The First Leg of Thailand-Bangkok

We had an easy flight on EVA Airlines from Vancouver to Bangkok via Taipei.  The heat of the city hit us immediately. We are thinking it’s just something we’ll get used to.

Our impressions of Bangkok are it’s a large, hot, busy, crowded, aromatic city. The beauty of it is interspersed with big city living. The Thai people are still in mourning over the death of their beloved King. Evidence of this is everywhere. Monuments, buildings, temples and people are draped in black. img_0962

We contemplated renting a bike to get around but the bike lanes didn’t seem so safe and the traffic was heavy everywhere, all the time. img_0964
Instead we visited a few temples, the National Museum, and the Golden Mount. The Thai people truly revere their past. img_0953

We ate lots of delicious food, drank a few Singha beers, walked loads of kilometres and think we got a good feel for this vast city. Now we are ready to head north and get in some real bicycling .

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Fun Travels in 2016

We were lucky to be able to have some great travel adventures during 2016 with and without bicycles.

Ontario and Quebec

In the winter, we left our trusty bicycles at home for a trip to Toronto to visit family and see some sights in Toronto. Then to tick off something from Cathy’s “must do” list, we  took in Quebec City’s Winter Carnival. Lots of laughs. Lots of food. Lots of warming Caribou drink. Lots of memories.

Cuba

In March, we put the folding bikes in their suitcases, packed a few clothes and flew off to cycle parts of Cuba for 4 weeks.  This trip was planned quite differently from our usual self-planned, self-guided bike trips. For the first two weeks, we joined the “Fat Mary Bike Tour” hosted by the Canbicuba company. We loved our first real organized tour mostly due to our wonderful guide, Carlos, and the relaxed, easy-going fellow cyclists. We also loved not carrying our own gear and not having to sort out routes for a change.

The second two weeks in Cuba we were back to cycling on our own -carrying our own gear, finding our own accommodation, and generally enjoying the freedom of the bicycle and choice of time and place. We would recommend Cuba as an easy, safe place to cycle whether on a tour or on your own. Just don’t expect haute cuisine.

Mexico

Two weeks spent in eastern Mexico with the grandkids was a BLAST. Such lasting memories were made even though our bikes was basically used for grocery shopping.

Summer Here and There

Late Spring and Summer found us hitching the bikes to our car and towing our little trailer to parts of B.C, Washington, and Idaho.  For bicycling, we highly recommend the Centennial Bike Trail from Spokane, Washington and Couer d’Alene, Idaho – a terrific 100 km trail from start to finish. We rode to Couer d’Alene one day, spent the next day enjoying the city before riding the trail back to Spokane to pick up our trailer.  We also enjoyed the undulating roads around Nelson with our friends who recently moved back to the area.  Not to be outdone, the roads close to home on Vancouver Island are always enjoyable and fun to ride.

California

Come Fall we were in the need for a bit of bike touring. We loaded up the Bike Fridays once again for a 10 day tour on the roads north of Los Angeles. We decided not to camp this time so enjoyed some hotels and motels in the region. Our route took us on roads into the Hollywood Hills towards Santa Paula and Ojai before hitting the coast in Ventura. From Ventura north to Santa Barbara we were mostly on bike trails-very lovely riding with the ocean on our left and no worries about traffic. We continued north before turning slightly inland to Solvang.  After enjoying a couple of days of riding the Santa Inez Valley wineries, we rode up to Lompoc to catch a train back to Los Angeles.

Was this route one we would recommend other cyclists?  It was fun and scenic in some parts but perhaps not the best cycle routes we have planned.

We finished off the year at home on Vancouver Island. Our unusually wet, cold weather did not make us want to get out on our bikes often. Instead we have made some grand plans for lots of cycling in the new year.

 

 

On to DC via the C and O Canal

September  5 – 10  
The third part of this bike trip began where the GAP Trail finished off – in Cumberland, Maryland.  The 290 kilometre long C and O Canal Trail seemed, at times, long and trying due to the trail surface. But that is not what stands out during the five days we spent on this route. We enjoyed hours of peaceful riding, met many  friendly people with lots of good advice on places to eat/view, and traveled through some significant USA historical lands.image                     Doug reading one of the many historical information signs.
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The C and O Canal was meant to be one of the main means of transportation that would open up the new frontiers to the west of the country.  Construction of the canal  began in 1828 near Washington DC but it was fraught with difficulties and ended up taking 22 years to complete, only reaching as far as Cumberland not to the Ohio River as originally planned.  During this same time, America’s first railroad was built along much of the same route and became operational, making the Canal system almost obsolete before it began.
There were 75 locks built to raise the boats up the canal system. As you cycle along the route nowadays, you can see remnants of many of the locks and a few of the lock-keepers houses that remain.
Some of the lock keeper houses are still in existence, but not operational. The are a few that you can rent for a night but we didn't try them out.

Some of the lock keeper houses are still in existence, but not operational. There are a few that you can rent for a night but we didn’t try them out.

The locks were in various levels of use.

The locks were in various levels of use.

