Crazy Christmas Tour 2013: Preperation

The holidays for people mean different things to all. I grew up (I suppose) like most where Hell Yes!the Christmas holiday means being close to family and friends, eating a lot of food, resting a lot (because of the food!) and running all over the place like it was the LAST day to shop (which was usually the truth). Though through life, things change. People move away, have families, and do their own thing… whatever it may be.

Through the course of 2013, it’s been one of the toughest years I’ve ever had (at least what I can remember) and with this year, I need to spend a good amount of time reflecting on where I have been this year, come to closure with some things in my life, deal with some emotional baggage, and take the time to get stoked for 2014.

mmmmm good With that said, I’ve decided to not travel for Christmas, the first time I have ever not gone home of some sort. A few years may be at the in laws (fun…. not really) and the majority of years brought me back home to Washington State. But this year, I will tackle a bicycle tour. There are many many reasons for the tour and a lot of the reasons we will discover through writing as the days pass by on the bicycle. A few of the reasons, as I mentioned above, was to reflect on the year in passing and also be able to get exercise versus eating everything in my sight plus I have the time for a bicycle tour. So why not? :)

For this Crazy Christmas Tour, my plan is to ride at least 277 miles starting in Delaware bike2and dropping down and touring a lot of Eastern Maryland. My plan is to camp illegally where I feel like stopping and to experience some other places along the way. I plan to stay a night with a WarmShowers.org host too! That’s always a real fun experience and I’m already thankful for them as they have offered to open their doors up to me.

My research and everything is now complete. I leave Christmas Eve, the 24th of December, and return Saturday the 28th of December. The maps are drawn, cue sheets are finished, and everything else that comes with this sorta trip. I have emailed out the info to the two point people that will be needing the info. Now all that is left is to pack my bicycle. Exciting!!!!

Some people can pick up and just leave on a bicycle trip and call it a day. But for me, there is a lot of planning which included mapping, cue sheet writing, research on stealth camping locations, and for this trip, some unique details needed to be filled in like alternative places to stay if weather is bad (hotels), places for wifi connections, places to get water, and places to eat a long the way. Water may be an issue since this trip is over Christmas but we will see.

I’ve had to go with some different equipment too including a new sleeping bag rated for colder temperatures. I decided on a sleeping bag with a hood versus a down blanket (I use that the rest of the year) and also opted for a closed cell foam pad too. Wow, all of this is new to me.

bike1No lie, I am a bit nervous. But understanding that preparation is key is important but one must build in agility to deal with everything else that comes my way unexpectedly.

I’m looking forward to this solo trip alone to be able to work things out from the past and close down the year. I’m looking forward to the challenge, the peace that relaxing will bring and looking forward to the time to write, which I have missed.

Here we go!!!! :)

A Special Treat: Dual Perspective on Bicycling for Health

Sometimes Most of the time, bicycling brings people together in one way or another. One day I checked my email and I received an from Bridget in Las Vegas wanting to know if I wanted to team up on writing a piece together on bicycling for health and it means to us. So we chatted a little and this is the result! We hope you like it.

Bridget’s Perspective on Bicycling for Health in Sin City:

I love cycling! In fact, I used to spend a lot of time at the gym, but anymore I simply have to get my cycling fix outdoors. There’s something about biking along trails in the desert near my home or through the streets of the city that you simply can’t experience in a spin class.

Yes, I live in Las Vegas, and this city has turned me into an outdoor fitness nut. I love that vegasthere are hundreds of miles of bike lanes to ride throughout the city. Actually, the efforts of Las Vegas to become cyclist-friendly hasn’t gone unnoticed. This fall, the League of American Bicyclists declared Las Vegas a bicycle-friendly city. Additionally, the city has received a half million dollars from the Federal Highway Administration for the purpose of installing bike lockers and racks throughout the downtown area.

My bicycle getting fixed and ready to ride!

My bicycle getting fixed and ready to ride!

If this picture of Las Vegas shatters your preconceived notions of Sin City, you aren’t alone. With media images of the strip floating through our minds, it’s easy to forget that Las Vegas exists in the middle of the beautiful Mojave Desert. I enjoy taking treks along the many scenic bike trails in the area. Of course, it wouldn’t do to get lost out there, so I’m always careful to check out the maps from this great cycling resource. Actually, this site is a great place to get plugged into the Las Vegas cycling community as well.

Being a cycling junkie isn’t always enough to keep me healthy and fit. I have to remember to eat right and get a good core workout as well. I keep in touch with my fitness needs by listening to my body, but I also get tips and hints from online tools. The core workouts recommended here help me keep a tight core that helps me as I cycle.

