Tours, Trails & Group Rides

Bert Cebular Memorial Ride

One month ago today (yes, I’m that far behind on blog posts!), Basil and I went to New York City to ride with other Brompton cyclists in memory of NYCeWheels‘ founder, Bert Cebular, who died unexpectedly last December. bcm-amWe caught an early train.  I loved the light, especially over the industrial areas, but it was pretty nice everywhere, even as the sun rose and washed away the early, deepest, hues.


Morning shades are never exactly like those of the late afternoon, even if the scenery is similar.  That makes sense, I suppose, since the direction of the rays would inevitably affect the tones perceived. I rarely see these landscapes tinted in this particular way; it was a pleasure to experience it on this day.


This was a one-day trip, so Basil and I had no real luggage.  Without a T bag, or other passengers’ luggage to keep him upright, Basil lay decoratively on his side in the baggage area.

bc-laOur car was virtually empty.  Basil could have had a seat of his own, or stretched across two, if he’d wanted to.

bcm-qcWe arrived at Penn Station in good shape; Basil is carrying his Mini O bag, and my helmet.

bcm-pstWe were a little early, so we spent a few minutes enjoying Riverside park before meeting up with Cathy, of UnfoldedNYC.  We had a delicious breakfast and a lovely visit with Cathy and family (including two beautiful Maine Coon cats — feline fix, first thing in the morning, oh yeah!).


We all gathered at NYCeWheels, where Bromptons Basil and Maggie had a chance to continue getting acquainted.  Maggie is a M3L Brompton; she’s sporting her own blue and black Mini O bag.  Cathy’s helmet is a strong red; Maggie is all-black.  The red, black, and cobalt color combination manages to be striking, chic, and bold all at once!


You can see Basil’s custom Brompton yellow chain guard in the image above this one; Maggie was sporting her own brand new polished Tiller chain guard. Some of us are working on Peter, managing director of NYCeWheels, hoping he’ll be able to stock these in the USA.


The store wasn’t open for commerce, but Peter and crew served pizza and a Bert favorite, coconut water, to the crowd before we started out.  It’s always interesting to see what’s stocked on those vibrant green walls!


NYCeWheels regularly offers free Brompton tours in NYC, and has a fleet of yellow Bromptons that riders can use if they don’t have their own yet.  These were set out for cyclists who wanted to borrow one for the ride.

bcm-mbThe sidewalk in front of NYCeWheels was covered with Bromptons.  The H model in the foreground is an unusual (and rather nice) color combination:  That’s a claret frame with cobalt blue extremities.  (Basil and I remembered it from our first encounter with it at the 5 Boro Tour, earlier in the month.)

bcm-pyPeter set the tone for the ride:  Like the best of tributes, this memorial event focused on affectionate recollections of the unique avocations and eccentricities of the one who was no longer with us.  Bert, it seems, had more than a few quirks, and a fine a sense of playfulness.

Peter has a few eccentricities of his own. His raw lacquer Brompton has golden cables (!).  There’s no mistaking this B for any other:

bcm-cbThat golden glow complements the lacquer finish perfectly.

bcm-cb2It became immediately obvious that herding Brompton riders is a lot like herding, well, for example, Maine Coon cats, but eventually everyone was rolling, and we took to the streets.

Sometimes these group rides become social in unexpected ways:  When we all pulled up at a traffic light, one of our party had a friendly exchange with a small dog who was in the vehicle beside him.


We were soon in Central Park.  Peter stopped at various points to let us re-group, and to regale us with tales of exploring there with Bert, and stories about the videos they filmed there.


The surprise of the day, though, was a hidden gem that Peter described as a favorite spot of Bert:  a waterfall in a small wood where Bert often went with Mr. Bailey, his canine companion.


Amusingly (or at least ironically), we had to walk our Bromptons through trees and a bit of meadow next to the site.  One could feel the astonishment and — dare I say it? — concern, when Peter announced that we’d be briefly on foot.


