Home » Biking

Category Archives: Biking

Golden Isles of Georgia

As a kid I went to summer camps. I think a bike tour is a lot like summer camp for adults. Fun and adventure in a new place with new experiences and new friends along the way.

I am not sure I knew that Georgia had islands. Not that I had really thought about Georgia and islands prior to this bike trip. I did know that Georgia has a coast line on the Atlantic. Now I know that Georgia has “barrier islands” on that coast line and some of them are called the Golden Isles. We discovered that the Golden Isles are almost due south of Buffalo, NY. I did not realize, before my visit, just how far inland the Georgia coast is located.

We took the Golden Isles of Georgia Charleston Bicycle tour this year. It is fun to let someone else do all the planning and just go along for the ride. This is our third tour with the Charleston Bicycle group and we really appreciate their first-rate rides, hospitality and dining selections.

Live Oaks entryway to the Lodge at Sea Island

Our travels started in Savanah; we drove south from there onto St. Simons Island where we stayed at a “base camp” (hotel) the rest of the week. We rode around all of the beautiful barrier islandsSt. Simons IslandSea Island, and Jekyll Island. We were enchanted seeing the stretches of marshland that create the appearance of a continuous stretch of land.

St. Simons Island, GA St. Simons is the largest island; we devoted two days to exploring this isle on our bicycles, including seeing the Bloody Marsh Battle Site, where, in July 1742, British and Scottish soldiers protecting colonial Georgia defeated a larger Spanish force in a battle that helped end Spanish incursions outside Florida.

Ride to the Bloody Marsh Battle Site on Old Demere Rd.

We were struck with the beauty of the tree lined entryway into The Inn at Sea Island. We had a good time exploring the hotel and grounds as well as biking around and exploring St. Simons Island.

Since I had not heard of the islands prior to the trip, I did not remember a battle from 1742 or the National Park Service Fort Frederica National Monument, which preserves archeological remnants of a  British colony and its defense against Spain. The purpose of the fort reminds me of cold war deterrence by strategically placing (weapons, missiles…forts) military installations away from population areas and near the perceived threat to protect possible invasion by that potential enemy. We enjoyed the tour and were happy to be inside during a rainstorm. The bicycle tour was timed just right for an inside visit of the fort, and then the rain passed for an outside tour and ride back to our hotel.

On St. Simons Island, we played disc golf at Gascoigne Bluff. This was not part of the official tour. We played well on the course as liked learning the history of the area. The bluff was one of the first possible landing areas for a ship entering the harbor in Georgia. Gascoigne Bluff was the headquarters for a military invasion (if you were paying attention in July 1742), a Sea Island cotton plantation, the site of a lumber mill and a shipping point for timber. We played under a forest of live oak trees. It is interesting to think that live oak timbers from this area were used to build “Old Ironsides,” the U.S.S. Constitution

Jekyll Island, GA

Welcome to Jekyll Island State Park

Home to the formerly wealthy and famous group of 50 or so industrialists, this island is now owned by the state of Georgia.

View on the bike path around the Island

We had a good time circling the island on a paved path. One of the highlights for us was seeing Driftwood Beach on the north end of the island.

After the ride around the island, we stopped at the museum and enjoyed reading about the history of all that we had seen on the ride.

Sea Island, GA

We were delighted to ride our bikes from the hotel on St. Simons Island onto Sea Island. We rode across the causeway to the island. I always think that you have to go across a “big body” of water to have an island. However, that is not the case. I found out that many of the Golden Isles are close to each other and only separated by small inlets and rivers.

View from St. Simons Island Looking at The Cloister on Sea Island

As we were biking along on Sea Island, our tour stopped to gawk at the island’s biggest home, called Entelechy II, which was undergoing some renovation. The home is not opened to the public; we just stopped by to look and wonder at this interesting house on this exclusive island.

We rode to the end of the island and then onto the sand beach.

Beach on Sea Island

From the beach we went on a tour of the Cloister hotel. This hotel once hosted the G-8 summit, and the hotel and grounds were very impressive. 

