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June 18, 2017 / bikesbytesbites

Long Weekend Tour – Exton to Easton to Stockton

I did this tour on the touring weekend sponsored by Adventure Cycling  (June 10-11) . It was an individualized, shortened version of a week-long tour that a friend (Wally H) was organizing — from Exton PA, north through the Delaware Valley, east to Hyde Park NY (on the Hudson), then back to the start.  I didn’t have a week, just 3 days, but I wanted to do the ride, because:

  • I hadn’t seen Wally in a while — since his bike crash and my bike crashes (sigh)
  • I love riding around Philadelphia and this part of PA and NJ
  • It would give me the opportunity to visit two friends who kind-of live on the route, and my cousin who lives on a planned diversion/return route
  • It would give me another chance to try Amtrak’s roll-aboard bicycle access policy

Train Trip There

The train ride from DC was not bad: 2 hours from Union Station to Philadelphia, with the bike in its storage area. The bicycle storage is not ideal.  (Sigh. Forgot to take a picture.) You’re supposed to take the front wheel off the bike, then hang the bike off its other wheel.  Amtrak just took the shelves out of some luggage storage areas and added hooks for the bikes.  I got away without removing the front wheel, since I had my small-wheeled Bike Friday with me. But I couldn’t lift the bike myself, even after removing the panniers — a fellow passenger had to help.

I had enough time in Philadelphia Union Station to buy a coffee and a SEPTA ticket ($1!) from Phila to Exton. A 2-mile ride from the train station to the group’s meeting place, off the Chester Valley Trail, went passed a Bike Line bike store, recently acquired by Trek, where I acquired a new pair of gloves and a spare tube for the Bike Friday. (Hadn’t seen any 20 x 1-1/8 tubes with Presta valves with long stems in a bike store in forever.)

Day 1: Exton PA to Oaks PA

I’m not usually a big fan of trails, but the Chester Valley Trail rail-to-trail conversion was great — well designed and very little traffic.

Wally’s route the first day — Ride with GPS – Exton to Oaks — was also well designed — from the Chester Valley Trail through neighborhood streets to Valley Forge Park. Through the park to the Scuylkill River crossing (on a newish (!!) bike-ped bridge), to more bike trails, to a few miles on roads to the hotel.

Day 2: Oaks PA to Easton PA

I diverged from the group’s route today. They were headed north-east, to hit the Delaware River between Frenchtown and Milford.  I wanted to visit some friends in Doylestown, which is south of their route. So I improvised.  Since my plans for the day included spending some time with my friends as well a longer route, the improvisation also involved putting myself and my bike on a SEPTA train to get between North Whales and Doylestown. Another $1 train fare, and a chance to start to read the Sunday NY Times (and maybe not to have the schlep the whole paper with me for the next two days) — couldn’t pass it up.  This route also allowed me to go through downtown Doylestown, which is a lovely and historic town.

Spent a few hours with my friends — catching up, seeing improvements they’ve made to their house and gardens, lying around the pool, having lunch — then hit the road again.  Crossed the Delaware at the Bulls Island Bridge (recently rebuilt — but walk your bikes), then headed north, keeping as close to the river on the New Jersey side as possible, without riding on the Delaware & Raritan Canal path.  It’s pretty flat when the road hugs the river, but more rolling when it ventures inland.  But no traffic and gorgeous views. Only beware of the many, many railroad crossings.

It was getting late (3:30-ish), and I was getting hungry.  Just when I was wondering whether I would have to eat some emergency food, a sign appeared:  The ice cream with local strawberries was not bad. And neither was the band.

170610_MilfordNJ

I and one other rider got to the hotel just as the group was getting ready to go to dinner. So we arranged to meet them about half-an-hour later, following a short walk through town to Two Rivers Brew Pub:  great food (and selection of beers), nice atmosphere, good prices, excellent service!  With dessert at the Bank Street Creamery.  (I refrained because I thought, even though I’m on a bike tour, two ice creams a day is a bit excessive.)

Day 3: Easton PA to Stockton NJ

I had breakfast with the group today, then waved goodbye as they headed to Bushkill. I walked to a coffee place we’d passed on the way to dinner last night — an americano, better than the hotel’s coffee.  And enjoyed a walk on the path along the Delaware and through downtown. Lafayette College is slightly north of where we were. That may be way the downtown is so lively and it has no many imaginative bicycle racks.

170611_Easton_BikeRack

Got ready to leave around 10 AM.  This time, I would travel down the Pennsylvania (west) side of the Delaware.  I had two options: Off-road, on the Delaware & Lehigh Canal Path, or on the roads (PA 611 and PA 32).  I chose the path (mostly), which had pluses and minuses:

Plus: The Delaware & Lehigh Canal Path runs for  several almost uninterrupted miles, with no traffic and very few people. The locks and bridges are fascinating.

Minuses:   The roads are too windy and busy for pleasant bicycling. The path is not paved, and is virtually a single track in places. And I got hissed at at least 10 times, by geese protected their goslings.

I left the canal path a few times, popping out onto the road to explore the towns that were along the river, and to ride on pavement when there were additional roads.  One of those detours was prompted by seeing Mueller’s in Riegelsville, where I had a delicious lunch. Got back on the canal path and crossed the Delaware at Upper Black Eddy.   On the return trip, I had time to look around Milford and stop for an ice cream in Frenchtown. Then back on more familiar roads (Rt 29  has a wide shoulder, so I didn’t ride the Delaware & Raritan Canal Path, although it’s more rideable than the D&L) to my destination in Stockton.

Train Trip Home

O, Amtrak, what art thou thinking? The Carolinian takes roll-aboard bicycles; it leaves NYC at 7:25, with stops in Trenton, Philadelphia, and the usual stations, before getting to DC at 10:45. HOWEVER: the web site says there’s no bike access in Trenton, where I wanted to get on. So,  I folded up the stealth bike (AKA Bike Friday), carried it on, and stored it as baggage.  What differentiates Trenton station from Philadelphia? Got me.

Learning Experiences

This was my first trip using Ride with GPS for navigation (rather than just for route planning and then printing a cue sheet). The turn-by-turn prompts were great! As with everything in life, there seemed to be minuses:

  • It chews up the battery. I tried low-power mode, but you miss the turn-by-turn narration. Maybe airplane mode?
  • It was hard to get my iPhone out of its handlebar holder, therefore discouraging to taking pictures.  A better mounting system is required. Or maybe a bike-specific GPS unit, like a Wahoo.

Wally had prepared the routes using BaseCamp.  The GPS tracks were just fine, and I could load them into Ride with GPS.  However, it was just one huge track, which I didn’t succeed into dividing into days (with separate mileage).  I would have investigated further, but I ran out of time.  And this is too much like work.

Best learning experience (or actually reinforcement of previous experiences): Riding in/near the Delaware Valley and in  SE Pennsylvania can be wonderful! Not exotic, but wonderful. I wish I had had more time.

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