Cities like Las Vegas that feature a deep fitness culture tend to accommodate tourists and vegas 1guests with plenty of fitness options. I love that my city helps those on vacation with their fitness needs. Many local hotels provide menus of exercise amenities and other options aimed at personal health and well-being. If you’re planning a trip, check out this website that lets you filter by ‘outdoor adventure’ activities and accommodations. Here, you can do a search for specific activities. Cycling enthusiasts should search “outdoor enthusiast” to find a list of accommodations that provide cycling-related amenities.

I love living in Las Vegas, mostly because I love cycling. If you’re planning a trip here soon, be sure to enjoy some of the cycling opportunities available here. You’ll never go back to spinning at the gym.

Isaac’s Perspective on Bicycling for Health…from Fat to Less Fat:

commute - CopyWhen I lived out in Washington State, I was working two jobs that offered me no life outside of them. You know the ones… the jobs that are filled with people always wanting stuff immediately and think their shit doesn’t stink. I liked it… liked the stress (because I excel in those types of environments) but there was a drawback which was my health. Yes I was making money but to be frank, I wasn’t happy at all. My weight kept on going up and up… sometimes a little here and there and sometimes the scale would sky rocket in leaps and bounds (but what the hell do I know…. I never stepped on a scale at that time in my life!!!). So I ended a change.

Long story short, I moved out to NJ for a job that now offers me a life. As soon as I moved here and I mean the day I moved here, I wanted to get back into cycling. Cycling and I have had a rich history together because when I was younger my parents took my car keys away and I had to get by using my bicycle. But you know, life happens…. college and freshmen 15 pound increase but in my case, culinary school offered me 30-40 pounds extra and work always gets in the way too. You know the drill with the excuses. So moving to NJ offered me time that I needed to figure out how to shed my belly. So hence the need/want to buy a bicycle or three.

RelaxingI sold all my fly fishing equipment and bought a mountain bike and made the changes to it to make it a commuter bicycle. I also bought a rode bike. I started off cycling only on weekends and some weekdays with my rode bike, using that time to slowly increase my distances in each ride and gain that confidence. Five months later I started commuting by bicycle to work which is 22 miles round trip. It took some time to get everything I needed (clothes, etc) but it has worked out beautifully.

tourWithout going too much into the story, I have lost close to 100 pounds by getting into cycling, tracking all my food and learning to eat right. Yes, I have slip ups but its life and it is what it is.

Lets take a brief look at both urban cycling for health and rural cycling for health… of course, all according to me :)

Urban Cycling: I use urban cycling for commuting most of the time. Commuting in itself is wonderful. If you don’t want to pay for the gym or dislike gyms (like I do) then commuting might be up your ally. Think about it, say you drive into work 10 miles one way… thats a 20 mile bicycle ride round trip and is great because its double the workout all without the gym!all of us Its a lovely thing! Most people give me excuses and excuses like I live too far away. Nope, wont work for me because you can drive half to 3/4ths the way in and go the other way by bicycle. There are ways to make it work and trust me, when you cycle into work you and your body wake up so much faster. And on the way home, when most people are fighting traffic, becoming irritated and are tired, you are pedaling away and enjoying the outside. I use the commute home to shed stress. And lets be frank, most of my weight loss is contributed by commuting to work every day. My commute is 22 miles round trip which is about 90 minutes in total and it breaks it up to two different rides. Its a lovely thing. Gets the heart rate up, you enjoy the outside, enjoy the people, and everything commuting gives you.

Rural Cycling: People may not really know the difference between rural cycling and urban cycling but there are a few. Rural cycling is usually done in an open area (think farm area) versus urban cycling which can and usually includes city riding. With rural cycling, you can put more attention on cycling versus dealing with traffic, a lot of broken roads in the city, red lights, grandmas crossing the street etc. Don’t get me wrong, sometimes rural cyclingIMAG1943 has that too but in general, its not and of course rural riding has its challenges too. I do a lot of both and just know from my experience that rural riding, I can focus on distance, sometimes speed, and different workouts like fighting wind (that right there is a big workout) and being able to ride with the absence of urban surroundings. I actually used rural riding to give me the confidence in road riding that I needed to move up to urban cycling (commuting for me).

There are a few other things that have helped me and I think that are key. One is having a mentor. I had (and still have) a great mentor that helped me from day one. Not only for weight loss but for cycling and he gave me a lot of bike ride medsthe skills that I use to this very day in riding both urban and rural riding. Another tip is to get involved with a local club. Some clubs really are great and some clubs suck so a little research is needed on your end to find out.

Lastly, understand that cycling… bicycling… whatever you want to call it is for EVERYONE…. not just the skinny folk with .005% lean fat type of people. Its for everyone of all shapes and sizes. Its not about speed, distance, what type of bike you ride… its about getting out there and riding for YOU…… did you hear what I just said? Bicycling is about YOU… for YOU!!!

