Story and photography by Kenneth W. Dahse
[Pennsylvania Motorcycle Touring from New Jersey to New Hope originally appeared in the March 2010 issue of Rider magazine]
Riders who want to combine a great destination with fantastic roads need search no further than this ride from northern New Jersey to the hip, little river town of New Hope, Pennsylvania. Restaurants, galleries and a diversity of shops have helped make New Hope the place forriders to be on any given Sunday. And with miles of scenic back roads to travel, New Hope is definitely a favorite ride.
My buddy Joe (Mr. Happy) Loverchio and I chose one of the longest and most scenic routes to New Hope. After all, enjoying the ride is half the fun of reaching the destination. Starting from the radiant Monksville Reservoir in Ringwood, we rumbled north into the Jersey Highlands on Warwick Turnpike to Route 94 South. This stretch of curvaceous road passes farms, mountains and the Mountain Creek Ski Resort/Water Park.
At Route 23, we went north to Route 650, which snakes over hills to New Jersey’s premier scenic road: Route 519.
Mr. Happy was actually “happy” as his Honda ACE 750 Deluxe and my Kawasaki Nomad 1600 sailed through the lush hilly farmland of Sussex County. This section of 519 is motorcycling at its best with a serpentine road, rural views and nonexistent traffic. We passed the Space Farms Zoo and Museum, which occupies 100 acres of land and has 500 animals, including elk, wolf, bear, lion and beaver; as well as a museum of old cars, motorcycles and historic artifacts.
When I suggested that we go in, Mr. Happy grumbled, “Ken, it costs money and takes time; I just want to get to New Hope.” So we continued cruising along rolling 519 like surfers riding waves into the beach. Just south of Newton is Millers’ Yellow Iris Farm where we stopped to admire the farm and horses.
At Milford, we crossed into Pennsylvania, taking Route 32 south. Cruising Route 32 feels like you’re riding into the 18th and 19th centuries. The tree-covered road parallels the river, passing inns and homes built in the late 1700s and 1800s, and small farms that hark back to a bygone era when independent family farms were the norm.
Just before New Hope, we had to take a detour because Route 32 was under repair. Unlike the weekend when most riders roll into New Hope, Joe and I went midweek when it is not as visually stimulating but certainly less of a zoo. On weekends, people watching is a major attraction.
We wandered the streets stopping in various stores and checking out the numerous restaurants. After lunch we visited After the Ride, which has a nice selection of rider wear, and Sterling Leather with its amazing collection of cowboy hats. If you like American Indian jewelry, Jr.’s Southwestern Trading Post is also worth a visit.
Besides shops, New Hope has art galleries and many old historic buildings. There is a scenic train ride through the countryside and a short river cruise. The oldest stone house in New Hope is the Van Sant homestead, built in 1743. When its roof was replaced in the late 1800s, grapeshot was found imbedded in the wood; it is believed in 1776 British soldiers furiously fired at it from across the foaming river.
A few miles south of New Hope is Washington Crossing State Park and the Bowman Tower. From the top, fine views of the Delaware River Valley unfold before your eyes. Unfortunately, we arrived after 4 p.m. and it was closed. Mr. Happy was not happy about that, and didn’t stop complaining the entire ride back.
As its name suggests, Washington Crossing State Park is where General Washington and the Continental Army crossed the Delaware River from Pennsylvania to New Jersey in the frigid winter of 1776. Washington marched his army on Trenton, where they achieved a resounding victory over the Hessians (German mercenaries fighting for the British), and reignited the cause of freedom. Historic buildings, artifacts, trails and picnic areas grace the park. New Hope makes for a great day run, but is better done as an overnighter. That allows you a more relaxed and diverse sampling of all the town has to offer. Nearby are opportunities to canoe, kayak or tube the river. And there are scenic balloon and plane rides as well.
Unfortunately, Mr. Happy didn’t want to stay over, complaining, “It costs money, and I like sleeping in my own bed.” So, we fired up the bikes and began our 130-mile journey home, crossing back into New Jersey from New Hope into Lambertville, another picturesque town, and rumbled north on Route 29 to Milford. This is a nice road, but Route 32 in Pennsylvania is a more scenic and enjoyable route.
At Milford, we turned left on Bridge Street and then right before the bridge. At the T we went left and then made a right onto a rustic road that becomes Route 627. It runs alongside the river and then heads inland through the lush countryside. Our bikes ate up the empty road as the warm, wild wind caressed our faces.
Both Joe and I have an affinity for old churches and cemeteries. At the junction of Routes 519 and 623 we found both in the First Presbyterian Church of Oxford, founded in 1744. Walking through the cemetery, we soon discovered that many of the interred had fought in the War of Independence. One soldier was Captain John Craig, of the 4th Regiment Light Dragoons, Continental Army of the Revolutionary War. Captain Craig lived from 1750-1829. Reading the gravestones of the soldiers who gave us our freedom filled us with a sense of awe and respect for all the brave souls who, throughout our history, sacrificed and risked it all for the cause of freedom.
With the day growing late and miles to go, Joe and I mounted our steel steeds and rolled on, thinking what a great ride it had wouldn’t be long before we’d enjoy this great ride once again.
Mountain Creek Ski/Water Park, www.mountaincreek.com
Space Farms Zoo and Museum, www.spacefarms.com
New Hope, www.NewHopeChamberofCommerce.com, (215) 862-9990
The New Hope and Ivyland Railroad, www.newhoperailroad.com, (215) 862-2332
New Hope Coryell’s Ferry, (215) 862-2050
Washington Crossing Historic Park, www.ushistory.org/washingtoncrossing, (215) 493-4076