It’s early in the morning, and the Brompton bicycles, Basil (left) and Argyll (right) are ready to go.
We hopped our usual train, and saw another as soon as we left the station on arrival in Philadelphia. I snapped the engine from above; it’s massive in real life, of course, but looks like a toy when viewed like this:
It was hauling a long chain of oil tankers, pulling them along the Schuylkill River, through Philadelphia. Though I’m a huge fan of steel girders, these stone arches also appeal to me, especially the blocks which support and outline the structure as it curves above the rails.
We’d hardly gone any distance at all, on our way to meet our BCP compatriots, when this freighter ground to a halt next to us, and a CSX engine appeared, going the other way.
We couldn’t dawdle, of course, and shortly found ourselves in the usual meeting spot below the art museum, and heading out for today’s destination: Betzwood, in Valley Forge Park.
Not far into the ride, one of us got a flat after crossing over a small patch of challenging cobblestones. Leader Tim cheerfully took advantage of the opportunity to give all of us a tutorial on how to patch a tube and mend a flat.
There must be scores of videos on You Tube that show how to do this, but nothing equals watching a pro do the job. Tim knocked the process off with finesse, even though he was busy explaining every step to our group of (mostly) novices.
Another rider had a spare tube on hand, and kindly donated it to the cause so that we could all get back under way without waiting to check the patch. We re-grouped at the Outbound Station in Conshohocken, about 12 miles/19.3 km from our start.
It’s a nice spot for a break, conveniently located right off, and in sight of, the Schuylkill River Trail. There’s plenty of space to park a lot of bicycles, too.
The owner is something of a bike fiend, it seems; there’s a little library of bike-related reading material in one corner, and bike memorabilia on the walls.
It doesn’t happen very often, but while we were at the café, one of our group got into trouble, experience chest pains and shortness of breath. A call was placed to 911 (emergency services in the USA) and one of our group volunteered to go to the hospital with our fallen companion.
Several women from a local Team in Training group joined with us and helped work out a plan for securing the bicycles of both the patient and friend, and arranging retrieval later.
We all waited until everything was settled, and until we knew that our fellow rider was safely on the way to the hospital. At last word, our cycling buddy was going to be fine, which was a relief to all. We all knew that women tend to minimize these kinds of symptoms, and the moral and practical support by those friendly and concerned Team in Training members gave an added boost to the efforts of our own group.
Later, when describing the incident to two of our riders who had gone on ahead before the stop at the café, leader Tim said, regarding the teamwork of all concerned, “It was a beautiful thing”. It was indeed.
While we wrapped things up at Outbound Station, two regional rail trains passed. This one, above, going east, was made up of the older carriages.
The cyclist, riding alongside the train, is on the trail; I’m standing in front of the Outward Bound.
Then it was on for another 10 miles or so to Betzwood. Argyll’s not really the retiring type, but I noticed that he’s got natural camouflage in these woodsy settings. Basil doesn’t mind being front and center; good thing, too, as he’s bright yellow.
We took a short break, chatted a bit, and turned around for the trip back to Philadelphia, but not before checking out trail construction leading into the Betzwood lot from the other direction.
Exactly what’s happening wasn’t clear to any of us, but earth is being moved, and that’s a construction vehicle, so something is going on.
A low rumbling across the water alerted me to yet another train, this one hardly visible behind the tree line. In another few weeks, it will be completely hidden as it roars by.
I’m don’t know if Saturdays are especially good days for trains, or if especially long bicycle rides lead to greater train exposure, but we passed one more regional rail train on our return. That’s Tim, flying alongside.
In Manayunk, twenty or so turtles were arrayed on a fallen tree, basking in ample sunshine. That’s quite a line-up, above, but there was plenty of opportunity to play spot-the-turtle among the other branches, too.
That tree trunk is not petite, and neither is this fellow, who raised his head just in time for me to take one last photo.
Our group ended up finishing at different rates and Dr. Diarist and I stopped a bit here and there once we got close to the city. This post is plenty long enough; Part 2 is coming up in a day or two.
We rode just under 46 mi/74 km on this particular day, in perfect weather.
(Basil and I are out of town this week, so response to comments and email will be slow — well, to be frank, non-existent — until our return.)