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Biking

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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Wednesday, August 12, 2015

A Favorite Bike Ride on Cape Cod

Cape Cod is so close to Boston that I often drive there on a day trip, which is exactly what I plan to do a week from today with the family. This is the ride we usually do. We start on Main Street in Orleans in the lot next to Orleans Cycle and head out on the Cape Cod Rail Trail toward Eastham. Soon we pass the velvety marsh, where red-winged blackbirds sit atop the swaying cattails and cormorants dry their wings on floating docks. At Locust Road, we veer right off the CCRT and cross over Route 6 to reach the Cape Cod National Seashore Visitor Center. This is the start of a 2-mile bike trails that sweeps up and down through the forest and marsh, leaving you off at Coast Guard Beach, recently named one of the top 10 beaches in America. However, I think the beach up the road, Nauset Light, is more scenic, backed by towering dunes. We lock up our bikes and walk down the stairs to relax and go for a dip. 
 
Once back on the bikes, we take Cable Road past Three Sisters Lighthouses, three absurdly small lighthouses built in the mid-19th century. A left turn at the end of the road and a right turn on Brackett Road leads us back to the CCRT. Turn left towards Orleans and you’ll soon smell the fried clams of Arnold’s, a lobster-in-the-rough restaurant beloved by my family. Stand in the long line (most likely out the door), order from their vast selection of seafood, including lobster, fried clams, scallops, shrimp, and mounds of tender onion rings and grab a seat at one of the outdoor picnic tables. Afterwards, play a round of miniature golf or grab a brownie sundae. Continue on the CCRT through a tunnel and you’ll arrive back at the Orleans Cycle parking lot in less than 30 minutes. A perfect summer outing. 
 
Nauset Lighthouse, Cape Cod 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 08/12/15 at 06:00 AM
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Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Bike Cape Cod and the Islands this Summer

Those of you who have followed my writing over the years know I love biking on Cape Cod and the islands of Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket. All three locales are blessed with a network of bike trails that line the coastline, snake through the kettle ponds, or roll atop the dunes of the Province Lands Bike Trail at the tip of Cape Cod (a favorite family outing). So I was delighted to see that Massachusetts-based Great Freedom Adventures will be offering a 6-day guided bike tour to the Cape and Islands this summer. They’ll visit Provincetown, ride along most of the Cape Cod National Seashore to the Rockwellesque village of Chatham, before ferrying over to Nantucket and the Vineyard to bike a good chunk of both islands. Dates are June   14-19, July 12-17, and September 13-18. Cost is $2,595 per person, including all lodging, most meals, guides, and ferry tickets. Also ask about their Maritime Bike and Beer Adventure Tour which visits many microbrews while biking the scenic Cape Ann region of Massachusetts. 

 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 01/21/15 at 06:00 AM
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Tuesday, January 06, 2015

5 Favorite Travel Days in 2014, Biking Lake Geneva’s La Côte Region

Traveling to the Lake Geneva region of Switzerland this past September with Lisa, every day was a dream that could easily make this list. Seeing Dubuffet’s collection of art from the insane at Lausanne, strolling through the sculpted vineyards of the Lavaux, and taking a cruise over to the magical 12th-century castle on the rock, Chateau de Chillon, were all worthy of being chosen as my favorite days of the year. But the day that sticks out most in my memory was the most authentic experience, electric biking through the La Côte vineyards just outside the town of Nyon.
 
If you want to bike through vineyards with only locals on charming hillside towns reminiscent of Burgundy, follow in my footsteps. When we arrived at the Nyon train station to meet our guide, there were no more bikes to rent, only electric bikes. So off we went, zipping on a paved trail through the neighboring community of Prangins, staring in awe at 15,781-foot Mont Blanc, the highest peak in Europe, which rises from the French side of Lake Geneva. In the town of Gland, we filled up our water bottles in one of the many public fountains, where water comes from the same reservoir that supplies the nearby homes. 
 
Then we headed for the hills and were instantly enchanted by the town of Luins. We met Laurent Vigneron, the winemaker and owner of the picturesque Chateau de Luins, ready to start his fall harvest in less than a week. He took us into rooms holding immense oak barrels, some dating from as far back as 1922. We sampled his wines, a smooth pinot noir and a dry white created from the region’s favored grape, Chasselas, realizing instantly why the Swiss keep most of their wine for themselves. From Luins, we biked on a trail through the vineyards into the storybook town of Bursins, where a Medieval Cluny church still stands with requisite watchtower in the town center. A historic whitewashed chateau, now an upscale lodging called Chateau Le Rosey, peered down from the hillside. Across the street was a house straight out of a French countryside movie set with a wooden tile roof covered in moss. 
 
