Discovering two Delaware bike-trail gems: the Markell trail and the Castle trail


Four years ago, I was on a bike ride from Wilmington, Delaware, that had us meandering through some industrial areas, navigating the traffic headed for I-295 and riding on Delaware highway 9 just to get to New Castle seven miles away. We met the governor at the time, a cyclist, and he bluntly told us that it wasn’t a great route … and that better was coming.

Better  has finally arrived, and it’s not just better, it’s fabulous: a trail from the environmental center in the middle of the Wilmington riverfront’s wildlife refuge all the way to New Castle. One beautiful bridge over the Christina River visible from I-95, two well-lit tunnels, under I-495 and I-295, one long boardwalk through the wildlife refuge, plus woods in another section. Great variety!

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A 2-state bike ride to watch polo in Pennsylvania

2B034D8E-1642-49BB-93D7-84CE589BE71FThis 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.

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The joy of bicycling on London’s cycle superhighways

553DEF9B-6FF8-4609-A478-C255541A5E22There’s no getting around it: bicycling in a big city can be stressful. Cars, buses, plus lots of people on foot. Not enough space for everyone. And often no bike lane, never mind signage to help you get around on a bike without using main roads already full of vehicles.

So I have been following with interest the development of London’s “cycle superhighways” since they were announced a decade ago. These are direct routes into central London, sometimes using protected bike lanes and often marked with blue paint to make them more obvious when using the road. They also have signage telling you how many minutes to key destinations. There are few traffic lights to slow you down, but when there is a red light, people stop.

I’d been on part of one on a previous trip to London, riding on the Embankment — a stretch of roadway along the Thames that not even I would have been foolhardy to bike on in its previous life. But rush hour on that section of a cycle superhighway meant I was just one of hundreds of cyclists.

On my latest trip I was determined to try more of them, using London’s incredibly cheap bike-share system (2 pounds for a day pass covering unlimited rides of no more than 30 minutes — cheaper than just one subway ride. So not New York.).

Here’s what I found: Continue reading

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Philadelphia’s Pennypack Trail: A surprisingly hilly bike ride

I think these ducks associate the human voice with food…

Trails have a reputation for being flat and, to some people, kind of boring. That’s because many were once railroad lines, and locomotives aren’t going to pull a train up a steep hill or around a sharp curve.

Philadelphia’s Pennypack Trail breaks that mold. It winds and climbs (if only briefly) along the Pennypack Creek, offering riders shade and water views. At least in Philadelphia, where it’s paved. Once we reached Montgomery County, it turned to stonedust and a wide, straight trail that, yes, used to be a railroad line. Continue reading

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Closing our loop: Vermont’s Missisquoi Valley Rail Trail

D9A01894-89C6-438D-91EE-553ECF7FDA34The final leg in our 5-day, two-nation bike tour was the 26-mile Missisquoi Valley Rail Trail, which begins within a few miles of the border crossing in Richford, Vermont, and ends just north of downtown St. Albans.

This is a quiet, if perhaps underutilized, rail-trail — we counted just 23 cyclists, 2 dog walkers (each with one dog), and two women on horseback as we rode the entire length on Saturday. The surface is a somewhat rough gravel, rather than the stonedust/crushed stone I appreciate on unpaved trails, but perhaps that’s what works better for snowmobilers. It certainly wasn’t as squishy as some trails like that, so we didn’t bail and switch to the road. My road bike, with its not-so-skinny, not-slick tires, did just fine. Continue reading

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3 1/2 days biking along Quebec’s Route Verte

694DC774-2840-4095-AEC2-BBA85D81FC80The one-word summary: Amazing.

The longer summary: This was a trip to France without getting on a plane.

Seriously, the Route Verte is a fabulous network of trails (and, yes, mixed with quiet roads). Each day had a different feel, yet we really didn’t bike more than 30 or so miles (plus any U.S. stretches). And of course there is the food: croissants, pastries and more. Exploring by bike is as much about the serendipitous finds as the route. Continue reading

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Biking Vermont’s Champlain Islands from St. Albans to Alburgh

F564C3D4-81C7-48B2-91F0-D24347ADFBAAWe’re kicking off a two-nation bike loop with a day along the water.

Vermont’s Champlain Islands, which string through Lake Champlain, are a lovely area to bike in, with quiet roads even in July. We generally stayed off U.S. 2, the main road, reconnecting with it shortly before the causeways that let us hop from island to island. The flip side of that is we didn’t see much in the way of services, beginning with easy places to grab a bite, North Hero excepted, as well as our B&B that has a restaurant. And a supermarket? Didn’t see one. Continue reading

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