Biking in the Brandywine Valley: Hills, headwinds and Hurricane Ida’s wrath

Wow, what hills. Not really long, and only a brief moment of 12% grade. But non-stop. Even when the route looked flat on a map, it was still small ups and downs throughout our Brandywine Valley routes. Tour de Pines this was not! Perhaps my hardest two days of riding this year?

We pulled our routes for two days off Ride With GPS, so you really never know what you are going to get. These were fabulous — nearly 44 miles from Chadds Ford north, then west, then back through Kennett Square, the mushroom capital, and skirting south back to Chadds Ford on day 1, and straight out of our hotel — the Inn at Mendenhall — north past Longwood Gardens, then looping south into Delaware and then back north to the hotel for 34 miles and change on day 2. Parts followed Pennsylvania Bike Route L (a north-south route from near Binghampton, N.Y., to Delaware) and Delaware Bike Route 1, another north-south route.

The roads were amazingly quiet, the scenery hilly through horse country and past mushroom farms in Pennsylvania and woodier in Delaware (I’m going with steeper hills too). I loved the frequent curves (though I’d rather not drive them, especially at night, given how narrow some roads are. As for those who take them too fast … well, we saw two teens and their banged-up car in a field, talking to a police officer).

So many gorgeous homes too, many constructed with brown stone. It made me think of France, but the Brit said England with the hills and copses on top, and especially the Cotswolds (never mind that the stone wasn’t Cotswold gray). Maybe it was the vintage Morris Minor with the steering wheel on the right? And then a Land Rover? A couple of cyclists even recommended a British pub for a mid-ride break. But The Whip wasn’t on our route, and when we tried to go there for dinner … packed, an hour’s wait since we had no reservation… in the middle of nowhere.

It turns out our route was just a mile away from a polo club — that also has bike polo. (The polo season of whatever kind is over in October, however.) And then there was the golf course with a Scottish “loch” in its name.

So maybe (with apologies to the Scots) there’s something to the British feel.

Here’s a surprising site we almost missed:

Then there was this: a bridge out up ahead. A couple of times. Thanks, Ida.

As a cyclist, you always go look anyway. Maybe there’s a way to get by on two wheels, maybe not. Under the tape, around the barrier. Unless a whole section across is out, can you still get by?

We could … but it was sobering. This is what the floodwaters did to this bridge that has been straddling the West Branch of Brandywine Creek since 1923. Looks like a total replacement is needed.

The only thing missing, really, was brilliant fall foliage. Given that summer temperatures really only ended a day earlier, we were too early for that.

Another point of this road trip was to check out Kennett Square. This was the disappointment. I expected a lively foodie town. And while there are several upscale restaurants on the main drag, led by the impossible-to-reserve Talula’s Table (consolation is the cafe and market, but no hot food), it wasn’t bustling on a Sunday afternoon, the sidewalks felt cramped downtown and were missing in other areas … it just didn’t work for me. Maybe the first cool fall weekend drained the life from it?

We took the edge off our hunger at a simple Mexican place, filled a growler at a brewery … but nope, I didn’t fall in like with Kennett Square. I don’t know why, or what it would take to change my impression. I’ll still bike here, of course, and I’d come back to explore the Brandywine Battlefield (off-limits on a Monday!) and discover the area’s Underground Railroad history. But I didn’t fall in like with the town.

Or what did we miss?

About alliumstozinnias

A gardener (along with the Brit) who has discovered there is more than hybrid tomatoes. And a cyclist.
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