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Bike Ride to Key West

Time to get away from winter. IMG_6569

What better than a group bike ride from Miami to Key West to avoid the snow and cold? Last January, we went to Florida after the New Year to get away, and it was cold! This year, farther south, we found the weather not just sunny, but also warm.  Our ride was expertly organized by Charleston Bicycle Tours. It was fun for both of us, and it was like summer all day and night on the Keys.

Bonnie, a fellow traveler, put a video together of the ride. It summarized well our travels, with the exception of our not seeing the park at Dry Tortugas on the last day. Enjoy: https://youtu.be/iNhEnM1tvBw

Our first ride was about 24 miles and went from Coral Gables to the Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park at the end of Key Biscayne. We were happy to walk up the 112 steps to the top of the light house at the park. The ranger was good to only allow a few people to go up and down at a time as it was narrow on the circular steps.

Our first key was Key Biscayne. In order to bike the Keys, our tour centered three rides from Marathon Key. So, after our lunch in Miami we were driven with the bikes to Marathon Key for our first of three rides from the middle of the Keys. We did enjoy the Florida tradition of viewing the sunset each night as we stayed in the area.

Ride to Keys 2019 first day sunset

 

Our stay on Marathon Key was well done. We were driven out and rode 40 miles back to our hotel.

Ride to Keys 2019 Second day stone crab group

Start of the 40 mile ride

We started near the big stone crab and enjoyed the views along the way.  Despite me and another rider having two flat tires on the ride, we still had a great time. It helped that instead of changing the tire, I was given a different bike. I rode three that day.

 

The pictures do not do justice to color of the water.

It was great to ride the bike path and not just along the side of the road. We were pleased that several miles were on the path along the road between the Keys. It was enjoyable when we had some shade on the bike path. As you know, trees create shade along path but also sometimes break up the path making it harder to ride. We also rode along the road.

ride to the keys--bikes on the road-2

 

My favorite bridges were the ones with a separate bridge for the bikers. I believe they are locally called fishing bridges, and we saw plenty of people fishing from the bridges, including a lot of pelicans perched on the bridges hoping to get to the catch before the fishing line did.

 

We enjoyed riding on both sides of the road as the path changed sides periodically.

As the journey got close to Key West (the end of the road for our travels) we occasionally were riding against traffic. For me, this was the first time since I was a young child that I was riding opposite the traffic and it was really a different experience for me. I guess I am used to riding along the same side as traffic.  The best part of our direction, regardless of the side of the road we were riding on, was that the wind, which was strong for most of the ride, was generally at our back. The few times we rode into the wind it was a different experience.

 

A ride on Big Pine Key and to No Name Key was fun. We liked the dollar bills all over the No Name Pub. We learned that the pub is on Big Pine Key and not on the key called No Name. We also had the opportunity to visit the Florida Keys Wildlife Society. We saw one Key deer on our ride and learned a whole lot more about them and other wildlife at the visitors’ center. One of the things we noticed is that the Key deer are smaller than other deer. As a group, we came up with the saying, “In Texas everything is bigger and on the Keys it is smaller.” I just watched the deer and did not get a picture of the deer.

Ride to Keys 2019 fourth day view from the road GK

A few lessons learned.

  • The sun will find anyplace you did not properly apply sunscreen prior to the ride.
  • Stop and re-apply sunscreen during the ride.
  • Snacks and water make for great combinations on a long ride. The ocean breeze is great at your back.

Highlights:

The Key West Museum of Art & History at the Custom House. We really thought this was a good museum to visit and was a good representation of Key West.  The museum was a recommendation from our guide. The building alone was fun and interesting. The many exhibits were well done and we thought Guy Harvey Sketches of Hemingway’s “The Old Man and the Sea” that went up the main staircase and was great to read and see come to life. The museum has a Civil War exhibit about the Keys, the railway and the impact of the railway on the Keys. Outside of the museum they had several life-like works of art that we at first took for people.

The Key West Butterfly & Nature Conservatory was a great end to the day of biking around Key West. The trees in the conservatory were alive with all the butterflies. It was amazing to see so many in one place at one time. When we walked in, we could only say wow at the beauty. Well worth the admissions price to visit. We were surprised by the two pink flamingos walking around oblivious to us and the butterflies.  They were a good addition to the butterflies.

The Key West Hemingway house and Museum was good to see, although we just passed by to look and did not stop in. Hemingway apparently put Key West back on the map and was the number one tourist attraction for many years.

Mile Marker Zero on US  1 and Southernmost Point were highlights of the journey.  We had told others of our pending trip and the Southernmost Point was mentioned by them frequently. It was fun to have our picture taken here. Everyone in line for the point was polite, and several people waiting took pictures for others who were ahead of them. It was great to see people getting along. The Mile Marker Zero on US 1 was not as popular, judging by the lack of a crowd at the marker compared to the line we waited in at 8:30 in the morning at the Southernmost Point marker.

 

We also saw roosters everywhere in Key West. They are apparently a thing in Key West and protected as well by local law and custom. Some of our fellow travelers could hear the rooster call early in the morning; we were glad they were not outside of our room.Ride to Keys 2019 fifth day--ride around Key West rooster

We took a side trip on our non-bike afternoon to kayak in the Atlantic and through several mangroves. The Blue Planet Kayak company rented us a couple of kayaks and gave us a map to explore. We are sorry we could not make the timing on their tours. We really enjoyed paddling through the mangrove and we even saw what we knew were crabs that looked like spiders climbing the trees. While we were out on the water we heard before we saw fighter planes from the near by Naval base.

