Category: trip report

Maine….. Or check off states 48&49, which just leaves Alaska.

Maine Prospect HarborSo do you have to tag blog posts with a #latergram or #whythehelldidittakesolong or #delayedpost type hashtag? Because I seem to not get stuff written in real time, and then never get it written because I feel guilty or weird or something for not posting promptly. Anyway….

Over Labor Day, my niece was married in Maine. The trip to celebrate this marriage was the real reason for our trip to Boston. I grew up in a family which traveled often (in the road trip style that was the norm back then). Between lots of childhood trips, business trips and the love of travel my parents instilled in me, I had been to 47 of the 50 US states. Alaska, New Hampshire and Maine remained (haha that made me laugh) to be conquered. The drive from Boston ticked off NH into the been there done that check off the list column, while Maine made me want to return. Even if the drive from Boston seemed never ending, who knew Maine was such a long state.

The wedding was in the small town of Winter Harbor, a coastal village in the Arcadia National Forest area. The coastline here is stunning due to the rocky nature. We knew we wanted to explore by bikes, so one of the first things we did was ask the Innkeeper for recommendations. She suggested Seascape Kayaks in nearby Birch Harbor. It was a good thing we stopped by on Saturday morning, as they are closed on Sunday. The owner graciously offered to size us to bikes and helmets, and leave them in a rack for us to grab on Sunday.
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After securing the bikes we used the rest of the morning before the wedding to explore the island, and take in the beauty of the shore. I was taken with the rock seams between the sparkly speckled granite and the black rock.
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The wedding was beautiful, the bride gorgeous. Kiddo’s sister and her Mom were in from Maryland. As was Hubby’s brother, the father of the bride. It was great to all be together to celebrate. From the gift bags in our room to the thoughtful touches like dancing shoes, bug spray and a pre-planned hashtag it was evident much thought and planning had been put ino e event. They even sat us for dinner with another cycling couple!
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Sunday began with a wedding brunch, and then our chance to bike tour. Seascape Kayaking is perfectly situated along the 12 mile loop around the Schoodic Peninsula. Nearly half the route is in the one way Park Service road which has several options to stop, picnic, use the potties and take in the views. We even saw a porcupine along the ride. A first for me outside a zoo. Kiddo loved exploring and climbing the rocks along the shore.
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After returning the bikes, we drove over to Bar Harbor to look around and grab a bite to eat. Naturally I searched out a brewery for this.Atlantic Brewing and Mainely Meats was our stop. Recommend both for a visit!
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We stayed at a charming bed and breakfast in Prospect Harbor. Gracious hosts. Great food (even accommodated my gluten free requests). A wonderful option if you’re in the area. I can’t wait to go back!
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Sightseeing on two wheels

Recently spent a week vacationing in northern California. San Francisco was home base, but we added a night in Yountville (Napa) and Monterey. As with last year’s trip to wine country, I’d researched possible self-lead bike tour routes and bike rental options. We knew we wanted to bike across the Golden Gate bridge and down to Sausalito. Further south, I was intrigued by the idea of biking past the famous golf courses and ocean views of the 17 mile drive between Monterey and Carmel.

Our first adventure was the Golden Gate trip. San Francisco has several options for renting bikes, especially in the touristy Fishermen’s Wharf area. My on-line research lead me to Bike-n-Roll, as I preferred their wide fleet of Trek bikes. I knew I’d want to rent one of their “performance road” bikes (Trek FX7.3 disc) vs. a “comfort hybrid” bike (Trek 7300). My mistake was not reserving the bikes on-line; partially due to their on-line system not working from iPad, iPhone or Android mobile devices, something I’d suggest they fix. I decided our best bet to get the performance bike would be to go to the main tour center location at Columbus and Mason. After filling out the paperwork and discussing possible routes, we were asked to wait 15 minutes for a couple of the FX’s to be brought over from another store. When that didn’t happen, the store manager offered to upgrade us to Madone 2.1 road bikes or switch us to their “performance” mountain bike, Trek4500. Anticipating (wisely) the crowds on the Golden Gate bridge we went for the upright geometry of the mountain bikes.