View from inside the main lobby

After riding around the island, we took advantage of the Sea Island club and enjoyed swimming and walking along the beach. We made it down the beach far enough to see the back of the Entelechy II. This was the perfect spot to break up a day of bike riding. Lunch on the grounds was delicious.

Another island bike tour: We took a short boat ride as part of the tour to Sapalo Island, GA. This island was really different from the other islands.  The Georgia Department of Natural Resources manages the island and runs the ferry service. Imagine having to take all of your groceries to your home on a ferry. A small population lives on the island full time; the lighthouse, R.J. Reynolds mansion and the Georgia research facility are the main areas on the island. Georgia research facility are the main areas on this mostly undeveloped island.

We arrived on the island and found the bikes we would be using for the day. Our bike trip on this island was on asphalt, sand and gravel roads. It was a good ride for the bikes that were provided as a part of the tour, as our road bikes would not have worked too well.

We managed to see a small portion of the island on the tour and were taken by the beauty of the island, largely unspoiled by development.

We did manage to see a few alligators; fortunately, we left each other alone.

Sighting Alligators

We had lunch at the lighthouse grounds and enjoyed the view from the top of the lighthouse.

We finished our tour with a stroll through the R.J. Reynolds mansion. We really liked the circus room and all of the modern devices in the mansion. It was similar (although much smaller) to the Biltmore with the bowling ally in the basement.

Other Fun

Running on St. Simon’s Island and seeing some of the wildlife.

Walking near Columbia, SC. On our way to Savannah, we spent the night near Columbia, SC. On our evening walk we saw some turtles swimming. A Fun sight. We tried to go to the Harbison State Forest and ended up walking on the Harbison Place walking trail. Maybe next time we will go all the way to the State Forest.

Walking and running in historic downtown Savanah.

Dinning with the tour group. We ate at several fancy restaurants as a part of the tour. We dinned in our bike clothes as well as dressing up on the last night out with our group. We shared several meals together as well as a bottle of Kentucky bourbon. Some of our favorite restaurants were Halyards and Delaney’s Bistro and Bar where I had buffalo and others had elk and duck. We enjoyed spending days biking and dining out with our new group of friends.

Walking around St Simons Island (over 10 miles on our own) and finding fun places to shop and dine out.

On our own, we found places we enjoyed (we did not have a bad meal the whole time). The Golden Isles have several great restaurants and shopping areas.  We like to have ice cream when biking or after biking…well you get the picture. We indulged our need for ice cream at both the Moo Cow Ice Cream shop and Certified Burgers and Beverages on St. Simons Island. We liked the shakes at Certified and my wife raved about the “Dixie,” a grilled pimento cheese and bacon sandwich, as well as the tots. Some in our group made fun of us for having dessert first on a few occasions. I am sure they were just jealous that they had missed the opportunity.

We biked about 100 miles in the five day biking adventure. We had a fun tour with each day being a good combination of riding, sightseeing and delicious meals.

See you on the road on our next adventure.

Biking on the East Coast

A vacation when I was younger almost always involved driving in a car somewhere. With a big family, it was the affordable option. Now, with kids in two separate cities on the east coast, we decided to drive (I have the time) and take our bikes so we could enjoy seeing our kids and riding bikes as well.  

On our east coast journey, we went biking on:

  • Parts of the Erie Canal Trail in New York
  • The East Bay Trail near Providence, RI
  • Parts of the Charlotte Greenway bike trail in Charlotte, NC

Biking along parts of the Erie Canal: 25 miles of riding split over two days, 6 miles in Medina, NY, and 18 near Rome, NY. The Erie Canal bike trail is 400 miles of trails around the canal.

Prior to COVID, we had been discussing biking all or parts of the Erie Canal. My wife learned the Erie Canal song as a child and sings it whenever we pass the Erie Canal in our car driving through New York state.

October is a great month to travel to New York state and into New England as the trees are colorful. The beauty of the area was not diminished by a little rain that fell on us before and sometimes during our bike ride. Wet leaves on wet trails makes the trail slippery for us—although we did enjoy our biking adventure.

