Hurricanes Henri and Ida ripped up the D&R Canal towpath

I dreaded seeing the damage from Henri and Ida. What a mess.

The remnants of Hurricanes Henri and Ida walloped New Jersey in August and September, and the D&R Canal towpath was smack in the path of both. The Millstone River flooded, Canal Road flooded, all kinds of major roads flooded … it was not pretty.

I dreaded seeing the damage to the canal towpath (also part of the East Coast Greenway).

We finally biked the section from Trenton to Princeton after Sunday’s big rally for the Essex-Hudson Greenway. Here’s what we found:

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A lavender farm in New Jersey? You can bike to 2 near Princeton

When you can’t get to the lavender fields in Provence, you can bike to these outside Princeton.

The lavender plant at my house spills over almost the entire width of the front walkway — a challenge for those put off by the many bees foraging for nectar. But how do I prune it? And what clever things can I do with the stems?

That’s made me curious about a lavender farm between Princeton and Hopewell with 15 varieties. Easy enough to bike there, I thought. Much of it is already the route we take when we want to punish ourselves with hill climbs in the Sourlands. And much closer than the lavender fields in Provence.

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Two ways to bike from Princeton to Philadelphia — which is better?

Both have great sections — and messy parts too.

Philadelphia from the Ben Franklin Bridge

I shocked a few of my neighbors when I said I was biking to Philadelphia this past weekend. It takes an hour to drive using I-95 so it seems crazy far to bike … and besides, how would you go?

OK, it was 50 miles on Saturday, 58 on Sunday. One day for the Pennsylvania side, one for the New Jersey side, using parts of the Philadelphia area Circuit Trails network. We’d biked sections of the two routes so what we really wanted to know is which way is better.

The answer?

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A surprise history find on a bike ride in Princeton

I found the home of a signer of the Declaration of Independence — but the wrinkle is he didn’t represent New Jersey.

Today was a sunny, unusually warm Presidents Day … so of course I went for a bike ride. The destination: A history talk. Not on George Washington (too obvious!), but on Teddy Roosevelt.

Here’s the history bonus: I stumbled across the home of a signer of the Declaration of Independence — but the wrinkle is he didn’t represent New Jersey. (There are several New Jersey signers around here — John Witherspoon, Richard Stockton and John Hart.) This sign is on Snowden Lane in Princeton, just outside a home on the National Register of Historic Places.

Learn more about Joseph Hewes here and here. And then read more about discovering local history by bike: A weekend bike tour around Princeton NJ: George Washington, Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr.

The Lawrence Hopewell Trail turns 20 (miles)

One more segment of the Lawrence Hopewell Trail is finished.

What a way to end National Bike Month and lead into National Trails Day — a ribbon-cutting for a new section of the Lawrence Hopewell Trail.

I’m a big fan of this 22-mile loop in Lawrenceville and Hopewell (between Trenton and Princeton for those of you not from here). I wrote about riding the entire loop in April, and we got excited at the sight of construction for this new piece of the trail.

This section, just 0.6 miles, lets users avoid busy Rosedale Road by going from Province Line Road into the ETS campus. Once there, you can ride a loop through the campus or just keep going south, across Rosedale and into a neighborhood and then the Carson Woods.

And once the ribbon was cut, joggers and walkers immediately started using it.

Continue reading “The Lawrence Hopewell Trail turns 20 (miles)”

New Jersey’s Lawrence Hopewell Trail is a gem you should discover

Put it this way: I couldn’t stop smiling.

Now I have ridden sections of the Lawrence Hopewell Trail many times, even at night during the annual Moonlight Ride. But Saturday was the first time I set out to ride the entire 22-mile loop. And I have to say the whole of this New Jersey trail is better than its parts.

Put it this way: I just couldn’t stop smiling.

The LHT has so much variety that you can’t dismiss it with oh, trails are boring. Sometimes you’re biking through the woods, other times through the fields or next to a lake. You go for miles through Mercer County’s largest park. There’s the options for a food stop in Lawrenceville. History at the “pole farm,” where 10-story (yes, story) timber poles stood for decades, supporting antenna wires that relayed phone calls across the Atlantic. It looks like spinach is already growing at a big organic farm. Lots of curves and turns, not the straight lines of an abanonded rail line that’s been converted into a trail.

The surface changes too. Sometimes it’s paved, but there’s dirt, crushed stone too. Sometimes it felt soft on my 28 mm road-bike tires (thankfully with some tread), and I felt I fishtailed a bit. Anyone on wider tires, though, will have no problem. And there was even a bit of mud to go around or (ugh) walk through, holding up my featherweight bike.

Signage — with one exception — is perfect.

Continue reading “New Jersey’s Lawrence Hopewell Trail is a gem you should discover”

A weekend bike tour around Princeton NJ: George Washington, Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr

It’s easy to spend a weekend biking in the Princeton area.

Time to put some my knowledge about this area in one place. And for those who don’t want to just bike, there’s kayaking/canoeing and walking too.

Princeton, halfway between New York and Philadelphia, is more than the home of an Ivy League university. George Washington’s victory at the Battle of Princeton on Jan. 3, 1777 kept the American Revolution alive. Alexander Hamilton was alongside him, and Aaron Burr is buried in town.