I heard more than New York city denizen exclaim once the sylvan surprise appeared; apparently this pretty locale wasn’t familiar to at least a few people who know the rest of the park well.

bcm-clWe crossed a field beside a stand of trees and gathered by the road that runs through the park.  Summer had finally arrived, and the day was incredibly beautiful and almost too warm — not that anyone was complaining.

bcm-eqIn Central Park, “share the road” can mean something a little unexpected.  Fortunately, neither Bromptons nor horses were at all disturbed by each others’ presence.


Equine creatures are just fine, but there’s really nothing like a Brompton (or a fold of them) is there?  Just look at all those small wheels, and the elegant curve of those distinctive frames!

bcm-icOnce we left the park, we stopped for ice cream.  Parking such a large number of Bromptons was a mad and fun activity, and the line-up a fitting tribute to Bert, who did more than anyone else to bring Bromptons to New York.


There were Bromptons all over the place; Peter and his crew kept an eye on things while the rest of us went in and ordered our treats.  Then we returned to NYCeWheels and said our farewells with a nod of thanks to Peter, his crew, and the memory of Bert, whose enterprise and eccentric vision was largely responsible for the current, easy availability of the best little folding bike on these city streets (and elsewhere, too!).  Small wheels and unexpected discoveries:  that’s not a bad legacy at all.

Tours, Trails & Group Rides

Bill Cotton Memorial Ride

For nearly as long as I’ve been riding with Mike and Saul, they have been telling me about Bill Cotton, and commenting on how much they think I would have liked knowing him.


Earlier this month, a group of us gathered for a BCP ride in Bill’s memory.  Bill was an avid bicyclist, a machinist by trade, a clever engineer and tinkerer, and is remembered with the kind of affection few people can hope to inspire.


We met at the Pottstown trailhead and rode to West Reading, to the Queen City Diner, where Bill famously liked to stop.

Along the way, we encountered a small memorial (“Winston Here Lies Jim’s Dog”) beside the trail.


Saul paid his respects (rather dramatically!), but it was heart-warming to be reminded, particularly on this ride, that those who are loved are not forgotten.


The 35 mile/56.3 km route took us over a wide variety of surfaces, including:


asphalt (that’s a Catrike recumbent in the rear there; it can really go — and did!);

bc-pgpacked gravel;


what we used to call “two-tracks”;


and into the woods (I don’t know why we never called these “one-tracks”).

Along the way we went past rivers

bc-rvover railroad tracks


across bridges


and past battered old boxcars, apparently still in service.


We could hear moving trains all along the ride, and sometimes see them, just barely, through the trees.


Dr. Diarist took most of these pictures — he was speedy enough to catch up once he’d dawdled — and also captured this  adorable (or is it fierce?) fire hydrant:


This housing development has a very odd roofline of a type we’d never seen before.


We saw evidence of some old technologies, now defunct


and new technologies, only recently installed.


Along with grittier sights


we encountered some classically pretty ones:  country homes with cultivated flora;

bc-dhexuberant uncultivated greenery;


and a converted barn with unusual, small scale, stone work (unusual for this area, at least).


At the diner, we had a convivial meal.


Ride leader Steve enthusiastically consumed a symbolic dessert in Bill’s honor. (I gather Bill was not opposed to the occasional sweet!)


After a leisurely meal, well-fortified, we prepared to get back on the road.


On our return trip, Saul made sure that everyone admired Basil’s new chain guard.


And then we were off, zipping our way back. The variety of scenes that can be encountered on a 35 mile/56.3 km ride, mostly on trails, in this area, is amazing and thrilling:  Could there be a more appropriate way to remember Bill Cotton, his love of bicycling, and his creative mind?  On this perfect day, it was impossible to imagine anything better.

