Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Riding up the Jersey Shore, Part 2 - Tuckerton to Freehold

(brief aside - this is post 500 on the blog.  Thank you all ever so much for reading!)

This was the day I had been looking forward to.  Not necessarily because it was the last day of the journey - because it was the day I would revisit my childhood haunts.

I was born in Pt Pleasant Beach, while my dad was stationed somewhere in the Air Force.  My mother's parents lived there.  My father's parents lived in Bradley Beach.  After a few years of living in various small towns in New Jersey, my parents moved far away, to Scottsdale AZ, then Rochester, NY, then Huntsville, AL, and finally, Houston, TX. (yes, I was a Rocket Kid; my dad worked in the space program industry).

But we'd go back every summer, and I'd stay for a couple of weeks, maybe longer, visiting around with grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins, great aunts and uncles...

So, this day's route would take me through Pt Pleasant Beach and Bradley Beach, then to Freehold via the Allaire State Park.

The hotel at the golf course had a continental breakfast - bagels, fruit and coffee.  It would do for a start.  Of course, rolling out, I noticed that I had a rear flat (!)  Walked over to the snack area, with benches and tables, repaired it, washed my hands, and finally headed out.

The first 21 miles were all on Rt. 9.  Wide shoulder, tailwind...  Not bad, really.  I eventually was able to turn east a bit, and ride through some quiet neighborhoods and marsh.  Then I crossed the Toms River, and ended up IN Tom's River, with a street fair in process right where I was meant to ride through.  Then I saw the souvlaki stand and decided right there that it was (early) lunch time!

Street fair and gyro in Tom's River, NJ

After that tasty pause, I headed through town, and ended up on Hooper Avenue, which was clearly a place I shouldn't have been riding.  High speed, no shoulders...  I stuck myself on the white line, and it all worked out.  I was not crowded.  No one honked.  But certainly not fun.  I pulled off at a gas station just to figure out how much more of this I had to go.  Fortunately, not much.

From here I was headed toward Mantoloking, back on the barrier islands.  This is totally a Jersey Shore town, even though all the houses are new - rebuilt from when Sandy flattened everything.

Bridge to Mantoloking

Then a turn onto Ocean Avenue (all shore towns in NJ have an Ocean Ave), and there I was, in Pt Pleasant Beach.  As soon as I could, I rode up onto the Boardwalk.  It is all rebuilt as well - I couldn't find any Skee Ball or Pinball places.  Or, for that matter, my Great Uncle's salt water taffy store.  But it was still Jenkinson's Boardwalk, and I was a happy camper.

I was born here.

Jenkinsons Boardwalk, Pt Pleasant Beach, NJ

From there I rode up Arnold Avenue, which was/is the main street.  Of course everything had changed.  Many of the original buildings are still there, but with new and different tenants.  Turned right onto Lincoln Ave, site of the former A&P Grocery, coasted the three blocks down (all the big estates on the river side of the road are now filled in with other homes), turned right onto Walnut Ave, and there it was.

My maternal grandparents home

The current owners are keeping it very nice.  Green shutters rather than blue, but the front porch almost appears to have the exact same wicker furniture, and the hydrangea bushes are still in front.  The son of the owners (he was outside, we talked) said they like to keep the house true to its roots.  They even rebuilt the maid's quarters in the back, which previous owners had torn down.

front porch, maternal grandparents home

Maternal grandparents home, back porch

From there I rode the block over to the river.  What used to be a few houses and woods has been built up with large homes.  I looked in vain for the beach I played on for days on end, damming up the storm pipe, harassing the horseshoe crabs, paddling around (unsupervised) in those plastic boats.

This WAS the beach I played on for days on end

After thinking about it, I decided that the storm drain was extended out into the river, and the new house put in a lot of riprap and then terraformed and terraced themselves a flat lawn out to the river.  No beach remains.

From there I rode by the Pt Pleasant Beach public library - still in that old house!  One summer I tried to read through the entire children's section.

Spent one summer trying to read the entire childrens section

Time to head north to Bradley Beach.  As a kid, I always liked driving over the Brielle Bridge.  Now I got to ride over it, after the bridge lift ended.  There were signs to walk bike across bridge, but with that huge shoulder... nah.  I should mention that I never saw anyone pay attention to any of the bridge prohibition signs (no crabbing or fishing from bridge, etc).

