25 September 2013

A pootle along the Schuylkill River

In late August, Alberto and I visited my family in Philadelphia. Despite spending the first 18 years of my life there I have basically no experience of cycling in Philly, so I was keen to give it a try. When I first got into cycling (already in London), my brother had trash-picked a women's bike which had been sitting in my parents' basement ever since. That, along with another utility bike that once belonged to my brother, was good enough for us on this short trip.

We spent an afternoon getting the bikes road-worthy, changing inner tubes and greasing chains. I say 'we'--I napped through most of it but Alberto had a good time!

Test ride
We took the bikes on a short test ride in Philly, from my parents' house in Powelton Village, into center city and back. Satisfied that all was in working order, we made plans the next morning to take a ride on the Schuylkill River Trail.

The Schuylkill River Trail is a path along the (surprise, surprise) Schuylkill River which starts in center city Philadelphia and heads out into the suburbs, to Valley Forge National Park and beyond. There have been some real improvements to the trail since I've been away from Philly, adding sections and improving the landscaping. I was looking forward to trying it out.

We got a late start after a detour to my brother's house to pick up a spare pump, just in case. Then we were off, heading past the Art Museum and up Kelly Drive, up past Falls Bridge, without ever riding in traffic.

Taking a break past Manayunk
There was a brief section in Manayunk where the trail directs you onto the road - actually we took the sidewalk anyway as there weren't many people around. Then along the Manayunk Canal Towpath and eventually past the Philadelphia city line.

By the time we reached Conshohocken we were ready for a cold drink, which was convenient as the Outbound Station cafe was literally just off the trail. We had dinner plans, so decided to turn around and head back the way we came, even though we were curious to see what the trail was like as it headed out towards Valley Forge.

We crossed the Schuylkill River at Falls Bridge for a different flavor on the way home, taking West River Drive, but still not having to contend with any on-road sections. Soon we were back in West Philly and heading back home after a satisfying 30 miles on the bikes.

The route is pretty much completely flat and I don't think you could call it interesting - but in a built-up area like Philadelphia I think it's a great luxury to have a traffic-free route to ride on. It was nice to be able to ride completely relaxed, at whatever pace we felt like. And for longer rides, it's probably the best route out of Philly and into the countryside that there is. Cetainly if I lived in Philly I think I'd be making regular use of it.

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