Johnny. And I heard enough Bon Jovi to last a lifetime, dead or alive
Tomorrow it’s off to Cape May and a ferry to Delaware, looking to put in a solid 100 miles.
We’ll see how it goes!
I was hoping to start this post by bragging about my century completion and showing you a pic of the 100 on my bike computer. But as my father likes to say, “Man plans. God laughs.”
I got an early start at 7:30 and cranked things up. The weather was cloudy which was better than the hot sun and I enjoyed the beauty of the inner causeway watching the baitfish move in the morning.
I also saw plenty of oddities like this life size model in front of one house.
I made good time but the start felt sort of sluggish. Now my friend Jack Daly who has completed 100 marathons explains that the first 5 miles is the worst part of the race. Well the first 20 miles of a century feel the same.
Or it could just be that I had to start the day with no coffee at my Airbnb. Luckily at mile 23, I found a delightful little diner, perfect for some breakfast.
Now the challenge of taking these trips is I have to navigate bike parking. I don’t like to leave the bike where it or the things on it can conveniently disappear. And while I carry a lock, there is no way to lock everything and it takes way too long to remove everything from the bike. Generally, I will lock to a post like this and take a few key items: phone, wallet and rear bag.
Soon I tucked in on a wholesome breakfast of eggs, hash browns, pancakes and of course the local fave… scrapple.
10 minutes and 5 cups of diner coffee later I was ready to ride.
Then the trouble started at mile 24. The sound every bike rider fears: POP!
SHHHHHHHHH… accompanied by the feeling of air on my calf. Ugh. A flat. Rear tire. (Always a pain because of the gears and derailleur.) No problem!
Now I haven’t had a flat in more than 1500 miles including the NOLA and Maine rides, so I was due. There was plenty of glass in the bike lanes so it was no surprise. (Probably left over from overzealous Labor Day partiers.)
Fine. I found some shade cause the sun had shaken the clouds and it was hot. My goal was to fix the flat in less than 20 minutes and be on my way.
Being a boy scout, I was carrying 3 inner tubes and 5 CO2 cartridges so I went to work. I was careful to wipe off the outside to make sure there was no glass sticking out. It seemed fine.
I finished in 15 minutes and proudly set off back on my ride.
Mile 25… POP! SHHHHHHHHH… Ugh!!!
I must have been careless and either missed the glass or set the tube wrong causing a pinch flat. Frustrating, but no one to blame but me. Once again I found shade and got to work.
This time I was more careful. I examined the tire both inside and out. I carefully made sure the tube was not caught anywhere in the tire bead. Just as I was finishing up a man pulled over and offered me help, inner tubes, etc. Cyclists are great. I thanked him since I was done but was super appreciative.
I got back on the road with more humility this time, especially since now I only had one inner tube left and had used up 2 CO2 cartridges. No problem. Plenty of bike stores along the way to replenish supplies.
POP! SHHHHHHHHH… (Write in your own expletive here) !!!!!!!!
This was my worst nightmare. First of all there was no sign of shade and it was hot. And the bugs were chewing on me just to taunt me.
I started working on the tire trying desperately to see the problem. Everything looked and felt fine. The tire held air. I was now much more frustrated and concerned.
At best I had lost an hour and would feel unsure for the rest of the day. I must have missed something. Or worse, the inner tubes were bad. WHY DIDN’T LISTEN TO THOSE 1 STAR AMAZON REVIEWS ON THESE TUBES?!?!
Or even worse, maybe it was just my super sloppy repair jobs.
And now I had zero supplies if this didn’t hold. I was thinking that now a bike store would be a direct target. The closest one was a 20-minute ride away. If only I can make it there.
Then thankfully, I saw it.
It stared at me like a gruesome war injury. I have to say I was much relieved. At least now I knew the problem and it wasn’t my clumsy repairs or the substandard inner tubes.
On the other hand, since I was not carrying a spare tire, a bike store was the only answer. Hmmm, well, walking in my cleats wasn’t an option and hitchhiking seemed sketchy. Uber to the rescue.
