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Biking

Monday, July 18, 2016

Biking the Shoreline of Lac-Saint-Jean

Three hours north of Quebec City, the mountainous ridges and anonymous lakes give way to a sylvan valley surrounding the massive inland sea they call Lac-Saint-Jean. Bright yellow fields of canola mix with the rolling green hillside, tall silos, and rolled hay that gives this terrain the unmistakable French countryside feel. Everywhere you look are cyclists biking on the celebrated Véloroute des Bleuets, a 256-kilometer bike trail that circumnavigates Lac-Saint-Jean, or fat-wheeling on mountain bike trails, even biking through sand on one of the 15 public beaches found around the lake. 

 
We chose to spend the first day and night at Parc national de la Pointe-Taillon, a peninsula that juts into the lake and offers its own 45 km circuit. We parked in the lot, grabbed sheets, blankets, bikes, and a small mini-trailer to carry all our belongings and off we went on a short ride to our lodging for the night, a Huttopia tent. Available in 17 of Quebec’s 24 national parks, these canvas tents are equipped with four beds, heating, and everything you need to cook a meal. We dropped our belongings and continued to bike along the peninsula looking at desolate beaches, large beaver dams, and a thicket of tall birch trees. This is prime moose country but we wouldn’t find the big fella this first night. After our ride, we dined on picnic tables overlooking the water, washed down with a local Riverbend pale ale. A perfect start to our week of adventure in the Lac-Saint-Jean, Saguenay, and Charlevoix sections of Quebec. 
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 07/18/16 at 05:30 AM
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Thursday, July 07, 2016

Seeing the Cape on Two Wheels

The small strip of pavement forms a straight line into the horizon like an express route to freedom. Astride my bike, I zip over bridges and through tunnels, past large ponds, salt marshes and cranberry bogs, all while breathing in the sweet smell of spring wildflowers and the far more potent brine of the sea. The hum of traffic is gone, replaced by the call of the yellow warbler. The only obstacles before me are runners, clumsy rollerbladers, and other leisurely bikers. In the Cape Cod town of Orleans, I hop off my bike for a few minutes and take in that quintessential New England snapshot of fishing boats bobbing in the harbor. 

 
The 25-mile long Cape Cod Rail Trail (CCRT) was once a corridor used to ship cranberries from the Cape to Boston aboard the Old Colony Railroad. Today, the relatively level rail trail is a placid retreat that has quickly become one of the most popular destinations in the Northeast for biking. The Cape Cod Rail Trail might receive the most fanfare but the entirety of Cape Cod is blessed with an abundance of paved bike trails, from the Cape Cod Canal Bikeway that snakes under the Sagamore and Bourne Bridges to the topsy-turvy Provincelands Bike Trail on the outskirts of Provincetown. 
 
To read more of my story on Cape Cod biking that appeared in the June issue of the Alaska Airways inflight magazine, click here and turn to page 50. 
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 07/07/16 at 06:00 AM
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Wednesday, June 01, 2016

Ciclismo Classico Debuts New Bike Trip to Nova Scotia

A little over an hour west of Halifax is the growing wine region of Annapolis Valley. Once a footnote among grape-growing regions, the rolling green countryside now boasts 14 wineries that produce crisp cool-climate whites, decadent icewines, and Champagne-style sparkling wines that are attracting international attention. The college town of Wolfville is the gateway to the Annapolis Valley, where Victorian mansions have been transformed into bed and breakfasts. Similar to Napa or Sonoma Valley, an ideal way to see the wineries is via a bike, connecting the dots on quiet backcountry roads. Now Ciclismo Classico is doing just that, guiding a weeklong tour September 19-25, during the height of fall foliage. Along with Wolfville, you’ll be biking to another one of my favorite towns, Lunenburg. This seaside community is one of only two cities in North America dubbed a UNESCO World Heritage Site (the other being Quebec City). What UNESCO found fascinating was the fact that Lunenburg was a perfectly planned British colonial settlement, a 48-block grid designed in London and plopped down on the coast of Nova Scotia in 1753. Cost is $2795 per person and includes bike rentals, guides, lodging, and all the lobster, Digby scallops, and clams you can stomach. 

