May 3: New Jersey

[posted to the Wheeled Migration Yahoo Group on May 3, 2005]
Greetings from Montclair, New Jersey, just a stone's throw from Manhattan. Well, maybe a little farther than that.

I have one more story to tell about Pennsylvania... back when my sister and I were kids, our parents used to take us to a restaurant called Ha Pah Shu Tse on the Osage reservation in Pawhuska, Oklahoma. The restaurant closed a long time ago, but the owner, John Redcorn, is still in business: I found some of his products for sale at the Smithsonian Museum of the American Indian! I bought a package of fry bread mix for 'Becca and Daniel and one for Jay and Elsa, and I cooked it for both households to rave reviews. I don't mind plugging the Ha Pah Shu Tse Web site at http://redcorn.com !

Anyhow... so on Saturday I left Philadelphia in a light rain and headed northeast into New Jersey. As soon as I'd crossed the Delaware River, before I'd ridden 100 feet in the new state, three drivers had shouted rude things at me. Fortunately this was a fluke; other drivers have been more polite.

My New Jersey maps are drawn to a larger scale than I'm used to (1 inch = 1.2 miles!) so I reached the home of Mom's cousin Joan and her husband Lloyd, which is in Ewing, near Trenton, around 2:00. Joan is a statistician for a market-research firm, and Lloyd teaches math at what he calls "the worst school in New Jersey." (It's in Newark, not Trenton.) They've both been under a lot of stress for the past few months because they bought a new house that's not yet ready to be moved into, and because their (Jewish) son married a Pakistani-American and honeymooned in practically all the countries the State Department recommends Americans avoid. The wedding sounds like an adventure in itself: four separate ceremonies in two days!

Joan and Lloyd treated me to a generous Sunday morning brunch, so I didn't hit the road again until 11:00, but New Brunswick was only about 25 miles away. The weather was good, and the roads were nice, through some beautiful, pale green forests... it would have been just great if I hadn't gotten three flat tires! That would be a record, except for Dallas... Actually, it was a great day anyway!

I rode through Princeton, which was every bit as pretentious as one might expect. I stopped at a bike shop, but the clerk was so rude to me I walked out, even though I really needed some tire patches! Had I known that Princeton students were staging a campus filibuster to protest alumnus Bill Frist's plan to undermine the filibuster, I might have stopped to see it, but I felt so... underdressed or something that I couldn't wait to get out of town.

I got a hotel in Edison, just past New Brunswick, and my friend Allen met me for dinner. Allen is in his tenth year as a Ph.D. student in molecular biology, studying the evolutionary history of cellular enzymes, which, he explained, don't evolve much because their functions are so essential to survival. I hadn't seen him in four years, but it turns out our paths will cross again this August in Iowa!

I took a sufficiently out-of-the-way route from Edison to Montclair that I avoided most of the traffic, but even so it was like a single continuous suburb. I got a fourth flat tire! I had expected the trip to take all day, but I arrived in Montclair around 1:00! Turns out this was very lucky: today I rode the same road at rush hour, and the traffic was crazy... if I'd tried it with my trailer, it would have been a nightmare.

Uncle Dave is taking time off of work as a flight instructor following an operation and doesn't plan to go back until next week, so we've got lots of time to catch up. I'm staying in his son Ethan's room -- Ethan is driving trucks for the Marines in Iraq. Dave's daughter Audrey is away at school most of the time, so he appears to enjoy the company and the excuse to cook.

I'll be making day trips into New York City for the next few days -- the general consensus seems to be that I'd be crazy to bicycle into town, and the hostels there sound pretty awful, so I'll just ride the bus across the river and back each day. I should have some exciting stuff to say next time I write, so don't go unsubscribing! :-) --Ben