41 Miler to Save the Sanity

Sometimes life just gives you curve ball after curve ball. You take it like a sport, step up to

A lovely road to cycle down in South Jersey

A lovely road to cycle down in South Jersey

the plate, tap the cleats, fix the helmet and get ready for the pitch. Sometimes you nail the ball for a line drive, pop it up in the air, sometimes hit a home run and sometimes strike out. But regardless of the outcome, curve ball after curve ball…. it gets tiring. And you need to say “hell with it” and figure stuff out.

I’ve been neglecting bicycle riding for the month of July and August and coupled with low June numbers, its been a lazy-ass pathetic (I feel) summer. June low number, July not bad numbers but only because of the bicycle tour at the beginning of the month and then low August number. This is some serious cause for concern. Do we have a doctor in the house? Please check the forehead and give me some RX for bicycle riding. What the hell happened?

Oh wait… life… the curve ball…. issues… madness…. what else?

But it begs the question “Why neglect something (bicycle riding) when you truly know that it will bring you so much happiness, clear handedness and many smiles? Why can’t we all (OK…. ME) understand that getting my ass on a bicycle is actually a good thing. I mean really???!!!!!!

Riding solo is perfect to clear your head.

Riding solo is perfect to clear your head.

So Sunday it was…. was the day to just get out. I could ride with many clubs and friends but this was the day for me. One of the clubs decided to ride a 41 miler so I grabbed their cue sheet and decided to use it. When doing some of the pre ride research, I noticed non of the same roads I have ever been on before and I knew this maybe a nice ride.  I made a date with the bike and called it a night.

In the morning, I was feeling that laziness. You know that feeling…. the feeling of wanting to stay curled up on the couch, laying down, watching crap on the TV??!!! Nope…. I needed this. My body needed it, my mind, everything was screaming to get the hell up.

With everything packed, I got to the country club at 6:20 AM and left by 6:30. The roads were pretty good and quiet especially for south Jersey. I saw dear, ran into some fog and really enjoyed the solo ride. Stopping whenever I wanted to and take pictures or to look at things and no pressure of a group ride.

I do like group rides, don’t get me wrong. Larger groups are fun, smaller groups are better

Nice undercover area to wait for the big yellow bus.

Nice undercover area to wait for the big yellow bus.

but even with both, you have this sense of responsibility to everyone in the group like pointing out hazards, pot holes, leaves, cracks in the road, cars back and cars up, and parked cars and runners up. It’s not hard but it is exhausting to say the least.  You do not get to look around much at all, usually stare at the other persons front tires and make sure you are riding a straight line. Oh and I love this, always making sure the person in front of you points out hazards. That’s my pet peeve really. All said and done, I really like riding by myself. It gives me a lot of time to think, see things, get lost and just appreciate that quietness around me. Really, that’s the best. No calling out “cars back”, “hole”, etc.

Just lovely!

 

Getting Lost

I have to say that it feels pretty darn good to sit down at the computer and type on the blog.

This applies to me about right now! lol

This applies to me about right now! lol

Its been long overdue I know but life has taken many many sudden and not so sudden turns. Less to do with cycling in itself really and more to do with my life path.

See, one thing cycling offers up is the time to think. I mean hell, your in the saddle riding a lot and in those miles you have so much time to think. Perhaps less when you are trying to ride fast everywhere but there is always a time when you are kicking back, riding in the open with nothing but time, miles, and the need to think.

Sue and Isaac

This is the lady who got me started in cycling when I was 16 years old. We rode so much together and are still best friends.

First major change….. though this has been in my head for a long period of time, I realized it more and more while on the last tour to Cape May. “Bad” thing about touring alone is that time to think but sometimes you need that time to just get it all out there and become one with yourself. I knew this for a bit but the time that was given to me on the tour, I realized that my wife and I are two different people in need of different things that each of us can not provide for each other. Its much more complicated than this but that’s what I am willing to share. I think the world of her but in my heart, I knew it was time to go down separate paths, divorce and move on. It has been an excellent eight year marriage and I do not regret it at all. Some people get pissed off at wasting the time but to me, time was not wasted. I learned a lot about myself, my marriage, and my spouse. End of day, I want to be able to move on and do the things I would like to do without being held back and would like not to hold her back while she grows too. I think this is a great thing.

With cycling, I have met the most wonderful people. I would say 98% of the people I have met are great and the other 2% are dicks… the people who judge you for being out on a bike, etc. The people who have really made a difference are the ones I cherish for many reasons. From the gal (Sue) who rode with me when I was 16 years old to the guy (Jim) who got my fat ass back on the bike and helped me get to where I am now to the bike mechanic (Stan) who taught me how to commute properly to everyone else in the middle. Great people.

Out on a over night tour one time this past summer, I met someone else who captured my attention and for this, I am thankful and something to pursue when the time is right. The conversation, outings and the fun we have had is priceless. More to come once things in life calm down.

With everything going on in life plus added travel stress for work, its been a tough go lately.

