PHL -> BKLYN

Yesterday I embarked on my local bike club’s annual ride from Philadelphia to Brooklyn, the Peter O’Dell Memorial Ride. I struggled with the decision to go, having a few very low days emotionally and wasn’t sure I’d be up to the challenge not only of pedaling (I chose the 90mi route) but also of being upbeat and mentally ready. My last significant rides were 110mi in early July and a metric a few weeks ago – so I’m not exactly in All Day Epic shape. In the end I decided I would regret not going more than regret going (and I could always take the train back home if I felt it necessary). 

What a great day! 

After waking entirely too early (5am!) and picking up my friend Ken, we arrived at the New Hope, PA starting point right at 7am. Many other cycling friends were also milling about, making final preparations for the ride – Kurt, John, Catherine, Phil, and Jeff (who was SAGing this mostly-unsupported ride for us), among others. We loaded our shower bags into the bus and started the journey about 7:30am under cool but humid cloudy skies. 

The first thirty miles were mostly rural, passing fields of pumpkins, corn, and apple orchards. 

New Jersey Farmland
New Jersey Farmland

We stopped in Raritan, NJ at the local Wawa-wannabe (Quick Chek) for bathrooms, ice water and a brief snack. The lunch stop was “only” 12 miles later so we didn’t feel the need to refuel too much. 

Those 12 miles included a hill that just. kept. going. Every turn, the incline kept going – about a mile at a 6% grade. Ken and I had swept up another cyclist on the ride, Adam, and stayed with him through the hill. He ended up staying with us until just after lunch. At this point we were literally dripping with sweat and sipping our electrolyte-enhanced beverages frequently. 

Lunch in Lyons, NJ at a Subway. Apparently New Jersey doesn’t have any good local hoagie shops? Food is good and so is air conditioning, which we relished as the sun had burned through the clouds and the temps were climbing into the upper 80s. 

A quick jaunt north to Basking Ridge to see a 600+ year old tree. It was pretty impressive. 

this tree is over 600 years old and in a church's side-yard cemetery.
this tree is over 600 years old and in a church’s side-yard cemetery.

By this point, Ken had switched off with Dave, who had been piloting a tandem with our friend Catherine, who happens to be blind. Adam hooked back in with a larger group of cyclists. So I pedaled off to catch up with Ken at the next rest stop in Kenilworth, NJ. And oh, was this the most delicious part of the ride. 

I zipped along, unencumbered by others. It’s not that I don’t love riding with my friends (I prefer it, actually) but sometimes the solitude is exactly what is needed. As I turned on to Sky Top Rd, I knew this was going to be an excellent hill. I didn’t attack it but I didn’t submit to it either – it was almost effortless. The road curved and rose (it was about a mile of 5% grade) in front of me, lovely forest hugging the edges. 

sky top rd. the only way is up.
sky top rd. the only way is up.

It was truly a transcendent experience, one that I can’t adequately express to you dear reader in words. 

A few miles later, I was bombing down another rd, twisting out of the Watchtung Reservation and into Echo Lake Park. I ran into a few other cyclists taking a quick break so I opted to hook in with them for a bit (and refill water). I dropped back off in Kenilworth where Ken and Catherine were waiting (with others). Dave went back to captaining the tandem and Ken was back riding with me. 

At this point, the ride turns more urban as we meander through Elizabeth and into Newark. We rode through the Newark Port, which was mercifully devoid of vehicles (and unfortunately trees) after navigating city streets. We met up with another group and got Mike to drive behind our cycling groups to get over the Route 1-9 bridge into Jersey City. Craziest bridge to negotiate – I do not recommend attempting alone/without a car behind you to keep the New Jersey drivers away from you. A large swath of the bridge was open grate, which can be extremely slippery for cyclists. 

More city streets as we navigated our way to Hoboken and the ferry terminal. About a mile from the terminal, the skies opened up and we were doused with a torrential downpour. As in, we couldn’t see Manhattan across the river (and it’s not that far). After the hot and humid day we’d had, I can’t say the rain wasn’t welcome. Ken and I sought refuge under a few trees (which is totally not what you should do in a thunderstorm but we didn’t have any other options) until the rain let up enough to continue to the ferry. 

The ferry ride was a ferry ride – although we did see a beautiful rainbow over Manhattan. 

Once in Midtown, the sun came back out and we pedaled down the Hudson River Greenway. A lovely separated cycletrack with separate signals! We mused that this would be perfect for the I-95 corridor in Philadelphia, with the new development happening on the abandoned piers. 

Following the signs for cyclists getting to the Brooklyn Bridge we navigated the city streets. Always brings out the aggressively-defensive cyclist in me. 

The Brooklyn Bridge is beautiful. It’s also full of pedestrians who seem to think the bike lane is also for walking, taking photos, etc. It’s also got a wooden deck and after the rain, I was skiddish about needing to stop suddenly – so I employed my best “Get Out Of The Bike Lane” voice to clear the path. 

There are SO MANY PEOPLE in New York. 

