Rides We Like: A Winter Ride to Hunterdon County
(2017) There are so many experiences in a winter ride that happen no place else on the calendar. It’s a study in determination to get on a bike in the wintertime. It could also be a showcase of the most stubborn riders who would endure less than ideal conditions to avoid pedaling in the garage for an hour. I’d like to think the winter riders are in search of a secret or two on those crusty dark roads.
One of the beneficial parts of being a cyclist in Bucks County is that just over the Delaware River is Hunterdon County, NJ. I’ve talked about the many cycling events that happen on the other end of the pedestrian footbridge in Lumberville, PA. Those who take advantage of the quiet miles, the occasional unpaved road, and a sparsely populated county may not know that, according to the 2012 census, Hunterdon County is ranked in the top five richest counties in the country. The roads are quiet for a reason. People pay a lot of money to live peacefully. It’s a sentiment that can be felt on just about any road at any time of year.
Getting on with our foray it would not be a story without the anticipated hero, Mike, who dragged us out of a comfortable deep couch for a late morning ride. The ride started late for a winter reason. The night prior our area received ice; we were waiting for the roads to heat up to make them passable. One concern for Bucks County roads in the winter is the knowledge that some roads may not see direct sunlight for a month or so. That was something we took into consideration for our route.
Passing through Carversville and down Fleecydale Road, we crossed the icy and slushy pedestrian bridge, a gateway that gives a cyclist access to immense route possibilities in Hunterdon County. Ask any local cyclist how to get there and they’ll provide a mile-by-mile description. Thousands of riders know how to get to this spot. The geography is noticeably different across the River. The roads are smoother, the land is softer, the acreage is spread out, and the land isn’t as built up. It is quite the changeup to roll through this county.
Mike and I selected to ascend Federal Twist Road, an immediate and remarkable climb bisecting Route 29, the New Jersey roadway paralleling the Delaware River. What’s enjoyable about riding with Mike is his lack of route planning. We relaxed the itinerary and would briefly converse at intersections. Left or right? Want to take that road? This was how we wound our way through the county. We would find ourselves on route 519 followed by a descent into Frenchtown, NJ. We would return via Route 29 and retrace our route back into Pennsylvania.
The winter hurdles were there. I had never focused so heavily on road conditions as I did today. Every shiny spot was respected and considered a hazard. There was the winter experience with regards to clouds of ground road salt. Cars produced these clouds, which coated the tongue in less than pleasing acrid taste. Surfaces of the face, water bottle nozzles, and frontal portions of kit would see a whitish tinge. I would convince myself to drink from the water bottle despite its plunging temperature as the ride went on. It only made me colder.
There was my experience of the seemingly unpredictable power outage moment when the ride became too much and the legs decided enough was enough. I swear these happen more during winter rides. And there was the constant headwind to beat back the forward progress. Headwinds uphill were brutal after the power outage, though the trudging continued.
The final winter feelings expressed themselves upon returning home. The inviting warm mug of coffee was welcomed. The longest hottest shower rejuvenated the core temperature. The road salt was washed out of the beard. But perhaps the greatest feeling of a winter ride is sitting on that deep couch after a taxing ride, embrocation still cooking away, and falling into a peaceful trance of a droning television and an early bluish/ orange sunset. The miles were still taking their toll.
When I said riders are in search of a secret out on those winter miles, perhaps this is that secret. It can be found in that moment on the couch dreaming of the recently completed miles, knowing the trainer remained folded up, and the bike got outside. That’s one of the top feelings of being a cyclist.