A Bonus Bridge!


Most of my bike rides from West Chester head due west straight into horse country. Recently I have been heading south into Delaware for a chance in scenery. I usually take Creek Road which runs along the Brandywine River. I usually stop at first intersection that I come to in Delaware to figure out which way I’d going to go. One of the roads at this intersection is Smith Bridge Road.

I have never chosen to head down Smith’s Bridge Road, mainly because it heads right back into Pennsylvania and into some fairly urban roadways that are not fun for cycling. A few weeks ago at Kevin’s graduation party I was speaking to our friend Matt about the area. He pointed out to me that Smith Bridge Road has a nice covered bridge on it that is called, of all things, Smith’s Bridge.

With this new information in hand, I headed out to see it this past Thursday. Getting to the bridge was pretty easy. As the crow flies it is only about 10 miles away. Taking Creek Road it was a mostly flat (522 feet of climbing) and very pleasant 16.3 mile ride. This route takes me past the N.C, Andrew, and Jamie Wyeth house and the Brandywine River Museum that houses much of their work. The museum has a nice collection of early American artist. I particularly like the 4 or 5 Horace Pipin paintings. 

The bridge is a new one of sorts. As the plaque at the bridge states, the original bridge was built in 1839, modified in 1956, destroyed by fire in 1961, rebuilt with out a cover in 1962, and reconstructed with Burr Trusses with cover in 2002.

My return trip I decided to travel through the area that I have always avoided. With the exception of about half a mile along Route 1 I was pleasantly surprised at what a nice it was. I stopped at the Brandywine Battlefield Park, which I have never seen before. I also came across the ruins of an octagonal one room school at a place called Archies Corner in southern Delaware County PA. My route covered 30 miles and past some interesting sights! 

See photos from my ride here.

Ride lots, stop often!


Covered Bridges Number 4 and 5


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.

See photos of the bridges here, and the route of my ride here.

Ride lots, stop often,


Speakman Bridge No. 1

Last Wednesday I got up early (before the heat set it) and visited the Speakman Bridge No. 1 (Speakman Bridge No 2 is a few miles away and will probably be the next bridge that I visit. I'll explain why I couldn't go see it the same day later). It was built in 1881. This is one of the bridges that I see fairly regularly. It is about 20 miles from home out in the middle of horse county. To get there I ride along the Brandywine River and out to the end of Apple Grove Road, which I have stated on past blog post as being one of my favorite rides ever. If I do nothing but ride this route the rest of my life I would be pretty happy.


The Speakman Bridge has been a topic in the local news lately. Back in November a tractor-trailer truck tried to go through it. In the process it severely damaged the bridge nearly knocking it over. Since then, the county and local residents have been at odds as to how to go about its repairs, or even if it should be repaired at all. These things are never easy. Read more about it here.  

The good news is that you can still ride a bike over it. As a result of being closed to traffic Frog Hollow Road on the other side has no traffic at all, which made for a nice bike ride. In all, I rode 40.29 miles to get to the bridge and back. Check out photos of the ride here and the route here

Now, on to the next bridges.


Ride lots, stop often. 

The Next Cycling Project

My next cycling project will be "The (Covered) Bridges of Madison Chester County." There are 15 of them spread throughout the county and my plan is to ride my bike to see them. It’s not that I have any great interest in Covered Bridges. It's just that there are 15 of them spread throughout the county. As the old saying goes, "it is something to do."

According to this website there are 197 covered bridges in Pennsylvania, and of these 15 are in Chester County. Here is a map showing where they can be found. Two of these bridges are ones that I see every once in a while on my regular bike rides. There are three others at are fairly close to home and won’t be too much trouble to see. The other 10 will take some planning and would probably be an all day trip via bicycle. I estimate that, in all, it will take me 7 or 8 trips covering 300 to 400 miles to get the job done. Or in other words, a nice summer project. So, to get things started, yesterday I headed out to The Gibson and Harkin Bridges which are to the northwest of West Chester.


The Gibson Bridge

Only five miles away, this bridge is the closest one to West Chester. It is along Route 322 going to Downingtown. It was built in 1872 and restored in 2003. It gets a lot of use still. In the 20 minutes or so that I was there about a dozen cars went over it. From underneath the bridge the ka-thunk ka-thunk of the tires rolling over the big timbers made a pretty cool sound.

The Harkin Bridge


This bridge sits in an odd place over a drainage ditch next to a busy road. It looks pretty out of place when you first see it. In fact, it is very much out of place. It was built in 1854, then rebuilt in 1881. Then in 1972 the area was submerged to create Marsh Creek Lake, so the bridge was moved to a new location in the newly created Marsh Creek State Park. Then in 1998 the bridge was bought by Upper Uwchlan Township, who, in 2006, chose to move it to its present day location to be part of the Upper Uwchlan Trail System. Who knew?

See photos of my bike ride here. Also, here is a link to the route I rode my bike in order to get to these locations. In all I rode 30.85 miles. 

Ride lots and stop often!