In 1682 William Penn created Buckingham County, now known as Bucks County, as one of the three original counties in the colony of Pennsylvania. Penn was a Quaker, and in the spirit of Christian brotherhood invited the persecuted Mennonites from Franconia in south central Germany to settle in the colony. By the early 1740’s there was a congregation of Mennonites living in the northern part of the county.
Located just north of Philadelphia and butting up against the Delaware River and southern New Jersey, my first impression of Bucks County as a cycling destination was that the suburban sprawl from Philadelphia and the attendant traffic had made Bucks a county no longer hospitable to riding. Bucks is busting with new development. Aside from a lot of new upper middle class suburbs and seniors retirement complexes, everywhere centuries old stone farm houses are being gutted and reconstructed for wealthy buyers. Massive multi-million dollar estates are everywhere, many with for sale signs by International auction house Sotheby’s. While there are thousands of miles of winding undulating roads, heavy traffic put a quick damper on my enthusiasm for cycling. Generally I have a lot of success in picking new cycling areas, but this looked like a fail.
The best way to find out where to ride is to ask the locals. A cycling club in Doylestown had posted a Tuesday morning ride starting at Washington Crossing, the town located where Washington crossed the Delaware River (several miles north of Princeton) to do battle with the British. Yvonne and I were up early in order to be at the Info Center parking lot by 8:00 a.m. to join “the group ride”. Merle’s Law sprung into action – when you want something too much it fails to materialize. I forgot Yvonne’s seat/post at the AirBNB. Instead of being 10 minutes early we were 10 minutes late. We found two cars with bike racks in the lot; a group ride of two retirees possibly?Plan B was put into action. Without a map and with no clue where any roads would lead, we determined to ride safe. On either side of the Delaware there is a river road and a packed grit tow road come cycling path. We would ride up the Delaware on the Pennsylvania side and return on the Jersey side. We took the river road going north to Center Bridge then crossed over to Stockton N.J. Rivers and cycling just seem to work well. A lot of historic towns, a great mix of fields and forests and a lot of shaded road made for a great ride. After crossing the Delaware into NJ we decided to ride blind and cycle further north away from the river. The Google Maps I had loaded on the cell phone would be our guide. Too my dismay I soon discovered that I had not loaded a New Jersey map onto the phone. After 15 km of aimless riding, trying to remember all the intersections and turns, we decided to get a paper map. A far from accurate free tourist map would have to do. It got us back to the river but wasn’t much use for planning routes. However we ended with a great ride along the canal path and completed our first ride 55km.
Due to a shorter ride and a hot afternoon, Yvonne and I decided to go paddling on Lake Nockamixon in the late afternoon. We decided to drop in at The Trek Bike Shop in Doylestown to get a better idea of where to ride. The owner gave us a map which showed the lowest trafficked roads and also told us the usual route the club rides. I told him about “Mennonites in Tights” and Manitoba cycling. Our riding options were now becoming clearer.
We had a nice two hour paddle and were just loading the boats when security came to tell us that all of the park gates were locked and we had to GET OUT!!! Unknown to us, the State Park closes the gates at sunset, which is an early 9:00 p.m.. There would be no late evening nude swim or casual fireside BBQ as we were being booted. All in all though a good first day despite the hiccups.
Bucks Day Two was everything I could have hoped for in a ride. Fantastic scenery, great roads with fun climbs and descents, a gourmet burger and coffee, and the excellent company of my riding buddy Kermit! Using the map given to us at the cycling shop we rode a fun loop from Dublin PA to French Town NJ and back. I love traveling.