 

Riding across the 7 mile bridge, twice, was fun. The first time was going across to Big Pine Key, and the next day we rode across again on our 50 mile ride to Key West. The side for bikes was wide and I was able to get up to a pretty good speed on the bridge with the wind at my back. I did miss my bike clips and the dropped handle bars when a big truck passed. Seeing trees grow out of the railroad bridge that is no longer in use and the color of the water was surprising. This is the longest bridge I have ridden on, although not the tallest. Ride to Keys 2019 third day at 7 mile bridge--bike

Ride to Keys 2019 fourth day group riding off of the 7 mile bridge for the second time

Group completing the second ride over the 7 mile bridge

Sunset cruise was the right introduction to Key West on our first night at the end of the longest day of riding (50miles).

We had our end of the week sunset dinner on Sunset Key at the Latitudes restaurant. It was a wonderful sunset and we all enjoyed the delicious dinner with our friends from the week of bike riding.

The paintings on the waterfront brewery were really interesting to look at.  We thought we were at an aquarium and were surprised that a brewery would undertake such a great art project. Next time we are in town we will have to take a brewery tour.

Key Lime Pie contest –after dinner on our last night we had a key lime pie judging contest. I think all our friends at home would have enjoyed it. My choice for the number one pie came in second place. They were all good and we had fun.

A ride is better with friends. Thank you to all who rode with us; you were great company and help on the ride and during the week.

Sunset Key Group

Key West was an interesting and tourist friendly town and we had a good time exploring. It was better as a group at night as a lot of people are on the streets. I am glad our guide knew the way to go.

We had some really good dining experiences along the way. I did not take pictures of the meals. We really liked the tapas, a bunch of small dishes that the group shared. That was delicious!Ride to Keys 2019 last day post card Glen

The view from the last night’s dinner overlooking the beach with the palm trees and the open air was not just a good meal but also a good experience.

We biked over 150 miles during the week. Our longest ride was 50 miles in one day. We did not break any speed records; our goal was to enjoy the surroundings, and we did.Ride to Keys 2019 Second day stone crab Glen

Square 2 Square

My travel to Arkansas was supposed to culminate in the semi-annual square 2 square bike ride with my sister. Over 1,900 riders were signed up and ready to go. The ride was scheduled for Saturday morning and although it rained all day Friday, Saturday looked clear.

Bella Vista Gina-Glen-MomI received a call from the ride organizers at 5:30 on Saturday morning that the ride was cancelled as several of the tunnels were rained out from the day before.

My sister rode anyway, riding around the tunnels, unlike about 1,899 other riders. I took the opportunity to drive back home.

I am happy to say my sister and I did a tune up ride at Pea Ridge National Military Park. We have been to the park before. It was a good ride, some hills and no traffic! The ride was not too long, a good almost-8-mile loop around the park. The focus of the park is the Civil War battle at Pea Ridge. The stops along the way reveal Civil War history and the two-day battle. If you have not been to the battle site, it is worth the stop. Over 26,000 soldiers struggled in Northwest Arkansas in the battle that would decide the fate of Missouri.

I enjoyed riding the Razorback Regional Greenway Trail in Northwest Arkansas. I only took one ride during the week along the trail and this trail is part of the square 2 square ride. I wanted to re-familiarize myself with the trail. I expected to be riding that weekend the same course with hundreds of others and I enjoyed a less populated trail ride.

I was able to take advantage of a new disc golf course near my mom’s house. My mom joined me on the first round and I did another “solo” walk around the course while I was down for the visit. I had played golf (with a ball) on this same location years before with my family. The old golf course was a 9-hole course. I can see that I hit the golf ball much further than I can throw a disc. It was fun to play the new disc golf course. The designers of the course had a good idea and layout. I enjoyed teeing off of a golf tee pad to hit, I mean throw my disc.

A quick stop in St. Louis and another bike ride on Grant’s trail was a warm up for the ride I was expecting to do in Arkansas. I enjoy the ride along Grant’s trail and found the balloons along the route to be a fun addition. I am looking forward to riding the expansion coming next year as well.

On a prior trip to St. Louis I was able to visit, along with my wife and in-laws White Haven, Grant’s home (also a National Park) in St. Louis. Grant’s trail, where we like to ride in St. Louis, goes along the home. It was great to walk around and learn more about this famous Civil War General and President.

When I got back from my travels south, a friend of mine from India was in town and we got to spend a nice day together in Cincinnati catching up on old times.Cincinnati Glen and Praveen

Before going to Arkansas I had a visit from a college buddy and we enjoyed Cincinnati and Cleveland play baseballmike-and-glen-at-cincinnati-versus-cleveland.jpg

I also have been able to take in a local hike or two and get back to the local Arboretum to see how the plants are doing. It is good to get out and hike among the trees and flowers.

 

Since the organizers of the square 2 square ride cancelled their ride, all riders were allowed a “substitute” 30 mile bike ride in order to receive their medal.

 

I was happy to ride with my wife on the Loveland bike trail in Cincinnati to complete my Arkansas ride. I receive the medal in the mail and I will look for another time to ride the trails.

A few lessons learned:

Take a chance and ride when you can. I was all ready for the square 2 square ride and was disappointed not to be a part of that ride. I did go on several rides the week before. It was enjoyable to be outside riding the different trails even though I did not make it for the event.

Bella Vista Lake View

Keep your mind busy. Here is a look at the jig saw puzzle table. My Mom works on puzzles daily. When she is all done, she donates the used ones to a local charity.Bella Vista Puzzle pictures

Enjoy the area where you are. The Pea Ridge bike ride was a last minute thing. It was enjoyable for the scenery and that the only other traffic on the road was a few others on bike. We had the entire park to ourselves. This was better than a simple bike path because of all of the history and stops along the route.

