The Perkiomen Trail jumps onto my list of favorites

So much to see on the Perkiomen Trail – including a ski area and a moving bit of history.

So much eye candy for cyclists on the Perkiomem Trail.

There’s the Perkiomen Creek, which the trail follows from where it flows into the Schuylkill River just west of Valley Forge National Historic Park north to Green Lane Park in the tiny borough of Green Lane, Pennsylvania. Lots of criss-crossing the creek so you really don’t go far without having water in sight.

Continue reading “The Perkiomen Trail jumps onto my list of favorites”

Schuylkill River Trail: A metric century from Philadelphia to Reading

The Schuylkill River Trail has had lots of upgrades since I biked from Conshohocken to Reading seven years ago. This time I started in Philadelphia. Here’s what I found.

Actually, make that two solid metric centuries — 62-plus miles each time — since we — my sister and I — biked back the next day.

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A new bike crossing over the Delaware River

The bike-ped path on the new Scudders Falls Bridge is finally open.

Bike across … or pay the toll.

There’s now one more way for bicyclists (and walkers and runners) to cross between New Jersey and Pennsylvania — using the new 0.7-mile bike-ped path along the new $534 million (or is it $570 million? After once being projected to cost “just” $310 million?) Scudders Falls Bridge project on I-295.

It opened about a week ago so of course we had to check it out. And it’s great, with long ramps on both ends up to bridge height about 23 feet above the river from the D&R Canal towpath on the Jersey side and the Delaware Canal towpath (part of the D&L Trail) on the PA side as well as a few bump-outs so you can pull over and stare northward (or downward).

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

Wow what hills. And what gorgeous scenery. Two days of bicycling in the Brandywine Valley southwest of Philadelphia.

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.

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Biking Bucks County covered bridges to New Jersey beer

Beautiful scenery, but oh those climbs!

First, the rolling hills of upper Bucks County mean the scenery is gorgeous, even if my iPhone photography skills can’t do them justice. The roads through the woods, with a stony creek alongside. And then the old stone homes.

But getting out of the river valley to the top of those hills? That’s another matter. Hard work! Or perhaps that’s the danger of just taking a random ride off Ride With GPS and there is an easier (and less trafficked) climb than Upper York Road? What should we have done instead?

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Two ways to bike from Princeton to Philadelphia — which is better?

Both have great sections — and messy parts too.

Philadelphia from the Ben Franklin Bridge

I shocked a few of my neighbors when I said I was biking to Philadelphia this past weekend. It takes an hour to drive using I-95 so it seems crazy far to bike … and besides, how would you go?

OK, it was 50 miles on Saturday, 58 on Sunday. One day for the Pennsylvania side, one for the New Jersey side, using parts of the Philadelphia area Circuit Trails network. We’d biked sections of the two routes so what we really wanted to know is which way is better.

The answer?

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My 5 best bike-trail overnights within easy reach of New Jersey

These bike overnights are all trail or mostly trails. Trips range from one night to closer to a week.

It’s winter. I’m staring at snow. I really want to get on my bike and go somewhere, but all I can is plan trips for once the weather gets nicer, including a multi-day ride on New York’s new Empire State Trail.

If you’re getting cabin fever too, here are five favorite DIY bike overnights using trails or mostly trails and (important for me) easily reached from New Jersey. (Sorry, Katy Trail, much as I enjoyed it.) We are generally credit-card tourists, travelling light and staying in hotels rather than camping. But I’ve included some camping information if that’s more your thing.

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What it’s like to bike on the McDade Recreational Trail in the Delaware Water Gap

Biking in the Poconos and the Delaware Water Gap: A wipe-out, a climb … and later a bear.

A flat section of the McDade Recreational Trail.

My hands gripped the brakes.

I was headed down a steep descent on the McDade Recreational Trail a few miles north of Dingmans Campground. The surface was crushed stone … large-ish stone for a trail in my view, nothing like stonedust … and my back wheel was sliding a bit.

I squeezed the brakes harder.

My bike stopped … and I tumbled.