Argyll Tours, Trails & Group Rides

Argyll Goes to New York

Argyll, Dr. Diarist’s Brompton bicycle, needed his post-purchase service and check, so he and I took the train to New York City.  (Dr. Diarist was otherwise occupied.)

any-stThis was not Argyll’s first time on a train, however.  He’d come home in January, in the middle of a snowstorm, but there was little documentation from that rather frenzied trip.  It felt odd to travel without Basil, but both Argyll and I took it in stride.


My T bag was stuffed, but I don’t have any trouble getting four days’ worth of clothing and gear into it.  Even a wimp like me can manage a T bag and a Brompton on a train; I sling the T bag across my back, carry the B in my right hand, and hold on firmly as I mount the incredibly infelicitously staggered stairs into the train carriage.

We watched a few trains go by before ours arrived.  Amtrak’s “Coach Class” cars always look spiffy.  I love the classic curve of the exterior, too.

any-akThe locomotives don’t seem to get as much love — or  maybe the life of a locomotive is naturally just a lot grubbier.

any-lcThis engine is pushing the train westward;  that’s a common configuration in our part of the world.  This particular train will head to Lancaster, Harrisburg, and possibly all the way to Pittsburgh.  Weirdly, the trip to Pittsburgh by train takes about ten hours, or twice the time required to drive it on the turnpike.

any-spThe exterior of SEPTA’s newest cars also tend to look pretty good, too.  The end of this particular regional line is at Thorndale; anyone wanting to go farther west needs to hop aboard Amtrak.


We were going eastward, of course.  It was a trip full of firsts for Argyll, and I did my best to record them.  It was very odd to see a small green Brompton on the train where I’m used to seeing Basil’s yellow.  Basil’s T bag served Argyll just as well as it has Basil, ensuring that he didn’t slip about during the ride.


Dr. Diarist sent me off with a new app on my Android tablet:  Trainz.  This meant that I spent some blissful time driving a train through the British Midlands while on the way to New York.  It was the best sort of cognitive dissonance:  The train I was on, and the British one, seemed to move in perfect harmony.  Good thing I wasn’t the engineer on the Amtrak train, though:  I got lost in the Midlands and had to backtrack.

any-indOutside, In Real Life, the sky was putting on a show.  All that drama above yards of industrial detritus!

any-idyMaybe it was the influence of Trainz, but it seemed to me that the view looked surprisingly like something that an animation engineer might have created.  That was a little worrisome .  .  . and inspired a philosophical moment:  What is reality, anyway?

any-plThe next view successfully distracted me from further musings.  There it was:  the unending sky, a plane, trains, and a Brompton.  The lure of adventure, symbolized in the nouns of the moment, and a fantastic roiling of clouds.

any-cgI’m not allowed to ride my bicycle inside the subway, or at indoor train stations, but a Brompton’s brilliant luggage block still carries the weight of my gear.  Argyll, just like Basil, transforms into an excellent luggage cart.

any-mrIn no time at all, Argyll had arrived in Washington Heights, and was having his portrait snapped in front of the mural where his sibling has posed so often.

any-grThen upstairs we went, Brompton and baggage, and settled into the home of the Manhattanites, to prepare for the next step of our adventure.

(Basil and I are out of town again this week, so response to comments and email will be slow — well, to be frank, non-existent — until our return.)

Tours, Trails & Group Rides

Third April Progressive: Part 2

Part 2, that is, of the most photographed (by your Diarist, at least) BCP progressive ride ever.  When last seen, Dr. Diarist and I were approaching the city of Philadelphia at the end of the club ride.

Fairmont Park’s trees were pulling out all the stops, displaying a white and  fluffy exuberance quite different from the snows of yesterweek:


The city closes Kelly Drive on weekends, making it bliss — mostly — to ride upon.  The qualification is due to the regularly scheduled special events, which often mean that we find ourselves dodging massive quantities of wayward pedestrians weaving across the road for various charity and sporting events.


Deserted Kelly Drive.  (Ah, the arches of Philadelphia, how I well I like them!)

The Philadelphia Museum of Art, in all of its Grecian glory, is just across the river.  It’s my favourite Philadelphia building.


