Rides We Like: Lonely Cottage Road
(2016) By now I’m sure it’s clear Bucks County has some great backcountry roads for cyclists to cover. Today was without exception because of the selection presented. All of the conditions lined up for an enjoyable first ride of the fall season.
I met up with two cyclists I hadn’t ridden with in too long of a time. We met up at a favorite coffee shop for cyclists doing a long weekend ride. The request was to meet up later in the morning to allow for fall paced morning routines. As I rolled into the coffee shop’s patio, Mike (a different Mike than our typical hero) was waiting at a table with a coffee. He had driven to the start. JJ arrived shortly thereafter, having passed me on my approach to the coffee shop.
I went over the route I had in mind. Being that I talk about these rides on creakybottombracket I felt responsible for suggesting the direction. I stated we would go up the fairly aggravating climb just outside the coffee shop door, ride for our lives on 611 north, and then turn onto the curiously named Frogtown Road. I was leading them into the rough ride I had talked about previously.
The roads were immensely enjoyable once we broke off from the main thoroughfare. The cooler weather had finally arrived in the region. The sun warmed us while the shade cooled us. We were all working on refreshing ourselves with apparel combinations for the temperature.
We pushed over hill and dale through some old farm country that is now grown over in many parts. There is a dairy farm on Frogtown. There are horse paths paralleling the road. As we reached the end of this stretch, a church bell echoed through the hollow summoning parishioners to the pews. How storybook I thought as we descended into the remarkably small cluster town of Ferndale.
For a spell the ride became a test of post-season legs. Center Hill Road never reveals its hand. It winds back up a ridge. It churned all three of us only to spit us out at the top of the climb. Strangely I was feeling descent after being off the bike for several days due to nagging back pain.
Once at the top of the climb we opted to continue to the right. Had we gone straight it would’ve linked up with my old Ringing Rocks route, a direction that was suggested as a substitute. Lake Warren Road was the final decision because it would carry us to our destined road: Lonely Cottage Road.
I’ve talked about this road and its strange meanderings. I’ve never studied it strongly until recently. I try to convince many cyclists to give this road a chance, as it can be great as a casual day out or as a time trial effort. It is a nearly four mile long road that could put a cyclist perilously at the top of Bridgeton Hill Road, the one I mention often when stating Homestead General Store’s curious placement at the bottom of the climb.
Lonely Cottage Road doesn’t have any major climbs. It does wiggle up and down a bit, but for the most part they’re power climbs that can be written off with a frontal assault. It has no lengthy views giving the cyclist a hint as to what’s coming over the next minute or so. Instead it is stocked with more than a fair share of right-angle turns, one of which lies at the intersection with Lake Warren Road. Don’t be surprised if this leads to a case of vertigo as one tries to decipher just how that road came back around, too.
The throughway is constantly lined with forest and hidden houses. There are abandoned homes alongside new log cabins. I even saw a racecar trailer parked next to a garage. Expect to see the standard granite boulders on each side of this nearly one lane road. Looking back, I believe only one vehicle passed us, a pickup truck heading in the opposite direction.
We peeled off and took a road never accessed before: Birch Road. This dumped us satisfyingly onto another of my touted roads of incredible enjoyment. Chestnut Ridge Road/ Upper Tinicum Church Road remained the enjoyable miles-long high-speed descent. It also has a remarkable inventory of technical turns including an uphill intersection that flows into a downhill banked turn followed by a short ramp then back into the downhill plunge. It is a road that must be sought should any readers find themselves in this area along with the bike.
As it were, the clock had progressed through the day and propeller planes could be heard buzzing overhead. One glider passed over as it was getting towed to altitude. Two vintage aircraft were passing over in formation. We were in the vicinity of Van Sant airfield.
Van Sant is a grass airfield that sits atop one of the wrinkled ridges of our area. They offer biplane rides. In the summer they host outdoor movies. On any given clear day planes can be heard and seen making full use of the runway. Cafferty Road foots the end of the runway and is adorned with stern warnings not to stop and gawk. Who knows what will be coming in for a landing next. Today I snapped a quick photo of a moment I knew was too good to pass up. Two airplanes had been parked atypically away from the runway, but from our vantage point they appeared to float on the horizon.
From here on out the ride was a relaxing fall return to the coffee shop. When we rolled back onto the patio, a large amount of cyclists were jockeying for parking and table space. Some were rolling out as others rolled in. Some were coming out of the coffee shop with faces of anticipation to start enjoying coffee in comfortable weather. Some were preparing to go into the shop. As the three of us enjoyed our coffee, discussing craft beers, more cyclists pulled up.
We then sadly went our separate ways. Luckily I got to add ten more miles to my day to return home. The return trip was also enjoyable, as I saw no fewer than seven cyclists in those final miles. It’s always a great day out when people, roads, conditions, and coffee all come together. Wouldn’t you know I had a tail wind heading home.
Lonely Cottage Road may have a harsh climb when approaching it from the west, but it’s completely worth it to hammer down some peaceful asphalt that dumps one out to an incredibly enjoyable descent. There is no wrong way to return from Lonely Cottage Road.