Luckily I was near an airport so 3 minutes and $10 later I was on my way to Beacon Cycling where, after a generously discounted $131, they happily set me up with 2 new Gator skin super tough tires, new tubes, and CO2. They did let me save $12 per tire by changing it all myself, making my total tire changing count 5 for the day.
Hopefully that will stay my tire karma for a while.
Now however I was in a time crunch. It was 1:30PM. I only had 4.5 hours to catch the last ferry for Delaware. The Century was blown. The goal now was to simply get out of New Jersey by nightfall. (A goal of many at one time or another I am sure.)
I reset directions. I could beeline along the coast and make it to the ferry in 46 miles. I had roughly an hour cushion if I didn’t make any long stops.
I caught a beautiful view of the inlet…
…and the causeway wetlands.
I was making good time, and then I saw it. It struck fear in me. After all I had gone through with the bike and the heat, how could I possibly deal with this…
To my pleasure there were a lot of bike lanes and paved bike trails along the way. It was hot but you don’t notice as much on the bike. The 12 – 15 mph self-generated breeze actually acts like an evaporative cooler with your sweat. This also induces you to not stop for very long.
The post-Labor Day beach towns were now ghost towns. That made them quiet but also made it hard to find more caffeine. Not a Starbucks in sight. Finally I stopped at a small deli and downed 32 oz of iced tea in 3 minutes.
Today was music free. I just couldn’t do any more Bon Jovi. The roads were quiet so I enjoyed the peace. While I ride I often think about the stories I will tell you and wonder about the lives of the people in all the houses that I see.
By about mile 60 even the ibuprofen works only halfway. For those of you who don’t ride, or ride without bindings, you may not understand the benefit. With your feet locked in you not only can use other muscle groups to power the motion, but you can lift your feet while spinning to relieve pressure and numbness.
Finally at 5:15 I arrived at the ferry, where the lady at the counter screamed at me for bringing my bike inside. (There were no prohibitive signs.) A nice waiter at the bar next door agreed to watch my bike. I went back in and asked her to please quickly sell me a one-way ticket so I could leave New Jersey for good.
After tipping the waiter I headed out on the ferry to Delaware where I was treated to dolphins and an amazing sunset.
It was nearly dark when I got off the ferry. After a few miles it became very clear that even with lights I could not make it through the park to Anne Mary’s house. I was now stuck in a state park with no way of seeing signs and the road.
A very nice Delawarian (Is that a thing?) graciously let me follow him out of the park. I had to crank at about 20 mph to keep up. So glad I was well rested.
Finally I met up with Anne Mary (and thankfully her car and a beer! No open container laws in Delaware – she knows cause she’s a lawyer) at the Dairy Queen.
I was done. 80 miles for the day but I got to meet Mary Bee and Joe Ciminelli (and Maddie) and considering all the tsoris (Yiddish for trouble), not to mention the unexecuted threat of disruptive turtles, I was joyous.
Miles Today: 80.36
Total Miles So Far: 170.98
Miles to Go: 205
Ride Time: 6 hours 15 min
Calories Consumed: 4140
Calories Burned: 4000
Flat Tires: 3
Tires Changed: 5
Today is the halfway point: 4 days in, 4 days to go. After yesterday’s 80-mile, 3-flat-tire adventure, I was deserving of a lighter day. So I started with a good old fashioned DE breakfast (including, of course, scrapple) with my adoptive family, The Ciminellis.
After a long visit, it was time to hit the road, but not without going to see the boardwalk in Rehoboth Beach, which has quite the history, as you can see in this sign:
Still hot and muggy, I headed off for my 38-mile ride. At mile 18, I was hot and hungry, but not hungry enough for a full meal. I found this adorable little ice cream shack in a quaint little town called Milford.
There I met Kinia, who served me up a double scoop of black cherry and raspberry. I learned all about Milford and Kinia’s softball scholarship choices for college. FAU is her top pick. Go Owls!
The next hour was all through Delawarean farmland. I kept passing this interesting plant, and I wasn’t sure what it was right away. I stopped and looked closer, and I’m pretty sure it’s soybeans.
I was fascinated because I kept coming across these corns fields that had obviously dried out, yet there was still plenty of corn on them. I wasn’t sure if it was being dried for some other purpose, or if the crops were going to waste because of farmer subsidies.
