Several years ago, okay maybe 15 years ago, I was taking part in the Coast The Coast MS-170 Charity Bike Ride, which would raise money for Multiple Sclerosis, from Monmouth University in Long Branch, NJ to Cape May, NJ. A two-day event, that takes place every May, that would lead up to 500, or more, cyclists 170 miles along the Jersey Shore and through the famed Pine Barons. It is a great event, a great ride and we would battle heat, traffic, rain and worst of all, ferocious headwinds.
Local chapters of the Harley Davidson Owners Group would assist and provide traffic control, support and guidance along the way. Those wishing to participate as a motorcyclist just need to contact the MS Bike office and they will hook you up. For the motorcyclist, it can be terribly boring. Some riders would simply get an intersection or turn or spot along the route and be told to just sit there and point cyclists in the right direction. Other riders would ride the route as ride marshals and provide assistance if cyclists needed it. I have often thought of doing this ride on my Harley, but something about sitting still for 3, 4 or 5 hours didn’t appeal to me. Anyway… I digress….
On day two, we were somewhere around Ocean City along the ocean and I came to a traffic light. I stopped as I should. There was no one to be seen left or right. A car pulled up to the light and stopped next to me. The passenger in the car looked at me and said “You’re not really going to wait until the light turns green are you?”. I looked him and said “Well yes, I’m on a two wheeled vehicle that is supposed to obey the same rules as you, so I do.” He just replied with a “Cool” he gave me a thumbs up as the light turned green and they sped off.
|…and green….. and go…. and green…..|
I was faced with a similar situation on my ride last night. The light was red, there was no one coming and a car pulled up next to me. I had to make a left this time and the driver waved me on. I just said, “I’ll wait. I’m in no hurry”. The light turned green and we both shoved off in the same direction. He more quickly than I because, well, I was in no hurry.
It occurred to me the there is a lot of signage that we are supposed to pay attention to while we are out there on or in our vehicles and we are also supposed to maintain control of said vehicle while doing so. How are we supposed to take all of those instructions in AND pay attention to what we are doing AND not plow into a cyclist, pedestrian, utility pole or store front. We should all be required to have a co-driver with us at all times to help us navigate through the jungle of signage we are faced with, even on our lowly journey to the convenience store for a slurpee.
Thus far my ride took me east towards the ocean with no wind to speak of but I knew better since I consulted my riding buddy, Wunderground Weather App. After I made the left at the light and began my crossing of the bridge that was right there at that left turn. I saw a sign and I thought, it really didn’t say that did it? I knew I was going to go over a similar bridge a mile or so up, so if I saw it again I’d take a picture. I was headed north at this point and the tail wind was glorious, two mile later I had to head east across the next bridge. Sure enough, the same sign was there.
|Two of these things do not belong there.|
I thought to myself, is this something we really need to worry about? Or have a sign to advise reasonably intelligent people not to do? Just the notion that anyone would act out crabbing off of a bridge, that’s just insane! Absolute madness. What has our world come to that any person would even remotely consider crabbing, or God forbid, Fish off of a bridge like this. People who would even think of crabbing off this bridge should be incarcerated and flogged with wet spaghetti. And what of this “Loitering”? I’m not sure what they are getting at, but I suspect is has something to do with clowns, ladders and perhaps cats. But whatever it is… do not do it on this or the other bridge when traveling through Point Pleasant, NJ. With regard to jumping and diving… I say go right ahead. Set up a booth, charge a dollar per jump and have at it. Look, the worse that could happen is somebody jumps off the bridge and lands on the deck of a boat next to a cooler full of beer. What I thought was interesting is that this sign makes no mention of NOT tossing water balloons off the bridge at the boats passing underneath. There I say is an invitation to fair game.
My ride now takes me south. INTO a stiff headwind. Armed with the knowledge at the beginning of the ride which way the wind was blowing, I voluntarily opted to ride south. Knowing full well that I would have the tail wind pushing me home. I have, on occasion, done the exact opposite and have lived to regret that decision. Late afternoon or evening rides often grant me the joy of a beautiful sunset or close to it over the Barnegat Bay waterways. It also tells me that I shouldn’t lollygag or I will be arriving home in the dark with no headlight and just my blinking tail light. Seeing this sight as I rode along the bay waters somewhat lessened the headwind that was battering me to a pulp. Those who ride know that we will tackle, with our best effort and last breath, the tallest climb we can find or are placed at the foot of. But we cringe at the thought of the slightest headwind. A headwind, unlike a climb, has the ability to triple your effort, decrease your cadence and suck the life out or your already lactic acid burning legs AND offer no reward. At least with a climb, the reward is the arrival and if you’re lucky, a killer decent.
