Stops We Love: Frenchtown, NJ’s Early Bird Espresso & Mercantile
(2017) Stepping out of the county of Bucks – and even out of the state of Pennsylvania – is good for a change of scenery. We have mentioned numerous times about strong hills in our county. Across the Delaware River, though, are shallower hills. Don’t be fooled. They may be shallow, but they’re longer. And then there’s the whole issue of wide shoulders in New Jersey.
Last weekend we caught up with another ridekick, Brian, who sent out a missive regarding a ride. It had been a while since we rode together. Nothing major was planned except some mileage involving a trip into New Jersey. Oh how much I miss the one New Jersey road in particular. Brian and I rode next to each other catching up. You can do that sort of thing on this road.
For the sake of brevity route 29 in New Jersey, specifically between Stockton and Frenchtown is an incredibly enjoyable stretch. We headed north toward Frenchtown. Brian and I once did a team time trial on this very road back when the Route 29 Time Trials took place here. The road is back to its lusty self. A recent resurfacing was overdue. The road’s deplorable condition a couple of years ago sent cyclists and the time trial series elsewhere. Only the cyclists have come back. The time trial is still researched from time to time. As of this month there is no return (we're referring to the old organizers).
The aforementioned stretch of road is challenging or easy. It’s all in how you want it. Since the road has a generous shoulder, overtaking slower cyclists is no anxious experience. If you want to ride this nearly ten-mile section hard, go for it. If easy is on the training plan, then enjoy the sights of the flowing Delaware River not far from the road. It may seem flat, but the rolling hills are also as you want them. Garnering a tail wind is pretty much the most enjoyable experience on this road. Should you decide to take Route 29 farther north, it only becomes more beautiful, less trafficked, and quieter. Who wouldn’t want to put this down as a destination? On any given weekend, expect to see scores of cyclists taking advantage of the cycling atmosphere.
At the quasi-terminus of route 29 in Frenchtown, before a slight jog to rejoin it toward Milford, a large pile of bikes came into view. It was the new coffee location, and it is completely worth a break in the action to visit.
Located on Bridge Street, Early Bird Espresso & Mercantile establishes the perfect home base to elongate that trip up route 29 toward Philipsburg. Hit it on the way up for carb-loading; hit it on the way back for the cool down iced coffee and an ice cream cone. The best part of our stop here was the notable collection of cyclists going in and out of the shop. Group rides were handing over money for Counter Culture coffee during our visit.
There were multiple faces I hadn’t seen in quite some time. There were new faces on established teams. This doesn’t happen at half- decent coffee shops. With the shop smartly located, it’s bound to be a success among the cycling community of both Hunterdon and Bucks counties.
But what if cyclists aren’t at the location during your stay? Surely something needs to carry the reason to visit. How about the charming employees whose smiles carried the sunshine for the day? A downtrodden coffee slinger could throw a little darkness on a sunny ride. How about the country-esque atmosphere? This shop could be in any college town or historic district. The chairs near the floor-to-ceiling windows add to the encouragement to sit back and people watch. It’s in those moments a solo longer ride gets considered. Then there’s ice cream. I don’t think I need to develop that point.
Brian and I reluctantly got back on our bikes to cross the bridge back into Pennsylvania just over a block away. We realized just how spoiled route 29’s generous shoulders and new surfaced made us as we dodged multiple potholes on Pennsylvania’s River Road. In Pennsylvania style, the road ends at the fog line. There is no shoulder to speak of.
It’s been a while since we’ve ridden far up New Jersey’s border to the Delaware River. Sometimes the excuse was the lack of desire to get off the bike at a gas station, the only offerings until Early Bird Espresso showed up. The ride had it all today: A ride with Brian, miles up route 29, beautiful weather, and, most importantly, a great new coffee shop with several bikes parked out front. Make sure to stop in. Also make sure to remember you need to ride home, too.