We began our journey on the Erie Canal in Rome, NY. The trail that picks up in Rome is not as well marked as we would have liked. As a result, we also biked the Mohawk Trail that runs in Rome; it was easy to follow. We found out that the Mohawk Trail and the Erie Canal Trail merge, but we did not discover that on our first day of riding in New York.

We were directed on where to find the Erie Canal Trail. With the help of our host at the B&B, we found the start of the trail. We did not bike far enough toward the canal, but on the next day we found the trailhead for the ride from Rome toward Utica.

The lead up to the trail in Rome was a nice paved trail. Once we left Rome on the bike trail on the way toward Utica, we noticed that it did not look as well used with grass growing in the center of a wider path; it was better suited for gravel or mountain bikes and not our road bikes. We did ride a few miles on it anyway to see if it changed, but after a few miles of riding we determined it would not change soon enough for us. We knew up front that the trail was crushed gravel. We learned that not all parts of the trail are maintained well enough for a smooth road bike experience.  

We also biked on the Erie Canal Trail in Medina, NY. This trail was easier to find and the gravel was better maintained. We did not have any trouble riding out from Medina on the gravel trails and only turned back as we were driving home that day. We did not ride through the “Medina Culvert” the only tunnel that goes under the Canal, which was nearby. Our focus was on riding on the trail next to the Canal.

The views along the Erie Canal Trail were pretty. We especially enjoyed the views on the trail heading from Medina going toward Buffalo. The trail was one that stopped and ran on the road and then began again. We did not want to explore too much, so we stopped when the trail did and turned and went several miles the other direction.

Biking in Providence on the East Bay Path: 24 miles total, including a few finding the start of the trail. The trail length is 28 miles total (14 miles one way) and we stopped about 5 miles short of the end of the line for the bike path.

East Bay Trail

We followed the Bay Trail that starts at India Point Park in Providence, a really pretty section of Providence. The trail map we picked up from the local bike shop had us cross the Washington Bridge and then bike on 1st Street for a few blocks where the East Bay Bike Path began.

View on the East Bay Trail

The East Bay Bike path was well maintained and is asphalt all of the way that we went (about 9 miles one way on the trail). We had the perfect October day for a ride along the path.

The East Bay path was designed for our road bikes, it was well-marked and a pleasure to ride on. We met several other walkers and riders out enjoying the trail along the bay.

Biking in Charlotte on the Charlotte Greenway: 15 miles including a few side streets to see where they would go. The Greenway has about 50 miles of trails in various spots in and around the city. Prior to visiting Charlotte, we reviewed several maps of the Greenway. From the website it appeared they will be (someday) connected, although today they are several little bike trails.

I was able to bike the Greenway in Charlotte. The trails were well marked and had helpful maps. It was not until I got to visit one of the trails that I understood they really were not connected, and I was able to see the construction in progress.

I began the Greenway bike ride at the James Polk House, as I had seen the bike riders when I was last visiting the house. Too bad the museum and parking close at 5 PM leaving me to park outside of the gate to ensure I could get out and back to Charlotte.

The ride I took was only 7 miles one way. In my experience I have seen bikers being cavalier with construction. This was a hard stop at the end of this portion of the Greenway. I was encouraged that they are working on the Greenway and hope to come back and ride a longer stretch someday. 

Lessons Learned:

I have been a fan of trying the new trail and finding the path. Stopping at the local bike shop in Providence we found a great day trip bike ride, the East Bay Bike Trail with directions from the store. Thank you, Dash Bike Store.

We were able to find out about the Erie Canal Trail, advertised as crushed gravel and can now see for ourselves that if we take a bike tour in the future along the Erie Canal Trail, we will take a guided tour with their bikes and not ours as our road bikes are not the best on crushed gravel.

Other Fun

We stopped at the Dari Bee on the East Bay Bike Path for ice cream on a beautiful fall day. The Dairy Bee looks like it had been in place for a long time and the ice cream tasted really good. We were happy they were open during the week in October.

We ate several great meals in Providence, RI; every restaurant we went to was a good one. In Rome, NY, we ate one meal out and it was a wonderful dinner at DeSalvo’s Restaurant on James Street. I would stop in again to eat here. Biking builds a healthy appetite.

