The Longest Day
208 miles in one Day

(Last updated: Sun. Jan 17, 2010)

Past Longest Day


Well I thought I knew something about the first Longest Day. But I've been finding out more. I just got a little more information about riding the length of NJ in a few days. I expected this, as bicycle camping was popular in the 70's. I had a story from 1970 by Bob Geddis about riding from one end of NJ to the other (camping style, over several days). This was before the first official CJBC Longest Day event on June 20, 1980. Hmm seemed to have lost Bob's information (ARGH!).

Well I did pull this from the CJBC July 2008 Hub news letter. Reprinted letters from Dan Keefe and K.K./Elaine Koplow. I'll work out the errors and fix them as I find them. Some errors make for very difficult reading.

My stuff can be found at the bottom of the page after K.K./Elaine's telling of the early running of the Longest Day event.

The Longest Day--A Retrospective

By Dan Keefe, May 1990

As with so many of CJBC's better things, Elaine Koplow started it all, so you can blame her.

To begin: 1979, autumn. Elaine is riding on the northern fringe of the Pine Barrens, Mansfield. She stops in the general store, meets a counterpart from the South Jersey club. One brag leads to another, and finally to a challenge: (South Jersey) can do the length of New Jersey faster than you (CJBC). Oh yeah? We can not only beat you, but we can do it in one day! No you can't. Oh yes we can. And so it began. Editors note: I don't know Elaine but I like her already. :-).

The first ride: 1980, High Point monument to the light house at Cape May. Route: ride as straight a paved-road line as can be ridden from the northwest corner of the state southeast to the diagonally opposite corner. This means largely Route 206, picked up 25 miles into the ride and lasting until Hammonton, 120 miles further south, 60 miles from the end.

Who went?, Elaine (of course), Ed Kranz, Owen McCall, Hal Volz, Marty Dooley, Shelley Aburhowski, Abe Abuchowski, John Thiele, the "Smitties" (father and son), Frank Lotito, John Waltz and probably a few others whose names escape me.

Was it tough, that first time? You bet. The psychological aspect was the worst of it: the wondering, the unvoiced doubt that normal (well, ostensibly sane) people could possibly ride 200 miles in a single day. So - the fear that "normals" couldn't do it. The accommodations - camp out at High Point the night before, of course. In rain, of course. Leave 4:00 AM-ish, in the miserable and rainy dark, of course. Ride through a downpour that at times approaches torrential, and lasts most of the day, almost into Cape May. And Route 206 between Chester and Far Hills: under construction, with the shoulder about one foot below the road surface. Which caused Elaine to wreck when she had to swerve away from a too-close passing car, destroying a wheel and severely injuring her arm. (She later said that had it not been for this special ride, she would have quit then and there. As if anyone would have let her.) Flats. Owen had seven. In the rain, of course. To state policeman on Route 80. "Hal's got the pass, officer. He's coming up behind us." And the tedious yet somehow exciting Route 206 into Hammonton. McDonald's for junk food; only 60 more miles to go. Ed Kranz - "That's when I realized that we were going to make it. Only 60 more miles - we can do 60 miles to anywhere! " Dennisville, and it's now dark. Onto Route 47, the direct and dangerous road into Cape May. (Those of you more recent Longest Dayers who bypass this fast and dangerous thrill of a rapidly moving, randomly paved parking lot can have no conception of this, the penultimate trial that they had to suffer. (Editors note: - apparently we now use a different section of roadway, as Dan notes below.) As Owen said later, "I realized that I could have been killed there, and no- one would have even noticed."). And then Cape May, and the ultimate trial- they had no place to stay, of course, no reservations at any motel, and it's 10 or 11 PM. So what did they do? 'Mey bought some beer and pizza, of course. And I guess they got a place to stay.

That first year (1980) was a "find out what's needed" year. The next year (1981) was easier done, with reservations at both ends:. the Rat's Nest motel at High Point and the Sea Breeze at Cape May. Good (well ... better at least) weather. only moderate drizzle for part of the day. No problems. Leave at 5:00 AM. Get in around 6:00 PM. And none of the psychological hazard; we knew that 200 miles could he done in one day.

The third year (1982) was the year of the rain at Hammonton. We'd just made it to the Hammonton McD's; a storm breaks and it pours for an hour, flooding the roads. When it finally breaks up, we slog-ride for several miles through foot-deep water. And then had to rescue our drowned sag vehicle. But we made it to Cape May by 9:00 PM.

