Where there’s a will, there’s a way…

The Centerton Bridge in Mount Laurel  was abruptly closed three years ago due to being found structurally deficient. I don’t remember the first time I found this 186-year-old bridge, but I do remember crossing it a couple of times, discovering an historic section of Rancocas Village on the other side, for which the creek is named and over which the bridge spans.

http://rancocasvillagenj.org/wths_history/

My very first blog post was about this bridge. It was the first picture I posted on Facebook for my brother Michael after deciding to photograph my bicycle rides as a means of entertainment while he was in and out of the hospital.

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September 16, 2015

And, for some reason, I return to this site every September 16th, secretly hoping the bridge will be open once again.

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September 16, 2016
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September 15, 2017

In a later blog I vowed to find an alternate route that would bring me back to Rancocas Village and finally sat down to look at a map. I was also inspired by a friend who asked if there was any kind of loop around the Rancocas Creek where he was not required to simply turn around and return home the same way he arrived – there is only one bridge about six miles west of Rancocas Village or an overpass on Route 130, a six-lane highway to hell including multiple entrance and exit ramps. Thanks to a frigidly cold winter followed by days of rain that never seemed to end,  I was also way behind in my training for the American Cancer Society Bridge to the Beach Bike-a-thon in less than two weeks – I needed to ride at least 35 miles if I was going to be ready for the 55 miles close on the horizon. Not only did I manage to find my alternate route around the creek, the loop would be at least 35 miles long!

Between MapMyRide, Google Maps and my backup handwritten notes, I managed to find my way to Bridge Street in Rancocas Village…but not without threatening storm clouds that followed my travels the first 15 miles, temperatures in the high 80s with suffocating high humidity for the remainder of my journey, some rather creepy neighborhoods, long stretches of nothingness and frighteningly narrow bicycle lanes on four-lane highways. Oh, and don’t forget the crazy ass bitch who wailed on her horn behind me screaming, “Get the f**k off!” and attempted to run me off the road. Needless to say, I didn’t recommend this route to my friend…

And guess what I found? Pretty much looks the same as the Mount Laurel side…

I once again defied the DO NOT ENTER sign and walked up to the barricade and looked around, finally getting a look to the east I’ve waited three years to see once again.

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I was happy to read a recent article discussing the possibility of reopening the bridge as a pedestrian/bicycle bridge…trust me, I won’t be holding my breath on this one. I have a feeling that on September 16th I’m going to be disappointed again.

As I stood on the bridge pondering my steadfast determination to get through to the other side, it dawned on me that exactly six weeks after posting that first bridge photo on Michael’s Facebook page, he would lose his battle with cancer. He had gotten to the other side, but I wasn’t allowed – DO NOT ENTER. Even in my defiance, a complete crossing over just isn’t in the cards any time soon…and I’m more than happy to wait…

Desperate to get in more long rides, five days later I finally decided to bite the bullet and attempt to ride to the cemetery where Michael is buried with both my parents and our brother Arthur. Remember Thank you Pearl and f**k you heart! (May 7, 2017)? Yeah, me too…

I was feeling equally dreadful this year about the distance. The last few long rides were painful, with me once again questioning if I could do the cancer ride (which is actually a stupid question because I’ve done it). However, I knew that at the core of my anxiety was my heart. Despite not having any SVT episodes since having a cardiac ablation in January (It only hurts when I burp/January 18, 2018), along with a new pair of Shebeest capris with a cushiony chamoise, a new iPhone 7, my portable charger fully charged, a new micro bluetooth speaker to play my iPod tunes and both fully charged, two jugs of water, a bike kit, two extra inner tubes, a bike pump and my backpack filled with the usual ID, debit card, snacks, house key, lip balm, hand sanitizer, wipes, eye drops and reading glasses, I was scared…

So on Memorial Day I headed to the veteran’s cemetery to pay my respects. This time I remembered to keep a slow and steady pace – I would be doing at least 56 miles this time. No devices died in Maple Shade and the little voice didn’t make a peep. Flying by the Moorestown nipper dogs and the Mount Laurel Target, I stopped in Mount Holly to take a breather and accidentally found the oldest active volunteer fire department in America.

Although a cloudy, chilly day with occasional spritzes of drizzle, I made my way through North Hanover Township and stopped at the local farm market to pick up some arrangements for the graves.

Cemetery

Thinking ahead, I brought a map of the cemetery with everyone’s gravesite numbers clearly marked and headed to visit Michael first. With no SVT attack in sight, I was grateful for my big brother’s advice and having gone through with the cardiac ablation – he was right…thanks Mikey Bro.

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Next and last stop was mom, dad and little Arthur, where we had a little snack together.

The ride back was physically difficult, but I did it. It took eight hours altogether, but I listened to my body instead of the little voice this time and managed to ride a total of 60 miles. A year ago I asked myself at what point I would concede before not getting away with defying death. I still can’t answer that question, but I can tell you this – I’m not quite ready to cross that bridge yet…I’m more than happy to wait.

“Well, I traveled a long way
And it took a long time
To find you
But I finally found you”

I Found You – Alabama Shakes

“I had run for 3 years, 2 months, 14 days, and 16 hours.” – Forrest Gump

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