We had lunch at Café de L’Union, known for its deep-fried gruyere cheese puff they call the Malakoff. Another specialty was the blue trout caught at a nearby river, which did arrive on our plate the color blue. It was served with cornichons and French fries. Perfect. After lunch, we headed downhill through cornfields waiting to be reaped and apple trees bending over with the latest crop. We past a horseback rider and soon took Route 1 along the lake to the town of Rolle. Quickly changing into swimwear, we had a paddleboard lesson at the Paddle Center. Soon we were gliding out on the placid blue waters of Lake Geneva, again mesmerized by the mountain panorama. An image I won’t quickly forget. 
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 01/06/15 at 06:00 AM
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Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Seeing Toronto’s Neighborhoods by Bike

One of my favorite excursions lately is to get an overview of a city on a guided bike tour. In a short amount of time, you can see a good chunk of the city, learn about the history of the locale, visit intriguing buildings and public art only a local would know, ask for a list of recommended restaurants, and yes, get a decent workout. In the past two months, I had great rides in Reykjavik and Portland, Maine. So when I heard that Toronto Bicycle Tours was still offering their 4-hour, 10-mile “Heart of Downtown” ride in mid-October, I was in.

 
It was crisp, sunny autumn day when I met my guide, Terrence Eta, got adjusted to my hybrid bike, and threw on my helmet. He started with an overview of the city’s British heritage at stately Osgoode Hall, one of the oldest buildings in the city, built in 1832. Then it was on to the urban plaza, Nathan Phillips Square to view the new and old city hall, and Eaton Center, the busiest mall in Canada. We cruised into Old Town, known for its distinctive yellow brick, to stop at the circa-1903 King Eddy hotel, now the Omni King Edward Hotel. Terrence mentioned that in 1964, the Beatles stayed here on their first trip to Toronto. It also caused another commotion that year when Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton rented a suite together--while married to other spouses. 
 
A short pedal led to the Financial District and skyscrapers designed by starchitects I.M. Pei and Mies van der Rohe. Then we cruised past the St. Lawrence Market, named the number one food market in North America by National Geographic (try the classic peameal bacon sandwich at Carousel Bakery) and into the Distillery District. In the 1870s, this was the largest distillery of whisky in North America. Today it’s home to microbreweries like the local favorite, Mill Street, art galleries, restaurants, and the beloved chocolatier, Soma. Next stop was Sugar Beach on the Lake Ontario shoreline, named for its proximity to the massive Redpath sugar refinery. 
 
A quick stop below the CN Tower to peer up at the intrepid Edge Walkers, before we circled the Rogers Centre, home to the Toronto Blue Jays, and cruised along John Street to Grange Park. This is one of the special spots in the city, where you’ll find budding photographers snapping pictures of the backside of the Art Gallery of Ontario, with Frank Gehry’s signature staircase jutting out of the building, and the storied “Tabletop” building to the right. Then we checked off Chinatown at the corner of Spadina and Dundas, the vintage stores and coffee shops at Kensington Market, and the ethnic restaurants that line Baldwin Village. Few know the city better that Terrence who grew up here and went to the University of Toronto, and it showed. Highly recommended! 
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 10/22/14 at 06:00 AM
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Wednesday, October 01, 2014

Biking the La Côte Region on the Outskirts of Nyon

With rows of grapes clinging to the steep mountainside overlooking Lake Geneva, the vineyards of the Lavaux Region certainly deserves its recognition as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Yet, with that distinction comes an increase in tourism. If you want to bike through vineyards with only locals on charming hillside towns reminiscent of Burgundy, follow in my footsteps and head to the La Côte vineyards just outside the town of Nyon. We rented bikes at the Nyon train station and biked on a paved trail through the neighboring community of Prangins, staring in awe at 15,781-foot Mont Blanc, the highest peak in Europe, rising mightily from the French side of Lake Geneva. In the town of Gland, we filled up our water bottles in one of the many public fountains, where water comes from the same reservoir that supplies the nearby homes. We passed the Toblerone Hiking Trail that leads from the lakeshore high into the mountains, named after the concrete structures that line the trail that are the exact same shape as Toblerone chocolate.

 
Then we headed for the hills and were instantly enchanted by the town of Luins. We met Laurent Vigneron, the winemaker and owner of the picturesque Chateau de Luins, ready to start his fall harvest in less than a week. He took us into rooms holding immense oak barrels, some dating from as far back as 1922. We sampled his wines, a smooth pinot noir and a dry white created from the region’s favored grape, Chasselas, realizing instantly why the Swiss keep most of their wine for themselves. From Luins, we biked on a trail through the vineyards into the storybook town of Bursins, where a Medieval Cluny church still stands with requisite watchtower in the town center. A historic whitewashed chateau, now an upscale lodging called Chateau Le Rosey, peered down from the hillside. Across the street was a house straight out of a French countryside movie set with a wooden tile roof covered in moss. 
 
