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
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
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!
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.
I 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!
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
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
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!
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
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