Mommy Mikey Day

bound·a·ry /’bound(ə)rē/ noun: a line that marks the limits of an area; a dividing line.

June 27, 2018

This morning I remembered the box of Cream of Wheat in the pantry that I bought to use as a thickener for a vegan soup recipe. I haven’t had Cream of Wheat in ages and couldn’t get the thought out of my head that I really needed to eat it for breakfast. As the farina came to a slow boil, I reached for the Splenda and suddenly remembered that my mom always added butter. Okay, so Earth Balance Original is not exactly butter, but it still felt like a big ole hug from mommy. Now I was ready to rock and roll and start the day feeling good.

Tired of the same old gym routine and the threat of thunderstorms making a bike ride a bad decision, I resolved to go for a walk some place close to where my car would be parked just in case the weather decided to cooperate with the forecast. That’s when I thought about Boundary Creek Natural Resource Area, the park I ventured out to on a misty rain two days before Michael died (Christmas in October, September 23, 2016). Despite all forewarning, I defied the Weather Channel and chose to head out on another misty morning almost two years later. The park, itself, was not very large with the parking lot speedily accessible no matter what trail I would be walking along.

As I drove to the outskirts of Moorestown, it dawned on me that I had never been to Boundary Creek in the summer, having only gone in the autumn several times before. This time (weather permitting) I was going to take my time and really look around, determined to read every single signage…and I did!

Boundary Creek is located along Rancocas Creek, a waterway named after the “Rankokous,” the Native American Nation of the Powhatan Renape. Starting off the Delaware River and running a little further south of Vincentown, Rancocas Creek winds through a number of major hubs in Southern New Jersey. I discovered that the park was part of a 1050 acre peach plantation originally owned by John and Grace Hollinshead, immigrants from England in the mid-17th century. At the time the southwestern counties were being settled, there were no roads, thereby creating a “riverline highway” for steamboat transportation up and down the Rancocas. John Hollinshead also owned and operated one of the steamboats.

Three hundred years later, throughout the 1980s the County Board of Chosen Freeholders of Burlington County began acquiring land in order to preserve what are known as “green acres.” As of the early 2000s, Burlington County boasted over 3500 acres of open space and over 50,000 acres of preserved farmland, the Hollinshead property being one such acquisition in 2002. By 2004, the county began planning and designing the preservation of the natural habitat that was later named Boundary Creek Natural Resource Area. From open field grassland and succession to a vast forest area, the park has become home to hundreds of plant and animal species.

Milkweed wafting lilac scents, stately coneflower, wild raspberries beginning to ripen, bright red berries taunting the local wildlife, interesting fungus growing on a fallen tree and sweet-smelling honeysuckle.

With a multitude of mammals, herptiles, waterbirds, birds of prey, songbirds and woodpeckers, several pathways along the creek invite you to hide out and spy or just merely sit and ponder…

Finishing up the 1 1/2 miles of figure-eight trails and boardwalks, I decided to stop off at Johnson’s Corner Farm, one of mom’s favorite places to visit. The rain still holding, I thought it would be a good idea to go pick-my-own veggies and fruits – an activity with a very short window in any given year. You just can’t beat fresh organic produce grown locally and picked by your own hands. Driving out of the parking lot of Boundary Creek, I officially declared Boundary Creek to be Mikey Bro’s Farm from this day forward. I’ll be forwarding a memo to the County Board of Chosen Freeholders ASAP…

Stomach growling to remind me that I hadn’t eaten all day, I stopped at the local Wawa to purchase some hard boiled eggs, promising myself some ice cream at the farm but only after eating something healthy like a nice homegrown peach. On the way, I somehow convinced myself to go to the gym after the farm, despite my decision this morning to skip the old boring gym routine. Besides, if I was going to eat ice cream, I had to hit the gym to burn off the calories, right? Arriving at the farm, I entered the shop to purchase some produce not available for picking, particularly the peaches. I quickly scarfed down a peach to satisfy my insistence on eating something healthy before going for ice cream. As soon as I saw the list, I knew what I needed – blueberry pomegranate chocolate chip ice cream! And it was FABULOUS!

Sauntering inside to buy tickets for the hayride that would take me to the fields where I had predetermined picking my own blueberries, strawberries, snap peas and green beans, I was informed by the cashier that the tractor driving away as we speak was the last one until tomorrow. I just had to stop for that ice cream, didn’t I…argh!

F**k the gym! I didn’t need all that stuff anyway!

In the end, I found myself at the local grocery store to shop for Shabbat.

