Greetings From the Garden State: Guest Blogger Bike Snob NYC Goes to JerseyCorrespondence Friends Curiosities Travel & Adventure Cycling
As a Brooks blogger it has been my pleasure to present you with some of the finest and most delectable riding in New York City and its immediate environs. The Bronx, Queens, Yonkers...place names synonymous the world over with "great cycling." Today though I am going to take you further afield, all the way to an exotic place called "New Jersey:"
You may know it as the American state that gave the world The Boss:
And of course the Chairman of the Board, which is really just another way of saying the Boss:
If there's one true thing about New Jersey, it's that they really like bosses.
Living in the northern Bronx, I'm fortunate enough to be within riding distance of some pretty good mountain bike trails. However, back when I lived in Brooklyn, I used to frequent a place in Jersey called Hartshorne Woods Park. Spoiled by my proximity to the riding north of the city I haven't been to Hartshorne in quite awhile, but nary a day passes when I don't pine for it, and so I resolved to remedy the situation forthwith.
Alas, Hartshorne's well over sixty (60) of our American miles from my home, which meant I'd have to drive there:
So I loaded up the Family Truckster and pointed it towards the New Jersey Turnpike:
Hartshorne is close enough to New York City that it's an easy day trip, but it's also far enough from its orbit that you actually feel like you've left town. The accents change slightly. The culture, while Jersey right down to its heady abundance of strip clubs and "no left turn" signs, also has an undercurrent of something that feels vaguely...Philadelphian. And then there are these things:
You're in the mid-Atlantic now, baby.
Anyway, five toll plazas, seven Wawas, 12 shuttered tattoo parlors, and 19 strip clubs later I was finally at Hartshorne:
One of the weirdest things about driving to a mountain bike ride is getting ready. See, when you ride to the trails you arrive ready, whereas when you drive there you have to quickly turn yourself into a cyclist after being a sedentary clod. Therefore, I studied the instructions at the trailhead to make sure I was doing everything properly:
Well, granted, I didn't have a giant sticker reading "RIGHT" on the left side of my helmet, but I did have a Brooks saddle with a giant saddlebag underneath it, and so I pedaled off into the woods:
The mountain biking north of New York City tends to be rocky and somewhat technical, and while immensely enjoyable it also requires a certain amount of concentration and willingness to pick your way through some tricky situations. Hartshorne, by contrast, is almost a guilty pleasure. It's filled with miles of smooth, sandy, undulating singletrack:
And is pretty much the embodiment of what knobby tire enthusiasts call "flowy:"
This isn't to say it's easy. Not at all. You'll leave in one piece, but you'll also leave tired. There are plenty of steep, rooty climbs to keep you honest:
And if you go a little too willingly with the flow (which you will, because you'll want to ride fast here) you're liable to wipe out in a sandy patch or crash into a strategically-placed tree:
Or a cairn:
Which I tend to mistake for piles of dinosaur dung:
Oh, the park also has charming wooden bridges:
Which is a good thing, because if a park doesn't have wooden bridges I'm OUTTA THERE.
And it's even reasonably well-marked:
All of which makes it pretty much the ideal place to ride a rigid, singlespeed mountain bike:
Plus, one of the best things about riding here is emerging from the trees and remembering that you're right on the water:
It's even got its own dock:
I resolved at that moment to get some kind of watercraft, because what would be cooler than showing up for the ride by boat?
I mean sure, I don't know the first thing about boats, and I'd have to store it in a marina, but I could punish my children by making them scrape barnacles off her hull while yelling at them in a piratey voice, and just think of the money I'd save on tolls!
This area features some of the highest elevations on the Atlantic coastline, which means as you climb away from the water and over the bluff you get to enjoy a delightful sea breeze:
It also means the location was strategic for military purposes, which is why there's a World War II bunker up there:
The Hartshorne property was a desirable defense site because of its high elevation. Through the years, it hosted a number of different land and air-based military installations to defend New York Harbor and surrounding areas.
During the WWII era, batteries for heavy artillery were built on this site to modernize coastal defense efforts. These concrete and earth encasements or bunkers – considered “bomb-proof” at the time – protected personnel and equipment. These structures can still be viewed today.
With the rise of strategic air power and nuclear weapons, the reliance on artillery guns for coastal defense ended. During the Cold War Era, from the 1950s-1970s, the site served as a missile defense site and command center with radar, computers and electronic plotting devices. Structures from this era have all been removed.
Yep, they were totally ready to shoot at some Nazis, and apparently from there they could hit Long Beach, NY:
If you're unfamiliar with the area, that's pretty freaking far.
Here's a very big gun:
And somewhere way in the distance are those sitting ducks in Long Beach:
Alas, I would have liked to go inside, but it appeared that the site was closed for renovation. As a result, it was throwing off a major Area 51 vibe. For example, it was fairly obvious to me that this creepy green pool was some sort of alien bathing vessel:
Heading to the other side of the bunker, I noticed an open padlock:
And through the bars I could see an open gate:
I considered going inside, but I could hear voices. Did those voices belong to scientists conducting a top-secret alien autopsy? Or did they merely belong to restoration workers attempting to open a can of spackle?
It was impossible to know for sure.
All I knew was that something was going on in there:
And that's when I was approached by...this:
The truth is out there:
After that it's tough to say what happened, because I lost a good four or five hours. It's also possible I was probed, which is why it was a relief to finally get to the dismount area:
And with that, I headed back to New York, but not before paying a visit to Wawa:
The truth may be out there, but we'll never know for sure what's in those hot dogs.