Day Two: Chillin' in Jersey

What was I thinking?! A two-season sleeping bag, not a single item of clothing besides socks to deliver substantial warmth?

Let’s back up a step. Ziggy Lizzie and I now melded into a supertrio with encouragement to spare, coax ourselves out of 70 degree afternoon nature work with fire and hot meals. Spirits high with flames in fire pit below, nascent stars soon full beam above. “Roasted” bagels with sporkfuls of nutella and peanut butter drooped on ‘em. “One nutella and roasted marshmello bagel comin’ riiiight up!” Two beers apiece — IPAs, Zig’s flavour — Liz and I to bed, Zig tends waning fire.

WOOSH. Zig douses fire, not noise but downward spike of chill rouses me as if ice mage has incanted me from a great distance. In seconds my feet, legs, chest, head sink into chill. Cold enough to dispel me from exiting my sleeping bag to properly deal with my warmth problem. Grasping within pannier from inside cocoon, on go second pair socks, on goes a bike jersey, two bike jerseys, fooooop thread two buffs onto neck and skull. Socks no remedy to bone cold feet. I must warm them but cannot reach my feet inside the trim modern sleepsack without unzipping the whole apparatus, which I eventually do, worsening the problem elsewhere on my skeleton.

Midnight hits. Intense shivering.

3AM hits. REALLY, REALLY COLD NOW. Socks system is not working, I rip off the multiple socks leaving only the wool ones. Liz probably feels like she’s sleeping next to a DJing for beginniners class with all the vinyl flipping and scratching next to her, hands me an “extra” puffy jacket (flash of outrage), tells me to stuff it down by my feet. Helps immediately. Butt is still icy, put on a pair of pants over my bike leggings. Chest and head are cold, I huddle in tightly arms in armpits try to save heat.

Twenty minutes later I notice I’m not shivering, but utterly exhausted, brain ticking along in instinct mode. I eat a rock hard nutrition bar, tastes like the most incredible morsel I’ve ever tasted to the point of physically grunting and groaning (check to see if Lizzie is stirring, no signs of motion.) Once the energy hits me, I resume shivering. Guess I ran out of steam!

7AM, feet are insanely cold again, jostle around to create some warmth. Check the weather — 41 degrees. Ouch.

8:30AM, I’m the first out of bed (always), I run around in a circle outside of the tent to warm up. That terrible, frenetic energetic sensation when you’ve no more deep energy or rest. Prance up to the camp center and shower. The water is lukewarm-to-hot and this is the greatest moment any human has ever felt anywhere. Some kid is dillying in the shower two stalls down singing We Will We Will Rock You mixing up all the words. You keep mixing up those words, kid.

Ziggy had it even worse. Without a sleeping pad, the chill from the ground was unstoppable, even after he dawned every single item of clothing supporting his journey. Decided to put his shoes on. Feet still kept getting cold. So he would take his shoes off, take three pairs of socks off, reach down and warm up his feet, put everything back on, fall asleep for 25 minutes, then wake up to foot freeze again.

Lizzie had all the right gear and slept for 12.5 hours, minus my disturbances.

Zombie-like out of the campground. 10:30 before we truly leave, head to Farmingdale for breakfast at place I spotted amusedly the prior day called The Breakfast Club. Everyone stares as we walk in, dozens in camouflage no fellow bikers in the diner. I eat everything on my plate.

Day unfolds in a waking daze. Route 9 ends up being much more highway-like than we anticipate, we zigzag on crossroads adding ~7 to the 16 miles we biked.

Double-take in the suburbs as I see two teenagers locked in combat, one with bundle of twigs other wielding a pickaxe, two mad grins. Spirit animals.

2:15PM: Stop at a Smash Burger in a shopping center in Tom’s River for burgers, sweet potato fries and Vitamin Water. Call ahead to the next campground — despite website listing tent camps available, they won’t let us camp, but suggest a private campground three miles back North. Not wanting to forego progress and still up for a ride, I look into plowing ahead to the Bass River State Park, 36mi. South. Speak with charming Toni recognizes our mid-afternoon plight, tells us if we make it we can pick any open lot and reverse-register in the morning. Lizzie shoots it down, so we head the 3mi. back North:

Camper park is dominated by RV but offers a “tent island” for $35. Turns out we are the only tent campers, we get an entire island to ourselves, fortune!

Not very visible creek behind the tent
Bridge to the island
Spend a solid hour trying to light a fire from pine needles, leaves, twigs, and the greenest of green wood. Many failures — at least ten. We return to camper HQ for a firestick….and some $.025 popcorn (Lizzie shared it with me, to pleasant surprise.)
Wooden Bridge in full dark, lined by christmas lights

Liz and I make simple meal from rice, broccoli, red peppers and some spice. Liz heads to bed and I sit down to write.

Faced with pangs of survivalism, I recognized I am not “out here” to seek individual rawness or some other type of inner experience the woods might provide. The woods are a means, not an end. My purpose on this adventure is social in nature — I’m just not sure what it is yet or who it involves on my second day behind bars.

Down to embers now