Category: Travel

Happy Trails…. or biking in #PureMichigan #biketravel

imageI frequently use the hashtags #biztravel or #biketravel on twitter or instagram. However, until recently I haven’t had a chance to combine the two (ok, hadn’t thought to….). More and more lately I have been able to do this, and it adds a great twist to routine business trips. My trip to Michigan this week – a couple of days training others in Lansing, and a day of training for myself in Grand Rapids – provided another opportunity. I was driving, and threw my commuter on the back of the car for the ferry ride over to Michigan.

It was a grey day, but thankfully the lake was calm. I’m enjoying the option of taking a ferry for the 70 mile trip across Lake Michigan, sure beats driving through Chicago and allows me to work during the ride. However, rough seas can make the trip far less pleasant. It was sunny and pleasant on the other side.

I was staying at the Marriott in East Lansing close to the Michigan State University campus. The women at the front desk were frequent cyclists, and were very helpful in suggesting paved trails to ride, and how to best navigate the construction all over the campus. Knowing I had a limited window due to daylight, my plan was to ride the Red Cedar Trail through campus, pick up the River Trail over to Lansing and loop back with a spin on the Hawk Island Trail.

The construction was an issue, parts of the trail were gone, detours were frequent, but I still got a good sense of the campus.

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Especially impressive on campus were the number of bike racks, the signs suggesting touring the campus by bike, and the bike service area at the MSU Bike Shop. A biking pamphlet with map showed that air compressors were available at every dorm and many other university buildings.

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My favorite part of the ride was the Hawk Island Trail. Much of it along a river, in the trees, and looping around a pond. If I’d had more time (and daylight) I would have done a second loop. Instead, I headed back to the hotel. This ride was 15 miles.

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In Grand Rapids, a colleague suggested I ride the White Pine Trail, which I could easily pick up just north of downtown Grand Rapids. Downtown it was nice to see some of the sights I usually walk past by bike.

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This also turned into a great ride. Only issue was the dude screaming “Get off the f$#&ing road” when I was in the left lane at Monroe St & Ann St. to turn from a bike lane on the road onto the path. Sigh. And he came up after I was already stopped – and was in the right lane. I was never in his path nor slowed him down. Once I got on the trail things improved, greatly. Tree lined, following the river. The town of Rockford was a complete surprise. Just lovely. And with a brewpub as a bonus.

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I rode north to 12 Mile Road before turning around, and discovering the reason the climb into Rockford felt so easy was a strong tailwind, and the accompanying headwind on way back. Ride totaled just over 32 miles. So felt I earned a stop at Founders Brewing for a beer before turning in for the night.

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My final chance to ride was in Muskegon prior to boarding the ferry for the return trip home. I’d discovered the Lakefront Trail here on a previous trip. I planned on riding around 15 miles starting at the Pere Marquette State Park Beachhouse. There’s a loop that goes along a boardwalk on the lakefront before traveling to the harbor/bay area and circling that. The trail is mainly off road with a small section on road. Several spots are boardwalk, and there’s ample spots to stop, rest and enjoy the views. My turnaround spot was just past Harbor Landing. Even earned a QOM on return (which I always find funny, I’m slow slow slow )

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All in all a great trip! Productive from a business standpoint, punctuated by fun bike rides. And a beautiful ferry ride or two…. ah, summer in Michigan and on Lake Michigan.

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Chicago DivvyBikes #fail

20130807-225850.jpgI love bike share programs. As someone who adores being able to tour a city by bike, or sneak a quick ride into a business trip, they provide a great option to me. I also think they help embed the idea of using a bike as transport into many people who wouldn’t think of them as such. I love when I hear about another city adding a bike share program, be it New York City or here in Milwaukee, and hope the concept becomes the norm in all cities.

It was sad when the B-cycle experiment in Chicago ended after a single season a few years back. Due to that and my frequent visits there, I’ve been following the news and buzz about Chicago’s new bike share program called Divvy Cycles. I was excited to give the system a try during this week’s business trip to Chicago.

I thought ahead to bring my helmet (personal preference, saw tons of people on the bikes sans helmets all around the city).