For the fourth year (1983), we copied an old three day length - of NJ camping trip, and call it the "scenic" route. A tough route, with several major climbs: a route that is several orders of magnitude more difficult than the "trailitional" one. It teaches us true suffering. We take until 11:00 PM (about 18 hours) to make it but to be totally fair, we once again had to rescue our sag. To be further fair, the rescue stop did give us a welcome hour of rest we luxuriated in this most serendipitous stop 10 miles from the end.

By the fifth year (1984), we are staying at the Blue Amber motel in Cape May, and we've been given the now-used alternative to Route 47, an across-the-peninsula route over little-used and good roads to Cape May. Four of us do the scenic route--into a steady 15-20 mph headwind for the last 120 miles. Tough? Try sustaining 18-20 mph into that for eight consecutive hours. Tough! Were we tired at the end? Hard as I might try, I could neither eat nor drink a beer. But I was in better shape than some; the Flake barely made it to the bed before he flopped down. Not even an attempt at eating for him! We ride home the next day, of course. (We'd ridden up to the Rat's Nest motel the day before, for a 420-mile weekend.)

Sixth year (1985) a piece of cake. Tailwind and paceline in cool weather. I betcha any one of us coulda done at least another three or four miles at the end.

Seventh year (1986), unbelievably hot weather. 95 & 95 (degrees Fahrenheit and percent humidity) plus a quartering headwind from the southwest Plus sun. Plus hot--hot--hot. Plus humidity--humidity--humidity. Debilitating ride; sensible people don't do these things. This is the first year that people have to drop out for reasons other than accidents. The heat gets to many people. David Beyer with his schmatta saves the day for some of us.

Eighth (1987) and ninth (1988) years: weather is a repeat of the sixth, and the ride is an easy one. Except.. except in both years trying to get across the Beefalo canal at Princeton. Bridge out one year and flood the next-- another bike slog.

What, over time, are the highlight of the trip? Weather--that's the determinant. The pre-ride carbo loading in Port Jervis, and the pre-ride jitters there, too. The qualms, the doubts - will I measure up? Starting in the dark. The downhills in north Jersey and especially the downhill into and then the stiff climb through Newton. The Hillsborough bakery. Crosswicks: the general store (Editors note: - since closed but now a Pizzeria and not on the route), its quintessential macaroni salad, the nice nice people who run the store and indulge us. Up and over Schooley's on the scenic route. McMahon Road: its potholes have potholes. The undulating, quiet, and lonely beauty of the Pine Barrens. Chatsworth: Busby's. Riding all day, and refusing to admit the pain, the exhaustion. The camaraderie. The relaxed "schmooziness" of friends being with each other, pulling each other, encouraging each other through each one's ups and downs. The "I feel good--I thought I'd feel a lot more tired than this.- " lies that start about two-thirds of the way through. The eerie eight miles between Bruno's and the Head of River cemetery when the end seems so tantalizingly near--and then you realize that there are 30 more miles, almost two more hours to go. Can I go on? Yes. Yes, I can. The Dennisville flop.- the last rest, only 20 more miles to go. The last climb, over the bridge and dropping at last into Cape May. The quiet and diffident, yet excited satisfaction at the end: I measured up. And then the beer and then the al fresco breakfast and the relaxed companionship the next day at Cape May. And, for those of us who are Catholic, the pre-council church and pastor at Cape May.

In retrospect: once CJBC led the way, many other clubs have instituted double centuries of their own. They're good and challenging rides, but they're mostly just long loops, and none of them have the cachet that ours does: bicycling the length of New Jersey in one day!

So... it's a good ride. And we should all acknowledge and thank Elaine for that first one, for her brashness, her cockiness that committed us to that first ride, and for organizing it and us for the next several ones.

Thank you, Elaine, for a (good? no... great? no... super? no...) dynamite ride.

The First Longest Day Ride

(as told to K-K by Elaine Koplow)

June 1995 As the grandchildren crowd 'round the kitchen and listen to stories of the old days, I'm sure there'll be rumors that will be passed along. So I wish to set the record straight.

It all started at the Allenwood Store on Irv Eisdorfer's ride, when we ran into some folks from the Atlantic Bicycling Club. They asked us If we were the club that did the 3-day Tour of New Jersey. It was a very sane ride back then-three scenic days, High Point to Cape May, leisurely biking, birds singing, streams trickling, camping, barbecuing chicken, etc. So I invited their club to do it with us the next year. Nice, right?

Anyway, It was then that they spoke the fateful words (quite arrogantly, I might add), 'Thank you very much, but we're going to do it on one day'. I had heard about peacocks strutting, but never seen one 'til then. There was silence in the Allenwood General Store ... an ominous silence ... broken only by the sound of Ed Krantz guffawing and choking on his Gatorade. We were able to restrain him 'til we got outside, whereupon we all launched into a display of imprecations and exhortations (complete with gestures) as has ever been seen on a CJBC bike ride. And that's when the idea was born, and the first ride was the next summer, JUNE 20, 1981.

