A trip on The Circuit is always better when it includes a trailside snack or drink.
A Pennsylvania and New Jersey loop on the Delaware Canal Towpath and the Delaware and Raritan Canal Trail might include stops at the Point Pleasant Village Store, the Bridge Cafe in Frenchtown or one of the coffee shops in Lambertville within a block from the trail, like Rojo’s.
Then there are some destinations that exist because of a trail. They were conceived by trail users and advocates and designed to meet the needs of those who would start, end or take a break from their trips there.
Ken Fields, owner of Outbound Station, has ridden on the Schuylkill River Trail for over 20 years. While biking through Conshohocken, he would often stop at an antique store in the old train station sitting on a hill above the trail.
When the owners decided to close their antique business and lease the property for another use, Ken immediately saw the potential. He knew that he wasn’t the only one who would like a place to warm up with a coffee on a cold morning or to share a meal outside on a sunny afternoon.
Outbound Station features salads and sandwiches assembled in the full kitchen, an assortment of local pastries, and locally roasted La Colombe coffee. They make their own soups as well as their chicken salad and egg salad.
Looking at the cycling posters on the wall, a large selection of energy bars and the floor pump and tool kit in a corner by the coffee station, it’s obvious that a cyclist is the owner. Ken doesn’t require a purchase to fill up a water bottle or to use the restroom or the tools.
For Ken, being situated on the trail is great and being on a popular route is even better. “We're eight and one-half miles to Valley Forge and 12 miles to the Art Museum. We're roughly that center point where people can start their ride here with plenty of parking on the weekends or use us as a meet point or a mid-point.”
While Outbound Station serves as a waypoint on The Circuit, the Cynwyd Station Cafe and Tea Room is a gateway. Owner Sadie Francis notes that, “When you come to us from the trail, we’re the entrance to Lower Merion Township. When you come to us from Lower Merion, we’re the entrance to the regional trail network.”
Sadie became involved with the development of the Cynwyd Heritage Trail in 2008. Along the way, her expertise in green building was called upon to help plan the reuse of the 1890 Pennsylvania Railroad station that overlooks the trailhead.
“What makes us so special is the entire business is built around the location. Normally when you start a business, it’s the other way around.” Sadie saw the need for a community space for informal gathering and events. She also “asked people what they want, and everyone said ice cream!” So, she sought out a local source and found Jenny and Frank’s Artisan Gelato.
Like everything on the menu, the gelato is made from ingredients available in 1890. For even more of a 19th Century feel, have a phosphate soda with your ice cream sandwich. Less chilly selections include soups and grilled nut butter sandwiches. The well-curated tea menu is complemented by fair trade coffee, hot chocolate and hot lemonade. Everything is prepared and served without the use of plastic.
With the opening of the Manayunk Bridge, a new Circuit segment linking Philadelphia and Lower Merion over the Schuylkill River, Sadie is excited that the Tea Room’s role and that of the Cynwyd Heritage Trail as connectors will grow.