Pedal to the Sea
In 2002, Gil and Peggy Newbury pedaled across the U.S. with their two young children on a bicycle built for four. Gil tells the story of this 4-month, 4685 mile adventure in a new book entitled "Pedal to the Sea." The tale is 365 pages, including photos and drawings. Reviews can be found at www.northshire.com
Bicycling in Chile
by Edward Pearson
(Photo courtesy of Edward Pearson)
The skyline of Santiago, the capitol of Chile, is shown above with the Andes Mountains in the background.
Chile, a long narrow country on the Pacific coast of South America is approximately 2,700 miles in length with climates ranging from the Atacama desert in the north, the driest desert in the world, to rain forests in the south. Located in the Southern Hemisphere and separated from countries to the east by the Andes Mountains, its climate is opposite ours and provides excellent summer riding during the cold winters of Vermont. Santiago, the capitol city, inland and just west of the Andes, enjoys dry summers with nearly 100% sunny days from October through March.
(Photo courtesy of Edward Pearson)
In this photo taken in Santiago, Chile, note the separate path for pedestrians and the dedicated path for bicyclists, flanked by the roadway for motorized vehicles.
Approximately 50% of Chile’s population of 17 million lives in the greater Santiago metropolitan area. With a modern subway system and bus network, Santiago promotes public transportation, pedestrian and bicycle travel. Santiago placed a major east – west thoroughfare underground and built parks, paths and bikeways above. A north-south underground roadway is currently under construction.
29 Years of Fun: “Pedal Across Lower Michigan” Ride
by Barbara Smith
My daughter, Megan, has been on eight PALM rides since she was little. Our family did them because Michigan is where my husband, Russell, grew up and his sisters still live there. Megan loves PALM and wanted to do it again this year. I agreed to be a SAG driver, so off we went. The ride is promoted as a family-friendly ride and many families with small children do the event every year. There were over 600 people on this, the 29th annual ride, from June 19 through June 25.
The ride consists of 30 to 60 miles per day, with longer optional rides, and tenting at schools along the way. This helps keep the ride affordable. The schools are open for showers, meals, phone charging, and many have internet access, as well as a pool. There is an info meeting each evening to discuss the next day’s route and any changes and safety concerns that need to be reviewed. Optional breakfasts and dinners are offered at the schools, and trucks transport luggage each day. Lunch is on your own. There are 5 to 6 waterstops as well as a watermelon stop daily. My sister-in-law was the “watermelon lady” and she bought 30 melons a day. There were 13 roving SAGS to provide water, help for bike repairs, and to transport riders if necessary. We started in South Haven on Lake Michigan, and the route went to Otsego, Hastings, Eaton Rapids, Grass Lake, Milan, and ended at Lake Erie Metro Park.
The ride is organized by volunteers, with many who are veterans from the early years. There are always perks, such as a new water bottle or a small bag. A roving photographer takes pictures all week of the participants who then take them home as a memento on the last day. In addition to the route book, the ride also provides the Milepost, a booklet describing each town on the route with its history and sites to see; also restaurants, great bakeries and ice cream shops!
For more info, go to www.PedalAcrossLowerMichigan.org
Across America by Bike
by Kim Martin and Sharon Wilson
Sore muscles, flat tires and 25 mile/hour headwinds sounded miserable so why would we want to ride our bikes across the country? Sitting by the wood stove last winter on cold nights, we were intrigued by the idea but not at all sure how or why we would want to experience all of the above. We would be leaving Vermont during the nicest time of the year and more importantly how could we physically ride for nine weeks every day and travel 3,500 miles by bike. We knew a couple from Sharon, VT who had been leading cross-country tours for seven years and were scheduled to go for their eighth crossing in the summer of 2010.
Ken and Nancy Wright, contractor and teacher respectively, and owners of the Baxter Mountain House B&B in Sharon have been leading bike trips for youth and adults for many years. Their Bike Across America (BAA) trip is very well planned and organized. The Wrights provide meals, lodging, mechanical services and detailed maps, including points of interest along the way. A Ford Excursion pulls a camping trailer that carries luggage, tents, lots of food and a driver (who soon becomes everyone’s favorite person), and provides support along the way.