Start: Princeton train station. Take New Jersey Transit or Amtrak to Princeton Junction, then transfer to the “Dinky” train for Princeton. (Note: Amtrak doesn’t offer bike service at either Princeton Junction or Trenton, one stop south). For those driving, park at Turning Basin Park at Alexander Road and the D&R Canal.

Continue reading “A weekend bike tour around Princeton NJ: George Washington, Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr”

Biking with George Washington

How cool is this? Biking with George Washington.

This is the coolest bike ride of the year so far — pedaling with George Washington (OK, a reenactor) and about 80 “troops” from the site of Battle of Trenton to the Battle of Princeton. All that was missing (beyond Alexander Hamilton) were some Redcoats in hot pursuit (even if that last part isn’t historically accurate). Next year!

This 10-mile “Chasing George” ride (with accompanying historical talks) was organized by the Historical Society of Princeton with help from a number of organizations, including a few of us representing the East Coast Greenway who escorted one company of “soldiers” from the Trenton train station to the Douglass House, site of a Council of War after the Second Battle of Trenton and the starting point for this ride. Some 37 of us took off behind General Washington, followed by 32 others who took a wider view of history. They had ridden out from just south of Princeton to Washington Crossing (site of the Dec. 25, 1776 crossing of the Delaware River) and then onto Trenton.

Yeah, the kids loved it. They made sure they were up front with George!

Our route wasn’t historically accurate; we took the D&R Canal towpath (part of the East Coast Greenway), which wasn’t built until the 1830s. The General and his troops had swung wide to give the Brits the slip that night. We ended up near the Princeton Battlefield as part of Princeton’s annual Ciclovia. Too bad it’s held on the edge of town, so attendance is pretty sparse.

But what was so important about these battles? These are the 10 days that saved the American Revolution. And it really was almost at an end. Washington had suffered one loss after another in the New York area and had essentially fled through New Jersey to just across the Delaware in Pennsylvania. Much of the Continental Army had signed up for one year and could go home at the end of the year. And on Christmas night, the army crossed the Delaware, despite the snow and the cold, and surprised the Hessians in Trenton on the morning of the 26th. They won, shocking the British. (And no, the Hessians weren’t drunk). Soldiers stayed on. There was a second Battle of Trenton on Jan. 2 and Washington’s forces held on as night fell. The British planned to finish them off in the morning, but Washington and his troops slipped out of town on a back road heading for Princeton and places north. British soldiers heading south to Trenton spotted them as dawn broke, and there you have the Battle of Princeton. Another win for Washington, and the Revolution was saved.

Want more? Read “1776” if you haven’t already. And catch the re-enactment of the crossing every Christmas Day, take part in Patriots Week in Trenton the week after Christmas and then watch for the Historical Society of Princeton’s own Battle of Princeton events just after that.

Trail dust

On Sunday, a group of us headed north from Princeton on the D&R Canal towpath.

ecg nj signI haven’t ridden north on the D&R Canal towpath from Princeton in a long time. So on Sunday a group of us headed out that way.

The D&R Canal towpath is part of the East Coast Greenway, and the trail was busy — maybe busier than I’ve ever seen it. We had plenty of shade, and having the canal right there made it even more pleasant. Loved the turtles lined up on a log — the same family as some Week-A-Year riders spotted three years ago?

But unlike some of those Connecticut trails from last week, this trail isn’t paved. It’s also not quite as smooth as the Hop River Trail and Airline South, so it’s not something I would want to do on a road bike.

And the closer we got to East Millstone, the more we encountered a dusty red surface. Everything got caked. This is what my bike looked like before I washed it:

dusty bike


dusty bike 2

My panniers also were in need of a wash, and my once-white sneakers now have an orange-brown tint. Oh well.

We also rode over a bridge repaired (replanked?) by some East Coast Greenway volunteers earlier this month. Thank you, guys! Though as a friend pointed out to me, a “path closed’ sign at the point where you had a detour option would have been a nice touch.

ecg nj trail repair

Total miles on the trail: 30

Total miles for the day: 39

Black, orange and 67 miles

My Memorial Day weekend tally: 3 bike rides, 67 miles, lots of black and orange.

Memorial Day weekend training tally: out on the bike all three days, for a total of 67 miles. Though to be honest, all of that only equals the longest day on the Maine ride. Time to pick up the pace.

The big ride was Sunday — 31 miles with hills through Princeton and Hopewell and back. Memorial Day weekend traditionally is reunion weekend for Princeton University, when alums come back wearing the most garish black and orange print their class can find (once they hit the 25-year mark) or at least their class jackets. One year we hit the P-rade, when each class marches (we stood near the gathering point for the class meeting for their 20th reunion, dressed as P-rates of the Caribbean). Saturday night we caught glimpses of a heavily black-and-orange fireworks show. And on Sunday, we biked by homes of some proud alums. Here are a couple of examples:


This one had two banners — the one for the Class of 1932 is obscured by the tree leaves. The brunch with some easy-listening jazz was being set up in the garden as we went by:


And this driver takes his Princeton connection very seriously. Can you spot the tiger’s tale?

princeton car

On Saturday, I combined my bike ride with a small errand: The garden needed some basil. Glad I could fit it into my little rear bag. It arrived home unscathed.

bike and basil


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