 There are many primitive campsites along the way with pit toilets and iodine-cleaned water in pumps. For cleaning the dirty bodies, one could just soak in the Potomac River as the temperature was refreshing. There was less access to towns along the way but that gave us more opportunity to take in the wildlife: owls, turtles, groundhogs, and a variety of birds. We were surprised by the low number of other through travellers on this route.
We only counted 47 other bikers along the C and O trail. When chatting with many of those cyclists, we were also surprised to find out lots of them had rode this route previously and were back to tackle it once again.
imageAfter the five days on the trail we must say we were very happy to finally roll up to the “Mile 0” marker in Washington DC, right beside the old Watergate Hotel. We must say the shower in our hotel and the real bed was a real luxury!
This trail was an interesting look at history, a challenge for biking with trailers, and a wonderful way to see this small part of USA.image

 

The Great Allegheny Passage (GAP) Trail

September  1 – 4 ~ The description of the Great Allegheny Passage (GAP) trail in its guide brochure claims the passage is 240 kilometre (150 miles) of continuous trail over abandoned rail lines smoothly surfaced with crushed limestone. Rich in history, the trail passes through historic towns, parks, and rivers. Although the elevation gain from Pittsburgh to the Eastern Continental Divide is 1570 feet, the trail seemed to be just a gentle continuous incline. The map profile bellow makes the trail seem worse than it really was.image
The trail was generally lined with trees so it kept the sun off us. We started to see the very beginning of the changing colours of leaves. The bridges and viaducts were often long and purpose-built for cyclists and walkers. No horses allowed.imageimage
We went through a number of small towns, many of which were industrial centres in bygone years but much of the industry is gone now. The GAP is a great way to bring tourism into this area of the world. Many of the towns have information centres right next to the trail and are housed in disused train stations or train cars. The centres are run by very helpful, informative volunteers.imageOur fourth and final day on the GAP trail took us through some highlights of the area. We rode through the 3300 ft long Paw Paw Tunnel -quite a thrill on a bike. We crossed the Mason-Dixon Line as well as the Eastern Continental Divide. From this point, we had about a 30 km downhill section of the trail that took us to Mile Zero in Cumberland, Maryland.imageimageimageWe found this bicycle trail to be in good condition for the whole 240 km. We were surprised at how few people were using such a well marked, off-road bicycle route. Hopefully in years to come, more people will get out to enjoy it.

Pennsylvania Bound Via West Virginia

August 27 – 29:  Cycling from Cleveland to Pittsburgh was a challenge while towing trailers on our bikes instead of using the tried and true panniers for carrying gear. We decided to give the trailers a try. The saying “Live and Learn” would apply here. It took us four days to do 370 kilometres using the route we chose. Our first two days were slow but delightful. We were along the Ohio and Erie Canal Trail. It was slow going but there were many informatiive signs and a few info centres that were helpful. imageimageimage
Our  third day was on back roads which we thought would be lovely countryside. Instead it ended up being one of our very hardest biking touring days ever. We had 110 km of  steep hills sometimes with lots of large truck traffic. There were numerous hills we had to push our bikes up and the heat of the day didn’t help.  That first beer in our hotel room in Steubenville was well deserved!
The fourth day was a great one once again . It helped us to forget day #3. From Steubenville we crossed a bridge into West Virginia where we picked up the Panhandle Bike Trail within 5 km of the border. The trail was fine but somewhat soft in spots. The soft spots were tough going with the trailers. The Panhandle Trail crossed into Pennsylvania and at the 40 km mark, we turned off onto the Montour Trail. This was a well maintained trail with great maps, signposts, and facilities. As it was Saturday, there were lots of people using this trail. imageimage
We were so fortunate to have our Warmshowers host, Dan, and his son meet us along the Montour Trail and ride with us into the city limits of Pittsburgh. There were a number of detours along the last part of this route due to construction so having local guides was a blessing. After 105 kms, we reached Dan’s car where we had the luxury of a drive back to his house.  Dan and his wife Clare were the most gracious hosts and we can’t thank them enough for all they did to make our stay in Pittsburgh a great one.

 

 

Cleveland Rocks

August 26 – Just like Drew Carey used to sing on his show, “Cleveland Rocks!”  We spent 3 days in and around this city. We were hosted by a lovely Warmshowers couple, Alex and Krissie. Their home was typical of most of the ones in the area: 1920s style that had been maintained.  
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Cleveland is home to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. It is a must see if you are anywhere near this city. We spent five hours in it and still didn’t see everything. We would have stayed longer but the Ball Field was calling our names. We went to the first of our MLB game – the Cleveland Indians versus the Millwalke Brewers. Luckily the home team won.image
We rented a car so we could get our into the countryside and bike the Ashtabula Covered Bridges route.  We cycled 85 km of glorious back country roads with little traffic, taking in many various style of the famous covered bridges. It was a good way to get our legs ready for the bike tour.image

 

