by Michael Gorman
Speeding from opposite ends of Manhattan to Penn station on Easter Sunday – Will Sherman and myself tried for a 6:13 am train that would have had us in Princeton Junction by 7:27. The train was cancelled. After considering our options, we decided the next train an hour later would be the best way to go. We wound up meeting with Gil Lebron at the station – and after piling 3 bikes into his Pilot – had a fairly late start of 9:30 out of Village Park. Any remains of colder early morning weather, until we got to the shore, were dissipated – and we were able to take in the Cranbury at its best: as the rite of passage for new(er) and experienced randos alike to welcome in another season - just as Spring is truly kicking in. The meandering of different neighborhoods – from Monroe to Sea Girt – let you know winter is finally over.
We had some wind to the first control in Union Beach – but kept up a moderate pace. Trees from cherry blossoms to Japanese maples – in front of houses that were everything from ranch to McMansion – were in almost full bloom. The pollen was so thick in places it seemed you could see it in the wind.
Mt. Mitchell was the second info control and an old friend I hadn’t seen in a couple of years (from the direction we approached). It represented the first and most challenging climb of the day – one of a few sustained climbs for a relatively flat course. Picture opp at the overlook along with info control. Heading to the shore from there the head winds increased and temperature dropped – slowing our pace. We wound up taking turns leading a pace line.
Control # 4 in Belmar, at the half way point, allowed for a preview of things to come for the summer season with the boardwalk eateries still in the process of getting started. Some of the shops had limited menus and weren’t equipped to take credit cards as of yet. But….we had a great view of the ocean and beach from the picnic tables outside; families and couples were everywhere. However, the cold crept in pretty quickly – so after a quick meal of pizza and french fries it was time to go.
As we headed inland the temps warmed up again; the strong headwinds changed to tail winds – and our speed increased. Finally. These tail winds (or lack of headwinds) would stay with us the rest of the ride – and after a quick bite at the penultimate Wawa control in Jerseyville, the miles peeled away as we raced to finish before dark – getting back to Village Park around 8:30pm. We saw the return to more congested roads we’d managed to dodge the bulk of the ride. But overall traffic had been unnaturally light – and we’d felt comfortable taking the lane when necessary for a good part of the day.
One final note: the ‘joy’ factor of this ride increased as it progressed. As we headed to the sea and back inland through different towns the sense of re-birth continued to build – and I found myself pushing forward trying to take in everything. Other clubs have started offering their brevets – but none I’ve experienced offer the sheer joy of this one.