It’s not even been a week of working from home and staying indoors a lot. This is going to be hard. I’m eating too much, even if I (futilely) try to barricade the door to the kitchen. I can always go outside to fight the war against the evil hairy bittercress weed that would take over the yard in a heartbeat, of course. But sometimes you just need a bike ride.
Saturday afternoon was sunny and fairly warm (missed the true hot day on Friday because, you know, work). Where to go?
I’d been getting emails most of the week from Flounder Brewing, that nano brewery we checked out last fall as part of my “weird beer” rides. I couldn’t tell if they were still open and selling crowlers (32-ounce cans), but we figured it was as good a destination as any. 17 miles each way, a mix of trail and road.
First, the roads are incredibly empty. And this is before the governor tightened up the rules to essential businesses and essential travel only. We saw so many suburbanites — including kids — biking on roads you know they’d normally be too afraid of. And you know many of them didn’t normally bike because their seats were too low! OK, we also saw a few people riding the wrong way. Hopefully they’ll learn.
I expected the D&R Canal towpath to be busy, but I’ve never seen it this busy between Plainsboro and Kingston. Overflowing parking lots to boot! So many people out for long walks or runs; clearly I am not the only one going stir-crazy. In the interest of social distancing, I felt I should hold my breath every time I passed someone so I wouldn’t inadvertently breath out (or in ) germs.
Here’s one of the parking lots:
Who knows how long all these fitness efforts will last, but given how many people have one or more high-risk factors, hopefully this rediscovery of our trails (and sidewalks) will build support for more of them once the world is back to normal.
And Flounder? Open. One man stood behind the bar, filling crowlers and handing them to another man at the table in front. I guess we could have reached for the hand sanitizer before he passed our crowlers from his gloved hands to our bare ones. Paid with a chip card so no contact there.
We weren’t the only ones with this idea. There was a line (with social distancing) as we turned to walk back to our bikes and figure out how to carry everything home.
I think the Brit had been thinking just two crowlers, but I figured we might need a few for the neighbors, especially if one comes through with rotted-down horse manure for the garden from one of his friends. So we bought five. I know! Random!
We tried his front handlebar bag. Three seemed too many. Even two meant the bag could still rub on the wheel as it flopped about. I ended up with three in the bag off my seatpost, and we each carried one in the center pocket of our bike jerseys.
Here’s the stash, at home:
Like I said, we weren’t the only ones out for a ride. On the way back to the canal, another rider started chatting with us. Far more hard core than us — he was about to hit 1,000 miles already this year, 50% more than this time last year, thanks to our mild winter. (I’m going with something over 100 for me, including this ride.) And then I rolled over some glass. Flat rear tire. Turns out our mystery rider — we never did get his name — had previously owned a string of bike shops and was ready to change my flat, despite social distancing. I know I could have done it, but thank you! We stuck to an old-fashioned hand pump, but over the course of our long chat, he told us you can use SodaStream CO2 cartridges for CO2-powered bike-tire inflators. We may have to look into that.
(The tire is flat again this morning so clearly we missed a bit of glass. But at least I got home.)
Once we reached the towpath at the Griggstown Causeway, we opted for Canal Road — a road I’d normally avoid aside from road closures — because traffic was so light. Once we got to Rocky Hill, we tried the Rockingham side of the canal to Kingston. Warning: it’s muddier. I bet it’s less maintained in the summer when vegetation is growing like mad, but for now, it’s wide.
UPDATE: We’ve ridden to Flounder a few times now. Here’s one low-traffic route that cuts through Plainsboro to Kingston, where you can opt to use the D&R Canal towpath or Canal Road. And here’s another way through Plainsboro. Of course, you can always use the D&R for more of the route.
Some final advice: If you’re thinking of doing your version of this ride, don’t do it today. Flounder is taking the day off. But it plans to be open again Monday afternoon. After all, it qualifies as essential under the governor’s order.
And me? Today’s a little chillier, so it might be a day to pull weeds. Hairy bittercress, I will get you yet.