I published 20 issues of this digital cycling journal between May 2010 and January 2012. The site is no longer active, but you can download issues here—over 200 articles by cyclists, for cyclists, about cyclists:
No matter how hard I try to prepare for "the big ride" before going to bed—the alarm clock set for 2am—I somehow manage to bungle a thing or two. On my very first brevet (a 200K in 2005, also out of Princeton), I was so about preparation that I booked a room at the Westin, driving down the afternoon before the ride. (Yes, a sunny afternoon it was, which would help explain how I forgot my glasses, and had to ride in the dark the next morning, wearing prescription shades.)
But thinking back to this past Saturday, I can't recall anything typical of my rando-fails. No forgotten shoes; no custom-formatted cue sheet with the misaligned columns (don't try this); no headlight-sans-batteries or empty water bottles. [Back in April, as I bent down to open the car door to head down to the Cranbury 200K, I poured a cup of milk onto my sandaled foot.] This time, I seemed to have gotten it right for once.
For instance, no matter how warm they are predicting for the day—or how warm it seems as I head out the door at 2:30am—I'm always, always shivering during the bike inspection and over the first dozen miles of a ride. Perhaps it's nerves, or blood sugar, or circadian something, but this Saturday was different: I brought a super-light down vest—as un-cycling-kit-appropriate as that sounds—and for once was comfortable in the morning fog and chill.
Things were humming along just fine. I was having a conversation with myself about cue sheets: how much I appreciate one that utilizes the TR and TL notations (April's 200K did not). When I look down at my Q-Box and see a TR or TL—or SS or TFL, for that matter—I read it as, "go back to sleep." Some vigilant part of my brain goes from Drive into Neutral, and I'm able to bask in the sun-kissed mist rising above the sleepy barns, not focused on spying a certain fog-shrouded, gray-lit street sign. I was so busy discussing the merits of the TL with myself, that I turned left prematurely and went a couple miles off-track; but once back on course, I went the rest of the day without a tangent, never once looking at my bike's odometer, relying only on the well-written cues.
The Blairstown controle afforded a lesson in artisinal-speak: First, I asked for a milkshake. This was met with a blank stare, which I couldn't understand, since I was standing in front of an ice cream freezer, and saw a blender on the counter. I looked up at the menu board and recognized the term Bostonian's use for milkshake, frappe, so I asked for one of those, instead. Horrors. I pronounced it like a true New Englander, frap, and this was met with an even blanker stare, if such a thing were possible. How foolish of me not to notice the accent aigu. So let's try again: Can you make me a coffee frappé? Non, just the four complicated, farm-to-table concoctions with the cutesy names spelled out on the board. OK, how about a dish of coffee ice cream? We don't have any ice cream. Huh? We only have gelato. [What-ever.] I'll have a dish of coffee gelato, please. We don't have coffee. Just cappuccino. Fine. Here's $5. Keep the change. Oh, I owe you $1.50 more? [That seems fair, since we are in Roma, after all.]
Next came the climb up Jenny Jump, which sparked a conversation with myself on the merits of a 30-34 gear ratio, and a pleasant visit with Secret Controller Steve. Last year, during my pleasant visit with Steve, I mentioned to him that in a previous year I had descended Jenny Jump and had turned right, instead of left, and had gone miles before realizing my mistake. When I shoved off he shouted after me, 'don't forget to turn left!' I chuckled to myself and gave him an appreciative wave. Hours later, a car passed me, then suddenly pulled over, and Steve hopped out and flagged me down. He wanted to apologize for his remark, hoping that he hadn't insulted me by implying that I might make the same mistake again. Wow! I'm certainly not that nice! If I flagged down everyone I might have insulted (let alone the ones I do insult deliberately), I'd might as well just permanently park on the side of the road.
The only blip between Jenny Jump and Hacklebarney that interrupted my slow and steady progress was coming upon the accident scene of a fellow rider. Having sustained a pothole-induced fractured C-2 a couple years ago, I was bracing for the worst, and was very relieved to find a battered-but-not-fried trouper who assured me that things were OK. I hope this continues to be the case, and that he (and his bloodied-kneed friend) heal quickly and completely.
After refueling at Hacklebarney on chili—chased down with mac 'n' cheese—I braced myself for my personal hell: the descent down Lunar Lane—the pock-marked Black River Road. Since recovering from my broken neck I've had a crippling fear of potholes, and last year, this stretch was facing all my demons head-on. It wasn't pretty. But this time around, being one more year removed from the trauma, and riding in daylight (unlike last year), it failed to live up to my fears.
I can't say the rest was all down hill, but even counting the ascent out of Califon, it was all quite doable and relaxing. Well, not quite. I'm remembering now the angry motorists who honked and swore at the five of us, as we audaciously biked in the night on their turf, causing them to—can you believe it?—slow down in order to pass us at 60 mph. It was nerve wracking, navigating between potholes on the right and gearheads on the left, and I pulled into the Forrestal lot relieved to be done—in the battle over who owns the road, they had won. But only because they have faster, heavier vehicles, with airbags and four wheels.
And not before I got in a good 185-mile ride. So there.