Yes, Jersey Shore Restrooms. So when you come to the Jersey shore, you must use these little blue rooms. They are everywhere. We are so backwards here, we don’t even have septic fields or sewage systems and every house has one of these blue rooms out in front beside the road. Restaurants…. dozens of these things line their parking lots. The Mexican food places are banned from the seashore communities for just this reason. There is the downside of strong winds and colder temperatures. Nothing like seeing a half dozen little blue rooms sliding down the road at or near the speed limit with a screaming occupant inside. Terrifying to some, but absolutely hilarious to the rest of us. In the winter months it’s the freezing of the… the… uh….”stuff” and no one has figured out how to make these things heated without creating a toxic cloud that would emanate from it’s vent stack. Plus there is the disturbing “Splat” that one has to be concerned with. This is why in the winter months many of the residence hi-tail it out of town and rent their homes to unsuspecting college kids who don’t know any better.
|Even the wind obeys the law|
At this point I have reached the turning point of my ride and what do I get to enjoy? A blazing tailwind that has me flying northbound along through the beachy communities and storefronts. This also means I am dodging those white to beige colored beach stones you see when you go to the beach. A bicycles small tires have the ability to pinch one of these stones and turn it into a deadly projectile capable of breaking windows and scaring the bejesus out of pedestrians and dogs. People duck and cover when they here the “pop” of a tire on a stone. That sound is immediately followed by the sound of a ricocheting stone off of cars, windows and poles. Some end with the sound “Ow”.
Traveling North at a brisk pace, I am now racing the sun, which has just touched the surface of the bay. I’m 10 miles or so from home and I have about 30 minutes to do it in or dark happens. I’m pacing at 25 and weaving around stones, storm grates, slower beach bikes and pine cones like a drunken sailor. The miles tick away. The sun has dipped lower and I’m on borrowed time. I focus my efforts on pedaling in circles because you know, circles are better than squares and…. well… circles are more efficient… and… I need something to focus on because I’m tired. In two miles I have to turn left and ride through a crosswind and I know that will slow me down. Plus I know that I also have to make another left and head south for one mile before I hit the 3 mile westbound home stretch. I ache.
Just before my turn, I stopped to take this picture. This image has been in front of me for most of my ride and it was all I could do to not look at it with scrutiny. Who designed this? Who thought that this image best represented a cyclist? Did someone at the Department of Transportation look at this and say “Yeah, that’s a cyclist. Paint it all over the roads”? If I look like that on my bike, shoot me. Has the person who approved this design never seen a cyclist? Or know what a bike actually looks like? Or better yet know that cyclists heads are actually attached to their bodies and they do have feet and hands? This is a fine example of the failure of form and a vague attempt at function. Thank heavens for the arrow that was just beyond the…. the… whatever or I would have been lost as to which way to go. All I can say for certain is that when you come to the Jersey shore and want to ride your bike, beware of the man who jumps through hoops with a bowl on his decapitated head.
I turned left and entered the crosswind and it wasn’t as bad as I expected it to be. Up over the canal bridge and with a quick cadence I make it to my left turn into the wind. For the next half mile the wind seemed to increase and the sun seemed to set faster. My circles became squares and I labored that half mile over the last little bridge. I made the right turn onto the home stretch, 3 miles to go. I texted my wife those words so she would know that is the word to get dinner on. The trees sheltering the road lessened the crosswind but now I was getting a mixture of all of it. Headwind, tailwind and crosswinds hit me one after the other as I passed by side streets, openings in the trees and nice views of the backwater areas and last bits of daylight. The sun had set, I’m operating on ambient light now. Cars have their headlights on. I push harder. The summer concert at Windward Beach park is in full swing and the pedestrians, bicycle and car traffic increase as I near it, pass through it and get away from it. Less than a mile to go. Much darker than I would prefer. The last sign was my street sign and a welcome sight at that. I rode past my house on the cool-down but it would be a short one because…. it was dark now. Another sign that I should get off the road.
Oh and by the way, if you come to the Jersey Shore, you don’t actually have to use those little blue rooms, we do have indoor plumbing.