Unlike our previous attempt, this time Basil and I showed up at the correct Spring Mill [SEPTA] station parking lot, and met this cheerful, friendly lot:
We set off on the Schuylkill River Trail, stopping at Betzwood where we ran into an evangelical who was handing out bagels. This caught the imagination of some of our gang, and much conversation ensued, along with bagel-consumption.
However, a couple of our crew had more urgent matters on their minds. The bathrooms at Betzwood were inexplicably locked at mid-morning on this Sunday, so they headed off looking for other accommodations.
Once we got going again, the rest of us took a slightly different route, and passed these critters.
Llamas! And, up on the crest to the left, burros. Or donkeys. Anyway, furry fellows with wonderful noses (and ears).
This was a stunningly beautiful day.
After our bucolic detour, we joined up with the others, who had located bathroom facilities in the woods, far enough from a trail that I’d never suspected that they were there. I have no clue where we were (other than outside Phoenixville), but that’s, of course, not unusual.
This was the chattiest group ride I’ve even been on. It was good-natured, and a lot of fun, but I suspect more than one Sunday schedule was rearranged, as a result. Not mine, though — one point of my faraway cycling forays is to intentionally leave daily obligations behind and just enjoy the ride!
Saul’s Dale and my Basil posed. Basil’s a little guy, but the Brompton wheelbase is right up there with the big boys’, as you can (almost) see here.
Saul took my geographic impairments in hand, and announced to the crew that I’d be leading them into Phoenixville. This instilled fear in at least one heart — mine — but he immediately began giving me cues. (Good thing, too!)
We successfully made it to the Artisan Cafe. I took a blurry shot of Basil, we ate and talked (and discovered, among other things, that almost all of us had once owned VW Rabbits and that two of us own vintage Beetles).
Not long after leaving Phoenixville, we all re-grouped under this bridge, and these marvelous arches. Saul had phoned in a downed power pole, and stopped to clarify things with the dispatcher.
At this juncture, the Perkiomen and Schuylkill trails diverge. The signage beneath is a little confusing, and has apparently befuddled more than one cyclist.
Saul soon rejoined us, and we were on our way again.
We headed back at a much brisker pace than I am used to. I held my own for a while, but ended up struggling quite a bit. I could tell that Mike and Saul were keeping an eye out for me, which both worried and reassured me. (Mike commented on how helpful high vis clothing is — he could see me behind him out of the corner of his eye).
As I dropped down to 13 mph (20.9 kph) and falling, I called to Saul and suggested that he and the others should go on; we were back on the Schuylkill River Trail at that point, and I was sure I couldn’t get lost if on my own, as the Spring Mill train station is next to the trail.
Saul said “Don’t be so sure” about getting lost (!), and “I don’t think that’s what it’s about” to the idea that others should go on. Then he kept me company for a bit, and made some excellent suggestions: he stopped with me, and had me drink some water (in my zeal to keep up, I had ignored my water bottle completely) and he suggested I shed my jacket (I hadn’t considered that I might be over-warm, between a rising temperature and the exertion).
Note to newbies — Hydration: It matters!
After these adjustments, and the short break to make them, I was in better shape. We rode further, and found that the others had stopped at the Norristown train station and were waiting for us. I was out of breath, but this friendly group was chatting again, and, by the time we were back on our bikes, I was in much better shape.
I think everyone slowed the pace for those last few miles, and I still think that was so kind of them — as was re-grouping at the Norristown station. I still don’t have the power of these more experienced riders — and, clearly, lack some of the riding skills, too. I’m working on both, and feeling very grateful to have fallen in with such an incredibly nice, patient, group of cyclists.
And I’m grateful, too, that leaders like Saul and Mike are so giving, and eager to encourage, and even teach, new cyclists like me, who otherwise might not aspire to continuing to build skills. Here’s to you, Inspirational Leaders (and your kind and friendly cycling pals)!