 

When a friend calls up to say hi, have them over or spend the day with them. Local plans can wait.

Trip by the numbers: Here is a picture of my substitute 30 mile bike ride. It could have been in Arkansas and I did the ride in Ohio. The result was the same—I had fun riding.Little Miami Bike Trail bike road map

It must be time for another ride!

Glen with Sq 2 Sq Medal

 

Fun in Germany and Austria

Our visit to Germany and Austria took us from Frankfurt to Munich (and a side visit to Shloss (castle) Neuschwanstein) and then to Austria visiting Salzburg and Vienna.  We had our travel expertly organized and managed to stay in the center of the old town in all of our city visits. Thank you Kayla! That was a real plus in seeing the cities on foot. We did take part in walking tours in every city except Salzburg, where we took a bus tour.

IMG_5250

We expected the countryside in Germany and Austria to look like farmland and the towns and cities only to have old historic buildings.

Neuschwanstein 1 Drive in countryside

We did not expect sand and surfing.  We now think that parts of Germany and Austria want to live on a tropical island. In Frankfurt we visited the Palm tree (Palmen Garten) garden; in Vienna we noticed several biergartens along the Danube Canal had sand and beach chairs for their guests. In Munich we watched kids surf in the English Garden.

Frankfurt or as it calls itself, Frankfurt am Main

Frankfurt from the bridgesFrankfurt Germany was the first and last stop on our travels. We arrived early for our bike boat adventure and got acclimated to the time zone and the culture prior to the bike ride. We really enjoyed walking along the Main River and noticed that the people of Frankfurt do as well.

Our walking tour guide shared that apple cider was the drink of Frankfurt; the ones we tried were very good. I also had beer; it was Germany!

We were surprised to learn that many of the “old” buildings in Frankfurt were rebuilt in the 1980’s in the old style, replacing buildings destroyed in WWII. The buildings did not look new and we were happy they were rebuilt to look as we expected. Of course some of the buildings were modern; Frankfurt had many skyscrapers, in contrast to many of the cities we visited. Frankfurt is the financial capital of Germany so it was nice that as a part of the walking tour we stopped by the stock exchange, one of the largest in the world.

When we visited the Palmen Garten we were surprised to see an extensive palm garden inside the city known mostly for banking. We did not know that you could grow palm trees in Germany, let alone all of the uses for palm trees we learned about on our tour. We enjoyed the variety of trees and flowers in addition to the palm trees. It is worth a visit if you are in Frankfurt.

Munich or München

Munich 2 Glen

After our bike tour we took the train to Munich. For us, Munich had a “big city feel.” Of course we had just spent a week biking through small towns. We recalled our visit to Frankfurt, and the city of Munich appeared to us as a more urban setting.  We loved the statues and the plazas. A lot of history in a small area.

We spent several hours walking around Munich and discovered the English Garden and did see people surfing. On our walk we visited the place where the Octoberfest takes place as well as taking in several great looking buildings and local scenery.

 

Neuschwanstein

A big part of our being in Munich was the proximity (about 110 KM) to Schloss (castle) Neuschwanstein. Our bus included Neuschwanstein, a visit to the town of Oberammergau, and Linderhof Palace where King Ludwig II lived prior to moving into Neuschwanstein.

Neuschwanstein 9 best view

The view from a nearby footbridge on the way to the castle does not begin to tell of the beauty of castle Neuschwanstein. We enjoyed the hike up to the grounds, and even with scaffolding on the main entrance the castle was breathtaking.

Neuschwanstein was impressive on the inside as well. Of course the castle only housed the king, and he lived there for less than one year. The inside was impressive and well worth the visit. No photography was allowed inside the castle. I guess it takes a king to build a fairytale castle.

Neuschwanstein 7 view from castle

We enjoyed the surrounding property of the castle and had great views from the walk up as well as from inside the castle itself. The “old” castle that the king grew up at is also on the grounds.

We enjoyed the stop at Oberammergau. They have been putting on a Passion play for almost 400 years, with the next one coming in 2020. You can buy tickets now. The town began the plays in 1634. All of the actors and actresses are members of the town.  The town puts on the play as a result of a vow made by the inhabitants of the village when they were spared from the effects of the plague. We had fun visiting this town and trying on some traditional head wear and, of course, eating some ice cream. We were pleased to walk around the theater. I am sure the Passion play will be a great production in 2020.

Linderhof Palace was our third stop on the tour. This was a smaller place than Neuschwanstein and almost as impressive. I am really glad we stopped here for a visit. I especially liked the magic table and the fountains outside. You will have to see it for yourselves. No photography was allowed inside; take my word for it, the inside was impressive.

 

Salzburg, Austria

Saltzburg 21Our international travel from Munich to Salzburg was just another train ride. There was no pre-check of passports prior to boarding or a checkpoint along the way. The Europen Union has no restrictions on travel between countries once you are in one of the countries. One of the tenets of the EU is people traveling freely throughout most of the continent.

 

We learned that Mozart was not Austrian; he was from Salzburg, which was an independent (non-EU member…) country when he was born. We enjoyed eating chocolate here; Mozart balls are a favorite. We also enjoyed staying in a 700-year-old hotel in old town Salzburg.

Yes, we did take the Sound of Music tour. We sang, we laughed and we loved it! Now that we are back home, we are watching the movie and excited to see the places we visited on our tour. We also noted that our tour guide in Austria was in one of the anniversary shots about the tour groups in Salzburg.

 

Vienna, Austria

We left Salzburg all too quickly and headed by rail to Vienna.

