Happy Trails: An Exit Interview with Boston’s Bike Czar

a href=”http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-RTzisy3eGWU/T42CrHsvQoI/AAAAAAAAAug/3N39xSwn5JA/s1600/Nicole%2BFreedman.jpg”img style=”display:block; margin:0px auto 10px; text-align:center;cursor:pointer; cursor:hand;width: 320px; height: 201px;” src=”http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-RTzisy3eGWU/T42CrHsvQoI/AAAAAAAAAug/3N39xSwn5JA/s320/Nicole%2BFreedman.jpg” alt=”” id=”BLOGGER_PHOTO_ID_5732381578025190018″ border=”0″ //abr /My job as a Sustainability Coordinator for A Better City connects dots, which is why I like it and here is another connection. a href=”http://www.abettercity.org/blog/?p=225″ABC’s recent blog post/a by my colleague, Richard Parr, Director of Policy, features an exit interview with our beloved and soon to be missed, Nicole Freedman.br /br /Through my work as a member of Boston Bikes Advisory Board, Treasurer of LivableStreets, my position with ABC and our car free, family lifestyle, I have grown to learn a lot and very much respect Nicole’s posture, optimism and work ethic and will miss her tremendously.div class=”blogger-post-footer”img width=’1′ height=’1′ src=’https://blogger.googleusercontent.com/tracker/7824773672662763474-3672131252306588460?l=2wheels1baby.blogspot.com’ alt=” //div

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Netherlands and Belgium by bike with a 2 year old

Trip Planning
Towards the end of 2010 on one of our rare dates, I asked Kyle what 2011 held for us in terms of travel plans both domestic and international. We decided that Portland for domestic and either Copenhagen or Amsterdam for abroad. Portland was replaced with Montreal (very lovely trip) and the decision between the other two cities came down to airline prices, weather and pairing countries.

We could either go to the Netherlands and Belgium or Denmark and either Sweden, Norway, Finland or Iceland. I was not prepared to split Sweden’s time with another country and didn’t know enough about Norway, Finland and Iceland to make a good decision. In the end, bicycles and Belgian beer (and chocolate) won.

In the months ahead of our trip, we collected stories and maps from friends who had visited and bought a book on Bicycling in Holland (with excursions to Belgium and Germany). In addition to the maps, the book was good for recommended day trips and multi-day tours. Additionally, New York Times travel section did one of their 36 Hours on Amsterdam, which was full of great tips. After digesting all the information and knowing that we were going to be flying overnight with our 2 year old daughter who would need to adjust to a 6 hour time zone change, staying a few nights in Amsterdam at the start of the 2 weeks seemed like a good idea. So it was 5 nights in Amsterdam and then 9 nights on the road.

Flight

Which would you choose?

  • nonstop flight (Boston to Amsterdam) on Delta in coach
  • 1 stop layover flight on Iceland Air in Economy Comfort (better than coach, not quite business class) for a little more.

I left the decision up to Kyle and he chose the latter. Here’s the deal. Economy Comfort on Iceland Air is advertised very vaguely. They say it’s 2 seats with a tray in the seat between them. I saw that as an empty seat with a removable tray for Annika’s car seat. I tried reading reviews of the Iceland Air and search all over the place for pictures, but could not find anything, so I went ahead and booked the flight.

2 Economy Comfort seats are actually 3 coach seats with a little bit more leg room and the center seat has a retractable tray with an operational seat belt. It’s absolutely perfect for 2 adults traveling with a child that’s less than 2 years old, because they are free regardless. I called Iceland Air three different times and got three different answers and I decided to go with the third answer which was, “the center seat is not a real seat and cannot be used for a car seat”. And the answer we got from the flight attendant after we boarded the plane and clearly saw that it was a normal seat and that we could have very well brought her car seat was, “I don’t know why they told you that.”

It just folds up, and the leather cover zips back down over it.

All in all, not bringing her car seat ended up working out for the best because here’s the way Economy Comfort seating works: it’s essentially a hedge for the airline between coach and business class (Saga class). If Saga class books up, they put Economy Comfort ticket holders in coach with 3 seats instead of 2. If coach class books up, they put EC people in Saga class. We rode Saga class on 3 out of the 4 legs of our trip. Between the lounge at the airports and getting to ride in business class, it was a great way to fly and I’m glad we didn’t lug Annika’s over sized toddler car seat with us to and from and between the airports.

