Skyline Drive is a 5.76-mile long road in Northern New Jersey, between Interstate 287 in Oakland, Bergen County and County Route 511 in Ringwood, Passaic County, passing through Ringwood State Park in the Ramapo Mountains. It is a major route for those in the Ringwood and Wanaque area to get to Interstate 287. The road offers a brief view of the Manhattan skyline, 20 miles (32 km) away, while heading southbound. The steep and narrow road is often impassable in winter due to ice and snow. The alignment of Skyline Drive was first designated as a state highway in the 1920s, as an alignment of State Highway Route 3.
[I can imagine… but as to major route notice above… if you are not comfortable riding in traffic, do not follow this route. It will make you very uncomfortable.]
But I’ve already gotten ahead of myself. I ran into Rich the other day. Rich owns a local food place called Back To Earth Natural Foods and every so often I run into him when I stop by to pick up some stuff. We’ve ridden together both on and off road… but mostly he mountain bikes and enjoys the woods, and I rarely have the extra time that takes for me. We chatted, and it got me thinking that I should throw my Jones on the rack and get over to Ringwood and tool around a bit. And that led me to consider that I could probably ride the fire roads without full on fatties, and in doing so, bring other folks that only ride on the roads with me… hmmm.
So while all that heavy duty conspiring was going on, I ask Jenni if she’s riding, and oddly, she says “yes”. And more oddly she even has a suggestion for where we should ride. “We should do Skyline.”
Jenni immediately notes that I may have broken a record for sandbagging as I remind her that I just spent a week crabbin’ about my left knee. My rejoinder was that I’ve had sandbaggin’ excuses lined up much further in advance than that… I do try and excel in all things.
Naturally, neither of us had a clear idea how to get there and far be it from us to look up it before we leave. I admit to having glanced at a map a few days before and seemed like if we just go straight on this road here, we’ll see it. I was right, but lacked enough confidence to overcome the confusion and general worry about where we were going.
Down 202, above 17 and up and over the first hill. I recalled nearly collapsing on that hill a bunch of years ago. The day was humid but cool, with a threat of rain and darkened clouds the entire time. One of two drops fell on an occasion, but we got fairly lucky that the showers stayed away. We got pointed to Skylands Road which did not seem like it was Skyline Drive, but seemed close enough to warrant celebrating by getting off our bikes for a picture. We don’t often ride in a fashion that makes for a lot of photo taking. It feels like pace killing and not in a good way (hey, were touring!) but in a bad way (we’re never getting home). But occasionally we’re in that place, and yesterday seemed to be one of those times.
← An aside: While the tifosi often paint or chalk delightful support of their riders on the roads of the great climbs, Jenni and I find this in the road… repeatedly. Sigh. So it goes.
Having poked around we found our route, and proceeded to climb Skyline. It’s a decent climb, and we stopped in the one place where you could see a view (although it was too hazy for anything but a back view of the Ramapo Mountains) and have a drink.We made the decision to go over the other side and not just turn around at the top despite us not being sure of the route home. The payoff for a climb is view and the ride down the other side… which was excellent, although since we were not familiar with the route, concerns about traffic and lights kept our max speed in check (42mph).
Jenni then played games with her GPS until it began buzzing at her in a useful manner, and while we couldn’t find a pretty way home we started off. As is the way with an unscoped route, we were directed to a wall of a route. A father and son were gardening at the bottom and Jenni asked whether the hill was long (she thirsty, out of water’ish, and in a rare moment, not interested in a long climb) His answer was a snickered “long and hard”. I ignored him because he was failing to be cute, or manly, or suggestive, and climbed what turned out to be a short if steep hill. Jenni walked the steepest section, but could have ridden it if she hadn’t assumed the clown knew what he was talking about.
The rest of the ride home was fairly uneventful. I did notice a lot of road kill deer, which, of course, were almost entirely on the slow uphill side of the road to maximize the odor.
When we got home Jenni picked some bands to be given out to donors, got a bowl and a pile of plasticwear back that she had used to prep food for a friend with cancer, and received a yummy pecan pie which was left from the great pecan pie snafu of May 2010 wherein my mother dropped off a giant pecan pie just after we had procured a personal size pie as part of a multi-dessert finale to the last Shavuot holiday meal. There was probably another 10lbs worth of calories left over in addition to the pecan pie which we’re now distributing widely enough as to not impact any individual too greatly (and yet saving ourselves from our love of deliciousness which is antithetical to hill climbing ability).
I love this line from Jenni’s post: “I intentionally hadn’t asked Daniel how long we were going to ride- I enjoyed letting the day unfold.” If it’s not entirely clear, I wouldn’t have known how long we were riding, as it was her suggestion, and I had barely glanced at a map. It’s a shame she didn’t ask—her vicious rejoinder to my response would’ve been worthwhile.
44 miles and change, 2000+ ft of climbing, lots and lots of fun.