Friday, October 12, 2012

Ride to Read Recap

The morning of September 19th was clear and brisk. The bright sky showed none of the turbulence it had rained down with for the previous 24 hours. Even the streets showed little sign of strewn leaves and sticks from the storm. It was the morning of the Ride to Read, and it couldn't have been more perfect.

I had packed my gear the night before, and after a good breakfast, I headed to work at the Warren County Library Headquarters a little early. The first order of business was to pack the Library van with things I might need along the route like food, extra clothing, bike repair tools, and even an extra bike - just in case.
 I then drove to the end point in White Township to drop off my car. Two fellow cyclists met me there to begin the ride. We loaded the van (which would be following us for the entire route) with last-minute additions, and I filmed a video about my thoughts as I started the day. Then we hopped on our bikes to get back to the Library, where the official send off would be happening at 9 a.m. The two miles to get there went quickly. We rode by flat farmland and then dropped down into Belvidere, where we rolled in to see a big gathering of people at the front of the library clapping and cheering. We took pictures, received some last-minute motivation, and finally we were ready to officially begin.

Part 1: Bridge Over the River Paulinskill
As the clapping and cheering died away behind us, we pedaled our way through the town of Belvidere to Manunka Chunk Road. There we encountered the first of many hills for the day, where my fellow cyclists joked about needing the van to drive in front of us with a tow line. We then turned north on Rt 46, where I dodged potholes and uneven pavement but was surprised at how clear my path was. I expected many downed tree branches but was pleasantly surprised.
In Knowlton we turned off of Rt 46 onto a less busy road. This was a part of the course that I had driven but never ridden before. We passed by a lake and wondered aloud what its name was. I've had time to check, and it was Delaware Lake. Then we turned onto Brugler Rd and passed over a stone bridge over the Paulinskill River. From there, it was a quick trip to the Catherine Dickson Hofman Branch. The surface of Rt 94 was fairly level and smooth, so we made good time and rolled into the parking lot right on schedule. The first section of the ride was complete! We stopped, ate, and chatted with the staff, volunteers, and visitors (including my dad!) at the branch until it was time to begin the next section. Before we set off, I filmed another video update to post to the blog.

Part 2: Fifty Shades of Death 
Energized by the rest stop, we got back on Rt 94 to continue north.  This was smooth sailing until we reached the border between Blairstown and Frelinghuysen, where the elevation began to climb. We triumphantly reached the top of a hill and turned onto Kerr's Corner Rd, only to be faced with a much steeper climb! At this point I kind of wished that I worked for a library in a much flatter region, but I chugged along up the hill and was rewarded with a lot of flat and downhill areas. We turned onto a small back road called Mill Rd, which was set in a lovely green forest. After passing through Johnsonburg, we turned onto Southtown Rd, where the scenery included an old and beautifully kept stone farmhouse. As a tour of Warren County, this ride showed us some truly beautiful spots.
Southtown Rd dropped us off onto Shades of Death Rd in Allamuchy, which defied its name and proved to be one of the sunniest parts of the course. I enjoyed being able to pedal so quickly on this section (and tuck in behind my fellow riders and coast while they blocked the wind!), although that soon changed as we turned onto CR 612 and began the 300' climb up to CR 517. This is where all of those weeks of training showed. I didn't break any speed records, but I kept pedaling and made it to the top. This was a tough hill, which looks imposing even from a car, and at times I felt that I was barely moving, but I made it! By the time I rolled into the Northeast Branch parking lot to the sound of cheers and party noisemakers, I knew that one of the hardest parts of the course was done.
And boy, was I ready for the pizza that the Northeast Branch staff had waiting for us for lunch! I relaxed, talked to many members of the community, including some members of the Northeast Friends of the Library, and filmed a quick video to keep everyone updated.

Part 3: How Green Was My Jackson Valley
Joined by another rider, we set off on the third part of the journey. This was a trial by fire, with 350' more climbing in the first mile and a half. Once we reached the top, though, it was all downhill. Well, mostly. Every time we reached an incline, one of my fellow bikers was sure to remind me that I had said it was all downhill. Well, comparatively speaking, it was mostly downhill.
Part of me wanted to stop along the way to take a picture of the valley as we rode along Jackson Valley Rd. If I had, it would have appeared here with a caption reading "How green was my Jackson Valley? This green!" But I was feeling so good , and I so enjoyed the quick pace we were keeping, that I didn't want to stop. I did have to slow down when we approached Warren Hills High School at the exact moment when school let out. Who scheduled us to pass by when buses and teens would be vying to get out of the school driveway as fast as possible? Oh yeah, that was me. Luckily, the traffic didn't affect us that much, and we soon found ourselves turning into the parking lot of the Franklin Branch right on time, even though we had been late leaving the Northeast Branch. 50 miles down and feeling great!  We munched on some great snacks and talked to the staff and library users who had gathered outside to greet us. I really enjoyed seeing the library as a system by visiting each branch. Every location has its own features that make it unique to the community in that part of the county. Seeing it all together on my tour was a great experience for me, since in the reference department I serve a lot of branch customers.