Accommodations
AirBnB.com was my resource for booking accommodations in Amsterdam and from talking to a nice guy I met in our neighborhood dog park, I knew I wanted to stay in the Jordaan neighborhood. Sadly, nothing was available that had a crib (they call them baby cots), so we branched out the area around Vondelpark, and I am so happy we did.

Other than AirBnB.com, we stumbled onto many nice inns at the end of our days and if anybody travels without kids, I would recommend using Vrienden op de Fiets (friends of the bike). It’s like couch surfing, but hosts cater to bicycle tourers and the rate is only -25 euros per person. You can order their guidebook online and then send them a check.

Luggage
A few things to consider when packing for traveling with a toddler and bike touring is involved:

  1. 3 days or less worth of clothing
  2. Rain gear for everyone – we had goretex jackets and pants for us and a jacket and boots for our daughter and this seemed to work well and we did get rained on pretty hard. Bring an umbrella.
  3. Diapers – we used a combination of reusable and G-diapers and between staying in apartments and inns with laundry, we were okay. There was one time that I used a laundromat in Bruges and one time we ran out and had to use a couple hotel hand towels as diaper inserts, but otherwise, we got through the whole trip without having to buy disposables.
  4. Four panniers – test pack them to make sure everything fits. We brought two with us because I wanted to wait until we arrived in bicycling heaven to buy two for my bike.
  5. Sleeping bag for kiddo – even when there are cribs, she slept really well because the sleeping bag was extra padding and it smelled like home. The sleeping bag also served as a nap time aid while in transit on bikes…see pictures later in trip.
  6. Ergo only – don’t bring a stroller for a walking toddler, that’s such a headache in cities and frankly, that’s what bikes are for. All museums offered strollers, as well.
  7. Pack panniers into rolling bag and check the bag for free. This makes traveling to and from the airport simple and easy. Our bag floated above 53 lbs, but the agent was so pleasantly surprised that a family of 3 was only checking one bag with no stroller or car seat that he might have given us an exception to the 50 lb max. We used a nice day pack as our carry on, which was perfect for day trips in the cities.

Traveling to Europe
So we took off on Monday, August 29th at 9:30 pm, the day after hurricane Irene blew through Boston. It was the most beautiful day in Boston that day, so since one of the themes of our trip was bicycling and we’d be pretty much secluded to a 2*2 foot seat for 12 hours, we chose to get to the airport by bike. Annika got her playground time in before we hopped on the bikes at 6 pm, making it to the airport by 7:15 and to the Virgin Atlantic Lounge by 8 pm. The lounge was courtesy of the Economy Comfort seat class we had booked on Iceland Air.

We boarded the plane with Annika already in PJ’s and a fresh diaper, and saved the bottle for take-off to help with her ears popping. Then we made a “bed” for her with extra pillows and blankets on the floor between our feet. She fell asleep not too long after we got up to altitude, and slept all the way to Iceland. At about 1am our time we had to land in Iceland and change planes, and then we flew to Amsterdam. On this second plane, and the other 2 on the way home, our seating was in the back of Business Class. The floor sleeping trick worked this way as well.

By the time we arrived in Amsterdam, Annika had actually slept for at least 5 hours, and things went well. We got our big rolling bag, got her dressed, and transitioned to a train to get into the city to go find our rental home near Vondelpark.

We were able to get basic groceries, take-out dinner, some wine and excellent beer, come home and enjoy the roof deck and sunset, and then get to sleep… which lasted until noon the next day. All 3 of us. I flatly refused to believe the clock, my watch, and my cell phone, all of whom were attempting to tell me in concert that it was in fact noon. It just didn’t seem possible… I sure as hell felt great, though!

Out & About in Amsterdam

Out to make the most of what was left of the day, we picked up rental bikes and a map and began to find out what Amsterdam cycling traffic is really about. We’d seen the slides, read the blogs, and talked to people who raved about the ease of getting around here on 2 wheels, but having an experience of a thing is never the same as the research leading up to it. I’ll speak for myself (Kyle) and allow Megan to disagree or comment if need be… I found it challenging and intense, kid or no. I enjoyed it, I was not scared or intimidated, but it required ALL of my attention if we were anywhere near the city center and the train station. The sheer volume of bikes around you (parked and moving) is difficult for a first-timer from the US to process. Most bikes are in a moderate hurry but not incredibly so. The bikers are generally forgiving and polite, pretty much everyone uses hand signals, and as long as you’re not completely zoned out and staring at the scenery, you’re not going to get flack from locals who just want to get home after work. But there are SO MANY of them… the sheer number of bikes going everywhere at once is incredible for a kid from Georgia.

