Rides We Like: New Jersey’s 519
(2018) Every rider has a road that has witnessed all categories of riding. The road has been there in all conditions. It’s witnessed fast days as well as bonked rides. It’s never an easy road by any description, but it’s also not extremely difficult. This road is your gauge to the season. Fly down it and things are going well. Fight it with headwind and heavy rain and it might be time to look forward to next year. Think of that road for a moment.
I have several favorite roads in Bucks County, but sometimes bliss can be found across the river in Hunterdon County, New Jersey. Each road is an extension of what I’m looking for on that given day. Some roads cut through farmland and provide a peaceful setting. Other roads follow a waterway with equal tranquility. One road I love cuts right through a forest and dumps the rider on top of a ridge leading to a wild descent.
So when I found myself on New Jersey’s route 519, I had a wide range of emotions as to what the road means to a roadie. My route took me to Milford, NJ, just across the bridge from Upper Black Eddy, PA, and home of Homestead Coffee. Route 519 intersects with Frenchtown Road near the sloped Milford Cemetery. The road, called Milford – Mt Pleasant Road, immediately juts upward averaging five percent at just under one mile. What follows for the remaining seventeen miles is a study in pure cycling.
State Road 519 served its purpose numerous times in my career. Its undulations can be hard to master. It's not all big ring action. I used this road for time trial training because of its long horizons and challenging terrain. A TT bike is at home on this stretch of road. When the Missus was preparing for her big event this road was used to emulate the rolling roads of her race. Speaking of races, the portion between Frenchtown and Stockton were used for the Thursday Night (THUNDER) Derby from many years ago. The finish line used to be an ever-changing white mailbox at the precipice of a plunge back to the Delaware River. The old craggy oak tree north of Rosemont signified the end was near in a couple of ways. Many times I blew up near Wiley's Farm Stand while watching the contenders ride downhill toward the finish line for the Derby win.
The road’s northern section – beyond Milford - actually reaches the New York state line. Head far enough north and portions of 519 features truck stops. I know this because the first creakybottombracket.com office rescue dog was met on the northern miles of 519. At muliple points in the trip I wondered if I was in New York.
Along the focused route a childhood hero keeps his dirt-modified headquarters just south of Frenchtown. Billy Pauch continues to race Saturday nights at local dirt tracks by departing from his race shop on 519. You can tell which shop is his by the scaled down dirt modified replica mailbox. I look for his mailbox each time I ride southward to step back into nostalgia.
Despite the fifty-mile-per-hour speed limit the road is fairly accommodating to cyclists. The road is smooth with a small shoulder. There are several points where a right turn could send the route down to Route 29 along the Delaware River. Keep an eye out for farm stands and convenience stores if nutrition is an issue. The road meanders through old hamlets and past towering church steeples. It passes farm fields and schools. The dominating abodes are typical houses with substantial acreage.
For nearly an hour I hammered southward on 519 from Milford to its end point just north of Stockton. By that point the road was officially Kingwood Stockton Road. I had battled headwinds the entire time but wouldn’t have it any other way. This is the road that shaped my cycling career both alone and with fast riders. Coming back to it was a boost of confidence to cover the distance with a headwind in relative time. Truth be told, I nearly opted out of attempting 519 because I wasn’t sure seventeen miles of effort was prudent. The route’s reputation lured me all the way to the odd three-way intersection near the river. Making my return north on Route 29 to Bulls Head Island, I picked up a tailwind and pulled the plug out of satisfaction. It was then I was at peace with everything: the bike, the road, the career.
Crossing back into Pennsylvania is typically bittersweet. It is all climbing from the pedestrian bridge back to the creakybottombracket.com office. After a hard effort the climbs are dreaded but today I considered none of that. The 519 effort had cleansed my mind of doubt. I welcomed the upwards profile, riding a slower pace hardly, worrying about speed.
There are roads that are perfect for cycling but lack a necessary feature. It might be a great cycling road but is heavily trafficked. A road could possess a necessary evil in the sense that it is great for building character but is a drag to ride. A road could be too remote, taking too much time and effort to reach. The seventeen miles of 519 is none of that. It has the hard efforts, the long sightlines, and – if you’re lucky – a beautiful ride with a tailwind. The reason there are only two photos of 519 is that I was having too much fun reminiscing. Imagine having so much fun along a seventeen-mile stretch that there are few photo op moments. That’s my kind of road.