A box of Cream of Wheat started today’s journey. How funny that a simple red cardboard box filled with farina can expel a swarm of memories – our family home in Ramsey filled with fifteen years of childhood memories, my mother ever present for whatever was needed…at least most of the time for me. So where did my thoughts of Michael come in? That’s right – they both died in 2015 eight months apart…and they both died on a Tuesday…

I thank G-d that my mother didn’t have to suffer the loss of one more child…

Still seething over my inability to pick my own produce and not burning off those ice cream calories, unlike my defiance of the definite impending thunderstorms that never happened, I succumbed to G-d’s advice – sometimes you just need to not have a plan and just go with what I’ve given you…LIFE

Enough is enough…time to set that boundary…

And then a neighbor came over this afternoon to give me some strawberries in exchange for some old dishes…

“Living is easy with eyes closed
Misunderstanding all you see
It’s getting hard to be someone
But it all works out
It doesn’t matter much to me”

Strawberry Fields – The Beatles

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

Believe

It dawned on me today that it’s been over a month since my last bike ride. I have a vague memory of October 22nd – I remember the weather promised to be unseasonably warm with abundant sunshine, so Old Bessie and I made sure to take advantage of the day.

Riding along Elbo Lane towards my parents’ former neighborhood, something caught my eye at the local fire department and prompted me to turn around after passing it.

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It was a large piece of twisted metal rising toward the heavens against a beautiful blue sky. Now, I’ve ridden by this facility dozens of times and never noticed the 9/11 Memorial on display in front of the building and questioned my awareness. After learning that the memorial had just been erected the month prior on the sixteenth anniversary of 9/11, I was reassured of my knack for acuity.

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Not knowing from which tower it fell, the twisted metal was recovered at Ground Zero and donated to New Jersey to be put on display. Other artifacts included a piece of limestone taken from the Pentagon and a rock from the crash site of Flight 93 in Pennsylvania.

It reminded me of that day and how much I really don’t like to think about it. September 11, 2001 was the kid’s “half birthday” – she was exactly 2 1/2 years old. The kid was busying herself with play while I worked out to a video in our living room. A few minutes after 8:46AM the phone rang. Still working out, I listened to the answering machine as it recorded my mother’s voice on the other end. Panic was in her voice, and she demanded I respond to her call. Picking up the receiver, I asked her what was wrong. “Turn on the t.v.! We’re under attack!” As ordered, I turned the channel to CNN and watched as the North Tower burned. Now it was my turn to panic. The kid could tell that something serious was going on as I desperately attempted to calm my mother down. Trying to figure out what had happened, I watched as a jetliner crashed into the South Tower at 9:03AM…then the Pentagon at 9:37AM…and finally, a crash in rural Pennsylvania at 10:07AM. In memory, most of that day was an emotional roller coaster of hysteria and complete terror. And then the skies grew quiet…very quiet…and it stayed that way for 48 hours. For weeks I was glued to CNN, paralyzed by the incomprehensibility of events on that mild Tuesday morning with the beautiful blue sky. It took months before I didn’t cower when planes flew overhead, and the kid became so frightened by our reactions she refused to leave my side for over two years. At some point I turned off the news and never watched it again…

And then I saw something in the parking lot that delightfully lightened the mood:

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A practice dummy lying face down after being “rescued” during a drill…time to move on!

Heading toward Church Road and making the usual pit stop at Johnson’s Farm, I found myself passing Kirby’s Mill (Seeing, May 25, 2017) and discovered a small house behind the mill.

“This simply detailed, 1 story, three bay wide frame house with a shed roofed porch across the front was built in the late 1700s. It may have been a tenant house on the Jonathan Haines farm. Jonathan was one of the men who petitioned the New Jersey Assembly for permission to build a dam, a gristmill and a sawmill on the land bordering the South Branch of the Rancocas Creek, “one end abutting on the land of the said Jonathan Haines.” In 1778, the mill was completed and started operations. This building became the home of the sawmill foreman and therefore was called the Sawyer’s House.”

http://www.waymarking.com/waymarks/WMA6G2_The_Sawyers_House_Medford_NJ

After a cautious look around, I decided to explore the road further, not having ever ridden it before – Fostertown Road. A little over a mile later, I came upon an airport.

It’s called the Flying W Airport and Resort:

“Flying W Airport & Resort was built in the 1960s by Bill Whitesell; hence the “W” in its name. Mr. Whitesell initially envisioned a place to provide air transportation services to those involved in building the Alaska Pipe Line. He also wanted to provide a place where both travelers and local families could dine al fresco in a restaurant that also doubles as a bar and cafe, stay in the quaint Flying W Motel, and swim in the famous airplane-shaped swimming pool. Over the years, the restaurant, lounge and swimming pool have provided enjoyment and wonderful memories to many who still visit.”

http://www.flyingwairport.com/

What a quaint little place! Thinking about how much Michael would have loved this place, I looked at the small single-engine planes and remembered hearing how some of the 9/11 hijackers took flying lessons at little airports like this one in order to gain the knowledge they would later use to kill thousands of people…time to move on!

