A bicycle ride over 4 covered bridges in New Jersey and Pennsylvania to 1 firehouse roast beef dinner

Turn left! Turn left!

I always say a bike ride is better with a destination or theme in mind. Or that it’s all about the food. Our latest two-state ride did both.

After stumbling across the Stockton Fire Department‘s pancake breakfast years ago, we’ve been talking about going to its roast beef dinner. When the post card announcing this spring’s date arrived in the mail, it went on the calendar. No more stalling.

Stockton is along the Delaware River, and we’ve ridden both the D&R Canal on the Jersey side and the D&L Trail on the Pennsylvania side. (We picked up lunch here on our bike ride to watch polo last fall, for example.) This time, though, we weren’t going to take it easy with a flat ride. Instead we picked out a ride posted on Ride With GPS that took us into the hills on both sides of the Delaware River.

Early on, we crossed New Jersey’s only covered bridge, the one-lane Green Sergeant with wooden planks for the floor as well as wooden sides and top. (Traffic going the other way takes a flat modern bridge.)

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New Jersey’s Lawrence Hopewell Trail is a gem you should discover

Now I have ridden sections of the Lawrence Hopewell Trail many times, even at night during the annual Moonlight Ride. But Saturday was the first time I set out to ride the entire 22-mile loop. And I have to say the whole of this New Jersey trail is better than its parts.

Put it this way: I just couldn’t stop smiling.

The LHT has so much variety that you can’t dismiss it with oh, trails are boring. Sometimes you’re biking through the woods, other times through the fields or next to a lake. You go for miles through Mercer County’s largest park. There’s the options for a food stop in Lawrenceville. History at the “pole farm,” where 10-story (yes, story) timber poles stood for decades, supporting antenna wires that relayed phone calls across the Atlantic. It looks like spinach is already growing at a big organic farm. Lots of curves and turns, not the straight lines of an abanonded rail line that’s been converted into a trail.

The surface changes too. Sometimes it’s paved, but there’s dirt, crushed stone too. Sometimes it felt soft on my 28 mm road-bike tires (thankfully with some tread), and I felt I fishtailed a bit. Anyone on wider tires, though, will have no problem. And there was even a bit of mud to go around or (ugh) walk through, holding up my featherweight bike.

Signage — with one exception — is perfect.

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Chocolate, chili, bicycle

Finally — spring is here. Sunny and temps topped 60 today, so time to kick off the 2019 bike season. It’s too early for heavy mileage, so we did an extended version of our short loop in West Windsor, Windsor and Robbinsville. And in those 23 miles of quiet roads, even a bit of trail, we had two great stops.

First was a chocolatier’s shop in an industrial park. We have seen many signs for David Bradley along the highways around here and on the New Jersey Turnpike, but we had never been. This time we saw the sign into the Windsor industrial park and pulled in.

It’s all the way in the back, in the last building., looking like something built decades ago. Nope, nothing fancy.

But when you walk in, it is wall-to-wall chocolate. Easter bunnies, wedding chocolates. Congratualtions chocolate bars. Thank yous in chocolate. Cookies. caramels, fruits, you name it covered in dark chocolate (or, if you must, milk chocolate). And we were immediately offered a sample — a slice of orange or a chunk of pineapple, covered in chocolate.

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A bonus day of bicycling around Titusville, Florida

6082B308-4B96-4C4B-85F9-3DB419D57E15The East Coast Greenway’s 2018 edition of its Week-A-Year Tour is over after 369 or so miles across 6 days. But some of us weren’t quite ready to get off the bike, and so we joined Titusville residents for a 10-mile fun ride on its trail and its Chain of Lakes Park.

Props to the 7-year-old in the group. Not only did she ride the whole way, but when her handlebar grip went flying off, causing her to lose her balance and tumble onto the grass, she bounced up with “don’t worry, I’m fine” to her mother. That’s the attitude!

We northeners remained fascinated with alligators, stopping twice for photo ops. What a big one! It hung around for a while before tiring of our gawking, lifting itself up and waddling into the water.

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Day 6: 63 miles from Daytona Beach to Titusville, Florida

52236651-B8D4-49EF-857C-1C8A6946E21BWhat a day!

This is the last full day of the 2018 edition of the East Coast Greenway’s annual Week-A-Year fundraising ride, and we spent much of it pedaling on quiet roads or trails— including 34 straight miles on the East Central Rail Trail, part of the Coast-to-Coast Connector that will stretch from Titusville on the Atlantic side of Florida to Tampa-St. Pete on the Gulf of Mexico side. (It’s 80% complete.)

It’s a lovely trail, with one section opened only a few months ago and just a little bit left to go until all 50+ miles are built. How nice to be able to ride side by side, chatting away without needing to look out for motorists. And if we needed anything, why, there was Vergie’s stand selling everything from snacks to bottles of Gatorade to spare inner tubes, all on the honor system.

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Day 5: 64 miles from St. Augustine to Daytona Beach, Florida

99DDB2B3-C02E-4EE9-8F0B-84E05B0A7346The most memorable sound of day 5 of the East Coast Greenway’s Week-A-Year Tour: the boom from the SpaceX rocket launched this afternoon at Cape Canaveral that we heard (and felt the rumble) 60 miles away in Daytona.

Second sound of the day: the roar of the ocean, heard from the hotel room balcony. (If only it was warm enough to feel like we should be playing on the beach.)

Yes, we are in the spring break capital of America. And we are hearing that Daytona Beach wants to change its image, attract more people like .. us.  That would be adults on bikes.

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Day 4: 70 miles from St. Mary’s, Georgia, to St. Augustine, Florida

13FDD88B-70A6-4744-BEC3-19D2A7591CFEWe were blown down the coast of Florida today, propelled by a strong tailwind that had us hitting close to 25 mph on flat road while pedaling seemingly effortlessly. That’s a casual pace for the Tour de France, but a speed we mortals can’t sustain. Wow! (And so glad we weren’t trying to go north.)

Florida is quite the contrast to Georgia. Lots more money. Lots. The East Coast Greenway route took us down the coast, so start with normal beach towns. Then ramp it up and up and up some more as you hit Ponte Vedra Beach. We took the residential road one block in from the beach that ran for miles, and the estimates for the value of these mansions kept rising — a million or two dollars at a time. All ginormous. As for their beauty, well, it’s a matter of taste. One rider called it F-you money. As for me, I wondered how many of them take advantage of taxpayer-subsidized flood insurance. Not that they would see it as a handout, of course. And who does the work maintaining their yards and cleaning their homes?

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