Central NJ Shakedown Ride

Kickstands-up was at 11am, so that made for a nice late start from home. No need to be on the road at 7am for the 100-mile ride to the Pilot for this one. The usual 55-295-31 run was uneventful - arrived around 10:25 to see 3 or 4 bikes already there. Disappointed to see the store/diner part of the Pilot closed for construction, as I was counting on getting some snacks for the road there. I had stopped for gas about 10 miles earlier, so I took the opportunity to 'double-gas' the Multi and extend my range to around 200 miles.

Chatted with the folks already there, and watched the rest of the group start to arrive. We had around 20 folks express interest, which was going to make this the largest CNJ group ride I've been a part of. Even though Fjrski! wasn't going on the ride, he showed up to see us off - thanks Frank! Saw a lot of familiar faces (andmoon2, boxerdawg, marty2, err, jetset, jamminjere, etc) and a bunch of folks I hadn't seen before.

JamminJere checking for updates to the NSFW threads on STN :-)

Sometime around 11:15 we started to get organized into 3 groups for departure. Tommy handed out the usual very detailed route sheet that I promptly folded up and never looked at again.

I had brought along the D300 and 70-200/2.8 to try and get some good shots of everyone on the ride, we I talked with Doc and Tommy about how that might work. We decided I'd ride behind Tommy in the first wave and he's keep an eye open for a good turn that might work (good sight-lines and pretty open so I could set up on the inside). I'd then get pictures of anyone interested in our group, then wait for the next waves to come by and grab shots of them, before joining up at the end of the last wave.

Right around 11:30 we took off.

The biggest Central NJ STN group ride yet

All the bikes

Wow, that "vivid" setting on the D300 is a bit much

First part of the route had some really tight sections, with one particularly steep downhill section that was pretty fun. Road conditions were surprisingly good, and we kept a moderate but fun pace with our group of 7 or 8 bikes. I spotted one or two turns that I thought would work, but couldn't get Tommy's attention in time. No problem, no rush.

After a while we came to a very nice downhill right-hander that was perfect - smooth pavement, good sightlines, and the right radius to get some lean angle without needing to be doing supra-legal speeds. I honked, flashed my brights, and then eventually just pulled to the shoulder. The next bike behind me pulled up, and I mimed snapping pictures. We were set.

Check here for all the good pictures from the "photo shoots" during the ride

First round of pictures had me setting up on the inside of the turn with the 18-200, and trying to get some pans of people as they rode through the turn. I had done this before a couple times, and found it's pretty tricky. The results this time were mixed, and I made two mistakes.

First, I started the pan shots cropped too close, and had trouble keeing the whole bike and rider in frame. This led to shots like this:

JamminJere on his Connie

This cropping problem was made worse by my second mistake, which was not placing myself in the exact center of the arc of the curve. I was closer to the road at the end of the curve than the beginning, so my crop and focus point when the rider entered the curve shifted closer as they went around. I had to zoom out as they went, and the camera had to change focus as well. Not impossible, but I would have gotten more keepers if I had asked less of myself and the camera by requiring a constant focus/crop position. Still, I did get some decent shots with this method:

Err on his 675

Jetset on his FJR

It was easier going for shots of riders going back up the hill, as I wasn't trying to crop too close.

JamminJere again

Googus on his Blackbird

After our group was done, I then switched lenses to the 70-200/2.8, took a position on the straight the curve exits onto, and got shots straight-on of the riders coming down the right-hander. Got a much higher percentage of keepers, and overall was pretty happy with these groups of shots.

Thinkjerm on the Sprint ST

Doc on the 919

Ponytail (Mary) on the first H-D I've seen on a CNJ ride. She can lean that thing!

Doc asked if Marty2's group had gone by, and was surprised to hear that they hadn't. They left before Doc, so they should have been through already. Found out later that Marty led his troops on a small impromptu dual-sport ride. I hooked onto Doc's group and away we went for the second leg of the ride.

I had a "moment" coming into Port Jervis. I was behind Doc (pretty sure), and we were negotiating some in-town intersections. Left-turn arrow, he goes, I go right behind him. He does a little swerve, I can't see why. Then the back of my bike goes up over something, and steps out what felt like a foot before settling down again. WTF? Turns out I had run over a block of split cord-wood that Doc swerved around. It was big enough to wedge bits of it in my exhaust under the bike. Talking later, both Doc and the rider behind me thought I was going to dump the bike. I can't lay claim to any particular heroics - no idea why I didn't end up on my side in the intersection.

If I had not been that close to Doc I would have seen it and (presumably) avoided it. While I strive to maintain a good following distance on the road to spot hazards such as this, and to give enough reaction time in case something happens to the bike in front of me, I wasn't giving it enough heed at that low a speed in town. Lesson #48 learned.

Arriving at the Erie Hotel in PJ

We took over a good portion of the street in front of the Hotel

The motley crew

Lunch was good (and cheap), though we had to be split into many tables due to the sze of our group.We had a good time at our little "kids" table in the corner (my apologies, I don't remember the names of who I was sitting with - John and John and 'not' John?), with talk of the Gap, riding in the snow, Sturgis, Sprints, etc.

After lunch I decided to continue on with the group to Stroudsburg, then I would head home. We gassed up, and Tommy and Doc suggested I ride ahead to the Hawk's Nest to set up for more pictures as our group rides through. Didn't have to tell me twice (although you did have to tell me how to get there). I rode off and found a decent spot (but not perfect, that pullout was fully occupied) to get shots. I got some test shots of some other cars and bikes tearing through there, one bike at a seriously scary pace. After a bit our groups started to come by. Using the 70-200/2.8 again, and shooting folks head-on, I get the best percentage of keepers of the day. No really good lean angles, but the conditions just didn't allow for it.

This guy on the side didn't really help matters either

Tommy leading the way

Got a bunch of great shots of the TT

My hi-viz TourMaster jacket was a distant second to jfslater98's outfit

Don/Andmoon2 and his ZRX (cue George Thorogood's "Bad To The Bone")

I packed up the photo gear for the day, and hooked up with Tommy's group for the ride down through Promised Land SP and into Stroudsburg. Once we crossed into PA the roads seemed really....dusty? We were kicking up a lot of something, though traction didn't seem at all affected. We had a great run through the park, very little to no traffic at all. Our group get spread out a bit, but no problem gathering up again at intersections. This section was probably the best ride of the day, Tommy in the front, then Don then me swooping turn to turn at a semi-brisk pace with no cars in sight. Temperature was just right, late afternoon sun, just a great "moment in time".

All good things must come to an end, and we found ourselves parked up in Stroudsburg just south of I-80 to say our goodbyes. It was at this point that someone pointed out to me how slack my chain was, and I was horrified to see how bad it was. Not quite dragging on the ground, but by far the loosest I've ever seen. I didn't have the tools necesary to tighten it (30mm socket, 1/4" drive torque wrench), nor did anyone else. Don looked it over and assured me "eh, it probably won't jump the sprockets". My face red with shame, I took off for the 2.5 hour ride home.

I-80, 33, I-78 and most of I-476 passed without incident. The ride was not without tension (ha!) though. I kept envisioning the slack chain snapping and wrapping around the wheel, flipping me and the bike over the divider into oncoming traffic on the slab.  I did have one bowel-loosening moment - coming to the toll plaza at the bottom of 476 I felt a big strange vibration which my brain translated to "holy crap this is the end!".  Turned out it was just the rumble strips.  Embarassment

Got home around 9pm, with 410 more miles on the clock. A great day with good folks.

Track log from the ride

Download the tracklog