Where: in New Jersey: Jersey City, Newark, Union, Plainfield, Middlesex, Millstone, Princeton, Lawrenceville
I headed out of Jersey City around 8:30, which was a bit later than expected, but I slept like a baby and kept hitting snooze when I woke up. I grabbed a quick breakfast and packed up. I have to admit, I felt a bit of the nerves rolling out this morning. My time in New York felt like a celebratory send off, and I started to feel that today is the real first day. The nerves certainly didn’t stop me though – it’s just the realization that I’m rolling off into the unknown. The funny thing is, that’s the best part. But we’re all creatures of habit I guess, and when that habit gets disrupted there’s that brief bit of anxiety. But it didn’t stop me for a second. I just went the mindfulness route and thought “this is something I’m feeling because of a thing I’m doing”. And then I pedaled out.
I made it through Newark in short order then kept on pedaling southwest(ish?). I’m not 100% certain all the places I rode through… That’s the thing. When I’m on my bike I’m kind of super focused on the road right in front of me, so place names are going to elude me more than I’d like.
I cruised through some trails, saying hi to bird watchers that were far more interested in the trees than saying hi back. Before long I got the feeling that Jersey kind of feels like one big suburb. While not necessarily the most scenic part of my tour, it’s part of the country I’m crossing and am happy to see it.
Soon enough I made it to the Delaware and Raritan Canal Towpath, but before I did, I saw a biker crash his motorcycle after pulling out of a gas station. I saw the whole thing happen and rode over to help him. I was certain he had broken his leg, but I think his pride was the only thing that was really hurt. I helped him pull up his bike, made sure he was alright…
It was my first time riding a towpath, and I took it 16 miles towards Princeton. I have mixed feelings about it… On one hand it was beautiful and unique, but on the other it wasn’t necessarily the funnest thing to ride on with a 100 pound bike. It’s not paved; it’s more like a hardpack gravel.
At times it got incredibly muddy and my wheels slipped a bit under me. Others the gravel was so large that I would have needed a mountain bike to handle it safely and had to get off and push the bike. But it really was beautiful, and I considered it training for the C&O/GAP trails coming up here for me after Washington.
I texted my host for the night, telling her I was going to be a bit late. She said to come as fast as I could because I was her guest to dinner with friends last night. Such a surprise! I was tired at this point, but I pedaled hard to make it in to Lawrenceville as fast as I could. I made my way through Princeton, and it was by far the best part of the ride yesterday. Such a beautiful, old American town. Pretty swanky digs. I wanted to just hang out in Einstein’s town for a while but I didn’t want to abuse the generosity of my host, Metta.
Soon enough I rolled into Lawrenceville and up to Metta’s door. She could not have been a better host. She gave me a room for the night, fresh towels, and took me to dinner with her friend Dave, who she goes cycling with, at a Korean restaurant in Princeton. We all had a great time trading stories and learning about each other, and the best part? I didn’t pay for it! I feel very fortunate to have received their generosity. Such a treat.
After dinner, Dave drove off and Metta took me for gelato closer into town at the Bent Spoon. It was a packed hole in the wall type place with incredible gelato that hit the spot after a 60 mile day… Which I was really starting to feel at that point. We chatted about her upcoming trip to Cuba with a National Geographic tour group and the terrifying election cycle we’re all collectively enduring in this country right now.
It has been such a great experience staying with Metta, who I found through Warmshowers. She was an absolutely incredible host whose generosity I won’t soon forget. I had no idea what to expect from the Warmshowers experience; all I hoped for was a place to rest my head. But Metta fed me excellent (and not cheap) food, gave me a super comfy bed to sleep in, and insisted that I treat her home as if it were mine. It’s really quite touching, and it’s a fantastic way to strengthen the cycling community and get some company when out on the road alone. Going forward I’m not sure I’ll seek out a Warmshowers host every night, though. I do like freecamping alone, and it can be draining to put on your best sense of yourself for a stranger after a long day on the bike sometimes, but this will absolutely not be my last time using the site. Take a look at it and maybe become a host yourself… Or get out there on your bike and look for a host in a cool place.
But back to the bike…overall it was a good first day on the road. One downside? My helmet was stolen when I made a pitstop along the towpath. It was an old one that needed to be replaced anyway (the foam breaks down after a couple years), but I would have liked it to happen on my own terms. Oh well. Can’t think too much about it, other than where I’ll find a new one.
Today it’s 40 miles into Philadelphia, which is good, because I won’t mind having tomorrow off the bike. My legs are still getting used to the road a bit, plus I want to see the city!