Quick turn off east, riding through Brielle, and into Sea Girt, where I picked up Ocean Avenue and the boardwalks again.  This was fun.  The boardwalks have all been rebuilt, and, it being off-season, bicycles are allowed.

Belmar Beach

Another bridge lift at the Shark River Inlet, where I (and the other cyclists) ignored the Walk Bikes On Bridge signage.  Quickly found myself in Bradley Beach, and turned left on 2nd Ave, up to my other grandparents' home.

My paternal grandparents lived here

Paternal grandparents home, front view

It also looks well kept, but the bushes along the east covered patio are awfully tall and bushy, blocking the view :-)

Trip down memory lane complete, it was time to head inland to Freehold.  I went inland a bit, then turned south and then west again.  A stupid brief stretch on Rt 35, then off into the semi-rural roads which make up so much of central and south New Jersey.  I had routed myself onto the Wall Township Bike path, which turned into a couple other bike paths, crossed by a cool general store which I did not stop at (too close!), but went by and ate lunch the next day, and then rode through a section of Allaire State Park.

bike path in Wall Township, NJ

Allenwood General Store, on the Wall Township bike path

Back onto the surface roads, riding through Farmingdale and back out in to the semi-rural countryside.  Not too far now...  Look, a cyclist coming the other way!  I know him!  Yay!

My uncle rode out from Freehold to meet me

My uncle and I rode the last couple miles in together.  I had ARRIVED!  Success!

Arrival in Freehold!

A bit of wine to celebrate, a shower, clothes that I hadn't been wearing for five days straight...


Sunday, November 2, 2014

Riding up the Jersey Shore, Part 1 - Cape May to Tuckerton

After spending the night in Lewes, I planned to catch the 8:45am ferry to Cape May, NJ.  So I got to sleep in, get breakfast at the motel, then pedal the 4+ miles to the ferry dock.  It wasn't entirely clear where I was supposed to go, so I pretended I was a pedestrian and took myself inside.  No extra charge for the bike.

Waiting for the Cape May Ferry

Sat around outside for awhile, then, as the ferry approached, moved myself to the Bicycle Staging Area.  When it was time to load, I got to go first, park my bike in the racks, then head up to the passenger deck.

Sweetpea in the bike racks between the stanchions on the ferry

View from the MV Cape Henlopen ferry to Cape May, NJ

The crossing took about 90 minutes, and I had great fun coffeeneuring (how often does one get to coffeeneur on a floating coffee shop?) and standing outside enjoying the ride.

Coffeeneuring on the Cape May Ferry

Cape May Lighthouse

This day's route here.

Welcome to New Jersey

Last off, and I headed toward Cape May.  The route took me up along the barrier islands which are the South Jersey coast, mostly riding right along the shore and boardwalk, but occasionally heading a bit west to cross over a river.

Riding on the Ocean City Boardwalk!

Flying kites on the beach

The bridges were all toll bridges, but not for bicycles. :-)  Sunny day, wind was generally from the south.  Lovely.

Toll Bridge

Marsh or estuary

Lots of this from Cape May to just before Somers Point

the shore

Bridge to Somers Point NJ

After Ocean City, I rode across a big enormous causeway over Great Egg Harbor Bay, to Somers Point, ending up on a bike path all the way through Linwood, Northfield (lived there as a child), and Pleasantville.  Other than it had signs requesting that cyclists WALK across every single street, it was quite nice.  For the record, I saw many cyclists, and not a one of them walked across the streets.  For that matter, they didn't even stop.  I at least did that!

That's not going to happen

Pleasantville, NJ

Then I turned northwest, because the only way across the next river (for nonmotorized transport) was inland, in the Pine Barrens.  More bike path, then on a very major road past the Atlantic City airport.  But it was freshly paved and had a wonderful shoulder; no worries.  I had noted that the Last Chance for Food before my endpoint was at the intersection of that road and the White Horse Pike.  Of course, it was on the most difficult corner of the intersection to get into and out of :-)  More Wawa soft pretzels, a banana, nuts and Gatorade.  The White Horse Pike was busy, with high speed traffic and no shoulder, but I wouldn't be on it long.

Frankfurt Rd - I thought it was nice and quiet after the White Horse Pike...