Commute back from work after a wild day of flooding rain. Yes, I rode through it and yes it was fun as hell! :)

Commute back from work after a wild day of flooding rain. Yes, I rode through it and yes it was fun as hell! :)

Off the bike and to be frank, uptight and unhappy and slightly depressed with an emotional roller coaster, lack of sleep, slightly bitchy and moody, the bike was calling my name. Life said “shut the hell up and just ride your bike” so one day last week, I left work and headed for a nice bike ride. The next day, I road to work for the first time and it was somewhat challenging with new pot holes, more debris in the street, rain, flooding on the way home, crazy drivers as well as new construction. See, when you commute daily, you know where all those little problem areas are. Heck, I felt karma was going to kick my ass that day.

After I got home, I grabbed the road bike and went to Delaware to ride with the Tuesday night group. Was worried I could not keep up and to be frank it was tough but it felt great. It started to pour and we cut the ride short but it was still fun as it was.

And my damn cycling shoes stink to high heaven. Yuk. Need to find a fix for that.

Monday came and I drove in but I felt like crap and wanted to ride so I cut the day short, went home, changed, grabbed the road bike and headed out for a fast 21 mile ride out near my back yard. I was not going to focus on speed but it just happened. It was tough but it felt wonderful.

The next day, yesterday actually, brought me riding my bicycle into work which felt amazing. For the first couple of miles, there was this smallish feeling of fall, slightly chilly but not bad at all and only lasted a short time. Felt great and I am looking forward to fall riding. The ride home yesterday was hot and humid but the sweat felt refreshing to my lazy body.

chilling

Friends and new folks to ride with. In yellow is Jim who got me into cycling again when I moved to the East. I am pretty sure he played a roll in saving my life with cycling.

Over last weekend or the weekend before, I needed to ground myself in where I started riding and the best way was to ride with my old friend, Jim, and a few other people. Jim and I do not always get along nor see eye to eye but end of the day, we are there for each other through thick and thin and this was one of those times. We got together with a few other riders and enjoyed a nice ride together, seeing the sites and losing ourselves in a part of Delaware that has little to no traffic. Peaceful and wonderful….. just what I needed to clear my mind.

weekend ride

Best friend!!!! We missed each other.

This has been the first real rut I have been in over the last 2 plus years of riding. There are months at a time that I ride everyday, weekends, weekdays, doesn’t matter. Sometimes health brings me down with a cold or kidney stones (last June sucked) but this currently has been a tough time for me personally. I hate it actually. All these things screw with your mind causing lack of sleep and lack of dedication to things that bring you happiness (cycling for me). I’ve been off the bike, off the bike forums, away from the blog and even away from thinking about cycling. This is uncharacteristic of me and I know that riding helps me and it sure did.

I am far from 100% and I may venture to say I am around 60%. Up in weight, having some fun with friends, still not riding much (but that will change) and still dealing with personal issues though I see some light at the end of the tunnel. Thank goodness.

If/when this happens to you, remember to hold onto those things that make you feel good and clear your mind. It might be walking, running, writing, reading or whatever. Mine is saddle time…. riding my bicycle to clear my mind. I love it.

Table of Contents for the Solo Bicycle Tour

This trip was one of a kind and offered many firsts for me from planning the route by myself to figuring out where I would stay each night to stealth camping and using Warmshowers.org. This trip offered a lot of challenges but a heck of a lot of good times. I hope you enjoy the journal.

If you would like my route for a future bicycle tour, please let me know and I would love to

Love this sign!

Love this sign!

share it with you.

To make it easier, here is the Table of Contents:

Day 1: Solo Bicycle Tour: Cherry Hill to Vineland, NJ

Day 2: Solo Bicycle Tour: Vineland to Cape May, NJ

Day 3: Cape May to Parvin State Park

Day 4: Parvin State Park to Cherry Hill

Total miles: 250 and a hell of a great time!

Goin’ Solo: Day 1 of the Bike Tour

It’s kinda a misnomer to start just with day 1. It’s leaving out so much of the adventure and upfront behind the scenes work. This trip…. or the preparation of it really started a month or two ago. I’ve really wanted to ride my bike to Cape May but it just hasn’t happened and to be frank, I wanted to ride to Cape May as a tour versus hitting the road and hashing out all the miles in one day. One reason is that the journey to Cape May is neat just by car if you bypass all the tolls and focus on hitting the back roads. So imagine the trip by bicycle!

Waiting out a rain storm

Waiting out a rain storm

So many produce stands to stop at and such to see. The thought of this tour was very interesting from a chef’s point of view because not only do you have the produce stands but also the small mom and pop restaurants to try out as well. So this trip, from that standpoint, needed to be made plus I had the time off work….why not??!!!???

