Posts Tagged ‘nature’

One of my favorite things about Philadelphia is the smooth path lining the Schuylkill river– it’s accessible, gives you a break from the city streets and is well-maintained.  One of my least favorite things about Philadelphia is when people get lost in la-la land while using this path, completely unaware of anything outside their two square feet of pavement.  Undoubtedly (and in deference to my last post) this results in me having to ride cautiously, rather than rip through as the blur of cycling awesomeness I prefer.  Luckily it’s now May and for the next several months the Fairmount Park Commission gives Philadelphians like me the most fabulous treat– the car-free, pedestrian/cyclist/rollerblader heaven that is West River Drive on the weekend!

Take that, cars!

I had planned to ride out to Valley Forge today, I really need to get some more long hauls in…  But when I realized the Drive was closed I just stuck close to home.  I did four laps of the car-free section which I think ended up being around 25 miles.  It was so delightful riding in the sunshine, feeling the breeze at my back, and honking back at the many nesting geese.  These guys know the sound of a trail mix bag…

Don't take food from strangers, silly goose.

Fairmount Park is so gorgeous in the spring.  I definitely did one-lap-on, one-off for this ride so I had plenty of time to admire the scenery.  The newly green trees and pretty little flowers popping up make me grin like the adorable labradoodle loping along next to its owner (I hope my tongue wasn’t hanging out that much though).   All four lanes of West River Drive are closed to traffic, leaving plenty of room for families to ride together, rollerbladers to throw their arms around wildly and for joggers to run right down the middle of the road just because you can.  I love it all. 

Panoramic park


Stab that dragon!I think he forgot his suit of armor... and undies (hee!)


This week I’m definitely back to my 100 mile challenge.  The weather looks like it’s really spring so I have no excuses!


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I rode 100 miles this week!  Impressive… except that I’m going to have to compress that distance into ONE DAY by the end of September.  Yikes!  But considering I usually ride about 45-50 miles a week, this is a good step (pedal stroke?) forward.  Now that we get an extra hour of daylight I know this is something I can easily keep up with.  My work is 2 blocks from the Schuylkill Drive trail and one loop on that is 8 miles.  Do that 3 days a week, add in my daily commute and one long-haul on the weekends and there’s my 100 miles.  I’m getting a little tired just thinking about it…  Today my body is sore, especially my hips and back.  I found this nifty website that has a little animated dude showing you how to do stretches.  Neat!

Pat had to work all weekend so I rode out to Forbidden Drive by myself yesterday.  I took the telephoto lens and got a few good shots of geese and ducks:


Lift, I need lift!

I like his red eye... a lil freaky though

After riding around for a while I decided to lock my bike up at Valley Green, a random restaurant on Forbidden Drive, and check out a staircase I had seen earlier.  It led down to a little dam that you could walk out on and, after seeing a couple of 6 year-olds tromp out there, I decided I’d take the risk for some interesting photos:

View from the dam

Stairs leading to the creek


More stairs, I love the color of the moss

Hello, green bug!

Monochromatic creek

It was nice to get some fresh, non-exhaust-laden air and to spend some quality time in nature.  My ride home from Forbidden Drive was slow, slow, slow.  Not only was I a little tired but the feng shui of my bike shorts/saddle was NOT working out… let’s hope that doesn’t happen on our one-day century!  My partner-in-crime has to work again this weekend (boo!!) so we’ll see where my solo long-haul takes me.  I have a feeling Plymouth Meeting is in the cards, how can I resist a pit-stop for an Ikea ice cream cone?  Answer: I can’t 🙂

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Philadelphia was struck with a sudden, very severe thunderstorm around 3:00 today.  I was at work and watched the torrential rain from the windows of our 4th floor observatory.  At one point the rain was coming down in such strong sheets I couldn’t see across the street.  And as suddenly as it came the storm was gone, leaving destruction in its wake.