Continuing down the road, I pulled Old Bessie to the side of the road so as not to miss the perfect photo op of all rides:

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Yup…some days, when everything is right with the universe and the sun is high in that beautifully cloudless blue sky and you’re just coasting through life feeling groovy without a care in the world, a huge pile of shit is going to find you. So why the challenge? I believe that G-d gives us what we can handle and maybe sometimes we need a little humility to remind us of our fortune in life. But how does one explain pure evil? Why do we need the challenge of men full of hatred turning jetliners into weapons of destruction and killing thousands of innocent people? Perhaps we need an occasional reminder as to why we all need to be better human beings. Some would say that if the test is passed successfully, we are rewarded in the end…

Four days after 9/11, on a quiet Saturday morning with a beautiful blue sky, a friend decided to go ahead with the wedding she had planned over the past year. This friend spent decades dating all the wrong guys until she happened to meet up with an old acquaintance from elementary school when in her late 30s. In a storybook fairytale, they fell in love and got engaged two years later during a romantic getaway somewhere along the Florida Keys. Originally planning to exchange vows on the beach, the ceremony was transferred to a little church on the main drag due to public restrictions being enforced throughout the region. Wearing her fantasy wedding gown purchased on ebay months before, she and her husband exchanged vows to a tearful congregation. I had known this woman for ten years and watched her struggle from one relationship to the next. I was truly happy for her, but couldn’t stop thinking about the collective sorrow resonating silently throughout the chapel. For a year we helped plan the perfect wedding never anticipating something as horrific as 9/11. As we gathered together to leave the church and head to the reception, we thanked our friend for providing a moment of peace and love desperately needed after a long week of tremendous despair.

I see my light come shining
From the west unto the east
Any day now, any day now
I shall be released”

I Shall Be Released – Bob Dylan

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

Summer camp revisited

We’ve had a major heatwave this week. It’s 90 degrees Fahrenheit before the sun even rises in the morning with humidity not below 70% most of the day. As I walked out of my garage this morning around 8:00AM to water the gardens, the sweat literally poured from my body like a fountain – I’ve changed my clothes five times over the past 24 hours…Needless to say, a bike ride has been out of the question. Anyone who knows me knows I love riding my bike, but there’s a line drawn in the sand when the weather is too cold or too hot. If I’m not enjoying myself, what’s the point?

The highlight of my week was last Sunday when I took the kid to the Poconos to visit some friends working at a Jewish summer camp. Having worked as an advisor/parent liaison/trainer for eight summers at one of these camps, I know visiting day is a big deal. It’s when the vomit-induced homesick, straight up miserable and incorrigibly rotten campers get to finally go home and thirty-six hours of relief is bestowed upon the staff until the next load is dropped off.  It’s also the day when all the helicopter parents arrive and descend like locusts on an unwatched field to make sure their child/children is/are still alive, despite staff reassurances on a daily basis for four weeks straight.

When I first started working at camp, if you had a cell phone, you had no service…ever (although sometimes if you stood in one particular spot on the basketball court on a sunny, cloudless day you might get a few minutes of reception…that is, only if you had Verizon service). Over two hundred staff members shared two pay phones and six desktop computers that worked as long as there was no wind, rain or clouds anywhere within a 50 mile radius…and you had zero privacy. The only communication between campers and their families was letter-writing hour once a week (and mail service was so slow parents wouldn’t receive those first letters for two weeks, halfway through the session). Otherwise, the only information parents received was from (you guessed it) me and my three co-advisors/parent liaisons/trainers.

The summer the administration decided to start downloading photographs of campers onto the camp website was probably the worst I had over that eight-year period. The reception was so bad, it literally took days for pictures to download, thereby spawning a new position just for that job – downloading. As internet connections advanced over the years, the administration then decided to lock us all out, creating secret passwords that only they could use in order to work on their own laptops. Towards the end of my term there, I was one of the very privileged few permitted the password, but only if it was work related.

This was Cheryl, one of my bestest friends ever in a lifetime. We were co-advisors/parent liaisons/trainers over the entire eight-year period, she having started many years before me and staying several years after my departure. All four of her children spent their entire lives at camp with all three eventually working there as adults. She made camp tolerable. For nine weeks every summer, we were there for each other through everything24 hours a day, seven days a week. We ate our meals together, lived and slept next door to one another and sat with each other at every meeting, sporting event and fireworks show. Refusing to learn how to drive the golf carts, I was her “chauffeur” and she would buy my favorite frozen custard in return.

