Rides We Like: Portions of the Covered Bridge Ride (and One Surprise)
(2015) Today was a great day to get out as evidenced by the numerous group rides observed in the area. My goal was to meander to River Road by avoiding Dark Hollow Road to set up for a hammerfest up Stagecoach Road. How can I prove that I loved (nearly) every moment in this ride? I kept tacking on more miles to extend the enjoyment. There are many aspects going for fall rides: the roads aren’t mushy from the heat, warmers can be shed as the day progresses, and there always seems to be fewer cars on the roads. Tack that onto the euphoria of the hardwood forest seasonal change and it’s easy to keep saying, “Just a few more miles.”
Heading toward the Covered Bridge route and picking it up on Old Easton Road behind the Oaks Family Restaurant, a rider can easily recognize the seasonal markings for next weekend’s Covered Bridge Ride. It’s one of the southern portions of the route, and on ride day, it’s toward the end of the three pavement rides. It’s also the location of the last rest stop, but there are three quick bridges still to come.
I accessed the short portion of Dark Hollow and pulled over to answer a phone call. As I did, a group of riders passed by checking to make sure I was ok. No sooner did they glide past me when I clipped in and noticed their right turn onto Carversville Road toward the Loux Covered Bridge. A fast downhill puts one in view of the white span. Many motorcycles crossed as I caught the tail end of the group. The road changes name to Wismer here and pleasantries were exchanged. They were riders from Somerset, New Jersey who drove to New Hope, PA to do the route. They were planning on stopping at Triumph Brewery after their day out.
As they waited to regroup, I pressed on down Stump Road and into Ralph Stover Park. Here I crossed Mean’s Ford Bridge. It’s now a footpath but at one point cars could pass over it. It’s by no means a covered bridge, but it’s nice to look at as the bike bounces off the wooden-planked deck. A family was nearby taking a photo on a timer with quite a bit of enthusiasm. Crossing the Tohickon Creek is highly recommended this time of year with the fall colors brightened by the unobstructed sunlight. And since Stover Park Road doesn’t permit cars to this point the leaves were extra crunchy atop the aging pavement. The climb isn’t so bad either when admiring beautiful houses with even more beautiful views.
Turning right onto the gravel Tory Road I witnessed the full parking lot of the High Rocks Vista where one can look off the shale cliffs. It’s like that any given beautiful day, but in the fall it’s always overflowing. Cafferty Road was my goal, which I tackled and returned to Dark Hollow Road. I curiously regarded the ROAD CLOSED sign across the street and decided that since it was Sunday, the downhill portion of Dark Hollow would not be as much of a gamble to the river. No cars passed by. A quick couple of lefts and I was at my destination of Stagecoach Road.
I found this road by mistake once when I wondered what it looked like. Anytime I’m in the area I insist on its immediate wall with its quick left into a steep right introduction. I always come here imagining a roaring crowd excited to see cyclists flying into the wall only to immediately slow down. Actually it’s a bit of a gamble to hit Stagecoach with speed with the piles of gravel at the bottom.
The perils are worth the reward. It all starts with a helping of Tinicum Creek on the right side. Skinny but thickly arranged hardwoods crowd the mentioned wall as a rider focuses on the front wheel. The left is sharp. The right is gentle but shields the climb beyond. The road straightens out with similar-looking houses on both sides of the road. Finally the road goes from pavement to dirt. A magnificent view is carved from the countryside as one can see the propeller planes taking off and landing at Van Sant Airport. It is all so peaceful. It’s hard to imagine a better place to be.
Hammering down the slight incline of the gravel road another view opens up to the left where Dark Hollow Road returns to view. The speed picks up and a strong left-hander can be seen as the road’s terminus approaches. It intersects with Dark Hollow that is pursued back to the curiously closed road sign.
Down Cafferty is a great rest with a quintessential Pennsylvania downhill featuring a stop sign. This time there was a surprise:
About once a year someone damages one of the covered bridges in the area. I guess Frankenfield Covered Bridge’s turn came up. Strangely enough the left side of the entrance was damaged leading one to wonder how that happened.
A cyclist was spotted on the other side shedding layers after crossing the span. He said it was safe, but the bridge was closed to traffic. It never ceases to amaze me how people still find a way to attempt a bridge crossing with numerous dayglo signs announcing the bridge’s parameters. I wondered how this would impact the approaching Covered Bridges Route. A couple of years ago Erwinna Covered Bridge was damaged shortly after its reopening from a truck attempt.
Pedaling onward up and over Cafferty to see Van Sant Airport bustling with biplane activity on this clear day made the climb worth it. Headquarters and onward was just as beautiful as the farm fields gently shook in the breeze. The pumpkin fields were full as was the parking lot at Penn Vermont Farm.
The last insistence came at hitting a true single switchback on Rolling Hills Road after crossing a bridge over Deep Run. Yet again I imaged it being Dutch Corner on the Alpe d’Huez with flares and screaming and flags. It was hard to stick with that fantasy as the acorns bounced off the road and it echoed through the woods. It was silent.
Returning home I caught a rider who actually lived in my neighborhood. It was nice to bring the ride to an end with an upbeat feeling. It’s hard to not enjoy riding in the fall; it’s tough to push the attractiveness of the covered bridges when they are so often damaged. It will be repaired, so there’s no concern there. Riding around Bucks County’s tertiary roads in the fall is so worth it, people drive from New Jersey to experience it when they could ride their own roads.