Laurent has been talking about the Longest Day Ride for a couple of years, so this year, just as the deadline for registering was approaching, he corralled the Escargots Volants and we all got our paperwork in just in time more or less. It’s a good thing we didn’t really have time to think before signing on because the event presents the logistical nightmare of all one-way rides: how to get back to your car at the starting place. Les Escargots may not be fast but we are enterprising so we devised a way to drop off one car at the Cape May Lighthouse (end point of the ride) and get three riders and bikes to Port Jervis (the start point of the ride). An honorary member of our team, Grace Pineda, was joining us for the adventure, but she was making her way to the start point by train and being picked up at the end by family so we didn’t need to try to stuff another bike and person into Laurent’s car for the 6-hour trip from Cape May to Port Jervis.
I insisted on taking the back seat space unoccupied by bikes because my legs are shorter than Joe’s, but it was pretty snug back there. Here’s a photo of my view, to the side and back, and then forward.
We did stop for lunch and much later for snacks and a rest room break, but pretty much we sat in the car and drove for six hours to get to the Days Inn from which the ride was starting. We arrived at 6 or 7pm, checked into our rooms, and then joined our friend Walt Pettigrew and his team for dinner at a nearby Italian restaurant. Some good pasta and a couple of beers later and we were all ready for a bit of rest in preparation for our midnight start. Grace was staying up the road from us but she promised to return to the Day’s Inn by 11:45pm. I didn’t get much sleep but the bit of dozing that I did manage between watching snippets of episodes of Law and Order was helpful.
Oddly, well maybe not so oddly, no other team was joining us for a midnight start. Most, I believe, started between 4am and 5am. By that time, we were already just about finished with the busiest roads of the ride. Rt 206, on which you spend several hours at the beginning of the ride, is a major NJ route, and you don’t really want to be on it in the middle of the day. I wasn’t incredibly cheerful at midnight when we started, but I was happy to be off of 206 by daybreak. Thank you Laurent for that bit of planning. Even though the route is advertised as flat, those hours on 206 through the night were pretty lumpy, lumpy enough to make it difficult for me to keep up with Laurent and Joe who weren’t afraid to fly down the hills in the dark and were faster on the uphills. Grace stayed with me, fortunately for me, so we rode together quietly through the night, doing our best to keep the tail lights of our team mates’ bikes in sight.
Somewhere in the middle of the night we stopped at a gas station that was open had a quick snack and shot of caffeine. Then around sunrise, we found another open gas station with fresh coffee and clean rest rooms. Oh, and picnic tables as well! This called for a cup of coffee and a brief sit on something wider than a bike seat. By the time I got back on my bike I was feeling much better. Grace, too, I think. She and I were both pretty sleepy through those night hours. Then we had breakfast in Kingston. You’d think we spent the whole day stopping to eat and drink. Not true. We moved at a reasonably good clip between stops, and after sunrise, the four of us were able to stay together pretty well. And some of this territory was starting to look really familiar as roads on this route are also much traveled by NJ Randonneurs.
We hit the Pine Barrens in the middle of the day, not a particularly good time to go through this long section on a hot day. Without shade, and also not much change in scenery for 20 miles, we retreated into ourselves to figure out how to make it through this stage as quickly as possible. I tried, unsuccessfully, to rouse a little cheer by trying yet again to pawn off Misha (our rescue cat who needs a home) on one after another of my riding partners. This ploy had effects, but not the hoped for one: Joe pedaled ahead, Laurent stopped to fiddle with his gear, and Grace slowed down. Ok, so not my most successful attempt to cheer up the troops. What did cheer us up though, was the decision, made shortly after we got through this stretch, to stop in Egg Harbor at a diner for ice cream sundaes. This was the best decision of the ride!
We sat in the airconditioned diner for almost an hour, in a soft booth, ate ice cream and drank iced whatever. I believe that our fearless leader even closed his eyes for the briefest of power naps. After this break, we only had about 50 miles to go, and one more Wawa stop (!), so we were feeling much cheerier. Although the wind started to pick up as we headed south, this was preferable to the heat we had faced earlier and we continued to make good progress toward our goal. Only in the last couple of hours of the ride did we start to be passed by faster groups, so all in all, we managed a good ride. In the last 30 minutes or so, fatigue and stiffer winds slowed me down considerably and the conditions seemed to take the edge off Laurent’s pace as well. But when Laurent and I arrived at the turn to the lighthouse, Joe was waiting to finish with us, and then Grace and her sister were waiting by our cars to take photos. This was an enjoyable day with great companions. We finished in 19 1/2 hours–not bad at all.
This ride report would not be complete without a mention of Joe’s efforts to maximize our opportunity to take breaks at Wawas. Thank you, Joe, for your efforts. Below is a photo at our penultimate stop, and then a photo of the fantastic Wawa in Wildwood where I got coffee the morning after the ride.
Thank you Laurent, Joe, and Grace for a wonderful adventure.