Scoot Commute

Jersey girl goes back to her roots

Posted in 2011 New Jersey, Suzuki DR-Z400SM (Elsa) by sbahn on 2011/05/24
Breakfast at the Seaplane Diner

Breakfast at the Seaplane Diner

Yep, that’s right. I had some vacation time that I had to take, and while the boyfriend and I were thinking we’d go to West Virginia, mid-April seemed a bit too early (think: mud) so I decided to visit my mom and her husband in South Jersey for a few days. It had been a while since we’ve seen each other, and it doesn’t make a lot of sense for her to visit me as we don’t have a guest room (I don’t understand why people have guest rooms that sit there empty most of the time not being used) so it’s a bit of a harangue working out the sleeping arrangements at my house.

So here I was, sitting in the Seaplane Diner on Allens Ave chowing down a delicious breakfast before my solo ride down to Jersey on the DRZ. The route I planned included interstates, rural roads, some gravel, and some soul-sucking Pine Barrens sand. I had an 8 page route sheet, a map of Rhode Island and Connecticut, a cellphone that I was just prepped on how to use, and a Spot. No GPS and no map for New Jersey which was the part of the ride with the highest likelihood of getting lost. Why no map? Because my mom sent me her Gazetteer which never arrived because she put my brother’s zip code (who lives in Missouri!) on the envelope and no bookstores nor the big Map Center in Providence had a copy. No one really wants to go to New Jersey; we just go out of obligation.

Stocking up on lemon cakes at Seven Stars bakery on Broadway, Providence

Stocking up on lemon cakes at Seven Stars bakery on Broadway, Providence

Before leaving Providence we stopped at the Seven Stars bakery on Broadway to pick up lemon cakes for my mom. She really likes them. How’s that for a plug, Jim?

The boyfriend took off back home after I slipped the cakes into my bag. I was a bit nervous as this was my first multi-state ride without him. He usually runs a GPS so I just follow along, not having to worry about where I am. It’s not like I’ve never ridden a couple of hundred miles alone, but that has always been between Rhode Island and Connecticut. And how lost can I get in CT? I’ve always found my way home (thank you kind library ladies in Putnam!).

My analog GPS which I slipped into the pocket on the top of my tank bag

My analog GPS which I slipped into the pocket on the top of my tank bag

Navigation is not my thing. The only way I can read a map is to hold it in the direction I’m going. And I don’t even have a map for Jersey. My route wasn’t on the Turnpike or the Parkway; it was on tiny, tertiary backroads in a part of the state I’ve never been to. So my worry wasn’t about the bike or the traffic; it was simply, will I even be able to find my way to south Jersey?

Welcome to Connecticut on Route 6 on the RI border

Welcome to Connecticut on Route 6 on the RI border

The route through Rhode Island and Connecticut would be easy. Route 6 to I-84. Then 84 into New York State with a stop in Newburgh at the new Motocyclepedia museum where I would meet up with nachtflug, who had generously donated his time to show me around.

Welcome to New York ... yeah, I could have pulled up a bit closer

Welcome to New York ... yeah, I could have pulled up a bit closer

Of course I got lost in Newburgh, but it wasn’t my fault, I swear. Shortly after exiting the interstate, there was construction and a detour. Stupid me didn’t follow the detour sign but went another way, which gave me a lovely tour of one of the main streets in Newburgh. It’s an interesting town; a bit down on its luck, but had that nice wide main street with two/three story buildings/storefronts and pull-in parking that allows the rest of the country think, “Oh New England, how quaint.” It didn’t take me too long to decide to turn around and shortly I found the museum.

There are actual motorcycles in the museum, but I'm a scooterist at heart

There are actual motorcycles in the museum, but I'm a scooterist at heart

Wow! The guy likes his Indians. I didn’t even manage a picture of the Indian room because it was so completely overwhelming. Nachtflug was the kindest guide I could have had, very generous with his time, taking me around to each display, introducing me to everyone, explaining the history behind the museum. I’m really glad I stopped. There’s a wall-of-death and the guy who built and rides it was there from Germany. I don’t know why I didn’t go over to say “Hallo!” I think I was a little bit tired, a little bit hungry, and a little bit concerned about time. I would like to thank nachtflug and everyone I met at the museum for the hearty welcome and eye-popping tour.

