Stops We Love: Homestead Coffee Roasters
(2015) Getting to Homestead Coffee from any spot in Bucks County is easy; getting back is not. There have been two eras in history that led to the Homestead Coffee stop – and it’s a wonderful experience, millions of years in the making.
Near the shores of the largest un-dammed river east of the Mississippi, Homestead Coffee hangs at the bottom of Bridgeton Hill Road. The water that flows under the Upper Black Eddy - Milford bridge starts in the Catskill Mountains in southern New York state. Named after Thomas West, 3rd Baron De La Warr, who is considered a hero for eliminating Native American populations, the water provides drinking water to nearly five million people. It is the river with which one will come into contact during the ride to reach Homestead. The Delaware Canal, opened in 1830, can provide one with easy access to this wonderful coffee shop.
It is difficult to find an agreed-upon timeframe that the Delaware River got its start. This era in history creates one of the most recognizable features to the area: steep, punchy climbs. If one rides north on the Pennsylvania side with the Delaware River to his right, any left turn will result in cursing, frustration, and a compensatory statement of, “That wasn’t so bad.” Climbs such as Bridgeton Hill Road just outside of Homestead’s front door, or Lodi Hill, which involves some switchbacks, or even Jugtown Hill Road, which ramps up rather quickly all run up to a rider, kick him in the crotch, and run away without so much as a laugh. The one climb that is set apart is Uhlerstown Road, which kicks a rider in the crotch, only it stands by, watches you suffer, and laughs in your face. These are the climbs created by millions of years of the Delaware’s flow.
There was the other era in history that led to Homestead: the colonial times that gave rise to the American general store. These gathering places served sundry purposes. They were meeting grounds, coach road inns, polling stations, gas stations, post offices, tobacco shops, farmers’ markets, gun shops, and many other purposes. They were places where people swapped stories, made deals, and sold goods. Needless to say, general stores are hard to come by in recent years with the rise in big-name pharmacies and convenience stores. At some point in history, the general store was dismantled shelf by shelf and left to flounder. It is along River Road in Bucks County, and along Route 29 in New Jersey, that one can still find some of these still-functioning stores. They still serve as meeting places, yet each one seems to specialize in one main attraction.
To access Homestead from Bucks County, one can ride through the town of Carversville (past the Carversville General Store), down into Lumberville (past the Lumberville General Store), and access the Bulls Island pedestrian bridge over the Delaware River. This pedestrian bridge was twice a wooden covered bridge. Twice was enough. It was washed away and the river commission must’ve felt a concrete footbridge was a little hardier.
Turning left at north Route 29 in New Jersey, one can enjoy a wide shoulder and relatively easy elevation change for nearly nine miles before reaching Frenchtown, NJ. This is a great place to stop as well, but to reach Homestead, one must follow the signs to continue north on Route 29 toward Milford, NJ, another three-and-a-half miles away. This road is a little less accommodating both in width and traffic. Though it is often a good place for a time trial effort.
Reaching the Milford Bridge, a beautiful structure that leads one to Upper Black Eddy, cyclists must again dismount and walk across the pedestrian walkway instead of poaching the steel-grated bridge deck. Once remounted on the Pennsylvania side one can simply cross River Road to ride past the gas station, turn right on the alley-like Singley Road, and hang a left into Homestead’s parking lot.
Alternatively if one were to park at any of the parking lots near the Pennsylvania canal, one can simply ride the flat gravel surface to the backdoor of Homestead, the distance of twelve-and-a-half miles from the aforementioned Lumberville pedestrian bridge. The canal does go under the roads in many spots leaving a very low clearance for one cyclist from one direction to pass through at any time.
Regardless of the chosen direction, keep an eye out for the resident pair of bald eagles (though there may be three) and what’s been called their nemesis: an osprey. The osprey was actually seen today on this ride flying over River Road near Upper Black Eddy.
It is cautioned that riding up River Road is not advised considering the poor conditions of the road such as sliding into the Delaware canal, the perhaps thousands of potholes, no shoulders whatsoever, and impatient motorists which include state troopers.
Once reaching Homestead, though, it’s a regular occurrence to see motorcyclists, locals, walkers, cyclists, Frisbee golfers, and recently, Boy Scouts who were earning their cycling badges by riding their bikes nineteen miles to their campsite.
Walking through the front door on the porch options open up. Roasted coffee is available for purchase to the right, coffee and tables to the left, and the general store feel straight ahead where one can order a sandwich, soda, waffle, milkshake, or just pull a Snickers or brownie off the shelf. After purchase, one can have a seat inside or sit at the back porch that literally bumps up to the Delaware canal. It doesn’t get easier than this. Easier, that is, until one wants to go back.
Until then, people are quite nice here. They engage in quaint conversation. One time I tore through a tire casing and found myself in conversation with the owner who was extremely kind in his offering of coffee until the broom wagon arrived. It would be the first time I utilized the car ride – ever.
It’s hard to leave this place. Its relaxing atmosphere and tempting treats make it difficult to grab the helmet, locate the bike on the rack in preparation for the selected climb, and head home.
Today Bridgeton Hill was selected. The punch comes quick. Though if one looks to the left before ascending, there is a porch that has been the stopping point for no fewer than three cyclists who descended the hill in recent years and realized too late the turn was a bit tighter than anticipated after the descent was steeper than believed.
The climb ascends 300 feet in half a mile. The ride turned left down Chestnut Ridge Road and all the gained altitude was returned in the next five miles. Chestnut Ridge descends softly following Swamp Creek, often to the rider’s left. In the fall, this is a beautiful descent. It’s been recently repaved making it even more enjoyable.
Effectively returning to zero, one will have to climb out of the river valley again to get home. But the stop at Homestead is worth it. Not only is the coffee reward itself, but the atmosphere within the old general store is tough to pull away from. It’s nice to remind myself as I climb out of the valley that the coffee was at least good to subject myself to these rude climbs home.
Homestead Coffee and General Store is open seven days a week from 7am until 6pm. The general store can be contacted at (610) 982-5121. They do ship coffee from their website: http://www.homesteadcoffee.com. Or you could follow your nose when in Upper Black Eddy as the roasting can be smelled from quite a distance.