Martha’s Vineyard Bike Ride

What better adventure could you take than to wake up in Rhode Island on a beautiful summer day and decide to head over to Martha’s Vineyard for a day of bike riding. Staying with one of my kids in Rhode Island, I drove to the Rhode Island Fast Ferry to begin my journey of traveling to Martha’s Vineyard, starting with a cruise on the water and an all-day bike ride.  

All went smoothly, including the parking and bringing my bike on the boat. The boat left on time both ways and they appropriately encouraged us to be early as the boat was not hanging around. On the boat I sat on the exposed deck, which was a good choice for me. The benefit to sitting outside was the view, the sun and only having to wear a mask for part of the journey.

Just sitting down for the journey

The views from the deck on the sunny summer day were enjoyable during the 95-minute ride to Martha’s Vineyard. The ride was smooth and the temperature was pleasant. I rode outside and met several nice people on both legs of the journey.

I received a few hints on how and where to bike ride on Martha’s Vineyard from others who had ridden on the island. I was winging my route and appreciated the assist as I was in uncharted territory having never been to the island before this trip.

My “kit” for the day consisted of a back pack with my essential biking gear. I dressed in my biking shirt for the ride over, bringing along some water and snacks. I also know that despite the beautiful warm day, the open water can get cool, so I had a light weight jacket for the journey as well. The backpack, with a bike lock and a few discs for disc golf, worked and was easy to carry on my bike. I did receive several fun comments from Michigan State fans and those that do not necessarily care for my school.

A day to wear the school colors

One of my destinations was the lighthouse in Edgartown. I had already stopped for coffee and orientation after finding the bike path suggested by a few locals. From the ferry landing in Oak Bluffs, I went south along the beach road and bike path into Edgartown. Unlike Mackinac Island, this island has a lot of traffic. The bike path took me most of the way, although I did alternate between the road and the path.

I enjoyed the views from the lighthouse and walking on the beach. It was a great day to hang out at the beach. I am glad to have packed the bike lock and a pair of tennis shoes in the backpack as I ride with special shoes for my road bike pedals. Walking is so much easier without the special bike shoes.

The host at the lighthouse was helpful by providing me with a tourist map and showing on that map the location of the course. I was happy to have run into someone at the lighthouse who knew where the island’s disc golf course was located. The disc golf course is near the airport; I was able to take a bike path from West Tisbury to Barnes Road. These paths were well maintained and easy to follow.

All told I rode about 25 miles during the day and only got turned around a few times trying to make it back to the ferry on time from the airport.  My travel was a triangle from Oak Bluffs to Edgartown and up to the center of the island to play disc golf and back to the ferry landing.

The day spent riding on Martha’s Vineyard was fun.  On the ride back, thinking about the island made me wonder who lives in these magnificent homes along the water and how do they get along in the winter? I can see why, at least for the summer, people flock to Martha’s Vineyard.

Lessons Learned

Be friendly and everyone will be friendly to you. I had to stop and ask for directions back to the ferry in Oak Bluffs and found I was heading, as I suspected, the wrong direction. It was really great to have a trail to follow. Too bad I was unfamiliar with the landmarks and names along the routes on the interior of the island. Good for me people were so helpful.

Final ride for a perfect day on Martha’s Vineyard

This is the kind of place I should bring my wife and plan to spend a few days exploring. We can ride bikes together and relax on the beach. It would be fun to do, next summer.

Other Fun

I was able to send postcards from the island back home. It was easy to find the cards and the shop assistant directed me to the post office next door.

Ice cream always tastes good on a summer day, even better on an island after biking.

Bikes getting ready for the Ferry ride home

Day Tripping Mackinac Island

A few years ago, my wife and I biked on Washington Island in Wisconsin. This year, we biked Mackinac Island. If you have not biked on an Island, even better an island without any cars, it is a fun treat. We did not take our bikes to Mackinac Island as we thought we would have a better time with rental bikes for just a half day of riding. It was a good choice for us.