First part of the ride was along Fisherman’s Wharf and the waterfront bike path. Tons of folks out riding and walking. Enjoyed riding past Ghiradelli Square and the views of the Presidio.
The climb up to the Golden Gate was a bit of a challenge. Hill weenie that I am, I was surprised when I found the perfect spinning gear and navigated myself up the hill.

 The bridge was crowded, particularly at each end, very middle less so, as I suspect many folks walk part way and turn back. Extreme care is needed riding across. Lots of folks walking 4-5 people wide, taking pictures – nose buried in viewfinder, being typical tourists with no care or even awareness of others. Yes, I realize I’m also a tourist, but do try and respect other tourists. Still the views were stunning. This is something everyone should do. Once. Once and done.

Off the bridge there’s a fun descent down to Sausalito. Sausalito is a charming town, full of cafes, houseboats and gorgeous water views,and tons of clueless tourists. We were tired of weaving (or walking our bikes) through crowds, and decided to ride on through.

We foolishly did not stop to refill our water bottles or grab a snack in Sausalito. Not smart. Our water bottles were less than half full, we hadn’t packed any energy bars, GU or other fuel. This came back to haunt us later. We both were out of water before, and starting to bonk going into Tiburon. I know better.

At Tiburon, views across the bay to the city were stunning. And the Blue Moons (and food) at Sam’s were a perfect reward for a good ride.

The line of bikes waiting for the ferry back to San Fran was surprisingly long. Lucky we put our bikes into the queue when we did – by the time the ferry was loading there was probably 50 more bikes behind us. The ferry only allows 80 bikes per trip. We were # 75 and 76 for this trip. Lots of folks were turned away to wait the two hours for the next ferry. Loved seeing all these bikes on the ship!
Th short ride from the ferry terminal back to the shop concluded our 19mile trip. One I highly recommend. And know even with my once and done comment about riding over the Golden Gate – this is a trip I’d do again. As to Bike-n-Roll, was impressed with their fleet, the well-kept bike conditions and the general bike advocate nature of the staff. A business worthy of your (and my) business.
Trip 2- Monterey to Carmel via the 17 mile Drive

Wow, wow, wow. When planning this trip, I’d originally thrown out the idea of a night in Monterey to possibly explore wineries south of San Francisco. But then I realized folks biked the famous 17 Mile Drive past the infamous golf courses of Peeble Beach, Spanish Bay, and Spyglass, and the winery visits went away. For this trip, I decided to rent from Bay Bikes, utilizing their on-line reservation system to reserve a couple of Specialized Sirrius flat bar road bikes.

Bay Bikes is located on Cannery Row the main tourist area of Monterey. They stock many Surrey style bikes and comfort type hybrids, along with some traditional road bikes, mountain bikes and flat bar road bikes. Their fleet seemed a bit older than I would have liked. Nonetheless, they are a great option for renting bikes in Monterey. The employees are quite helpful in determining routes and helping with directions. In fact when I said we were planning on riding into Carmel for lunch, they questioned how often we rode, and suggested that most folks turned around about 10 miles into the ride. Once they were confident we rode (and even seemed impressed that I bike commuted), they offered suggestions for riding around and sites in Carmel.
Monterey has an excellent bike path running along their waterfront, providing a great 6-8 mile area for surrey bikes and less adventurous families to ride. One of my favorite things about it is the clear delineation between where bikes should go (in each direction) and where pedestrians should walk.
Upon leaving the bike path, there’s 3 miles or so of road with bike lanes until entering the 17mile drive, where bikes can skip the toll booth, $10 per car charge, and ride for free. Views all along the drive are stunning – both ocean and golf course. We pedalled leisurely, stopping often for pictures.
Once past Peeble Beach the road narrows, and there’s a fairly steep descent down into Carmel by the Sea. Followed by a corresponding ascent into downtown. Nothing someone comfortable on a bike can’t handle – but made me realize why the shop suggests casual riders turn back at Peeble Beach. Enjoyed lunch at Flaherty’s Oyster Bar, taking advantage of their yummy oyster selection! They were great about parking the bikes, refilling our water bottles and getting us back on our way.
On our return trip, we spent some time looking around Peeble Beach, including enjoying a drink in the lodge overlooking the famous 18th green.
Before we knew it, our 30 mile ride came to an end…which of course meant a stop for a beer. Cannery Row Brewing Company was a perfect place to try a few different beers, along with grabbing a bite at the beer while listening to live music. A great day, and a must do bike ride! Who needs to tour wineries, when there’s bikes and beer, right?