There was lots of betting going on in the club as the 16 of us formed into groups, though I don't know for sure who the bookie was. Seems it might have been Nick Carter. I can now confess that I baited Shelly's group into being the 'fast group', and all the money was on them as to finish ... I mean, not just finishing first, but FINISHING AT ALL!!! As to my group, I think It was even money that we'd get as far as Hammonton.

And as for Jon Thele's group, nobody expected them to get past Chester.

How we trained for that ride We were doing centuries every weekend In April. We did back-to-back centuries; we did double metrics. We did double back-to-back metrics. It was a case of 'do or die.' (Note: Elaine also told me that she trained over 3000 miles that spring ... hitting the three thou mark on the actual LD trip, simply because they had no guideline as to how much training needed to be done ... as the story proceeds, It'll prove to have been an advantage).

More amazingly, some of us camped the first year. In retrospect, it astounds me not that we did it, but that we did it on two hours of sleep. There were three of us in my tent and there were three mosquitoes in there with us. We got to sleep about 1:30 a.m. and then Hal Volz and Marty Dooley woke up about 3:30 to do their limbering-up exercises. Another lesson hard-learned is to choose your team based on compatibility, but we soon learned that Owen wasn't his cheerful, Texas self when he didn't get enough sleep.

So the day began. On the first switchback on the way down from High Point mountain, our five-gallon cooler of orange juice spilled over in the back of our sag wagon (Tom Govelitz's brand new carpeted van). Tom had just enthusiastically joined the club three days before; I don't think he ever renewed his membership.

Well, history has told you that it rained that first day, but what you don't know is how big the rain drops were. Raindrops as big as chainwheels. Greg Lemond's chain wheels. It was on and off all day. Rumor has it that Jon Thele's group wanted to quit, but they were so wet his father wouldn't let them into the sag.

Owen got seven flats; I had an accident on the same stretch of road up near Chester that Shelly had had on that same morning. I pretzeled my wheel and wrenched my sholder, but it turned out to be a blessing in disguise, for I had to ride someone's extra wheel (someone with tall gearing, I might add). While everyone else was sore and complaining about seats and necks and hands and feet, the only pain I felt the entire day was in my shoulder. Not that I'm recommending this strategy to would-be Longest-Dayers.

We killed half an hour browsing at The Nickel in Princeton while waiting for the inimitable Nick Valinotti to relieve Pete Miller as our sag driver, We got lost somewhere down around Pemberton. We consumed untold dozens of cold baked potatoes.

And somewhere along the route, it got dark. We reached Cape May around 10 p.m. and then spent another 45 minutes looking for the motel. Altogether, it had taken us 17 hours. I believe this is the slowest time ever recorded on the Longest Day. (Editor's note: we have a report of one unnamed group who took 22 hours.) It was about 11 p.m. when we went hunting for dinner. Everything in town seemed to be closed except for one pizza place. Now here I admit my memory is hazy and I honestly don't remember whether the 8 of us downed 5 pizzas and 7 pitchers of beer, or 7 pizzas and 5 pitchers of beer.

So the historical record is not totally complete, but that's the kind of thing the club loves to argue about anyway: whether the hills were worse last year or this year ... whether the wind came directly at us or from the side ... which year was the hottest ... the most humid ... the windiest. One year Paul Wededink got pushed. One year we had gnats. Pain and suffering are clearly the stuff the grandchildren will want to hear about, clustered around the kitchen listening to the popcorn in the microwave. That's the stuff of legend.

But just one more point. To this day, It is shrouded in mystery as to why the fast group (certainly the most capable among us) decided to pack it in at Woodbine ... just 18 miles from Cape May. The story has never been told. There is only conjecture. Rumors say that they bickered ... and that they shed their rain gear at that point, thinking that there would be no more storms to come ... and along came the worst downpour of all ... leaving them with no change of clothes. According to 'Leggs' Lolito, there was danger of 'hypothermia,' and the sag insisted that they pack it in. Hal Volz may have more to add on the subject.