It wasn’t a gentle fall. I went to the right, clearing my bike. I think my left knee and shoulder hit first … at any rate, the scrapes on the left knee were worse than on the right, even drew real blood. I ended up face down in the green just off the trail.

My first thought was the wipe-out I’d seen in this otherwise inspiring video of newbies on a bikepacking mountain-biking trip.

Then my mind flashed back to when I was about 14 and playing some game. I needed to hide from the other team, and I laid down flat in a field. In a patch of poison ivy. Wearing a halter top.

What was I lying in this time? I’m in the woods … was there poison ivy?

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30 socially distanced miles on the D&L and D&R trails

A gorgeous day, and a trail has reopened. What more could we want?

The D&R Canal towpath has reopened — yay! And it’s finally sunny and warm! Time for a longish but easy bike ride.

So on Saturday we headed to the blue water tower along the Delaware River in Morrisville, Pa., the same place we met friends last year for a “weird beer” ride to Neshaminy Creek. Only this time we were headed north, chatting with a friend as we went (with social distance, of course) along the Delaware & Lehigh Trail.

Our first stop: this odd historical marker at the edge of Morrisville. It’s taller than me and commemorates the nearby spot where William Penn bought the first section of Pennsylvania.

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An open letter to Lebanon County, Pa.: Finish the trail!

The Lebanon Valley Rail Trail could one day be the centerpiece of at least 33 miles of uninterrupted trail. Give us a reason to come back and spend more money: Finish it faster.

Dear Lebanon County,

You’ve got a lovely trail in the Lebanon Valley Rail Trail. Four of us from out of state came to bike it last weekend. Thumbs up for so much shade on a sunny summer day, the benches and shelters, the many trailheads with parking. And wow was it busy.

I know it’s not yet done. A friendly volunteer at the Root Beer Barrel explained how it will eventually connect to the Swatara State Park trails at the northern end. Combined with the 5 miles from Lancaster County’s Conewago Recreational Trail at the southern end, I figure you’ll be the centerpiece of at least 33 miles of uninterrupted trail, maybe closer to 40. That’s plenty to keep cyclists, walkers, runners and others happy. Very happy.

But now? When we got to the end of the trail between Chestnut and Cumberland streets in Lebanon, we couldn’t figure out how to reach the next segment. I gather you’re closing that gap in 2020, or maybe even this year, but in the interim, a signed on-road route would have been helpful.

Yet another gap — Phase 10 on this map — won’t be closed until 2021, according to this article.

And then there’s this other big gap — Phase 8 on the map, with everything marked TBD. I can’t figure out what’s happening there based on this update. How about an interim on-road section here by 2021 so that there’s a way to relatively easily experience all the other sections?

Stepping back a bit and trying to read between the lines, I can’t help but wonder how much of this trail development (and maintenance) is being spearheaded by Lebanon Valley Rails-to Trails — so a non-profit and an impressive group of volunteers — rather than local government using its own funds to accelerate the project. I’m sure government is lurking behind the scenes. I hope I’m wrong and its support for the trail is much bigger than the low profile it has in articles I’ve found.

But could it do more?

I know trails aren’t easy to build, what with landowner issues and permits that can take longer than expected to receive. I always say finish a trail faster, but sometimes that’s not realistic. And yes, doing this does mean spending taxpayer money. Which sometimes can be an issue.

So is it worth spending money to speed up completion of this trail? I say don’t discount the economic impact, especially if you can create and market(!) that broader network to Elizabethtown (hello, Amtrak station that can bring riders from Philadelphia) and the 14-mile Northwest Lancaster County River Trail a few miles from on the other side of Elizabethtown that we had hoped to ride on this trip as well. Cyclists will travel for good riding, just like we did. And while our planned weekend in the area was cut down to just one day, we still spent plenty at an area restaurant (and would have spent more had the line for ice cream not been insane). Give us a reason to come back.

I know you’ve got tourist business from those visiting nearby Hershey Park, but your trail can give those people reason to linger for another day. Yet more economic impact.

And don’t forget the locals. We saw a sign advertising housing off the trail. A trail is a great amenity to have on your doorstep. Great for property values — and your tax base.

So do what you can to accelerate completion of this trail. It will pay off handsomely.

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