Boston by Bike
September 8, 2013
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.
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).
Click on any picture or collage for a larger version.
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.
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.
One of the most pleasant surprises was the community garden area in the Back Bay Fens.
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.
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.
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…..
September 7, 2013
While 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).
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!
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.
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.
Behind the Old North Church was a memorial garden for servicemen and woman who lost their lives in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Touching.
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…..
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)
I’ll cover our touring by bike in my next post…….
Annual visit to the Wisconsin State Fair
August 11, 2013
Closing day of theWisconsin State Fair meant it was now or never for Kiddo and my annual trip to the fair. We have a bit of a routine to our visits…venturing into some new things, but generally following a similar path each year. We’re not big midway people (despite being theme park junkies), nor do the expo halls really call us. For us is more about the cream puffs, the corn, the milk, the barns and the people watching.
With Kiddo now a teenager, and becoming more independent, increasingly wrapped up in the world of his friends, I’m thrilled that this is still “our” thing.
We started with a trip up the fairgrounds on the sky glider, noticing changes from prior years, chatting about past visits, what was here when I was a kid. Talking about all the crazy foods along the grandstands. We were at first alarmed when we got to the other end, and there was no milk booth. Then we noticed the sign saying it had moved to the south end of the grandstand.
We began to weave our way through barns, checking out the chickens, rabbits, goats, cows. Making our way towards the corn. I typically pause at this container garden along the way.
The New Berlin Lions Club roasted corn has been a fair favorite of mine since I was a kid. Signs above the booth say it’s been there 55 years, so definitely older than me (yes, I know, but not by a whole lot).
The racing ducks are new this year, and were a fun stop.
Finally we found the milk booth. I’m always surprised by the lines here. They move fast and at .25cents a cup, one of the best bargains at the fair. Unfortunately, the Cherry Vanilla and RootBeer flavors were sold out. This is often the case on the last day of the fair. We did a bit of our own mixology, trying Strawberry-Banana and Chocolate-Banana.
Of course, Wisconsin is not just the dairy state, it also has a strong beer culture. Which was even apparent in the Horticulture and craft exhibition hall. Kiddo suggested I need this Christmas tree.
Finally we made it to the Cream Puff Pavilion. Went through the line so we could watch them being assembled. Then grabbed a box to go. Another fair visit complete.
Looking back at my write up of our fair visit in 2010, not much has changed…other than Kiddo growing up. ACK!!!!
Mountain Biking Family Style
May 12, 2013
“Oh, c’mon Mom, you’ve ridden over much harder stuff than that!” That’s what you’ll hear if you’re around and I take the bail out, easy way around a trail obstacle. It’s the voice of my kiddo pushing me forward, urging me on, seeing skills and technique in me that I doubt in myself. We’re not your stereotypical mountain biking family….you know the ones you see at trail campgrounds and race weekends. The ones where the husband has been riding for years, the wife picked it up from him (or just watches from the sidelines), and the kiddos have been riding trails nearly as long as they could walk. Oh no. That’s not us. Not at all. At times I joke, we’re like the blind leading the blind.
But a mountain biking family we are.
A bit over 3 years ago after years of being a sloth, I started cycling as a way to get fit and lose weight. Road riding was good. I enjoyed it, but as a new cyclist in a semi-urban area, the traffic gave me pause. Riding paved paths was good, but still something was missing. On a whim in September of 2010, I attended a women’s mountain biking demo event. 2 hours later I was hooked. Convinced Hubby and Kiddo to try some local trails. In June of 2011, the whole family attended clinics at the Midwest Women’s Mountain Bike Clinic weekend. Fast forward two years, we’re a month away from our third trip to this great event. We ride together nearly weekly. Have been season pass holders at Ray’s Indoor Mountain Bike Park the past two winters. Kiddo, now 13 but at 10 years old was afraid to ride his bike fast, will be attending his second freeride/downhill camp at Woodward at Copper in July. We plan vacations around mountain biking. Bought a bike or two (each). Even tried our hands at a couple of races. I won the women’s intro class of The Brown County Super-D, while Kiddo and Hubby both earned medals in their age class at the Fall Colors Festival in WI.
To say mountain biking has changed our lives, brought us closer, made us healthier is a huge understatement.
Last weekend was our first family trail ride of the season. I’d been out riding by myself a few times already this year. In fact having done the most riding I’d done in months combined with starting a new strength training program, I was in need of an easy rest ride. Well, a full rest day, but the sun was shining and the trails were open. Hubby and Kiddo were eager to go. Especially Kiddo. He asked if he could go ahead and push to see how far and fast he could go without stopping. Last summer, our rides consisted of resting at nearly every bench and the top of every climb in our main local trails, the John Muir system in the Southern Kettle Moraine of southeast Wisconsin. Kiddo wanted to see which bench he could make it to before he had to rest. We agreed to do a 5 mile loop of the brown&white trails and meet back at the shelter. Kiddo first. Hubby behind. I’d take up rear (knowing I was going easy and stopping to take pictures). They quickly dusted me. Never saw them after the first descent. Hubby got dropped at the first climb.
I got back to the shelter to find two smiling guys. Kiddo was still breathing hard with a bit of a flush on his face behind his beaming grin. He’d done the whole loop, 5 miles without stopping. Totally clean, no dabs, no feet down. The trail is flowing up and down with a challenging, root filled, sustained climb (yeah, yeah it’s WI, challenging and sustained to our scale). He was so fired up. Kept saying how glad he was he’d tried. That he had to prove to himself he could do it. The pride and passion in his voice made this Mom proud.
Yes, we’re a mountain biking family. It’s gonna be a great summer.
Washington DC…Biking Family Style
March 28, 2013
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.
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.
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.