Three years ago, I had signed up for this ride, but a tropical storm canceled it. Schedule conflicts kept me from registering, until this year, when I finally decided to do the ride and not worry about the bazillion other things going on that same weekend.
The Scenic Schuylkill (pronounced like Skoo-kl) Century is an annual ride, organized by the Bicycle Club of Philadelphia. Although I had started riding as an adult in Philly, I had never done an organized ride in the city, much less be a part of a bicycle club. I had always ridden by myself. My friend Steve L, an avid bicyclist, had been trying to get me to do one of the BCP rides, but by the time I had gotten my act together to do that, I moved to DC. So, it’s been a dream of mine to ride the Schuylkill Century.
Before the ride, however, Steve had back surgery and couldn’t ride. Another friend, Rebecca, who now works for the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia, also bowed out because of an injury. I was going to have to ride this one solo.
The ride started at Lloyd Hall, which is near the Philadelphia Museum of Art and Boathouse Row. I rode over to the start from where I stayed the night before and checked in. There was a breakfast table that provided coffee, juice, bagels, and bananas. I opted for just a banana, and I ate some of the oat bar I brought from home. There were already a lot of riders milling about. While I was reading a poster about the club, someone came up to me and asked, “Are you Rambling Rider?” Turns out, it was Trish. I was so surprised to have been recognized!
There were staggered starts for the century, metric century, and the 40- and 25-mile rides. I opted to do the 40, because like Rootchopper, I had stuff to do later that day.
The 40-mile route started on the two roads that parallel the Schuylkill River, Kelly Drive and MLK Drive. MLK Drive is closed to cars on the weekends, so there are always lots of folks biking, jogging, or walking down the tree-lined street. It was glorious to have so much room to ride. The route then traveled to Manayunk, where the streets are narrow and the hills are many. Here’s where cars would gun the motor to speed past the bicyclists. I saw a couple of close calls where they buzzed the cyclists.
The first rest stop was at Cedar Grove Park, in Lafayette Hill, outside of the city. As part of tradition, there were baked goods provided by club members and friends. I had some pumpkin bread and a crumbled oatmeal cookie. The route then went through Fort Washington State Park, where I passed by the observation deck where people were gathered to view hawks. I kind of wished I stopped for a view, but I kept pedaling.
Throughout the ride, people asked me about my jersey. I wore the one I bought during my Pittsburgh to DC ride. They wanted to know what that ride was like, and I told them how much I enjoyed it. It was nice to chat with folks.
I was making pretty good time, and I brought my climbing legs for once. I was becoming a little nostalgic as I rode through places I recognized. At one point, I heard a voice behind me saying, “Hello! We’re following you!” These were folks I had passed a while back who were having a hard time making sense of the cue sheet. Once they figured out that there were markings on the road and signs throughout, they passed me by.
The route looped back to the Cedar Grove rest stop. I was a little disappointed that I didn’t have a different rest stop to try more delicious treats, so I decided not to linger a second time. I wended my way through Manayunk, MLK Drive, and then back to the start. I felt great– just enough climbing to feel challenged and a workout, but not so strenuous that I felt completely spent. And, there was still plenty of time left in the day. I bought a t-shirt, talked with some more people, and then headed up to Steve’s house for a visit before driving back home.
I had a great time. I’d love to ride this again– perhaps one of the (very hilly!) centuries– and with friends. Thanks again to the Bicycle Club of Philadelphia for organizing.
My Flickr set is here.