Boston by Bike

IMG_1597 Naturally once I knew we were visiting Boston, I began searching for information on biking around the city. I was pleasantly surprised to discover the city has a website emphasizing the importance of bike friendliness as critical to Mayor Menino’s vision for a vibrant and healthy city that benefits all its citizens. There’s a bike share program with tons of kiosk locations called The Hubway.

Seeing all this, I knew we needed to work riding into our plan, and decided we’d rent bikes from Urban Adventours. They are a bike shop in the Long Wharf area that offers both bike sightseeing tours and 24hr bike rentals. Rentals include a lock, helmet, and excellent bike maps. Just in case, I opted to rent a flat kit, as we both can change flats. Thankfully, however, we didn’t need to, but better safe than sorry, right?!? I’d made reservations on-line, and had even gotten a call confirming times, sizes, etc.  The on site staff was equally helpful. Adjusting seats, giving us hints and tips. We picked up the bikes Thursday morning around 11am, returned them the full 24 hours later.

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For our first day of riding, we followed their suggested route along the Charles River. Leaving from the shop and ending at our hotel we rode 15 or so miles along this route which they suggest for families, as it is nearly all on off-street paved bike paths. The route follows the Boston side of the river out past Boston University, crossing the river at Harvard University into Cambridge. The return is on the Cambridge side past both Harvard and MIT into Charlestown. The path on the Boston side of the river was more heavily used, but not to the extent it caused any issues or concerns (unlike my recent ride along Chicago’s lakeshore path that was crazy busy).

Small parks dot the path, which has minimal street level road crossings, esp. on the Boston side, usually the path goes under the road along the river. Once to Harvard, we left the planned route to stop for lunch at City Sushi and then tour Harvard by bike and by walking our bikes around Harvard Yard (lots of signs there reminding you to dismount).

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IMG_1602 IMG_1610IMG_1621 IMG_1624 Naturally, Kiddo had to get his photo taken touching the now shiny left foot of the Harvard statue. This is a popular activity, we had to wait for in line behind 10 or so others.

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Stored the bikes overnight in our hotel room (Yes, you can do this. I do it all the time. Just walk confidently through the lobby onto the elevator with your bike. No problem!) On Friday morning, we followed Urban Adventours “city view” route. This route starts on the Charles river path of the previous day but then is nearly entirely on city streets. However, Urban Adventours has done an excellent job of designing the route to keep you on roads and streets with bike lanes, sharrows and where possible less traffic.

We rode around Boston University, Fenway Park, The Christian Scientist Plaza and much of the area on the south end of the Freedom Trail. Kiddo did an incredible job riding in traffic. Followed the rules of the road. Rode confidently but predictably. This route has tons of turns, so I kept the map handy, and stopped often to check where we needed to go (and a couple of times how to get back on track). This route is great – but probably best for folks used to riding on streets and with confidence in their bike skills. In total we rode about 13 miles more or less following this route.

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One of the most pleasant surprises was the community garden area in the Back Bay Fens.

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Along both routes, we made stops to explore and play in the parks. Both sides of the river had fitness parks, even a small zip line.

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Bikes give you freedom to explore at a more human level. You can cover plenty of ground, take frequent breaks and see the city at a slower pace than by car or bus. I highly recommend adding to your trips…and in Boston Urban Adventours is a great option to do just this.

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There’s also a post about our walking the Freedom Trail here. And here’s the full photo set of our Boston visit.

Boston – One if by land, two if by sea…..

 

IMG_1525While this famous saying originally described the meaning of the lanterns Paul Revere hung in the Old North Church, it also sums up great ways to explore Boston! Kiddo and I had the opportunity to spend a couple of days here as part of our trip to Maine for a family wedding. It was the first trip for kiddo, and while I had been here on a business trip in the 90’s, I hadn’t really explored. This post describes how we toured by land (walking) and sea (water taxi), there’s another about touring by bike here. And here’s the full photo set of our Boston visit.

Given its rich history and the short timeframe of our visit, I wanted to maximize our sightseeing, and develop a bit of a game plan. Prior to the trip I did a bit of research on sights to see…checking in with the googles, social media friends and of course, my well traveled mother and brother. All sources said we must do the Freedom Trail, a three mile long planned route that covers 16 of the major historical sites and monuments. Fortunately our hotel, the Residence Inn Tudor Wharf sat on the Freedom Trail where you cross the Charles River into Charlestown.