Golf Cart

Every year we would dress up for our final staff meeting before the campers arrived . At my final meeting we wore our pajamas, messed up our hair, taped fake telephone messages all over our bodies and wrapped telephone cords along with the handsets around our necks. Sitting at our desks and making/receiving phone calls was pretty much all we ever did at that point, barely seeing the light of day from our windowless hole-in-the-wall office often used for excess storage. Some of my fondest memories are of Cheryl driving me and various other individuals into New York City the last day off each summer – an 8-hour round-trip journey filled with laughter and entertainment – some of the greatest fun I’ve had in my life. Aside from my husband, I can’t think of any other human being I’ve spent that much time with and didn’t want it to end…and then it did.

On May 7, 2012, a post on Facebook from a mutual friend caught me off guard. Cheryl had died suddenly from a massive heart attack following a brief illness during a vacation to her summer home at the beach. That was the year Cheryl decided to stop working at camp. Not only were we getting older and the job becoming more difficult, she had found full-time employment to which she wanted to devote her time and energy. But, of course, that’s not what happened. Apparently, due to a staff shortage, the week before her death Cheryl decided to go back one more time, calling and leaving me a voicemail message telling me about her excitement and wondered if I could be convinced to change my mind as well. Believing I was “just to busy” (or perhaps a bit jealous), I didn’t call her back right away. It’s a regret I continue to have five years later…

So dropping the kid off to see her friends, I decided to continue further north to the camp I had left seven years before, but not without stopping at the kosher pizza stand for sushi and having my favorite frozen custard.

Memories of those eight summers flooded my brain…I missed it dearly. I missed being outdoors – even when it rained for three weeks straight or the heat was so oppressive you couldn’t breathe during the day or sleep comfortably at night. I missed my shitty little bunk with the leaky roof and not caring or having to clean or cook or do laundry. I missed the co-workers who had become my closest friends in adulthood. I missed being part of some kind of secret society that one could only understand and explain after having experienced it yourself.

But no one was left. Except for the maintenance crew, with all new staff and renovated buildings, my camp was no more. Spending an hour talking with my maintenance buddies, we reminisced about our time together and caught up on our lives over the past seven years…and I felt sad. It was a time of my life that I cherished, albeit very stressful at times, but nonetheless some of the best times I’ve ever had in my adult life. However, for seven years I’ve also regretted not staying home and spending those eight summers with the kid and my parents in their pool, eating ice cream and drinking soda pop. If I had known those years would be lost forever due to my father’s declining health and dementia, I would have stayed home. That’s the price I must pay for the rest of my life – the best summers of my life versus lost summers with Peepaw and Meemaw.

As I rolled down the first hill descending the mountain, teary-eyed over my fate, a turkey suddenly appeared on the side of the road…thanks Peepaw…

“Hello Muddah, hello Faddah
Here I am at Camp Grenada
Camp is very entertaining
And they say we’ll have some fun if it stops raining”

Hello Muddah, Hello Fadduh (Camp Grenada Song) – Allen Sherman

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

Committing to the challenge…

Monday, June 5, 2017

With full-fledged acceptance, I dragged my sorry-ass respiratory infected body to the local urgent care with the goal of obtaining any kind of antibiotic money could possibly buy (or bribe). First, I was told it was allergies, “Are you taking your Claritin?”

I must digress for a moment here…if you’re a nurse and/or doctor of any kind, never tell me “it’s allergies.” The last time a doctor said “it’s allergies” and lived to talk about it was so far off the mark, he’s lucky to still be alive (my hubby the lawyer, not me, required murderous restraint). The diagnosis of “it’s allergies” 25 years ago ended up being a rare neurological condition that went undetected for over two years, nearly causing permanent blindness and leaving me suffering from chronic tinnitus to this day, all of which could have been resolved if identified sooner. And because of the delay in diagnosis, I went through 6 years of physical and mental hell that should never have happened to begin with…

Okay, back to that urgent care visit…

Suppressing a primal scream, I informed the nurse practitioner that she was wrong (I know, I know – nurses and doctors love hearing that as much as lawyers being told they’re wrong about the law – just ask my hubby the lawyer). At 52-years-of-age, I think I know the difference between allergies and illness. And, yes, I’m taking my Claritin…

Little voice: “Umm…honey, would you like for me to hock up one of the giant balls of florescent yellow mucous oozing from my lungs?”

