Monday, January 2, 2012

New Year's Day 2012

I like New Year's eve and New Year's day. Always have. I like that I can wish pretty much anyone a Happy New Year without couching it in some watered down generic don't step on any toes phrase. I like that New Year's eve and New Year's day is a non-denominational,  world wide, non-controversial holiday that pretty much everyone can celebrate. Even if they celebrate another new year in Spring or Fall, New Year's Eve still marks the last day of 2011 and the first day of 2012. All you have to do to do is agree that one year is ending and another is beginning. It's that simple and yet that profound. I like that.

I'm a trip odometer re-setter. When I fill the tank on my car I press that button to reset the counter to 0.0. On a road trip, the "A" setting is for the trip and the "B" setting is for each new tank of gas. Each push of that reset button is a simple affirmative step that says I have come this far and I am ready to go wherever the next miles will take me.

New Year's day is a good time to reset life's trip odometer. It does not erase  the accumulated mileage or turn back the hands of time, but it creates a little moment to remember the past while looking forward with resolution. It's a time of acceptance and hope. Life can be complicated. It's good to have a reset point.

My simple affirmative step for New Year's day 2012 was to ride a 200k.
Not many places are open on New Year's day. The cute little cafe? Closed. The locally owned convenience store? Closed. The sandwich shop with the friendly counterperson? Closed. If you need a place to meet that will be open at 8 a.m. on a New Year's Day that also falls on a Sunday, McDonalds is a safe bet. Plus they have oatmeal, coffee and OJ.

I had oatmeal and OJ. Joe K. had coffee. We waited at McDonalds for Paul to arrive. We  planned to ride Paul's Pinelands 200k permanent. A permanent is a route that is open for rides subject only to advance agreement on the date and time with the route owner.  Riding a permanent counts towards things like the R12 award and RUSA distance awards. I soloed the 129 mile route once before on my Surly. It's a flat, fast route through mid and south Jersey.

We all brought fixies for this ride. Joe had his Jamis Sputnik, Paul rode a Masi and I had the Raleigh One-Way. With odometers set to zero, we roll out, clothes zipped and layered, into temperatures in the mid to upper thirties. 

Cotton ball clouds in a soft blue sky framed the newly risen sun. Our stretched cycling shadows pedaled across the width of the road. The silence of the fixies and the absence of traffic left lots of room for the sticky sound of tires zipping along the road.

Rested legs, fueled bodies and the eagerness to get underway made the 17 miles to the first control pass quickly. When we arrived, the control, Nixon's General Store, was closed for New Year's Day. The weather forecast called for temperatures to rise into the mid-fifties. We removed some layers to adjust for the rising temperatures and the warmth brought on by riding. We checked our supply of water. Joe had one water bottle. I had one water bottle and a small Camelbak. Paul has two water bottles. The next control is 33 miles away. We decide we are good to go and ride on.

We ride in a fairly tight group. Joe often leads, but we all take turns at front. I am the least experienced Randonneur in the group. My pre-ride concerns about keeping pace diminish quickly. We ride a steady, manageable brisk speed that swallows up the miles. We pass acres of cranberry bogs and Pine forests. The air feels clean and fresh as though scrubbed by the bristling needles.

50 miles into the ride, we reach the second controle, a WaWa convenience store. It is open. We eat and drink. Joe has an important call to make. While he does, I sit in the sun, jacket unzipped to the midday breeze, allowing my damp wool layers to dry. One day soon, the weather will be cold and harsh, but not today.

The afternoon brought more headwinds as we turned back to close the loop. I take occasional turns at front and take pleasure that I can lead into the wind. The wind shifts along the course. Crosswinds, headwinds  and some tailwinds- none of epic intensity - accompany us on the route.

Blueberry fields dominate the scenery of the second half of the ride. Row after row of bare red branches planted in mounds of sandy soil. Hundreds of acres of of blueberry bush skeletons.

80 miles of riding get us to the fourth controle in Mays Landing. The horizon approaches the sun. We opt for a Wa-Wa as a controle instead of a diner. I refill fluids - water in the camelbak, orange juice, sugar and a touch of salt in the water bottle. Paul mixes powdered nutrition into his water. Joe's one water bottle is still full. We should be able to make the next controle by sunset. We resume the pace, moving our paceline into the gloaming.

We meet nighfall at mile 108 in Atco, NJ, the fifth controle. The pizza place is open. I buy a bottle of water. We change into our reflective night gear. The store owner arrives to close the shop. He says best wishes for a Happy New Year. We return the greeting. A light rain briefly falls. Dark clouds are on the horizon. We take shelter under the eaves as we dress for the change in weather. Then we glide into the night.

Joe takes the lead. Paul takes the second spot, his super bright HID light illuminating the road ahead. I have a two taillights and a rear mirror. I take the final position. Together we move on toward the end of the route.

The chain dropped from my ring and sprocket just a few miles short of the finish. We were on a busy road with no shoulder or sidewalk. I carried the unrideable bike across the grassy corner to where Joe and Paul stopped. In the time is takes me to look down and figure out what happened, Joe, a certified bike mechanic, has it figured out and is working on a solution. In minutes, he repositions the rear wheel and re-mounts the chain. We are mobile again.

At the finish, the McDonald's is still open. We complete our brevet card and organize receipts. A light rain starts to falls. Back at our cars we wish each other a Happy New Year.

The first sunlight of 2012 has come and gone. In the course of New Year's day, I experienced the gentle touch of a tailwind that made some milestones easy to reach, the strength to move directly into a headwind, the pleasure of company to share that burden, shelter from rain and the gift of assistance when it was needed. Wherever this year's miles may take you, may you experience the same. Happy New Year and best wishes for 2012.   


  1. I wish I had known you guys were riding. I saddled up and rode the Princeton-Belmar 200k the same day solo when my schedule suddenly became free. Great day for riding, if a little on the windy side!

  2. It was a great day for a ride. You would have been a good addition to the group.