- Biking in the Brandywine Valley: Hills, headwinds and Hurricane Ida’s wrath
- I’ve found another 5-star trail on the East Coast Greenway
- Tour de Pines 2021, day 4: I’m in love with Belleplain State Forest
- Tour de Pines 2021, day 3: The hunt for the Jersey Devil
- Tour de Pines 2021, day 2: Historic Whitesbog Village plus Potato the baby pig
This bike ride began with a tip: you can watch polo matches in Tinicum Park, in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, just across the Delaware River from New Jersey. Polo? That blue-blood sport? Who knew? A little bit of Internet sleuthing nailed it down: the Tinicum Park Polo Club hosts matches every Saturday at 2 p.m. from May to early October. And it’s easy to reach by bike because the Delaware & Lehigh Trail goes by the park and the D&R Canal State Park (a trail) is on the other side of the river, connected by the bridge at Frenchtown. Bonus for cyclists: we don’t pay (I checked). Regular admission is $10 per carload. So once we finally got a cool and dry Saturday (not easy this summer), it was time to see what this was all about. We started on the Jersey side. I figured it was 20 miles from the parking lot at Washington Crossing State Park to the bridge at Frenchtown… turned out it was a bit more. Parking is easy and free at Washington Crossing, which isn’t the case up the road in Lambertville. If you’re looking for a shorter ride, keep heading up Route 29 looking for one of the boat launches or stop at Prallsville Mill just north of Stockton. No matter where you start, you’re on a traffic-free trail — the D&R Canal towpath. This is wide and hard-packed, and pretty popular at least until Stockton. In some spots, you can see half-hidden rails from an old train line (and even catch sight of a few graffiti-covered abandoned rail cars.) There are plenty of places to stop in Lambertville, Stockton and Frenchtown, even an option just outside Tinicum Park. We opted for Stockton Market, where we could choose from an “artisan gourmet” pizza place that claims to be the best in the county, a burrito spot and barbecue, among others. We just wanted something that would still taste good 10 miles down the road. You can’t miss the park or the way to polo once you cross the Delaware. First there’s a sign where the bridge hits the road telling you to turn left for polo. We stuck to the road, and it’s only about a mile until you come across another polo sign. Turn right, enter the park and follow the road (or take your bike across the grass) to the edge of the field. Here are some polo basics: each team has four players (and four horses). We were told those at Tinicum Park come from Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New York. Referees are on horseback too. The field is huge — 300 yards long and overall the size of five football fields. The match is three chukkas per half, each 7 1/2 minutes long with a break of about 4 minutes in between. You park your car (or bike) along the side of the field and tailgate. Make it as fancy (or simple) as you like. You’re close enough to hear the horses snort before they thunder past. We didn’t exactly time our ride brilliantly, arriving only just before halftime. That meant it was time to stomp in some divots — grass that’s been kicked up by mallets and hooves. The club was serving free (small) glasses of (sweet) champagne … and offering you the chance to clamber up on a metal “horse”, lean over and try to hit a polo ball with the wide side of a mallet. It’s not easy … and that’s without being on an animal in motion. We watched only about 1 1/2 chukkas because we were worried about rain. Rather than retrace our route, we continued along the park road until we could turn right and quickly connected with the D&L. This is a 165-mile trail (with a few gaps) that runs from the Philadelphia suburb of Bristol Borough along the Delaware Canal up to Easton, then through Bethlehem, Jim Thorpe and beyond. I’ve written about some segments here, here and here. It’s quite different from the D&R across the river. First, the surface is red, probably clay. It’s generally quite narrow, and I was glad we didn’t have much oncoming traffic in the narrowest sections. Even so, it felt more open than on the opposite side, where the section between Stockton and Frenchtown is wooded. The canal is smaller — not as wide, definitely shallower (less than knee deep) and in some places completely dried up. The water doesn’t really move. This poor swan, surrounded by algae. I was surprised by the number of bridges across the canal, but then there are plenty of homes between canal and river, and those people need to reach their homes. Just don’t look for lots of bridges across the Delaware. Here’s your cheat sheet for where you can cross: We cut short our Pennsylvania ride at Stockton, after being warned of a bridge replacement project that would send us onto River Road, which has fast-moving traffic and no shoulder. After all those trail miles, dealing with traffic just didn’t sound fun. All in all, a 46-mile day and only a few raindrops.