The route they use is the Northern Tier which travels through Washington, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, South Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Ontario, New York and Vermont and takes nine weeks. The tour averages 62 miles a day which is less than what a lot of groups average but allows more time to see the sights and enjoy the experience. All overnight stops are planned. Accommodations include churches, campgrounds, universities, motels/hotels, a bible camp and a YMCA. Staying in churches is a wonderful feature of the BAA trip. In each church, parishioners serve a potluck supper, which provides an opportunity to meet people from that area, hear their stories and learn about the many towns and cities on the route.
So after a considerable amount of indecision (which we are experts at), we decided to go for it! The winter was consumed with dreaming about the trip, researching bike touring websites, planning equipment, making lists and getting nervous. When spring arrived, it was time to start training. You don’t have to be Lance Armstrong to bike across the country, but you do have to train. We were recreational bikers who rarely rode more than 20 miles at a clip and certainly had never undertaken a trip of this duration. Despite our best intentions, we probably didn’t train sufficiently. But once the ride started, we found that we felt fitter everyday and found our rhythm within the first few weeks.
When the big day arrived, June 17th, we boarded flights for Seattle. We spent two nights at a Seattle church settling in, checking out our bikes, going for practice rides and getting to know our fellow bikers. There were 15 riders on the trip (not all at the same time) including our leaders, Ken and Nancy. We were all ordinary people. The oldest was 73, and the youngest was 53. We came from California, Montana, Utah, Kentucky, Maryland, New York, and Vermont. Our two support drivers, who each drove for half of the trip, were from VT. One was a retired truck driver and the other a college student.
We started riding East on June 19th and arrived triumphantly in Sharon, VT on August 21st. We quickly learned that this trip was really a series of day trips....one rest stop at a time, one day at a time, one state before the next. We were exposed to breathtaking scenery, the overwhelming kindness of strangers and experienced an incredible feeling of accomplishment at the end of each pedaling day. We expected to have some bad days where one of us would wonder “why am I doing this?” but that never happened. Every morning we rose early, ate breakfast and then all we had to do was bike to the next stop for that night.
When asked for our favorite place, both of us have trouble responding. Each state provided us with amazing sights......the Cascades, Glacier National Park, the Rocky Mountains, Montana’s big sky, the Great Plains, the Black Hills of South Dakota, Spearfish Canyon, Wyoming, the beautiful farms of Minnesota and Wisconsin, Southern Ontario along Lake Erie, Niagara Falls, the Erie Canal, the Adirondacks and finally our beautiful Green Mountains. How could we choose?
Bad experiences were few and far between: roads where shoulders were skimpy, nonexistent or fitted with annoying rumble strips; a plague of crickets that inundated us in South Dakota for a few days; bad coffee! (some of us on the trip are coffee divas who are very fussy); traffic, especially trucks, although most of the time we were on amazingly quiet roads: headwinds in the prairie states despite the prevailing westerly flow and detours that added miles (all that stimulus money at work!).
We both agree that the best part of the trip was getting to know our fellow riders. Amazingly, there were no serious conflicts within our group. It took a few days to sort out who snored and therefore who should room with whom but beyond that we all got along. There was wonderful cooperation and no competition as to who could go the fastest or had the best bike. We all had a passion for bike touring and a joy in seeing the country in such an unfettered fashion.
Sore muscles, flat tires and 25 mile/hour headwinds did happen but it didn’t matter because being outside all day, riding our bikes and eating great food kept us laughing all the time and the trip was so much fun.
We are home now and settled back into our normal routines, but we think about the trip often and are still amazed that we rode 3,500 miles across the country. We are ordinary people who had an extraordinary adventure.
The Danube Project: Across Southern Germany by Bike and Train
by Larry Keyes
In 2006 I began what I hope is the first 400-mile segment of a bike tour that will extend the entire length of the Danube river, from the source at Donaueschingen in the western part of Germany, to Constanza, Romania, on the Black Sea. On this trip, I biked from west to east, as far as Passau, the last city on the eastern border. I then took the train to get back to my starting point.
Bike touring in Germany is well organized. The Danube Bikeway (Donauradweg) is well marked throughout Germany with white or yellow directional signs. Towns and villages along the way have a variety of private rooms, family-run hotels, and hotel chains from which to choose. Campsites are available, and casual camping along the river is possible. I chose to stay in small hotels in towns, even though I could have saved money by staying in private rooms in the countryside, or perhaps by camping. But the towns were just too attractive to miss, and I didn’t want to carry the extra camping gear on my bike.
