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Biking

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Bike New England and New York with Great Freedom Adventures

I love an outfitter who sticks to one region of the world and does it well, especially when the owner lives in that region and knows it better than most. Before founding Great Freedom Adventures, Jeanne Rummel ran the Mountains to Sea bike tour across Massachusetts, a successful fundraiser for the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation of America. Now the Mass native brings riders to her favorite haunts in Northeast, including the North Shore of Massachusetts, Block Island, Vermont, and the often overlooked Hudson Valley of New York. Rummel not only understands the salubrious benefits of a good day’s bike ride, both physically and mentally, but goes out of her way to show visitors a local cheese maker, a historic lighthouse, or the same incredible panorama painted by Thomas Cole and the Hudson River School painters in the mid-19th century. The daily itinerary includes a good dose of biking along with a chance to sea kayak, go on sunset sails, have lobster bakes, and take a necessary break at a local microbrewery. Not a bad way to push the eject button and de-stress!
 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 04/26/11 at 12:59 PM
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Monday, April 25, 2011

Boston to Launch Bike-Share Program

Good news out of Boston last week when Mayor Menino announced that the city will follow in the footsteps of Montreal and Denver and initiate a bike-sharing program this summer. Set to open in July, the Hubway will feature 600 bikes in 61 stations throughout the city. Pay a yearly or daily membership fee and the cost of rental for the ride (trips shorter than 30 minutes will be free) and off you go. Alta Bicycle Share, the company that designed the bike-sharing program in Washington, DC, and Melbourne, Australia, has been hired to oversee the Boston network. There are already plans to expand to neighboring Cambridge, Brookline, and Somerville in 2012.
 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 04/25/11 at 01:00 PM
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Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Biking in Calgary

With a mind-boggling 286 miles of bike trails, Calgary lays claim to the most extensive biking network on the continent. If you want to see the city sites, stick to the Bow River Corridor. This popular 12-mile (one-way) route passes the Calgary Zoo, Fort Calgary, built to stop Americans from trading whisky with Blackfoot, Chinatown, and Prince’s Island Park. The island is a popular venue for outdoor concerts and Shakespeare in the Park in the summer months. It’s also home to the top-tier River Café, featuring regional food for lunch and dinner like rainbow trout or an Alberta sirloin steak. Work off your meal on the Douglas Fir Hiking Trail in nearby Lawry Park. The shaded fir forest hides many vibrant wildlflowers in the summer months, like violet and dogwood.  Before you turn around at Edworthy Park, think about going on an exhilarating guided raft ride down the river. Bikers and joggers who want to get away from it all can visit Fish Creek Provincial Park in the southern part of Calgary, the only national park found in a metro area in Canada. 
 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 04/20/11 at 01:00 PM
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Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Bike the Texas Hill Country with Sojourn

Many of the people I meet who founded their active travel company have a genuine passion for the sport. Tom Hale spent over 5,000 miles on a bike the summer of 1979 prior to opening Backroads. When Susan Rand was in college, she would load her panniers witch camping gear and clothes and hit the road. Then she became athletic director at Champlain College in Burlington, Vermont, and worked for four years at Vermont Bicycle Tours prior to starting her own company, Sojourn, in 1995. Her fall foliage trips along the shores of Lake Champlain in her native Vermont are still the most popular weeklong jaunts. Yet, it’s the itineraries I don’t normally see in a catalog that I find most intriguing. In the summer, Sojourn heads to the Columbia River Gorge to bike between glorious Mount Hood and Mount Adams. In late fall and mid-winter, Rand takes riders to the Sonoran Desert outside Tucson to bike, hike in Saguaro National Park, and horseback ride in John Wayne country at the Rancho De La Osa Guest Ranch. New this spring is a trip to Texas Hill Country, an overlooked biking region outside of San Antonio that I’ve written about for National Geographic Adventure. Rand personally tries all of the trips she designs and this has quickly become one of her favorites. You’ll be biking under tall cypress trees on lonely backcountry roads past large cattle ranches and fields of bluebonnets that are in bloom in early spring. You’ll also visit the Alamo and LBJ Ranch. So saddle up and get out there on your next sojourn.
 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 03/16/11 at 01:00 PM
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Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Top 5 Travels of 2010, Biking Shark Valley, The Everglades, Florida

Another great day ride, this one an hour outside of Miami. Drive west on the Tamiami Trail (Highway 41) and you’ll reach the Shark Valley Visitor Center at the northern tip of Everglades National Park. Rent bikes from the rangers and get ready for one of the most exhilarating 15-mile loops of your life. More than likely, it will take you an hour to bike that first mile. That’s because you’ll want to stop every 20 yards or so to get another photograph of an alligator sleeping in the tall grass, large turtles sunbathing on rocks, and the extraordinary amount of birdlife that call the canal next to the bike trail home. Anhingas dry their wings on the branches of the gumbo limbo tree, wood storks, white whooping cranes, and the long-legged great blue heron stand tall in the shallow water, while pink roseate spoonbills fly over the royal palms. This ride is ideal for any budding wildlife photographer.

