Dirt road ride, Albany, VT.
In May friends biked the 650 miles of the Skyline Drive and the Blue Ridge Parkway, from Front Royal, VA, to Cherokee, NC, and I got to go along. It’s an amazing stretch of road, ranging in elevation from about 560 feet at the northern end of the Skyline Drive in Virginia to 6,053 feet near Richland Balsam, NC. Little traffic before Memorial Day. Virtually no potholes. Consistently stunning views of mountains in all directions. Overlooks, tunnels and turnouts. Your federal tax dollars at work. There were eight people and eight bikes and all the gear jammed into the big blue heavily bumper-stickered Sprinter van borrowed from another friend’s indie rock star nephew, Chadwick Stokes (of Dispatch and State Radio) and his band. Along the way there was a 13-mile climb and a 10-mile descent and lots of other ups and downs. Top, sunset near Big Meadows Lodge, VA. Below, the road and views from it as it winds over the ridges. And flame azaleas and a note stuck along the Appalachian Trail in Virginia. Click here for a slideshow from the trip.
1. There are about 300 miles of bicycle trails in Montreal, meaning you can go almost anywhere on a bike. Above, riding along the La Chine Canal. Bottom, crossing the Jacques Cartier Bridge.
The Natchez Trace Parkway covers a slice of the South rich in history and beauty, especially in the spring. You get a pretty good look at things if you ride your bike most of the 450-mile distance from Natchez, Mississippi, to Nashville, Tennessee, as we did from late March into the first week of April. You pedal the gamut, from the stark images and prose of the Medgar Evers memorial at the Jackson airport to blossoms around the antebellum mansions in Natchez, the blooming redbuds along the parkway, and the tourist-filled honky-tonks on South Broadway in Nashville. A few pictures from the trip: top, the typical road surface and traffic on the parkway; below, an early morning run in French Camp, MS, a stone’s throw from the parkway; a National Park Service employee at Mount Locust, MS, dressing the part of one of the “Kaintucks” who floated down the Mississippi on flatboats and then walked back home on the Natchez Trace in the early 1800s; mist in Pegram, TN.; the breakfast shift at French Camp Academy in Mississippi; and the Silver Threads hit it at Robert’s Western World in Nashville. (That’s a fairly lifelike effigy of the great country singer Marty Robbins beaming down from the rafters in the top left corner.) Click here for a Natchez Trace gallery. Click here for information about the parkway.
Two generations and a Croatian flag in the town of Stari Grad on the island of Hvar in Croatia’s Dalmatian islands. I had the good fortune last week to be traveling there with a Vermont Bicycle Tours group. Tourism in Croatia, on the rise in the 1980s, evaporated with war in the 1990s, but it is booming now. It’s no wonder: the clear, blue water of the Adriatic, a sunny and mild climate (even in September), stunning scenery and cityscapes, architecture that dates to the Roman Empire and earlier, fascinating Mediterranean culture and cuisine and people who are for the most part very friendly, despite the turmoil of the past 20 years. I met these two after following a man hauling grapes in a motorized cart through the narrow cobblestone streets and into his konoba (wine cellar). Below: a view typical of the islands — Pucisca on the island of Brac; a resident of the Brac hilltop town of Skrip, from which the limestone to make Roman Emperor Diocletian’s palace in Split was quarried; VBT cyclists in action; and building with stone on Brac. Limestone is everywhere — there’s far more stone than soil —and everywhere it’s in use, from pathways to walls, terraces, roofs, tiles and virtually every building. Vineyards and olive trees are everywhere too. Lesson learned: It’s not a good idea to eat an olive directly off a tree. Click here for a gallery from the trip.
More from the Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa, in all its glory: Above, a mountain bike stunt rider at the bike expo, Sioux Center. Below, they got the color scheme just right at Mid-State Milling in Clemons; sustenance on Day One near Sioux Center — all egg sales to benefit the Northwest Iowa Symphony Orchestra; and knocked out in Webster City, despite (or because of?) the eggs, the bacon, the pork chops, the multiplicity of pies, the walking tacos and the watermelon. Bottom, buena vista in Buena Vista. If you want to see the world’s largest popcorn ball, the Obama-Romney dunk tank, and polkaing bike shorts in the Czech Village, click here for even more from RAGBRAI! And a RAGBRAI video is here.
Every July for 40 years the Des Moines Register and a legion of volunteers have put together a little event called the Register‘s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa, better known as RAGBRAI, a week-long bicycle ride across the roughly 500-mile-wide state. It started with two Register employees and a few hangers-on and has grown into an Iowa tradition and a bicycling legend that this year drew 10,000 registered riders and perhaps 5,000 more unregistered ones from every state in the country and 15 foreign nations. It’s a tradition Iowans have embraced completely. It is gigantic, well-run and crazy. This year three of the seven days were above 100 degrees, which only added to the craziness. My friends Chip Stone and John Bollard and I rode it last week. I will post more images and a gallery as I edit my way through them. Please feel free to Facebook or otherwise spread the link. Thanks! Above: sunrise on one hot morning — when the temperature’s going to hit 103 degrees, people start riding around 4:30 or 5 a.m. Below: traffic on a rolling section of Iowa farmland (almost all of the route is closed to traffic other than bikes); an idea of the kind of Heartland food riders can get along the way; and some of the folks who make RAGBRAI what it is. More to come.