Every journey to the Island involves a boat ride. We had an enjoyable ride and were dressed for the cool weather on the lake. In the past we have had to purchase sweatshirts after arriving on the island, so we knew what to expect and were prepared for the winds on a cool northern Michigan day in the middle of summer.

Our first stop in town was renting some bikes and getting them set for the exploration. It was cool when we arrived, but the day warmed up and was enjoyable. We were happy they included water bottles and helmets with the bike rentals along with a good map of the island for biking.

We would have circumnavigated the island, except a part was closed for repairs. We did get as far both ways as we could. We also rode on the interior of the island, more akin to hiking or mountain bike trails that made us happier to have rented the island bikes.

Our first ride was to Arch Rock as the road was closed after this point. We decided to get off the bikes and climb to the top of the rock up several stairs.

Ride to Arch Rock

When we got back to the bikes, we noted that from the road we also had a great view up to the Arch Rock formation.

After viewing Arch Rock from above and below, we biked over to the British Landing, an easy ride on Lake Shore Boulevard, State Highway M-185, that wraps around the entire island.  This was the other road closure point, preventing us from the 8-mile loop on M-185.  

With the road construction and after exploring the British Landing, we needed to find out where we wanted to go. We decided to bike the interior of the island. We headed to the interior of the Island from the center of town as the Landing Road posted no bikes (my guess is the hill is too steep for most bikers). From the center of town, we biked past the Grand Hotel and the Fort ending on Arch Rock trail. We followed the Arch Rock trail toward the airport where we saw the crack in the Island and then back to town for lunch and a change of pace to walking.

Our walking tour was after lunch. The whole town was in full bloom and it was good seeing how many other people were out enjoying the island.

All in all, we saw a lot on the island. I had not recalled seeing the miniature Statue of Liberty on the island. It has been there since before I was born, so it must have been present. We had all been to the island before and were amazed at how full the shops were in summer.

We have spent the night on the island and it is worth the experience. The island has a different feeling once the last ferry boat leaves. A one-day visit was all we needed to get refreshed and enjoy the beautiful island between Michigan’s two peninsulas. After a perfect day exploring the island, we got back on the boat for the lake crossing.  

On the boat ride back from the Island

Lessons learned:

A family bike ride on a vacation island is not a race; the pace is designed to take in all of the scenery that I would not normally see on some of my rides. As I look back to my normal routes, this was by far the prettiest of the summer, being surrounded by the Great Lakes and the view of the Mackinaw Bridge.

Other fun:

We brought back fudge, still the best I have tasted since I remember going to the island to eat fudge as a kid.

We sent a picture of the fort to our oldest as the memory of “shooting” off a cannon at the fort would still be a pleasant memory. They now offer, for a fee, the ability to load and fire the cannon. We did not visit inside the fort as we had done so many times before.

No cars and a lot of fun biking the Island

Michigan State Travels

Last year I participated in the virtual Big Ten, 10K run. This year we planned a trip to Michigan that coincided with the week for the same virtual run and one of my kids suggested I run on the campus of Michigan State. It was a great idea and allowed me to celebrate my 40th anniversary of graduating from Michigan State University.

The focus of the travel was spending time with family, at a family cabin we were at last in 2004 with our kids. It was very relaxing to be on the water and go kayaking on the lake before or after the speed boat time.

We did get into town and visited Brys Estate Vineyard & Winery and did some bike riding on the trails near Traverse City. The weather was summer perfect and we enjoyed the time with family.

After the family time we took a few days for ourselves in Ludington riding bikes on the local bike trail and playing some disc golf as well as walking along the beach. We really enjoyed our bike ride on the William Field Memorial Hart-Montague Trail State Park. Quite a mouthful of a name and a very pretty ride. This is a linear state park, meaning it is just the 22-mile trail and no camping or other items that may be associated with state parks.

Ludington was a town I went to as a kid to celebrate my birthday over Memorial Day for several years. I remember they always had a parade and the sand dunes were fun to climb. We enjoyed walking around the town and the free concert in town the Saturday we arrived.

