Bikes, Wine, and History: On the ECG in Central NJ

By Lukas Herbert, operator of Gotham Bicycle Tours

Over the weekend of September 19-20, seven riders embarked on Gotham Bicycle Tours’ vehicle-supported overnight bicycle tour of the East Coast Greenway (ECG) in Central New Jersey. Dubbed the Winery Experience Tour, this overnight included two days of riding and exploring the ECG, enjoying local wine and cuisine at Cream Ridge Winery, and like all bike tours – so much more.

The riders each arrived at the train station in Trenton with their bikes via the NJ Transit Northeast Corridor train. There we were warmly greeted by Jeff Laurenti. Jeff is an organizer of Trenton Cycling Revolution’s annual Tour de Trenton, a bike tour showcasing the city’s more well-known 18th Century historic sites such as the William Trent House and The Old Barracks.

Tour de Trenton

Tour de Trenton. Photo: Bob Ehrenbeck

Since our tour coincided with the 19th annual Tour de Trenton, we began our ride as a part of the 12-mile organized ride. Jeff is passionate about local history. Riding ahead of the group he called out facts about each historic site as we approached it. It was a highly educational and fun way to start our adventure.

Once the Tour de Trenton was history (so to speak), we began riding the New Jersey East Coast Greenway route – primarily the Delaware and Raritan (D&R) Canal Towpath, a historic and scenic local treasure.

After we were out of the city and into New Jersey’s farm country, we left the D&R and ventured onto some of Mercer and Monmouth Counties’ back roads. One of the highlights of this area was the Union Transportation Trail. Late-summer, nearly fall, it took us through golden fields of soybeans – completely car-free!

Gotham Winery Experience Tour

On the D & R Canal Towpath

After 34 miles of riding, we rolled into Cream Ridge Winery in Upper Freehold Township. Cream Ridge Winery is one of the most welcoming places around when it comes to cyclists. Winery managers Tim and Jackie Schlitzer are both passionate triathletes and experienced bike campers. They once bike toured across the country with their family during summer break. (They also managed to somehow live in South Jersey for several years with no car!)

The Schlitzers showered us tired and hungry cyclists their wonderful hospitality – literally! Tim treated us to a make-shift shower that he put together with a forklift and a water tank! They also delighted our senses with their delicious wines, well-paired with excellent dinner prepared by Laura Willis, the culinary manager of Gotham Bicycle Tours. Sated and content, riders set up tents among the rows of grapes in the vineyard and it was off to sleep.

Water crossing on the D & R outside Princeton

Water crossing on the D & R outside Princeton

After breakfast, the group departed for 45 miles of riding. The return route began with more local back roads, then led to some narrow off-road bike paths that ultimately brought us back to the D&R Canal for the remaining 33 scenic and serene miles. We enjoyed seeing lakes filled with kayakers; historic locks, spillways and aqueducts that are a part of the canal’s heritage; and wildlife that included turtles and various birds.

Some riders continued to the end of the Canal in New Brunswick where they caught the train home. Others stopped a few miles short at Bound Brook, which is also served by a train.

Regardless of the endpoint, our ECG Winery Experience Tour was a beautiful ride showcasing some of the wonderful cycling opportunities available in New Jersey. Don’t let the stereotypes of New Jersey fool you! It is a beautiful state for bike touring with bike-friendly transit services and fellow cyclists and other local people to welcome you.

It was a ride to remember!  An enormous thank you to Gotham Bicycle Tours for donating 10% of the revenue from this tour to the ECGA! To see more photos, please click here and here.