Every once in a while, I am blessed with a moment of incredible scenic beauty. I would stop for more of them if I didn’t have to stop my ride, but this one was too beautiful to pass up. It could be a Monet.
I’m beginning to think that the theme of this trip is going to be large plastic animals in front of people’s houses. This guy is actually full-sized and plastic. But this obviously is a very special horse because… he’s out standing in his field!
Finally I arrived in Harrington, DE. Not the most charming place, but as I was looking for dinner and considering the diner next door, I saw this good-looking barbecue place.
There I met Darryl, an Army veteran, and his adorable family. When he got out of the service 7 years ago, he started a barbecue food truck. He did so well that he was able to finance this restaurant. I knew it was special when the first thing he did was drop an entire bucket of bbq sauces on the table.
So I treated myself to a meatfest. Slow-smoked pork ribs, pulled pork, brisket, collard greens, and macaroni and cheese. From tasting the food, I’m not at all surprised at how successful he’s been.
Of course there was no way to finish it all, but at least I have breakfast in the morning.
2 things kept me going today on the ride. 1) A series of business calls, which always makes the time go by fast. 2) The bluesy beats of George Thorogood as I was pounding across the Delaware farmland. More blues tomorrow!
Miles Today: 38.08
Total Miles So Far: 209.08
Miles to Go: 170
Ride Time: 3 hours 13 min
Calories Consumed: 2325
Calories Burned: 2150 (A note: Yesterday’s calorie counts were incorrect. I consumed 2530 burned, but consumed 4150.)
Tomorrow should be interesting because of potential thunderstorms in the area. I’ll be ready to get wet!
Got a reasonably early start at 9:30am this morning out of Harrington, DE. My goal today was to beat the weather, because there was a threat of rain this afternoon. But I also didn’t want to be in a hurry so I could enjoy the scenery.
At 10 miles in, I felt like George Washington, as I realized I had crossed (the) Delaware.
As you can see, Delaware was in my rearview mirror…
…as I headed into Maryland.
Every once in a while, Google biking maps will send me down a dirt road. Now, I’m a road biker. I like back roads, the road less traveled, the open road. But I am not interested in doing gravel roads or dirt roads or going off road any more than I absolutely have to. At least not on a bike like this. So whenever I come across one, like this…
…I must evaluate whether it is enjoyable or necessary. It takes about a tenth of a mile. And this time, I decided it was neither, so I turned around and went back on the main road. It saved me a whole lot of time and unnecessary vibration.
Sometimes you get super lucky and find a town that actually appreciates bikers, and you get this:
So thanks Denton, MD.
Ahhh, Maryland. Land of one of my favorite foods: crab. The perfect place for crab balls, crab cakes, crab soup… You’ll notice I didn’t mention steamed crabs. The reason is that while the Maryland blue crab lends itself to amazing mixed-crabs dishes, the hassle of actually picking Chesapeake crabs is a huge disappointment to those of us (and you west coasters know what I mean) who have experienced the sweet, large, easy-to-take-apart nature of Dungeness crab.
But the redeeming value of the MD blue crab is of course the soft shell. That delectable dish only available when that crab has decided to molt out of its shell and be vulnerable. Sadly as I got to my first restaurant in MD, I was disappointed to hear from the chef that the soft shell season had ended about 6 days before. Thus I fell prey to the old adage, “You should have been here last week.”
But since I had managed to go 48 miles at that point, I was hungry. And apparently the universe understood, because even though after crab balls…
…I had ordered a Cobb salad topped with a broiled crab cake, what they actually brought me was this:
A crab cake sandwich and a load of fries. The universe felt I needed carbs!
One of the great joys about heading into a historic state like MD is all the amazing history just sitting there along the road. For example, this…
These may be an interesting omen for my December ride, but more on that later.
Then I stopped by this hole in the wall:
Sometimes you actually get to interact with the history, as I did when I got to Oxford, MD. I took a ride on the oldest private ferry in the country to get to the other side of the bay.