Other fun:

I met up with some of my college friends and their wives in Michigan at the location where my grandparents had their 50th wedding anniversary. The place has changed ownership and is now a restaurant, but it was on the same “ball” golf course.

Hard to believe it has been 40 years since graduation with these guys.

We were able to join in with my friends and see Chicago in concert at what we called Pine Knob as kids. The outdoor music concert in the DTE Energy Music Center was fun and the first concert I had been to since COVID started.   

After our bike ride, we were able to play disc golf on the Hart Hydro course in Heart, Michigan. We did not find all of the holes correctly but had a good time playing this pretty well marked course. My wife and I both threw an Ace on a hole playing disc golf in a poorly marked, but entertaining course in Ludington, Michigan.

Lessons learned:

Enjoy the ride; you never know what will happen. We went on the Heart trail, and after over 30 miles of riding we were told a tree was down on the path. We were fortunate the winds did not pick a time when anyone was walking or riding by at the time it fell. It was odd to have to lift our bikes to get back on the path. We are always thankful to return safely.

Know what you want and pursue that path. I was able to go disc golfing after playing “ball” golf with my relatives. I asked if they would play disc golf with me and to my surprise they agreed. We had a fun time on a challenging course for all of us playing disc golf in Michigan. I plan to play disc golf much more than I ever plan to play “ball” golf.

Enjoy the time, be friendly and check the store hours. We biked on the Heart trail; prior to our visit we read about being sure to stop for ice cream at the Country Dairy about ½ way along the trail. They are not open on Sundays. As we happened along, we met a person who could only be an owner or a manager. She let us in to purchase some delicious ice cream as they were planning for a private party that Sunday. When getting back home and looking at the website, it was clear they are not open on Sundays.

Country Dairy–The ice cream was great

Bike riding without a cause, just for the fun of it!

By now you know that I have been enjoying bike riding with my friends. We logged over 800 miles together between April and August this year. It is not just the riding; we have also begun sharing some fellowship over dinner and a beer after our rides.

Last year, my now retired friend Mike and I rode three century rides together. This year, due to so many events being cancelled, we are just riding for fun.

Early this year, we signed up for a Kentucky ride, only to see it cancelled until 2021. We have found that due to all of the cancellations, we are not as focused in riding distances or particular terrain as in years past. We are doing more out and back rides on the flats not needing to do so many hill repeats or long distance riding.

One of the casualties of the pandemic was my teaching indoor cycling. I really did enjoy teaching the classes and the work out was terrific.

We have ridden in the typical summer weather. We try to get out early to beat the heat and the traffic. Since I live in a county that has a lot of farms, we can go for miles and see other bikers and no cars. It is great. The flip side of going early in the morning is we are riding along the Ohio River and we sometimes encounter fog and have to shut down our ride for the day.

Other Fun

Strava now has a category of rides where you can be a local legend. Good news, it does not mean you are the fastest on that segment; it is an honor that you have done that segment more than anyone else locally in the last 90 days. This summer I managed to become a local legend on 4 segments. My riding friends joked that they will now have to call me Sir Waterloo as I have become a legend on two segments from Waterloo Road. I guess we ride that road often.

We found this sign on Victory School House road:

We are staying on the path!

It is time to turn around on the bike when you a sign about Big Foot. I hope we see you on the road enjoying travel.

Our friend and fellow biker, former airline pilot Captain Mike, retired. It was special to see what they do for a final flight and to visit in the cockpit. It is important to celebrate life’s milestones.

Lessons learned

We only train long and hard when we have an event to train for and a goal to achieve. We never did tackle the biggest hills in our area saying we did not need to this year.

Bike riding, just for the fun of it!

On the road

By now you know that I have been enjoying bike riding with my friends. We logged over 800 miles together between April and August this year. It is not just the riding; we have also begun sharing some fellowship over dinner and a beer after our rides.

Last year, my now retired friend Mike and I rode three century rides together. This year, due to so many events being cancelled, we are just riding for fun.

Early this year, we signed up for a Kentucky ride, only to see it cancelled until 2021. We have found that due to all of the cancellations, we are not as focused in riding distances or particular terrain as in years past. We are doing more out and back rides on the flats not needing to do so many hill repeats or long distance riding.