Traffic was horrendous on my bike commute home and as I got closer to West Philly I realized why– trolleys couldn’t get through tree-blocked streets, people wanted to get home immediately, before bad weather struck again, and there was a lot of good old-fashioned rubbernecking going on. 

I had to pull over as I rode past Clark Park, our beautiful neighborhood park.  I could not believe how many trees had been uprooted– check out this grove of sycamore trees that seemed to share a common root system:

Lots of neighbors checking out the damage

I snapped some more photos:

Can you see the terra-cotta sewer pipe in the roots?


Boys being tree monkeys

Isn't that an interesting pattern?

Lots of debris at the Dickens sculpture

I feel pretty sad that all these beautiful, old trees were killed in the storm.  It is a big loss for the park and our neighborhood ecosystem.  I was also amazed that the City arrived fairly quickly to start clean-up.  There was a lot of mess all over our neighborhood though, so I know it will take time for it all to be cleaned up.  A few large branches fell in our back yard but none of them hit our building.  I was almost convinced that I would come home to find the huge, unbalanced oak in our studio… luck was on our side!  I was also thinking of my dad and his friend who make hand-turned wooden pens– you guys would have CENTURIES worth of pens to make from all these trees!

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This morning we woke up early (for a Saturday…) to join the Bicycle Coalition on a hike along the Schuylkill River.  Unfortunately we did not realize we had the wrong date until we got home.  We were a little perplexed when we go to Bartram’s Garden, the starting point, and found no trace of other hikers.

We decided to set out after them, looking forward to the free breakfast at the end point.  I worked at Bartram’s Garden for a couple of months so I led us out through the meadow to the path.

Can you see the city through the haze?

This meadow used to be a “brownfield,” a former industrial site where the soil is polluted.  The site was treated about 30 years ago and is now thriving.

I could not believe we were still in Philadelphia.  This part of Southwest Philadelphia is only a half mile from our house but it felt like we were miles out of the city.  I imagined John Bartram and his wife strolling along the same stretch of river.  Taking in the fresh country air, feeling the same June heat and walking hand-in-hand like us.  I wonder if they had pancakes for breakfast, too.

Urban Meadow

We carried on.  The walk was supposed to end at Grey’s Ferry Ave at a section of the path we have seen them working on for several months.  I recently snapped this on the way to the grocery store:

Next to the Recycling Center

Since it was the wrong date we never caught up with the group.  We turned around after the trail terminated in the Street’s Department’s parking lot.

I see this bridge from Grey's Ferry all the time

By the time we got back to our bikes I was really feeling the heat so we headed home for a second cup of coffee and work in the studio.  Pat gave his mom this illustration for mother’s day, isn’t it beautiful?

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Another weekend come and gone… how is it that my days off seem to move at a speed 10 times that of my working days?  I hope our 365 “days off” move at a snail’s pace!

On Friday we set out to Fairmount Park for some sketching and picnic in the woods.  We stopped by the Bicycle Coalition’s Bike Pit Stop on the way.  One of the Bicycle Ambassadors was really excited for our Long Haul Truckers– he had recently completed a cross-country journey on his (only to have it stolen upon his return to Philly… nice).  We got some free pretzels and stickers and headed on our way.

Pat's bike

After several relaxing hours at the edge of a baseball field in the West Park we decided to head for home.  I thought I knew how to navigate us through West Philadelphia so we didn’t have to go all the way back into Center City just to head west again.  Plus we had just received a free map I thought we could use.  I was wrong.

Magical path

We ended up cycling in a HUGE circle around Bala Cynwyd.  Very nice, ritzy neighborhood, but not OUR neighborhood.  We ran into a (I kid you not) 75-year old Girl Scout who finally pointed us in the right direction.  Along the way I hit a massive, hidden pothole and thought I had broken my bum.  It really, really hurt.  But I survived to tell the tail (get it, tail=tale?? ha!).