After a lovely ferry ride, I only had a short stint left. But now the sky was starting to look ominous and I felt the temperature drop by about 10 degrees. I knew I needed to get to my Airbnb. But that didn’t keep me from stopping to get a picture of this amazing church:
With these fabulous stained glass windows:
I finally got to my Airbnb at a little over 61 miles, and headed off to the much-desired town of St. Michael’s, MD, for dinner, the frequent haunt of celebrity and pol. I enjoyed a lovely dusk on the bay:
I meet the most incredible people on these journeys, some of whom want to work and play with our company in the most exciting ways. People like Sarah, who made me the best martini I’ve had in weeks (Hendrick’s up with 3 olives).
Then I headed over to Limoncello, known for serving prominent figures such as Dick Cheney and Rummy. I couldn’t resist inquiring about their favorite meals. The waitress said, “You know, it’s funny. They ways order the veal, even though it’s not the best thing on the menu.” I on the other hand was ready to bring on the food. I started with beef carpaccio:
and a mixed green and veggie salad (to make up for the lost salad earlier):
Then moved on to paccheri amatriciana (a wide rigatoni):
and finished off with one of my favorites, although known by few: the zabaglione.
Egg, sugar, and sweet wine sauce whipped in a copper bowl into a frothy, light custard. This one was with berries.
And of course, the obligatory espresso:
This time, I finished it all.
No music today. The roads were quiet and so there was no need to drown out the sounds of the cicadas and the crickets in the corn and soy fields. I enjoyed my time with my thoughts and made my own music in my head.
Miles Today: 61.06
Total Miles So Far: 270.15
Miles to Go: 118
Ride Time: 4 hours 37 minutes
Calories Consumed: 2800
Calories Burned: 3200
Only 27 miles tomorrow, but there appears to be only a 3-hour good weather window in the afternoon. So I’m hoping to catch that. If i feel up to it, and if the weather permits, I might even take a 10-20 mile jaunt all the way down Kent Island.
The weather gods have been kind so far. We’ll see what happens tomorrow.
None of this trip could have happened 20 years ago, because the technology wasn’t there. Most of the tech I used on this trip is on my phone. I used the following apps: Airbnb, Weather, Google Maps, Yelp, Spotify, and of course the usual mail, texting, and camera. I don’t use a bike app because I prefer the on board computer.
When it all works, it’s great. When it doesn’t, it can be dicey.
Today started out pretty good. The weather app told me that even though it was pouring where I was in Easton, I would get a window at 11am. So I waited, and sure enough at 11 it cleared up and I took off. The temperature had dropped so it wasn’t too hot, and I had the chance to enjoy the Maryland scenery, including this adorable red school house…
…and the open fields…
…even though the clouds loomed ominously…
Spotify comes in handy when you get onto a main highway. Today I had 11 miles on Route 50. The good news is the nice wide bike path with the groove vibration to prevent anyone from hitting me. But as the cars zoom by, it buzzes in your ears. So I cranked up the music, picked up a good beat with Alice Merton, and headed down the path.
There is one advantage to the highway. You’re bound to come across the best type of Americana: the roadside food stand, the American equivalent of street food. I was particularly pleased to catch Grumpy’s Seafood…
…and pick up some soft shell crab (despite what that unknowing chef in Oxford said)…
…and some freshly fried flounder…
Also along the road was this fascinating church that had been built twice, the last time in 1827.
Finally, I was able to get off the highway and had to endure the ugliness of Maryland’s Chesapeake area. It’s only out of dedication to you, my friends, that I suffer through hideous sights like this:
Not to mention this:
At the 29-mile mark, I was only a mile from my Airbnb. The weather had held out, just as the weather app said it would. Since i was in need of some CO2 supplies, I decided to head 2.5 miles to the local bike store and replenish. This turned out to be both a curse and a blessing.
Just as I hit the bike store, it started to rain. I had been expecting rain at some point, and had carefully conditioned all leather and put water covers on everything else. I thought, “Well, I only have 2.5 miles back to my Airbnb. This will be a good test for the next two days, which look like all rain all day.”
