I was supposed to ride the Princeton Junction/Belmar/Princeton Junction 200km permanent last Sunday, but it was raining so hard at 3am when I was getting ready that it would have been impossible to get in the car without getting drenched. And the thunder and lightening made it seem unwise to try to do this ride. So I postponed it until yesterday, which was lovely, sunny, and warm.
This time I woke up at 2am so that I could start at 6am. The plan worked. I was out of the house by 3:30 and parked at the Princeton Junction train station by 5:40. No traffic and plenty of parking. A couple of miles into the ride, you take a right turn on Rabbit Hill Rd. On one side there are houses but on the other side is a field. Dew coated the soy bean plants and the moon was still high in the sky. Already the early day was worth it. So I cruised along for the first 20 miles or so, proud of myself for keeping my pace up. Then I started seeing orange detour signs and suddenly I was having to discover how to get around the closed road blocked by a NJ trooper. 5 miles later I rejoined the route and then my back tire flatted. Suddenly it seemed like my ride was falling apart and I wondered if I could find my way back to Princeton Junction from there. Maybe this wasn’t going to be my day.
But I kept going even though my back tire still felt mushy. Maybe there was another bit of metal still embedded in the tire? Finally I was close to Belmar, and there was a bike store off to the right. The friendly store owner pumped up my tire, expressed his admiration for my bike and I was on my way again. Dunkin’ Donuts on the corner of 16th and Beach is THE hotspot in Belmar, but eventually I worked my way to the front of the line, ordered my bagel, had my card signed and was on my way again.
The next two controles are Wawa’s–my favorite. Their sandwiches are great, they have rice pudding, and the super Wawa’s all have clean restrooms. The second leg of the ride ends at the Wawa in New Egypt, which I had not seen before in the middle of a busy day. At night or on the weekend, it seems like a pretty dead town, but on Friday there were coffee shops and delis open. As tempting as the coffee shops were, I made a quick stop at Wawa, had rice pudding and a banana and pushed on. By the time I got to the Wawa in Pemberton, however, I needed something more substantial. Time for a turkey and cheese sandwich and a brief rest in the shade.
From here it’s only 35 miles back to Princeton Junction, 28 miles to Cranbury, and then 7 miles in the last stage. Half way into the penultimate stage, I started to recognize where I was: Old York Rd that turns into Main Street in Allentown and then takes you to Hightstown. This is familiar territory for NJ randonneurs. Just recognizing my surroundings was a boost. At Cranbury Pizza, I had my brevet card validated, drank a coke, and completed the last 7 miles by 6pm. 134 miles in 12 hours–for me, a good day.
It was fun doing the ride all in the light. A route really changes, depending on the day and the time you pass through. On Friday, roadside fruit and vegie stands that I’d never seen before were open and busy, small towns that had seemed dead or deserted before were vibrant. The new perspective kept the ride interesting. I had previously done this route with my riding buddies Laurent and Katie, and I missed them, but I had in mind moments of previous rides with them, and it was good for me to work on being patient and focused in order to finish the ride as efficiently as possible.
The drive home afterwards was a bit long, but the fresh salad and wine that I had for dinner was excellent. Jayne had thoughtfully prepared a wonderful post-ride dinner. I had a much-needed shower, then we sat and relaxed a bit with our feet up. It felt good to have ride #11 in the bag. One more to go.