It was a nice way to start Sunday: cool, overcast, no rain. A good day for racking up the miles. The roads were wide, smooth, and nearly empty.
It seemed a shame that we only were going 55 miles to stay with Jeffrey’s cousins in Wilmington, Delaware. But in the end, 55 miles was plenty.
We hadn’t gone far before the rain started. It wasn’t heavy. It came and went. But it slowed us down. We don’t mind riding in the rain, but stopping in the rain is wetter than riding behind the fairing, and to stay on course we had to stop frequently.
We encountered bike-friendly routes and significant stretches of smooth bike lanes – both of which would have been nicer in dry weather.
We gawked at the forbidding old prison (evidently still used for training). The prison building has fortress-like stone walls that stretch away on both sides, filling an entire city block. We enjoyed local color like this mural on an American Legion post, and bought from Mr. Lin’s 99-cent shop a Chinese-made U.S. flag to replace the flag that blew off our rig somewhere in NJ.
Our route took us through the historic district of Philadelphia. We encountered a Ron Paul rally.
Then we made our way to the 8,780-foot (2676-meter, 1.66 mile) Platt (Penrose Avenue) Bridge, and things became … interesting.
The bridge is being rehabilitated. A Web reference that says that the bridge still has an open bicycle/pedestrian walkway. But this afternoon, all we saw was a closed walkway and a single open lane for all traffic.
Bicycles are vehicles entitled to be on ordinary roads. We approached the single lane, saw it was very narrow and lined on the right with concrete Jersey barriers. Jeffrey thought, the lane could not be this narrow the whole way, the speed limit is only 35 mph, and surely there are turnouts or gaps in the barriers in case a motorist is disabled; let’s give it a try. He zoomed ahead during a gap in the auto traffic.
Uh-oh. The lane was narrow all the way across the bridge. There were no gaps in the concrete barriers alongside. The lane was too narrow for cars to pass us. There was no way back. We were trapped.
Jeffrey kept the speed at 11 mph. Cars lined up behind us. The lead cars did not honk, but cars farther back did.
Our speed kept dropping. 10 mph, 9 mph, 8 mph. We were less than halfway up the span. Jeffrey did not think he could maintain even 8 mph to the top. He had to get us out of there. But how?
Jeffrey remembered an old Yiddish proverb: If you can’t go through, go around. If you can’t get over, get over!
He stopped. He took the yellow cargo bag off the back of the Lightning and tossed it over the waist-high Jersey barrier. Then he lifted the bike over, with me in the cargo box. Then he jumped over into the construction area, saluted the drivers whose patience he had taxed, and traffic sped up.
Here’s the view toward the top from that point on the bridge.
Here’s a photo of the refinery complex visible below the bridge at that point. (Wonder why they don’t use flared gas for something useful, like generating electricity.)
We rode to the top of the bridge. At the very top, we had to stumble over a honeycomb surface that was not bikeable. On the far side, there were steel plates to avoid, and holes through which the gray waters of the Schuylkill River were visible.
To get off the bridge, although Jeffrey tried to find another way, we had to get back into the traffic lane. When a few moments’ gap appeared, Jeffrey took the plunge. Lights flashing, we started down the last few hundred yards of bridge as fast as we dared. A car zoomed up behind us … slowed down … didn’t honk … and we made it off the bridge!
We got over.
The rest of the day was relatively uneventful. We passed the Tinicum site (now adorned with a cannon and U.S. flags), where Europeans – Swedes – first settled in Pennsylvania on land previously controlled by America’s First Nations. The Swedes were driven out by the Dutch, who were driven out by the English. Might made right.
We ran into more road construction. Unlike in NYC, where pedestrians and bicyclists are given alternate routes, this sign here just said, “Sidewalk Closed”, and the road was a single narrow lane lined with Jersey barriers, just like the bridge. We found a gap in the fence and braved the debris, holes, plywood slabs, etc., etc. We got over.
At last … Delaware! It was too wet for me to come out of my plastic bag, so Jeffrey shot this one alone.
A few miles later, we reached the home of cousins Amy and Richard. Jeffrey was thoroughly soaked and shivering with cold, grateful for the warm reception he received. Being a puppet, and having been kept dry all day, I was fine.
We will spend tomorrow in Wilmington, talking about human rights. We promise a full report.