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Old 10-08-07, 09:17 AM   #1
Neil_B
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A Tale of Two Neils - Neils on Wheels Bike Tour

"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times..."

So it seemed on the first official Neils on Wheels overnight tour. I and Neil Fein rode from New Brunswick to the New Jersey shore, and back the following day. Ninety miles were on the route. We were blessed with near perfect weather for much of the trip, with only a little light rain on the last half of the return. Aside from Neil getting a flat in the hotel room Sunday morning, it was as close to an incident-free trip as we could wish for. And for the first time I rode more than 30 miles without back pain! So in many ways it was the best of times.

But if it was the best of times, why are neither of us smiling in the photograph, taken on the bridge to Red Bank? That's a more difficult question to answer.

Familiarity breeds content or contempt as you wish. Neil and I have two different views of touring. I enjoy going from point A to point B with as few distractions as possible. Neil enjoys getting lost and the impulsiveness that goes with it. He might object to that description, but it seems accurate to me. So while we started out in good spirits, as the day wore on so did my temper. First it was Waterworks Road that turned out to be largely sand and largely unrideable. Then it was the bike trails in Cheesequake Park that became sand and loose gravel, or led into a salt marsh and ended there. Add in a large number of wrong turns, corrections, and other changes that required a cue sheet, two maps, a compass, endless recalculations of mileage, and a lot of daylight, and my frustration became obvious. It took eight and a half hours to ride 50 miles, and we were unable to ride to the beach that day. And I had some swelling in my left knee from all the off-bike hiking.

After a carb-heavy dinner and a good night's sleep, we rode ten miles to Long Branch for breakfast, then to the shore. Rather than remove the front wheel of the bikes, we took our water bottles and dipped them into the Atlantic. Neil then wrote "Neils on Wheels" into the sand to mark the occasion. We rode around Long Branch for a few minutes, then headed back to Red Bank and home.

So far the ride this sunny Sunday morning had been near-flawless. Neil's route was both interesting and very clear. We made excellent time there and back.

However, in Red Bank the problems returned. I had to 'intervene at one point and prevent Neil from leading us in the wrong direction. My frustration was coming out again, and just before the halfway point words were exchanged. Riding with a saddle sore didn't help my mood. My friend is a much more patient man than I am, so he calmed me down and we went onward. We finished with nine hours and 58 miles for the return trip, and a reconciliation once I apologized for my remarks.

And the dispute with my touring partner underlines what I need to learn about touring. It's not going to be perfect. There will always be problems with routes, equipment, riders, and traffic, and while most trips won't have the problems this one did - even Neil admitted his routing through Chessquake Park was a "disaster" - missed turns and roads not taken are in the future. The skill of dealing with the frustrations of touring I need to develop as much as any other aspect of my riding. If I develop that, I'll truly make all tours "the best of times."