We negotiated the final city streets, arriving at the hotel about 9 and three-quarters hours after we set out. We grabbed a cold beverage and a bag of chips while we waited for the showers to be available so we could clean up and change. Dinner at a local restaurant (MooBurger) before climbing on a bus to take us back to New Hope. 

 

Dropped off Catherine and Ken before getting home to my own family around Midnight – tired, happy, a little saddle-sore but tremendously thankful for the amazing experience. Philadelphia won’t be home for much longer and New York (although not Brooklyn) will be home soon – I can’t think of a better way to go out. 

 

See you on the road! 

PS – if you like stats and route maps, click below : 

New Hope to Hoboken 

Manhattan to Brooklyn

Dialed In

My earlier post and poll was a barometer for my gut. I had signed up for an event through my cycling club that would take me from pastoral Pennsylvania in the early morning hours through northern New Jersey for lunch and into Brooklyn, New York for dinner. I’d get a shower and then dinner with friends, marveling at the fun we’d had all day, before boarding a motor coach bus back to the small river town where we started. It wasn’t cheap and came highly anticipated by newcomers like myself and repeat riders like my friends.

It was going to be awesome.

Then my husband had to book a business trip back to Colorado. He decided to stay the weekend to see our friends and relax a bit. He didn’t think about the plans I’d already made.

I admit I was mad at first, then disappointed. I struggled with whether or not to leave my kids at home while I headed out on the ride. They are certainly old enough to stay home alone for a day and we have wonderful neighbors who would gladly be there for them if they needed it.

But I couldn’t shake the feeling that I needed to stay home with them. What if what if what if.

So I decided to listen to my gut and not ride. Like most cycling events, this one comes with a no-refunds policy so I reached out to the organizers to ask if I could donate my spot to a cyclist who wanted to go but couldn’t afford the fee ($75). They loved the idea so I posted to our social media outlets. I had a taker very quickly who was overjoyed at the opportunity. Another cyclist was so moved to donate his spot as well due to a last-minute change in plans and I was able to put the second cyclist who responded to my post in touch with the organizers.

Beautiful how those things work out. I no longer felt upset about missing the ride because some very deserving folks were able to go now. But I was still a little sad to miss the ride all my friends are going on today.

I studied Kabbalah for three years under the excellent Dr. David Sanders at Kabbalah Experience in Denver, Co. There are so many layers to Kabbalah but one of them is being in tune with the universe and paying attention to the signs of what you need to be doing. I am a firm believer that when once you have tuned in to the universe the signs of what you should do become clearer … And the most in tune you are, the clearer the signs become. For example, when was being laid off and the job in Philly opened up at the last possible second, I knew in my gut moving my family across the country was the right thing to do for us. It would be hard and was probably one of the more difficult things I’ve had to do in adult life but I know on another level that we need to be here for now. I don’t know why but that will come in time.

To that end, I was taking a lunchtime walk with my bike commute friend and explaining my dilemma. I mentioned that for whatever reason I probably should stay home, that I didn’t know why but I wouldn’t be able to enjoy the ride knowing my kids were home without anyone if they needed someone.

Sure enough, this is the week my middle dog got very ill. She stopped eating, she lost her energy, and she was drinking a lot (and peeing a lot too). A trip to the vet yielded nothing. A second trip to the vet yielded her to be hospitalized for a day for intravenous fluids and pain medications. She perked up and we brought her home. She spent Friday much like her old self. But yesterday she woke and wouldn’t eat. She moped. She started to drool excessively. I called the vet and they gave us an afternoon appointment.

I rode out to meet some friends for a fun ride, knowing I was on a time crunch. I made great time into the city, where we met up with a woman my commuter friend works with. We invited her to join us on the trail and she agreed. We took the speed down and enjoyed a social ride to the cycling themed coffeehouse where we met up with another cycling friend who is recovering from an IT band injury. I was explaining how no one knows what’s wrong with my dog but I had to get back to take her to the vet.

We departed a little later than intended and once we got to the end of the trail and back on city streets I realized I needed to book it home. We kicked up the speed but our other friend couldn’t keep up so my commuter friend agreed to stay back with her and he’d catch up to me later.

I’ve never ridden so hard ever … A total sufferfest. Heat, humidity, cranking a solid 22-24mph for almost 8 miles mostly uphill (my Garmin averaged each mile around 18-20 mph). I thought I was going to puke. Got home in time to take a very quick cool shower, shove a protein bar in my mouth, and get my dog to the vet.

This visit gave us the reason she was so ill with no hope for recovery. I had to make the difficult decision to allow her to move on. I gathered my kids and we said our goodbyes. I stroked her ears until she stopped breathing. She was 10 or 11, we don’t know. We rescued her from a shelter that told us she wasn’t getting any visitors because nobody wants a hound dog. She was the right dog for our family. She is survived by our two other dogs.

This is why I couldn’t go on the ride. Because my kids needed me to be home today as we work through our grief.

 

our last few moments with Nixon
our last few moments with Nixon. RIP girl – we loved you

 

See you on the road.