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Biking

Monday, February 08, 2016

5 Adventures on a Shoestring, Biking in Brittany

There’s no longer a need to deplete your life savings when selecting a once-in-a-lifetime adventure. You simply have to look beyond the convenience of contacting big name American outfitters who charge exorbitant prices for their worldwide trips (often in excess of $1,000 per day, excluding airfare). Instead, book your journey with highly reputable local outfitters whose sole specialty is their native country.  This way, you eliminate the middleman and pocket the huge savings. All five of the outfitters I’ll blog about this week will give you a far more in-depth look at their homeland than any American guide could possibly do, at a fraction of the cost. First stop, Brittany.

 
Kate and Geoff Husband were two British teachers who spent most of their holidays biking in northern France. Eventually, their vacations became their profession when they opened Breton Bikes Cycling Holidays in 1989 in the small town of Pontivy. Based smack in the middle of Brittany, the northwestern section of France that juts out into the Atlantic, Breton Bikes offer one and two-week self-guided tours to some of the Husband’s favorite haunts. With small rural towns, exquisite coastline views, and very few tough climbs (the highest point in Brittany is just over 1,000 feet), this region of France is ideal for biking. Price of one-week tours including rooms at small B&Bs, breakfast, routes, bikes, and full backup in case you get a flat starts at a mere 685 Euros. If you prefer to camp, the cost plummets to 285 Euros (excluding food). The Husbands supply all equipment necessary. 
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 02/08/16 at 06:00 AM
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Friday, December 18, 2015

Top 5 Adventures in Florida, Bike Ding Darling National Refuge

The best way to see the alligators and amazing birdlife at “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge on Sanibel Island is on two wheels. This way you can slow down and see birds hidden in trees that you would miss if you zipped by in a car. Get here early before it gets too hot to catch the wildlife at its most active. Then make your way over to the beaches at low tide. Sanibel is one of the finest spots on the Florida coast to find pristine seashells, especially during the months of 
February, March, and April. You might return back to your hotel room with sand dollars, whelks, even a conch shell, but realize that taking live shells is strictly prohibited. 
 
I’m off the next two weeks on a much needed break. I’ll be back the week of January 4th with my 5 Favorite Travel Days of 2015.
 
Have a Happy, Healthy, and Active New Year!

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 12/18/15 at 06:00 AM
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Monday, December 14, 2015

Top 5 Adventures in Florida, Biking the Shark Valley Loop, Everglades National Park

If you happen to be in Miami and crave an authentic outdoor experience away from the trendy restaurants and clubs in South Beach, take an hour-long drive on the Tamiami Trail (Route 41) to Shark Valley Visitor Center in Everglades National Park. Try to get here on the early side (before 11 am), because the parking lot fills up quick, and bring water and sandwiches for lunch. Then rent a bike and head out on the 15-mile paved Shark Valley route. Far from the deafening noise of a propeller boat, a tourist magnet in these parts, you get to bike at your own pace along canals teeming with alligators, turtles, and an extraordinary amount of large birds. It took my family of four almost an hour to bike one mile because we had to stop every 50 yards to get a photo of that gator basking in the sun next to the bike trail. Don’t worry. They could care less about you and no one’s ever been attacked on the route. Usually near the alligator was an anhinga drying its wings on a branch, and wood storks and white whooping cranes standing tall in the shallow water. There was every type of heron imaginable, from the stocky black-crowned night heron to the long-legged great blue heron. Another highlight was the pink roseate spoonbills resting in the dense sagebrush along the canal. Stop midway at the observation deck to get a good overview of the Everglades topography, a mix of sinuous waterways and tall swaying grass. This is also a good spot to have that sandwich or snack you brought before heading back. 

 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 12/14/15 at 06:00 AM
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Friday, October 09, 2015

Top 5 Bike Rides in America During Fall Foliage, Sedona, Arizona

Who needs red leaves when you have red rocks? Looking at Sedona’s blend of twisted monoliths, mesas, and hoodoos will get you motivated to ride, especially during the cooler days of autumn. Twenty-six miles of rarely used dirt trails wind through the heart of Red Rock Country from Boynton Canyon Road, opposite the Enchantment Resort. Once you tire of these, try the Old Stagecoach Road, an abandoned route that ventures north to Flagstaff. For a breather, hop off your bike and meditate at one of Sedona's renowned vortices, spiritual sites that attract thousands of visitors each year. Absolute Bikes offers rentals and will work with you to map out an itinerary for the day.

