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Biking

Friday, April 27, 2012

San Antonio Week—Biking To the Pearl and Southtown on a B-Cycle

I love that San Antonio forged ahead and implemented a bike-sharing program, similar to the ones in Chicago, Denver, Boston, and Montreal. With its expanding network of trails, bike lanes on the roads, and a detailed biking map, the city is easy to get around on two wheels. Yesterday, I paid my $10 fee for 24 hours of use, grabbed a bike near the Alamo and dropped it off at the Pearl neighborhood, where I grabbed a tasty salmon sandwich for lunch at Sandbar. Then I cruised back downtown and did some work at my hotel. An hour later, I went back to the Alamo B-station, grabbed another bike, and pedaled past the King William neighborhood estates to the Blue Star Contemporary Art Center, a former warehouse that’s now a home for cutting-edge art in the city. I saw the latest exhibition and then grabbed a pint of King William ale at one of the outdoor table at the Blue Star Brewing Company. Finally, I picked up another bike at the Blue Star B-station and simply cruised back downtown. It was a breeze to use. 

 
It’s been great to see all the changes happening in San Antonio this week. I hope you’ve enjoyed it as much as I have. Enjoy the weekend! I’ll be back in Boston on Monday with a new blog.
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 04/27/12 at 11:00 AM
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Tuesday, April 24, 2012

San Antonio Week—Biking to the Missions

I recently read that San Antonio’s River Walk was the 14th most visited site in America, more popular than the Grand Canyon or Waikiki Beach in Honolulu. That doesn’t surprise me. Take the steps down to this soothing river, shaded by tall cypress, oaks, and willows and you feel transported to a tropical setting just below the busy downtown streets. In fact the River Walk has been such a smashing success that the city has been on a decade-long expansion to create a 13-mile linear park both north and south of downtown. With the 2009 opening of the Museum Reach, the River Walk doubled in length as it expanded north to the San Antonio Museum of Art and the emerging Pearl neighborhood (an upcoming blog). Even more exciting is the 10.2-mile long Mission Reach, south of the city, expected to be complete by November 2013. Yet, don’t wait another year to try this beauty strip. Phase I and II of the Mission Reach are already done, so you can rent a bike downtown and ride to one of my favorite sites in the city, the early 18th century missions, now a national historic park.
 
Last night I had Abel’s Bicycle Shop deliver a bike, helmet, lock, and detailed bike map to my downtown hotel, the Home 2 Suites by Hilton on Navarro Street. For the cost of $30 a day, Abel’s will also pick the bike up at your hotel when your riding day is done. This morning, I woke up early and veered onto South Alamo Street, where a bike lane led me to the Blue Star Contemporary Art Center. Next to this huge former warehouse, now hosting galleries and artists work space, is an entrance to the Mission Reach bike trail. It was a gorgeous morning as I headed south, peering at the numerous green herons, egrets, and families of ducks. When it warmed up, the turtles arrived to sunbathe on upturned logs on the river. Workers were busy restoring some of the 400 acres of river and six pedestrian bridges that will be added when the Mission Reach is finished. This being April, sunflowers and purple wildflowers were in bloom. 
 
At Mission Road, I turned right and visited the first of two Spanish colonial missions, Concepción, built in 1731.  The crumbling lime stone exterior, which leads to a still operable church, is incredibly photogenic, especially with the early morning sunshine pouring down. I continued on Mission Road another 3 miles to reach the largest mission, San José, known for its popular Mariachi Mass each Sunday. At its height, the missions would hold close to 300 people, working as a church, farm, and ranch. Franciscan friars gathered the native population, converted them to Catholicism, and taught them to live like Spaniards. At Mission San José, you can still see the small living quarters that surround the square layout. Inside the stone walls, overlooking the green and the church, the setting is serene.  When I had my fill, I simply retraced my steps back to the paved bike trail and took my time returning to downtown. 
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 04/24/12 at 12:00 PM
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Thursday, March 22, 2012

