Rides We Like: Holland Township Touring
(2016) Back when I mountain biked, I would rush home from work, load up the car, and head to the one trail system that was open for mountain biking. Those from Bucks County will certainly recognize the High Rocks State Park trail system as being incredibly technical. There are stream crossings, loose large rocks, steep descents, rock beds, and even steeper ascents. It’s a place that may have an entire mountain bike in lost parts strewn amongst its rocks. Which is one of the reasons I stopped going there: it beat the hell out of my bike. It was in the shop once a month. The other reason was I couldn’t defend the fact that I was driving my bike to a place to ride when I could roll out my front door with a road bike. So the mountain bike was parked, I drained the account for a road bike just like the mountain bike slowly did, and began rolling from the house. Things remained like that for almost ten years save for a few events. Naturally rides and races far off need to be driven to. That’s a given. But to drive to a parking lot that would otherwise take a cyclist about an hour to reach hadn’t been explored in quite some time. The reasoning for the change was to explore other roads that had been considered the outer fringe of a sensibly- timed outing. So I drove my bike to a place to ride where I met up with Mike (we all know Mike at this point) to access some New Jersey roads, mostly in Holland Township.
We had the idea to meet at Homestead Coffee, cross the Delaware River, and turn north to roll over roads we hadn’t touched in almost five years. Perhaps we were also testing the limits on how far we could go if we planned a farther ride in the future.
We did exactly as we set out to do. We crossed into Milford, NJ, and headed up River Road, past the shale cliffs and dribbling waterfalls. We took a leisurely pace out just to enjoy the fact that we weren’t on the regularly- scheduled Sunday Pennsylvania roads. These New Jersey roads were barren of traffic. Occasionally a car passed us, but for the most part we had the lane to ourselves.
We discussed a route potential. We were heading toward Phillipsburg and discussed the possibility of going as far north as the name River Road went. We also discussed going up Alfalfa Hill Road that leads to Adamic Hill Road. This I liked very much because I wanted to photograph the classic windmill at the top of the hill. We decided to hit it on the return route.
So we rode past the Riegelsville bridge and continued up River Road where it turned into a one- lane affair. The housing landscape certainly changes past this point. There are very old houses next to continued shale cliffs and glacial detritus. There are jacked up houses on the banks of the Delaware. There are houses that are tucked in alcoves of cliffs and potentially don’t see the rays of sunshine for weeks on end in the winter. There are ruins of foundations and kilns, and there’s the ever- present railroad constantly being crossed. I once saw a locomotive on the tracks, but that was many years ago.
We went through the little town of Carpentersville, which interrupts the otherwise quiet road. The housing trend continued here as well: beautiful old houses- clapboard in style- residing amidst ranchers and new construction. For the most part there were farm fields behind them that stretched over the horizon. As quickly as we entered the hamlet we rode out of it, finding ourselves back among lonely road.
In the meantime we encountered a diverse group ride complete with roadies as well as fitness riders. We passed a few of the off-the-back riders while we headed north. Some of the other riders turned at one point and Mike and I had the road to ourselves again. It’s an interesting stretch of road that seems so unpopulated yet each time I’ve passed through there are riders and runners.
We reached our turnaround spot exactly over Route 78. There was small discussion of exploring some of the roads we had passed and we did just that. Immediately after turning around we turned onto Oberly and encountered the entire group. There were at least a dozen riders bundled up, all smiling. Yet again we encountered lonely road with vast turned- over cornfields. As we spun through these fields we continued to encounter other riders from the group. They were smiling too. It certainly was a great day to be out and a great area to be pedaling.
Mike and I turned again and found ourselves back on the original route, only this time we headed downstream. We thought we would have an enjoyable tailwind but that seemed to be a prayer, as the surrounding cliffs seemed to funnel the wind into our face. We continued to remark how peaceful the road was.
We turned onto Church to access Adamic Hill. Signs hinted at the Dutch presence in this area previous to, and during, the Revolutionary War. For those keeping score at home, Adamic Hill is the backside of Shire, one of the beastly climbs that taunts riders with its endlessness. Adamic isn’t nearly as bad; it’s a good alternative as a matter of fact.
Once we topped out, I continued to look for the windmill. We found it in its dilapidated state. The top two sails could be found twisted on the backside of the windmill. I remember thinking the last time I saw it how badly it needed some work. It seems no work had been done to it since. The sign out front stated the obvious: Windmill Closed.
We took the rapid descent down the back of Shire into Milford and crossed the bridge. Just like that the ride came to an end. We finished up in the cozy dining area of Homestead Coffee where we threw new ride ideas out there to see if they stuck. Mike and I discussed the idea of furthering our drive to access other roads we questioned about riding.
I had completed the entire ride while forgetting a spare tube and putting air in my tires. I had driven my bike to a starting place and came back with all the parts on my bike. Things are different indeed from the mountain bike days. Coming out of Homestead Coffee without a dent to the finances though, that’s a little too much to ask for.