I also discovered in my research there was a water taxi from the airport over to the Inner Harbor. Generally $10 per person from the airport (kids appeared to be no charge) a slight bit more, the taxi driver, er, boat captain agreed to go beyond the inner harbor and take us to our hotel after he made the 3-4 stops within the Inner Harbor to drop off other passengers The water taxis do not run on a set schedule or route. There are free buses from the airport terminal to the ferry landing. The route is then determined by where all the passengers need to go. On the city side, passengers can call for the water taxis via radios at each ferry stop. The day was perfect for a trip across the water and the trip really helped get us orientated to the city. (click on any of the pictures or collages for a larger version).

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After dropping our luggage at the hotel, we took off to explore the Charlestown portions of the Freedom Trail. FIrst stop was the USS Constitution, aka Old Ironsides. We were surprised by the level of security entering the museum and ship area, but quickly discovered why. The Constitution is the oldest commissioned vessel in the US Navy, and is still an active commissioned ship. In other words we were entering a US Naval facility. All tour guides were active duty Navy wearing the first official uniform of the navy. Very cool. This free tour is well worth a visit!

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After leaving the ship, we began to follow the red brick trail up Bunker Hill. As we walked through the quaint streets, Kiddo began telling me the story of Bunker Hill he’d studied this past year in 7th grade social studies. Bunker Hill marks the first major battle of the Revolutionary War, and where the famous, “Don’t shoot until you see the whites of their eyes” phrase originated. The site is marked with a 221 foot granite obelisk…which contains a winding staircase of 294 steps to the top. Which we climbed, and climbed, and climbed or so it seemed. Great views from the top. Again no charge to visit, tho’ at each site we did leave a couple of dollars in the donation bin.

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We crossed the Charles RIver and began to walk the parts of the Freedom Trail in the North End, otherwise known as Little Italy. The trail is easy to follow as it is marked with a strip of red bricks, streets even have a red strip where you should cross. All along I was taken with the window boxes, gardens and foliage. We continued down the trail in the morning on the way to pick up bikes from Urban Adventours (more on that in another post). This is when we toured the Old North Church (home of 1 if by land, 2 if by sea), wandered the Copps Hill Burying Ground, and visited Paul Revere’s home. The North Church is free to visit (again leave a donation) but there is a small charge ($3.50 per person) for the Paul Revere home. Unfortunately no photos were allowed in the period furnished house.

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Behind the Old North Church was a memorial garden for servicemen and woman who lost their lives in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Touching.

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Kiddo loves ghost tours, so at his request we made reservations for the Ghosts and Gravestones tour. What fun. Spooky costumed guides tell stories of Boston ghosts, apparitions and of course, the Boston Strangler as we travelled through the city in an open air trolley. Kitty Havoc, our guide, led us on walking tours during the two stops to visit graveyards included in the 90 minute tour. Kiddo even got to be part of a reenactment at the second graveyard. Reservations highly recommended. There is a small discount for booking on-line. $39 per person or there about. I’d probably not recommend for the young ones, but 12 and up will find it all a hoot. Or Howl…..

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Naturally all our walking, biking and touring made us hungry and thirsty. The first night we didn’t get far into the north end as we were tired and hungry and ended up eating pizza at Regina’s Pizzeria, who say they are the oldest pizzeria in the northeast. It was wonderful, and they had both Blue Moon and Peroni on tap, so bonus! I had a chicken sausage, sun-dried tomato, basil and garlic pie, Kiddo pepperoni and black olive. Fortunately the hotel had a fridge for the leftovers. The second night was dinner at Boston Beer Works on Canal, where of course I had a beer flight. Our final lunch, including some yummy oysters and fish and chips was along the Quincy Market at Salty Dog. FInally as we left to pick up hubby from the airport, we grabbed cannolis for the road from Mike’s Pastry (oh so good…especially the plain and limoncello ones)

 

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I’ll cover our touring by bike in my next post…….

 

 

 

 

Wordless Wednesday: 1st Day of School K-8

Kindergarden 2005

1st Grade 2006

2nd Grade 2007

Missing 3rd Grade – 2008

 4th Grade 2009

5th Grade 2010

6th Grade 2011

Missing – 7th Grade 2012

8th Grade 2013

Off Road in the City (part2)….or Indianapolis #mtb trails.

