Tag Archives: bike touring

Massachusetts North Shore

5 Oct

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We’ve spent late September in Massachusetts the past two years. Last year Cape Cod, this year the North Shore/Cape Ann area. Both are beautiful, both are great places to cycle.

If you are interested in cycling in the North Shore area or even the greater New England  area, I recommend checking out: http://bikenewengland.com. It’s quite the website with suggested routes, maps and cue sheets for all the areas. The tour was through Road Scholar and is offered twice each year.

This was a lower mileage tour than those we’ve done in the past and I found I enjoyed the lower miles too. With fewer miles there was more time and tendency to see the sights in the towns we stayed – Ipswich and Newburyport, MA. Quaint towns with tons of history, restaurants with great seafood and plenty to see and do off the bike.

Like our other bike tours, we rode with a wonderful group of people, participants and guides alike. There was a mix of ages and cycling experience but we meshed together well; truly a delightful group of people. The group of 14 usually broke into smaller groups, with at least one guide riding with each. All 4 of the guides were terrific and took good care of us – thanks to Gordon, Paula, Barbara and Jimmy. Unlike all the other tours, no one drove a support van and it worked out great. It wasn’t needed, we did out and backs from both locations and if someone had needed a lift back I’m sure one would have been provided.

In addition to riding in the North Shore/Cape Ann area we spent several days in Boston beforehand and had a chance to ride there. First off we did the Boston City View Tour with Urban AdvenTours – highly recommend them. The guides took great care as they navigated us through the streets of Boston, providing a very informative tour of Boston’s historical sites and neighborhoods. A wonderful way to see Boston, in addition we did several walking tours, but the bike tour was our favorite.

Boston's Urban Adventours City View Tour

Boston’s Urban AdvenTours City View Tour

Last but not least we used Boston’s bike share – Hubway. We bought a 72 hour pass so we could have the flexibility to ride each day and meet my “ride every day” goal. The most fun was when we decided to hop on and ride back to our hotel after eating a huge meal including a bottle of wine at Al Dente in the North End. We ended up in the middle of Chinatown on Saturday night – traffic jam deluxe! What a memorable ride that was – if only I’d had a GoPro to catch the whole thing on video!

Speaking of GoPro, or the lack of, I did take photos of our North Shore tour, most on the fly. Not nearly as many as the California or Quebec tours you might be happy to know. Here they are:

 

It was a fantastic experience and just a beautiful place to ride!

 

 

 

 

Planning a Bicycle Tour

11 Feb

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It may seem too cold and snowy to think about bike touring, but this is actually a great time of year to research, plan and book a bicycle tour.

Bicycle touring is gaining in popularity as more people ride bikes in general, and as more of us discover what a wonderful way biking is to travel and experience new places.

Nowadays there are many options with bike tours — from local to cross country tours, from self-supported to fully supported, and from easy, beginner tours with daily mileage of 25-40, to intermediate tours with daily mileage in the 50 – 75 range along with moderate hills, to the most difficult tours with high mileage and hilly terrain.

There is a bicycle tour to fit everyone – including beginners, children and older enthusiasts.

Broadly speaking, there are two types of bicycle tours: supported and self-supported. Among supported bike tours there are a wide range of options and services, from the most basic to the most luxurious – and everything in between.

With the basic supported bike tour, the company may only carry your luggage to each lodging site and everything else – bicycle, helmet, meals, snacks, and mechanical support – is yours to handle.

Fully supported tours typically include everything – bicycle, helmet, most meals, mechanical support, snacks, drinks, transfers, and lodging. Sometimes other activities are even included in the tour price, such as winery and museum tours. Generally, the more support and amenities included in the tour, the higher the cost.

If you have not toured by bicycle before, you may want to play it safe the first time and go with a supported tour. Remember, there are basic, no-frills supported bike tours where the costs are reasonable.

With bicycle touring becoming so popular there are options for all budgets and skill levels so shop around and do your research.

As you become more experienced you may want to venture into touring on your own, which means carrying your own gear and relying on your own ingenuity and abilities to travel from place to place.

Regardless of what type of bicycle tour you choose – traveling by bike makes for a great vacation.

Sojourners by Bike-Day6/Part 2

28 Sep

Sojourn-VT-QC-August-29-2010 029

~Trois-Rivières to Quebec City~ 85 miles


We left our lunch stop at Deschambault committed to riding the rest of the way to Quebec City – about 45 miles.  Committed, and excited.