I will admit that we should have had a better navigation plan BUT the map was absolutely the pits.  Most roads didn’t have names, and those that did were not laid out in real life the way they were on the map.  This just solidifies in my mind the importance of having a GPS on our trip.  Patrick thought he disagreed– he suggested we just get a map for each place we visit– I reminded him that a GPS does exactly that.  I think we agree to disagree.  See, who needs compromise in marriage?? 😉

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What a nice, relaxing weekend.  Patrick and I spent Friday cruising out along Forbidden Drive.  It was practically abandoned, very different from our last visit on Good Friday.  We found a nice patch of grass to spread our picnic blanket on and chilled out for a few hours.  A goose heard me opening a bag of trail mix and came up to investigate.  I was too scared to throw him a bite; I think he would have settled in with us!

Feed ME!

On the way back we noticed that they are doing some repairs on one of the bridges.  There is a huge net hanging under the bridge to catch any falling debris or anyone trying to walk a tightrope I guess.

Cirq du Bridge

Speaking of which, when I walked past our park yesterday I saw two guys practicing on a tightrope strung between two trees!  They were being coached by an old, old grandma smoking a cigarette.  And I thought Ann Arbor was strange… West Philly is the best Philly, that’s for sure.

Anyway, on the way home from Forbidden Drive we checked out all the regatta action happening on the Schuylkill River. This weekend Philadelphia hosted the annual Dad Vail Regatta (named for Harry Emerson “Dad” Vail, what a nickname…) which attracts over 100 crews.  I was on the novice team for a year at UofM so I convinced Pat to let me reminisce and watch a few starts.

Riding my bike reminds me of rowing sometimes.  Great for your legs, you get to enjoy the outdoors, and you’re encouraged to wear spandex.  I’m just glad my bike doesn’t have a tiny person strapped to it screaming at me to go faster.  Though I’m sure I’ll redact that statement in a few years…

Getting set

On Saturday we rested and watched a ridiculous amount of “My Name is Earl” on the Xbox.  I think it’s funny that the show has the exact same premise for every single episode and yet it continues to be pretty entertaining.  I guess if you find the right premise you can make a show about anything.

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I never realized how connected I am to nature until we moved to Philadelphia.  When we first moved here we lived in the northwest, in a neighborhood called Germantown.  To get to work/school we would ride commuter rail every day—40 minutes spent watching the city speed (more like creep) past.  I couldn’t believe how much JUNK there was… garbage, cars, abandoned houses, graffiti.  I remember thinking what a tragedy it is to allow vacant lots to rot, to see acres of land given over to abandoned warehouses, to realize that A LOT of people in this city don’t care enough to throw their garbage in a trashcan.  It was kind of a depressing commute!

The city is beautiful in its own way but I needed to see some green.  We found the wonderful Schuylkill Banks trail.  We ventured out to the Arboretum.  We moved to West Philly where we have a backyard with trees and crazy vines.  I started to realize that even though a lot of people don’t give a crap about the environment I am not one of those people.  Neither is my husband.  And you know what?  That makes me feel bad for the people who don’t care.  They are missing a lot!  Being in nature restores me.  It somehow both invigorates and calms me.  Feeling sunshine on my face gives me more energy than the super-caffeinated bev Pat likes to whip up for me (The Power Drink: 4 shots of espresso over ice, one Splenda and a splash of half and half … hello world!)  There is nothing I love more than exploring the natural world with my hubby, feeling like we are part of something bigger than ourselves, and just enjoying this beautiful planet.

This quote from naturalist/conservationist John Muir kind of sums it up for me:

Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves.

This weekend I had some worries that needed to “drop off like autumn leaves” so we rode to Fairmount Park and hiked back into the woods.   We found a sunny spot, spread our picnic blanket and spent the afternoon soaking in the natural goodness.


Pat working in the woods

The next day we went on a ride in the city and I took this video.  I’m experimenting with on-bike video techniques so please excuse the bumpiness.  This is my absolute favorite place to ride through in the city.  It’s a tunnel that goes under the freeway and they PUT A BIKE LANE IN IT!  Pat and I yelp for joy.

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