Turned off onto Frankfurt Ave (all the streets were named after German cities), and it was immediately ever so much nicer.  A few miles later, I was to turn onto Indian Cabin Rd.

Wait.  What?  Sand?  Couldn't be sand for too long, and it looked rideable.  Mostly it was, but for a few bits.  Got to the next road.  Sand.  And the next road.  Sand.  I figured the NEXT turn would be onto pavement, and it was, but some time was taken.  At least it was flat, and only a little over 2 miles.

Oops.  Found another sand road.

Almost done with the sand

So, back onto pavement, and headed into the woods.  You wouldn't think New Jersey would have places this remote, but it does.  Crossed the river; only 14 more miles for the day.  It was a long 14 miles.  Not because it was difficult or anything, but there just wasn't anything there, but for a couple of taverns.  I was starting to think I'd never get to Rt. 9...

Bridge back in the Pine Barrens

When there wasn't shore, there was often marsh.

After riding through the state forest (full of pines, naturally) and crossing over the Parkway, there were finally signs of human habitation :-)  Then, finally, left on Rt. 9, into Tuckerton, and over to the golf club where I was staying for the night.  Not many places to stay in Tuckerton :-)

There was a brief discussion about where to put the bicycle - in my room, obviously, but not so much to them.  I promised they would never know it had been there.

Dinner that night was in the club restaurant.  There were tablecloths, real dishes and flatware, and golf on the TVs (I felt right at home).

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Chester, MD to Lewes DL, the Long Way

The most direct cycling route from Chester to Lewes is 73 miles.  Which would have definitely been a consideration, if I wasn't trying to collect states for my RUSA American Explorer Award.  So I planned to ride the Seagull's Revenge perm pop to Salisbury, then head back up and east to Lewes, for a total of 130 miles.

When last we left this, I was sitting out a day because of forecasted bad weather - specifically, severe thunderstorms.  So I ate breakfast at the motel, washed my riding clothes, bought an e-book to read, ordered a take-out pizza and breadsticks for lunch and dinner, and watched the weather roll by.  Watched a little tv.  Willed my cycling gear to dry.  Finished that book, checked out an e-book from the library.  Mind you, the iPad had gone north in my duffel; I was doing all this from the phone.

Got everything packed up - not hard!  Slept poorly.  Why, I have no idea.

Up and out the door, planning to arrive at the McDonalds (5.5 miles) in time for breakfast.

Breakfast and coffeeneuring

Right at 7am, I started out.  It was damp and cloudy, but expected to clear off around noon.  The first few miles were retracing my route from the hotel, and then continuing generally east.  The wind was not too unfavorable in the morning.  The crossings of Hwy 50 and Hwy 301 were... interesting.  After looking at them via Street View, I asked the perm owner if it was even legal.  Well, yes, it was, for bicycles.  Cars cannot cross, they can only turn right or left.  Which meant that the median in the middle was also a left turn in both ways, and challenging to find a place to go!


With a bit of patience, both crossings were successful, and I was now not needing to cross any major highways for miles and miles and miles and miles.

Maryland peninsula countryside

Maryland peninsula countryside

The scenery was mostly farms and forest.  The first control was an info control in Ridgely, at the former train station.  A local was walking by and he told me all about the trains which used to stop there.

Ridgley, MD.  Info control here.

Not too far after Ridgely, I turned south, into The Headwind.  I just kept plugging along, hoping for more stands of forest, which blocked the wind somewhat.

Next control was in Federalsburg, at the McDonald's.  Seemed like a good time to get actual food.  I usually order a kid's meal, because that is just about the right amount of food.  I opted for the yogurt, rather than the apple slices.  It was a GoGurt, and it is possible to fail eating them.

Clearing off.

Riding right down the Maryland-Delaware state line

State number 8

Back into the wind, 30 more miles to Salisbury.  The sun had come out, and it was definitely warming up.  Worked my way through Salisbury, got to where the Wawa Market should be (finish control)... and I couldn't find it.  Asked a passerby.  "Baby, it is right over there!".  I haven't been Honeyed or Babied for decades :-) and got a lot of that today.

