I had the chance to take the bike out this past weekend, rather, the lull between snowstorms. It was my usual “Short and sweet” loop that I do here in the southern half of New Jersey near my home. Yes, my home in New Jersey.
Enter the usual guffaws when the words “New” and “Jersey” are uttered in the same sentence and next to each other. Although it has been said a million time, New Jersey is more than oil refineries, Atlantic City, Camden, Newark, the Giants/Jets, Tony Soprano, Bruce Springsteen, high taxes, bad roads, overpopulation and the Taylor Ham/Pork Roll debate. New Jersey, for all of its flaws, has a lot to offer the motorcyclist when you get outside of “certain” areas.
The following are areas you should avoid at all costs if you are on your motorcycle.
Certain Area #1: Inside the 287 loop. If you look at a map of New Jersey, you will see Route 287 which stretches from Perth Amboy in the south and loops its way around to Mahwah in the North. You want to avoid anything inside this area as best you can. Here is where New Jersey keeps its worst road surfaces, its most congested roads and worst drivers per square inch. Now this is not to say that there aren’t good areas within this loop, there are. It’s just the mayhem you have to go through to get to them that makes it intolerable.
Certain Area #2: Much like #1, you’ll want to avoid anything inside the 295 loop around the state’s capital of Trenton. Here you have all of the ingredients of #1 in a smaller, more concentrated area. I don’t know if was by design or just for a more enhanced driving experience. Sadly, the southern end of Route 29 starts here, but thanks to the 195 Bypass, you can now get to 29 north from the east and never have to actually drive through Trenton to get to it.
Certain Area #3: The 130/295/95/1/Turnpike Corridor stretching from the Delaware Memorial Bridges in the south to Area #1 in the north. This area also covers anything west of these routes to the Delaware River from Trenton South. This would also include Camden and the city of New Brunswick to the north, the home to Rutgers University. The only thing missing from this area is landmines and racing numbers on the cars and trucks traversing these routes. If high speed deaths doorstep white knuckle riding is what you look forward, then this is where you need to be. Road surface conditions will vary from abysmal at best to glorious. Roadway congestion is this area is equivalent to that of LA only at NASCAR Speeds.
Certain Area #4: Atlantic City. Just…… just don’t. This isn’t the Monopoly game board of streets you might think it is. Tiny city blocks with the same amount of New York City traffic on weekends. At the same time, I’ve been there when it was like a ghost town. I don’t know if that was because of the poor financial state the city is in or the less-than-glamorous reputation is has, but it was creepy. The road surfaces are… In need of huge do-over. Shovel-full patches of asphalt (The New Jersey definition of “Road Improvements”) are common place in this city.
Certain Area #5: The entire Route 35 corridor north from and including all of Asbury Park. Here is the cornucopia of it all. Bad roads, congestion, bad drivers, Uber Hell, strip malls, strip joints, liquor stores and some of the worst drivers you will ever encounter.
New Jersey in these areas is the full definition of the “Me First” mentality. So, for your own safety on your motorcycle, stay away from these parts as best you can.
Out side of these areas, you may not believe you are in a state with such a reputation. Some of the best roads, the most scenic and face shield open joy you could have on a motorcycle. My recent usual 30 mile loop takes me through farm lands, past horse farms, wide open pastures, heavily wooded areas and quaint little villages. There are cute little shops that serve the best mid-ride food you will find anywhere in the state. Halfway through my ride I always take this senseless loop through the parking lot at the Manasquan Reservoir and Recreation area. I do it just to get a good picture of the bike by the lake. In the summer months this place is bustling with canoes, kayaks and families on bikes riding the 5-mile bike path around the lake.
So the next time you are on your bike in New Jersey, head to the northwest into the Appalachians and the hills of west Jersey. Or head south and cruise through the pitch pines of the Pine Barrens and the seashore communities. Then you will see the Jersey you never knew existed.
Despite all of this, when I retire. I’m getting the hell out of here.