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Biking

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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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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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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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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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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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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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, 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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Thursday, April 08, 2010

Self-Guided Inn-to-Inn Bike Trips in New England

The rhododendrons are already in bloom and the yellow warblers just arrived at my birdfeeder in the Boston burbs. With temps hitting the mid-80s today, it’s time to break out the bike for a ride. For riders looking for a little inn-to-inn action this summer, it’s never been cheaper to bike in New England. Two outfitters, Bike the Whites in New Hampshire, and Country Inns Along the Trail in Vermont, are offering three days of riding for as low as $299 per person. What does that 300 bucks get you?  Detailed maps depending on you ability, from 20 to 80 miles a day, emergency roadside assistance, two nights lodging, two dinners, two breakfasts, and transport of your luggage from one inn to the next. Country Inns has rides in several of my favorite spots in Vermont, including Addison along Lake Champlain, where you spend the night at the Barsen House Inn. See the story I wrote on biking in this part of Vermont for The Boston Globe Sunday Magazine.
 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 04/08/10 at 01:00 PM
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Thursday, May 06, 2010

Bike Denver

Kudos to the Mile High City for implementing the first bike-sharing program in the United States. Comparable to Paris, Amsterdam, and Montreal, you can pick up a shiny new red 3-speed Trek bike at any of the 40 stations around town and drop them off at another station. A 24-hour membership is $5 while a yearly membership will set you back $65. Simply pick up the bike at say the Colorado Convention Center and drop it off near the Denver Art Museum. From the Denver Art Museum, grab another bike and cruise to your hotel. Starting in June, the bikes will be equipped with RFID chips and computers to track mileage, calories burned, and carbon offsets. So you can monitor your fi


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 05/06/10 at 01:00 PM
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Thursday, May 20, 2010

Great Food and Great Biking Can Only Mean a Phenomenal Time in Italy

One of the latest trends for active travel outfitters is to combine their specialty with a noted chef or sommelier. After all, what can be better than biking in Veneto, from the foot of the Dolomites to waters of the Adriatic Sea, and then having your dinner menu prepared by a James Beard-award winning chef? If that chef happens to be Jody Adams, owner of the beloved Rialto in Cambridge, Massachusetts, than you can expect the most tantalizing Italian ingredients in that dinner. Adams has teamed up with Vernon McClure, owner of Active Italy Tours, to create a customized biking trip through Veneto, stopping to find fresh produce and fish from the Rialto Market in Venice and wine from the Prosecco region. Dates are June 26-July 3 and September 25-October 2. If you can’t make it to Italy with Adams, do the next best thing and book a table at her new outdoor extension to Rialto, La Dolce Vita, set to open in Cambridge in mid-June.
 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 05/20/10 at 01:00 PM
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Thursday, June 17, 2010

Bike Around the Perimeter of Manhattan

I spent last Saturday biking around Manhattan with my son and friends, led by my old college roommate, Alex Cigale. Now living in the Washington Heights section of Manhattan, near the northern tip of the island, Cigale is an avid biker who commutes to work in Midtown on two wheels and has biked atop every bridge out of the city. Today, however, he was taking us around the perimeter of the island on the 32-mile Greenway.  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 entire island. 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 condos of Trump City and the USS Intrepid carrier, 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 06/17/10 at 01:00 PM
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Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Top 5 Beaches in New England to Be Active: Bike to Briggs Beach, Little Compton, Rhode Island

South of Route 195 and the gritty mill towns of Fall River and 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. Dairy farms, corn fields, even vineyards, border the Sakonnet River as it washes into the Atlantic. Add the crescent of sand at Briggs Beach and you have the perfect country and coast ride. For a good 20-mile loop, take Route 77 south from Tiverton Four Corners to Sakonnet Point and return on backcountry roads past the village green of Little Compton.
 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 06/22/10 at 01:00 PM
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Monday, August 09, 2010

Biking to Giverny

The past six weeks, I’ve been home less than six days, traveling on assignment to Newport, Cape Cod, Maine, New Brunswick, Paris, and London. Thankfully, I’ll be on my back deck most of August writing stories based on these trips. This week, I want to delve into some of the highlights of these recent excursions.

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 for our family of four.
 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 08/09/10 at 01:00 PM
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Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Getting in Shape for that Fall Biking Trip

Just in case you missed this blog last August, I'm posting it again. It's that important! 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.  


