Biking in the Pine Barrens: the Carranza ride

Who the heck is Emilio Carranza? A doomed Mexican aviator. We learn his story on a 49-mile bike ride in rural Burlington County, New Jersey.

We’re doing the Tour de Pines again after having such a great time last year. Thanks to COVID-19, it’s do it when you have the time, rather than on a set day with dozens of other cyclists, like so many other rides. This year, the Pinelands Preservation Alliance is offering four rides, rather than five, and you pay for those you want. We bought all four. Let’s see if we do them all.

Our first ride: 49 miles from the Pinelands Preservation Alliance headquarters to the Emilio Carranza memorial, just off a quiet pines-lined road with sand encroaching on the pavement in the northern part of Wharton State Forest.

Like me, you’re probably asking who the heck is he?

The answer: A 1920s aviator, dubbed the Lindbergh of Mexico, who crashed at the site as he tried to fly back (non-stop!) to Mexico City from Long Island in 1928. Having recently read a book about women aviators in the same period, I appreciate how dangerous this was. Still, taking off in a thunderstorm seems particularly foolhardy.

This was rural riding — quiet roads, some farm country and some homes of enthusiastic Trump supporters. This person was the most enthusiastic — and this photo captures only some of the signs! (Yes, the area we biked through in Burlington County went for Trump in 2016. Too bad for them — they were handily outvoted by the rest of the county, never mind the state.)

We pulled over at a farm stand — not your usual simple produce place. I’d call Russo’s more of a lifestyle farm stand — the decorative knick-knacks, the jam jars of pickles and jellies, the ice cream, the donuts. And yes, also the produce. Not that we could carry anything, but we came back with the car for a 20+-pound bag of “utility-grade” apples for all of $8 — they’ve been turned into apple sauce, apple pie filling (frozen and waiting for a pie crust), a spiced apple bread (not worth making again) and few versions of apple chutney.

The three remaining routes will showcase more of the Pinelands National Reserve to the south and east. We were just in the northwest corner:

As I learned last year, the Pine Barrens is immense — 22% of New Jersey and the largest forested area on the Eastern Seaboard between Maine and the Florida Everglades. Given the fires out west, a friend who has written an eyeopening book on megafires flagged this article that suggests New Jersey’s fire problem could be … the Pine Barrens.

Author: alliumstozinnias

A gardener (along with the Brit) who has discovered there is more than hybrid tomatoes. And a cyclist.

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