Finished at 7:24 elapsed time, and enjoyed my first Wawa Market.  They had all the important things (V-8, Gatorade, cheese sticks, nuts, cookies...) and soft pretzels.  There were also sandwiches and other food like that, but somehow, a sandwich just doesn't often call on a ride.


Off the clock, and time to head for Lewes, 45 miles away.  Now I get the tailwind.  The route was generally north until Laurel, MD, then onto Route 9 for the rest of the day, heading north and east.  The roads were quite decent and lightly traveled, and, while Route 9 had considerably more traffic, it also generally had a wide, smooth, and clean shoulder, and I moved right along.  Just after Georgetown, though, I was starting to feel the efforts of battling the headwind earlier.  While there were only 15 more miles to go, I needed something...  Why yes, ice cream would definitely help!

15 miles to Lewes

It being election season, there were many campaign signs by the road.    One position looked like the most awesome elected job ever - Recorder of Deeds.  Well, maybe not quite that epic, but that's where my mind goes after many miles.

Pulled into Lewes and the motel.  The woman I spoke to a couple of nights ago was working the front desk, so I thanked her again.  Ate dinner across the street, and realized that with the ferry not sailing until 8:45am, I could sleep in!


Monday, October 27, 2014

Arlington to Annapolis

Leslie and I had exchanged many emails prior to the trip, working through a route from Arlington to Annapolis.  It ended up like this.

We had a leisurely breakfast, and then she rode with me through the army base (ID produced at the entry) and Arlington National Cemetery, at which point she said: "you go that way".

Arlington National Cemetery

So we said our goodbyes, and I headed into DC over the Memorial Bridge.

Arlington Bridge to DC

I had to stop and take some pictures here and there.

Lincoln Memorial

Washington Monument

Then I headed up Constitution Avenue, on the exceptionally wide sidewalk, as there didn't seem to be a bike lane on the street itself.  All good until Columbus Circle :-)  Eventually I figured out where I was supposed to be going - yes, I had the GPS on, and yes, it was talking to me, and no, the roads were very, very busy and didn't exactly resemble the instructions I was receiving :-)

Navigation became much more straightforward once I entered Maryland; the Anacostia Trail was very nice.

Anacostia Trail, MD

So was the Washington Baltimore and Annapolis Trail, except it didn't go all the way to Annapolis.  There isn't a bridge over the Patuxent River yet.

Farm, MD

Somewhere around Bowie, I stopped for snacks.  It was warming up, and there had been a headwind most of the way.

Saw lots of Bikes May Use Full Lane signs :-)

I love this sign

Lot of lawn to mow

Navigation until the outskirts of Annapolis was reasonably straightforward.  I managed to get lost in Annapolis a few times.  And then found myself passing the Navy-Marine Corps Stadium, and headed toward the bridge over the Severn River by the Naval Academy.

Severn River Bridge, Annapolis

Right after the bridge, I pulled over and called the bicycle shuttle company - we planned to meet up at the McDonalds.  He said he'd be there in about 20 minutes.  I'd be there in about the same amount of time.  Three or so miles on narrow, winding roads later, I popped out by the McDonalds, left my bike leaning against a table, and got something to eat and drink.

Coffeeneuring, Mc Donalds, Annapolis

(Iced Tea.  Coffeeneuring)

The shuttle driver arrived a few minutes later.  He told me to not rush and finish eating.  We loaded the bike into the back of his pickup, and he drove me across the Bay Bridge.

Shuttling across the Bay Bridge in a pickup

Once over the other side, he pointed out the McDonalds which was the start for my next permanent populaire, told me there wasn't anywhere to eat right by the motel, and pulled into the 7-11 for me to get some supplies.  Then he dropped me off at the motel.

Now, about those best-laid plans...  The weather forecast for several days had been hinting that a whopper of a storm would be coming in, probably the next day, when I was meant to be riding.  High winds, thunderstorms...  The last time I was in the DC area, the derecho storm came through, and I didn't want to be out riding in anything even closely resembling that.

I checked with the motel - if I wanted to stay over another day, they had room.  I then called the next two motels down the line.  The first one was a "you can't change your reservation" reservation, but I called directly and threw myself on their mercy.  It worked.  The second was easily changed.  Let my uncle know I'd be arriving a day later.  Then emailed the perm owner.  He was totally okay with me riding a day later.  Whew.

50 cycling miles for the day.