 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 06/01/16 at 06:00 AM
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Friday, May 13, 2016

Memorable Spring Bike Rides, Biking the Shores of Keuka Lake

Known for its award-winning Rieslings, the Finger Lakes deserve its reputation as one of the best spots in America to go wine tasting. Yet, its resplendent beauty also lends itself well to adventure. At the southern end of Seneca Lake, we hiked alongside a handful of waterfalls in the famous gorge of Watkins Glen. The next morning, my wife and I kayaked through a cattail-laden marsh and saw countless herons, turtles, and a beaver. Talk about adventure—a 40-pound carp jumped out of the marsh and slammed against my arm as I shrieked. But my favorite part of the weeklong trip was a quiet bike ride along a peninsula that juts into Keuka Lake. Start your ride from Keuka College and follow East and West Bluff Roads as they pass the small waterfront cottages with cute names like Hide N’ Seek. There’s one killer hill on the 20-mile ride that takes you atop a bluff, before cruising downhill back to the college. Afterwards, we rewarded ourselves with a lobster roll and glass of semi-dry Riesling at Heron Hill’s outdoor café. We were fortunate to book the next two nights at the Black Sheep Inn in Hammondsport, on the northern tip of Keuka Lake. Owners Debbie Meritsky and Marc Rotman spent over 6 years refurbishing the rare octagonal-shaped house, which turns 157 this year.

 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 05/13/16 at 06:00 AM
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Thursday, May 12, 2016

Memorable Spring Bike Rides, The Westport Ramble, Massachusetts

South of New Bedford lies countryside so fertile, you’ll feel like you’re in Vermont.  Stretching from Dartmouth, Massachusetts, to Little Compton, Rhode Island, the area is known as the Heritage Farm Coast. It has the sunniest and most temperate climate in New England and thus the longest growing season. Vast dairy farms, cornfields, even vineyards, border the Westport River as it washes into the Atlantic. Add the dunes of Horseneck Beach and you have the perfect country and coast ride, especially in the spring before the beach traffic starts to arrive. 

 
Turn left out of the Westport Middle School parking lot onto Old Country Road to start this 21-mile loop (give yourself at least two hours). A right turn onto Pine Hill Road heads downhill, but the route is relatively flat for most of the ride. Within a mile, you’re lost in acres of farmland. Historic Cape Cod shingled houses and barns are bordered by old stone walls. Continue on lightly traveled Old Pine Road to see cornfields edging towards the horizon. A mile later, turn right onto Hix Bridge Road and then left a half-mile beyond that onto Horseneck Road. The Westport River appears on your right, a strip of dark blue snaking through the green pasture. 
 
Around the halfway mark, the ocean starts to appear on your left and the area becomes more developed.  A good choice for lunch is the Bayside, known for their cod wraps and lobster rolls. Veer right on East Beach Road for expansive views of the ocean. Another right onto Route 88 leads to the sweeping beach and dunes of Horseneck Beach State Reservation. After crossing a small bridge which rewards you with views of the harbor and its numerous fishing boats, turn right onto Drift Road. This leads to Old County Road, where you turn left to return to your car. 
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 05/12/16 at 06:00 AM
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Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Memorable Spring Bike Rides, The Perimeter of Manhattan

Many riders have biked the 6-mile loop around Central Park, but to really appreciate Manhattan, you have to bike with the skyscrapers at your side around the perimeter of the island on the 32-mile Greenway. Thankfully, most of the loop is on bike trails, with the only detours on city streets from 35th to 59th Street around the United Nations and 130th to 155 Streets, both on the East Side. The West Side is a straight shot down on bike trails from Inwood Hill Park, under the GW Bridge, into Riverside Park, past the the USS Intrepid, and then around the World Financial Center, with the Statue of Liberty in view. Grab a Bike NYC map from any bike rental shop or Visitors Center and do this memorable day trip. 

 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 05/11/16 at 06:00 AM
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Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Memorable Spring Bike Rides, Vancouver’s Stanley Park

The 9 km ride around the Seawall of Stanley Park can be done in less than an hour. Yet, by the time you stop at the world-class aquarium, see the selection of totem poles, and dine on sablefish (a tender and rich Northwestern whitefish) at the classic Teahouse for lunch, the day is over. Riding under towering Douglas firs and along the rocky shoreline, you’ll also stop numerous times to take pictures of the bay. On our last ride around Stanley Park, my family spent a good chunk of time being entertained by the sea otters at the Vancouver Aquarium. Less than 15 minutes later, we were watching river otters in the wild dining on crabs along the Seawall. Another unexpected find in a city of unexpected finds, the reason why I return to Vancouver as often as I can. 

 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 05/10/16 at 06:00 AM
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Monday, May 09, 2016

Memorable Spring Bike Rides, Giverny, France

Not surprising, my two favorite seasons for biking are spring and fall. I’m gearing up for a charity ride this Sunday by taking a ride past the farms and estates of Dover and Sherborn this morning, the first sunny day we’ve had in Boston in more than a week. So it’s a good opportunity to reminisce about my favorite spring rides over the years. First up, biking to Giverny.

 
Those of you with a love of art history know Giverny as the home of Claude Monet. Less than an hour by train from Paris, you can make the pilgrimage to Monet’s home and his spectacular Japanese water garden inundated with day lilies, the inspiration for many of the works that hang on the walls of the Musée d'Orsay in Paris and other impressive collections of Impressionism around the globe. Fat Tire Bike Tours escorts riders from Paris’ St. Lazare train station to the quaint village of Vernon. Once you arrive, you head to an outdoor market to stock up on picnic food--soft, creamy Reblochon cheese, slices of yummy Rosette de Lyon sausage, duck liver pate, warm baguettes from the neighborhood boulangerie, juicy strawberries and apricots, and a bottle of wine to wash it down. After passing out bikes, our guide Andrew led us to the banks of the Seine River where we watched a family of swans swim as we dug into our goodies. Then we were off on an easy bike trail that connects Vernon with Giverny. We entered the picturesque hamlet and were soon walking over that Japanese bridge seen in many of Monet’s works. The whole trip took about 8 hours and cost 99 Euros per biker, a perfect day trip from Paris. 
 
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 05/09/16 at 06:00 AM
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Monday, May 02, 2016

Bike Into the Maine Canvas

The rugged and raw beauty of Maine has been a lure to many of America’s foremost landscape artists. Man versus the chaotic forces of nature, particularly fishermen struggling against powerful nor’easters, kept Winslow Homer busy on the boulder-strewn shores of Prouts Neck for more than two decades. Robert Henri, Edward Hopper, George Bellows, and Rockwell Kent all painted Monhegan Island’s 160-foot cliffs, meadows, and quaint fishing communities in their own distinctive styles like the bold black and white woodcuts by Kent. Monhegan is also a favorite subject of Jamie Wyeth, whose father Andrew Wyeth and grandfather N.C. Wyeth all summered on the Maine coast. Indeed, Andrew met his wife and her best friend Christina Olson in Maine. Olson is the woman lying down in the tall grass of Wyeth’s iconic painting, Christina’s World. 

 
Summer Feet Cycling is taking full advantage of Maine’s stunning scenery and rich art history to present two guided weeklong trips this summer. Not only will you visit Prouts Neck, Monhegan Island, and the Olson House, but you’ll stop at 7 art museums in the state, including two of my favorites, the Bowdoin College Museum of Art and the Farnsworth Museum in Rockland. Cost is $2,595 per person and includes 6 nights lodging at iconic properties like The Black Point Inn in Prouts Neck, The Island Inn on Monhegan Island, and the Inns at Blackberry Common in Camden. Most meals, bike, and guides with van are all part of the package. 
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 05/02/16 at 06:00 AM
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Friday, April 29, 2016

Biking with Wayne Curtis in New Orleans

Wayne Curtis is best known as author of “And a Bottle of Rum: A History of the New World in Ten Cocktails” (Crown, 2006) and as cocktail columnist for Atlantic Monthly. But my friendship with Wayne goes back at least a decade prior when we were both moaning about the egregious book contracts Frommer’s publisher forced upon us. Thankfully, the travel guidebook days are far behind us. I caught up with Wayne in 2008, when he had just moved to New Orleans. He brought my brother Jim and me to his favorite bars and bartenders and it resulted in this story for The Boston Globe. But I know that Wayne has a passion beyond cocktails, including architecture, urban renewal, jazz, and biking. All figured prominently in a 5-hour tour he designed for my family on our trip to Nola earlier this month.

 
We rented bikes at Michael’s on Frenchman Street and off we went to our first stop, Crescent Park, a brand new green space that hugs the Mississippi River for over a mile. Then we biked the streets of Bywater, one of the hottest neighborhoods in the city especially for young hipsters, where Wayne pointed out a massive church that will soon open as a hotel. We pedaled through Louis Armstrong Park in the Tremé neighborhood and soon we were on the latest bike trail in town, the 2.6-mile Lafitte Greenway. We stopped at Parkway for the requisite roast beef and shrimp poor boys before biking through the Tulane campus, glorious Audubon Park and its exquisite moss-covered Spainish oak trees, and past the homes of Sandra Bullock, John Goodman, and Archie Manning in the Garden District. A quick ride through the crowds in the French Quarter and we arrived back at our bike rental store 15 miles later. A perfect ride, especially since we ended with a set of live music and a beer across the street at The Spotted Cat
 
The ride was such a worthy introduction to Nola that I persuaded Wayne to offer the exact loop to clients of ActiveTravels. If you’re feeling a little less ambitious, he will also do the same nightly bar round-up as described in the Boston Globe piece and include his favorite jazz joints. Don’t miss out on seeing the authentic New Orleans on these jaunts with Wayne. 
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 04/29/16 at 06:00 AM
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Longtime Boston Globe travel writer, Steve Jermanok, dishes out his favorite travel locales and provides topical travel information that comes across his desk.

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