That white swath below the museum crest is the old city water works.  In summer, there’s usually a high-end restaurant operating there; otherwise, it’s a fine promenade, but one not much used, and not one on which bicycles are permitted to ride.


Next along, to the left, which should be northerly, if I’ve got my directions right, is boathouse row, famed for boats, yes, but also for the picturesque buildings which house local rowing clubs.  Sculling on the Schuylkill River is a long-time tradition.


Then there is this tree, likely much newer than the boathouses, but quite appealing in its own right.


We cycled around a curve, and there was Philadelphia, proper.  Or downtown Philadelphia, at least.


A little farther around the bend, we could see a bridge filled with lots and lots of traffic, quite unlike the lovely boulevard that Dr. Diarist, Argyll, Basil and I were traversing.


On the train home, we rode backward.  I snapped a photo of this power farm; that’s the shadow of Basil’s saddle and saddle bag in the lower right.


I was only able to snap a section of this deco-ish bridge.  Through the window of the train, the structure looks more like a sketch to me than a photograph; the color seems to be a pastel wash, lending the structure a look of fragility, or that of an image from an old-time post card.


Basil rode next to me on the train seat.  When the conductor took our tickets, Dr. Diarist noted that offspring* of the wheeled variety ride the train at no charge.


Argyll rode between the seats, where he fit quite neatly, even with a Mini O perched on top.


Our total mileage for this week’s progressive was just under 46 mi/74 km.

* “We treat them like children, babies, literally,” says Andrew Barnett, of Bumble Bee fame, describing Brompton owners and their bicycles, quoted in BloombergBusinessweek.  Andrew knows whereof he speaks, and we do, too .  .  .
(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.)
Tours, Trails & Group Rides

Third April Progressive: Part 1

It’s early in the morning, and the Brompton bicycles, Basil (left) and Argyll (right) are ready to go.

tap-2We 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:

tap-orIt 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.

tap-olWe’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.

taqp-csWe 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.

tap-obIt’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.

tap-bpThe 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.

tap-47It 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.

tap-cnsExactly 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.)

Tours, Trails & Group Rides

Second April Progressive

We are determined to make every one of BCP leader Tim’s progressive rides this month, so we were ready to go for the second, 35 mile/56.3 km ride.

sapThirtieth Street Station has wonderful wooden benches that, counter-intuitively, are actually quite nice to sit upon.  Also, two Bromptons fit nicely on the end.

sap-bnAs we left the station, much to our surprise, we spied two other Bromptons, racing green, with Brooks saddles:


I instantly realized that I probably had met the cyclists who had (shudder!) so wantonly cast aside their Bs  whilst they went elsewhere.  On several different occasions, distant from Philadelphia, I’d met two fellows who had admired Basil (and, more recently, both Basil and Argyll), and who told me about collecting their own Bromptons in Scotland, early in the previous decade.

This was the clincher:


Two identical, earlier Bromptons, labelled by an Edinburgh dealer.  What are the chances?!?  I was thrilled, of course, and snapped a whole bunch of photos.  These little guys are so identical to Basil and Argyll, and yet so not.  (Comparisons to come.)

sap-4bNaturally, I took a picture with all four Bs, and rode on beaming.  What a fine start to the day! (Meeting the cyclists was all well and good, but seeing their Bromptons — that’s the best!)

Not that the day needed any help:  The art museum was all gussied up in pink and greenery, and early morning shadows.

sap-amWe’ve got a good crowd for these rides now that the weather is behaving more reasonably.  It’s fun to see the new riders return, and to consider what a difference these rides may make to them as they gain cycling experience.


Tim’s progressives changed my life, and I know I can’t be the only one who feels that way!

We headed out, passing, as usual, an example of one of the best features of the Philadelphia landscape: stone arches.

sap-arThey’re everywhere, but group riding does not necessarily favor snapping photos of them.  I was glad to get this shot today.

sap-smtWe often regroup at the old abandoned Shawmont Station.  This time, a train ran through, so we got the whole crossroads experience with flashing lights and gates descending.