Bike Boston

Last summer, Boston followed in the footsteps of Montreal and Denver and initiated a bike-sharing program. The Hubway features 600 bikes in 61 stations throughout the city. You pay a yearly or daily membership fee and the cost of rental for the ride (trips shorter than 30 minutes are free) and bike from one station to any of the other stations. Alta Bicycle Share, the company that designed the bike-sharing program in Washington, DC, and Melbourne, Australia, was hired to oversee the Boston network. It was such a huge hit last summer that the Hubway reopened last week with plans to expand to neighboring Cambridge, Brookline, and Somerville. Sure, there were naysayers at first who said Boston drivers wouldn’t share the roads with bikers. But that’s an absurd excuse, because now they’ll just have to get use to us two-wheelers! 
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 03/22/12 at 01:00 PM
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Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Great Freedom Adventures Offers New Biking Trip to Martha’s Vineyard and Block Island

Ever since I wrote my first book, Outside Magazine’s Adventure Guide to New England, I’ve admired local outfitters who specialize in one sport and one region of the world. After all, who knows his neck of the woods better than the guy who lives there? These outfitters can’t afford a big splashy catalogue or a PR firm in New York or London to represent them, so you have to dig a little deeper to find companies like Great Freedom Adventures out of New England. What you’ll get in return are itineraries that direct you to the top locales in the area. Take, for example, Great Freedom Adventures’ new 6-day bike trip called the Islands and Seacoast Biking Tour. It seems intuitive to combine New England’s most majestic islands, Martha’s Vineyard and Rhode Island’s Block Island together in one summer bike trip, but I’ve never seen that done before. They also have guests staying one night in Newport and one night in Little Compton, Rhode Island, a real gem where I often bike on a day trip to Boston. The $2695 price includes all lodging, transportation, most meals, bike rentals, and guides.

 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 03/21/12 at 01:00 PM
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Thursday, February 02, 2012

VBT To Feature Culinary-Based Biking Trips in 2012

Call me nostalgic, but I’ve always been partial to VBT. In 1995, while researching my book, Outside Magazine’s Adventure Guide to New England, VBT took me on my first organized bike trip along the shores of Lake Champlain in Vermont. They have since expanded to all four corners of the Globe. Just ask my mother-in-law, who’s traveled with VBT to South Africa, Germany, and the Netherlands and raves about all those trips. This year, VBT will feature four culinary tours that sound very tasty. In April, they’ll travel to Puglia to bike along Italy’s Adriatic Coast and explore olive groves, sample local wines, and dive into dinners of fresh seafood and locally grown vegetables. In September and October, VBT will visit Provence to bike backcountry roads through the French countryside, enjoy a home-cooked meal, and stop at fromageries and wine bars. Last but certainly not least is their trip to Vietnam in November to bike past the verdant rice terraces and sample the indigenous fare at markets, family-run food shops, and your own Vietnamese cooking class. Also take a peek at their new destinations in 2012 like a sweet ride along Maryland’s Chesapeake Bay

 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 02/02/12 at 02:00 PM
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Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Butterfield & Robinson Introduces Bistro Trips

Other biking outfitters have tried to emulate Butterfield & Robinson, but none can approach George Butterfield’s panache. Since he started his company in 1966, Butterfield’s ultra-sybaritic jaunts have included biking through France’s Loire Valley where you spend the night at a different private castle each evening. All vacations should be this glamorous. Or should they? B&R has just announced that they will be offering a more casual alternative in 2012 called Bistro trips. Instead of castles, you’ll be staying at independent 3 and 4-star hotels and pensions. Instead of a gluttonous multi-course feast, expect simpler dinners that feature indigenous fare. Pricing on these Bistro trips is $2,000-$3,000 lower than their signature biking trips and initial destinations include Provence, Tuscany, Puglia, and Normandy.