I stood up on the pedals when things got intense, and Megan made fun of me for it, but I needed to be able to control that big wobbly bike and see over peoples’ heads, and I reverted back to “what works on a mountain bike.” It served me well… by the end of the trip I could whip impressively tight u-turns without touching a foot down on that bike. Skills, people.

The bike lanes are just one layer of a much more balanced public transit lane sandwich (compared to most US cities), with cars, pedestrians, and bikes all getting pretty equal billing across the street space. That means you have peds stepping off the curb right in front of you sometimes, and cars turning in front of you at times as well. But neither of these were constant obstructions… not like the scooters.

For some stupid reason, Amsterdam lets 50cc scooters in its bike lanes. Many of these are still 2-stroke machines, which means they are loud, fast, smokey, and cheap. That’s a recipe for shitball behavior if ever there were one, and by and large that’s what we saw. 50cc scooters can still go faster than 40mph, and many of them do, in your bike lane. Right next to your elbow. Hey! How you doin? Every red light they go around the bikes to the front of the light, and then launch off in a cloud of oily smoke and chain saw noise. The average scooter rider seemed to be a kid in his late teens / early 20’s with sweatpants on and a friend on the back, with the general driving behavior of someone who was very late for something.

So that’s the bad part. The good part is that bikes outnumber every other form of transportation in town by a large margin, and generally get their way without much contest. There are good bikes lanes damned near everywhere, there’s bike parking pretty much wherever you need it, and it’s only really crowded and serious in the very center. Biking here is not as simple as it sometimes sounds when people point to it as an example of a bike-centric city – which it is, to be sure – but nothing ever is that simple. It requires your attention, and a little experience helps, that’s all.

What to See – Amsterdam

Anne Frank House. We hadn’t heard much about it other than “long lines.” We rode by it and saw no line whatsoever, so we quickly ducked in. It is sparse, tasteful, informative, emotional, and something I am incredibly glad I saw in person. I feel like it was a personal bookend for me, having also seen one of the places that innocent people like the Franks met their end (Dachau in my case, not Bergen-Belsen where the Franks were sent). Don’t ever look me in the eye and tell me that mixing national pride and religious politics is harmless. -Ahem-


Van Gogh Museum. The best art museum I have ever seen. Because it has a person’s life at its core, (especially a person who corresponded frequently about himself, leaving a huge record of letters behind), this isn’t like other art museums to me. It’s a story with some of the world’s best illustrations.

Brauerij de Prael. Beer geeks rejoice. Amsterdam has 2 small breweries that I found, the other being Brauerij t’Ij which is in a windmill. They both branch out beyond the Usual 4 (blonde, dubbel, trippel, quad). For the record, I preferred De Prael’s beer and interior space, but both are damned fine. Bring cash and your liver.

Mac Bike Rentals. Every single person working here is friendly and helpful and happy to see you. I don’t know how they do it. They have good, sturdy bikes, the prices are very good, they take all forms of plastic, and they make the whole process painless. I didn’t try anyone else, but I cannot imagine how to improve on these guys.

Leaving Amsterdam…Ghent

After 5 days in Amsetrdam, we took a train to Antwerp to get a head start towards Ghent and duck some weather. Sometimes having bikes on the train is easy – platforms level with the train car, small gap, big open storage space (see pic). Sometimes it’s not as easy, with some steps to climb and a small room to cram your bike(s) into. It was never a “problem” problem, for sure, so don’t hesitate to use this route.

Special Advisory, Though: When that train pulls up, brother, you had better be READY to get your bike hustled onto it fast. Otherwise that train will leave you standing there sratching your head and saying “I wonder if the bike car is at this end or the other en- HEY WAIT”… Ask me how I know. Mach schnell!

I’m going to just come out and say it – Ghent was my favorite place of the whole trip, even including Amsterdam. With 60,000 students on the outskirts of the old town, it is still alive, where other beautiful old cities have turned more into museums. There is a massive, imposing castle right in the center of town, and it was re-done in the last century to something carefully approximating its original 1100’s condition. Interestlingly, it was built not to defend the city, but to whip the citizens in line. The Count wasn’t getting his way and decided a conspicuous show of force was in order.

Gent has muscles, beer, canals, castles, bed and breakfasts, chocolate, cobblestones, boat tours, grand open plazas, enormous church towers, and friendly people. Our b&b was nestled behind a furniture store whose structure dates to the 1500’s and whose basement dates to the 1300’s. You should go to Ghent. Tomorrow.

After 3 days of sitting idle in the b&b’s back hallway, our trusty rental bikes once again saw some action as we biked from Ghent to Brugge. Weather was cloudy and 60’sF, with light wind.

Ghent to Brugge… a little over 40km’s

This leg was almost entirely along arrow-straight canals with long tree-lined stretches going for miles. We met up with a friendly german who was going the same way, and rode with him chatting about any/everything for over 5 hours. He was a big help in both navigating and in passing the time. We picked blackberries and had sandwiches. Bike people are good people. Hannibal Lecter, Magneto, and Dracula… you never saw any of them on a bike. Think about it.

Not as evil.

After Ghent: Brugge

Brugge is what everyone tells you it is – quaint on a level that would give Tinkerbell a tooth ache. Quaint to a degree that would make Walt Disney pass out cold. Quaint in a way that seems to draw grandparents like moths to an incredibly expensive flame. It is cobblestones, high end retail, massive old churches and towers, canals, chocolate, good food, and boat tours. BUT… I didn’t like the boat tour as much as Ghent. I didn’t find as many quiet back streets with unique doors and shops and restaurants. I DID find one of my favorite breweries, the Halve Maan, makers of the phenominal Straffe Hendrick line of beers. Beer drinkers MUST visit this place, it is incredibly good beer in a beautiful setting.

Halve Maan Brewery’s beer garden

I’m largely splitting hairs here – Brugge was wonderful, but I don’t personally see why it gets top billing over Ghent. Ideally see both, but don’t think that Brugge is the only place for the reeeeally good stuff.

Brugge to Middelburg

Our next segment of biking was up toward the coast, over a ferry, and up to Middelburg, which is back in the Netherlands. Along the way we saw more cows than you knew existed (and I used to live in Wisconsin), along with an amazing bike-and-kid-friendly cafe along the bike paths… it was stunning. There were TWO trampolines, an apple tree, a ball pit, tons of slides and swings and a zipline. And for mom and dad, there was top-shelf beer, good wine, and very good food.


This is how you do a roadside bike cafe.

Back on the road, we immediately passed a petting zoo, built right up along the bike path. You have to love this country. As for the destination, I had never heard of this Middelburg (my dad lives in the one in Florida), so I had no expectations, but we were pleasantly surprised by a city with a good mix of old and new to it. There’s a big central city plaza with an open-air market, and there are old churches and the like, but the stores are more realistic and designed for regular people who live there, as opposed to loaded grandparents. We found the best bike shop of the whole trip (by FAR) here, but their website must not be as robust as their selection because I cannot find them via the innerwebs.

We stayed in our one and only Vrienden Op De Fiets house in Middelburg. The woman was probably in her early 60’s, and was a 50/50 mix of “Welcome to my home!” and “Don’t spill anything on my carpets!” There was no crib, and we made do with some pillows and blankets on the floor for Annika. She slept, but it wasn’t great. Also the next morning when it came time to pay, we were figuring it would be 30 Euros (15 each). It was somehow 50 Euros, which wasn’t a show stopper, but when hotels go for around 70 or 80 Euros in that town, it wasn’t an amazing deal to have to share the bathroom and be extra careful with everything.

Middelburg to Den Haag

The next plan was to get up to Den Haag. The weather was not amazing, and there was a wind advisory. We opted to get another head start and take a train from Middelburg to Delft, then bike the rest of the way and find a hotel or b&b. Arriving in Den Haag, however, we discovered that it’s just a big, modern, boring, semi-dirty urban center. I later realized that I didn’t take a single picture while biking through the city… I guess I didn’t want to remember landromats and scooters and bank headquarter buildings. That being the case, we pushed on through the city and immediately found ourselves in the woods. Northeast of the city center, you run into a giant green wall of park lands following the main biking route. Past that, you go through a few neighborhoods full of giant mansions, some of whom were actual diplomatic consulate buildings. Specifically I recall seeing one for Iraq and one for Yemen. We passed several impeccably dressed people riding horses the other way down the street. After the mansions, the path goes into the woods again, then farms, and emerges at another spectacular cafe, where we took our lunch and made full use of the ample kids’ puzzles and books on offer.

By now it was late afternoon and we weren’t 100% sure where we would end up sleeping, but we didn’t get nervous, we just pushed on into the sand dune paths going northeast along the coast. Something would turn up. “Something” turned out to be a stunning 3-star hotel in amongst the dunes, with amazing views of empty wilderness and a gorgeous outdoor dining area. There wasn’t another building in sight. They took Amex. It was perfect. I cannot recommend the place enough.

