Greenery, blue skies, and sunshine were bursting forth upon the land like an invitation from Mother Nature to fire up my machine and go forth on a ride on some of my favorite northeastern backroads. I accepted her call and began my cruise a few miles north of the New Jersey border in Pine Island, New York.
Negative depictions of the state in film and television cause some people to think New Jersey is covered in urban sprawl, oil refineries, and clogged “highways jammed with broken heroes on a last chance power drive,” as Bruce Springsteen put it.
Although true for some parts of New Jersey close to the metropolises of New York City and Philadelphia, it’s called the Garden State for a reason. Northwestern New Jersey and northeastern Pennsylvania are blessed with farmland, forests, lakes, rivers, state parks, small towns, country churches, and most importantly, great roads to ride. Those blessings make this loop route a memorable favorite ride.
With the sun warming my face and the sweet fragrance of greenery filling my lungs, I rumbled south on my Kawasaki Vulcan 900 Classic LT. I had sold my heavy Vulcan 1700 Voyager, and although I missed all its bells and whistles, I enjoyed the backroad nimbleness of the much lighter 900.
On Glenwood Road (County Road 26) just north of the New Jersey border, the Blue Arrow Farm has an impressive replica of a western Plains Indian village. In New Jersey, Glenwood Road splits, and I turned west onto the rolling, serpentine County Road 565 and stopped at the unique Farm at Glenwood Mountain. Encompassing 170 acres, it sells grass-fed, free-range beef from Scottish Highland cattle, free-range chicken, eggs, turkey, and pork, as well as local honey and organic fruits and vegetables. They also host private farm-to-table dinners and weddings.
Rolling southwest toward Sussex takes you along the border of Wallkill River National Wildlife Refuge, which runs 9 miles along the Wallkill River (one of the few rivers in the U.S. that flows north) and protects 5,100 acres of land. Wildlife abounds in this area, including waterfowl, raptors, coyotes, deer, and bears. Throughout my years cruising through rural New Jersey, I have been lucky enough to spot several bears, as well as red foxes, a coyote, and numerous great blue herons.
After crossing over State Route 23, I passed The Village Smith and Cycle Works, a motorcycle repair and blacksmith shop where you can get new tires for your motorcycle and new shoes for your horse. Naturalist writer and gadfly Henry David Thoreau said to “simplify, simplify” your life. In rural New Jersey, we say “diversify, diversify” your life to succeed.
Continuing on 565 to rustic Plains Road, I connected with U.S. Route 206. Cruising north toward Kittatinny Mountain, I saw some interestingly named eateries, such as Jumboland Diner and Firehouse Bagels, which has a real firetruck as part of its decor.
Passing through part of Stokes State Forest, which encompasses more than 16,000 acres, I turned onto County Route 560, sailing toward the Dingmans Ferry Bridge, one of the few remaining privately owned bridges in the United States.
Opened in 1900, the bridge is 530 feet long and crosses the Delaware River into Pennsylvania. Riding high above the river on a motorcycle over its wooden planks is quite the experience. This rustic bridge lies within the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area, which spans 70,000 acres in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. A boat-launching area next to the crossing has views of the bridge.
Two impressive waterfall areas are nearby: Dingmans Falls and Childs Park. Both are worth a stop. Dingmans Falls is reached by a short, flat stroll on a boardwalk through the forest and alongside the stream. Childs Park is more challenging, with stairs going both up and down and a rugged walkway.
After a brief respite by the river, I fired up my machine and took State Route 739 to Silver Lake Road – a winding, rolling traverse through state forest land, lakes, and hidden gated communities. With areas of huge trees and forests lining the road, you get the feeling of motorcycling through primeval times. Route 402 north is much the same but is a faster-paced ride.
Blooming Grove Road (County Road 4004) and Well Road (CR 434), meander past country stores, rural homes, and forests. I felt like I was riding through a simpler era in America. At U.S. Route 6, a scenic byway that traverses the northern part of Pennsylvania, I roared toward Milford, a touristy town with several good restaurants.
After a late lunch at the Apple Valley Restaurant, I cruised across the modern Milford-Montague Toll Bridge with great views of the river back to Jersey. County Route 650 serpentines back through Stokes State Forest, which is a favorite of riders who love to challenge its rolling curves or just cruise along serenely. Traveling Routes 519 and 23 to Sussex, I headed northeast on State Route 284 to Bassetts Bridge Road, Lake Wallkill Road, and Glenwood Mountain Road.
As my Vulcan weaved through the countryside to Routes 565/517 and back to Pine Island, I reflected on what an enjoyable ride it had been. It was one I was destined to repeat.