017This week’s biztravel involved meetings all day Wednesday in Indianapolis and more meetings on Thursday at our corporate headquarters in Chicago. I was driving down to Indy on Tuesday and back up to Chicago early Thursday morning. Decided for this trip, I’d bring one of my mountain bikes, my full suspension Trek Lush. Unfortunately, the trip didn’t allow me to travel the extra hour south to the mountain biking mecca of Brown County State Park. However, I knew from reading threads on the forums at mtbr.com that there were a couple of trails in the Indy metro area, and fairly close to the hotel I usually stay at when in town. An added bonus is that Tania Juillerat, co-owner of Sub-9 Productions and organizer of the Midwest Women’s Mountain Bike Clinic, lives in the Indianapolis area. Even better she was available to ride on Tuesday evening.

I fully credit my mountain biking to Tania. There is no doubt in my mind that if I had never met her, I would not be mountain biking. Period. Nor would I have the skills on a bike, any bike, that I do without her clinics. It is not possible for me to over praise the work she does bringing people (esp. women) into the sport of mountain biking, and being an advocate of BCSP, HMBA, IMBA……

Plus I just really like her.

8-24-2013 12-02-20 PMFor Tuesday nights’ ride Tania suggested we ride at Fort Ben, the two trail loops at Fort Harrison State Park on the east side of Indy. This is about an 8 mile trail system consisting of two loops. The original Schoen Creek loop and the newer Lawrence Creek loop. This year a connector has been opened between the two, allowing riders to easily combine to two into a single ride.

We began by parking near the main shelter and restrooms. Both to change into our bike shorts, and because there has been some smash and grab robberies out of cars in the more secluded trail parking areas. The Lawrence Creek loop was easily accessed via a short ride down a paved path. Both trails are fairly rocky, rooty with several log overs. Nothing too technical but between the rocks and such and the exposure to the ravine, more of an intermediate rider trail than Town Run (below).

Fort Ben reminded me much of Brown County, particularly the Lawrence Creek section. A bit more exposure than I am used to in Wisconsin (meaning the trail runs right along ravine drop offs, at times off camber). Nothing I can’t handle, but something I have to settle into. Tania naturally went into coach mode, reminding me to really look ahead on the sections with exposure, encouraging me to ride over the logs and through the rock gardens. The trails are well used by trail runners, hikers, and bikers with ped traffic going one way, bike the other. All groups were courteous to each other. And boy oh boy does Tania know everyone. We stopped several times to chat with other riders, Tania reminding them of future trail projects and work days, along with talking about the Brown County Breakdown in September.

Loved having an opportunity to ride with Tania, and afterward enjoyed a nice leisurely evening of dinner and beers getting caught up on family, all her projects and discussing how to get more women in mountain biking. Somehow despite having been to 5 clinics where Tania coached or organized (3 of hers and 2 at Rays), along with one of her race events, I had never ridden with Tania…barely had seen her on a bike. She spends so much time advocating for mountain biking, and works so hard at events helping other woman, that she doesn’t get to ride as much as I suspect she wishes she could.

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Wednesday night, my meeting went late, and I was on my own to ride (versus riding Fort Ben again with Tania and her son). I wanted to give Town Run a ride knowing it sat literally behind my hotel (the X on both Strava screen shots). I’d been told there was a south trailhead off 82nd St. behind Bicycle Garage Indy (a bike shop) and headed first over there. New construction and retaining walls at the shopping center no longer allow access from the south. I headed north to find the north trailhead on 96th street. Drove by it a couple of times before I noticed the gravel road on the south side of 96th between Allisonville Road and Hazel Dell. Once I found the road to the park, I was surprised by the number of cars already parked in there. Lots of people out riding the trail. I got passed a couple of times, was aware of other riders, but never felt crowded or pushed for speed out on the trail.

Town Run Trail is a 7mile long hardpacked twisty fast flowy trail that utilizes going up down and around a river levee to create the speed and flow. Mostly smooth with some rocks and roots. Several man-made features from small log drops to a couple of larger drops, and a wall ride. All features has an easy line around them. In most places switchbacks and bermed turns take you up and over the levee, but there are a few spots of straight up and down the fall line. I enjoyed riding around this trail, would have loved to do a second loop if I’d had time.

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The two trails are different, each fun. Would be great to have them both in my backyard to ride. Each brought smiles, challenged me in spots, made me whoop and holler in others. No doubt if I drive to Indy there will be a mountain bike along for the ride, even if I can’t get all the way down to Brown County State Park!

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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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