One of the casualties of the pandemic was my teaching indoor cycling. I really did enjoy teaching the classes and the work out was terrific.

We have ridden in the typical summer weather. We try to get out early to beat the heat and the traffic. Since I live in a county that has a lot of farms, we can go for miles and see other bikers and no cars. It is great. The flip side of going early in the morning is we are riding along the Ohio River and we sometimes encounter fog and have to shut down our ride for the day.

Other Fun

Strava now has a category of rides where you can be a local legend. Good news, it does not mean you are the fastest on that segment; it is an honor that you have done that segment more than anyone else locally in the last 90 days. This summer I managed to become a local legend on 4 segments. My riding friends joked that they will now have to call me Sir Waterloo as I have become a legend on two segments from Waterloo Road. I guess we ride that road often.

We found this sign on Victory School House road:

We are staying on the path!

It is time to turn around on the bike when you a sign about Big Foot. I hope we see you on the road enjoying travel.

Our friend and fellow biker, former airline pilot Captain Mike, retired. It was special to see what they do for a final flight and to visit in the cockpit. It is important to celebrate life’s milestones.

Lessons learned

We only train long and hard when we have an event to train for and a goal to achieve. We never did tackle the biggest hills in our area saying we did not need to this year.

Summer Sledding in Colorado

I have wanted to go to the Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve for a few years. It was more fun than I would have thought thanks to my daughter-in-law who recommended we rent sleds for the dunes. Who knew you could rent sleds and “sand” boards and go sledding on the sand?

This is a relatively new national park (2004) and is only a few hours drive from Colorado Springs. For me the drive down was well worth it. We rented our sleds at the Oasis store just outside of the park entrance.

Outside the Park–Next to the Oasis store

The dunes look big close up. As you are driving to them, they look small in comparison to the mountains. Even the mountains look small from a distance. Once you are on the dunes and realize just how big the dunes are it is startling. This is the biggest dune field in North America.

 It took a while to hike out to a good spot for our sledding adventure.

Walking to the dunes

We had good instructions; more wax makes the board go fast.  Going downhill was fun. The hard part of the day was walking back up hill after the downhill run. Too bad there was no ski lift for us.

Walking back up to the start after a good downhill ride on the sled
Sled Ride on the dunes

A side benefit was that it was not too hot. The sand, according to the NPS, is much hotter than the air. Since it was cooler outside the sand was not too hot to touch. We know as we all fell off of our sleds.

After a hard day of sledding

The entrance to the dunes is over Medano Creek that apparently runs right across the only way to the dunes. We did not have to cross the creek; it was dried up in August. It would have been a nice relief to our feet to wade through the creek on the way back.

Traveling during COVID

Glen at the airport

It has been a while since I was on an airplane, okay, early in March. I remember that after September 11, 2001, I took a business flight right after the skies re-opened. I was flying to Denver from Boston and saw a lot of changes mainly with security. The military was out in force at Logan and hardly anyone was flying. At the gate there was a large collection of pocket knives and nail clippers that travelers were still used to carrying on board. The airport in Denver after 9-11 was almost deserted. More people were waiting to get us through security on the return trip than we saw going through security.

In the same way, we experienced several changes on our flight in August to Denver. Everyone was wearing a mask and the Public Address system talked about cleaning. Markers were on the floor to give us a distance marking. Everyone appeared to do their best, although at times (think trains in the Denver airport) circumstances do not allow for the distances being asked for.  We were happy not all seats in our row on the airplane were filled. It was a good experience and I again felt safe flying.

I did fly direct to Denver and then drive to Colorado Springs to avoid more time in airports. I will look to fly again directly as much as possible. We were handed sanitizer for the seat and given a beverage and a snack in a plastic bag along with more sanitizer. I appreciate the front line workers at the airline and the airport. You are all coming into contact with a lot of us each day. Some can work from home but the hospitality business must show up. Thank you for showing up for us.

Bike Riding in Garden of the Gods

First time riding a bike to this spot!