We had lunch at Café de L’Union, known for its deep-fried gruyere cheese puff they call the Malakoff. Another specialty was the blue trout caught at a nearby river, which did arrive on our plate the colored blue. It was served with cornichons and French fries. Perfect. After lunch, we headed downhill through cornfields waiting to be reaped and apple trees bending over with the latest crop. We past a horseback rider and soon took Route 1 along the lake to the town of Rolle. Quickly changing into swimwear, we had a paddleboard lesson from Jason at the Paddle Center. Soon we were gliding out on the placid blue waters of the small harbor, again mesmerized by the mountain panorama. Another memorable day in the Lake Geneva Region!
 
 
 
 
 
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 10/01/14 at 04:00 AM
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Monday, September 22, 2014

Biking Reykjavik

With its magical mix of volcanoes, glaciers, waterfalls, geysers, rugged coastline, green meadows, and geothermal spas like the acclaimed Blue Lagoon, it’s no wonder that Iceland has become a popular destination for our clientele. It’s also an easy 5-hour flight from the East Coast and a free stopover on Icelandair to other European destinations like Stockholm, Copenhagen, or Barcelona. So there’s no excuse not to check it out. I just spent a week in the country and had a great time. My first outing was a morning bike ride with Reykjavik Bike Tours to get an overview of the city where two-thirds of the Iceland’s population of 330,000 resides. 

 
We biked past one of Reykjavik’s signature buildings, the recently built Harpa Concert Hall, a gleaming glass building that reflects both sky and water. Then we cruised into the heart of the city on cobblestone streets to one of the most historic neighborhoods, simply called 101. At the Parliament Building, we learned about Iceland’s 2008 bankruptcy and their historic vote not to pay off their debt to the UK. “Instead of cash, we gave them ash,” said our guide, referring to the volcanic ash disruption of international flights in 2010. We stopped at one of the 120 outdoor pools in the city, open year-round and heated by the abundant thermal energy. We also biked past Bjork’s modest home and pedaled through the University of Iceland’s campus, home to 17,000 students, 70% of whom are women (note to son: this is the school where you want to spend your semester abroad). 
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 09/22/14 at 10:00 AM
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Thursday, September 11, 2014

My 5 Favorite Fall Adventures in North America, Biking the Confederation Trail, Prince Edward Island

Biking slightly uphill outside of Hunter’s River, horse farms replace dairy farms and the velvety green pasture flourishes. Purple lupines line the trail to add their color to the brilliant canvas. I was on my final ride of a three-day bike tour of Prince Edward Island one September, on assignment for Canadian Geographic magazine. Hunter’s River is less than a 15-minute drive from the fabled dunes and red cliffs of Cavendish, the PEI tourist hub made famous by that young girl in braids, Anne of Green Gables. Close to civilization yet far enough removed to relish the solitude (I’ve only greeted one other biker this day), I’m lost in a bucolic setting that has changed little since Lucy Maud Montgomery penned her timeless novel in 1908. 

 
Oh yes, there is one difference. The Canadian Pacific railroad that once connected the 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. It starts in Tignish on the island’s western tip and rolls 279 kilometers to the eastern terminus in Elmira. 
 
The hum of trains long gone, I hopped on my bike and pedaled through a tunnel of dense pines that effectively blocked out the world. There was not a soul around and the chaos of modernity was replaced with the melody of birds chirping. I was biking into a bygone era, a serene spot where a girl named Anne could have easily grown up without too much duress. 
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 09/11/14 at 10:00 AM
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Wednesday, September 10, 2014

My 5 Favorite Fall Adventures in North America, Biking and Hiking Zion National Park

An hour’s drive northeast of Las Vegas, rows of creosote bushes and gnarly-looking Joshua trees lead to ridges of sandstone. Crossing into Utah, these walls of rock become far more dramatic, shaped into a phantasmagoric blend of towering cliff walls, slot canyons, lonely buttes, and organ-shaped mesas. It’s a harsh, rugged terrain, best suited for pioneers and as a backdrop for 1940s Westerns. You half expect John Wayne to pop out of the bush and mutter, “I’m hoping to round up a posse and you’re it.” 

 
The unforgiving rock is also ripe for adventure. October 2012, three close friends and I signed on to a 4-day jaunt with the reputable West Coast outfitter, Bicycle Adventures. The itinerary took full advantage of jaw-dropping scenery, offering two days of riding through Zion National Park and Snow Canyon State Park, and then two days of hiking on classic Zion trails, within a narrow slot canyon and atop Angel’s Landing, a precipitous perch better suited for the condors we would spot. This was not some pansy-ass undertaking, but a thigh-burning workout with sustained climbs longer than 7 miles on two wheels and a steep ascent up Angel’s Landing on two legs. The best form of therapy.
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 09/10/14 at 09:59 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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