Motorcyclepedia exhibit in Newburgh, NY

Motorcyclepedia exhibit in Newburgh, NY

I got back on the road about 2:30pm I would guess. I stopped for gas and ran in to grab some Band-Aids as the heated glove on my left hand made a huge blister on top of my ring-finger knuckle and it was insanely painful. As I’m paying for the Band-Aids, a guy comes up to me and says, “That’s a bright jacket.” “Um, yeah.” Then he scrutinizes me more closely. And he was kind of a weirdo, you know the kind, that you don’t want to make eye contact with because they’ll go off the handle screaming that you’ve stolen their souls or something. Maybe you’ve never had that happen? Avoid New York then.

Eventually he says to me, “Are you on a bike?” “Um, yeah.” “Why do you have a wire there?” he asks as he points to the cable that connects to my gloves. “Heated gloves. It’s cold today.” I just wanted to get away from the slightly unstable guy. I was in such a hurry that I forgot I wanted to go to the bathroom. But since he followed me out of the shop and kept me under his Svengali-like gaze as I suited up, I thought better of leaving the bike again.

Nachtflug‘s directions to get back on I-84 were perfect. Imagine, not getting lost? Shortly after I got back on the highway, there was a rest stop with a very nice ladies’ room. Shout out, New York State, for the clean and well-stocked bathroom.

Welcome to New Jersey, courtesy of 4-H

Welcome to New Jersey, courtesy of 4-H

I wasn’t long on 84 until I came to my exit shortly before Port Jervis. I rode a short way and crossed over the border into New Jersey. Now it’s not like there’s passport control, but I have never ridden a bike in Jersey because my mom wouldn’t let us. And I was finally in New Jersey, on a bike, and there was absolutely nothing she could do about it. Ha! As I had scrupulously memorized the street view from Google maps, I gave a big yelp out as I crossed. New state for my map.

I rode into High Point State Park. The winter in the Mid-Atlantic and New England states was particularly brutal this year, but even I was surprised at the lack of new growth. The park was deserted and I had good sight lines, so I had some fun. I actually managed to drop the bike when I pulled over to take a picture. You’re supposed to put the kickstand down before getting off the bike. Having spent the entire winter riding the scooter, I got out of the habit of ‘kickstand first, then dismount’. Idiot.

High Point State Park, North Jersey

High Point State Park, North Jersey

High Point leads into a bunch of wildlife management areas and the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area. I took a quick detour over to Dingmans Ferry, Pennsylvania so I could cross the Delaware River on a cool bridge and add a new state to my map. It’s a private bridge and there’s a toll on the PA side. I handed the guy my buck and said, “I’ll see you in a minute as I’m just taking a pic at the sign.” He said he’d wave me through coming back. That was nice of him.

Welcome to Pennsylvania

Welcome to Pennsylvania

I realize now I didn’t take a picture of the actual bridge. I don’t know how riders take all these great pics. When I’m riding, I’m usually thinking, “this is fun” and forget to take pictures. Maybe if I was with other riders.

I turned around and headed onto Old Mine Road which skirts along the Delaware River. It was really fantastic as I could see the water rushing because there was no foliage.

Delaware River as seen from Old Mine Road

Delaware River as seen from Old Mine Road

Old Mine Road, Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area

Old Mine Road, Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area

Red Barn, Old Mine Road

Red Barn, Old Mine Road

I didn’t come across another person during this entire ride. At one point Old Mine Road becomes a private road with a gate and posted warnings, but I just went around it. My directions had me going straight and as I had no map, I went straight. There were two cows standing in a field that raised their heads and watched me. It was only a short ride until I came to another gate, which I easily went around. I know I shouldn’t be riding on posted private property, but what is with private property in the middle of a national reserve? And my map, I would have been completely lost.

A red fox ran along the side of the road with me for a brief moment. The colors of the fox against the brown of the dead leaves and the greys of the muddy gravel road were an explosion of ginger reds and bleached whites. I was so excited to see a red fox that it took me a second to have the thought that maybe getting cosy with a fox wasn’t such a good idea.