Vienna 11

As Vienna is so much bigger than Salzburg, with about 25% of the population of Austria in its borders, we rented bikes to explore more of the city. It did rain on us on the way back to the bike rental location, but we had a great time riding the streets anyway. There are over 1000 KM of bike trails in Vienna; as a result, it was easy to ride in the city.  The highlight for me was riding along the Danube Canal and seeing the Danube River.

We enjoyed the music of Vienna, the churches, the palaces and the monuments. We enjoyed running across Mozart references as well as statutes of other composers.

Vienna 12 Stadt Park

Our hotel was centrally located in the heart of Vienna’s district 1 on the Stephansplatz. We could view the church and square during our breakfast. I miss that view.

We enjoyed walking around the imperial palaces of the Hofburg and Schönbrunn as well as the public parks and gardens.

We managed to walk to the Riesenrad (German for Giant Wheel), the 212 foot tall Ferris wheel at the entrance of the Prater amusement park in Leopoldstadt. We saw that it is one of Vienna’s most popular tourist attractions. It symbolises the second district in Vienna as well as the city for many people who live there. We did not take a ride on the Ferris wheel, although it looked like fun. When we walked by we noted several people riding in the wheel.

Other highlights:

  • I received my MBA from Webster University, way back when…seeing a Webster University building in Vienna was fun and not expected. Vienna 18 Webster University

 

 

 

  • We were impressed by the trains and the speeds. We noticed the one from Salzburg to Vienna went almost 200 KPH (124 MPH). Trains were a great way to get around.

 

Lessons learned

  • Learn to linger over dinner or any meal, especially when you are with someone. We enjoyed the Vienna coffee house and lingered as long as we could. This was the only spot we found you could get a “free water and refills.”Vienna 15 coffee house
  • Beer in Germany and Austria is less expensive than soda or water … lesson: drink beer with meals!Saltzburg 19
  • When we went to Vienna we learned a lot about the ruling families. The one lesson that struck me was that the Habsburg dynasty won territory by winning hearts through intermarrying its family across Europe and not wars. A marriage to Napoleon was also accomplished by the dynasty. Unfortunately, they took more care with the Lipizzan stallion’s blood lines then their own. A visit to the stables housing the stallions was interesting as well.
  • The city of Vienna earns money by renting rose bushes to inhabitants for five years in their beautiful Volksgarten (Peoples’ Garden). This sounded to me like a cool idea raising money for the city as well as keeping the gardens beautiful.
  • Try the local favorites. I loved the Schnitzel.Saltzburg 20 snitzel
  • Pay attention to the train numbers and not the destination city. On one of our first train trips, we sat by the area that had the city of our final destination listed on the board. We discovered when the train left an “hour early,” that we needed to re-think what we focused on in order to board the correct train. All of the information we needed was on our tickets and the signboards, once we knew what information was important.
  • Ask locals where to eat. Our walking tour guide in Vienna suggested we try Manner chocolate. We found it to be delicious. We also enjoyed eating the rich Demel chocolate.

    Vienna 20 chocolate

    Vienna chocolate

Vienna 14 Frankfurter

 

We found the best place to have a sausage was at the “ Bitzinger Wurstelstand Albertina.” The sausage was awesome. We enjoyed the Käsekrainer sausage, which they assured us was the most popular and we agreed after we tasted it! We are thankful for our guide steering us to places we may have otherwise passed over.

Our travel followed these three simple rules:

  1. Move and exercise. Each day we hiked in the cities.
  2. Find peaceful, beautiful surroundings. We stopped and smelled the roses, admired artwork, enjoyed singing and watching the river flow by.
  3. Meet different, interesting people. We enjoyed all of the people we met and were amazed at how similar and different we all are. Singing with a group of strangers on the Sound of Music tour was a highlight.

 

Activity statistics:

  • We rented bikes one afternoon. It was a great way to see more of Vienna. We rode about 11 miles.
  • Hiking/walking totaled about 7-10 miles on most days around town. We managed over 25 in two days of walking in Vienna.

 

Vienna 3 bike

Germany River Cruise and Bike Ride

We biked along the Rhine and Neckar Rivers in June on a Bike and Boat Tour, and it was an unforgettable experience. The tour we decided to join was a beautiful cycling and cruise tour which explored the famous valleys of the German Rhine and Neckar Rivers. I have heard that on a cruise ship you gain about 10 pounds in a week. I get it; the food was great! If you are able to combine the cruising with bike riding in Germany, you may stay about the same weight, although it will be a close run thing.

We left the boat each morning on our seven-day cruise for a ride up the river bike paths. The boat then sailed upstream to meet us at the next planned stop. The boat was a floating hotel where we slept, had breakfast and dinner as well ask some fun. The boat did not travel on the river at night as we were at a dock. Being docked at night allowed us to explore the quaint towns and villages after dinner. The barge, or cruise ship, had 61 bike riders and was pretty full (seven open riding spots) as we went on our way. The boat was clean and comfortable; we enjoyed our time on board.32KoblenzBadWimpfenWT-01

Highlights:

Castle Watching—don’t blink and miss one along the river…

Bike Tour 2018 first castle on Rhine-2

We began our first riding day with a two-hour boat ride from Koblenz along the Rhine passing through the beginning of one of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites. We then rode on the trail and saw more than 40 castles and fortresses and many wine villages along the way. There were too many castles for me to even attempt to photograph.

Bike tour 2018 Necker River--June 9 more castles G7K on the road

You have to see it in person to understand just how impressive each view is as you stop or ride by. We did walk up to a few castles and explore the ruins. Bike tour 2018 Necker River--June 7 odenwald castle dilsberg-8Being on top of the castles, we realized why they looked so imposing from the river as we had a great views from the top and could easily make out people, cars and boats along the river.

Vineyards on the Rhine River—we passed several vineyards and took an evening tour.

Bike tour 2018 at vinyard with Glen and bike rose bush

This was much different than our trip to Napa Valley and biking. The vines are on a hill from the top to the river. We learned that the wine that comes from the plantings at the bottom is the cheapest in quality and the wine at the top is the best. Makes sense! We enjoyed magnificent views. The wine was excellent, along with the grape juice that they began our tour with.

Bike tour 2018 at nierstein Vinyard tour 4

Nierstein vineyard tour

Quaint Towns and Villages

Bike tour 2018 bike parth along the Rhine--coblestone streets

Each town reminded us of why we wanted to come to Germany. We took advantage of walking tours and our stay at all of the towns along the way.

 

One of our fun stops was spending the night at Heidelberg. In Heidelberg we managed to climb to the top of the Heidelberg Castle and walk along the Old Bridge. We also walked the end-to-end mile long pedestrian shopping street. The university dominates the old town and was fascinating to view and experience.

The variety of flowers, shops and museums was fun to experience. Like the castles, it is too much to show here, you need to go see it for yourselves.

Each town along the way had several characteristics that made them unique as well as part of what we expected to see along the river. We saw a variety of architectural styles of churches; most were massive and ornate, and we wondered how the local people could afford such a building or buildings as well as build them so long ago.

We ate at several ice cream shops, and spent time looking at the souvenirs (crafts) along with sampling some of the local food and beer. We even went by the Dr. Carl Benz Museum.

Rivers and Locks

With its many castles lined up on the hill tops, our tour along the river was full of Rhine romanticism. Our guide told us the story of the river bend and how it inspired the famous poem “Lorelei.” Kim tested the waters at the point mentioned in the poem.

We enjoyed the peaceful river and views from the banks of the rivers and the towns. These made for great spots for a break or to eat a picnic lunch. Next time we will bring a blanket or rug with us. Bike tour 2018 the Partia passing on day one a castle

The Neckar River had several locks; we rode over some and saw ships, including our barge, go through the locks. It was a fun experience. The locks have apparently prevented some of the flooding that was prevalent in the area along the Neckar River.

Lessons learned:

  1. Stop and enjoy the scenery.
    • We were not in a race, and with a seven-speed bike we were not breaking any speed records.
    • The initial part of our journey from Koblenz on the Rhine was loaded with castles; almost every bend or turn on the river had one and sometimes two. I do not know about you, but I do not see castles daily on my normal bike rides.
    • At each stop we would walk and explore the town where we were parked for the night. Dinner ended on board about 8 PM and it was light until about 10 PM. We needed the walk after so many good dinners.
  2. Anyone can ride along the Rhine. Of the 61 riders, we were on the young end age wise. The route was mostly flat, with some inclines that were easily overtaken with the e-bikes. The e-bikes were a popular option with the travelers on the barge. We did not ride e-bikes.
  3. Trail riding is a good way to get outside and see the countryside. Some of the views were hidden from the road and others were a short bike ride into town for an Eis (ice cream) or a Bier (no translation needed).
  4. Make friends. We sat each evening with the same group — a couple from Argentina and a couple from Australia. We enjoyed the conversation with our table companions as well as those from the group that we met on board and along the way.

 

Other highlights:

We ran across a new WWII monument noting the American army crossing the Rhine River—just put up in 2017.Bike tour 2018 at nierstein WWII rhine crossing location-1

Activity statistics:

  • We rode for six days, about 150 miles total. The planned mileage for the bike tour was less, as we explored and enjoyed the area.
  • In the towns at night we walked between 5-7 miles and enjoyed exploring the towns.

I have been asked if we would do the bike tour again. Of course, yes! We would likely pick another tour to explore a new area. We really enjoyed the support and the tour. Thank you to Lyn and John who shared their bike adventure in Europe with us prior to our booking the trip in December.

A Birthday Celebration

As I get older, I have been less thrilled with each passing birthday. Milestones like 50 were fun and a little embarrassing in the office, as you want to think of yourself as younger.

St louis in bloom

Spring day in St. Louis

Time marches on for all of us. I was happy to get a road trip into St. Louis to celebrate my father-in-law’s 80th birthday.

 

A birthday is always a good reason to travel. Visiting with family can be great fun and fulfilling. If I was working, we would have had to get approval for a day off or several to make a trip during the week. Of course, only a few at the dinner celebration for my father-in-law were gainfully employed. Being retired and “never having a day off” is no excuse for missing a celebration.

A few lessons learned:

This mug summed up the wisdom from the evening, all in good fun!

birthday mugMy  father-in-law’s mantra: Every day is a good day.

He means it too!

birthday chalk in st louis

 

 

 

 

 

 

Other highlights:

We were able to borrow bikes and take a ride on grant’s trail. We have now ridden outside (also in January) on the in-law’s bikes more than on ours. I enjoyed getting close and personal with several of the Budweiser Clydesdales horses as we passed Grant’s Farm. The Anheuser-Busch Grant’s Farm is across the street from the National Park Service Grant’s Farm House. I did a little of the ride on the BMX bike trail at near the end of Grant’s trail.

 

 

Trip by the numbers:

Our bike ride was just over 16 miles and we walked for several miles around the area. It was rainy and we walked in-between the rain storms.

st louis bike for bmx course challange

Retirement Model?

Reinvent yourself. Try new things. Discover again what you wanted to do before you went to college. This is all the advice from retirement books that I have read. I recently took a chance to become a retirement model. A company I work with asked me to participate in a video shoot in San Francisco.

By way of background, part of the retirement benefits from my company was the opportunity to have a coach work through the decision to retire or to stay at the company. My company employed the services of BetterUp! As a result of a great coaching and learning on my part, I retired and am working to lead the life I want. I cannot say enough good things about this opportunity for coaching and how good my coach was for me. I shared that during the interview; I hope they are able to use the work that a few other clients and I shared with them as we discussed our experiences.

So, when I was asked to come out and share my coaching story, I jumped at it. I hope BetterUp! expands the number of people they can assist with coaching as a result of video shoot. I was interviewed about my experience and had several still shots taken of me, just like the other models that were at the video shoot that day.

 

Other highlights:

  • The photoshoot took one afternoon. In addition, I took my first Uber ride, good and easy, and visited with my youngest in San Jose, near San Francisco. It is always great to see family!
  • Playing disc golf in San Jose and eating at the Diner of Los Gatos. The diner was a throwback to earlier diners. The décor was fun and the food was good. Since I had played the disc golf course before, it was great to see that some rain makes everything on the course bloom and grow.

     

  • Taking a ride on the cable car. It was fun to take one ride, although the tickets for one way were $7.00. This is a great way to get around and still make other commitments. Their website does allow for some breaks if you know you will be taking more than one trip. Since on my last trip I did not ride the cable car, I thought I had better this time.

     

  • Biking across the Golden Gate Bridge. If you are a bike rider, this is a treat. Several bike rental companies are located in San Francisco. My recommendation is taking a bike from Pier 41—Fisherman’s Warf. I used the Blazing Saddles bike rental and was pleased with the bike and the price. I have used this same company for several years. I am in good biking shape, so no issues on the bike ride. The bridge has lanes for bike traffic on one side and pedestrian traffic on the other. The first time we went, the lanes were combined and it was not as much fun crossing the bridge on a bike. Last year when we walked over the bridge, it was a better experience without all the bikes on the pedestrian side so I thought I would ride and it was a better experience without walkers.
  • While traveling to a famous location, you can always have desert for lunch, especially if you just biked across the Golden Gate Bridge!
  • The free walking tours from Union Square (at 10 AM daily) was a treat for me. I have been to the city several times and have not participated in a group quite like this. I enjoyed the Tony Bennet heart that he painted on Union Square, and that was just the beginning of the information our tour guide imparted. We walked along the Barbary Coast trail into China Town. What a great tour.
  • Visiting a new ball park is a treat for me. A no hitter from Oakland A’s at the Oakland Alameda Coliseum was a great introduction to the stadium. Of course I was rooting for the other team, but hey, a no hitter is fun to watch. I had a great time at the ballpark. The park looks a little faded; however, the experience was good. The train to the ballpark took about 20 minutes, much faster than driving to the stadium, not to mention it was only about $9 total for the one person round-trip ticket from my hotel in downtown San Francisco. The meeting with my BetterUp! coach in person at the ballpark was a benefit for me as well.

A few lessons learned.

  • On the way out of town, I saw some great glass work at the San Francisco airport, near the yoga room. It was nice to see the town with a “rose” colored view. Even though I have been to this airport many times, I had never noticed the colored glass window attraction. It made me think about the entire trip and how my world has expanded and grown since I retired. I now see things in a new light. You should try it! SFO--looking at airport through rose collered glasses
  • I am trying on a few new perspectives since coming to town. Being a model is hard work! The models I spoke with had interesting lives; they willingly shared some of their stories and how they got into the career. Not all are doing it full time. A lot of people are involved in making one person look good for the camera. I was surprised that most of the people at the photo shoot were supporting the activity and not models or actors. SFO view of hotel lobby

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Activity statistics:

  • My personal bike ride across the bridge was over 12 miles. I also took the boat back to San Francisco and enjoyed the ride.
  • Although I walked several miles, I did not keep track of them and just enjoyed getting out, as it was still cold when I left home and when I returned. Sunny and mid-sixties was great for me!

SFO ending shot bike

 

A Cool Walk on the Beach

Our trip to Florida proved that there is nothing quite like a Florida sunset even when it is cold outside. Watching the sun set is something we rarely do at home. With the weather near a not “Florida like” 30+ degrees (0 C) we were joined in viewing the sunset by several other tourists, most of whom did not get out of their hotel or condo during the day. Of course for us, no matter how many times you witness the sun going down over the water, it’s always a magical experience. We managed to get out every night while we were in Florida to see the sun set over the water. Sometimes it was with a glass of wine and friends. Other times it was just a few of us brave souls watching the sun set in the west.

When it is cold, it sounds good to book flights to Florida. We imagined ourselves spending a week at the beach the first week of January, using plenty of sunscreen while walking on the beach and taking some bike rides nearby. When we looked at the local forecast and saw the highs at home would be cold, we congratulated ourselves on our planning, until we looked at the lows for the panhandle of Florida, in the high 20’s (-2 C). Okay, a few days it did warm up to almost 50 degrees (about 13 C), and it was generally 30 degrees warmer where we were staying in Florida than it was back home.  We managed to walk for at least an hour every morning before lounging around and eating breakfast. Warm coffee was great after a cool walk on the beach. I even put my bare toes in the cool sand, although not for too long.

FL Beach walk river

We did enjoy the sunrise in the early mornings.  We did all the things on a trip to Seagrove Beach, Florida, we anticipated; we just had on more layers and never got to wear the shorts we packed. A good day on the beach was better than shoveling snow at home.

We saw several shells and some wild life while walking along the beach. The sand pipers were fun to watch scurrying along the beach. A sea cucumber and the crab were interesting to see—although it was too cold for them on the beach. We saw the sea turtle signs although we did not see any signs of the turtles. Please let me know your suggestions for the sea shell collection we took home with us. The beach was a beautiful white sandy beach that reminded us of snow. Of course, the cold weather may have influenced our thoughts.

We biked and hiked in the nearby Point Washington State Park. We were very impressed by the trails and the different plants that we encountered. We were pleased to be wearing long pants when we rode through all of the saw tooth palmetto bushes. I was amazed at the deer moss that was like a carpet. On our hikes we found a grove of cypress trees .

Kim and I are experienced road bike riders. We were able to borrow mountain bikes and ride in the state forest for several days. It was different for us to be on the mountain bikes, and riding in the sand is very hard. The state forest practices controlled burns; the sand is deep when trucks have been through in recent days. I am not sure who can ride on the deep sand-filled paths. I could not ride parts of this trail as the sand was over a foot deep for the width of the trail.

We did discover what we thought was a tree from Dr. Seus–the long leaf pine tree.

We enjoyed the aviation in the panhandle with a nearby air force base. We did stop at the fascinating Air Force Armament Museum and enjoyed our tour inside as well as outside. They have heat and air conditioning inside the building. It is a good place to go when you cannot go out on the beach.

Lessons learned:

  • Being cold on the beach is better than not being on the beach at all.
  • Bike riding in deep sand is just as hard as a tall hill; new respect for mountain biking.
  • Air travel in January is tricky with snow covering places all up and down the east coast.
  • Beach access is a consideration when renting or buying near the beach.
  • A month or two near the beach is a great way to spend a month or two.

FL Glen and kim at sunset last nightTrip by the numbers:

Mountain biking:  41 miles, longest 15 miles.

Hiking,walking on the beach: 14 miles, longest 3.75 miles in the forest.

FL Glen on bike bridge 2

San Francisco and No Cable Car Ride?

It is true; we went to San Francisco and did not ride the cable cars once. We have been several times to the city and did not feel the need to ride on them this particular trip.

  • It is one of the highlights for newcomers to the city and I have always enjoyed the ride.
  • We did see them several times and riding would have been easier than walking, like we did, up Hyde Street on the way to walk Lombard Street (a 31% grade up 269 feet from the beginning).

This was our first experience using Air B&B and we enjoyed it. Our millennial kids all asked who was the millennial as they have not used the service. Just trying to pave the way…

The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco.” The coolest thing Mark Twain never said according to my research. Of course it was in the 60s (15-20 C) while we were in the city. Going north to wine country and south to Silicon Valley was much warmer. We did spend most of our time in San Francisco where I wore my Michigan State University hoodie around the city and received several positive comments, even one positive comment from an Ohio State fan, with the lone exception of one U of M fan…

The point of the travel was to see our youngest son who works in Silicon Valley and we were successful. We also learned from our prior trips out here that too much Mom and Dad was bad, so we planned this year’s travel accordingly and had some great tours on our own.

  • AT&T Park to see a San Francisco Giant’s baseball game: one stadium visited since retirement
  • Muir Woods tour
  • Bike ride and tour of Napa Valley, completing biking in our eighth state since retirement
  • Self-guided walking tour of San Francisco, including the Golden Gate Park and Bridge

The views from AT&T Park were great and the game was exciting—this last place team had almost every seat sold for a three-day series with the Cubs.

 

  • We saw an incredible inside the park home run and enjoyed all of the new food options not yet served by the Reds.
  • Our favorite was the Helmet Nachos
  • Although we did not try them, Churros was an interesting new (for us) item sold in the ball park and elsewhere in San Francisco.
  • It was Metallica night at the ballpark, and we got to rock the national anthem as well as Take Me Out to the Ballgame. All of the songs that night were Metallica songs.

If you have not seen how tall a redwood tree can get, you should definitely visit Muir Woods National Monument.

  • We had a tour walking into the park from Mount Tamalpais State Park above the Muir Woods Park with a connecting hike into Muir Woods.
  • It was enjoyable to hike from the canopy of the redwood forest on down.
  • Keith, our tour guide, did well leading our group on the hike and was very knowledgeable about the area and all things San Francisco.
  • One of the highlights was the ferry boat ride back from Sausalito to the Ferry Building in downtown San Francisco.

Last year when we visited San Francisco, we said we would visit Muir Woods (check) and wine country. We signed up and enjoyed a half day bike tour of Napa Valley. Two wineries were plenty for me to handle; we kept the bikes for an afternoon ride along the Napa Valley paved bike path.

  • I really enjoyed the wine and the whole area.
  • We noticed a distinct culture that has grown up in the Napa Valley. The atmosphere was just different in a good way.
  • We met several people on the tour with us who spent the night and it sounded like a good idea, especially after one or two tastings.

In 2015, I biked over the Golden Gate Bridge from Pier 39. This year, I did not want to bike. We noticed that this year the Golden Gate Bridge opened the west side of the bridge for biking only and we walked on the east side (with best views of San Francisco) across the Golden Gate Bridge (1.7 miles one way) as a part of our walking tour.

 

We wanted a walking tour of San Francisco and we took a self-guided (or misguided!) walking tour of about 20 miles.

Our walking tour began with the Haight-Ashbury district as San Francisco is celebrating 50 years since the “summer of love” from June through August, so we made it in timeJ.

  • We also walked to Alamo Square Park to view the Painted Ladies, a wonderful row of colorful houses.
  • Walked through Golden Gate Park and saw the bison, funny for us as we have a herd of bison close to our house as well.
  • Walked to the beach near Golden Gate Park.
  • Walked through the Presidio on our way to and from the bridge and enjoyed the nature trails and homes in the park. We also took advantage at mile 19+ of the shuttle service throughout the Presidio to visit the Main Post and catch our train back to our Air B&B.

 

A few lessons learned.

  • We had a fun tour guide, Mike, on our bike tour. He said he had been retired for three days and went back to work. He lives in town and he and his wife walk to work. He only works part time and loves the job and the opportunity to stay active.
  • A good guided tour is worth the money. Our self-guided tour was fun, but we could have learned a lot more, and been a little less tired if we hired a local guide.

Other highlights:  Played disc golf in Silicon Valley and Golden Gate Park. Only problem at the Golden Gate Park—they were “closed” to house the Outside Lands music festival at the park. The group Metallica played at the Outside Lands as one of the headline groups.

Visit to Stanford University—a wonderful campus on Palo Alto. We sat and had ice cream and watched some of the new orientation students. We also visited the University of California Berkeley. It was interesting to see the college campus at Berkeley after having visited the Haight-Ashbury streets and the “summer of love” promotions.

Trip by the numbers:

States visited (number in total…) 1 California, flew direct

Activity statistics:

  • Biking miles: 22miles.
  • Hiking/Walking 40 miles.
SF Bike Tour End Pic Napa Valley

Biking in wine country–fun!

Water and Water Falls

North Carolina

After our travels to the Biltmore, we needed to get some fresh air. We hiked, or walked, up the stairs to the top, and them some more at Chimney Rock. We walked the 500 steps up to the top. We also took the additional 330 steps from Chimney Rock to Exclamation Point, the highest point in the park. Of course we had to hike to see the Hickory Nut Falls as well, since it is in the same park.

Since we biked through the Biltmore Estate, Kim thought it would be fun to kayak the French Broad River. It was a great time kayaking for over 2 hours on a bright sunny day. We saw the Biltmore (hard to miss that house!) and the path we had biked on the day before. It was a great day for a float, and I believe the tops of our feet are still sunburnt.

Finishing our travels in North Carolina and on advice from a former coworker, we made plans the next day to hike in DuPont National Forest to see three separate waterfalls better than the one we saw at Chimney Rock, which was pretty cool at over 400 feet up! The Forest trails were well-marked. Several mountain bikers rode nearby. This is a little known gem with over 80 miles of hiking available. We could have hiked another mile to see another falls as well. This is a park to check out. Of course we laughed at the way they prevent climbing on the rocks—check out the sign on the yellow post.

Next stop South Carolina.

Our first stop in South Carolina was the fun city of Greenville. We enjoyed riding Greenville’s Swamp Rabbit River trail. We would have ridden longer if it had been cooler. The temperature for the ride was over 95 degrees. We did meet a local store owner in downtown Greenville at the Pedal Chic bike store. The staff was helpful and we found a great parking spot and starting location for our ride.

We also rode on the Ft. Jackson Army base. It was interesting riding on a road that encircles live firing. The range was in full use as we went around it. The roads and hills were good and the path well marked.

It was also hot when we rode, so we did only one loop. Ft Jax Bike Enter restricted areaThe sign says share the road and the brown side says restricted access—this is how you get to the firing ranges. Follow the rules!

We visited the University of South Carolina as well as Clemson University. Yes, I got to play a few rounds of disc golf in South Carolina as well. I am glad my son knew the course layout in Columbia near his house.

Grand Central Flying Discs

The course near Clemson in Central called Grand Central Station; it was well marked and fun to play.

Georgia

As a child my family often drove from Michigan to Florida on I-75 to visit grandparents. We always saw signs on the road for “See Rock City” and Ruby Falls. We made a stop at Lookout Mountain and visited Rock City in Georgia. The tour was good and cool walking through the rocks. Quite an enjoyable place to visit and worth the stop. We are not sure we saw all seven states from lover’s leap although we sure tried. We did visit all of them except for Virginia.

Tennessee.

Ruby Falls in Tennessee is on Lookout Mountain near Rock City. Two fun attractions near each other. We did not make the time to see the military park on Lookout Mountain and it would make a good stop for our next time through. The cave tour was fun and the falls were grand. We also enjoyed the cool cave and were surprised to see that we were about the only ones that dressed for the travels.

A few lessons learned.

While visiting Rock City we met a lady who lived her whole life near Rock City. She was working in the fudge shop (yes, it was good!). She enjoyed Rock City as a child, with her children and her grandchildren. She loves Rock City and encourages all to come. She has been a retired nurse for several years and enjoys hearing other people’s stories, especially first time visitors. She was sharp and loved to share her story with others. I learned that if you have a special place, it is fun in retirement to work (part time) at that special place.

The military retirement must be good, and it should be for those who serve. We ran into several military retirees who live in and around Ft. Jackson. We thank all who serve or who have served for their service.

Too many touristy adventures can be too much. We needed a few days’ rest. Next stop, Alabama.

Other highlights: Walking around downtown Columbia and a big rainstorm! We enjoyed dinner and were happy to be inside. Downtown Columbia, SC, was a happening place.

Trip by the numbers:

States visited: North and South Carolina, Tennessee and Georgia.

Activity statistics:

  • Biking miles: 33 miles, 2 rides, longest 21 miles.
  • Hiking/Walking 14.7 miles, 7 separate walks, longest 4.1 miles in DuPont.
  • Kayak, 7 miles on the French Broad River.
Ft Jax tank and bike

At least this one was not firing as we rode by!