 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 10/09/15 at 06:00 AM
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Thursday, October 08, 2015

Top 5 Bike Rides in North America During Fall Foliage, Prince Edward Island

Take a chunk of Vermont and plop it down in the Gulf of St. Lawrence and voila, you have Prince Edward Island. This sylvan setting lends itself well to road biking, especially in the fall when the summer crowds are long gone and the maples provide a colorful backdrop. The Canadian Pacific railroad that once connected Prince Edward Island’s small villages last roared through the interior in 1989, leaving in its wake hundreds of kilometers of track. By 2000, the tracks were pulled and the line replaced with a surface of finely crushed gravel, creating a biking and walking thoroughfare called the Confederation Trail. Crossing the entire island, the trail starts in Tignish in the west and rolls 279 kilometers to the eastern terminus in Elmira. One of the most scenic stretches starts in Mt. Stewart in King’s County along the sinuous Hillsborough River. You’ll soon reach St. Peter’s Bay, a large inlet dotted with mussel farms and lobster traps. After crossing a bridge that rewards you with glimpses of the island’s fabled red cliffs, you’ll arrive at the rolling Greenwich Dunes, a perfect place to bring that picnic lunch. Stay at Inn at St. Peters, a favorite stopover in PEI for many of our clients. 

 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 10/08/15 at 06:00 AM
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Wednesday, October 07, 2015

Top 5 Bike Rides in America During Fall Foliage, Bend, Oregon

If you’re just checking in, I’m devoting this week to my favorite places to road bike during fall foliage. Autumn colors are not usually associated with the Northwest, the land of conifers. Yet, due east of Bend, aspen groves provide enough color to satisfy the local contingent of riders. It doesn’t hurt that the backdrop is the Cascade Range, with North, Middle, and South Sister Mountains rising 10,000 feet above town. A great 32-mile jaunt takes you north of Bend along Innes Market and Tumalo Roads to take in that glorious variety of terrain central Oregon is blessed with—high desert, snowcapped peaks, sparkling lakes, raging rivers, and flower-filled meadows. Start at Hutch’s Bicycle Shop in Bend (where you can rent bikes and pick up the detailed route) and head northwest on Columbia Street. Three miles in, you’ll be coasting downhill past Shevlin Park gaping in awe at the Cascade Mountains and the splash of color in the nearby forest of aspens and poplars. Pedal along the Deschutes River and then stop in Tumalo, the midpoint of the loop, to fill up your water bottles or have lunch at El Caporal. You’ll need that extra burst of energy for the steady climb back into Bend. Afterwards, don’t miss the microbrews on the patio of Crux Fermentation Project, well-earned.  

 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 10/07/15 at 06:00 AM
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Tuesday, October 06, 2015

Top 5 Bike Rides in America During Fall Foliage, Asheville, North Carolina

If you think fall foliage is only relegated to the northeast, you haven’t been to Asheville, North Carolina in late October and early November. Leaves on the dogwoods, sweetgums, mountain ash, red maples, poplars, and birches all change color. Locals avoid biking on the famed Blue Ridge Parkway this time of year, unless you like weaving in and out of the leaf peeper congestion. The folks at Liberty Bicycles will provide bikes and steer you away from the traffic, leading you to nearby Burnsville for a favorite local ride. Park your car at an old gas station on Highway 19 just past the turn off to Highway 19E. Then head west on 19 and get ready for a great rural ride, North Carolina-style. On this 37-mile loop, you’ll bike alongside the Cane and North Toe Rivers and over suspension bridges past old tobacco farms, country stores, and small churches. Except for one steep hill in the beginning, the ride is relatively flat. Be on the lookout for deer, and if you do the loop on Sunday, make sure to bag a lunch in Asheville, because most stores are closed.  

