Monday, August 08, 2011

Schuylkill River Trail - with James

For the past few weeks we've enjoyed the visit of my son James, and even managed to get some cycling in.

Considering he isn't a cyclist, James has completed some decent distances, including a 30+mile/50km tour of the Manhattan Greenway, and, this Sunday, a 50mile/80km route on the Schuylkill River Trail from Philadelphia, Pa, to Phoenixville.

My first mistake was to not realise there is a West Fairmont Park and an East Fairmont Park on opposite banks of the river. Also a huge cycling event had just finished so for the first part of the trip we found ourselves going against the flow of people leaving and also seeking a way across the Schuylkill river onto the trail itself.

However, it wasn't so difficult and after a wrong turn up the Wissahickon Trail we pedalled through Manayunk onto the canal path and on towards our goal, Valley Forge.

The river trail will eventually extend over 130miles/210km along the Schuylkill river, from Philadelphia to Pottsville, Pa. Currently, the trail has to take to the road in one or two places, but we found it generally well marked and in many places very well surfaced and smooth. One or two transitions were fairly rough, and sometimes loose, but the part we did would easily be done on a road bike with a bit of care in one or two places.

James rode my old Trek MTB which is slowly being adapted to being more like a hybrid bike with the addition of skinnier, smoother tyres. I rode my mountain bike, a mistake as it happens. Fifty miles on fat tyres turned out to be quite a drag. My single-speed would easily have coped with this ride. Consequently, James was able to ride much faster than me. I felt that pushing the mtb at 12mph felt more like pushing a road bike at 20+mph. Anyway, that's my excuse.

Bike route 1171922 - powered by Bikemap 

The ride to Valley Forge was about 20miles/32km. However, James was anxious to achieve a target of 50miles/80km for the day, so we pressed on five more miles towards the Phoenixville trail head at Longford Park.

By now we were starting to feel like a spot of lunch. It was disappointing to find no refreshment facility at the park, so we turned to make the ride back towards Philly just as the first spots of rain started to fall.

The bikes@Valley
Forge Historical Park
We made it past Valley Forge, where we paused to refill our water-bottles, but as we approached Norristown it began to pour with rain. When I say pour I should really qualify that. It was torrential.

At first we sheltered under a tree, but we quickly became drenched. So really, we might as well continue riding. We had to take off our glasses because it was so bad, and as we headed into Norristown, looking for a Main St sandwich, the rain was rushing down the road like a rapids. We took shelter at a gas station where we watched the rain continue to empty down while we drank coke and ate "gourmet" bakery products and sloshed around in our squishy shoes.

Eventually the sun started to struggle through, so that by the time we arrived back at the car we were fairly dry, but covered in trail dirt, but very happy at having completed James' goal. I know the map says 49miles/78km, but the Garmin had it at very close to 50miles so it was a win!!!

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