A couple weeks ago, we hopped on a train out of Durham, North Carolina, and got off in Baltimore, Maryland. Instantly, everything was different. No more South, with its slower pace and overgrowth of kudzu. In Baltimore, we found colonial-era buildings and a snappier attitude. By skipping over Virginia, we effectively skipped over the transition between the two locales.

Now we are in Philadelphia, reeling a bit from the enormity of the city, and the density of this whole region. It has been several weeks since we have set up our tent, as camping options are dwindling before our eyes. We laugh about how we camped through the bitter cold of last winter and the sweltering heat of the summer, but now that it’s fall and the weather is perfect for camping, we’re in an area (and on a trajectory) where camping isn’t as viable an option. But it’s all about the choices you make, and right now we’re choosing to explore this dense region and its varied cycling cultures.

Philly has been a delightful surprise for both of us. If we stay out of Center City and all its downtown-y madness, you can almost forget how big the city is, because it feels like a string of little communities. West Philadelphia, where we have spent most of our time, is full of old buildings and small restaurants and a vibrant, diverse population.

And the cycling is pretty fantastic! The roads may be extremely torn-up, the paint may be chipping away from the striped bike lane markings, the drivers may be crazy and only looking out for themselves, but it doesn’t make the city any less bike-able. For the most part, Philly is fairly flat. The blocks are short and the streets are narrow and crowded, which tempers the speed of most drivers. There are some incredibly great bike shops. And, most importantly, when we’re out on our bikes, we’re not the only ones. We hear that the city has had a cycling boom in the past couple years, and it shows. Yesterday, when I saw a mother riding in the street, with her two young daughters also riding in the street, it made it that much more clear how accessible this city truly is for cyclists.

We leave Philly tomorrow (Friday) and head to New York City (via my cousins in NJ). We’ve been working to nail down a presentation in the city, and we’ll let you all know when we get the details figured out. We’re hoping to spend a week or so in the area, so let us know if you’d like to meet up, or if you’ve got space to host us. And if anyone has any brilliant, lesser-trafficked routes into the city from the west, please let us know!