Having a snack somewhere in North / Central Jersey

Having a snack somewhere in North / Central Jersey

My directions were working really well for me, in part because North Jersey has street signs, even on tiny, little roads. I stopped later in the afternoon for lunch by the side of the road where I ate up the lime yogurt and banana I brought with me. I also made my first cellphone call from here, checking in with my mom’s husband. I want to say it was about 4:00 pm and I estimated my arrival at their house around 9:00 pm. Oh was I so very wrong.

New Jersey, the Garden State

New Jersey, the Garden State

I continued along my route, riding through some absolutely beautiful countryside. I’m from South Jersey and I thought the only nice parts of New Jersey was where I’m from, and maaaaybe the northwest corner. But the central part of the state has some nice farmland, too. Who knew?

Of course I had to get lost. The street signs ran out and somewhere around Hacklebarney State Park and the Willowwood Arboretum, I got terribly lost. But I stumbled upon a very nice guy who was planting pansies in front of his house. I stopped and asked if he knew how to get to Larger Cross Road. He asked where I was headed, and naturally never heard of the place because we were very far away from the town where my mom lives, and was going to give up. But I explained I just needed to get back to my road sheet. He was duly impressed with my directions; I think he thought I was a little crazy. His directions were spot on, though, and I found Larger Cross Road!

Larger Cross Road near Pottersville, NJ

Larger Cross Road near Pottersville, NJ

This road is odd. The area seemed rather well-to-do, and I was even passed on this gravel road by an older gent in a very nice Mercedes. I’m still wondering if the town keeps this road unpaved to retain the ‘country’ feel or really don’t want to pave it.

This was also where I realized my headlight wasn’t on! This was my first trip with my Christmas present installed, the Lynx fairing. I have to remember when I turn the bike off and turn it on again quickly, I need to give the light a moment to come and stay on; this is particularly true when getting gas.

Larger Cross Road, New Jersey -- it's a lot darker than this pic shows

Larger Cross Road, New Jersey -- it's a lot darker than this pic shows

And finally, this road was also where seven (7) deer leaped across the road in front of me. Lemme tell ya, I did an emergency stop on gravel after riding for 8 hours and didn’t fall over! The deer completely freaked me out. I literally stood there, straddling the bike, breathing like I was doing a Lamaze class, watching these deer leap across the road.

I got my head together and proceeded more slowly, scanning side-to-side. Good thing because not too far down the road, there were three more deer hanging out in the ditch on the right side. I paddled by them because I didn’t know what their plan was; they just walked along with me until they crossed over the road after I had passed. Sheesh, I hate the deer.

I continued with my route sheet, even though it was starting to get dark and I couldn’t really read it anymore. Again, I wound up lost, most likely because it was 1) dark, 2) I was tired, 3) the street signs disappeared, 4) I couldn’t read my route sheet. I was sort of in the middle of nowhere, but never far from a major road. I decided to throw in the towel and stop at a gas station on Route 202. Two very friendly Polish guys working at the station set me straight and got me on the right route to get to 206. I knew if I get to 206, I could get down to a part of the state I knew.

Now Route 206 is annoying. It goes through towns and by strip malls and there are stoplights everywhere. When I finally got through the nasty stop-and-go Friday night traffic of Princeton,  I thought to myself, “I cannot do this through Trenton. I have no idea what part of Trenton 206 runs through, and my clutch hand is getting sore.” I saw a sign for I-95 and said “Hop on. 95 is the Turnpike.” You have to remember. I left Jersey when I was 18. I never really had to drive around so I never paid much attention to what road goes to where.

At some point I realized that 95 wasn’t going to get me where I needed to go, so I took an exit and from the parking lot of a childcare center, I called my mom. “Where are you?” “I don’t know. I don’t know how a highway can go both South and West. I’m so confused. I don’t want to ride through Trenton.”

I have no idea how I sounded, but I was tired and frustrated and knew I was no where near where I wanted to be. My mom talked through a route that had something to do with I-295 which connected back up to 206. And I managed to find it.

The only interesting thing to happen during this time was a stop for gas near the Bordentown Denny’s, which was a place I used to go when I was kid coming back from shows at City Gardens in Trenton. As this is New Jersey, there are employees that pump the gas for you. I pulled in at the rather busy station, and waited for the guy to come over so I could ask if I could pump myself. Well, he wasn’t pleased that I didn’t have a dollar amount that I wanted to pump. How the hell should I know how much gas I need. It’s so cheap down here, you want me to do math at 10:00 pm?