The “B-cubed” Travel Adventure Begins

August 22  –    We are calling this trip the Bicycle, Beer, and Baseball Adventure. It is a combination of wanting to ride the C & O Canal/Great Allegheny Passage trails along with Doug’s desire to do a Major League Baseball tour. We threw in the beer part because…well…there is nothing like a few hops to help with fluid replacement when biking (or baseball watching) in hot weather.  After much map reading and Internet checking, we are beginning this trip in Cleveland, Ohio.
This trip will be the first time we use our bike suitcases as tow-trailers for carrying our gear. Cathy is not sure about this method of gear transport but is willing to give it a try.  So our Bike Friday bikes, Red Racer and Blue-By-You, got folded up in their suitcases, the camping gear got stuffed into our duffel bags, and Air Canada took all four bags for free.  That is the beauty of having enough Aeroplan point to fly Business Class.
Eastern USA here we come.
Doug and our chauffeur, David, with our luggage

Doug and our chauffeur, David, with our luggage

Experiencing the Giro d’Italia

Back in May 2005, we arrived in Florence on our bicycles late one night. People in the campsite told us of the Giro bike race finishing in the central park the next afternoon. We went down to watch but didn’t really appreciate it for what it was.

Now ten years on, taking in a few legs of the Giro was included in part of our travels plans.  All three days we watched were so different from each other and all were exciting to watch.

Leg #11  finished in the small city of Imola. We rode out from Bologna for the day. It finished at the famous Ferrari race track. Security was limited so we were able to stand right beside the track and watch the riders do three final loops. image

Leg #15  finished in the Dolomites at the very top of  Madonna Di Campiglio ski resort. We had rented a car to get into the mountains. Driving up the steep ski hill road, we passed some hundreds of weekend riders (all kitted out with high end gear and bikes), making their way up  to see the finish. We decided we would ride too so we parked the car about 10 km from the finish and unloaded our bikes. With Doug on his “sit-up-and-beg” bike and Cathy on her little folding bike, up we went. The last 2.5 kms of our road was the route the racers would be riding. The scene at the finish was wild,  cold, and lots of fun. 

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Leg #16 was still up in the Dolomites. For this leg we decided to watch it from a spot along the route instead of at the finish line. We chose the town of Edolo as the race past by this town twice that day. The people of Edolo embraced this event, decorating their houses, shops, government buildings in pink, pink, pink, bikes, bikes, bikes.

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The race itself was so exciting as the top Canadian rider left the pack and lead the race for dozens of kilometres. We watched the live feed of the race from large screens in the main square until the riders came zooming down through Edolo.image

 

Watching these racers is inspiring. Their drive, determination and never-give-attitude is something to think about when we are out on our bikes and conditions are not to our liking. 

Cycling With a Rented Bike

When the local bike shops in three cities can’t supply you with a tire to fit your own bike, what do you do?  Don’t give up your biking. Find a shop that will rent you a bike for a number of days. That’s just what Doug did. 

In Bologna, the shop Senza Benza,  had. 7-speed that must have weighed at least 50 lbs. Doug was a trooper and used it to ride to Ferrara-the whole 70 Kms. We took the back roads (white ones on our Marco Polo Emilia-Romagna map) as much as possible. The small villages were lovely and the countryside was full of vineyards and grain farming. 

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The city of Ferrara is known to be one of the most bike friendly cities in Italy. It had an easy-going feel to it with lots of colourful streets to ride along.

imageThe next day we headed out to the small city of Imola which was about 50 km away from Bologna. On Doug’s “lead sled” it was slow going but we made it in lots of time to see the Giro d’Italia finish at the famous Enzo e Dino Ferrari race track. The good thing about this leg of the bike race was the riders did three loops around the the racetrack so we got to see them zooming by. Although there were dozens and dozens of police, security was minimal so we got to stand right in the track just feet away from the bikers. An amazing experience. 

Views along the ride to Imola.

Views along the ride to Imola.

 

The Giro riders in Imola.

The Giro riders in Imola.

Living the City Life

May 14 – 18

Our last two days of biking in southern Italy had their ups (quiet country farm roads) and downs (Doug’s blown tire). We arrived back to Polignano via train, folded the bikes into their suitcases, and headed to the north central area of Italy on a deluxe, fast train. Usually with our real touring bikes we are not allowed on deluxe trains. Folding bikes certainly make travel easier.                                                                                                                          

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Once in Bologna, we got ourselves set up in a lovely one bedroom apartment called “The Gourmet”. The owners were part of the Slow Food Movement in Italy so this place had everything you could want to cook up a storm. We were looking forward to eating more than restaurant  food or “picnic dinners”. Shopping in the local markets and cooking with local ingredients was enjoyable.

Our first few days in this city also included:

* shuffling/walking (not running)  in the StraBologna Run on our first morning.

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* walking for kilometres and kilometres along the streets of Bologna with the thousands of terracotta, orange, yellow arches along the arcades and very few other people.

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* walking up to the top of Monte Della Guardia to the Sanctuary of the Madonna under the cover of the 666 arches.  Thank goodness for the cover or we would have melted. image

There was a lot of window shopping, a bit of tasting the food and drink of the region, and even a free musical concert in a beautiful Oratorio. Life in the city is good.