The goal: biking to the Roebling Museum from our house.
The museum celebrates the company that built the Brooklyn Bridge, which opened 137 years ago to the day of our ride. I admit, I only learned that after we got home, but still, pretty cool. (And yes, the museum is closed because of coronavirus but it was the turn-around point for a ride a couple of years ago. Then we could say we’d ridden all the way to Riverside, about 5 1/2 miles from the Tacony-Palmyra Bridge into Philadelphia)
The more immediate reason is that a new section of the Delaware River Heritage Trail is under construction and will push the route south to Roebling (and eventually all the way to Camden and the Ben Franklin Bridge to the heart of Philadelphia). Right now it’s the alt route for the East Coast Greenway between Trenton and Philadelphia — we’ll see which route gets finished first.
So I wanted a look.
We used an app called Komoot to map out our route. Enter start point, enter end point and it maps out a bike route for you. Think Google Maps, and easier for mapping than Ride With GPS. And it was super easy to tinker with (for example, it kept us on Old Trenton Road toward Mercer County Community College longer than I’d like, rather than having us turn left at a traffic light onto Robbinsville-Edinburgh Road and then right onto Line Road, where there’s no through traffic for motorized vehicles at the West Windsor-Hamilton line but is open to bikes.) It was going to be about 21 miles each way.
The new trail didn’t show up, but hey, it’s not quite finished. We heard it was rideable anyway… Add on a few miles for that — maybe 25 miles each way?
But first we had to get through Hamilton, Mercer County’s largest city. I had to wonder if officials there have heard of bike lanes …
Traffic was light, but I credit the coronavirus for that. Otherwise we were biking on a road that crossed one major retail strip and crossed roads that led to other big retail centers. We crossed Interstate 195 and then US 130 a couple of times. I’d be happy to weave through residential neighborhoods, but not to get dumped out on an even busier road. (If I ever try this during normal traffic, I’m avoiding Hamilton and adding on a few miles via Allentown.)
Then we got to Bordentown, home to a signer of the Declaration of Independence (Francis Hopkinson), Napoleon’s oldest brother and once the king of Spain and Naples (Joseph Bonaparte), the founder of the American Red Cross (Clara Barton) and the man who proclaimed “Give me liberty, or give me death” just before the start of the American Revolution (Patrick Henry). We missed his statue by a couple of blocks. I know Bordentown better for its restaurants, but sign me up for a walking tour of this tiny town!
Bordentown also is where we picked up the Delaware River Heritage Trail. It does go north toward Trenton — it shows up on Google Maps as the D&R Canal, but I’m told the entrance from Trenton is hard to spot, that it doesn’t connect with the D&R Canal sections further north.
However, we were headed south, through Fieldsboro and to the QuickChek gas station at the corner of US 130 where the new segment of trail begins and lets us avoid this busy highway. Green paint at an intersection for bikes — that’s new for my part of NJ! The trail took us through Crystal Lake Park, onto a quiet road (fresh sidewalk for those who want it), then back to trail and under US 130.
And then …
New Jersey Transit isn’t quite ready for this trail to cross the RiverLine tracks. It has blocked off the next section of already-paved trail with a fence, and we weren’t ready to look for the goat paths to get around it.
More of what we saw at the railroad crossing:
Nor was there an easy way to get onto US 130 at that point and brave two lanes of fast-moving traffic by using the shoulder for a mile or so until we could turn right into Roebling.
So we turned back, just a few miles from our goal. We’ll try again when this section of the Philadelphia region’s Circuit Trails has its ribbon-cutting.
A 46-mile day.