Convincing her that it wasn’t my allergies, I was then told it was “viral,” therefore, antibiotics would not guarantee a cure. Fully aware of this fact, I proceeded to tell the nurse practitioner about my impending cancer ride – how I had waited two years and trained for six months to honor my brother…my big brother…my only brother who had died of cancer. I was willing to take the chance of spending the money and accepting the possibility of not getting better by June 11th. My pleading worked…

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

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…but the antibiotic didn’t (serves me right) and the kid ended up with the cooties I had inherited from the hubby. Despite our collective hacking away, my daughter managed to graduate high school without a hitch. Promising to walk like Zoidberg down the procession line after receiving her diploma, the kid chickened out at the last minute, but she did wear the bow tie we’ve been hearing about for four years. I also managed to get a hand-burning high five on the way out.

Friday, June 9, 2017

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With Shabbat upon us, I prepared Ole Bessie for the Bridge to the Beach ride. Sitting in her corral, she anxiously awaited the long haul ahead…

After Michael died in 2015, I planned to do this ride last June, but it fell on the Jewish holiday of Shavuot. Gravely disappointed, I occasionally checked the ACS website throughout 2016, waiting for the official date in 2017. Flashback to January 20th (“I think I can, I think I can, I think I can…”) when “I committed myself to the challenge…” June 11th was free and clear, no excuses…and then the hubby decided to share his cooties with me five days before the ride…

Sunday, June 11, 2017 – Bridge to the Beach

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So, in true Doherty fashion, I ignored the fact that I was still sick and packed up Ole Bessie. This ride is going to happen no matter what

On January 20th, I wrote about being nervous. Admittedly, I was nervous right up to the second I hopped onto Ole Bessie at the starting point.IMG_20170611_063519795_HDR

Studying the route prior to departure, I discovered the entire length would be about 54.4 miles and that all four rest stops were more than 10 miles apart as noted on the ACS website. No problem – most of the route comprised mostly of flat terrain (if it was “a hill,” it was most likely an overpass). And having practiced riding more than 10 miles at a time over the past couple of months, getting to each rest stop would be a piece of cake.

Although Kathy wasn’t with me this time, I’d gotten used to riding alone these past few months. Besides, she sent me a message telling me to “Enjoy the ride!” with a silly cycling animation attached – she was with me in spirit. And I was ready – I had everything on my checklist formulated and completed through trial and error over the past six months all tucked away in one of two packs and/or the pack on my back.

I reminded myself of Jeremy’s advice: “Take your time. Don’t start in Philly – the bridge is a clusterf**k! Stay as far right as possible. Don’t stop at the first rest stop – too many people stop there and wear out their welcome…” Aside from stopping at the first rest stop (it really wasn’t that bad), I obeyed each word of longstanding wisdom.

As I pushed off and turned right out of the school parking lot, a wave of calm came over me. This was it…this was actually happening…

Over the highway and past the seemingly infinite span of malls, I pedaled down unexplored roads weaving through the countryside – small towns with tiny churches and houses sprinkled throughout, local farms growing seasonal crops and bustling Main Streets with busy intersections – just taking in every moment and stopping to smell the roses…slow and steady…

I pretty much had gotten over any fear of getting lost at this point. Riding back roads I didn’t even know existed, I decided to reprint the route directions of each section between rest stops onto small laminated note cards that fit neatly inside my front pack. At each stop, I would pull out the next card and toss the prior one into my backpack, hence, no confusion. I also figured, as long as I can see a cyclist in front of me and another in my rear view mirror, I’m not lost…until I noticed there was no one in front of me and the man behind me suddenly disappeared. Quickly bringing up Google Maps, I realized the right onto Cooper Street had been missed. Not far off course, I turned around to hundreds of cyclists making the crucial right turn I had overlooked. That would be the only mistake made today…

All in all, I managed to get to the first rest stop after the first 13 miles and showed Kathy what she was missing in the snack department:

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For the most part, I wasn’t afraid of the “unknown.” I had made it to 52, remember?! And the hubby and the kid were scheduled to meet me at each rest stop prepared to bring me home if I didn’t feel up to finishing. On top of that, I wasn’t going to let my heart f**k this up. I’d gotten off the medication causing the heart palpitations and had managed to minimize any SVT attacks (although I will admit the fear of a repeat performance like the cemetery incident).

As my concern of “not making it” subsided with each passing mile, I found myself 11 miles later at the second rest stop…where I again showed Kathy what she was missing:

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As for the weather…it was hot. Thankfully starting my ride at 6:40AM (I cheated by five minutes – no one was looking), I evaded most of the heat…until now…I was feeling it. Temperatures were hovering in the high 90s…with no clouds to block the blazing sun…and no breeze to cool the body…it was hot…

By the third stop 11 miles later, I was toast:

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And the snacks weren’t worth showing off anymore…

And by the fourth stop, another 12 miles down the road after racing the planes taking off at the local airport…

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I think my face says it all…

With only 7 miles to go, I fought the Little Voice begging me to throw in the towel and straddled Ole Bessie one last time. After 47 miles there was no way I wasn’t going to finish. Besides, they were closing down the right lane of the Atlantic City Expressway East so we could ride straight into the city and onto the boardwalk – I wasn’t going to miss that for anything! (Those of you who have ever been on the ACE during the summer know how crazy this idea is.)

For 54.4 miles, I thought of Michael the entire way, occasionally fighting back tears. I thought about how long I had waited for this ride, how long I had trained for it and how it was finally happening. I thought about Michael’s pain as the sun burned my skin. I thought about the exhaustion he must have felt as the heat drained my body of fluids. I thought about how much I missed him…

I also thought about Regina, my Irish twin, and felt grateful that she had survived her own battle with breast cancer and had driven the 90-minute trek to celebrate my daughter’s high school graduation last Wednesday. I enviously thought about Kathy having retired much earlier than anticipated and was wandering the country with her husband of 34 years in their super duper RV…it was definitely a good reason to skip this ride. I thought of Maureen…and mom…and dad…and all the other people I had lost in my life these past years.

Believe it or not, the last 7 miles were the easiest. The end was near – I could see the silhouette of the casinos on the horizon as I flew down the entrance ramp to the Atlantic City Expressway. As a result of the lane closure, thousands of vehicles piled with “shoebies” lined the highway, bumper to bumper, waiting to get to the shoreline. Some cheered us on, while others patiently (and impatiently) prayed that their engines would not overheat.

Slowly climbing the ramp off Missouri Avenue and onto the Atlantic City Boardwalk, hundreds of people cheering our victory and thanking us for our support, I could no longer hold back the tears…

I committed myself to the challenge and had triumphed…

Later, we ran into some old friends we hadn’t seen for a number of years. Having done the cancer ride over the past seven years and normally starting at the bridge, they had decided to start in Cherry Hill, confirming that, indeed, Jeremy’s advice was spot on – the bridge is a clusterf**k.

January 20, 2017

“I have a feeling this ride’s going to be even better…”

…and so it was!

“Come on feet don’t fail me now
I got ten more miles to go
I got nine, eight, seven, six, eight, six
I got a five more miles to go”

25 Miles to Go – Edwin Starr

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

Flying high…

Poor Ole Bessie’s in the shop. With two weeks to My Gump Ride, I want to make sure she’s in tip-top shape. Going on 7-years-old (I wonder what that would be in human years?), she needs a little extra TLC these days. With Memorial Day being a literal wash-out and the two-day holiday of Shavuot on Wednesday and Thursday (i.e. shop Monday, cook Tuesday), thankfully yesterday was a perfect weather day for a bike ride. I didn’t plan on going for a long ride. The hubby was smokin’ some meat on the grill, so I wanted to burn enough calories to offset my trough, but be home in time before it all got eaten. I also didn’t plan my route, knowing pretty much every road I can travel, how long each one takes and which ones will not get me run over by crazy holiday drivers.

So I headed down one of my regular paths, Elbo Lane. Before my parents moved to the area (their last home was off Elbo Lane), this road was not even in my sphere of cycling knowledge.

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Yes, I realize that “Elbo” is misspelled (there’s a town in Cape May County known as “Dias Creek” that was originally named “Dyer’s Creek” for the farmer whose land butted the waterline…okay, okay…I acknowledge that New Jerseyians are not the best at spelling…). And what I also find comical is that in 4.26 miles length there is only one “elbow” on Elbo Lane – where it starts (look to the far left of the screen where Elbo starts next to the NJ Tpke.) I’m for once content that a road actually lives up to its name, despite its inability to spell correctly. However, I very rarely ride that elbow – I prefer to sneak down Texas Avenue (I wonder if there are any Texans on Texas Avenue…it sure isn’t shaped like the state…). I decided that I wasn’t going to time myself or look at the odometer – I was going to enjoy the beautiful day and just ride for as long as I felt like. If I found something interesting to investigate or wanted to take a picture, I was going to stop.

About two-thirds of the way down Elbo Lane is a little church I’ve ridden by dozens of times. Since I normally take my long rides on Sunday, there’s always a full parking lot. As I approached the church, I felt my body in slow motion, glimpsing a sign I’d never noticed before:

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As you can read from the sign, the building to the left of the church is the oldest standing Black schoolhouse and religious meetinghouse in the State of New Jersey. The “newer” church (at 150-years-old) built to accommodate its growing membership, is also known for playing its part in the Underground Railroad pre-Civil War…WOW! I’m constantly amazed at how much historic wealth New Jersey has to offer.