Saul and Mike joined the group this time, and Saul suggested that I should get some shots of this cemetery.


Saul waited patiently while I took photos.  I can’t find my way out of an open paper bag, so it was very kind of him to stay with me to make sure I didn’t end up in Connecticut’s Bridgeport instead of Pennsylvania’s.

He made sure I got the right shot of Basil, too:

sp-entThis area is commercial now (manufacturing, utilities, warehouses, etc.) with busy roads going past and above the graveyard; it’s no longer a quiet “resting place”,  just an almost-forgotten one.  But it is as full of character as it is of antique graves, and completely unlike the modern models, with their sterile level plates and unnaturally manicured lawns.


Nostalgia was not the point of this run, though:  Doughnuts were!  Mike, Saul, and Tim illustrate the point (though Saul is somehow missing one of those sweet treats — perhaps saving it for later?)

Down the street at the Palm Tree Market we bought beverages, and more substantial fare.  There’s an indentation in the store-front that is perfect for parking big bikes

sp-bkbut the weather was so good that even the Bromptons stayed outside.

sp-baBack on the road, Saul pointed out a field of boom lifts he’d spotted on a previous ride.  He suspected that I’d be thrilled by the sight, and, of course, I was:

sp-crThe photo doesn’t do them justice.  They must be stored elongated as a matter of physics and balance, but that lofty reach is somehow so  graceful.   And why is the set on the left bent?   It looks like choreography to me, or perhaps some exotic form of communication between the groups.


Back on the trail, I set off in hot pursuit of this recumbent, a beautiful, brand-new, vehicle.  It’s a tadpole trike, with two wheels in front, one in back.  The rider was zipping down the path in excess of 15 mph/24.1 kmh and faster; he soon disappeared, but not before I managed to get this shot.

sp-cormBack next to the Schuylkill River, Dr. Diarist spotted this Double-Crested Cormorant, the first I can remember seeing, although they are apparently a common bird.


Sailing birds were not the only signs of renewed spring activity along the river.  It’s possible to rent quadricycle surreys to ride along the trail.   This cheery model was only one of three we spotted as we got closer to the city.


Back at the train station, our own small eccentric vehicles waited to board for the journey home. Today’s ride was 36 miles/57.9 km, well done in fine weather, with great companions!

(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.)

Tours, Trails & Group Rides

First April Progressive

We’ve already been on the second, but I’m behind on posting and racing to catch up.   We met up with Tim, of the Bicycle Club of Philadelphia, on the first Saturday in April, for the first in his new series of progressive rides,  beginning with 25 miles/40.2 km, and adding ten miles/16 km further each week.

a5-ltCatching an early train means lots of exposure to golden light.  Also, plenty of room on the train for Brompton bicycles and gear. (But of course, there always is!)


This particular ride turned out to be an excellent one for train-spotting.  We rode alongside this freight train, which was passing through the city, on our way from the Amtrak station to our meeting point on the Schuylkill River Trail.

a5-frThe weather is warming up, so the crowd at the entrance to the Azalea garden was larger than it has been.  Tim got every one oriented as the morning mist began to lift.

ar-mtOn the way, we passed a regional rail train, too, just like the one we’d taken to Philadelphia, though this one was running a different route.

a5-stThat nearest patch of rail was a bit disconcerting; that’s an impressive wash-out, just feet from the rail that is actually in use.


Though that’s a lovely reflection in the water.

