Because you want to bike to a farm brewery for ‘weird beer’

Out of the freezer at home and ready for a beer.

I’ve given quite a few talks on biking in New Jersey, and I always talk about the sites you’ll discover and how anything can be a destination. One example I use is Screamin’ Hill brewery, a farm brewery in the middle of rural New Jersey. And then I realized that aside from our first ride there (when it was closed), I’ve never given it its own blog post, just shared billing.

Time to fix that, and its fourth anniversary was a good excuse. Plus we wanted a shot at the free anniversary mugs. Little did we know that it opened two hours earlier than usual! The only reason we came home with one was because someone abandoned it by the plastic cups and one of the riders in the group was kind enough to hand it to us.

We discovered this place thanks to an article in Edible Jersey that described it as New Jersey’s first (and as of then only) farm brewery. Most of what goes into the beer is grown on the farm, and they have some funky offerings (what some friends would call “weird beer”). There’s IPA, wheat beer, fruit beer, pilsner, sour and more. Even one with tomato. So, yeah, you could say that’s weird. (I had the tomato one once. It doesn’t taste anything remotely like tomato juice mixed with beer.) Among the five beer drinkers I was with, however, one called it the best beer he’d had in a long time. Another noted how fresh the beers are.

What’s on tap varies according to what’s ready, and when they run out of something, they run out. Hours are incredbily limited — 3 pm to 8 pm on Fridays and 1 pm to 6 pm on Saturdays. BYO food. Really. It’s a very casual, picnic atmosphere with a few kids running around. (But no dogs.) We started out in the sun and ended up sprawled under a shady tree.

Even if you’re not much of a beer drinker, it’s a lovely bike ride. Once you get to the other side of US 130, the roads are pretty quiet, with a little bit of up and down as you get close to the farm (whose address, after all, includes the word hill).

Continue reading
Posted in bike ride | Tagged , | 1 Comment

A new campsite near the East Coast Greenway in New Jersey

Lots of space!

There are plenty of places to stay along the East Coast Greenway — unless you want to camp. That’s one of the challenges of a route that goes through densely populated urban areas as it connects some of America’s largest cities.

So add this camping option to the list — and in New Jersey no less, the most densely populated state. Mercer County, smackdab between New York City and Philadelphia, has just opened 10 camping spots in one of its biggest parks. Cost is $20 per night for no more than seven nights.

The spots are at the East entrance of Mercer County Park — so about 7 miles from the D&R Canal/East Coast Greenway and Washington Road for southbound riders, and 5 miles from the D&R Canal/East Coast Greenway and Bakers Basin Road for northbound riders.

We checked out the campsites on Sunday, one day before the reservations system went live. (And you must reserve in advance.) They look great! Of course, everything was still spanking new, but still… Thumbs up!

Continue reading
Posted in bike ride, bike trail | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

An open letter to Lebanon County, Pa.: Finish the trail!

Dear Lebanon County,

You’ve got a lovely trail in the Lebanon Valley Rail Trail. Four of us from out of state came to bike it last weekend. Thumbs up for so much shade on a sunny summer day, the benches and shelters, the many trailheads with parking. And wow was it busy.

I know it’s not yet done. A friendly volunteer at the Root Beer Barrel explained how it will eventually connect to the Swatara State Park trails at the northern end. Combined with the 5 miles from Lancaster County’s Conewago Recreational Trail at the southern end, I figure you’ll be the centerpiece of at least 33 miles of uninterrupted trail, maybe closer to 40. That’s plenty to keep cyclists, walkers, runners and others happy. Very happy.

But now? When we got to the end of the trail between Chestnut and Cumberland streets in Lebanon, we couldn’t figure out how to reach the next segment. I gather you’re closing that gap in 2020, or maybe even this year, but in the interim, a signed on-road route would have been helpful.

Yet another gap — Phase 10 on this map — won’t be closed until 2021, according to this article.

And then there’s this other big gap — Phase 8 on the map, with everything marked TBD. I can’t figure out what’s happening there based on this update. How about an interim on-road section here by 2021 so that there’s a way to relatively easily experience all the other sections?

Stepping back a bit and trying to read between the lines, I can’t help but wonder how much of this trail development (and maintenance) is being spearheaded by Lebanon Valley Rails-to Trails — so a non-profit and an impressive group of volunteers — rather than local government using its own funds to accelerate the project. I’m sure government is lurking behind the scenes. I hope I’m wrong and its support for the trail is much bigger than the low profile it has in articles I’ve found.

But could it do more?

I know trails aren’t easy to build, what with landowner issues and permits that can take longer than expected to receive. I always say finish a trail faster, but sometimes that’s not realistic. And yes, doing this does mean spending taxpayer money. Which sometimes can be an issue.

So is it worth spending money to speed up completion of this trail? I say don’t discount the economic impact, especially if you can create and market(!) that broader network to Elizabethtown (hello, Amtrak station that can bring riders from Philadelphia) and the 14-mile Northwest Lancaster County River Trail a few miles from on the other side of Elizabethtown that we had hoped to ride on this trip as well. Cyclists will travel for good riding, just like we did. And while our planned weekend in the area was cut down to just one day, we still spent plenty at an area restaurant (and would have spent more had the line for ice cream not been insane). Give us a reason to come back.

I know you’ve got tourist business from those visiting nearby Hershey Park, but your trail can give those people reason to linger for another day. Yet more economic impact.

And don’t forget the locals. We saw a sign advertising housing off the trail. A trail is a great amenity to have on your doorstep. Great for property values — and your tax base.

So do what you can to accelerate completion of this trail. It will pay off handsomely.

Posted in bike ride, bike trail | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

P2P part 2: Boston to Portland, Maine on the East Coast Greenway

Live by the Garmin, die by the Garmin.