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Having downloaded the Cycle Finder app to my iPhone, I headed from my hotel around 5:30pm to the Divvy station at Grand and Fairbanks Court , which was the nearest station and had 11 bikes available. The touchscreen on the rental kiosk seemed very slow to respond, and kept looping back to the initial language choice welcome screen. Finally it asked me to “dip my card” (swipe my credit card), and began to process. And process, and process. Back to welcome screen. One more try, same thing. A young man came up, tried with his credit card. No luck. Said same thing happened previous day. App in had we both headed to the station at Illinois and McClurg. This time we both got a screen with an error message suggesting we contact Divvy via phone.

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Divvy’s customer service rep told me that machines often time out, and to try again, try another station, or come back another time. No exactly helpful advice. Off to the next station at Illinois and Streeter. Same thing. Although here we did see a person successfully take out a bike – but using a credit card already in the system. By this time, between the other guy and I we had tried 4 different credit cards at 3 stations, multiple times.

I had planned the stations with a Plan B in mind, as I was determined to ride a bike. Off to Bike & Roll at Navy Pier to rent a “fitness” bike (a Trek 7.2). A more expensive option, but at least an option.

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My plan of touring around the city for a couple of hours from Divvy station to Divvy station swapping bikes every 30 minutes, turned into “go for a long ride along the lake”. Off to the Lakefront Trail I went. Which was PACKED. Still was a great ride. Navy Pier is roughly in the middle, and I planned to ride the entire 18 mile length for a 36 mile round trip ride. First headed north to the zero Mile marker at that end.

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About 15 miles in, I paused at the Ohio Street Beach to eat an apple, and watch the swimmers train along the breakwater. As a former competitive swimmer and lifeguard, I’ve always been fascinated by these swimmers – water is so cold.

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Shortly after passing the Shedd Aquarium, my phone rang repeatedly. Again and again. Enough that I couldn’t ignore. It was Bike&Roll calling to warn me of an incoming storm and requesting I bring the bike back ASAP. Turned around at the 10mile southbound marker, making my ride an even 20miles. Was sad I couldn’t do the entire length – but realize even though no storm appeared, the crowds had slowed me so much that it would have been very dark when I made the trip back from the 0 marker south.

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A couple of notes about the Strava from this ride. First, the elevation map (or lack thereof) makes me laugh…so much grey space with the tiny bumps at the bottom, but seriously, 0 feet gain, I don’t see a flat line. ;-). Secondly, it makes me sad to see there were 43 visible segments in this 20 miles and 27 hidden segments. This is a very, very crowded path with bikers, runners, walkers, dog walkers, rollerbladers, skateboarders and clueless tourists peering through cameras mid path. This is not a path to earn KOM/QOM. Tracking mileage is fine. Going for record speeds, dangerous. Don’t be a Stravasshole

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Flights are my fancy….

I write a lot on this blog about how I try to rent a bike whenever I can on my travels, or pop into a Botanic Garden, but there’s another destination I seek out on many of my trips. Brew Pubs. Sometimes it’s the brewpub connected with a known nationally distributed brand, others of a smaller regional player, and sometimes those that only sell their beers at their Brew Pubs. I love trying different brewers beers. Plus it gives me a chance to try new styles (hopefully, we don’t end up in a world where everyone only makes IPAs, how boring would that be). My very favorite thing to do on a first visit is do a flight of beers.

Many brewpubs offer the groupings of samples known as flights. Some define them, grouping  3oz samples of 4 -6 of their beers together. Others allow you to select from the beers currently on tap. While most brewpubs will give you tiny little pours as free samples, I prefer the flights. That bit more liquid allows a good AATMF of the beer. I try to give every new beer a true appearance, aroma, taste, mouthfeel, finish tasting. Both helps me appreciate the beer and continue to develop my palate.

Here’s some of the brewpubs and flights I’ve had in the last year or so. All pictures should be able to be viewed bigger if you click on them. Unfortunately, I’ve not been good (understatement) at keeping a log of exactly what I tasted. But I at least know where I was….

While in Colorado, we made it by several places, Mountain Sun Brewery in Boulder, Tommyknockers in Idaho Springs, Backcountry Brewery in Frisco. Was even able to do a flight on on tap beers at Cheeky Monk at Winter Park when we visited Trestle Bike Park.