Our destination was the Outbound Station, just off the Schuylkill Trail in Conshohocken.  Coffee, treats, nice people, and lots of bicycle-themed decorations on the walls.

a5-obThe wind sock outside did not cooperate.  It was almost horizontal when I realized that I should be aiming my camera; this shot lacks the dramatic wind-strength illustration I was hoping to capture.

a5-wsAt Shawmont, on the way back, the crossing bars dropped, bells rang, and we waited for another regional train to pass.

a5-shAt one time, canals were as important as trains to transport in the area.  (And, at one time, trains were a lot more important, too.)  We often see attempts to burnish business along the waterway, not all (or perhaps even most) successful.

a5-rtLovely, newish, canopies by the water here, but in spite of the effort, this still appears to be an abandoned building.

The tow-paths have been re-purposed more effectively, as our own excursion demonstrated.

a5-tpThe winds were a bit fierce on this trip.  That was quite rewarding on the trip out, but Dr. Diarist and I both struggled a bit on the return.  It’s good training, though, so we merely noted the conditions and carried on.a5-30

Basil and Argyll were unaffected; wind means nothing to a sturdy little Brompton.  They were in fine shape, post-ride, all set to board the train home.  (Those Mini-O bags are getting a workout on these rides, and what a pleasure they are! )  As a rule, Dr. Diarist and I do not wear so well, but we went home quite happy just the same.

Errandonnee Tours, Trails & Group Rides

Whitford Station

As part of our Errandonnée explorations, Basil and I took the train to an unfamiliar stop.


Here’s Basil, all set to board the train.  Is it wrong that one of the benefits of riding a Brompton is the sheer pleasure of observing, over and over, what a beautiful thing — aesthetically and engineering-wise — is a Brompton?


There’s a wonderful old trestle at this very small station.  (Obviously, I’m predisposed to love metal .  .  .  )

And, hence, a long climb up to or down to those tracks.  Many of the train stations in the area specialize in inaccessibility; this one would be pre-eminent in that class.


It’s not surprising that there are no shoulders on the road; that, too, is commonplace in this area, but then there’s that sidewalk-to-nowhere at the bottom of the stairs.


Passengers who disembark on this side of the tracks find themselves stranded and facing a rather infelicitous jaunt to the parking lot, which is around to the back, under the tracks, behind the scene shown here.


Though this area isn’t very pedestrian-  bicycle-, or disability-friendly, there are some compensations, like unexpected, pretty, little views of meandering creeks and small bits of untouched woods.


Basil enjoys the views, too.  We spent a moment hoping this would be the last snow we’d see this year.  (Fruitlessly, I might add.)  Endless winter or not, it was still a lovely day for a ride, and we both went home well-satisfied.

Tours, Trails & Group Rides

The Weight of the World

Due to annoyingly persistent cold symptoms, and a consequent lack of sleep, Dr. Diarist and I missed not only the third progressive (45 miles/72.4 km), but the fourth (55 miles/88.5 km) and will likely now miss the fifth (65 miles/104.6 km), for which we are certainly unfit, having missed half our training sessions.  Sigh.


Last Sunday, though, we were able to meet up with a batch of good cycling buddies for a shorter, but far more doable 28 mile/45 km jaunt.  It was colder than expected — though expectations may have been influenced by everyone’s desire to see the end of this winter, already!

Bill and Kay kept us company as far as Betzwood, where they turned back, but the remaining four of us forged onward.  I’d left my lobster claw gloves at home, but my fingers were finally warming up; I wanted more miles for my pain!  Also, we all wanted coffee and/or sustenance.


At The Oaks, we encountered this structure, which gave Fearless Leader Saul (left), Fearless Leader Mike (center), and new Bromptonaut Dr. Diarist (right) a chance to demonstrate Atlas-like prowess.

Much discussion ensued regarding odd bits of rod*, with which the structure is irregularly studded.   None of us were able to come up with a plausible explanation for the protuberances; uncharacteristically, I failed to snap one of the peculiarities up close.   I’ll have to rectify that next time.

Our search for coffee was a bit fraught:  Did you know that Subway — a much-reviled sandwich shop chain — does not serve coffee after 11 AM?  (We didn’t.)  I’m afraid we left without purchasing anything, desperate though we were for sustenance.  We took refuge in a nearby grocery store, which, while almost vacant, offered beverages of sorts, and food stuffs, as well as chocolate, which is what I ate.


