MATES 2008

DateJune 13-15, 2008
HostsCheryl Prudhomme and Mark Cook
WhereFlemington, NJ
Who (else) Judy Allison and Malcolm Boyd, Marji Brandriss and Dave Kristol, Barb and Tracy Cate, Deb and Al Cudworth, Michelle and Rich Dittmar, Barb Flint and Neil McPhee, Pat and Ed Gifford, Martha and Jim Gullo, Brenda and Larry Isherwood, Renee Mayeux and Bud McIlvain, Renee and Fred Neibauer, Susan Nicolich and Dave Snope, Pat and Bill Rock

MATES (Mid-Atlantic Tandem Enthusiasts) is an annual companion event to ETR, but it is usually smaller scale. At the last minute, relatively speaking (around New Years), our own Mark Cook and Cheryl Prudhomme volunteered to organize this year's event, because it looked as though no one else was going to. They got help from the DBLS DOGS (Larry and Brenda, Dave and Susan) to plan routes in the Flemington area that show off some of the nicer areas of New Jersey; from Neil and Barb and Al and Deb for food; and Malcolm and Judy for entertainment. The result was a well-organized rally headquartered at the Hampton Inn in Flemington.

Mark and Cheryl planned some interesting diversions besides just tandeming. (To the surprise of some of the attendees, who were used to Mel's rides in flat south Jersey, they got to contend with some New Jersey hills.) Friday's rides included stops at two wineries in the area. Saturday afternoon featured a picnic at Deer Path Park. Sunday's highlight was an extra-special by-bike tour of some of the grounds of the Duke Farm Estate in Hillsborough.


Marji and I arrived around 11:30 AM to help Mark and Cheryl hand out registration materials to arriving teams and generally get set up. (Gee, it's nice attending a rally less than an hour from home!) We were able to get into our room ahead of the standard check-in time, so we moved in all our gear.

A majority of teams arrived in time for Friday's vinyard rides, and most did the 31 mile version. Before starting out, "Mayor Mark" gave everyone instructions in front of the hotel. The rides pass two vinyards (yes, wineries in New Jersey!), Unionville and Amwell Valley. Quite a few teams bought wine, which was delivered later to the hotel.

Friday's dinner was on our own. A bunch of us went to a Chili's in a shopping center nearby, which proved to be quite pleasant. Of course we made a point of getting back in time for the customary Ice Cream Social.


After breakfast at either the hotel breakfast area or the Perkins Restaurant adjacent to the hotel, teams gathered to follow one of several routes to Deer Path Park. Marji and I wanted to see Round Valley Reservoir, but that was only on the long route (46.7 mi), which we didn't think we were up for. So, with the help of Dave and Susan (who joined us), we constructed our own route, about 32 mi., that followed much of the long route, but it obviously chopped off many miles. Our route turned out to be very enjoyable, and we especially enjoyed the long, long downhill after going around the Reservoir.

As things worked out, we were the first ones to the Deer Path Park picnic site, where we found... nothing. No sign of the caterer at the pavilion. A few more teams arrived, but still no caterer. After awhile we saw a minivan drive past the site and park at the next picnic area, which looked to be set up for a wedding reception. I walked down to the minivan, verified she had our food, and directed her back to our site. Many of the tandemists helped move food from the minivan to the picnic pavilion. (You know how it is with cyclists and food!) Fortunately, the food from California Grille proved to be worth the wait.

Although there were several routes to get back to the hotel from the park, we chose the Down & Dirty Quick Return, mostly to avoid a tough hill on the Historic Scenic Return.

We cleaned up for dinner, which was in the Perkins Restaurant. The staff wisely segregated us from the respectable customers, and the MATES, fueled by sampling some of Friday's wine purchases, proved to be a raucous group. There was a certain amount of regression to fifth grade behavior, with paper airplanes and straw wrappers flying through the air. Ahh, but it was fun!

A wine and cookie reception in the event's meeting rooms followed dinner. During the reception, Malcolm and Judy proselytized for mountain tandeming, presenting technical details, showing a number of bikes, and making suggestions for equipment to buy. Following their presentation, there was a raffle for a variety of biking gear. Finally, Susan Hollinger, one of the hosts, made a pitch for people to attend the Eastern Tandem Rally in Durham, NH, August 1-3.


Sunday's highlight was the tour of the Duke Farm Estate in Hillsborough. Because we were getting a special bike-led tour, we had to arrive before their regular opening time. So Mark had us up for a 6:30 AM breakfast (are we having fun, yet?) so we could eat and check out of our rooms (we'd arrive back at the hotel after check-out time) and be off by 8:00 AM or earlier to arrive by 9. The ride to Duke Farm was a relatively easy 15.6 mi.

Unfortunately, between the time Mark made the arrangements and the time of the rally, the Estate closed its famous gardens to public viewing. Nevertheless, we got to see the grounds and quite a few buildings, and we learned the history of J.B. Duke and the American Tobacco Company, which gave rise to the fortune that funded the estate. Duke Farm has now dedicated itself to becoming a showcase for renewable energy sources, and we saw a few electric vehicles, some recharged by solar panels. In the future the estate will have a wind farm to provide power for the buildings. Following the too-short Duke Farm tour, we cycled the 17 mi. return route.

At the hotel, we cleaned up, said our goodbyes, and headed home. It was another great tandeming event. Kudos to Mark and Cheryl and the other DOGS who made it such a success!

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