The German train system has tracks more or less parallel to the route, and it is relatively inexpensive to take yourself and your bike to any of the major towns along the route. Thus, the train is useful for getting to a starting point, but also as a backup if the weather turns bad. From about Kehlheim, where the river is navigable, you can also take your bike on the riverboats.
The bike route itself is about 85% paved roads, mostly through agricultural areas between towns. In most towns or along roads there are usually dedicated bike paths separate from car traffic. Only along the banks of the Danube, or adjacent dikes is the riding surface packed gravel. For anyone familiar with the rolling hills of Vermont, the route through the Danube floodplain will seem relatively flat.
All bikes (except folding bikes) travel in the baggage car, which is present on many “regional” trains. These trains, while not quite a milk train are not the same as the high-speed Intercity trains. They are a great way to see the countryside at a slower pace, with a lot of stops. After five hours I ended up getting out two stops from my destination, to be able to ride a few extra miles before the official end of my trip.
A Change of Pace: Cycling in New York City
by Terry Burke
I knew that it was going to be a different bicycle ride when Doug phoned me. I had just been contemplating which of the many winding routes through northern Westchester County’s lanes to take that morning when the phone rang. Two hours later I wheeled my trusty touring bicycle off the train at 125th Street in Manhattan. I did not realize that there were two flights of steel stairs to descend to the street level in Harlem, and I clutched the railings as I clattered down, my bike slung on my shoulder and my cleats skidding on the metal stairs. As I snapped into my pedals and pushed out into the full-flowing stream of Harlem traffic, my senses were attacked from every which direction: buses, taxis, pedestrians, police sirens, and especially the thumpa-thumpa noise of passing car boom boxes being played at full volume! Riding a straight line is nigh on impossible and I was on 360 degree alert, watching the road for the frequent cavernous potholes, and taxis and buses which cut straight across me to pull into the curb. I was not in the tiny suburban hamlet of Bedford anymore!
I worked my way over to Riverside Drive, then turned south to meet Doug, who was riding toward me from 150th Street, having just finished a photo shoot. On meeting, we dropped down from the Drive to the West Side bike path and rode south along the Hudson, admiring the “Clearwater” sloop moving majestically up river towards us with all sails set to catch the following wind. We turned off the path into Greenwich Village, and soon found what we search for on every ride: a good coffee shop with outside tables, and we paused to watch the world walk by.
We then passed through Tribeca and crossed over to the East Side on Warren Street where there is a good bike lane. For me the next part was a big first: we cycled up the ramp and crossed the Brooklyn Bridge, stopping for a while at one of the towers. It was intoxicating: superb views with Manhattan and Brooklyn spread below on either side of the East River.
Coming off the bridge into Brooklyn we rode a circuitous route up to Prospect Park. The Park was beautiful in its Spring colors, and we rode a circle loop around and back to the entrance arch. Again we meandered a zigzag course back to the East River, stopping in a lovely small park under the Manhattan bridge, and also in “Pedro’s,” a quaint and earthy bar that Doug introduced me to. Then we crossed back over the East River by the Manhattan bridge, not as classic as the Brooklyn bridge but with its own character, and it was fun to see the people in the train carriages passing so close to us. Back in Manhattan we stopped to put our bike lights on, as the night was falling fast, and we cycled through brightly-lit Chinatown.
I had a train to catch back home, so Doug and I shook hands goodbye, with Doug heading back over to the West Side path, and myself facing the hazards of cycling up Park Avenue to Grand Central in the dark. Although I knew that I had lights flashing all over the bicycle, I felt totally invisible, swallowed in the myriad Manhattan lights and unseen and insignificant in the rushing night traffic. I was very relieved to reach Grand Central without incident, and an hour or so later I was pedaling home quietly through an almost-sleeping Katonah, with nary a car in sight.
Bicycling in New York City is exhilarating, stressful and fun all at the same time, very different from biking in the suburbs of Bedford and Katonah. I would not do it every day, but once every so many months, it is quite a change of bicycling tempo. There is a tremendous buzz to cycling in the city, and New York seems to become more and more bike-friendly every time I go in!
Treasure Hunting in the Green Mountains and Beyond by Jennifer Davis and Jaime Meredith
An outdoor activity gaining popularity throughout the world is geocaching. People find and hide caches, waterproof containers ranging in size from an inch long to large ammo boxes, with the help of a GPS and www.geocaching.com. The listing for the geocache includes not only the coordinates of the cache but also information about the size of the container and the difficulty of the terrain, which makes it easy to select caches suiting your needs whether you’re looking for an easy stroll with the family or a challenging hike.
