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Biking

Monday, March 08, 2010

Biking the 15-mile Shark Valley Loop, Everglades National Park, Florida

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 Loop. 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 were 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 03/08/10 at 02:00 PM
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Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Bike the Indian Continent from Agra to Kanyakumari

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, and 7500-mile Vuelta Sudamericana that traveled from Rio to Quito. Starting in January 2011, they will set their sites on India, cycling from the Taj Mahal to the southern tip of the country, passing though the desert cities of Rajasthan, the city of Mumbai, and the beaches of Goa. You can take the trip in its entirety (2050 miles) from January 29 to March 15, 2011 or split it up into sections. The $5200 cost includes guides, van support, and lodging. A much needed masseuse for those tired calves is extra.
 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 02/24/10 at 02:00 PM
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Monday, February 22, 2010

Go Straight to the Source in Vietnam

One of the reasons I started ActiveTravels was for people across the globe to tell me about their favorite spots to enjoy the outdoors. It’s simply impossible for one travel writer to know all the active hotspots around the world. I also wanted local outfitters who specialize in one region of the world to check in and tell me what they’re doing. A decade ago, I wrote an article for Budget Travel magazine telling reader to go straight to the source. Instead of spending gobs of money to hire an American outfitter to take you to Vietnam, where they simply hire local guides to show you around, go straight to those guides! No one knows their country better than locals and their trips are usually far cheaper. Thankfully, indigenous outfitters are starting to find me and I’m happy to plug them. Just last week, I received an email from Dung Van Nguyen from Green Trail Tours, an outfitter based in Hanoi who has spent the past nine years bringing people around Vietnam. They have trips for bikers, kayakers, trekkers, rafters, you name it, practically any activity you want to do in the country. The cost is as low as $990 US dollars for a 9-day guided bike tour, including lodging and meals.
 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 02/22/10 at 02:00 PM
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Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Self-Guided Bike Trips Gaining in Popularity

As outfitters are looking to cut costs, self-guided bike trips are becoming the norm. Last week, I received a press release from uber-sybaritic bike touring company, Butterfield & Robinson, stating that they are now offering self-guided bike trips. Yes, the company that built its reputation on biking to 14th-century chateaus in Loire Valley and then dining on a gluttonous five course meal with their small groups is now offering self-guided bike trips. Though it seems foolish to pay B&R prices for a trip where they don’t cater to your every whim. A better option is the more affordable Bike Tours Direct, which offers ten self-guided trips to Europe this summer, including jaunts into France’s Loire Valley and along the Danube River in Austria.

 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 02/09/10 at 02:00 PM
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Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Biking and Sailing Egypt

While we’re on the subject of intriguing tours, Beyond Boundaries Travel out of Colorado Springs has teamed with Flash Tour of Cairo to create new biking and sailing trips in Egypt. So far, there are two 8-day itineraries, one along the Red Sea, heading into the undiscovered Eastern Desert. The second seems more exciting, heading to the pyramids along the Nile River between Aswan and Luxor. Since Egypt can get pretty hot in the spring and summer months, most of the biking is done in the early morning. You’ll visit Luxor Temple, Valley of the Kings, and many small villages that will be stunned to see a group of bikers riding by. All of the trips are guided and van-supported if you get tired, and include all lodgings and food. Trips start at an affordable $1153 per person.

 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 01/26/10 at 02:00 PM
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Thursday, January 21, 2010

Top 5 Adventures in Florida, Biking the St. Johns River-to-Sea Loop

Co-founders of the non-profit Bike Florida, Linda Crider and Herb Hiller have spent the past 30 years leading the Florida biking movement. This past October, they launched their first long-distance bike tour, a 260-mile weeklong jaunt that starts and ends in Palatka on the St. John’s River. You’ll cruise on backroads to America’s oldest city, Saint Augustine, the Merritt Island and Lake Woodruff National Wildlife Refuges, state parks, and along the Atlantic Ocean, with numerous beaches to stop and rest. All tours are fully supported with luggage-carrying vehicles, on-road guides, maps, overnights in B&Bs, breakfasts, dinners, and naturalist-led programs. Hiller is a longtime travel writer who specializes in Florida, so few no this state better than him. Cost is $1250 per person and the tours are available fall, winter, and spring.
 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 01/21/10 at 02:00 PM
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Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Dream Trips 2010, Biking Vietnam

Vietnam is that coveted destination that’s jaw-droppingly beautiful, yet still not overrun with tourism. Traveling this lush, mostly flat country by bike (the locals’ preferred transportation method) is an ideal way to see it. Many biking outfitters like VBT, Backroads, and Butterfield & Robinson now offer guided bike trips across the country. Pedaling 15 to 50 miles per day, you’ll roll past untrammeled coastline, terraced emerald rice paddies, ultra-green mountains, and rarely visited rural villages. Many of the trips starts in Ho Chi Minh City and ends in Hanoi, so you’ll have time to explore urban Vietnam, as well. All include post-trips to Angkor Wat in Cambodia. Sign me up!

 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 01/13/10 at 02:00 PM
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Friday, January 08, 2010

My Top 5 Adventures in 2009, 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 celebrated its 150th birthday in 2009. See my review of the wines at Everett Potter's Travel Report.

 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 01/08/10 at 02:00 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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