A lot of preparation in routing went into this trip both from drawing the route to navigating it via Google Earth and before I get to deep into writing, I owe a big THANK YOU to Ryan, another bicycle tourist. Just in this process, he has taught me so much which I can never repay him for. From mapping the route, to doing the prework on the route, he has guided me throughout the process giving me advice when needed and ideas to ponder. One big thing he encouraged me to do is try stealth camping in Cape May and for a few evenings we scouted out places to stealth camp online and found a few places that might work. Now with the advent of technology, it’s possible to get a birds eye view of about anything with Google Earth. Gotta love it! :)

With that information in hand, it was time to work on accommodations for the first night which was from Cherry Hill to Vineland, NJ. I reached out to Tom and Tammy through warmshowers.org, a website just for cyclists to host other cyclists. We’ve been talking back and fourth through email for a bit and thus far he’s been awesome to work with and has been guiding me through some other aspects of this trip and the planning that has been involved. I’ll be staying with them on the first leg of the trip.

Self Serve Honor Stand

Self Serve Honor Stand

So night one will be with Tom and Tammy, day 2 will be stealth camping in Cape May, day 3 will be either going to Parvin State Park or Stealth camping somewhere along the way which will depend on how I feel but I think I will need a shower by then. For some reason, taking more than one day without a shower really sucks.

So why stealth camping? To be upfront and honest, it’s because all the private camp grounds in Cape May charge $30-$50 a night to just pitch a tent. That’s very expensive to just have some ground to pitch. No cycling special?!? I do not need electricity or anything… just a place to pitch. But see, stealth camping is new for me and should be a good experience. Gotta learn sometime and I also hope it will be quieter than the park experiences I’ve had in the past.

So the game plan is day 1- my place in cherry hill to Tom’s place in Vineland. Day 2- Tom’s place to Cape May where I will do a lot of touristy stuff and enjoy myself including seeing some friends in Wild Wood. Also hope to catch some fireworks there too. Day 3 will be from Cape May to Parvin State Park and Day 4 will be from the park back to Cherry Hill taking the long scenic route to experience new areas and try more produce stands. This trip is all solo which will provide me a lot of new experiences as well as give me a lot of time to think which is always a good thing.

I need to remember that touring is about agility. Plans can be changed anytime and you just need to roll with it.

So with the route done, accommodations made and touristy stuff somewhat planned, all

Darn good peaches!

Darn good peaches!

that was left was to write up the information for my friends and family just in case something happened. My wife was traveling so I needed to use these people as my point people just in case so I provided everyone the information including the route, emergency numbers and the like.

Yesterday was busy in preparation for the trip. Early in the morning I had to take the bike to Blinkey Bike Shop in Philly. They are the builders who built the bike and I needed to get some stuff done in the fitting department. Some issues arose on the tour last weekend like hands hurting, hot foot on both feet, and issues with the saddle. Plus the handlebar tape was coming off on both sides. That’s really my only complaint about the bike build….. the damn handle bar tape. I have replaced it three times and still it’s coming loose. The saddle issue could not be solved by the bike shop so after everything was done there, I took it over to Danzien & Quigley to see my friend Stan, the head mechanic. The B-17 Imperial saddles are known to be really squeaky (they are spring loaded) but there are some solves for it and Stan was going to help out. The noise it makes drives me freaking crazy but a little tightening in the right places and some oil everywhere, all was good. Stan also put on a bike computer too, nothing fancy… just the basics.

DSCN0478I finished packing the bike up while indulging in Le Tour de France and was still trying to pair down on the stuff I was planning to take but this is a process that needs to continue. Everything was finally packed!!!

Nerves set in and have been present with me for a bit actually. Not because of the riding but because it’s my first solo tour by myself! The feeling brought me back to my freshman year of high school in the debate class where you had to learn to publicly speak. So nervous I was then…. like I am now. :)

So Wednesday morning came and up early from a fantastic sleep. A little behind in that area because of last weekend tour but now it was all good. I watched TV for a bit, showered, dressed and off I went.

The first five miles had a lot of turns to get out of the city, new roads and new towns that are cute are really nice to experience, even in Cherry Hill. I ride here a lot but even on the first five mile leg, new places to see. They will need to be revisited someday by bike.

I was making OK time and the roads were not bad at all. Then the sky blackened and it started to pour down rain. I was fortunate to find some cover under an abandoned building

Tom and Tammy from Warmshowers.org. Great Hosts!

Tom and Tammy from Warmshowers.org. Great Hosts!

and after a few minutes of looking and poking around, I found an outlet that worked too. So I plugged in the phone and got some (play) work done, waiting out the rain. It stopped for a second and then quickly began again. Perhaps God had a hiccup up stairs and had to stop for a breather. More rain was coming down and did three or four different times in a short while. This was fine with me…. gave me time to sit and think. Those times seem priceless the order you get and more responsibility you have in life so the pockets of time you do get, be it driving, riding or sitting outside waiting for the rain to pass is priceless. As I was sitting there, I watched a daddy long leg spider try to make off with the camera. Sorta funny really.

