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Biking

Tuesday, January 08, 2013

Top 5 Travel Experiences of 2012, Biking to the Missions, San Antonio

One day in late April, I awoke early in San Antonio and biked to the Blue Star Contemporary Art Center. Next to this huge former warehouse, now housing art galleries, is an entrance to the spanking new Mission Reach bike trail, a 10.2-mile beauty strip south of the city. It was a gorgeous morning as I peered 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 year. This being spring, 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. I continued on Mission Road another 3 miles to reach the largest mission, San José, known for its popular Mariachi Mass each Sunday. 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 Mission Reach and headed downtown. 
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 01/08/13 at 01:00 PM
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Tuesday, September 04, 2012

Vermont Week, Self-Guided Biking Inn to Inn

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 will deliver 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 09/04/12 at 12:00 PM
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Friday, June 15, 2012

Driving New Brunswick’s Acadian Coast—Biking Kouchibouguac National Park

The Bay of Fundy and Fundy National Park might be the better known of the two national parks in New Brunswick, but Kouchibouguac (pronounced Koo-she-boo-gwac) is just as loved in the province. Only an hour north of Moncton, it’s a must-stop on the Acadian Route, especially for bikers and beach lovers. The national park has 60 km of hard-packed gravel trails, not unlike the carriage path trails in Maine’s Acadia National Park. This includes a sweet 6 km singletrack mountain biking route along Major Kollock Creek. 
 
I rented a bike at Ryans near spacious campsites nestled into the Acadian forest. There are no speeds on the bike because there are very few hills to endure. I cruised along the Kouchibouguac River smelling the sweet pines and spruce. The river is popular with paddlers in summer, coming to see the otters and osprey diving for fish. Also in the park, it’s not unusual to run into black bear, moose, and beavers. At La Source, site of a former well for villagers that used to live in the area, I returned past Ryans to the highlight of the park, Kellys Beach. Arguably, the most exquisite beach in the entire province, Kellys is a six-kilometer stretch of white sand that dips down into the surprisingly warm waters. To reach the coveted coastline, you walk on a long boardwalk over a lagoon, marsh, and dunes. After you’ve had your fill of sun and sea, return to Ryans to drop off the bike and grab a beer at the outdoor patio of Ryan’s Landing. The perfect ending to a perfect day.
 
I’ve had a blast driving the Acadian Route. Thanks for coming along for the ride. I’ll be at a classic Maine coastal resort, Linekin Bay, on Monday and Tuesday, back on Wednesday with one bonus blog on New Brunswick’s Bay of Fundy. In the meantime, stay active!
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 06/15/12 at 10:00 AM
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Wednesday, June 06, 2012

My Favorite Small Outfitters, Fat Tire Bike Tours, Paris

Those of you with a love of art history know Giverny as the home of Claude Monet. Less than an hour by train from Paris, you can make the pilgrimage to Monet’s home and his spectacular Japanese water garden inundated with day lilies, the inspiration for many of the works that hang on the walls of the Musée d'Orsay in Paris and other impressive collections of Impressionism around the globe. Fat Tire Bike Tours escorts riders from Paris’ St. Lazare train station to the quaint village of Vernon. Once you arrive, you head to an outdoor market to stock up on picnic food--soft, creamy Reblochon cheese, slices of yummy Rosette de Lyon sausage, duck liver pate, warm baguettes from the neighborhood boulangerie, juicy strawberries and apricots, and a bottle of wine to wash it down. After passing out bikes, our guide Andrew led us to the banks of the Seine River where we watched a family of swans swim as we dug into our goodies. Then we were off on an easy 5km 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 from Paris took about 8 hours and cost 65 Euros per biker, a perfect day trip. They also offer a bike trip to Versailles and a nighttime cruise to famous Parisian sights like the Louvre and Notre Dame. 

 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 06/06/12 at 12:00 PM
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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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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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