Sunday, May 5, 2013

Cycling Merit Badge: Mapping my five Philadelphia bike rides

When I tell new people about this blog they always ask, "Aren't you too old to get Boy Scouts Merit Badges?" Duh. Of course I am. But the point of this blog is not to be officially recognized for my accomplishments; it is simply to set goals and methodically achieve them - for fun! (And hopefully to inspire others like me who are struggling with obesity to get outdoors and get fit). With that in mind, I have decided to begin pursuing the the Cycling Merit Badge requirements.

Boy Scouts Cycling Merit Badge
I am almost finished with the Hiking Merit Badge requirements, which I started about a year and a half ago; but I am still not in the physical condition necessary to complete my final 20-mile hike. And since I recently moved to Philadelphia and don't have the same opportunity to train on hiking trails as I did when I was living in Albuquerque, I have decided to take up cycling as my primary cardio regimen, while still hiking when I can make it to the nearest trailhead - about 45 minutes to an hour away via public transportation.

There are many requirements for the Cycling Merit Badge that don't have to do with physical activity, such as maintenance and other preparedness measures, and I'll be doing those and blogging about then, too. For now, though, I'm focusing on the fun and physical part of the Cycling Merit Badge, which is the five prescribe bike rides.

The main physical requirements of the Cycling Merit Badge are five bike rides: two 10-mile bike rides, two 15-mile bike rides and one 25-mile bike ride. For planning these rides I used the online mapping tool MapMyRide and the 2012 Philadelphia Bicycle Map to ensure I'll be taking the most bike-friendly routes possible. All rides start and end at Passyunk Square Park in South Philly, with the exception of the 25 miler, which starts at Passyunk Square but is a one-way trip requiring me to find a ride back to South Philly when I'm done. Rides may be a bit longer than the prescribed rides, but only up to one mile. None are less than the prescribed mileage.

Two 10 milers
I plan on doing my first 10-miler this week. This ride will take from Passyunk Square to FDR Park, where I'll do three loops of the park trail before returning home. The second 10 miler will take me to West Philadelphia past my friends Miriam and Corey's house, then back to Passyunk Square.

Two 15 milers
The first 15 miler also starts and ends at Passyunk Square, taking me on a loop of the lower Schuylkill River Trail (the east and west sides), from Center City to the East Falls Bridge and back. The second 15 miler takes me to the Delaware River Trail north to Spring Garden Street, which I'll take west all the way to the Philadelphia Art Museum to the Schuylkill River (passing near my friend Jodi's house). The route then crosses the river and goes up the west river trail to Fairmount Park West, and then down 48th Street through West Philly and back through Grey's Ferry to South Philly.

One 25 miler
The final bike ride I'll do to complete the Cycling Merit Badge requirement - the 25 miler - will take me up nearly the entire length of the Schuylkill River Trail from South Philly's Passyunk Square, through Center City, Fairmount Park East, Manayunk, Conshahocken, and Norristown to the welcome center at Valley Forge National Park. 

I'm incredibly excited about these planned bike rides for so many reasons. Not only will these rides improve my fitness level, but they will take me through some gorgeous and historical neighborhoods. Also, completing these rides will prepare me for my upcoming 20-mile hike, which I'm planning to do entirely within Wissahickon Valley Park along the Orange, Yellow and White trails. Once I've completed all of these objectives I will also become somewhat of an expert on many of the important trails and parks in the area, which in turn will help me to help others find and explore these areas as well.