Taking A Bite Out Of The Big Apple

 In addition to a lot of walking around New York, we did a bunch of eating and drinking. This was a work related trip (hubby’s work, not mine). Good food, good company and good drink was guaranteed.

 Being the Top Chef fan girl I am, I couldn’t go to New York without visiting Tom Colicchio’s restaurant CraftBar. Naturally, we had walked there. Taking a path up Fifth Avenue with a walk through the Union Square Greenmarket. The Andy Memorial brought a smile to my face.

We were at Craftbar mid-day, so enjoyed a cheese plate, along with some craft beers. Hopefully, on a future trip to NYC, we can add dinner at Craft or Craftbar to my list of Top Chef restaurants where I’ve dined. Tho’ I can already add this to the ones I’ve enjoyed.
One of the highlights of the trip was the “Neighborhood Nosh Tour”. 8 of our group choose this as an excursion on a Saturday morning in early May. We began the tour at Ferrara’s  in Little Italy for coffee and cannoli, which we enjoyed outside the restaurant.

After eating our fill of these delectable sweets, we needed to walk a bit to work up an appetite for our next stop. A tour through Little Italy and on the Chinatown, with a stop along Canal Street to haggle on “real” Rolex, Coach, Louis Vitton, Chanel did the trick.

I found the shops and street vendors in Chinatown fascinating.
Our destination was Columbus Park where we ate Tasty Dumplings while watching people young and old perform Tai Chai, play chess, and mingle in the park.
A quick bus ride brought us to the East Village to Yonah Schimmel’s Knishery. I’ve never had a knish. As knishes go, I’m sure these were quite good. BUT….while I love potatoes, knishes just went to my been there done that, checked the box list. Not a fan. The Egg Creams, tho’, I could do again (but I’m a huge fan of Chocolate Phosphates)

We ended the tour with a trip to Empire Candy. Was so stuffed at this point, going to a place to buy something for later ws just the ticket. Bought several treats to bring home to Kiddo while here.

 One of the more unique experiences happened on our first night as we walked to the restuarant the group was met by the trip sponsor’s, and asked to sign the “Cask of Dreams”, which was then rolled down the street to Public, our restaurant of the evening.

This was Derby weekend, so we had to find a place to watch the race and drink a mint julep – Brinkle’s worked out well for that. And, of course, I worked in a Blue Moon or two (including on Broadway at Million DOllar Quartet).

 On our last morning in NYC, we walked back to the East Village for sandwiches at Katz’s Deli. Made famous in the “I’ll have what she’s having” scene of ‘When Harry Met Sally’, this Ny Deli is known for their pastrami sandwiches and salami. Loved it.

In fact, loved this trip. Can’t wait to get back to NYC!
This is part 2 of a trip report on NYC, part  1 is here

New York City State of Mind

Hubby and I spent a recent weekend in New York  City.  Despite all my traveling, I have only been in Manhattan one other time. While only 8 or 9 years ago, that trip seems like a lifetime ago – I was such a different person, out of shape, not likely to venture out and explore on my own. On that trip, I was in the city for a meeting, and went from hotel room, to meeting room, to bus with a large group to take us to restaurants or a show. I hadn’t yet discovered how even in a large city like New York or Chicago, biking or walking to explore a city brings it all down to scale. Makes the city more human, more accessible.

 And so on this trip we did all the touristy things, but for the most part we walked. A lot. My pedometer said I walked nearly 6 miles on Thursday, over 11 miles on Friday, another 9 on Saturday, and 7 on Sunday. The Trump SoHo hotel was our home base, putting us in a pedestrian friendly spot. On Friday morning, we ventured out with the group on Liberty/Ellis Island tour.