We certainly needed the help of our electronic gadget to find a few trails that are part of the East Coast Greenway on the second half of our P2P (Providence to Portland) adventure.

I’m especially thinking of one with an unmarked, overgrown entrance on curve of a neighborhood street and another spot where it helped navigate us from Somerville’s Assembly Point neighborhood to the start of the Bike Trail to the Sea in Everett (though we still struggled with the MBTA parking lot and roads surrounding it — how about signage for the benefit of area residents, never mind strangers like us, Everett?)

But we also opted to follow the Garmin’s directions over East Coast Greenway signs, and that led us to this “road” in North Berwick, Maine:

Oh, there’s more — the adventures of touring!

Continue reading
Posted in bike ride, bike trail | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

P2P part 1: Boston to Providence on the East Coast Greenway

We decided to take a long bike ride on the East Coast Greenway — from Providence, Rhode Island, to Portland, Maine. So P2P. Only you can’t leave a car overnight on the streets of Providence and we could leave it in a friend’s garage just outside Boston. Small change of plans. Part 1 of our trip would be a two-day ride south to Providence. Then we’d take the commuter train back to Boston, see our friends again and then head north to Portland.

We met three of our fellow riders from the annual Week-a-Year riders at North station and headed out. It was a gorgeous day and lots of other people were out on the Charles River Esplanade or out on the water. The path itself is decades old and not as wide as you’d build it today, so not a place for fast riding. And those who prefer a more direct route may be annoyed at following the curves in the Charles River and the zigs and zags of the Blue Heron Trail.

One of the day’s highlights: seeing a section of the Mass Central Rail Trail under construction. This is what was once a 104-mile railroad line that ran from Northampton to Boston; 47 miles are open as a trail. Getting more miles open will be a big step toward completing the East Coast Greenway in Massachusetts and giving cyclists an alternative to some busy roads, both for recreation and for transportation.

Refueled with dumplings and, later, lemonade from some entrepreneurial fourth-graders, we reached the Assabet River Rail Trail. And when there is a crosswalk leading to an ice cream spot, well, how do you not follow it?

This is two scoops at the appropriately named Reason to be Cheerful just outside Hudson.

And if that wasn’t enough ice cream, there is a microcreamery in the cute downtown of Hudson. We didn’t stop there, so someone else can decide which is the better choice.

Good thing we did take a break, though, because we soon moved on to quiet roads and hills. And hills. They didn’t stop until we got to our hotel in Worcester. A 58-mile day. (Train service back to Boston for those who want it.) Think I earned the mountain the bbq nachos (yes, so large a portion that the waitress asked if I was sure I wanted the full portion and not the half portion like the guy at a nearby table. Not like I didn’t have two people to help me. And then there’s always leftovers for breakfast.)

Day 2 took the three of us who remained through the Blackstone River Heritage Corridor. The vision is a 48-mile trail from downtown Worcester to India Point Park at the southern end of Providence (and the start of another trail). So far just 17 miles have been built, mostly in Rhode Island, and we rode most of them. Massachusetts, this is another project that would go a long way toward completing your part of the East Coast Greenway. And based on how busy it was in Rhode Island, it would be a popular project.

Is this a new section of the East Coast Greenway at the southern end of Worcester or just a spur of the Blackstone River Trail?

And check out this mural on the side of Walmart in Worcester:

We picked up the trail in earnest in Millville, where we also met up with Jack, a former WAY rider, and his friend Ethan. It was all flat from here, across the state line into Rhode Island and through Woonsocket, Central Falls and Pawtucket into Providence. Most impressively, whenever there were gaps in the trail, the on-road segments were well-signed. Note the distance in this one to both Calais, Maine, and Key West — all that’s missing is an East Coast Greenway sticker!

Speaking of signage, that’s another task for Massachusetts, where we saw only a handful of East Coast Greenway signs. The organization is working on this, but local communities should think about mileage and directional signage for their own residents.

Love this one:

Leave it to Jack to find a sweet ending to our 55-mile day.

Posted in bike ride, bike trail | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Camping on the D&L Trail

This is for those who want to camp along the 165-mile Delaware and Lehigh Trail. The question of campsites came up at a recent talk I gave at REI about great places to bike in New Jersey and beyond, because two people independently said they wanted to bike the entire route and cut costs by camping.

I was stumped. I know you can camp at Tinicum Park and at a private campsite just a bit north of it, and then there’s Washington Crossing State Park on the New Jersey side. (Info about an upcoming group bike ride and camping trip from Easton to Tinicum Park here.)

But beyond Easton and Bethlehem?

So I asked Brian at the D&L for help, and he kindly shared his map of campsites on or near the trail. (Let him know if you know of others.)

You can also check out Hipcamp, which includes camping possibilities on private land.

For those who want an indoor option, there’s this trail-friendly business in Lehighton (south of Jim Thorpe) that offers cheap sleeps in a bunkhouse.

Anyone else have suggestions? Or experiences with the campsites?

Posted in bike ride, bike trail | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Lawrence Hopewell Trail turns 20 (miles)

What a way to end National Bike Month and lead into National Trails Day — a ribbon-cutting for a new section of the Lawrence Hopewell Trail.

I’m a big fan of this 22-mile loop in Lawrenceville and Hopewell (between Trenton and Princeton for those of you not from here). I wrote about riding the entire loop in April, and we got excited at the sight of construction for this new piece of the trail.

This section, just 0.6 miles, lets users avoid busy Rosedale Road by going from Province Line Road into the ETS campus. Once there, you can ride a loop through the campus or just keep going south, across Rosedale and into a neighborhood and then the Carson Woods.

And once the ribbon was cut, joggers and walkers immediately started using it.

Continue reading
Posted in bike ride, bike trail | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment