Tours, Trails & Group Rides

A Tunnel

Eastern Pennsylvania is littered with opportunities to admire rock and shale; it’s one of the real beauties of the area.

This is a tunnel in Fairmont Park, in Philadelphia, on a day that was neither snowy, nor icy, nor particularly cold.


My Brompton Tours, Trails & Group Rides

On the Waterfront

Here’s Basil, on the banks of the Schuylkill River in Philadelphia:

He’s in front of this mural, well-known to the habituées of the Amtrak Station in Philadelphia (and now, to those who use this section of the Schuylkill River Trail):

I’ve always liked this painting, perhaps against my better judgment. It creates in me a genuine cognitive dissonance:  It’s a painting, on a building, of marine life, above a river, looking a great deal like a view into an aquarium tank.  It’s all a bit too much — but the whales are excellent, and it’s certainly a memorable landmark.

Tours, Trails & Group Rides

A Correction

A little while ago I wrote about the interesting [lack of] bicycle access from 30th Street Station in Philadelphia to the Schuylkill River Trail, which is across the way, but a level lower than the station.  It seems that I missed something crucial.

When I asked about access to the trail at the Traveler’s Aid booth, I was directed to the stairs I’d mentioned in this post.  On a subsequent visit, though, while photographing Basil, I realized that, further down the river, was a structure that looked as if it included a ramp.  Or two.

There are sets of stairs, and ramps hither and yon, attached to the structure above.  Below, one of the ramps:

I can only surmise that Basil’s intrinsically unobtrusive nature led the fellow at Traveler’s Aid to believe that I was simply a pedestrian, and in no need of an incline in order to make my way to the trail.

The ramps are easier to navigate than the stairs.  Signs forbid riding bicycles on them, but not one cyclist I saw obeyed — though, in fairness, no cyclist I saw shared either ramp with any pedestrians, so one imagines that the injunction was perhaps not critical to the circumstances.


Events Tours, Trails & Group Rides

First (Real) Group Ride

I’ve been eager to do longer rides in areas where it might not be prudent to ride alone, and, also, to learn to ride well in a group — which is a very different matter to heading off on one’s own.  Thanks to the Bicycle Club of Philadelphia, I’ve now taken my first group ride — and had a great time, too.  We met up at the entrance to the Azalea Garden, near the Water Works, and behind the Philadelphia Art Museum.

I was early, so, naturally, I photographed Basil.  A small boy passed by, with his father, who pointed out Basil to the child.  “See the folded bicycle?” said the dad.  “That’s not a bicycle!” replied the boy.  Dad said it was, and the little guy turned back and took a long look, wonderingly.  If they hadn’t left quickly, I’d have proven it to him.

The leader, and two members of the club, turned up shortly, and we took off, riding partly on streets, partly on trails, along the Manayunk Canal (I didn’t even know it existed!), into Manayunk and on to Conshohocken, were we stopped for coffee before heading back.

The leader had explained beforehand how signaling would be done, what expectations were in terms of following distance, etc., and the others were also very helpful along the ride.  Everyone was very positive and encouraging, and made me feel most welcome — something I especially appreciated, since I am so new to this sort of thing.

On the way we waited for a train to pass before proceeding:

The route was mostly flat, but included one long hill. We stopped at the top, and the my companions were patient enough to allow me to take a couple of pictures

I’m not sure exactly where we were — I was just thrilled to be out on my first group ride, seeing a bunch of places, and things, I’d not seen from this perspective before.

That’s the Schuylkill River, though. I did get that!

Our leader offered to take a photo of Basil and me:  It was about 37 when we started out; it had been 31 when I left home.  I’m wearing five layers of various types of fibers here, as I’ve not quite figured out this cold-weather- riding thing,  I was warm enough, especially while actually cycling, but might have benefited from  re-working the layers a bit.  The trick is to somehow remain mobile while swathed.

All three men who were along for this ride are ride leaders for The Bicycle Club of Philadelphia, and the Sunday “D” ride is a regular event,  led by a different volunteer each week.  This ride, at this level, is a great introduction to group riding, and I was thrilled to see that the BCP is such an active group.  I’ve found that many cycling clubs aren’t very accommodating to D and C class riders; it’s great to find a club that is, and has enough members to justify scheduling the events.

I was interested to learn that the leader felt that I was riding at a C- level; that was helpful to know, and a surprise.  One of the other fellows cautioned me, though, to regard ride ratings with some skepticism, as speed and intensity can vary quite a bit, depending on the leader’s style and inclinations.  I’m looking forward to learning these things, and more, in the months to come.

Tours, Trails & Group Rides

Changing Philadelphia

Years ago, Mr. Diarist and I had a membership at the Philadelphia Art museum, though we lived some distance away.  For several years, we’d meet at the Museum on Friday nights for Art After 5.  Mr. D. drove in from his office, and I took the train.  We’d picnic in the gazebo above the river, and then spend the evening at the museum.

The walk from the train station was a pain:  utterly un-pedestrian-friendly and grueling in summer’s heat.  All that has changed now.  When Basil and I took the train into the city for this year’s Tweed Ride, we got off at the 30th street station, and rode the Schuylkill River Trail along the river to the Water Works.  Quelle difference!

The new multi-use trail is gorgeous.  Talk about making a city livable!  You want beautiful Philadelphia?  You got it.

In general, though, Philadelphia is more gritty than effete.  Here’s effete: Boathouse Row, from the trail.

But I love the way that gritty essence is preserved along this trail.  Yep, that’s a freight train, in the middle of the city.

The trail runs between the river and the railroad track.

You’ve got yourself some cyclists, in-line skaters, pedestrians, joggers, trains and river traffic.  All, essentially, downtown.  Does “urban” get any better than this?

There’s really only one little quibble I have with the new trail.  Getting to river level from the Amrtrak station requires descending (and later ascending) three flights of stairs.  There’s a track for bicycles, but it’s only on one side.

Basil regards the stairs skeptically:

I used the track to go down, but I’m not coordinated enough to ascend using my left hand and arm, so I carried him up the three flights instead.

Here’s a view of the bridge you cross from the 30th Street Station to get to the stairs, which are on the other side of the illuminated arch.

There’s no obvious signage l directing the way to the trail, noting its existence, or identifying the stairs. That’s an oversight that should be corrected.  The trail’s a resource with which everyone, including out-of-towners, should be familiar.  Hey, Philadelphia, don’t hide your trail away!


My Brompton Tours, Trails & Group Rides

A Week Away

Well, not a full week; more like five days.  But “nearly a week” still calls for plenty of gear in a very small car’s trunk.

Can you spot the Brompton?

This was my lengthy motor-vehicle trip with Basil, and it was stunningly easy to bring him along, even with baggage.  Whoo-hoo!

My Brompton Tours, Trails & Group Rides

The Erie is A-Rising . . .

. . . and the gin was a-gettin’ low.  I scarcely think we’ll get a drink ’til we get to Buf-fa-lo ooo, ’til we get to Bufalo-oo.

So goes the old folk song.  (You can listen to the song, see the  lyics, and read some background here.)  I wasn’t going to Buffalo, and wasn’t thinking about gin, either, for that matter, but this repetitive tune was the meme that accompanied me while pedaling along the Erie Canal last week on my longest single ride to date on Basil — 26 miles.

It was a glorious fall day.  We started out at Lock 32:

The towpath is now used by pedestrians and cyclists much of the year, and by cross-country skiers and intrepid souls wearing snow shoes in the winter.  It’s open all year long during daylight.

The trail is flat, with a surface that varies a bit; it’s paved in places, cobbled in others, packed at points with some loose gravel– but it’s highly suitable for cycling, even on high-pressure, skinny tires.  Basil managed each surface without any difficulty at all — including flying over asphalt cracked by enterprising tree roots.

Ohhh, yeah!  Nothing says fall like gold.

Though, come to think of it, I’m pretty fond of the greys and browns, too, and the last of the greens.

I love the bridges best of all, with trees running a close second.  I was fascinated to see this one, which appears to be constructed almost identically to one just built back in my home state.

Rust is the new steel?  This is a pedestrian bridge over the canal.  It’s in Perinton, and part of the trail linkage system improvements.

One of the men working on the site saw my Brompton, and came over to chat a bit.  He recommended cycling down by the harbor in Rochester, which I’ll keep in mind.

Here’s the bridge from the other side. You can see how new the trail improvements are.

Love those bridges.

The traditional barges were long. low watercraft, of course, and the canal is so shallow that nothing with a deep draft can pass, but these bridges are built essentially at road level.  The lowest ones are lift bridges so that they can be raised to allow modern water craft to pass under without hazard.

There’s no water traffic on the Erie Canal after November 15th, and on this particular day the water was placid and mirror-like.

The canal takes a turn toward Henrietta, just past Lock 32, and looks almost lake-like at this juncture.

There are stretches along the towpath that seem almost desolate, but a sprinkling of small towns, too.  You could probably pick almost any section and spend a day cycling and dropping in at various establishments for coffee and a bite to eat.  Or, possibly, even a bit of gin to liven up your ride. Obviously, though, you don’t have to wait until spring; autumn is excuse enough.

Tours, Trails & Group Rides

Walking From the Expo

Philadelphia is a strange city.  Though it has some virtues, I always have the feeling that the city just doesn’t quite “get it”.  Here’s a good example:

That’s the 30th Street [Transit] Station, viewed from across the river.  That incongruent thing in the background isn’t a bad photo-shop job.  It’s a building, and that’s where it sits. Really.

On the other hand,  Philadelphia is improving pedestrian/cycling trails, and this bank of the Schuylkill River is really appealing:

Cities work best when architectural offerings, even if from different eras, complement each other . .  but hey, recreational paths are timeless!

Tours, Trails & Group Rides

The Armory, Itself

The 23rd Street Armory, site of the 2012 Philadelphia Bike Expo, is a miniature fortress of a place, complete with turrets.

Its appearance was only enhanced, of course, by the presence of a horde of cyclists:

The massive front doors held a secret, fortunately:

Though getting over that frame wasn’t easy.

Inside, of course, it’s just an enormous space with a cement floor; all function, no form.  But what else would an armory be?

(Posts on the Expo itself are on the way.)

Tours, Trails & Group Rides

First Event

Basil arrived just in time for me to ride in a final few events before the weather becomes more challenging.  I thought it would be smart to cycle in a group (and with support, in case of problems) when first tackling country roads on my Brompton.  That’s not exactly how things turned out, though. I arrived early, with my cue sheet already printed, and was told that there really wasn’t a start time, and that I could just head out, solo.

So that’s what I did. It was a great ride, too, on a perfect, just slightly cool, fall day through lovely countryside.  We were on asphalt roads for the most part, but the road above was hard-packed dirt (macadam?), which was a new experience.  Basil took it like a pro.

I’ve been very curious about how I’d be able to handle elevations in this part of the world.  (Basil’s an M6R Brompton.)  This route, an easy one by almost any standard, didn’t pose any exceptional challenges, though I didn’t make it over a couple of the most attractive speed bumps I’ve ever seen.

The incline was borderline for me, getting used to new gears, and not fully fit, so I walked over the bumps.  I’m new enough to the 6-speed gears that I don’t always anticipate when I should shift in time.  That will improve, I’m sure, with experience.

The course went through a farm, offering classic bucolic views.  Basil did his part by posing by a fence:

It may not be obvious from my photograph, but this is one of the most beautiful bovine creatures I’ve ever seen.  Kind of a Golden Retriever beauty it has, that one:

All the members of this herd wore collars around the neck, with traditional cow bells dangling.  Charming!

The chickens on this farm seem to be doing rather well, too.  When I stopped to take a couple of pictures, they gathered by the fence.

Their caravan could put many an RV to shame:

Take a look at that hipped roof — and the excellent shingling job.  Nice!

This part of southeastern Pennsylvania is famous for its covered bridges.  Though this was a relatively short ride (my GPS clocked just about 11 miles), Basil and I rode through three.

This requires some care, as most are essentially single-lane.

Why do covered bridges seem so romantic?  These are really just crude boxes set over creeks . . . but there’s no denying that they add a great deal to the landscape.  Is it because they’re wooden?  Hark back to a day when trees were felled, and buildings constructed, by hand?  In any case, it was great fun riding through them, and into the views framed by the “windows” on the other side.

The two jersey-clad riders seen blasting over the bridge here were riding a bit more aggressively than I was, and were essentially the only other cyclists I saw on the road.  In the end, I rode the course solo all the way, which seemed a bit odd.  Not that I’m complaining, mind you.  It was a lovely day, and I like the solitude of the countryside very well.