Rather than sticking with the group and riding the bus back to the hotel, we cut out of Ellis Island on an earlier ferry, walking through Battery Park to catch a subway uptown. A subway ride complete with entertainment.

From the subway station it was a short walk on a beautiful spring day to our destination of Central Park with a planned stop at the Boathouse. Our path to the boathouse took us past the Central park Zoo. I was surprised and fascinated by the rock outcroppings within Central Park. 
After lunch at the Boathouse, we headed to the Mall area of Central Park, and south towards Columbus Circle. 
Naturally, I was drawn to the flowers, particularly the flowering trees.
From Columbus Circle, we wandered south down Broadway past the Ed Sullivan theater (where close by Mario Lopez was filming for Entertainment Tonight), through Times Square, by Madison Square Garden to Greenwich Village.
Shed a few tears at the Tiles for America Memorial
I wish on this trip we’d had time to rent bikes and explore New York by bike. I’d really like to bike the New York City Waterfront Greenway which makes a 32 mile circle around Manhattan. All through the city, I saw bikes, and evidence of a surprisingly good bike infrastructure.  Loved the bike specific traffic lights, and was especially impressed with the re-design of Broadway with the separated bile lanes.
The Trump SoHo Hotel made a great home base for the weekend. Slick, modern lobby. Outdoor pool deck on the 7th floor. Location was great for shopping, restaurants and exploring. For New York the rooms seemed huge. Bathrooms had a separate two headed shower and water closet. But best of all, the bathtub overlooking the city, and the construction of what will be World Trade #1 was such a great touch.
Of course, all this exploring works up an appetite and makes one thirsty. And since eating and drinking is kinda what we do, I’ll cover the food and drink portions of the trip in part 2.

San Antonio Botanic Garden

I’m a huge fan of garden touring, be it private gardens, urban gardens or official Botanic gardens. I work this into my travels whenever and wherever possible. On my late March trip to San Antonio, I spent the afternoon at the San Antonio Botanical Garden. When I left Milwaukee we still had snow on the ground, so spending a few hours wandering around plants with flowers and trees with leaves was a much needed tonic for my soul.

The Botanical Garden is laid out on 38 acres with the most formal areas closest to the entrance. You enter through a carriage house, which includes an interesting looking restaurant and a nice gift shop. Restrooms are in the carriage house and in locations around the gardens.

Looking at the garden map, I decided on a clockwise circle around the garden, allowing me to explore all areas. Immediately on entering I was wowed by a stand of poppies in full bloom. I am a huge fan of poppies, but have never been successful in establishing them or growing them from seed in the masses I saw here.

Past the poppies were the formal gardens and the rose garden. Early roses were blooming, but I’d guess I was about a month early for peak spring bloom. I was quite taken with one unmarked rose with multi hued flowers (changing from a red bud through multi to yellow mature flower). Reading the label on  ‘Zephrine Drouhin’ (in bud, not flower) I was reminded of how much I loved this nearly thornless, sweet scented beauty in my old garden.

 Just past the formal garden was an area called the Watersaver Lane. An exhibit of 6 small “houses” each landscaped in a theme with notes about water and fertilizer required to maintain these. I loved the concept, but wish the wording on the waste of water and chemical need of a typical American lawn was spelled out even stronger.

Continuing around the path were more wild, natural areas planted in natives designed to mimic the East Texas piney woods and the South Texas hill country. Once past this area was the Childrens Vegetable Garden. This was one impressive teaching garden.

 The Botanical Garden has a series of conservatories which surround a sunken garden area. 

 Next up was the fountain area and the Japanese Garden. I smiled at the rubber duckies in the fountain, but was told by an employee there were only there for spring break. In fact, she was removing them while I was there.

Interesting sculpture was doted all through the gardens, the most memorable being the chair tree.

The Botanical Garden is about 4 miles from the downtown/Alamo area. Timing forced me to take a cab out to the gardens ($18), however, the garden is easily accessible via the number 7 bus which runs hourly to and from the Alamo area. I was able to take advantage of the bus ($1.50) for the ride home. So glad I made it to the garden, and hope to visit again in another season.

This is the second part of my San Antonio trip report. The first part focuses on the Riverwalk area. It can be found here.
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