Thursday, September 27, 2012

Our Rails & River Towns Ride Proves to be a Pleasant Mix of Biking and History

About 110 cyclists participated in the Schuylkill River Heritage Area's first organized bike event on September 22, and by all accounts it was a fun and interesting day. The Rails and River Towns Ride took place on a beautiful fall morning along the Schuylkill River Trail's Pottstown to Birdsboro section (also known as the Thun Trail).

Cyclists learn about a historic building in Birdsboro

The majority of riders—about 60—cycled 18 miles round trip to Birdsboro and back, and took a guided walking tour through some of Birdsboro's oldest streets, learning about its impressive iron making history. 

George Douglass Mansion
 Many riders also visited Morlatton Village in Douglassville, where another guided tour was offered of the village’s four 18th century homes. At right, participants view the George Douglass Mansion, currently undergoing renovations.

The event was the first in the Schuylkill River Trail BikeTour Series, which will feature three organized rides over three years, each incorporating visits to historic sites and rides along the trail.

“We could not have asked for a better day for our first event,” said Kurt Zwikl, executive director of the Schuylkill River Heritage Area, which organized the event. “People enjoyed the ride and the tours, and they learned some interesting facts about local history.”
Before the ride began, cyclists gathered for a short presentation (photo on left) on the Pennsylvania Railroad, upon whose right of way a portion of the trail is now built. "I'm sure as we cycle here today we will all hear the whistles of trains from days gone by," said presenter Bob Thomas, who spoke of a time when trains, not bikes, would have made the trip from Pottstown to Birdsboro along the very route the cyclists would take.
Volunteers stand before a ride banner
Following the presentation,  participants made their way to Douglassville, for a tour of Morlatton Village, or to Birdsboro. Ride options ranged from 9 to 20 miles. More than two dozen volunteers helped the ride go smoothly, assisting with everything from doling out snacks to assisting at road crossings. Tri County Bicycles owner John DiRenzo provided free bike safety checks at the start and ride support throughout the day.
Riders get their bikes checked before the ride begins.

 During the ride, four new benches along the trail were dedicated. Those benches were donated by Richard and Peggy Whittaker (seen holding the sign at left). The Whittaker's are avid cyclists who ride the trail regularly. They gathered donations for the benches last year, when Richard turned 70, asking for funds in lieu of gifts. The sign lists the donors who generously provided money for the benches.

  Next fall, the Schuylkill River Heritage Area plans to hold the second ride in the Schuylkill River Trail Bike Tour Series. That ride, called Cycles and Cemeteries, will take place along the Norristown to Philadelphia section of the trail, and will incorporate visits to two historic cemeteries where Civil War generals are buried.

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