Was able to enjoy a flight at Breckenridge Brewery. Visited both the BrewPub in Breckenridge and at the main brewery in Denver, CO.

On a trip to Washington, DC and Ocean City Maryland stopped first at Ramshead Shore House in Stevensville, MD. As a bonus there, my brother in laws band was performing, Kiddo’s beautiful sister stopped by along with my niece and her fiance.
Tho no visit by a beer fan to the Ocean City area would be complete without a detour to Rehobeth Beach, DE and a visit to Dogfish Head Brewery.
I make frequent trips to Grand Rapids, MI which has a thriving and ever growing beer culture. The first brewpub I discovered was Founders Brewing. That initial flight of samples is long forgotten, and the pictures buried deep in folders of files. Still I make a point of stopping by for a pint on most trips to the city. I love trying their limited releases or experimental brews on tap.
Newer to the scene are Grand Rapids Brewing and Brewery Vivant. Both offer samples, and have interesting food selections (you must have the Kale chips at Grand Rapids Brewing and the Truffle fries at Brewery Vivant!)  I fell instantly in love with Brewery Vivant with its Belgian theme. Located in an old church the atmosphere is incredible, and the beers equally so. I especially love how the flight is in small snifters which enhance these traditional Belgian style beers. It will become a staple of my Grand Rapids visits.
Bikes, beers, and Botanic gardens…my typical Yelp or google searches when visiting or researching a new city. These are a few of my favorite things…..

Washington DC…Biking Family Style


One of the joys of family travel is rediscovering the world through the eyes of your child. With Kiddo in 6th grade beginning to understand and show interest in politics and government, a spring break trip to Washington, DC seemed a perfect idea. Planned a trip that included all the typical touristy highlights, along with side trips to reconnect with family (Kiddos sister & hubby’s brother live outside Baltimore).Of course, many of the sites were visited by bike. Others by foot. Or via the use of public transit. Or a combination of all three. We’re a get up and go kinda family with a firm belief that exploring by foot or bike allows a much deeper experience no matter where you are. WARNING: FAILED AT LIMITING PICTURES AND WORDS BELOW. Hang with me. In a complete aside for biking people: All three days I was rented a mixie (being a *girl* and all). And I don’t think I ever stepped through it. Always threw leg over saddle. Old habits.

Our first rental was from the Union Station location of Bike and Roll. We’d taken the subway from our hotel, choosing this vendor both due to location, and we’ve rented from these folks before in San Francisco (read about it). This location only had “comfort” bikes – whose wide, padded saddles are the opposite of comfort when riding all day, just saying. Once we got suited up with the proper sized bike and helmet, off we went.
First stop was the Smithsonian National Air & Space Museum. Spent a couple hours wandering around looking at the exhibits. In our case it was just enough time. We were ready to move on.
Started heading up the Mall, with a couple of photo opportunity stops. First by FEMA then by the Washington Monument.

In fact most of the rest of the day was stops for quick exploring of monuments, reading plaques and taking pictures. The World War Two Memorial, Vietnam War Memorial, Lincoln Memorial.

A spin around the reflecting pool brought us to the Martin Luther King, FDR, and Thomas Jefferson Memorials. Sadly we were a couple of weeks too late to enjoy the cherry blossoms.
The day was getting long, so it was time to head back to return the bikes. But first a swing past the White House.
A great day of sightseeing. Much, much more seen, much more enjoyable, cheaper, healthier and fun than a bus tour.
On another day, we rented bikes from Bike and Roll’s Alexandria location, opting for their Combo bike rental, Mount Vernon tour and ferry package. In this you bike 11-12 miles on a bikeway along the Potomac to Mount Vernon, receive tickets to the site, lock your bikes up on the grounds and take a ferry back to Alexandria.
It was a nice easy ride, great for families. Mount Vernon is such an interesting place to visit. The gardens, the plantation house, the glimpse of how for Washington and others of his day their lifestyle only existed due to slaves.
The ferry ride home was also quite enjoyable (even if I would have liked to bike a bit more).
Equally enjoyable were the oysters and beers when we got back to Old Town Alexandria.
Other trip highlights were visits to the International Spy Museum, and using their GPS enabled “Spy in the City” handheld to go on a walking spy adventure around the city.
Plus visits to the Ford Theater (make reservations!), the US Capitol, The Library of Congress, Baltimore’s Inner Harbor, Fort McHenry (oh say can you see….), seeing friends and family, catching Uncle Mike’s band perform, meeting cousin Wrenn’s fiance and hanging out with big sis, a Food Network inspired trip to DC-3, a visit to Dogfish Head Brewery, and another bit of biking this time along Ocean City, MD boardwalk.
Yes a busy week…that’s how we roll…and how we like our vacations!