Red Lion Circle where Routes 70 and 206 cross

Red Lion Circle where Routes 70 and 206 cross

I was finally on the nice part of Route 206 where there was nothing but farms on either side of the highway. As I approached the Red Lion Circle, I was actually excited. This was the same circle that I hopped my dad’s Volvo 240 up over the curb into the grassy interior when learning how to drive, and here I was, in the pitch blackness, riding around the circle so very close to where I grew up.

I stopped at the diner but it was so dark, I figured the pic would be crap. And I also knew that if I did eat something at this point, my mom would probably kill me when I arrived.

I continued along Route 206 and then made the mistake of taking the suggestion of my mom’s husband and not my original plan for the road that gets to her development. I got really, really lost. It’s so freaking dark out and none of the roads have signs. Sometimes there’s one of those yellow diamond signs saying a crossroad is coming up, but the names of the road aren’t on the sign. When the name is there, it’s something stupid like “Lane of Tall Pines” or “Blueberry Way.”

It’s about 11:00 pm now and I’ve been riding since just after 9:00 am. I’m tired, I’m hungry, and I’m afraid of the drunks. I pull into a development and call my mom.

“Where are you?”

“I don’t know. It said Route 620. I’m at a development. It’s called Woodlake?”

The best part of this is that I’m sitting on the bike, in utter darkness, not one, but two cars pull into the development and don’t stop. Thanks for your concern, fuckers. There’s a reason I hate the town where my mom now lives, and those folks embodied it.

I continued along straight a little bit more and came upon a gas station. I asked the guy if he knew where the road was, but he had no clue (and not a lot of English, so he was probably new to the country). I thanked him and when I got to Evesham realized, man, I really missed my turn.

I headed back and found the stupid road this time. And then I found the turn in to the development. But then I couldn’t find her house. I’d only been there once before when I helped them move, and thought the house was on the other side of the street. Every time I go with my mom in the car, she winds up taking some different back way, so I don’t feel too bad that I was all turned around. And their mailbox is covered over with a mountain laurel bush so I couldn’t see it.

When I finally got to the house after three times around the development, it was only because my mom had come out to wave. Thanks for finally thinking of that. The insane part of this is that her husband went out in the car to find me, and wound up chasing down some guy on a sport bike, catching up to him at a crossroads with a light and scaring the bejesus out of the guy.

I really cannot stress how dark it gets there. No streetlights, the moon wasn’t out, the roads are narrow, everyone is drunk, and I was starving. I was not happy. I don’t even remember eating the Panzarotti my mom had waiting for me.

I left Providence, Rhode Island around 9:20 am. I arrived in Medford, New Jersey around 11:20 pm. 426 miles. Thank you Renazco.

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5 Responses

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  1. Pepper said, on 2011/05/24 at 7:53 pm

    love to read your blog…..

  2. Keith said, on 2011/05/24 at 7:58 pm

    Two hours and twenty minutes off on ETA . . . not too bad. That can happen to me on the way home from work.

    A very full day of riding. How’d the trip home go?

    Thanks for the share,
    ~k

  3. sbahn said, on 2011/05/24 at 8:03 pm

    Hey Keith, thanks for reading!
    The trip home was another whole story that I’ll write up, haha. And there was a full day of riding in Wharton, which is the Pine Barrens, on street tires. I learned a lot on this ride!

  4. karinajean said, on 2011/05/26 at 2:20 pm

    tell me more about the lynx fairing! I have a kind of giant windshield on DRZ, which is nice when it’s cold out, but kind of overkill (and I’m pretty sure it will cut my head off if I crash because it sticks up and back so far).

    (oh and you rode right past my house, I’m off of 84 about 10 miles W of newburgh.)

    • sbahn said, on 2011/05/26 at 3:17 pm

      Loving the Lynx! It cuts down the buffeting on the highway, and I can slide the windhshield part down flat with the front section when riding off-road so I don’t have to worry about it getting broken when I fall. It’s from a guy named Ian in Canada. It’s spendy, but the HID headlight is AMAZING. I can actually see where I’m going at night.
      Britannia Composities


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