The 2013 Pine Barrens 300
As 100 riders gather in the early morning light, the mood is festive. Despite a slight drizzle they’re excited to start. Since the Pine Barrens 300 isn’t your typical competitive event, there’s no pressure to get the best position or beat a competitor out of the gate. Instead, the riders look forward to two days of riding without the pressure—challenging, but fun. The event’s first hurdle took place the night before. The PB300 is guided by GPS, so riders must download the course to their GPS devices. While this sounds like a simple task, for some it is anything but.
A few showed up with devices full of old routes, and in order to load the new itinerary the older data had to go. No rider likes to lose the history of their great rides, and since no one wants to see grown men crying, the GPS crew saved and emailed the routes back to the riders. The event begins by taking riders down a state highway with only light morning traffic, then brings them through scenic blueberry fields—open and fresh smelling, reminding them that New Jersey is the Garden State.
Soon they pass through historic Batsto Village, once an important lumber mill for the local community. On the left, the renovated Batsto Mansion looms beside a glistening lake; on the right is the sawmill that provided lumber for an entire community.
Entering the Wharton State Forest the asphalt gives way to hard-packed sand roads. Towering all around are the trees that give the Pine Barrens their name—stretching across 300,000 acres of preserved wilderness. Within minutes, the only sounds are those of the bike engines. It seems miles from civilization, making the riders feel like the only people left in the world—so much so that they’re sometimes surprised by signs of life.
People on horseback, hikers, mountain bikers and even the occasional dog sled team (on wheels) may intersect the course. There’s no time for complacency riding the hard pack. With little notice the trail gives way to sand traps, sections of deep sand found throughout the Pine Barrens and technically challenging to ride. As the more experienced sand riders say, “Just stay in the groove” and you’ll be fine.
But, beware of water crossings! The Pine Barrens has puddles that’ll swallow a Jeep. And just hope you’re not the smallest bike in the group or they’ll send you through first. After all, a smaller bike is easier to fish out! Fortunately for the more cautious riders, most of the puddles they can just go around.
Why do adventure riders from all over the east coast enter this event year after year? It’s a challenging, fun course, providing the opportunity to ride for a couple of days and enjoy the camaraderie of fellow bikers. The event was notable because there were no injuries. Several riders got lost, and the sweep crew led them back to safety. At the end, all gathered for a dinner held at a local catering hall, with a real meal and a cash bar that brought everyone together to boast of their victories—real and imagined.
Many looked for the Jersey Devil, but no one spotted him. One year a rider ran into a guy throwing knives at a clown portrait... but you’ll just have to hear about that one at next year’s event. The 2014 event is scheduled for fall and will mark the 10 year anniversary of the PB300. It will be a 500-mile three-day event. Learn more at PineBarrensAdventures.com