At times during the tour I affirmed to myself I would never tour with Neil again. By the end of it I'd tour anywhere with him, if he'd invite me. I have a lot to learn from him. And I hope I have the opportunity to do so again soon.
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Old 10-08-07, 09:34 AM   #2
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Familiarity breeds content or contempt as you wish. Neil and I have two different views of touring. I enjoy going from point A to point B with as few distractions as possible. Neil enjoys getting lost and the impulsiveness that goes with it. He might object to that description, but it seems accurate to me. So while we started out in good spirits, as the day wore on so did my temper. First it was Waterworks Road that turned out to be largely sand and largely unrideable. Then it was the bike trails in Cheesequake Park that became sand and loose gravel, or led into a salt marsh and ended there. Add in a large number of wrong turns, corrections, and other changes that required a cue sheet, two maps, a compass, endless recalculations of mileage, and a lot of daylight, and my frustration became obvious. It took eight and a half hours to ride 50 miles, and we were unable to ride to the beach that day. And I had some swelling in my left knee from all the off-bike hiking.
8.5 hours to ride 50 miles with several interesting stops along the way ... that sounds like a great day to me! And you got to use maps and compasses too! My heart be still!
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Old 10-08-07, 09:46 AM   #3
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8.5 hours to ride 50 miles with several interesting stops along the way ... that sounds like a great day to me! And you got to use maps and compasses too! My heart be still!
There weren't interesting stops. Even Cheesequake Park lost some attraction when we had to drag the bikes into a salt marsh, and back out when the muddy path ended.
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Old 10-08-07, 10:42 AM   #4
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There weren't interesting stops. Even Cheesequake Park lost some attraction when we had to drag the bikes into a salt marsh, and back out when the muddy path ended.
I dunno- I grew up in South Jersey, so I'm all about the salt marshes . Lots of interesting wildlife (much of it really tiny so you have to stop and look for it but when you find it, it's always a major discovery), the aroma (some call it a smell- to each his/her own, I guess), and the wind blowing through the phragmites. Ahhh- heaven!
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Old 10-08-07, 10:44 AM   #5
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I dunno- I grew up in South Jersey, so I'm all about the salt marshes . Lots of interesting wildlife (much of it really tiny so you have to stop and look for it but when you find it, it's always a major discovery), the aroma (some call it a smell- to each his/her own, I guess), and the wind blowing through the phragmites. Ahhh- heaven!
All that said, and speaking of discovery, it sounds like you had a great ride when all was said and done, and learned a lot in the process! And look- you got to go out on a ride this weekend- I haven't been on the bike since the 150 last Saturday- too much work to catch up on!
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Old 10-08-07, 01:54 PM   #6
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Sounds like a fine old time to me too. A salt marsh no less. How cool is that?
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Old 10-08-07, 02:14 PM   #7
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Just think if you didn't get lost, what you may have missed, but next time take a mountian bike. I wish I could get away long enough to take a trip. Thanks for sharing.
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Old 10-09-07, 08:47 AM   #8
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All that said, and speaking of discovery, it sounds like you had a great ride when all was said and done, and learned a lot in the process! And look- you got to go out on a ride this weekend- I haven't been on the bike since the 150 last Saturday- too much work to catch up on!
I did learn a lot. I learned I need to develop patience. And some basic bike repair skills. And I had a great time, despite the constant getting lost, riding two miles, opening maps, etc.
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Old 10-09-07, 08:52 AM   #9
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I dunno- I grew up in South Jersey, so I'm all about the salt marshes . Lots of interesting wildlife (much of it really tiny so you have to stop and look for it but when you find it, it's always a major discovery), the aroma (some call it a smell- to each his/her own, I guess), and the wind blowing through the phragmites. Ahhh- heaven!
Yes, but Cheesequake Park was only one place we had a problem. Other locations were downtown New Brunswick, Red Bank, etc. I'm spoiled living in Chester County, PA - I'm sure God made this place to remind us what Man lost during the Fall. Getting lost here means forest, stream, and farm. On the tour getting lost was strip malls and divided highways.
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Old 10-10-07, 11:37 AM   #10
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dr. j and I got lost a lot too when we did an unsupported metric in strange territory. I laid out the route on the computer, had not ridden it before and it was all new to both of us. It seemed like we were constantly off route and trying to figure out where we were and where we should go to more or less get back on route. It was indeed rather frustrating in a few places, we even had to backtrack in a place or two, once on a rather brutal hill. Thank goodness he is a very patient fellow and did not threaten to kick my ass even one time. The good part about getting lost where we were was that one country road there is pretty much like all the others, so no big deal. Strip malls and divided highways would be a different matter. The main thing is you both survived, and so did your friendship.
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Old 10-10-07, 01:40 PM   #11
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On the tour getting lost was strip malls and divided highways.
Ah- the very definition of hell on earth!
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Old 10-10-07, 02:10 PM   #12
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dr. j and I got lost a lot too when we did an unsupported metric in strange territory. I laid out the route on the computer, had not ridden it before and it was all new to both of us. It seemed like we were constantly off route and trying to figure out where we were and where we should go to more or less get back on route. It was indeed rather frustrating in a few places, we even had to backtrack in a place or two, once on a rather brutal hill. Thank goodness he is a very patient fellow and did not threaten to kick my ass even one time. The good part about getting lost where we were was that one country road there is pretty much like all the others, so no big deal. Strip malls and divided highways would be a different matter. The main thing is you both survived, and so did your friendship.
Yes, and the friendship was VERY tested.

But we did find this interesting Halloween display on a front lawn in Monmouth County. I reproduce it here because the image has already appeared on Foo and Touring without complaint:

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Old 10-10-07, 02:17 PM   #13
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"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times..."

So it seemed on the first official Neils on Wheels overnight tour. I and Neil Fein rode from New Brunswick to the New Jersey shore, and back the following day. Ninety miles were on the route. We were blessed with near perfect weather for much of the trip, with only a little light rain on the last half of the return. Aside from Neil getting a flat in the hotel room Sunday morning, it was as close to an incident-free trip as we could wish for. And for the first time I rode more than 30 miles without back pain! So in many ways it was the best of times.