The most interesting aspect of this historic site was that I didn’t even realize there was a cemetery behind the church:

WOW again! Pre-civil war graves of escaped and freed slaves, as well as the graves of Black soldiers who fought in the Civil War right here in New Jersey! (Of course my Israeli tour guide would chide at the idea of something being under 2000 years old, but hey, we’re a lot younger nation dude…) The other interesting thing is that Dr. James Still is buried in this cemetery (remember last Sunday’s ride?!). There are no coincidences in this life…

A little further up the road, Elbo Lane, at some point in its past, decided to turn into Stacy Haines Road – and you’ll be thrilled to know that (YES!) there are people with the sir name Haines living on this road (I’m not sure about Stacy, though…).

Less than 2 1/2 miles long, Stacy Haines Road is home to the Air Victory Museum, which I’ve written about before. However, this time there were actual pilots and students learning how to fly.

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Imagine…all day for three hours, all I saw was my beautifully “fake blue sky…” it’s the best drug on the planet…

…but then I missed my turn and ended up on the end of Creek Road (despite my seemingly cognizant attempt to stay away from it) where the entrance to 295 takes over and cyclists are told to, “Get the f**k off the road” at regular intervals, even though we’re allowed to be there (albeit, crazy, but legal…). Managing to not get hit, run over and/or killed, I survived long enough to end back up on the scenic back streets of Burlington County…and then my wonderful fake blue sky grew thick and gray…

Little voice: “You’re so done…let’s just go home and eat barbecue…”

Me: “Absofrigginlutely!”

“I’m up ‘n’ I’m down ‘n’ I’m gone, I’m around
I’m driving along with no wheels on the ground
Hang on to me tight ’cause it doesn’t last long
A few hours more and it’ll be gone”

Fly Me High – Moody Blues

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

Seeing

For the record, although this may be what you see when you get off the plane at Newark Liberty International Airport, this is not New Jersey:

HOLIDAY TRAFFIC

This is what the rest of New Jersey actually looks like:

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Colorful farms as far as the eye can see, chock full of cows, horses, ponies, donkeys, alpacas, sheep, goats and chickens (just to name a few). There’s also hundreds of open roads lined with acres of unsettled land dotted with an occasional house, local markets and mom and pop shops.

Continuing to work up to the 55ish miles I’ll be riding in less than three weeks, I hopped on Ole Bessie and just pedaled in whatever direction she chose. I found myself riding down Church Road (not to be confused with Church Street – they are two very different roads!), which begins in a small town northwest of my home known as Merchantville. It continues through my neighborhood and east into Burlington County – in my opinion, one of the most beautiful places in New Jersey.

My first stop on the day’s journey was Johnson’s Corner Farm in Medford, one of mom’s favorite places to visit:

You always know what season it is at Johnson’s – strawberry lights fill the trees, ladybug flags blow in the wind, colorful baskets of flowers brilliantly displayed, the sound of laughter and children playing on the playground, whimsical tchotchkies to decorate the home, planters made from old license plates and hay rides out to the fields to pick your own strawberries…ahhh…spring has finally arrived and summer is near!

Still riding through Medford, I discovered an historic site I never noticed before:

The now vacant property was the former home of “Dr.” James Still, a free slave who learned medicine and herbalism without having ever attended medical school. The original house/office was demolished by its new owners in 1932 and later purchased by the State of New Jersey (FYI, the first and only African American historic site purchased by the State). As a cultural anthropologist and amateur archaeologist, I was sad to read this, attempting to envision how beautiful the home must have been during his lifetime. So much can be learned from the way people live.

http://www.blackpast.org/aah/still-james-1812-1882

http://www.medfordhistory.org/drstillcenter/index.php

A ways down the road, I stopped at a place I’ve driven by many times but never explored, another historic site known as Kirby’s Mill, the last working mill in New Jersey:

http://www.medfordhistory.org/kirbysmillhistory/index.html

Thank goodness for historical societies! If not for the enthusiasm and dedication of its members, projects like this would not exist (nor would the public know about them). It’s disheartening that so many Americans are no longer interested in their own history and allow important artifacts of our past to lay in waste…

Resuming my journey, I found Church Road coming to an end in a quaint, friendly and peaceful little village called Vincentown:

http://www.southamptonnj.org/history/tours/

Heading north and then west, I pedaled my way towards “civilization.” After a day of open roads, beautiful scenery, friendly faces and peaceful quiet, I felt instantly frantic in the wake of speeding cars and honking horns. Talk about a buzz kill…at least it’s not Newark…

At one point on my journey, I realized I had been down these roads a couple of times in previous years. Way before Ole Bessie (who will be seven years old this year), I had to drive my bike to a nearby parking lot to ride a part of this route. The first time I struggled painfully and got lost (i.e., PCPE, pre-cell phone era [and way before GPS]). I returned a second time, refusing to give in to pain and loss. I did better, but the ride still ended in discomfort and occasional wrong turns.