Some of you are probably thinking we should be committed for riding 85 miles!

When we rolled away from Angelus Bistro it was just the two of us.  A few of the group were in front and others hadn’t left yet. In discussions at lunch, arrangements were made for a few options of catching the van – around 45 miles and 70 mile points (right before the first ginormously steep hill).

After a few miles, the ride instructions directed us to the Rue de Quai, the longest qaui (pier) in Canada, toward Portneuf Maritime Terminal.  There was a restaurant there that a couple of the group lunched at.  Reading on we could see that once you got to the end of the pier you simply turned around and got back on the road/bike pathway we were on.  We decided to skip the pier and continue on with our ride to Quebec City.

It would save us two miles – hey, two miles is two miles.

Before long we were on Route 138, the Chemin du Roy, “Kings Highway”, one of the oldest highways in Canada.  It follows the north shore of the Saint Lawrence.  Although we could not see it all the time, we knew the Saint Lawrence was just to our right as we headed towards Quebec City.   The route was definitely starting to get a little hillier, but nothing like the 10%+ grade climbs we would see later on.

At mile 50 we turned off the Chemin du Roy to see the Cap Sante’ (Cape Health) historic church.

Cap Sante church
Bienvenue – Welcome!

We didn’t get off our bikes, just stopping long enough to take a few pictures.  The best thing about our stop was it gave Deena a chance to catch up (she had biked to the Portneuf pier).  I was glad to have her riding with us.  It was best, IMO, if no one had to ride alone.  There is safety in numbers and just having someone else to keep you company is nice.  Maybe that comes from years and years of solo riding, but for a tour like this – where you are riding in unknown territory – it’s best to have at least one other person with you.  Besides Deena was a strong rider and could take some turns pulling at the front.

We all took off again on the Chemin du Roy rolling along at a moderate pace, but dealing with strong headwinds.  I continued to feel better and stronger and enjoyed just powering along.

We came to the first of the three steep hills at mile 54.  This hill was relatively short, just over .5 mile and was the least steep of the three.  We did it without any problem.

At mile 61 we turned left off of Route 138 the Chemin du Roy on to the rue des Erables.  We rode on Erables for two miles – a steady and sometimes steep climb through a small village with lots of quaint and unique houses.  No cookie cutter homes here, thank you.

About the time we thought it had leveled off, it continued to climb.  None of these climbs were “categorized” in that they were not singled out on our route directions.  Just a warm up climb that didn’t deserve a mention when compared to what lay ahead.  Oh boy.

We got back on to Route 138/Chemin du Roy and followed the Route Verte 5.  We stopped for a bit to refuel with energy bars and add electrolyte tablets to the water we had left in our bottles.  We couldn’t afford to bonk so it was important to continue to take in nutrition.

We also joked about calling our team, Team Estrogen, and making Mark a full member.  He was unclear about whether he would wear the TE shirt.

The closer we got to Quebec City the more varied the terrain got.  At mile 65 we were warned to watch our speed on a steep downhill which flattened on a wooden bridge.  The next couple of miles were easy with virtually no traffic and very bucolic.

Another picturesque home in Quebec.  No for sale sign though.
Google Earth photo
Gorgeous Google Earth photo

Once again, I was amazed at the Route Verte and the quality of bike roads available.  So amazed, I had to stop and take a picture.  Deena and Mark wait for me just up the road.  This picture epitomized Quebec’s attitude and commitment to cyclists and the use of bikes as transportation.

Route Verte 5 Quebec

We were getting excited as we got closer to Quebec City.  Earlier in the day the first mileage sign we saw for Quebec City showed 122 km to Quebec City.  Over the miles/kilometers we watched them go down – now we were at about 25 km.

Just before mile 70  who should we see, but our fellow Sojourners!  They had pulled off the road to wait for us so we could refill water bottles and grab something to eat.  It was so neat, before I saw them, I heard them clapping and cheering us on.  It was great to see them and gave us a boost to keep going.  We stopped only for a few minutes and then got back on the bikes before our legs started to cramp or stiffen.