The smallest caches, micros, will usually contain only a log for you to sign and can be hidden almost anywhere. Larger caches need a bigger hiding space, but can still be challenging to find. They will also have a log and usually have trade items, aka treasure or swag, and sometimes trackable items like travel bugs or geocoins which are intended to be moved from cache to cache to complete a journey such as visiting every state.
We were introduced to this activity by a friend. One of our first finds took us to a
historical marker in the Northeast Kingdom commemorating an incident from the revolutionary war, which we certainly never would have learned about if not for geocaching. Many of the other caches we’ve found have included interesting bits of information about various subjects, which just adds to the appeal.
With more caches being hidden every week, we’ll probably never find them all, but we look forward to the hunt. Check it out and you may be surprised to find there are several caches hidden within a few miles of your home.
Corina Rose poses with a geocache and historical marker in Cabot. (Photo courtesy of Jennifer Davis and Jaime Meredith)
Inspiration Made in Germany
by Susan Ritz
Last May I finally accomplished one of my “bucket list” items —riding along one of Germany’s many gloriously long and beautiful bike paths. My daughter, Nina, an exchange student and avid cyclist, had planned the trip along the banks of the Nahe River southeast of Frankfurt and had borrowed an ancient Flying Dutchman bike for me. We set out on a sunny Sunday morning, rolling through newly green forests, across open fields and up into hills dotted with flowering apple trees and gracefully whirling wind towers. We pedaled easily over the well-maintained asphalt path, passing families out for a day’s ride and jaunty Nordic walkers of all ages. The more serious bikers whizzed by us in their bright spandex racing outfits. Each junction we came to was clearly marked with signs telling us the distance to nearby tourist sights and neighboring towns. After riding over 30 miles, we ended our tour at a sidewalk café, enjoying coffee and cake outside the grounds of an elegant palace and wishing we had time to cover the remaining 100 miles of the route along the river. But the sun was setting, so with our bikes, we hopped a train back to the station just minutes from Nina’s dorm. All the way home, I couldn’t help thinking this was how life is supposed to be!
When I lived in rural Germany throughout the 1980’s, bicycles were a common mode of transportation. Outside every train station, you’d find a full rack of commuter bikes. Even during the harshest weather, I’d see the farm women pedaling along through rain, their Loden coats billowing out behind them, toddlers in little wicker seats perched on the handlebars. By the time I moved back to Vermont in 1989, a few new bike paths were beginning to appear near our Bavarian home. Then in the 1990’s, federal, state, and local governments began to invest heavily in bike routes and today the entire country is crisscrossed by over 42,000 miles of paths specifically designated for bikers and hikers. Most, like the one we rode on, are safe, paved tracks, away from roads with occasional detours on low-traffic streets through towns or villages. Many pass through areas of outstanding natural beauty, along rivers, past ancient vineyards and castles, through stunning cities like Dresden and Munich. Trains are equipped with special cars to accommodate bikers and in some places, like along the Danube, bikers can break up their trip by hopping on and off riverboats. Small hotels, B&B’s, restaurants and cafés are easy to find and welcome travelers on foot or on wheels. But they are not just for recreation. The paths are used daily by commuters, school children, and shoppers, and are an important part of Germany’s transportation system. They are found in almost every city, town and village, providing a healthy and low-cost alternative to driving while making Germany a cyclist’s paradise.
Coming back to Central Vermont I couldn’t help but feel frustrated by the slow development of bike paths in this area. In 20 years, Germany has managed to create a national highway system of bike paths, while we still wait for ours to get from Montpelier to Barre! I still dream of miles of safe paths connecting Vermont towns and villages, meandering along the rivers, providing us with a good way to get there and back and appreciate the beauty of our state at the same time. Organizations like VBPC are vital to pushing for a more bike- and pedestrian-friendly Vermont. Now that I’ve seen what can be accomplished, I’m inspired to fully support their efforts.
Susan Ritz, a resident of Montpelier, is shown in May 2009 on a beautiful bike path that runs over 130 miles along the Nahe River near Frankfurt, Germany. (Photo courtesy of Susan Ritz)
The Better World Club offers bicycle-only and car-and-bike membership, including insurance and free roadside assistance. Better World Club offers VBPC members a 10% discount on new membership. The VBPC receives a donation for every new sign-up.