Part 4: Escape to Brass Castle Mountain
After a nice long break at the Franklin Branch, it was time to bring the whole trip full circle. After 50 miles of riding, I needed to tackle one more major obstacle: Brass Castle Rd (which, for those who don't know, involves over 500' of steep climbing for over 3 miles). I had ridden this hill once on a training ride, and while I had done it successfully, I was not looking forward to doing it again. There was no choice about it, though. I volunteered for this! So I waved goodbye to everyone from the Franklin Branch and began the last leg of the ride. I took it easy, even on the flatter parts of Brass Castle Rd, and when it started to climb up, I kept my pedaling cadence as steady as I could and just kept going. Of course, the hill just kept going, too, but I stuck with it and it finally leveled off a bit. Then it climbed up some more, and I crept along, and then it leveled off again, and I got nervous because I had reached the top, and it was time for the really scary part: going down. I'm not comfortable enough on my bike yet to like flying downhill at high speeds. I'm scared of hitting something in the road or slipping while trying to go around a tight curve too quickly. I knew that the library van was behind me, so that was helpful. I didn't feet that I needed to hug the side of the road too tightly, so debris wasn't as much of a danger. I moved into the lane a little, and I told myself to relax and coasted down that hill. Even holding the brakes tightly, I was still going over 20 mph. When I got to the bottom, I was so relieved!
And then it was on. There were less than 2 miles left, and I was so motivated to get to the finish. I pushed the pace as much as I could. I felt that I still had lots of energy, and I put it to use flying down CR 519. The sun was warm and the farm fields looked beautiful as I went speeding by on my bike. As we approached the end, I saw balloons and a Ride to Read sign at the end of the new library driveway and knew that I had done it!  As I turned in, with my fellow riders behind me, I could see tape strung across the finish line for me to ride through. A group of cheering supporters was standing around, clapping and waving and snapping pictures. Hooray! I crossed the line, made a victory lap around the parking lot, and greeted the friends, family, coworkers, and library users who were there to celebrate.

By that day, the Ride had raised a total of $2,147, but since then, that number has grown to $2,500! Thank you so much to all of the supporters out there who have donated, cheered me on, and made the Ride to Read such a success!

It was great to see each part of the library system coming together in support of the new headquarters.We are looking forward to its opening in early 2013, when you will be able to see the results of the fundraising that the Friends of the Library have been doing. Imagine sitting down at a wide table and being able to spread out a newspaper or sitting in an armchair in a quiet corner away from the computer terminals. The diner-themed teen area will be alight with neon, and walk into a forest - I mean, the children's room - and sit on a toadstool to read your little one a story.  Soon, you won't have to imagine it: it will be real!

Thank you!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Ride to Read - Success!

It was an incredible day today. Besides it being perfect weather and riding conditions, I got to visit with the awesome staff at all of the branches, talk to library visitors across the county, and see all of the hard work paying off with the funds raised by the Ride. Thank you to everyone who helped make today such a success!!

50 miles down!

Some words from the end of Section 3 (How Green Was My Jackson Valley)!

Back on the Road after reaching the halfway point

After stopping for lunch at the Northeast Branch,we headed back onto the road  to continue the Ride to Read!

First stage completed!

Here I am at the end of the "Bridge Over the River Paulinskill" section. Fears of debris-covered roads and slippery leaves were unfounded on this beautiful day. On to the next section!

The Ride to Read is here! Starting the first stage

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Only One Day To Go!

Thanks to Tammy for letting me borrow this great bike!
Do you know that song at the end of the first act of Les Miserables when the entire cast sings "One Day More"? Well, that song has been playing in my head all day today.

After 2 and a half months of training (totaling 488 miles biked, run, and hiked!), the Ride to Read is only 1 day away.

I've gone from a recreational mountain biker to a road rider, gotten to see places in Warren County that I never knew about before, and I hope that this ride has made people aware that there is a lot more going on at the library than just reading! As of tonight, I have raised about $2,000, which will go a long way to furnish the new library building. Thank you so much to all of the library users, community members, coworkers, and friends and family who have helped publicize the event and  have contributed time, donations, and moral support during my training.
Maybe I'll see you out on the course tomorrow!
For those who are visiting the library tomorrow, here are the approximate times that I'll be at each stop:

Leave Headquarters around 9 am.

Around 10:15, end Bridge Over the River Paulinskill section when arrive at the Catherine Dickson Hofman Branch. Leave at 11 for next section.

Around 12:30, end Fifty Shades of Death section when arrive at the Northeast Branch. Leave at 1:30 for next section.

Around 2:45, end How Green Was My Jackson Valley section when arrive at the Franklin Branch. Leave at 3:30 for next section.

Around 4:30, end Escape to Brass Castle Mountain section when arrive at the new Headquarters location (189 County Rd. 519).

Thank you to sponsor Riverside Designs and Apparel for printing up a Ride to Read shirt for me!

"One more dawn
One more day
One day more!"