The final ride of the 2021 edition of Tour de Pines may be my favorite yet: so much time bicycling on quiet roads plus my first time in gorgeous Belleplain State Forest. Who would have expected all this in the most densely populated (and can I say most congested?) state in the U.S.?
I’m rarely this far south in New Jersey, so this bike ride of close to 50 miles was a lot of new territory. We started in Estell Manor Park, about 25 miles west of Atlantic City, and generally went south. We were deep in the Pinelands National Reserve — think lots of oaks and pines, plus the occasional small town. That or the route planners did a great job keeping us away from traffic.
Some big news: After the previous day’s fruitless hunt, I did succeed in finding the Jersey Devil! Well, a devil.
But Belleplain State Forest is what captured my heart. Look at that lake!
Friends spent two nights in one of the state forest’s cabins. Two sets of bunks (I can attest to one set), a privacy wall and apparently the potential to cook. OK, I’d like electricity and not having to walk to the campsite bathrooms. But imagine being protected from the elements, bikes included, yet not having to set up and take down a tent… just pack a sleeping bag and a pillow.
There’s a smaller option too… almost like a doll’s house. We couldn’t see anything inside but we did see a propane tank in the back.
Or maybe during next year’s Tour de Pines there won’t be a golf tournament filling up the name-brand hotels?