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 08/25/10 at 01:00 PM
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Friday, August 27, 2010

Bike Across North America

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, the 7500-mile Vuelta Sudamericana that traveled from Rio to Quito, and the upcoming 2050-mile jaunt through India that starts in January. Now the company has just announced a new itinerary next summer that will cross North America, from San Francisco to Newfoundland. Starting on May 29th, they’ll bike for 76 days, averaging 106 km per day. Along the way, you’ll hit California wine country, the Grand Canyon, Route 66, Chicago, Toronto, and Montreal.  Cost of the entire tour is $9,950 per person or you can do one of the five shorter segments for $1800. Cost includes guides, van support, and lodging.

 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 08/27/10 at 01:00 PM
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Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Top 5 Fall Foliage Picks in New England, Biking Addison County, Vermont

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 can drop off your 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 08/31/10 at 12:59 PM
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Thursday, September 23, 2010

Fall Foliage Bike Rides Across America

Last autumn, I wrote a story for Body + Soul Magazine on great fall biking outside of New England. Here are my three picks:

Keuka Lake, New York
Vineyards paired with lakefront pedaling create a perfect day of biking in the Finger Lakes region of western New York. Rent bikes and grab a map from Wheels Unlimited in Bath and then head north to Hammondsport and the shores of Keuka Lake. On Route 54A, you’ll find the award-winning Rieslings created at Dr. Konstantin Frank’s Vinifera Wine Cellars. Have a sip, but save some energy to roll up and down the road, stopping atop bluffs to admire the glorious vistas of the water. 

Asheville, North Carolina
Come to Asheville in late October, early November and you’ll find the leaves on the dogwoods, sweetgums, and mountain ash all changing color. The reason why the famed Blue Ridge Parkway is so congested with leaf peepers.  The folks at Liberty Bicycles will provide bikes and steer you away from the traffic, leading you to nearby Burnsville for a favorite local ride. On this 37-mile loop, you’ll bike over suspension bridges past old tobacco farms and country stores.

Bend, Oregon
Autumn colors are not usually associated with the Northwest, the land of conifers. Yet, outside of Bend, aspen groves provide enough color to excite the local contingent of riders.  Rent bikes and grab a detailed map at Hutch’s Bicycle Shop in Bend for the start of a glorious 32-mile ride that takes advantage of central Oregon’s variety of terrain—sage-scented high desert, sparkling lakes, raging rivers, flower-filled meadows, and snowcapped North, Middle, and South Sister Mountains rising 10,000 feet above town. Spend your night at the six-room Lara House, conveniently located across from Drake Park in the center of town. Then grab a microbrew or homemade ginger ale at Deschutes Brewery, dutifully earned after the ride.
 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 09/23/10 at 01:00 PM
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Monday, January 03, 2011

Top 5 Travels of 2010, Biking to Giverny, France

I can think of no better way to start 2011 than to look back at my year of travels in 2010 and see which experiences surpassed all expectations. Last July, I took the family to Paris. We climbed up the Eiffel Tower, viewed the monumental works of art at the Louvre, Musée d'Orsay, and Pompidou museums, shopped in the Marais, celebrated my brother’s birthday with a lavish spread at a friend's home in the 16th arrondissement, and toured an overlooked museum devoted to French innovation, Musee des Arts et Metiers. The highlight for me, however, was our one day away from Paris on a bike tour to Giverny, the home of Claude Monet. Run by Fat Tire Bike Tours, we took a short train ride to the village of Vernon. As soon as we arrived, we were handed our bikes and visited an outdoor market to stock up on creamy Reblochon cheese, tasty Rosette de Lyon sausage, and hot-out-of-the-oven baguettes from the nearby boulangerie. We had our picnic lunch in a park overlooking swans swimming in the Seine, and then headed out on a 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 about 8 hours and cost 65 Euros per biker, a perfect day trip for our family of four.
 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 01/03/11 at 02:00 PM
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Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Top 5 Travels of 2010, Biking Shark Valley, The Everglades, Florida

Another great day ride, this one an hour outside of Miami. Drive west on the Tamiami Trail (Highway 41) and you’ll reach the Shark Valley Visitor Center at the northern tip of Everglades National Park. Rent bikes from the rangers and get ready for one of the most exhilarating 15-mile loops of your life. More than likely, it will take you an hour to bike that first mile. That’s because you’ll want to stop every 20 yards or so to get another photograph of an alligator sleeping in the tall grass, large turtles sunbathing on rocks, and the extraordinary amount of birdlife that call the canal next to the bike trail home. Anhingas dry their wings on the branches of the gumbo limbo tree, wood storks, white whooping cranes, and the long-legged great blue heron stand tall in the shallow water, while pink roseate spoonbills fly over the royal palms. This ride is ideal for any budding wildlife photographer.

(Photo credit: Lisa Leavitt)
 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 01/04/11 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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