While stopped, Montreal Mark warned us the 1st of the really steep climbs (10 – 15% grade) was just up ahead.  We hadn’t been on the bikes a mile when we saw it.  It looked to be a short, but HC (hors catégorie) level climb in steepness.  All three of us – Deena, Mark and I – clipped out and walked up the *hill*.  All three of us made the comment that riding up it couldn’t have been any harder than walking – talk about “feel the burn”!

One down – one to go.  Once it flattened a bit we remounted and rode on.  It felt good to have one out of the way and it was every bit as steep as we had been told. Ouch.

We continued on Chemin du Roy/Route Verte 5 through an area that was part farmland/part suburbia.  Within a mile or so we were back on bike path; sure enough, I can see the path on Google Earth using the data collected on our ride from our Garmin Edge – WOW.

We went from bike path to roadways marked for bikes throughout the rest of the ride in.  You gotta love Quebec’s bikeability.  I do!

We were in what looked to be an affluent suburb of Quebec City making our way towards our next and LAST killer hill – Cap Rouge.  We knew we were almost at it when we passed under the railroad trestle bridge, the Tracel.  It was built in 1907 and is still in use today.  Gustave Eiffel was involved in the building of the Tracel.

Le Tracel, Cap Rouge (Google Earth/A. Konig)

We got to the Cap Rouge hill and started our climb clipped in.  The road wasn’t real wide and there was traffic.  There was also a sidewalk if we needed to bail.  The fear when you are clipped in and your legs are feeling less than dependable, is that you will not be able to maintain enough momentum to keep going, and not being able to unclip you fall over (picture “Laugh In”, the guy on the tricycle falling over).  Every cyclist knows what I’m talking about.  If you ride with clipless pedals chances are you’ve done it at one time or another – it’s not fun and something to be avoided.  And yes, I speak from experience.

We all came to the same conclusion at almost the same instant and pulled over and unclipped.  We walked our bikes up the hill on the sidewalk – I’m sure Betty was happy for the break.  My legs were not.  Walking up that hill hurt my legs less than ginormous hill #1, but more than riding would have.  Oh well, we got past it – that’s what was important.

We continued on following the Route Verte 5 signs as we rode through a beautiful, heavily treed residential area.  There were lots of turns the latter part of the ride, it was great to have Navigator Mark calling them out.

At about 75 miles we started to feel giddy.  I know I was.  Excitement or lack of oxygen to the brain I’m not sure – but who cared.  We were 10 miles away!

The hard part/parts were over – 6 days of riding were coming to a close and we were flying.  We rode along this busy street, backed up with traffic as people were trying to leave Quebec City and we were just arriving.  They were stuck in rush hour traffic going nowhere and we were speeding along almost effortlessly.  I was grinning from ear to ear.

On bikes.  Having ridden all the way from Burlington, VT.  Yes, I had a big smile on my face.

The ride continued on like that until we came to a descent we had been forewarned about.  Again, no exaggeration here.  We rode through the first part of the descent, stopping just in time before we crashed into the cars that were stopped waiting to go.

That got our attention, so we stopped just before the railroad tracks so we could check out the second part of the descent.

What was tricky about this descent was:  1) it was steep, 2) you had to stop at the bottom because there was a traffic light and it probably would be red (Murphy’s Law impacts cyclists too), 3) there were cars coming in from side streets, 4) it was a twisty/winding descent, 5) did I mention it was very steep and you had to STOP or you would end up crashing into a car waiting at the light or end up in the middle of the road.

I wish I had a picture, but I don’t.  I think I was the most nervous about the descent, in part, because I don’t like to crash (and have), hate getting hit by car (and have) and also because I hated the brakes on my bike.  I had to squeeze the brakes so hard to come to a stop my forearms would have looked like Popeye’s if there had been many descents like this one.  I haven’t always been so skittish about descending, in my earlier days of riding I would hit 45mph on my 23c tires.  That was before thousands of dollars of dental work though.

While still at the top, we waited for traffic to clear at the bottom of the hill so we would have more room to stop.  Here we go.

Feathering brakes – so far – so good.  Controlled descent – always what I’m after.

Oops, cars getting in line at light from those side streets that we couldn’t see well from the top.

Light turns red – knew it would.

Squeezed those brakes as hard as I could, I slowed and got into the left hand turn lane to cross the road and get on to the Quebec City/St. Lawrence river bike path.  We were in Quebec City!

A piece of cake.  Ha!

We had headwinds most of the day, but the wind along the bike path in Quebec City made the other pale in comparison.

But we were almost finished, having ridden 80 miles at this point.  All we had to do was follow the path to our hotel, Auberge St. Pierre, and keep from getting blown backwards.

All the other cyclists were headed toward us because of that massive wind which was at their backs and were flying effortlessly.  Show-offs.

We rode along on the bike path, taking in the buildings of Old Quebec to our left and the majestic St. Lawrence to our right.

We stopped so we could capture the moment and while we were stopped who should ride up but our Sojourn buds, Jeff and Joshua!  It was great to see them.

Deena, me, Mark, Jeff aka Team Blue.

 

The smiles lasted for days and days. With Joshua in the lead, we rode a few more miles to the Auberge St. Pierre.

We had done it!

85 miles
345 miles in 6 days
Burlington, VT to Quebec City, CA
 
Joshua, Mark, Susan, Deena & Jeff/Sojourn photo by Montreal Mark

For the day, I rode 84.97 miles, avg. speed 12.6, time on bike 6:44, 2,175 ft. elevation gain, avg. heart rate 108 bpm.

I hope you have enjoyed reading about our trip, I’ve enjoyed writing about it.  You think when you take such a memorable trip that the memories won’t fade, but they do.  I like that I can go back and reread these posts or look at the pictures from time to time.  I wish I had done this when we went to Italy several years ago so I could go back and relive the experience.  Guess we will have to go back so I can blog about it!

Beside the 8 posts about the bike tour, check out my other posts about Quebec City too, Quebec City  and Québécoise Locavores

Also, Sojourners by Bike ~ Au Revoir

Still to come, my post about the first ever North American UCI Pro Tour bike race, the Grand Prix Cycliste de Québec   which we were fortunate enough to watch in beautiful Old Quebec City September 10th 2010.

It was an awesome experience and a great race:  189km race, won by 1 second by the great French Champion, and my new friend, Tommy Voeckler.Winking smile

The day before the race at the Hotel Frontenac.

Sojourners by Bike-Day 6/Part I

22 Sep

Sojourners by Bike~Day 6 (Part I)

 Trois-Rivières to Quebec City ~ 85 miles


When I woke up Friday morning, I was too busy thinking about the 90% chance of rain predicted and how to dress for it, to focus much on the miles (85, 70, 45), or to be nostalgic about it being our last day and how quickly in one way (but certainly not in all) the week had gone.

Today was the Queen stage of our Vermont to Quebec City Tour – the most difficult day of the tour.

Just as the group was rolling away from the Hotel Gouverneur, Mark and I decided to get our rain jackets out of the backpack in the van so we could carry them on the bike.  That done, we hurried through a residential area to catch up to the group.

This time getting out of town was more difficult than getting in.  Catching up to the group, we rolled through heavy morning commuter traffic, plus construction that required us to cross the road a couple of times.  Not easy getting 16 people on bikes across busy roads with morning traffic, but with our usual finesse, we did it.  It was a lot of stop and go and breathing of car fumes.

We walked our bikes across the sidewalk on the bridge with all the construction (and thanks to my Garmin Edge 305 and Google Earth I see it was actually 2 bridges – separated by a small island).  After getting across the bridges we all stopped and discussed which way we were to go.

Since most of us had taken a wrong turn yesterday we didn’t want to repeat it – no extra miles today, thank you.  About that time – like a knight on a white horse, Joshua on his Cannondale stead, raced by, turning on to a side street and waiting for the herd of cats to get in line. Excuse the mixed metaphor.

The first hard part was over.  Now we knew why one of the options for the day was to shuttle the first 7 miles out of Trois-Rivières!

When things had settled down I started thinking about whether I would go for the full 85 miles or something shorter.  Mark seemed up for the full 85 – although neither of us knew how we would do once we came to the 3 ominous sounding climbs going into Quebec City.  We had ridden every mile thus far and being who we are we wanted to ride all the way into Quebec City – even if it meant walking up the hills.  One positive thing – there was no rain and the temperatures were cool – humid – but cool.

A neat thing happened as we were riding down this long stretch of road just outside of Trois-Rivières.  As we were riding we passed a yard sale, and as we did someone shouted at us and waved.  We quickly recognized her as the woman that had checked us in at the Hotel Gouverneur – and waved back – amazed that she recognized us!  Another nice/friendly Quebecer!