That 15 minutes became the most frustrating and excruciating experience that would save me from a horrible fate. In just those 2.5 miles, I was soaked to the skin. Having just trekked through the wet jungles of Vietnam, I knew a little water wasn’t going to melt me, and I was accustomed to having my feet wet. But what I wasn’t ready for was the wind and heavy rain. The temperature had dropped into the 60s and the rain was cold, but worse, it was coming down so hard I couldn’t see through my glasses. I took my glasses off, and then the rain stung. Though I was able to make it to my airbnb, it became very apparent this was not something I wanted to do for the next 2 days and 70 miles. I got to my Airbnb, put my bike under a patio, and took a look in the mirror. The rain had stung so hard it had actually broken a blood vessel under my eye.
I thought about how the weather app showed nothing but rain for the next couple days. The whole point of this trip was to be fun, and this was not going to be fun at all. And it wasn’t going to be safe, either. It’s bad enough when I can’t see. But I also need to worry about slick roads and fast-moving cars who can’t see me any better than I can see them.
And so, my friends, I have called it a trip. It has been phenomenal. But you gotta know when to hold em, and you gotta know when to fold em.
Anne Mary was already scheduled to meet me for breakfast in the morning and drive me over the Chesapeake Bay Bridge. Now she’ll take me over the bridge and continue to my friend Sue’s house, and then I’ll continue on to VA by car.
No shame here. I did more miles than in Maine, and in less time. My overall stats were great, and I got to see parts of the country I’d never seen before.
I decided to celebrate and treat myself to a good meal. The real tragedy of ending the trip is that I have to end the food orgy two days early.
In true Maryland style, I had biscuits with a red pepper butter…
…a crab and veggie soup…
…and a lovely Maryland surf and turf of filet mignon with crab cake accompanied by fried green tomatoes.
I finished with – I’d been waiting for this all trip – a piece of sour cherry pie:
and, appropriate to the area, a hit of Filibuster Bourbon:
Miles Today: 32.93
Ride Time: 2 hours 37 min
Calories Consumed: 2550
Calories Burned: 1850
Days = 6
Total Miles = 303
Total Hours = 24 hours 26 min
Average Speed = 12.4mph
Top Speed = 30mph (on a downhill on Rt 50 today)
Total Calories Burned = 17,625
Total Calories Consumed = 14,530
Flat Tires = 3
Tires Changed = 5
Non-Tire Mechanical Breakdowns = 0
I wasn’t ready for this trip to end. On each of these rides, I’ve had more energy and more fun. With each one I feel like I’m getting stronger. This is my third trip, and there was very little I took with me that I did not use, which in my view is an improvement. At some point I would do this trip again, maybe with a slightly different route, possibly through Philadelphia or maybe the Poconos. I still get great value out of this process, which is a few days of self-determination, learning, and most importantly, an appreciation for this amazing place we live.
Thanks to all of you for keeping me company along the ride. And a very special thanks to Anne Mary for doing an awesome job of planning and support.
Tune in this December when I head to Alabama. I intend to start in Birmingham and ride to areas like Selma and Montgomery, where I can see the sights of the Civil Rights Movement. I’m calling it my freedom ride. If any of you care to join me, drop me a line.
While my trip last week was invigorating, the combination of the uncompleted century day and the rain cutting it short left me feeling a bit incomplete. I still had plenty of gas in the tank and craved that larger sense of accomplishment. Sooooo…
Yesterday I took advantage of good weather and the full cycle of sun in the last days of summer to attempt a century ride to Bear Mountain and back. This ride from my home along the Hudson River would be round trip over 100 miles and include over 4000 feet of altitude for climbing.
I know for those of you who do Ironman, this is just another day at the office, but for most of us this is a big ride.
I took the same Mikkelson bike from the DC trip only now it was stripped of all the overnight gear. At 22 pounds it was super light and on a test ride Friday I felt like I was flying without all the gear.
My last century (Waves to Wine) I did was near the turn of the century when in my 30s, so I was hoping my body would take the punishment.
Saturday night Van readied me by making her own sourdough pasta so I could carb up for the ride. I made the spicy veal meatballs:
I left 72nd St. at 7:45 AM Jacked up on pasta leftovers, plum crostana and plenty of coffee. The weather was about 80 degrees all day and sunny. I turned on my NYC 84 song playlist on Spotify (lots of Billy Joel, Sinatra, and Duke Ellington) and set off.
