Biking in Other Cities Over Winter Vacations
Sometimes it's not enough to risk life and limb riding around in the metropolitan area.
Vacations are a great way to test our unclipping skills and bike handling abilities as we travel to other cities and ride along their roads and trails.
Last winter I learned a lot about Miami's Decobike system. I used their bike share until I decided I wanted a better bike to explore further south. I ended up having an adventure I'll never forget. I became lost as the sun was setting and I found myself in rush hour Miami Beach traffic. The nicest man helped lead me back to the LBS by singing to me in Spanish the entire way, showing me how to ride the wrong way down one way streets and through construction zone barriers. The amazing thing was he never stopped singing or weaving.
Last summer I left my bike at home and experienced such severe bike withdrawal I talked an hourly bike rental business into renting me a beach cruiser for several days. Once again, I had great adventures riding over drawbridges and through thunderstorms. I ended up waiting for a storm to pass on the porch of my friend Doc's surf shop on 35th Street.
This year I'm headed back to Florida for some more fun in a different city. I'll rent a bike because how many pirate cruises and dinoland visits can one person take?
I hope other cyclists post about their winter biking vacations.
Last edited by acc; 11-17-2012 at 11:00 AM.
This to me has always (or at least since I started riding again) been the best way to see a city. I've always felt I had a leg up on my non-riding friends when it comes to really experiencing the layout and the character. What I love about it is that biking makes you mobile enough to see much more than you would walking, yet it doesn't remove your accessibility to experiencing things up close. You can spend hours cruising around the streets and taking it all in, yet as soon as you come across something you want to see like a nice place to have lunch or a cool coffee shop or an interesting monument, you pull over and you're right there instantly. There is nothing obfuscating macro to micro, from bird's-eye to intimate; the transition between them is instant. You can't do that walking and you can't do it with a car.
I used to ride around with a Garmin 76, a large-ish hand-held unit that was more suited to maritime use as a backup; it didn't even have street maps, but I would still ride all over places like Philadelphia and not have to worry about getting back even once it started to get dark. I could never stand rented bikes so a couple of years ago I decided to start building a bike with BTC's. It has been a work in progress -- finding a frame, getting the BTCs and other braze-ons installed -- actually I'm working on getting it powder-coated right now, and that will be the last thing it needs. But I have already traveled with it (pre-powder-coating) and I can say it is one of the best investments I've made.
Probably the best experience I've had was being allowed to do a couple of laps in-between practice sessions at the Galan Velodrome in Bogota Colombia. "Freds" are somewhat of a rarity in Colombia; most people there just ride "whatever" bikes in casual clothes; the serious athlete riders are just that: serious athletes. The in-betweens, the MAMILs who are trying to ride away from middle-age (and their guts) in full kit are looked at with some curiosity. I did have some time to chat with some of the team coaches at the velodrome as they looked at me slightly quizzically in my XL spandex, and they thought the BTCs on my bike were pretty amazing.
The most disappointing experience came on the same trip; we had arrived in Bogota and were flying the next day to Medellin for a very short two-day trip -- short enough that I really didn't think it was worth it to lug my bike box there, so I left it at my in-laws. Well, what do you know...my wife's aunt's apartment was literally a block away from the Medellin Velodrome which is actually a completely public facility (as opposed to the Galan Velodrome which is private). You could literally ride right off the street and onto the track. And didn't have my bike. I had carried it thousands of miles from cars to airports to taxis to trains but had gotten lazy the last few hundred :-)
All I could do was walk by the velodrome and look wistfully at it like a dog watching squirrels outside.
Ann, your pictures and your adventures are awesome; this is the kind of thing I love about biking. Keep on posting! I too would love to see more like this.
I love riding to discover places and cities too. (Surely that's one thing most cyclists/riders have in common.)
I wish I'd done more riding in cities I visited back before I had a family, proper job, etc. Not that I can't still do it, but it's a bit tougher. I did try the bikeshare in Copenhagen when I was there and I have fond memories of doing this on a rental bike many years ago
I was there for work and rode with a roomie who I thought (at the time) was a cycling nut, fgetting up early to go on 50-100km rides before work, traveling with his $x000 bike everywhere and doing races. I made him stop half way up because I was winded. In hindsight, he was a really good sport about it (I was a part-time bike commuter at the time so not really that fit). I wish I had a GPS/Strava existed then.
Last edited by vvill; 11-18-2012 at 06:58 PM.
Where are you headed? I can throw some recommendations your way if it's somewhere I'm familiar with (which is sadly a lot of Florida).
Originally Posted by acc
Couldn't come up with a bike in Santo Domingo in October, Havana last week and it doesn't look like I'll have one in Port of Spain next week. I really have to work on our facility managers to see if they can't somehow scrounge up a loaner for me from the embassy community. Certainly the general services officer (GSO) in Havana had a bike in his garage he wasn't using during the week, and he was about my size. The GSO in Santo Domingo still hasn't put her bike together and she's been there for about eight months. Maybe I should have volunteered to go over Sunday afternoon after my arrival, and in exchange for setting up the bike, I could have used it for a couple of days. I will get some Christmas miles ridden in southern Indiana because we now have three bikes stored at my parents' house for just that purpose.
In the past five years, I did manage to rent bikes for rides in the Philippines, Tokyo, Kyoto, and Grenada. I tried in Seoul, but the rental place the embassy knew about was closed for the winter months. I was also able to borrow bikes for rides in Gabon and Ecuador, but was disappointed in Mongolia (at -30°F) when the guy I thought I could borrow from wasn't at work when I had some time available. There were some bikes on the embassy compound in San Salvador, but I couldn't figure out which office they belonged to (probably security).
Ah Consularrider, you live the life I want.
My destination is Tampa with Rambo (age 11). I need to swing down to Sarasota for some research but will be based out of Tampa. As much as Rambo would luv to go bar hopping I need diversions that are mostly tacky, extra credit for adventures with explosions, fire, or weapons.
Tacky is what Tampa does best, but I tried my hardest to avoid anything involving pro wrestling or NFL football when I lived there. That's about 75 percent of the activities...
Originally Posted by acc
Close-by riding - the Pinellas Trail will take you from downtown St Petersburg to Tarpon Springs, something like 40 miles following the coast in Pinellas County. Fort DeSoto Park in Pinellas County has plenty of trails that will take you around the park, to the historic fort, and to the beaches that have been named best in the country. You can also rent bikes at the park to ride around. Bonus points if you saw the epic film "The Punisher" and recognize where they filed the massacre scene at the beginning of the movie... Rambo might like that one. Tampa has an urban rail-trail that's not much to see but is close by called the Upper Tampa Bay Trail, I think it's ~10 miles one-way.
You should definitely go out to Bayshore Blvd - it's about 4 miles one-way that goes along the city's premier waterfront. It has a multi-use trail along the water and a bike lane on the road depending on if Rambo's with you or not. It connects to Davis Island, where you can cruise by Derek Jeter's enormous house and through quiet neighborhoods with tree-lined streets. Davis Island is one of the few places in the city you can ride a bike on the street and not fear for your life, hence why you'll probably see a bunch of roadies circling.
I used to come out to Bayshore every night to jog or ride, it's one of the few things I really miss about that city.
A very Florida thing to do is the Manatee Viewing Center at the power plant across the bay from Tampa - http://www.tampaelectric.com/company/mvc/ - depending on how cold it is they get a bunch of manatees that congregate in the outfall from the power plant to enjoy the toasty water in the winter. It's utterly absent of toothless hicks trying to sell you tickets to alligator wrestling though so I'm not sure it's really "authentic Florida".
If you are in town Sunday morning after about 10am, go to the Thai temple (aka Wat Mongkolratanaram but who can pronounce that?). This is the best kept secret in the city - they do a potluck every Sunday and make amazing authentic Thai food and charge very little for it. You get to sit out on the water by the river and eat your amazing food. It's at 5306 Palm River Road, Tampa, FL, 33619, about a 10 minute drive from downtown.
Turns out I'm very good at biking and food and awful at things to do with kids... if I think of some more I'll come back. I spent most of my weekends when I lived there at the dog park or the beach.
Since I have to do it - the best beaches within an easy drive of Tampa are Fort DeSoto and Pass-a-Grille. Fort DeSoto's North Beach was named the best beach in the US a few years ago and Pass-a-Grille is more of the standard Florida beach, just with better sand and fewer tourists. Avoid Clearwater unless you're really looking for SPRING BREAK WOOOOO!!!.
Last edited by DaveK; 11-19-2012 at 09:58 AM.
I'd also give the Fort DeSoto beach a big thumbs up, but it's been over 36 years since I was there (biked around St Pete on a spring break visit to my grandparents in '76 - but we drove to Ft DeSoto). The thing I remember most was all the horseshoe crab shells on the beach.
I'm sorry, you were saying something about toothless hicks and gator wrestling? *cough*
Thank you! That is helpful. Rambo will have to come along with me for some of this but I'll get some time out on the road alone too.