At our first stop with Montreal Mark, we refilled bottles with water topped off with Gatorade mix, plus a few granola bars and fruit, then we were off.  By this time the group had splintered into smaller groups; Mark, Lisa and I rode together.  Not to be gross, but the eggs (which appeared to be powdered eggs) I had at breakfast were continuing to make their presence known – and I’m not talking about fueling my legs.  Nausea and bike riding are not a good combo.  At the rest stop I took a couple of tums and hoped that the eggs would fade into the background.

What I have noticed over the years on multi-day rides is you can feel great one day (me yesterday) and feel the polar opposite the next day – me today.  The eggs didn’t help.  Anyway, it was a pleasant ride as we rode an easy pace.  There was really not much wind to speak of and still no rain – more than we could have hoped for given the forecast.

We rode along the mighty St. Lawrence river often being able to see it from the road.  I loved riding alongside water.

Today’s route took us through farmland, villages, quaint houses, large churches or small cathedrals and basically, one bucolic scene after another.

Sainte-Anne-de-la-Pérade
 
At first glance it looks like a pilgrim riding a broom.
 
Betty either taking a break or having a tantrum.

After crossing the Riviere St. Anne, the van was waiting at the Fromagerie FX Pichet, an organic cheese producer.  We had the choice doing a tour and tasting or riding on.  We decided to ride on but refilled our bottles and chatted for a few minutes.  This was about at mile 25 so if we were going to ride the full 85 we still had 60 to go.  My body didn’t feel like it had 30 let alone 60 miles of riding in it!

Before going very far it quickly became obvious that we now had a head to cross wind.  Oh boy – now we didn’t just have 85 miles to ride but we were going to ride it against the wind too!

As we rode on, the stronger the wind got – plus it was more of a straight headwind.  It also seemed like we were gradually climbing.  I rode in front and put my head down and pedaled.  I was feeling not so good and as we rode along heading to Deschambault for lunch I was coming to the conclusion that I probably wasn’t going to ride the full 85.  Even though it wasn’t the best of conditions for riding a bike – sailing, maybe – it was still nice to be out there riding.  It was our last day, and it was still fun – hell, we were in Quebec riding bikes!  Hard yes, but fun, definitely.

We eased the pace some and pedaled on toward lunch.  The closer we got to Deschambault the hungrier I got.  Lisa was in front of us and when we got to Deschambault she was waiting at the the recommended lunch stop, L’ Angélus Bistro.

 

My day turned at L’ Angélus Bistro.  As the saying goes, it was exactly what the doctor ordered.  We were the first ones of the group there, and the place was empty.  As we were looking over the menu others from our group arrived.

It was a neat restaurant so I went around with my camera taking pictures.

Angélus Bistro
Angélus Bistro

While we decided on lunch we ordered the requisite cappuccino and orange San Pellegrino.  We took pictures of Jerry & Lisa and they took pictures of us.  We were all happy to be off the bike and out of the wind for awhile.

Yep, I get that excited over cappuccino.
And San Pelligrino
A few slices of life + look at that salad!
More bike racks in front of the bistro than the town we live in.

After the delicious pizza and salad, 2 Pellegrino’s and cappuccino, I felt like I had had a blood transfusion – seriously, like I had engaged in a little blood doping or something. It was amazing, really, I couldn’t believe the difference in how I felt going into Angélus Bistro and I felt leaving.  Nothing short of a miracle.

I didn’t realize it at the time, (duh), but I had been riding on an empty tank.  Not only had I not eaten much at breakfast, but I had not had much to eat at dinner the night before either.  I didn’t like what I ordered – pasta and shrimp but with a heavy cream sauce which I didn’t like and ate little of.  When you are doing these kind of miles you have to eat (damn 😉 – no food = no fuel.   Refueled, I was ready to go.  I also started thinking about those last 3 hills into Quebec City we had heard so much about.

Halfway to QC – only 45 miles to go!

The sun was out and it was warming up – things were definitely looking up.  I ignored the wind, okay, you couldn’t really ignore it, but I didn’t focus on it as we headed away from Deschambault.

Read on:  Sojourners by Bike ~ Day 6 (Part II)


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For the Love of Bikes Blog by Susan Lash (2009 - 2014) is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.
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