The first milestone was to cross the George Washington Bridge. Narrow lanes…
…but fabulous views of the city. Once across I headed north on 9W through a part of New Jersey.
I had heard that 9W could be very crowded with both cars and cyclists, especially on Sundays. I soon found out that both were true. In fact I quickly saw all the serious NY/NJ area cyclists. It was a constant show of Colnagos, Pinnarellos, and of course plenty of triathlon folk on Cervelos. (Not one Pegoretti.) Of course I saw most of these from behind as they passed me. Many were sprinting to Nyack. I carried zero pride and need to race as I was in for the long hall. Comfortable humility was the order of the day.
The traffic on 9W was indeed heavy as reported, and I don’t want to say that New Jersey was tough on cyclists but this downed sign at the outset sort of said it all.
Luckily I was back in New York State before long. I crossed the state line just as Frank was belting out New York, New York!
At 22 miles I was ready for more caffeine and easily found in Rockland one of the many coffee places that catered to cyclists. It made for a good first stop.
After gawking at the amazing waterfront estates in Nyack, Google maps treated me to an 8 mile alternative to 9W. It was a scenic dirt and gravel path along the water. The Gator tires did well. This gave me a good idea of what to expect when I prep for L’Eroica next year.
The Bear Mountain peak back and forth is actually slightly less than 100 miles so I knew I would need to add a few miles somewhere. This is the Bear Mountain Bridge nearby. Before heading up the mountain, I went across the Hudson…
…and then returned catching this wonderful view of the Northern Hudson valley.
After a 5 mile and 45 minute strenuous climb up Bear Mountain, I reached the summit and got an even better view.
I was half way done. Now all I had to do was head home.
It was about 1:00pm. Plenty of time before dark and MOSTLY downhill. I felt pretty good.
By mile 65 I was pretty hungry. I looked for burgers but they were tough to find. I did however discover several authentic Mexican restaurants in Havershaw at mile 69. The owner was nice enough to let me bring in my bike, so I fueled up on a burrito with Pastor and Lingua accompanied by rice, beans, and a much needed sugar-packed soda. I filled my camelbak with ice and was on my way.
At mile 70 I encountered my only true problem… THIGH CRAMP!!!! It took me 15 minutes to stop, drink plenty of water for hydration, gobble dried bananas for potassium and massage out the cramp. It never fully left but as long as I had resistance in my pedaling it settled out. When the spinning was easy it would remind me it was there.
At mile 83 I stopped once more at the Rockland Coffee place. This time for a jolt of caffeine and sugar with a decent size Mocha. There were a couple of big hills still to go which I knew from the journey up. I would need the extra boost to climb them at the end of the trip.
Finally I got back to the George Washington bridge. The City beckoned me by playing Billy Joel’s New York State of Mind as I crossed.
The last 10 miles of the Century is truly the easiest part. Sure you are tired and weary but you know the end is close. I crossed mile 100 just in time to catch a lovely sunset on the Hudson.
With one final view back of my day’s journey, I pedaled the last few miles for home.
I lived!!! I got home at 7:30PM. Van swears I am thinner than when I left. The scale actually showed a 4 pound drop from the morning.
The odometer told the story. It was my largest 1 day ride ever (for now). A complete validation after the NYC-DC trip. I had left it all out there and felt great!
Here are the stats:
Total hours 11:45
Total riding hours 8:35 (Google said it would take 10.5 so I feel good about that.)
Ave speed 12.2
Top Speed 37.2
Total altitude climbed 4,375
Calories Burned 6,000
Calories consumed 2,850
Tech mishaps – 0
Leg Cramps – 1
Truly this was one of the most beautiful rides I had ever taken. I am sure it would be even prettier when the leaves are changing. The climbing is sufficient to even challenge some California riders. It’s a great ride that can also be done one way or in parts.
I welcome anyone who is in NYC and wants to come ride this with me either in part or all, I have an extra bike and we can see some great scenery. It’s a good chance for some of you who enjoy your spinning classes to get some fresh air and nature. (You know who you are.)
On to Birmingham in December!