Tours, Trails & Group Rides

Frankford, Pennypack, and All Around the Town

This Saturday’s Bicycle Club of Philadelphia D ride met at Penn Treaty Park (and I managed to find it! On Basil!)

There was some snickering about the text on these signs, since the  “peaceful relations with the Indians” referred to here eventually resulted in the demise of the native signers of the treaty. The kindest interpretation of the text is, perhaps, that it evinces hopeful thinking.

We met, actually, beneath the statue of William Penn, he of the Treaty.

Which is actually at the intersection of Columbia and Beach, nicely signed just across the street.

The purported meeting point is Delaware and Beach, about half a block away, which is the point at which Beach veers off from Delaware Avenue.  Some would say that the latter intersection is signed unhelpfully, but only I could have managed to miss the entire park on a previous trip.  Sigh. No more — now I’ve got this place documented!

My ride (and Basil’s, naturally) began at SEPTA’s Market East Station, and went down Race Street to Christopher Columbus, beneath the Ben Franklin Bridge.

The view was quire different on the water side:

Though I’d missed the cherry blossom festivals both in Washington, D.C, and in Philadelphia’s Fairmont Park, I was delighted to see this stand of trees on the median on Columbus Boulevard:

The day was colder than expected, but the predicted rain never materialized.

Five of us started out, and a sixth cyclist joined us later.  One cyclist was new to the club rides: I love seeing how welcoming the “old” riders are to the newbies.  It reminds me of how welcome they made me feel when I, too, was first, tentatively, starting out.

Leader Tim billed this as a “nitty-gritty-city” ride, but the first views were of the Ben Franklin Bridge and beyond.

Behind us, though, was this ancient power plant, conveniently located for coal deliveries via the river.

Tim is best fuelled by doughnuts; it wasn’t long before we stopped for a bit of refection.  The tables inside were mostly taken by a large group of older gentlemen who were clearly from the neighborhood (and who admired Basil!).  These gents were responsible for a bit of cognitive dissonance:  How on earth could an ordinary chain doughnut shop feel so much like a neighborhood diner?

Somewhere on these gritty streets we saw this sign, from a time when Al’s apparently delivered by bicycle.  It’s a good thing Al kept the sign; cargo bikes, like other models of their brethren, are enjoying a resurgence.  Delivery-by-bike is an old idea that is becoming new again, and if Al decides to jump in, he’s already got the sign.  I suspect Al’s no longer delivers, and probably won’t in the future, but that didn’t stop me from loving the sign.

Much of this ride was on urban streets, and gritty they were.  These are parts of Philadelphia that tourists don’t see, much of it tied to the city’s industrial past.

We saw lots of small grocery stores. I thought that this was one until I saw the photo at home. Nearly every corner grocery advertised that they sold frozen treats, but this apparently isn’t a grocery, but a water ice factory, meaning, presumably, that the ices are made on the premises.

When we picked up the Pennypack Trail, I discovered that the park wraps around a prison.  I’m not sure what the message is there, or if I want to think about it. This mural is painted on the side of one of the prison buildings.

Though the skies were still a bit gray, all that new green growth seemed to light the woods along the trail.

We took a second break at the end of the trail.

This ride was a good opportunity to try out Basil’s M bag on a longer ride.  I was hoping to make a different bag for the 5 Boro Tour at the beginning of May, but it seems unlikely that I’ll have time to do so.  I think the M will work well, though there are a few different features I’d like to have in a small bag on a 40 mile city ride.

Soon we were back on the streets.

Philadelphia is famous (or infamous, if you remember the administrative bombing of 1985) for its row houses.  These peaked roofs are a variation on the ones I’m used to seeing, which typically have a flatter roof line.

We passed large numbers of old churches, most de-commissioned or re-purposed.  Tim said that, at one point, we’d be passing five in a row, built at a time when many were built to serve immigrant populations deriving from a specific national origin. I missed the spot — there was so much to see, not to mention watching for glass and debris on the roadway.  (Can we pause a moment to praise those horrible plastic bottles? Street-riding is so much more feasible now that plastic rules the beverage world!)

Philadelphia is still using these wonderful trolley cars, built long ago; we crossed by this spot as we returned to Penn Treaty Park.  Ironically, I’ve ridden many of Philadelphia’s trolleys in San Francisco, but, as yet, none in Philadelphia.  San Francisco runs a small fleet of Philadelphia’s vintage trolleys as part of their Heritage Streetcar program, and they are used for everyday transportation.

This was a 35 mile ride for Basil and me —  a fascinating trip into worlds we see, if ever, only distantly by car, bus, or train — and one with good company, to boot!

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