After the rain finally stopped, a little sunny patch appeared and it was time to hit the road again. Not more than two miles in, there was a turtle making a beeline to the other side of the road. He was actually pretty fast for a turtle but would not have made it to the other side of the road before getting hit by oncoming traffic so I picked him up and shuttled him by bike to the other side. He was hissing at me but hopefully that translated into a thank you of some sort. All safe and sound!

Tammy's Gluten Free Lasagna

Tammy’s Gluten Free Lasagna

As more pedaling happened I saw a produce sign on the side of the road, indicating that the stand was down there so I turned off and headed down the side street for a mile or so. It was a self serve honor stand serving vegetables, fruits and flowers. I just love these sorta stands. Although they are much different then what we have in Washington State and Oregon because there, all the stuff comes from their farms. Here, you’ll get a breath of produce from all over the US…. UPC codes and all still on each piece of produce. It’s not a negative thing really but I am just not used to it and enjoy eating the fruits of that farm.

I picked up some tomatoes and kiwis for later and started back to the main road. About eight miles in and a larger produce stand appeared on the opposite side of the road. Much bigger and offering both Jersey produce and produce from around the country, I bought some donut peaches and ate one right on the spot, saving the other two for later. The owner and I talked for a bit and he and his wife own this produce stand. He mentioned that his retail building burnt down a few weeks back but they should be in another building soon. The fire was due to electrical issues but he seemed in good spirits about his new place. Great guy and so kind too because he brought me out cold water from an ice chest in his truck to refill my bottles. I was thankful.

More pedaling and more rain came down so I dived into the under cover area of a

Tom's Dessert. MMMM

Tom’s Dessert. MMMM

manufacturing plant for about 20 minutes or so to let everything pass and then back on the bike. I was close to Tom’s house but still too early to drop in but I wanted to at least ride by there so I knew where it was. The GPS took me down this long road, full of manufacturing plants mainly catering to food service and the smells were divine. The smells immediately captured my attention….. fresh produce….. fresh produce being processed, baked items, savory items like tomato sauce that has been cooking all day in the kettles. You could smell the herbs, the cooked down tomatoes…. damn.

I passed Tom’s house and headed to down town Vineland. Saw a bike shop and stepped in, chatted and asked for directions. Of course, when you do that it’s polite to buy something and the only thing I thought I might need (sometime that is) was TriFlo Chain Oil. It was small and cheap.

I found a place to chill out, cool off, and do some writing and to plan some touristy stuff and things. McDonald’s has it’s benefits (finally). They offer up great air conditioning, free water and ice and WIFI which was much needed for planning stuff. I had to give up the idea of doing some skeet shooting because it was too far of a ride there and back for today but perhaps next time. We’ll see.

Swimming Hole. Just what I needed!

Swimming Hole. Just what I needed!

I got to McDonald’s and was hungry for something small to eat and drink. Tried to find a window seat but the only window seat was taken so I rushed into the restaurant, leaving my loaded bicycle outside, ordered and waited… waited…waited… waited… for my food. I should have gone through the drive through because they were getting their food faster. Finally the food was prepared, half assed I might say (but what else do you expect) and I got to take over the window seat.

After spending time at McD’ it was time to get off my duff and see a little of Vineland. I went down some streets to sight see a little, cut across to some farming roads and then found a high school which only had a few cars there. Thank goodness for summer break. I still had about an hour or so to kill before meeting up with Tom and Tammy so I looped around the school, found some shade and laid on the grass. Took a small nap and continued to watch the clouds. I haven’t done that for years but today I did just that, using my imagination to see things in the clouds. Some of them made me laugh.

Finally it was time to meet up with my hosts for the night. This was a new experiences for me for sure and yes, I was a bit nervous to boot. Mainly because you want to be on your best behavior like your parents taught you and not break any social “rules”. First impressions of Tom and Tammy were pure awesomeness because they really do have the hospitable touch. Tom showed me around the yard and gave me some great insights to where the best spot was to pitch the tent. While he was showing me around, he offered up the idea of taking me to a local swimming hole so after the tent and camp chores were done, we loaded up and left on our bicycles.

Man, the swimming hole was excellent and so refreshing after a hot and humid day of riding and sweating. I felt dirty so it was a relief to be in water. I honestly cannot remember the last time I did something like this. Swimming pool yes but not in the river, not in a long long time. The cool water washed my body clean of the dry salt caked on that covered me along with the inevitable road grime that builds up on your legs and arms throughout the ride. Funny thing, when we got there, an older guy and younger guy were arguing over something. Apparently, the older guys kids were swimming in the same place as we were and the younger gent was trying to get them to try marijuana and was taking pictures of the kids. Cops came, the chase was on. The younger man quickly walked away, trying to avoid the cops. Great adventure to add to our swim!

I had a great time getting to know Tom as we swam together. He toured the US in his twenties and continues his passion by doing more tours and someday hopes to do another cross country tour. He speaks with great love and dedication for the hobby which fuels my passion too.