Read all the way to here, and wondering why I wrote a recap of a 2012 spring break trip in spring of 2013? It has occurred to me that maybe if I either deleted or finished all the partially written drafts I have hidden behind the scenes of this blog that I might feel like writing more. Take away some of the pressure created by evidence of procrastination. Or some such. I have a tendency to start a post, give it a title, throw in a picture, and then get stuck – usually because I can’t figure out how to limit the # of pictures or words. Looking at the list in the draft folder, a few were easily deleted. Others I would like to finish.

This recap of our spring break 2012 trip to Washington DC fit under the need to finish category.

No Boys Allowed – Ray’s Women’s Weekends

Two years ago my love of mountain biking was ignited by a spur of the moment decision to take advantage of the free women’s clinic at Ray’s Indoor Mountain Bike Park here in Milwaukee. This year I was fortunate enough to be able to attend both of Ray’s women’s events, the February clinic at the original Ray’s in Cleveland, and the March event in Milwaukee. Hosted by 1995 UCI Women’s Downhill World Champion, Leigh Donovan,these events are a resounding success in bringing women interested in mountain biking together, an amazing 218 women in CLE and 203 in MKE.

Ray’s and Leigh put together a list of coaches that read like a who’s who of women in mountain biking, too many to mention but included: Tammy Donohue, Cory Coffey, Angi Weston, Hillary Eglert, Lindsey Voreis, Carley Young, Sarah Rawlings, Suzanne Summer, Nadi Stenbrecher, Wendy Palmer, Rae Gandalf, Jeni Roosen, Tania Juillerat. The women who attended the clinics were a diverse group in all respects  A wide range of ages from 8 years old to late 50s and beyond; skill levels from never mountain biked to regular racers; interests covering cross country, jumping and freeride, along with BMX racing. Both Ray’s locations offer areas for learning technical skills like log overs, drops, rocks and skinnys, areas to work on jumping and bmx freestyle skills, along with pump tracks and a cross country loop around the perimeter  All sections are defined by skill levels from novice to expert allowing visitors to Rays to progress through the park as their skills develop. Following introductions of the coaches, everyone split into groups around the Rays park, complete newbies to learn body/bike position in the Novice room, beginners and intermediates to the sport and beginner skills areas, many to beginning and advanced jump lines, others to the pump track.

The reasons behind the success of these clinics are twofold. First by the enthusiasm, passion and expertise the coaches bring. They break down skills. First explaining in words and gestures and then demonstrating themselves with their bikes. Angi Weston using her hands to explain cornering, Lindsey Voreis using her entire body, and Jeni Roosen demonstrating rolling over a drop with perfect form.

But probably the biggest factor is the women only format. It’s not just the lack of testosterone driven egos and bravado. There’s a sense of safety in the encouragement. Encouragement and urging to not doubt yourself and just try. Cheering as you attempt, even louder cheering when you succeed. A group that picks you up if you fall, and nudges you to succeed. Even more there’s the witnessing other women learn and do. A sense of if she can do it, perhaps so can I. 
Both clinics ended with shared stories over beers while the coaches conduct a swag raffle. All participants were winners – not just of t-shirts, water bottles, forks, tires, even season passes, but of a sense of accomplishment. I will always fondly remember a young woman XC racer animatedly talking  over lunch about crying in joy when she finally mastered the pump track. Or of plans being made for summer rides, contact info shared with other local women. Huge thanks to Rays for sponsoring these clinics, and to Leigh for hosting…and to all the coaches and women riders who traveled far and near to come together for these great days of riding!
My entire album of pictures from the two clinics 

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