Nearly every Saturday, my local Harley Davdison dealer has some sort of event that draws Harley owners, fans and folks looking for a free lunch to it’s doors. This particular Saturday was no different. Scheduled was a band, DJ, food trucks, vendors, test ride events and a motorcycle give-a-way.
Thanks to the weather guessers in the northeast, who unsuccessfully predicted an 80% chance of rain, most of those scheduled to participate in the event cancelled. Of all the people expected to show up, there was only a DJ and one food truck. There were no test rides, vendors or motorcycle Give-a-way. Regardless, there were still at least a dozen or two riders who showed up expecting this huge event. We were sadly disappointed and had a cup of free coffee and hit the road.
I elected to once again do my Pine Barrens loop. This would take me southwest into the famed New Jersey Pinelands. Congress created the New Jersey Pinelands National Reserve, the country’s first National Reserve, to protect the area under the National Parks and Recreation Act of 1978. The New Jersey Pinelands National Reserve contains approximately 1,100,000 acres (4,500 km2) of land, and occupies 22% of New Jersey’s land area, including territory of much of seven counties. So for the most densely populated state in the country, New Jersey at least has this going for it.
I rode down Route 70 west through Lakewood, Lakehurst and Manchester then veered right off onto a popular rural pleasantry called Beckerville Road. This road follows the southern edge of the famous Lakehurst Naval Air Station and a portion of Fort Dix. Eventually, this would bring me to Route 539, one of the most scenic roads in New Jersey and the main road to take you through the Pinelands.
At this point 539 would cross over Route 70 as I headed south through Whiting where I would see a sign that would indicate that the senior citizens in the area might be drinking a bit to heavily.
Continuing on Route 539 I’d pass through the beautiful rolling hills of the Pinelands. Mile after mile of two lane road with 5 foot shoulders and plenty of sandy roads intersecting it on either side. Nearly arrow straight, Route 539 can throw you into a trance as you pass pitch pine after pitch pine and the smell of the pine needles gets up into your sinuses and has you dreaming back to those Christmas’s when you were a kid.
An interesting aspect of the Pinelands is that part of it has been set aside for the Military to use as a bombing range for pilots training at the nearby McGuire Air Force Base. I can remember riding my bicycle through this area with Air Force A-10 Warthogs doing straffing runs on targets in the range. What a sound that was!
On this ride, I would make it a point to stop and take a picture of the strangely obvious sign pointing the direction to get to the location of the bombing runs. I wonder if this was done in jest to lure very gullible people and terrorists to see what the hub-bub was all about. Very clever boys.
Eventually, I would pass the famed Lucille’s Country Cooking Diner right on 539. A great place to stop for lunch. I have eaten there before and it is a wonderful little joint with great food and wonderful people. I didn’t stop this time but I knew I would be back for a great BLT, but for now, I was on a mission.
Soon, Route 539 would end. I was fully expecting it to end at a park that I knew was there. Well, yes, there was a park there, but apparently they figured this year was a good time to make improvements so the entire site was under construction and closed off to the public. Access to the park was closed at the entrance, this left me to turn around at the barrier. But, I got a great picture of the marshlands the end of the road.