 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 01/17/12 at 02:00 PM
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Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Favorite Travel Days 2011, Biking Along the Chicago Lakefront and Dining at Next

Chicagoans take full advantage of the warm weather to hit the shoreline of Lake Michigan and celebrate summer with a slew of festivals. This was certainly true in late June, when my wife and I arrived in city to grab a slice of Lou Malnati’s pizza at the big food festival, Taste of Chicago, and then wandered over to Navy Pier to rent bikes. Instead of heading north to Oak Street Beach, we pedaled south along Lake Michigan, passing Shedd Aquarium and the Soldiers Field. When we turned around, we had a glorious vista of the Chicago skyline, the City of Broad Shoulders gleaming under the cloudless sky. That night we dined at Next, the latest dining option from James Beard-award winning chef, Grant Achatz. Achatz changes the menu every three months and we were fortunate enough to dine on a prix-fixe menu that featured the specialties of Paris, 1906. Even more revolutionary is that the clientele at Next pay for their meal, drinks, tip, and tax in advance, like buying tickets for the theater or a concert. Demand is so great that ticket scalping for a table at Next had already become prevalent by the time we arrived. One taste of Achatz’s innovative fare and you understand the allure.

 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 01/10/12 at 02:00 PM
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Thursday, December 01, 2011

Vermont Bike and Brew Tour with Sojourn Bicycling Vacations

Biking outfitters have pounced on Vermont like miners on a vein of gold. And why not?  The state’s terrain is ideally suited to the sport. Lightly traveled backcountry roads are rarely used outside of a handful of dairy farmers who live and work there. Around every bend, there’s another meadow greener than the last, another anonymous mountain standing tall in the distance, another quintessential New England village where a freshly painted white steeple pierces the clouds overhead. This idyllic scenery is meant to be seen at a slow pace.

Now Sojourn Bicycling, already known for their intriguing bike trips like the one through the Texas Hill Country, is taking Vermont biking to a higher level, so to speak, with the introduction of their Vermont Bike & Brew Tour. Based in Vermont, owner Susan Rand knows this landscape intimately, including the close to two dozen microbrewers in the state. You’ll earn that pint after biking, on average, some 55 miles a day on this six-day jaunt that ventures to some of my favorite places to stay in Vermont, including Trapp Family Lodge and the Inn at Mountain View Farm. An added bonus is the chance to try some of the mountain biking trails Sam von Trapp has been designing in his backyard that are supposed to be stellar. Sojourn has two trips going out next July and August. 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 12/01/11 at 02:00 PM
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Thursday, September 15, 2011

My Favorite Fall Foliage Travels—Biking the Confederation Trail, Prince Edward Island

In September 2004, I was happy to get an assignment to head to Prince Edward Island in their quiet season and write about the Confederation Trail for Canadian Geographic. 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.
 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 09/15/11 at 02:08 PM
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Monday, August 15, 2011

Biking Around Stanley Park, Vancouver

This past month, I had the good fortune to bike along the Lake Michigan waterfront in Chicago, alongside the Charles River in Boston and Cambridge, by the shores of the Bow River in Calgary, and around Stanley Park in Vancouver. I loved that all of these scenic rides were on bike trails, not having to worry about car traffic. Sure, I savor pastoral rides on the backcountry roads of Vermont, cruising on two wheels through the rainforest of Costa Rica, or biking past the coffee plantations on the Big Island of Hawaii. But I also enjoy riding in cities. The chance to pedal over the Brooklyn Bridge, with views of the Statue of Liberty in the background. Or heading north towards Navy Pier with the majestic Chicago skyline creating the perfect panorama It’s hard not to be impressed.

The 9 km ride around the Seawall of Stanley Park can be done in less than an hour. Yet, by the time you stop at the world-class aquarium, see the selection of totem poles, and dine on sablefish (a tender and rich Northwestern whitefish) at the classic Teahouse for lunch, the day is over. Riding under towering Douglas firs and along the rocky shoreline, you’ll also stop numerous times to take pictures of the bay. On my last ride around Stanley Park two weeks ago, we spent a good chunk of time being entertained by the sea otters at the Vancouver Aquarium. Less than 15 minutes later, we were watching river otters in the wild dining on crabs along the Seawall. Another unexpected find in a city of unexpected finds, the reason why I return to Vancouver as often as I can.
 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 08/15/11 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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