Another day off from work to take advantage of perfect fall weather — and this bike ride was so worth it.
I had one ride left in this year’s Tour de Pines, and I admit I wasn’t sure I wanted to do it. I’d have to drive 80 minutes to the start, at the Tuckerton Seaport Museum. We’d been in the area on last year’s Tour de Pines, and I remembered it as just being OK (aside from pedaling out to the Great Bay and seeing Atlantic City off in the distance). But a friend was determined to bike all four routes, the weather forecast was for sun and 70s, and I had vacation time to use ….
This 50-mile route was lovely, definitely better than the third ride and perhaps the best of the group. We were once again deep in the Pine Barrens, on long stretches of road with little traffic. And the fall colors were spectacular — reds and oranges amid the pine trees. Just be sure to bring your snack because there’s no place to stop, not even a Wawa in sight (unlike last year’s route). The rural deli looked closed for good (death by COVID?) and we weren’t stopping at a place advertising “legs, eggs and kegs.”
The route first took us to the Great Bay, crossing two one-way bridges, cycling past creeks and wetlands until we got to the water, sparkling in the sun.
Oh, see the birds take flight.
We spotted the pink blazes of the 50-mile Batona (hiking) Trail as we biked through Bass River State Forest, then went past private campgrounds. (Public or private, give me a camping spot near the water next year.) At the eastern end of the route, we were a handful of miles off the route we took on the second ride to loop through Wharton State Park.
My friend is reading John McPhee’s “The Pine Barrens“, written amid plans to put a giant airport in the middle of this forest and its 17 trillion gallons of some of the purest drinking water in America. His book is one reason this area — a stunning 22% of densely populated New Jersey — has been preserved. He also describes the locals — the “Pineys” — and the hard lives they led. We kept an eye out for ramshackle buildings that might have been theirs and wondered how some subdivisions at the edge of the Pines came to be.
But then preserved doesn’t mean it’s all in public hands. Surprise: About half of the Pine Barrens is actually privately owned.