Comments from the future. :-)

Yeah, hindsight is 20/20 but there is still one thing that rings true from the first Longest Day to the present: weather! You never know what you'll get. We've had heat waves (near 100°F, actually heat and humidity waves, which is dangerous), we've had heavy rains (4" in 1 hour, 2001) and we've had cold (a high of 50°F)! My friend Mark predicted that in one Longest Day we would experience cold (we had 38°F @ 4 AM), heat (we had 95°F+ @ 1 PM, only 80% humidity), rain, wind and snow (we didn't get snow). He did a lot better than the weather man. :-) The last Longest Day to go through Hammonton was the 2002 ride. We now divert through Chatsworth and the heat at the heart of the Pine Barrens. During the 2001 Longest Day my team experience the same kind of downpour (a tropical storm) and the same kind of flooding, at the very same Hammonton McD's. We no longer use that section of Rt 206 or go through Hammonton (too busy, too fast and too miserable a 20+ mile section). I also experienced the questions of doubt on my first ride, though I had a team with several experienced riders to provide some levels of assurance.

From Elaine's description of the first Longest Day route I've created my version of the 1980 route on Bikely (3023 ft of climb, 4766 ft of descent - only 193 mile but we know this is quite the same route). I'll have to ask someone in the know if they can remember the route. I can't tell how close but from the Branchville to Bridgewater and Dennsville to Cape May the route sounds close to what we use now. I'm afraid that I don't understand Elaine's 'randomly paved parking lot' comment. I can only assume the roads are better now. I also suspect that the 1980 ride went a different way around Trenton. Today, the rest of Rt 206 is too unpleasant to be used anymore and I won't be adding a turn-by-turn description to the route. For those who are interested in the lower section on Rt 206 take a look at the 2001 route outside Pemberton (mile xxx). That should follow closely to one of the original routes. I did manage to find the Head of the River Cemetery near Tuckahoe. We don't venture near it anymore. The only thing I can guarantee is that the look of the route today is nowhere near the look in 1980. Between 2001 and 2002 Rt 206 and Rt 30 in Hammonton changed from a two lane highway to modern urban sprawl. Compare that with the road through Chatsworth (roughly parallel to Rt 206 and 7 miles East). A road that is quiet and desolate, eary!

My history with the Longest Day

Originally this was about my (Neil Cherry's) history with the Longest Day, starting in 2001. I can remember my first Longest Day (2001) ride as if it were last year's ride. This page is in the process of growing past that. A lot of people have been involved in the Longest Day and many more will be. Hopefully I can move this page in that direction and share other's stories too.

I've been a member of CJBC since about 1995. I've been riding the Longest Day since 2001. I love doing this ride, it's my big ride of the year. I especially love the scenery, which I can only see, in total, on this one ride a year. I've only missed doing this ride once, in 2006 due to illness (the pink T-shirt year). That also happens to be the route that I'm missing (anyone?). I can honestly say that I probably know the route better than most people. I kind of have it memorized. The one odd thing is that even though the same routes can be used from year to year the mileage can vary by as much as 3 miles (207 vs 210, about a 1.5% error).

  • Longest Day 2000 - I found this up on the internet so I've listed it here. This is not one of mine, in fact it was the year before I did my first Longest Day.
  • Longest Day 2001 - My first Longest Day and favorite ride (202 miles). This used a route that went through the Ft. Dix front gates. Since 9/11 the base is closed to all but official business and base personnel. (15.8 mph avg over 202 miles).
  • Longest Day 2002 - I need to post this route (not available yet). This is the ride Mark and I did alone. It rained all day and was miserable but we went faster than the year before. (16.2 mph avg. over 203 miles).
  • Longest Day 2003 - This uses the same route that the 2005 ride used. I just posted the route in 2005, hence the name. Oddly enough I can't remember the details of doing this ride. It kind of became a blur between 2001 through 2003. (16.8 mph avg over 207 miles)
  • Longest Day 2004 - This uses the same route that the 2005 ride used. (17.7 mph avg over 207 miles)
  • Longest Day 2005 - Ah yes, I was a bit grumpy this year. Huge team, left late, couldn't get folks moving. (17.0 mph avg over 210 miles)
  • The pink t-shirt ride. :-) I didn't ride in 2006 (illness), this used a slightly different route that we don't use any longer. I need to get my hands on the route and get it posted. The name comes from the fluorescent pink t-shirt given with that ride.
  • Longest Day 2006 - This is Piers Forsyth's description of his 2006 ride.It uses the 2005 route. (208 miles)
  • Longest Day 2007 - This is Tom Cook Westfield description of his ride. I need to post my version. I'll be honest it went smoothly, uses the 2005 route. (208 miles). Tom touches on a few things I've mentioned in other sections of these pages.
  • Longest Day 2008 - uses the 2005 route. I haven't posted it yet, been too lazy and been a bit busy. (208 miles)
  • Longest Day 2009 - uses the 2009 (new) route. I've updated it now and overall it was a great ride. (17.5 mph avg over 206.5 miles)
  • Longest Day 2010 - my plan for this year.