I have finally gotten back to the task of riding my bike to all of Chester County’s covered bridges. In the post about my last visit, Speakman Bridge Number 1, I said that Speakman Bridge Number 2 was close by but that I couldn’t visit it. In fact there are two bridges close by, the other is called Hayes Clark, and the reason that I couldn’t visit these to bridges before now has to do with my shoes.
Both of these bridges, which are only 500 feet apart, are close to the end of my favorite ride in the Chester County countryside but I had never seen them until yesterday. At the end of Apple Grove Road there is a gravel road that goes off to the left to the Laurels Preserve. The preserve, along with the bridges, are owned by the Brandywine Conservancy. Thus, the roads to the bridges are close to traffic. So, you can’t ride your bike or drive your car to these bridges, you can only walk. The entrance to the preserve is 17.5 miles away and I have always ridden my road bike to this location, which has “Look” type pedals. You know, the kind that you have to wear the funny shoes that clip in. These shoes are great for bikes, but poor for walking.
So, in order to see these bridges, I needed to either ride my commuter bike with the mountain bike shoes that are good for walking or bring a pair of shoes with me on my road bike. Since my commuter bike, aka Bubba, is much heavier than my road bike, aka Zippy, I chose to strap a pair of sandals to the handlebars and hope for the best.
The walk to the bridges is down an old dirt road that goes along side Doe Run Creek and is just beautiful. As I walked along I thought it would be nice to load down Bubba with a picnic lunch and take a slow ride out to spend the day there with Mary and other friends. The Hayes Clark Bridge is the first bridge that you reach, which is only about a 0.7 mile walk from the entrance. It was built in 1871. The Speakman 2 bridge, which also goes by the name Mary Ann Pyle, was built in 1881. Both of these bridges were renovated in the 70’s or 80’s. What I noticed is that either of them had been modernized, with steal beams or such, in the way that the other bridges that I have visited have been. So, my guess is that these bridges appear much the same way that they would when they were built. This may also be a problem in that they are falling apart. So much so that the Brandywine Conservancy has limited their usage to only pedestrians (i.e, no horses allowed!). The Conservancy is working on permits to repair them bridges as soon as they can.
My ride out the Laurels Preserve was fairly standard at 36.18 miles. The only complication (besides the heat and humidity) was that some of the roads were getting a fresh chip seal coat on them. I tried to avoid those areas as much as I could because I always seem to get a flat tire when I go over fresh chip seal.
Now it is off to the other 10 bridges. The rest will all be over 60 miles round trip and will take some preplanning on my part. Some of them a clustered pretty close together, so I should be able to do more than one bridge per ride.
Ride lots, stop often,