Monday, July 3, 2017

Ohhhh, Henry

   Last week I took a long ride through Monmouth County, New Jersey, a large portion of which was spent on the Henry Hudson Trail. Pretty much all I have to say is “I won’t be back”, but of course, I will elaborate.
   I had also planned to incorporate a ride on the North Jersey Coast Line train, something I’ve always wanted to do. Besides wanting to enjoy some of the seaside scenery, I’m a big fan of railroad history and architecture, and there are some notable stations that exist along the route. The station at Little Silver (below) was designed by H.H. Richardson, considered a member of the “Trinity of Architecture”, along with Frank Lloyd Wright and Louis Sullivan.

   The trip didn’t get off to a great start, as the train I was expecting to board at Middletown was a half hour late, which caused me to miss a connection to another train, forcing me to wait an hour for the next one. Of course, that train was late a half hour, which, down-the-line after my bike ride, had me stuck in North Jersey rush hour. DRATS!
   It was a very pleasant train ride, and my spirits were good when I pulled my Cannondale out of the car and headed off to find the trailhead for the Henry Hudson Trail in the community of Belford. The trail was a former New Jersey Central rail line and travels over 22 miles in a crescent shape, which I thought was pretty appropriate, since the names of the famous explorer’s ship was the Half Moon.
   Again, it didn’t take long to realize I was not in for a good time. The shore breeze was howling into my face, but I figure that couldn’t be helped. However, the first mile of the trail had five street crossings and patches of bumpy, broken pavement caused by tree roots underneath.

   The trail didn’t really improve too much in quality, as I lost count at FIFTY road crossings, which left my legs fatigued by the constant accelerations to regain some semblance of a rhythm. Speaking of which, I realized how badly this type of riding affects my attention to drinking water. When I looked down at my salt-lined gloves and realized my hydration mistake, at least I was surprised to find the water had cooled considerably during the shady ride - remember, the bottles were left in the car a couple of hours during the train ride. There was a miserable warm drink that accompanied a snack I had before setting off!
   The shade was definitely a positive aspect of the trail - even when the trail did open up briefly into some farmland, I was never far from the wooded areas. Unfortunately, the dappled sunlight made it hard for my eyes to adjust and subsequently made it harder to spot the nasty tree root bumps. It seemed a fatter-tired hybrid or trail bike would have been a better choice. My arms and butt were taking a beating!
Shady, but dangerous

The bridges over the marshlands and streams were superior to the pavement conditions

   I really ended up enjoying more the off-trail sections of the ride, and I have often given New Jersey state and county routes a positive review, as they are generally well-paved with wide shoulders. It helped that the wind was now at my back as I turned east at Freehold and was easily holding 25 mph, zipping along Colts Neck Road. I had to really pay attention now, as the thing I don’t like about New Jersey roads – the lack of corner signs that tell you both intersecting streets.
   It never fails that some type of confusion occurs, no matter how much attention I gave to putting together my cue sheets. I have gotten into the habit of yelling out to anyone I can find to confirm that I am going the right way. On this occasion, I gave the roll-down-window-signal* to a very friendly lady pulling out of the entrance of Holmdel High School. We laughed at the street sign dilemma, and she offered an explanation in her thick accent, “It was intended to keep us New Yawkers out, but I think it ends up just makes us unable to leave!” I replied that it must also apply to Pennsylvanians.

*By the way, this only works with those of us old enough to remember crank-down car windows – anyone younger looks at you like you are nuts, if you make that gesture toward them.
   Anyway, I did find my way out, but not before encountering some nasty hills that I felt didn’t belong anywhere near the coast. After an hour of level trail riding, it was quite a shock to the system - Monmouth County is anything but flat, folks!  
   Perhaps the climbing was good last-minute training for taking on Geraardsbergen, since I am due to take that on in less than a week. My boys will be around to mind the shop, should anyone have a desperate need for a new bike (plenty in stock!) – I suppose they will be looking for some type of percentage?

   I will be taking a writing break for a few weeks until I return with a few stories, but I will leave with pics of my latest completed project, the Basso Gap: