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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.
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.
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.
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.
Watching an event is different than participating in one. We were able to watch our son run in the Flying Pig Marathon weekend and complete a Spartan race. This weekend was different for me because I was participating in the race. My son challenged me to run a Triathlon at the end of July. At a moment of weakness, I said yes. Then the challenge began with him suggesting that I needed to try and beat him.
Our triathlon was a sprint, meaning it was a shorter distance (thankfully for me). A 400-meter swim, a 20K bike ride (about 12 ½ miles) and a 5k run.
I have to confess that I have not run in years—maybe the last time I ran was with the Michigan State University Spartan Marching Band in college. I had to learn to run. The challenge for me was starting my running and working up to the 5k distance.
The training was good for me; I am already trying to keep in good health. My running training started and ended by listening whilst running to the NHS (British Health Care, National Health Services) couch to 5k audio podcasts. I ended up running over 60 miles prior to the triathlon. I felt good about running, although I am definitely not a runner. My best time, of course in practice, was still a generally slow time of over 10-minute miles.
It was great to have my son spend the night prior to the race and join us for dinner and answer my many questions on the race that he competed in last year. We rode up together and were at the event in plenty of time for a little warm up and to get some of the nerves out of our system.
I was over 13 minutes slower than my son for the event. He started on the swim after I entered the pool so that if he passed me, he knew his time was better. I had a good experience at the event and was happy to finish.
I learned that the start is critical in a sprint; I went too hard on the first few hundred meters of the swim. Next time, he goes first. Although I passed a few participants in the pool, I was passed by a few more as I walked from the pool to the first transition location and then spent too long getting ready for the bike ride. I did manage to beat my son on the bike; that was the only event I had an advantage.
My run was poor and I cannot blame anyone but me. My son passed me on the run portion as I was tired from biking and you know already that I am not a runner. I was walking (catching my breath) when he passed me during the running portion. That was all the encouragement I needed to get back running. I heard my son’s finish, so I was not too far behind (okay, 13 minutes…).
I had fun and I would do it again. Next year, I will find the time to practice more.
A few lessons learned.
Run after getting out of the pool…even if you are tired
Carry a bucket for your clothes and then you can use it to sit on before the race and during transition. The two competitors I saw with the 5-gallon buckets looked like they knew what they were doing.
Consider training to unbuckle shoes on the bike to go into the run transition without the clip-on shoes slowing me down.
Run more, swim more and start practicing earlier. If I am to do the event again, I will have to maintain a running regimen during the winter to get ready for a July event. If I can run in April, then I can work on time and not just getting ready to run the distance.
The warm-up is helpful; I need to determine the pool warm-up for the event.
There is no substitute for experience. I read a lot about the event, watched YouTube videos and learned more by doing.
Training for a triathlon is different than my normal bike riding for distance. It was a different mindset on the course.
Overall finish time: 1:31:41, place = 68 out of 92 men in the race (I was 30 finishers behind my son). He did better than his time the year before and I am happy to have been part of his motivation.
I have found out that when I do not have a goal, I am not motivated to ride or walk or do any other activity. I was encouraged to spend more time locally this summer to participate in a few local bike rides. Training to participate in organized rides takes practice on the local roads. Where I live we have a lot of hills, and since I was going to participate in Kentucky rides, I needed to practice on our local roads. As a result, I have enjoyed rediscovering some of the local rides that I ignored for the last few years.
The local challenge:
This year, a buddy of mine, David, who retired when I did, purchased a bike; together we went on several rides. It was great fun riding with him on the local roads.
Another friend of mine was looking for a riding partner for a few century rides. Mike took the Kentucky Century challenge and wanted a riding buddy. I looked at joining the Kentucky Challenge and decided against four century rides. Much to my surprise, I ended up riding three of the four century rides with Mike as well as training on some of the local roads. I also managed a few 50 mile rides on my own and with friends. I think I should have signed up for all four.
Additional encouragement to stay local was received when one of my sons challenged me to compete in a local triathlon.
As a result of my goals for riding this summer, I spent more time around the area than I did outside of our local area.
Favorite local rides:
Have you ever been to Rabbit Hash, Kentucky? I used to go about once a week in the summer a few years ago. It makes for a great stop when you are on a local bike ride. We have seen the original general store, the burned down general store, and now the re-built general store.
Big Bone Lick State Park to Rabbit Hash. This is a favorite ride for me and my wife. Many of the Boone County rides end up or begin at or ride by Big Bone Lick State Park.
We often ride from Big Bone to Rabbit Hash (about 10 miles out) with the variations open to go up the evil twins (both category 4 climbs) or a single category 4 climb or just to ride along the river without climbing to get to Rabbit Hash. We like to go early in the morning as motorcycles come to Rabbit Hash as a destination in the afternoon and evening.
As a side note, Strava recognizes the size of the climb in the results. A category 4 is a big climb (okay—it is hard on a bike!) with category 1 being a harder, steeper climb. This categorization of hill climbs started with the Tour De France; the category 4 climb is the lowest level they count. I am not sure I have been on a category 3 climb. Probably just as well.
The “no brainer.” This is a sponsored ride on Monday evenings along the Ohio River on KY Route 8. It is a no brainer in that as you leave the parking lot, turn right. When the road ends, you turn around and head back. This is a great beginning ride, and David and I did a few “short” 10 out and back rides to get a feel for road riding. The ride is fairly flat and does not have too much traffic. The views of the Ohio River are wonderful.
Harrison’s Tomb. William Henry Harrison’s tomb is in Cincinnati. He migrated to Ohio and became a senator prior to being elected president. He has an impressive tomb and has a regular procession of visitors to the tomb. The ride is a great route along the Ohio River, heading west toward the power plant and ending (if you ride the hill!) with a great view from the bluffs overlooking Kentucky and Southwestern Ohio. I appreciated learning about the ride from my bike mentor Chuck.
My triathlon-challenging son and I rode this ride—had a great day and enjoyed the scenery. Unfortunately, he rode just as fast as I did, so I was determined to train a little harder on the bike ride for the triathlon.
Ride from the Boone County Arboretum. Our ride from the Arboretum avoids the big climbs and starts with a big downhill. The first time I went in 2019 with Mike and David it poured rain on us the entire second half of the ride, all the way up the hill on Big Bone Road (a category 4 climb). Even in the pouring rain, we had a good time. My bike riding mentors took me on the easier ride several times. I returned the favor for David and took the path away from the evil twins (two back to back category 4 climbs), riding on Riddles Run Road, taking a left on 338 or Beaver Road and then up Big Bone Road where we can climb just one category 4 hill before heading back to the Arboretum. This 17-mile loop is a great challenge for any rider. I know that to see if I am ready for the upcoming challenges, once a year I need to ride over the evil twins. I managed to get in a solo ride and accomplished riding up all three of the category 4 hills in one ride. Fun but exhausting.
Loveland Bike tail—Ohio & Erie. This is the rail bike trail in Cincinnati with a paved rail trail all the way to Cleveland. My wife and I have spent many fun rides on this trail with a stop in Loveland to enjoy a meal or ice cream. David and I spent our retirement anniversary (2 years) doing a 50-mile ride on this trail to celebrate.
- Enjoy the local rides
- Go out and exercise and have some fun with friends while you are out
- Join others or use their knowledge to explore some good routes.
I did participate in three century rides with my friends this season. I previously wrote about the Horsey Hundred ride over Memorial weekend.
My friend Mike signed up for the Kentucky Century Challenge and I joined him for three of the four required rides. I could have signed up and received a jersey for completing the challenge as well. Maybe next year. I enjoyed our time outside on the century rides.
The best one of the seasons was the last; likely I was in the best shape for that ride. The Limestone Challenge was a beautiful ride and very well supported. It made a difference that it was cool and overcast all day. One of my favorite segments was a switchback climb where we could see the riders ahead of us climbing up as we were climbing into the valley preparing to climb.
This was a big climbing ride and featured two category 4 climbs. This is why I practice on our local category 4 climbs, including the evil twins. The distance rode was 100.27 miles (had to get to the start) and elevation of over 6,100.
The other century ride we did was two weeks before the Limestone Challenge out of West Lafayette, IN , the Wabash River Ride.
We had another perfect day for a century ride in the summer. It was great weather for a long day on the bike. This ride was well supported and much smaller than the other two century rides we participated with. We rode 101.3 miles and climbed over 3,650 feet.
At the end of the ride we were looking for the hills that the organizers said were coming up. The day was cool to start, which is always great. We did cross a covered bridge and enjoyed the views of the river from the banks.
I am not a fan of pickles, and Mike and I both thought it was funny that at the Wabash and Limestone rides they offered riders pickle juice. Maybe I will try it some other time.
Part of being retired is being able to pick up and visit. I was able to spend Mother’s Day with my mom for the first time in several years. One thing I am working on is visiting with family.
I enjoyed my visit and even got in a few bike rides with my sister; unfortunately, it hailed on one of our bike rides, not quite the experience we were looking for when we went out. Okay, you may have gone bike riding in the rain, so have we. Yes, it was supposed to be cloudy and yes, it did rain (hard). I hope to avoid riding in a hailstorm in the future. We called the ride short on that day. I think my shoes are still a little wet.
I did get turned back on a few of my bike rides because of the flooded road ways. The local area suffered the same rain and flooding as the rest of the country. The local bike trail was well marked and the signs saying closed were posted for a good reason. A few days later and the tunnels and underpasses were cleared out and the “trail closed” signs were gone as well.
My travels on took me to my mom, my mother-in-law, and finely to my house where I had a trifecta on Mother’s Day seeing all three in one day.
A few lessons learned.
Spending a week in a retirement community makes you think about people getting old and retiring somewhere else. My mom had stories of former neighbors who moved to the community and then as age and life happens had to sell and move back to their former home or where kids are located. Our decision is to stay where we have established friends, ties to the community, and family. This strategy is working out well so far.
It is good to help pull weeds and clean out the yard. Just watch out for the poison oak and sumac. My rash lasted a few weeks as a reminder that I was able to help out at my mom’s house.
Enjoy every bike ride. I went solo a few times, and despite having to find alternative places to bike I had a fun ride. The attitude starting the ride often determines the outcome. My sister took me on her triathlon course for the ride that ended in hail. It was still a fun ride and we found a tunnel that we had not biked to previously.
I was able to bike over 70 miles during the week and got out to ride 5 times. Several of the rides early in the week were cut short. Mom does not go biking with me so it is good to have my sister nearby who will join me for the rides.
It was a cold and wet spring. Not too much time for training on the bike outside. The good news is that Cincinnati has a lot of fun places to go and see.
In between the cold and the rain I was able to go to see the Cincinnati Reds play baseball. First professional game I can recall being at where the temperature was under 40 for the entire game. The Reds played their second game of the season, after their opening win, to a small crowd (18,737) compared to the opening day crowd of over 44,000, one of the biggest at the ball park. Even though the team lost, we were convinced that warm weather was coming. The game was fun and baseball always holds the promise of summer.
It was expected to rain when I went to see my first professional soccer game. The local club “FC Cincinnati” plays in the University of Cincinnati football stadium awaiting a new soccer stadium in town. So, it was fitting that I was invited to the game with my son who played in the first soccer game I ever saw. The day turned out nice and even though the game ended in a 1-1 tie, the game was exciting. The crowd, into every kick and pass on the field, seemed to know all the rules. With 26,023 fans in attendance, the noise and excitement was a contrast to the baseball game. Constant noise and cheers came from a fan section called “The Baily” that lent the game an atmosphere of intensity with chanting, drumming and yes, yelling.
The Baily has chants and songs for all occasions. We were able to witness the snake of fans in their orange and blue on the way into the stadium all chanting (Yes, I had to look it up…)
Cincinnati here we go, here we go, here we go.
Cincinnati here we go, here we go, here we go.
OLE OLE – OLE OLE, No one likes us, but that’s okay.
So score a goal, or score a few, Cincinnati, we’re here for you!
Another tradition in Cincinnati is the Flying Pig Marathon, something I have never done or even been to see in action. I do have friends that have run, including one who ran the marathon for 20 years in a row. The same son who took me to my first soccer game invited us to see him run in his events. He ran the “3 way with cheese” events, a 1 mile, 5k, 10k and half-marathon on the Flying Pig weekend. He did really well and we were glad to be on the sideline cheering him on.
My friend who ran all those marathons is also a champion bike rider and has completed a few iron man challenges. I have no desire to run a marathon, let alone run one at the end of a swim and bike ride of over 100 miles. We did manage to do a century ride together at the Horsey Hundred bike ride.
Each year over Memorial weekend, Georgetown hosts the Horsey Hundred, a bike ride displaying for all who care to bike ride the beautiful horse country area in Kentucky. The organizers directed us on routes past several horse farms; we were impressed and welcomed at the rest areas stocked with friendly volunteers and needed snacks.
The ride was a challenge as the weather in the afternoon turned sunny for the first time in weeks. Too bad I had not trained in the heat or the sun for the ride. I think we were both a little overloaded with the sun when we pulled into the finish after the 100 miles of bike riding. I am thinking my next ride (already signed up for a century ride in September) will see me in better shape for the distance.
Spring would not be complete without a visit our local Arboretum. Of course we walked and saw the spring trees blooming and the flowers starting to bud.
The flowers were coming out on the dogwoods just in time for the local dogwood dash.
A few lessons learned.
- Be a tourist in your back yard. We have a gangster tour planned for the summer in Newport, KY.
- Support your local teams. Wow, the baseball and soccer games showed that a lot of local people really like and support Cincinnati.
- Beauty is often in your back yard. Even though we have had to mow often this spring, the budding trees and flowers of spring bring joy.
Thank you Mike! I appreciate you pulling me along on the 100 mile Horsey Hundred event. That was not our first century bike ride together as Mike and I did a 100 miles MS bike ride a few years ago. My favorite comment from Mike was that at least he does not have to get off the bike and run a marathon. Amen to that! It was enough just to finish the ride and drive home.
Time to get away from winter.
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.
Our stay on Marathon Key was well done. We were driven out and rode 40 miles back to our hotel.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
I 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.
Before going to Arkansas I had a visit from a college buddy and we enjoyed Cincinnati and Cleveland play baseball
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.
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.
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.
It must be time for another ride!
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.
We expected the countryside in Germany and Austria to look like farmland and the towns and cities only to have old historic buildings.
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 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
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.
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.
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.
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.
Our 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.
We left Salzburg all too quickly and headed by rail to Vienna.
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.
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 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.
- I received my MBA from Webster University, way back when…seeing a Webster University building in Vienna was fun and not expected.
- 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.
- 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.”
- Beer in Germany and Austria is less expensive than soda or water … lesson: drink beer with meals!
- 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.
- 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.
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:
- Move and exercise. Each day we hiked in the cities.
- Find peaceful, beautiful surroundings. We stopped and smelled the roses, admired artwork, enjoyed singing and watching the river flow by.
- 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.
- 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.
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.
Castle Watching—don’t blink and miss one along the river…
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.
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. Being 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.
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.
Quaint Towns and Villages
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.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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).
- 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.
We ran across a new WWII monument noting the American army crossing the Rhine River—just put up in 2017.
- 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.