 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 10/06/15 at 06:00 AM
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Monday, October 05, 2015

My Top 5 Bike Rides in America During Fall Foliage, Addison Valley, Vermont

Any avid road biker will tell you that Addison Valley, Vermont, is easily one of the top five biking destinations in North America. The backcountry roads have very little car traffic, great uphill climbs and downhill runs, and around every bend is another dairy farm, massive red barn, white church steeple, and glorious vistas of Green Mountains and Adirondack Mountains separated by the waters of Lake Champlain. Head there within the next two weeks and those views will be even more breathtaking when rural roads radiate with colors comparable to Monet’s finest Impressionist works. If you want a local to design your route based on mileage, go on a self-guided bike tour with Country Inns Along the Trail. Depending on your ability, they will design itineraries from 15 to 60 miles a day, with most bikers averaging 25 to 30 miles. You simply leave your car at the first inn and they will transport your luggage to the next night’s lodging, extending the trip as long as you like. Price starts at $155 a night per person, including lodging, dinner, breakfast, and transport of luggage. They also design hiking inn-to-inn routes. 
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 10/05/15 at 06:00 AM
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Tuesday, September 08, 2015

Acadia National Park Week: Biking Schoodic Peninsula

If they call the western half of Mount Desert Island the Quiet Side, they should call Schoodic Peninsula the Secret Side. Still part of Acadia National Park, Schoodic is a good hour drive from Bar Harbor, so few people outside of Mainers in the know head here. Do yourself a favor and follow their cue. You’ll thank me. On a day when two large cruise ships dropped off over 4,000 people into Bar Harbor, we took a ferry smaller than a tugboat, The Quoddy Bay, and took off to Winter Harbor, the gateway to the Schoodic Peninsula. There’s no longer any need to drive to Schoodic, especially if you want to bike the 10 to 12-mile loop. You can get here on a scenic hour-long boat ride ($39 round-trip, including bicycle), mesmerized by the views of pine-studded islands, the mountainous shoreline, and the granite cliffs. 

Acadia National Park has made it easy for bikers to access the Schoodic Peninsula. The paved road Park Loop is one way with two lanes, so cars can easily pass you. Secondly, this summer they just created 8 miles of carriage path trails, hard-packed gravel routes only available to bikers and hikers. After taking the Park Loop, we would return via the carriage path trails, crossing the entirety of the peninsula past the new national park campground that opened last Wednesday. Most importantly, there’s very little traffic here. This is a very serene part of the national park that few venture to. 
 
We biked along the rocky shoreline, stopping to walk atop a breakwater and watch the tide rush out to sea. All around you is the Atlantic with another memorable seascape to savor, be it a lone sailboat gliding through the open water, an unchartered island just offshore, or pink granite ledges that form one of the highlights, Schoodic Point. People pull over anywhere along the loop to picnic, swim, or take short walks like the East Trail, which climbs a half-mile to 440-foot high Schoodic Head. 
 
Near Schoodic Point is another worthwhile stopover, the Schoodic Education and Research Center, housed in a stone and brick building John D. Rockefeller, Jr., created for the US Navy in 1935. Recently renovated, the building is now home to the nonprofit Schoodic Institute, an educational and research group dedicated to conservation and ecology. Head inside to see exhibitions on the local wildlife and the Navy’s history of monitoring encrypted messages inside this building. There are many surprises on Schoodic Peninsula, so don’t hesitate to make the extra effort to get here. 
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 09/08/15 at 06:00 AM
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Monday, August 31, 2015

Bike to Madaket Beach on Nantucket

Next week, I’m excited to be reporting live from Acadia National Park to help promote their 100th birthday in 2016. This week, I want to describe some of my favorite adventures along the New England coast. The week before Labor Day, crowds tend to thin out as many kids are headed back to school. Take advantage of this opportunity to bike, hike, and sea kayak with far less people. First stop is Nantucket. 

 
Bike trails on Nantucket branch off in every direction, like the spokes on a wheel. My favorite ride, especially in the late afternoon when it cools down a bit, is the 6-mile jaunt from town to Madaket Beach. Grab your loved one, a bottle of wine and some picnic fare and head out on Cliff Road. You’ll quickly meet up with the Cliff Trail as you pass the rolling meadows and red-winged blackbirds at Tupancy Links conservation land. Merge with the Madaket Trail and you might be greeted by flittering goldfinches and osprey peering out from their oversized nests. When the trail becomes sandy and you can hear the pounding surf, you know you’re getting close. On the westernmost part of the island, the beach slopes down to the crashing waves. All around you is water, as if you’re stepping off land into the great abyss. Drink your wine and relax. If you don’t have the energy to do the return trip, the Wave bus runs until 11:20 pm and has a front rack for two bikes. 
 
Spend the night at the Century House on Cliff Road and they’ll have a bike from Nantucket Bike Shop waiting for you. They will also direct you on other routes to Brant Point and Sankaty Head lighthouses. Rooms, including full breakfast, start at $175 
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 08/31/15 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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