After our swim, we rode our bikes back home and as we pedaled on these quiet NJ back roads, I felt like Tom and I have been best friends for years. Just the act of pedaling side by side together down these roads, tall trees on both sides, huckleberry bushes to the right side of us close to the river, I felt we were back in time, riding our bikes as little kids after a summer swim. A special moment indeed.

When we got back, all of us started chatting and getting to know each other. Tammy is a

Cant resist!

Cant resist!

great cook and made gluten free lasagna that would rival anyone’s. I think Tom and I went back for fourths! Tammy: You really are a damn good cook! For dessert, Tom cut up some of the sweetest watermelon I’ve had to date which was very refreshing, not heavy and it fit the bill which was a great way to end the meal and the day. It’s weird….because I like to be the one to give hospitality but when the table is turned, its hard for me to accept it. I mean they let me stay at their house, let me use their shower and bathroom, their lawn to pitch a tent, made a great dinner and showed me around plus did some laundry too. That was really humbling and for that, I am very thankful.

After post dinner chat, the old eyes became heavy and sleepy time came. We said our good nights and off to the tent. On the short walk there, all the fireflies lit the way. They brought me back to my childhood, specifically to a trip to Iowa with my parents to see the grandparents on my dads side. The fireflies brought me a smile!

Man, it was hard for me to adjust to the hot temperatures when sleeping. I find myself not sleeping at all which now bring me here…. sitting in Tom and Tammy’s sun room where it is 2:30 AM and nice and air-conditioned.

For more pictures of Day 1 of this tour, click here

Day 1: Solo Bicycle Tour: Cherry Hill to Vineland, NJ

Day 2: Solo Bicycle Tour: Vineland to Cape May, NJ

Day 3: Cape May to Parvin State Park

Day 4: Parvin State Park to Cherry Hill

Goin’ Solo: Day 2 of the Bike Tour

After finally getting to sleep in my tent around 3 AM, I only slept until about 4:45 AM. Decided the best thing to do was to wake up, break camp and head out. The mosquitoes were lined up, waiting for me to get out of my tent, only to dive bomb me and eat me alive. DSCN0507Who would think these pesky insects could cause so much damn trouble? I could not see them but I could feel the after bite and the itching started!!! I guess that’s how they roll in Vineland!

I opted out of breakfast the night before just due to the fact that I wake up early and didn’t want to impose on Tammy and I wanted to get some miles in before eating. I packed up and left my great hosts…. Tammy working hard while Tom was sleeping. I think I heard Tammy say “Lazy SOB” under her breath :).

At the start of the day, I felt pretty darn sluggish and for what reason, I do not know. Perhaps lack of sleep or just my body was tired but once I got into the groove, things DSCN0519picked up a bit, speed and distance related. It felt good. I contributed the pick up to the wonderful lasagna last night and all I knew was that I wanted to keep that feeling up which meant eating (nibbling) every 15 minutes and drinking water too. Regardless how I felt, it was still a bitch carrying all the stuff on the bike. There is no way around it…. it takes a lot of energy, more so then my weekend rides and weekday commutes. You might not notice the extra weight at first until any slight incline or a headwind or when you start feeling tired. You’ll notice a decrease in speed and then a sluggishness feeling. It’s a good workout for sure.

I stopped at the WAWA for a quick breakfast of two small sandwiches, a banana, water, and to refill all water bottles with ice and water for the ride. It was nice to sit outside, by the bike, eating breakfast knowing that today would be a great day. Today is from Vineland to Cape May!

I hit the road for some more miles and when I hit a certain mileage goal, I stopped for a

Much needed stop!

Much needed stop!

soda and banana. The cold soda was welcoming and great to quince the thirst. However, I really prefer cans over plastic bottles. Something about the snap of the thingy on the can and the refreshing cold feeling of the can hitting your lips. Damn! And of course, the bathroom break was needed…. a nice smelly portapotty. Blah!

Now, my wife hates it when I take a piss (sorry for the choice of words… it is what it is) outside but to be frank, that’s the best. Why? Because the outside life is (generally) not stinky like portapotties nor is it overflowing or gross. I just prefer to do it outside. Can you blame me?

Faith, the chef from J&W

Faith, the chef from J&W

The last twenty miles to Cape May proved to be the worst. The other 30 miles gave me a direct headwind but I felt great and just plowed through it but something with that last 20 miles was a bitch. Stronger headwinds and harder riding. I took a bike path for a bit, stopped and sat down on a bench in the shade, watching other riders and runners pass by. Then another cyclist on a yellow bike pulled up and sat with me. His bike was stunning and I learned that this bike he had always had since he was a teenager, rebuilt it and painted it. Nice restore!

