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Biking

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Biking the Cape of Good Hope

When Brit Mark Lawson followed his South African-born wife, Gaynor, to Cape Town, the avid cyclist was surprised that there was no reputable bike outfitter in the region. In 2009, he opened Cycle the Cape, offering day and multi-day jaunts to the Cape of Good Hope, the Garden Route, the Wine Country and Namibia. We booked a 2-day ride on the Cape Peninsula, a stunning mountainous sliver of land, surrounded on one side by the Atlantic Ocean and the other side, the Indian Ocean. On the first day, we were supposed to bike through Hout Bay and over Chapman’s Peak, but it was rainy and cold, so we chose to visit the penguins at Boulders Beach and had dinner on the beach at Fish Hoek, within easy walking distance to the flat we rented above Mark and Gaynor’s house. It was the first time on the trip that I felt like a local, not a tourist. 
 
The next morning, the sun was out and it was about 65 degrees Fahrenheit, a perfect day for biking in September. Mark and Gaynor drove us to the entrance of the Cape of Good Hope National Park at the tip of the peninsula. For the next 5 hours and 44 kilometers later, we would bike the entirety of the park. We biked past zebras, ostriches, and large antelopes called elands. We would pedal along the pounding waves of the Atlantic to take the requisite photo at the Cape of Good Hope sign. Then we proceeded uphill to the Cape Point Lighthouse, where the magnificent vista of high peaks and sandy beaches reached all the way to Cape Town’s signature Table Mountain. After an exhilarating downhill run where the ocean waters were a blur to the left and the right, we had lunch at a relatively new surfer and biker hangout in Scarborough, The Village Hub. It was the perfect day ride for us. Mark can custom-design the itinerary to fit your biking ability and provides road bikes, helmets, and lodging for overnight rides. He has also partnered with a lodge in Kruger National Park if you choose to end your trip with a 3 or 4-night safari. I might have to check that out if I ever get the chance to return and bike the Garden Route. 
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 09/29/16 at 06:00 AM
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Thursday, August 11, 2016

Bike Bermuda with Ciclismo Classico

Yesterday, I wrote about the importance of getting in shape for a multi-day fall bike trip. One of the more intriguing itineraries to come across my desk recently is a new 4-day ride around Bermuda with Boston-based biking outfitter, Ciclismo Classico. The trip is slated for 11/3-11/6, a great time of year to ride around the island. High temps in early November are in the mid-70s. Newstead Belmont Hills will offer luxury accommodations, dining, and a relaxing island vibe after cycling roughly 30 miles per day on flat and rolling terrain. The trip is being led by chef and cyclist, Jean Claude Garzia, who owns the French restaurant, Beau Rivage, on the island. Born in the south of France, Garzia has been living and working in Bermuda for more than 30 years and is the author of two cookbooks, including the latest “Bon Appetit Bermuda.” Cost of the trip is $2395 per person, all-inclusive, and the group is limited to 14 riders. 
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 08/11/16 at 06:00 AM
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Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Get in Shape for that Fall Biking Trip

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. If you’re looking for a particular destination or recommended outfitter, ActiveTravels is here to help. 
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 08/10/16 at 06:00 AM
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Friday, July 22, 2016

Biking Isle-aux-Coudres

To reach Isle-aux-Coudres, you take a free 15-minute ferry from the mainland. Once there, it feels as if all the woes of modernity are washed away, replaced by the salty air of the St. Lawrence and a serene island from yesteryear. If you were looking for a good workout, you could speed around the 23-km circumference of Isle-aux-Coudres in little over an hour. But then you would miss the stone houses and their carefully manicured potted plants in the windows, the rocky shoreline that creeps into the vast river at low tide, and the ski trails of Le Massif that slice down the mountainside on the opposite shores. If you don’t take your time, you won’t stop to snap photos of the small chapels not much larger than doll houses, tour a working windmill and watermill from the 1820s, and sample the hard apple cider and tasty apple and pear mistelle from Verger Pedneault. Most importantly, if you don’t slow down and appreciate the island on two wheels, you won’t meet the wonderful people, like Patricia Deslauriers, owner of Motel L’Islet, a professional jazz bassist who now owns a lodging on a peninsula that juts out of the southernmost part of the island. She wakes up every morning to a sunrise and goes to bed after a glorious sunset. She also brings world class musicians to the island every Sunday for concerts that often attract over 1,000 people. Then there’s the maitre’d at Hôtel Cap-aux-Pierres, who spends his winters at Langkawi, the cluster of islands off Malaysia in the Andaman Sea. Or the world champion kitesurfer who now teaches her sport to others at her kitesurfing and yoga studio on the island. Isle-aux-Coudres is a magical island, one where you foolishly spend one day and soon realize you should have spent a week.
 
I’m off to Quebec City for a little more biking on my last day. I’ll be back on Monday to talk about the lodging and food on my trip. I want to thank Cynthia Lacasse at Tourisme Quebec for helping to design a perfect week of multisport adventure in Lac-Saint-Jean, Saguenay, and Charlevoix. Next time, you come to Quebec City, make sure you extend your trip by at least 3 days to see this spectacular region of the province. Have a great weekend and keep active! 
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 07/22/16 at 05:30 AM
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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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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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