The snowy, icy, terrain of previous months is almost gone, though we did find ourselves walking alongside railroad tracks on the way there and back.  The most sheltered parts of the Schuylkill River Trail are still too compromised to traverse with bikes, but, barring a new freeze, they, too, should be clear soon.

*Lest you think it odd that a bunch of cyclists stood around in winter discussing steel fabrication, let me set your mind at rest:  Bantering on about engineering, construction, and great ideas involving either or both is very typical of this crowd, and a particular bonus of riding with them.   Hence, not “odd”, but “standard”.   (And a very fine standard it is, too.)

Tours, Trails & Group Rides

Second Progressive

The second in Tim C.’s progressive series was a ride to Bridgeport — otherwise known at “The Donut Run”.


Basil and Argyll posed at the entrance of the Azalea Garden, where the ride meets.  The day was clear, and far, far warmer than the previous Saturday — in the low 60s F/15.5  C or so by the time we’d finished, in fact.

However, the Schuylkill River Trail was still frozen in critical areas, so we travelled on roads (and hills!) once again.  Once again, I walked a couple of portions of those hills.  Sigh.

The guys took a short break in Conshocken:  Here are Steve, Tim and George with bikes (and Basil!).  Dr. Diarist is across the street with Argyll.  (Gotta grab these pictures when I can on group rides!)


Both Steve and George have also led rides for The Bicycle Club of Philadelphia.  I’m not sure how BCP does it, but these guys (and others like fearless leaders Saul and Mike, who I met through BCP) exemplify a spirit that I never expected to find in a cycling group.

When I walked up one hill and climbed back onto Basil for yet another climb, Steve was waiting for me.   “Go at the pace that’s right for you,” he said.  “Use your lowest gear”, he advised,  and “breathe”.  (I’m paraphrasing:  I was going slowly, gearing down, and breathing!)  He also told me something interesting: He said that he never looks at the top of a hill.  I can see why — the focus is so much better placed on the road directly ahead.  It’s not necessary to see how far away the top is in order to arrive there!


Tim is a well-known for being a doughnut fiend, and this ride a significant one in the series, as Suzy Jo sells Tim-approved, authentic Philadelphia doughnuts.  Tim is holding one aloft above.  I am completely unclear on how Tim manages the thousands of cycling miles he rides when fuelled by doughnuts, but there you have it.

Doughnuts acquired, we rode down the street to buy more substantial items at the Palm Tree Market.

p2-ptbTravelling with two Bromptons isn’t quite as compact as travelling with just one, but Basil and Argyll found a snug little spot in which to wait while the rest of us ate and talked.


Well-fed and hydrated, we headed back to Philadelphia.  We encountered  swarms (literally!) of road racers here and there on our travels, and packs of joggers, too, near Philadelphia.  Good moods abounded, with lots of greetings and friendly nods back and forth.  This winter has been uncharacteristically cold, snowy and icy;  the slightest hint of spring is bringing out the best in everyone.


We stopped here to re-group on the return ride.  Philadelphia is lurking out there, on the horizon.  Some humorist said “No more hills now!” but he was prevaricating.  The thought of coasting back was a pretty enticing one, though, I have to admit .  .  ..

I feel so fortunate to have found a group which offers these kinds of cycling experiences for a recreational rider like me — someone who is slower, inexperienced, more interested in the ride than speed or detailed fitness metrics.   These guys are kind, nice, and encouraging.

Inclines are difficult for me; I’ll get stronger as I get back into cycling — and I’ll be doing far better on these runs once the trail — which doesn’t have quite these elevations — opens.  In the meantime, I feel so fortunate to be able to ride with people who love cycling, and love to share the experience.

If you happen to be a recreational rider in the Philadelphia area, do take a look at BCP’s website, and see how joining might expand your cycling world.  It’s made a huge difference in mine.