But if it was the best of times, why are neither of us smiling in the photograph, taken on the bridge to Red Bank? That's a more difficult question to answer.

Familiarity breeds content or contempt as you wish. Neil and I have two different views of touring. I enjoy going from point A to point B with as few distractions as possible. Neil enjoys getting lost and the impulsiveness that goes with it. He might object to that description, but it seems accurate to me. So while we started out in good spirits, as the day wore on so did my temper. First it was Waterworks Road that turned out to be largely sand and largely unrideable. Then it was the bike trails in Cheesequake Park that became sand and loose gravel, or led into a salt marsh and ended there. Add in a large number of wrong turns, corrections, and other changes that required a cue sheet, two maps, a compass, endless recalculations of mileage, and a lot of daylight, and my frustration became obvious. It took eight and a half hours to ride 50 miles, and we were unable to ride to the beach that day. And I had some swelling in my left knee from all the off-bike hiking.

After a carb-heavy dinner and a good night's sleep, we rode ten miles to Long Branch for breakfast, then to the shore. Rather than remove the front wheel of the bikes, we took our water bottles and dipped them into the Atlantic. Neil then wrote "Neils on Wheels" into the sand to mark the occasion. We rode around Long Branch for a few minutes, then headed back to Red Bank and home.

So far the ride this sunny Sunday morning had been near-flawless. Neil's route was both interesting and very clear. We made excellent time there and back.

However, in Red Bank the problems returned. I had to 'intervene at one point and prevent Neil from leading us in the wrong direction. My frustration was coming out again, and just before the halfway point words were exchanged. Riding with a saddle sore didn't help my mood. My friend is a much more patient man than I am, so he calmed me down and we went onward. We finished with nine hours and 58 miles for the return trip, and a reconciliation once I apologized for my remarks.

And the dispute with my touring partner underlines what I need to learn about touring. It's not going to be perfect. There will always be problems with routes, equipment, riders, and traffic, and while most trips won't have the problems this one did - even Neil admitted his routing through Chessquake Park was a "disaster" - missed turns and roads not taken are in the future. The skill of dealing with the frustrations of touring I need to develop as much as any other aspect of my riding. If I develop that, I'll truly make all tours "the best of times."

At times during the tour I affirmed to myself I would never tour with Neil again. By the end of it I'd tour anywhere with him, if he'd invite me. I have a lot to learn from him. And I hope I have the opportunity to do so again soon.
The official tour photo, taken over the Navesink River in Red Bank, NJ:

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Old 10-10-07, 02:20 PM   #14
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The official tour photo, taken over the Navesink River in Red Bank, NJ:

I've never seen two happier faces
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Old 10-10-07, 03:48 PM   #15
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I've never seen two happier faces
"Stern" is my natural facial expression. Witness this photo, from the MS City to Shore. Every illusion I held of being a handsome, middle aged man died when I saw this:

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Old 10-10-07, 04:33 PM   #16
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Man you guys both look ready to do murder! And you could be brothers. Crack me up! Oh yeah, lovely scenery there too.... the only thing missing is a bottle flying by in the background.
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Old 10-10-07, 04:39 PM   #17
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Yes, and the friendship was VERY tested.

But we did find this interesting Halloween display on a front lawn in Monmouth County. I reproduce it here because the image has already appeared on Foo and Touring without complaint:

That photo would make a lot more sense if the bike were WHITE
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Old 10-10-07, 05:10 PM   #18
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Nice shirt
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Old 10-10-07, 07:55 PM   #19
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Man you guys both look ready to do murder!
And this was before we got to the hotel. Or more accurately, before we got lost trying to find the hotel. I remember Neil F. trying to get directions from the hotel front desk on his cellphone as the sun was setting:

"Hello, I'm trying to get directions. I'm at the corner of ____ and ____. No, I can't take the Parkway. We are on bicycles. Yes, bicycles..."

Seriously, despite the problems, we had a good time, and we are planning another tour soon. Nothing stops Neils on Wheels!

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And you could be brothers. Crack me up!
"Hi, I'm Terrierman, this is my brother Neil, and this is my other brother Neil."

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Oh yeah, lovely scenery there too.... the only thing missing is a bottle flying by in the background.
Red Bank, New Jersey. Home to Gen-x filmmaker (the word "director" implies artistic ability) Kevin Smith. 'Nuff said.
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Old 10-10-07, 08:07 PM   #20
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Nice shirt

Which one? Team Copaxone or City to Shore VIP Cyclist?
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