We have visited Garden of the Gods more than once. I think our kids all love the location as do I. Prior to this trip I had not ridden a bike in the park. That all changed thanks to Pikes Peak Mountain Bike Tours. We had a beautiful clear morning riding in the park with our guide. We have been on bike tours before. This is our first tour with just a guide and me and my wife. It was enjoyable riding as we went at our pace and saw the sights we wanted to see.  We rode over 20 miles in about 3 hours.

Our guide, Nate, was very knowledgeable and friendly. The highlight for me was taking the mountain bike trail in the park (Ute trail) that I had used for an indoor biking class. We had hiked this trail before. This was a better experience than I had described to my class. We managed to go on the trail a few times.

On the Ute Trail in the Garden of the Gods–Mountain Biking

After our ride we went to the gift shop to have an ice cream. What a nice location and the ice cream was good as well.

 Paint Mines Interpretive Park

I had never been to Paint Mines in Colorado before. This is a local (El Paso County) park. We were amazed at the rock formations and the colors. The picture I took does not do it justice. Once you have biked in Garden of the Gods Park, also in El Paso County Colorado, taking a hike in the Paint Mines is the next best adventure to tackle.

On the trail

We enjoyed our hike among the painted rocks. The rock colors were hard to believe. It was an easy hike and a well-marked path.

Other Fun

This was funny to us, as we have never experienced a hail storm like they do in Colorado Springs. We were out for a walk around the block and it was cloudy. I guess you can buy anything. I had never seen a hail protector before.

We think it is a pick up truck–not sure

It was nice to see our son dressed up for the day—someone has to work.

Going out to breakfast in downtown Colorado Springs during the week was a treat. We were safe while enjoying a good breakfast.

Downtown Colorado Springs

The city has closed several streets to allow people to get around downtown. Much different from our last visit to downtown Colorado Springs.

We enjoyed walking along in the Fountain Creek Regional Park. This has several miles of walking, horse, and mountain or gravel bike trails.  This was an enjoyable park for all sorts of athletic activities.

We had a couple of hikes in the nearby Cheyenne Mountain State Park. Each hike was enjoyable and moderate. It was good to get out and hike. We found this park the best marked park we have hiked in yet. Every time we came to an intersection, we found a marker.

Cheyenne Mountain
Out for a hike!

Our travel to Colorado was very relaxing. We did manage to play bridge, laugh and enjoy spending time with family.

Back to Visit

Part of retirement travel is being able to pick up and spend a week with family. I went back to visit with my mom in Arkansas in September.

Enjoying a meal with Mom

Enjoying a meal with mom

I missed the square to square ride this year again as I was on one of the century rides that same weekend. I did manage a few bike rides with my sister on the Arkansas Razorback Regional Greenway Trail. Some of the low lying trail access was wet but passable. When it rains it pours.

One of the highlights of the trip is finishing the ride that we began in the spring when it hailed on us. The neighborhoods were nice to ride though, and we did not have any rain.

We did encounter a motorcycle gathering at the turn around point. They had fun saying to us that we brought the wrong bikes to the event.

I was able to stop by the microbrewery I had seen earlier in the year when the weather was too cold to be outside. We enjoyed a beer while eating dinner from the restaurant we ate at in January. It was good to be outside and enjoy the beautiful Arkansas sunshine in Bentonville. We did see bikers (on pedal bicycles) stop in from the trail and enjoy a beverage on their bike ride.

My mom and I were able to complete a few puzzles and take a daily walk.

She is going strong and I am happy to be able to spend time with her.

 

Lessons learned:

Look up a new route and challenge yourself to explore. On the drive to Arkansas I met fellow Michigan State University alum who suggested I stop and see the National Forests along the route. I will have to check out a more scenic route for my next trip down to Arkansas though the heart of Kentucky and Missouri.

 

Activity statistics:

I was able to get out for three bike rides with a total distance of over 52 miles. Longest ride was 19 miles reliving the hail storm ride. I also had to keep running as we are doing a family turkey trot. So, I managed to get in over 8 miles of “running” at just over 2 miles per time going out to run.

End of the bike ride story picture