But on this ride, I suddenly knew where I was and where I was going, despite Ole Bessie ever having been there (okay…having a smartphone and reliable GPS does make it easier). I felt energized by the fact that I had ridden my bike the whole way here this time. I also realized something really important – through practice, perseverance and patience I now had a confidence so encompassing I almost cried. I was so self-assured of my riding abilities and fearlessness that I actually got to see where I was going. I noticed the world around me because Ole Bessie and I had become one.

This feeling I now pass on to my one and only child, who will be graduating high school in less than two weeks, three days before My Gump Ride. She will enter the working world this summer and fly off to Israel in the fall where she will study for ten months. This is a route she has “ridden” four times before, each time more insightful than the last. Having “grown” her successfully into a mature adult, my daughter has become one with her own “Bessie” – her self. Hopefully this time she will get to stop and smell the roses as often as she likes whenever she likes and see what the world has to offer her…

Beware…my kid’s a major trailblazer…just look out y’all!

“Stop and smell the flowers
And lose it in sweet music and dance with me
‘Cause there is beauty in the world
So much beauty in the world”

Beauty In The World – Macy Gray

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

Twin Lights here we come!

Continuing My Gump Ride, Kathy and I decided to do another bike tour – the Twin Lights Ride through Bike New York.

http://www.bike.nyc/events/twin-lights-ride/

For those not familiar, “Bike New York is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that promotes and encourages bicycling and bicycle safety through education, community outreach and events.” Kathy discovered the program earlier this year, resulting in our TD Five Boro Bike Tour on May 1st. We rode as “The Duffy Gang” in memory of our brother, Michael (Duffy was his nickname in high school).

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On the Twin Lights Ride, you can ride 15, 30, 55, 75 or 100 miles. This time we decided to do only 30 miles – we just don’t have it in us to do more than 45 again…yet!  Twin Lights refers to the two lighthouses located in Highlands, New Jersey along the shoreline:

“Situated 200 feet above sea level atop the Navesink Highlands, Twin Lights has stood as a sentinel over the treacherous coastal waters of northern New Jersey since 1828. Named Navesink Lightstation, it became known as the “Twin Lights of Highlands” to those who used its mighty beacons to navigate. As the primary seacoast light for The Highlands, New York Harbor, it was the best and brightest light in North America for generations of seafarers. Many a life and cargo were saved by the sweep of its light.”

http://www.nj.gov/dep/parksandforests/historic/twin-lights/twin-lights-index.htm

On August 1st, I began my training once again. Now into my eighth week, I’m just about ready for the bike tour next Sunday, September 25th. Today’s plan for September 18, 2016 was to ride for 30 miles as a practice run for the tour. With my ride mapped and GPS on hand, I started out for my destination – Timbuctoo…no, seriously…there’s a Timbuctoo in New Jersey:

http://www.westampton.com/timbuctoo.html

Here’s proof of its existence and proof that I was there:

However, I missed my turn off and got lost on the way to Timbuctoo and ended up riding 40 miles altogether. This is what flashed in my mind as I rode into the wind approaching the 30-mile mark knowing I had 10 more miles to go:

It’s when the body says, “Nope…not doin’ it…I’m DONE!” But it’s also when the brain takes over – the one that pep talks you out of your situation, the one whose endorphins are at their peak telling you there’s no pain, the one who’s going to get you home regardless of what your quads, crotch and hands have to say about it. It’s also the moment where my spirit tells me that “this too shall pass,” that it’s only temporary and that I have the ability to keep it or make it go away. I could call a cab or suck it up. That’s the moment when I think of Michael – the pain he suffered that wasn’t a choice, that wasn’t temporary and the bravery we witnessed every day despite his pain…

Here’s what I found along my detour:

One of the most important lessons I’ve learned from cycling is that getting lost is okay. Actually, I first learned this lesson when I was a student for a semester in Ireland back in the fall of 1987. For three months, in between classes I hitchhiked around the country without maps or directions. What was the worst thing that could happen? If I walked too far east, I would end up at the Irish Sea. And if I walked too far west I would end up at the Atlantic Ocean. Too far south? More Atlantic Ocean. And if I walked too far north, well, that was simple – there would be army men with guns in my face. So I never actually felt “lost” while traveling there. The same principle applies here – what’s the worst that can happen? I don’t end up where I planned, but end up finding a new place unexpected…

“Put your dreams away for now
I won’t see you for some time
I am lost in my mind
I get lost in my mind”

Lost In My Mind – The Head and the Heart

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