(Photo credit: Lisa Leavitt)
 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 01/04/11 at 02:00 PM
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Monday, January 03, 2011

Top 5 Travels of 2010, Biking to Giverny, France

I can think of no better way to start 2011 than to look back at my year of travels in 2010 and see which experiences surpassed all expectations. Last July, I took the family to Paris. We climbed up the Eiffel Tower, viewed the monumental works of art at the Louvre, Musée d'Orsay, and Pompidou museums, shopped in the Marais, celebrated my brother’s birthday with a lavish spread at a friend's home in the 16th arrondissement, and toured an overlooked museum devoted to French innovation, Musee des Arts et Metiers. The highlight for me, however, was our one day away from Paris on a bike tour to Giverny, the home of Claude Monet. Run by Fat Tire Bike Tours, we took a short train ride to the village of Vernon. As soon as we arrived, we were handed our bikes and visited an outdoor market to stock up on creamy Reblochon cheese, tasty Rosette de Lyon sausage, and hot-out-of-the-oven baguettes from the nearby boulangerie. We had our picnic lunch in a park overlooking swans swimming in the Seine, and then headed out on a 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 65 Euros per biker, a perfect day trip for our family of four.
 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 01/03/11 at 02:00 PM
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Thursday, September 23, 2010

Fall Foliage Bike Rides Across America

Last autumn, I wrote a story for Body + Soul Magazine on great fall biking outside of New England. Here are my three picks:

Keuka Lake, New York
Vineyards paired with lakefront pedaling create a perfect day of biking in the Finger Lakes region of western New York. Rent bikes and grab a map from Wheels Unlimited in Bath and then head north to Hammondsport and the shores of Keuka Lake. On Route 54A, you’ll find the award-winning Rieslings created at Dr. Konstantin Frank’s Vinifera Wine Cellars. Have a sip, but save some energy to roll up and down the road, stopping atop bluffs to admire the glorious vistas of the water. 

Asheville, North Carolina
Come to Asheville in late October, early November and you’ll find the leaves on the dogwoods, sweetgums, and mountain ash all changing color. The reason why the famed Blue Ridge Parkway is so congested with leaf peepers.  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. On this 37-mile loop, you’ll bike over suspension bridges past old tobacco farms and country stores.

Bend, Oregon
Autumn colors are not usually associated with the Northwest, the land of conifers. Yet, outside of Bend, aspen groves provide enough color to excite the local contingent of riders.  Rent bikes and grab a detailed map at Hutch’s Bicycle Shop in Bend for the start of a glorious 32-mile ride that takes advantage of central Oregon’s variety of terrain—sage-scented high desert, sparkling lakes, raging rivers, flower-filled meadows, and snowcapped North, Middle, and South Sister Mountains rising 10,000 feet above town. Spend your night at the six-room Lara House, conveniently located across from Drake Park in the center of town. Then grab a microbrew or homemade ginger ale at Deschutes Brewery, dutifully earned after the ride.
 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 09/23/10 at 01:00 PM
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Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Top 5 Fall Foliage Picks in New England, Biking Addison County, Vermont

Nestled between Lake Champlain and the Adirondacks to the west and the spine of the Green Mountains to the east, Addison County is a fertile breadbasket chockfull of dairy farms, vegetable stands, apple orchards, and green fields as far as the eye can see. Bike through the heart of this bucolic slice of pie on backcountry roads that sweep up and down ridges and you’ll be rewarded with vistas in all directions. The spectacular scenery is enhanced in the fall when the maples offer the best of Mother Nature’s light show. 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. They’ll create a detailed map, shuttle luggage from one inn to the next, rent bikes, and help out in case of emergency. This is wonderful news for New Yorkers who can take the Amtrak train from Penn Station and five hours later be at the small Ticonderoga Station, a 6-minute ferry ride across Lake Champlain from Addison County. Country Inns Along the Trail can drop off your bikes, take your luggage, and off you go. Try to include the Shoreham Inn in your itinerary. Built in 1790 as a country inn, this post-and-beam house is now home to a gastropub manned by an excellent Irish chef, Dominic. They also serve Switchback Ale on tap, one of the many reasons why it’s become a favorite stopover for bikers.
 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 08/31/10 at 12:59 PM
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Friday, August 27, 2010

Bike Across North America

Tour d’Afrique, the socially responsible bike touring company out of Toronto, doesn’t fool around when they create their dream bike trips. In 2003, they traversed the entire African continent in four months, from Cairo to Capetown. Then came the 50-day jaunt on the Orient Express from Paris to Istanbul, the 2752-mile Silk Route ramble from Istanbul to Samarkand, the 7500-mile Vuelta Sudamericana that traveled from Rio to Quito, and the upcoming 2050-mile jaunt through India that starts in January. Now the company has just announced a new itinerary next summer that will cross North America, from San Francisco to Newfoundland. Starting on May 29th, they’ll bike for 76 days, averaging 106 km per day. Along the way, you’ll hit California wine country, the Grand Canyon, Route 66, Chicago, Toronto, and Montreal.  Cost of the entire tour is $9,950 per person or you can do one of the five shorter segments for $1800. Cost includes guides, van support, and lodging.

 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 08/27/10 at 01:00 PM
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Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Getting in Shape for that Fall Biking Trip

Just in case you missed this blog last August, I'm posting it again. It's that important! On a bike tour with Bike Vermont years ago, my brother and I watched as a guy, distracted by cows, flipped his bike over and broke his tooth. He said he hadn’t been on a bike in five years. Don’t make the same mistake. With many bikers heading out on fall foliage biking trips in the next month or two, now’s the time to get ready. Even if it’s a “No Experience Necessary” excursion, you should try the sport beforehand and be in somewhat decent shape. Don’t wait until the last minute to condition. If you plan on taking a week-long biking or walking outing, begin aerobic activity four to six weeks in advance, two to three times a week. And make sure you’re on the right trip by asking what level of fitness is required? Is this hike an obstacle course better suited for Marines, a stroll in the park, or somewhere in between? How many hours a day are we on the bike? You want to find an adventure that ideally suits your ability and prior experience in the sport. Brochures are not always accurate so it’s imperative to speak to a human being.  


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 08/25/10 at 01:00 PM
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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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