We talked for a bit, swapping stories and then it was time to leave again to slug out the last miles to the restaurant. It was tough and draining of energy to find the headwinds but I was going down one highway and I passed another cyclist on the other side of the road and he

Vince, Christina and I

Vince, Christina and I

yelled my name and I stopped and noticed it was Joe. There was no way I was turning this beast around to ride back where he stopped so Joe pulled up beside me and we chatted for a bit. Joe is somewhat new to cycling and we met a while back ago and shared some rides together. Real nice guy. After the chat, it was time to keep pedaling, turn after turn…. to slug the rest out just to the restaurant. That was my goal but with the full on sun, the heat was at it’s max, or so it seemed. Heat, by nature, takes the energy right out of you not to mention that water and salt in your body as well. I can honestly say that I think touring will happen in the spring or fall for me versus summer where it is just too hot and humid.

Finally I got to the restaurant called Cape May General Store. This place offers up wonderful food covering all meals of the day plus a small shopping area for produce, dairy and canned goods. The general manager, Jacky, is a wonderful lady and she has a great staff including Dave who was my waiter and also a cyclist. He was very busy but we had a chance to talk a little too. If you are ever in the Cape May area, check this place out (click here). Their chef is right on and pastry chef makes wonderful pasties too. Try the chocolate croissant!

Love this sign!

Love this sign!

After a fantastic lunch, the idea was kicked around to take a nap in the park adjacent to the restaurant. It looked promising when I cycled in because no one was in the park at that time but once lunch was done, a bunch of people were in the park. Screw that idea I guess so instead I called Christina and Vince, a daughter-father team that are our friends from Weight Watchers. We’ve bonded closely and they have a house in Wild Wood, NJ, right next to Cape May. I contacted Christina and she said to come on over. It was about a 10 mile or so bicycle ride, passing over top three bridges and I was pissing a few drivers off in the meantime but oh well…. all in a days work! :)

The ride out there was great, a very scenic bicycle ride over and we all had a great time DSCN0512chatting and chilling under the shade. Switching from shade to sun to shade again was relaxing. They have water front property and part of me wanted to jump right into the water to cool off. But sitting the shade with friends worked wonders too except for those pesky and annoying leg cramps that would pop up out of the blue.

It was nice to hang with Christina and Vince plus their family. They were very hospitable, offering cold water and a great relaxing time. Their house is beautiful and they have a wonderful family who keeps a tight connection. It was sad to say goodbye but it was time to head back to Cape May.

Long Day!

Long Day!

On the way back to Cape May, there was a really long line over the toll bridge but a cop was so nice and gave me a ride out, letting me go in front of him while he kept traffic calm and at bay. It was sweet to roll through the toll booth, not having to pay a dime. It was a slow climb up to the top be it offered the time to look around and see people playing on the water. I still wanted to jump in. After the climb, coming down the hill was a blast until I got one of those stingy bugs in my mouth. What it was, I have no clue. I tried to spit it out quickly but it stung my tongue…dammit… I could now feel the swelling. lol

I admit, getting to the McDonald’s in Cape May was tougher then I had anticipated but after a bit of research I felt that I was (hopefully) on the right path. I was pedaling down this lonely road, a girl on a road bike shot out in front of me and made the turn ahead of me, no helmet, and almost got hit by a car. I told her in a smart ass voice that she needed to be careful and wear a helmet. She then slowed down to a snail’s pace… my pace… and we chatted it up while riding. Her name was Faith and she was from the DC area but also lived in Cape May. We shared some pedal time and the chatter continued. She asked what I did for a living and I told her I was a chef. Then she said she was a chef too. Now… come on…. really??!!??? I have heard that a billion times from people so I gave her the skeptical “really??!!!??” look and then I asked her how to make a hollandaise sauce. She answered correctly, siting the right ingredients and techniques. She asked where I went to culinary school and I told her the CIA in NY and she said she was from Johnson & Wales…. ahhh RIVALS. We gave each other a hard time for a bit but it was all in good fun (sorta!!).

Now, I digress for a second. One thing that sorta ticks me off a bit are the beach bicyclists. Yes I am thrilled they are riding a bike but I would say the majority have no clue what they are doing or how to hold a steady line when riding. Nor do they wear helmets, ride on the right side of the road nor signal for turns. This was sorta annoying but I suppose my fault since I decided to tour over the 4th of July.

We split after sharing contact info in hopes to watch fireworks together but to be frank I am beat as I sit here at McDonald’s…. using their free WIFI. I am contemplating my next move which is the issue with stealth camping. You sorta need to wait until almost dark to move into the camp site but tonight I am going to break the rule and head there a tad early. I am tired.

For more pictures of Day 2 of this tour, click here

Day 1: Solo Bicycle Tour: Cherry Hill to Vineland, NJ

Day 2: Solo Bicycle Tour: Vineland to Cape May, NJ

Day 3: Cape May to Parvin State Park

Day 4: Parvin State Park to Cherry Hill