A Ducati amongst the Blackbirds

New Jersey. Check.

January. Check.

71 degrees. Che....huh?

That's right, forecast is for 71 degrees and sunny on a Saturday in January. If ever there was a reason to ride, this was it. The stunning weather, plus a much-needed relief from a 90-hour crazy workweek, made getting out this Saturday imperative. Fortunately the folks at STN came through again with a planned ride, this time conveniently much more local to me.

Brett (AirborneXX) put together a nice route, and a plan was set to make 3 stops to gather folks along the way before heading out to attack. I arrived at the first meeting point, the lovely and scenic Pole Tavern cicle Wawa, at 9:20 gassed up and still clean and shiny. Wet roads would make sure I didn't stay that way for long.

A couple minutes later a guy on a Bandit 1200 joined me, and we waited for airborneXX. And waited :-). airborneXX arrived, with another Blackbird in tow. Let me apologize now for not getting everyone's names - I'm notoriously bad at that.

A few minutes later, yet another Blackbird showed up. We figured out what to do about tolls on the Delaware Memorial Bridge, and headed out around 10am. An uneventful ride through bucolic Salem county led us to the bridge, where some pretty strong gusts bounced us around. It was strong at the top, but even stronger at the end of the span just before hitting land. The EZPass crowd split from the chump cash payers (I'm among the chumps), and we regrouped at the visitor's center to meet up with some more folks. Oh great, another Blackbird! This one all the way from New York.

Couple minutes more yacking, and we set off for the final gathering place, the "wooden WaWa" on Route 100. The ride from the bridge to the WaWa was decent, but it's pretty hard to keep a string of bikes together on I-295.

A pleasant ride up Route 100 over mostly wet roads brought us to the wooden WaWa to find the rest of our group. We waited in the front for a bit before they found us - they had parked down on the side, apparently trying to hide from us. ejworthen on a brand-spankin-new FJR, Rincewind on a beautiful (but looking thoroughly "lived-in") Triumph Thunderbird, and finally, yes, yet another Blackbird. DosEquis00 was kind enough to equip his Blackbird with a most attractive farkle - a female passenger.

With everyone gassed up and fed, 9 bikes (and 10 people) hit the road for real. I took position as sweep, which suits me just fine. This was the longest string of bikes I've ridden with outside of organized events, and it was pretty neat to watch the movements of the snake unfold in front of me. DosEquis00 and his passenger were just in front of me, and airborneXX was pace. A quick jaunt down Route 100 south, and a left onto Smith Bridge Road, which has some really cool hills. Speeds were brisk, but nothing crazy by any means. We took back roads to 82, then 82 back to Route 1. Somewhere early on we crossed a cool covered bridge with wooden decking.

The roads were mostly wet, but clear of gravel and gunk. The pace was pretty spirited, so my choice of sweep position was working out just fine. I never lost sight of DosEquis00.

Since starting up riding again, I still haven't gained back that fearless attitude toward cornering, especially right-handers. I honestly don't know if I every will, and I'm OK with that. Serious lean angles used to be a big part of my riding joy, but that seems like a million years ago. Now just being on the bike, riding around, traveling, meeting folks, the whole "experience" is what's making me smile. Seeing how far I can lean over is no longer my concern anymore. I'm not ready for a cruiser, as I want my bike to be able to handle way more than I could.

We stopped for lunch at Chadd's Ford Tavern, where it was like walking into Cheer's. The barmaid seemed to know most of the group, and was very cool. We took up 1/2 the bar, and scarfed down burgers and other pretty-decent barfood. I had a chance to chat with airborneXX and Rincewind for a while, mostly talking of local bike shops (the good and the bad), working for the state, and the big bike event at Ephrata on the first Sundays of the month in-season. Gonna have to check that out.

One of our group split during lunch, bringing us down to 8 bikes. From the tavern we headed north on 100 again, then onto 842W, including an impromptu middle-of-town u-turn. 842, then some twisty, narrow back roads to 82N. 82N led us to Apple Grove "Road". When we turned off 82, I figured we were stopping for something, as this cowpath we turned onto couldn't lead anyplace, right? Wrong. 1.5 car-width wide, no lines of any kind, no markings of any kind, and leading into the trees. Paved, but just barely. OK.... We bumped along this at 35-40mph for a while, really giving the Multistrada's suspension a workout. If I was on the Monster I thought of buying I'd have been jarred silly I think. All good things eventually have to end. Or do they?

Oh no, Road Closed. Wait, a bike could certainly fit here, nex to this concrete barrier. Why this wooden bridge doesn't look too rotted.

See, 4 guys can stand on it at one time. Surely a bike can make it.

OK, who's up for this?

It's unanimous - airborneXX will go first. If he makes it, we'll follow.


The other side of this used-to-be-a-bridge was no walk in the park either. Pretty much the twistiest, narrowest one-and-a-bit lane road I've ridden in quite some time. Just when we got to the top of the curves we passed a woman (on a cellphone, of course), and a horse-trailer waiting to go down. Thankfully some of the first people in our group to pass by informed them there were more of us and they should wait. Thanks guys!

After that most enjoyable diversion we did 162 to 322 and then stopped for gas and bullshitting. Boy did we pick a great spot to hang out in! The West Chester neighborhood was definitely pre-gentrification. Lots of bikes, some in groups, some solo, went by while we were hanging out. The neatest was the old sidecar rig - not sure if it was BMW or Ural, I'm not too up on my sidehacks.

Eventually we had to call it a day, as several folks had appointments to keep. We convinced the New Yorker that taking the Garden State Parkway home was a bad idea - I'm guessing he doesn't get down into the southern Garden State much.

On the way back we did 162 to 82 and back to I-295 and the bridge. Along the way we had to pass a couple harley riders who were really just loafing along, even by my standards! They were cool about it and waved us by.

Traffic westbound on the Delaware Memorial Bridge was at a standstill all the way back onto the turnpike, I have no idea why. We waved. At 80mph. Eventually we hit Elmer where I split off.

Thanks Brett for organizing this excellent ride, and thanks to everyone else for making it a great day. Everyone rode well, no incident.

I'm sure winter will resume shortly.