A fine place to have a beer

I slept better here than I have anywhere else in a long, long time. The next day we got up and started along those same sand dune paths northeast, meaning to make Haarlem by dinner.

Den Haag to Haarlem… sortof

Riding through the dunes was incredible. The weather was great (at first), the scenery was beautiful, the paths are in outstanding condition, and there are no scooters. None. It’s perfectly quiet. The ocean is up over the dunes to your left, should you care to stop and climb up to see it.


This was some of the best riding to be found in both countries. There are gentle hills, nothing but bikes around, and the air smells nothing like the air in your office. At some point, though, my wife’s inner wanderlust took over, and we left the rolling dune paths for the cow-filled interior to have a change of scenery and suss out some hot lunch opportunities.

After lunch in some little town square, we began to battle some serious rain. Annika slept through a lot of it (naptime is naptime, weather be damned) under an umbrella and her own raincoat. The Bobike’s windshield helped a ton here as well, but credit goes almost entirely to my wife for holding a crap-ball umbrella in one hand and piloting a fully-laden battleship with the other. At one point we stopped under a bridge, then went to a hotel to ask about renting a crib for a few hours, but in the end we just sucked it up and got back to biking.

A few hours later the rain had stopped and we rolled into Haarlem ready to find a place to sleep. But the city didn’t look as good as we had hoped. We looked around, looked at our watches, looked at a map showing Amsterdam a few tantalizingly short hours away, shrugged, and made east once more for the capital city.

We rolled into Amsterdam at about 5:30pm, exhausted and ready for food and a good room. I took Anni to a playground while Megan took off on one of the bikes to go searching for a room. 45 minutes later, she returned and frowned. “Nothing. Everything’s full so far. I’m starving and I can’t think straight. Let’s eat first.” We had a gigantic meal and started out again to find a room, this time starting with the Tourist office. They informed us that there was a 30,000 person conference in town, and that rooms were going to be tight. We managed to find a grand total of ONE room in town, which was 480 Euros a night… not gonna happen. So we hopped onto a train at 9:00pm and went south to Utrecht, figuring they wouldn’t (couldn’t) be as full. We were right.

By the time we got a room at 10:30pm, we had biked for something like 10 hours and ridden a train for another 30 minutes south. The hotel in Utrecht was fine, the city looked beautiful at night – canals, cobblestones, the usual formula.

Final Trip – Utrecht to Amsterdam

Awake, dressed, and fed in Utrecht, we looked at the forecast to find “severe wind advisory.” The direction of the wind was generally north-northeast. That would put a 25mph wind more or less behind us. I’ll be honest, I was ready to chicken out, but my wife does not know how to surrender, and the last viable day of riding in the Netherlands was at stake. We opted to bike it back up there for our last night in country, optimistic about having the wind help (and not hurt) our progress.

In a perfect world, the path from Utrecht to Amsterdam would be devoid of any left turns. As it is, however, the path frequently veers and bobs and meanders going around farms, through villiages, and under highways. Each of those western jogs meant squaring off with a steady 25mph wind in your face, with gusts in the mid 30’s. In my case that meant I was over the bars, crawling in 1st gear to stay upright. In my wife’s case, it meant that the wind had not just her body and her bike to push on, but a giant windshield. She was able to do it sitting down, somehow, which was both amazing and humbling. To make matters even worse, we both missed a sign somehow and turned west directly into that wind for at least 5 miles of path so long and perfectly straight you could see the curvature of the earth at its end. It took us a gruelling hour to finally realize our mistake, and just 15 short minutes to backtrack that same distance – in 3rd gear, barely touching the pedals, cursing.

So don’t do that. Ever.

Once we got back on track, we came across something interesting a mile or so up the correct trail; a canal crossing. This one was hand-powered, with a little barge that you crank across by turning a big wheel on shore which pulls on a stainless steel chain submerged in the water. It’s difficult to turn, and each full rotation brings the barge about 4 inches closer. It took about 6 minutes of all-out cranking to bring it over.

C’mere, boat.

Suffice it to say that Utrecht to Amsterdam was difficult, but the difficulty was entirely due to the wind, which turned out to actually be the remnants of Hurricane Irene. If it weren’t for the special conditions, this would’ve been an amazingly pretty route. The area leaving Utrecht to the north in particular was gorgeous, with tiny town after tiny town marking the progress as you go along with the canal always to your left. We did make it back to Amsterdam, we stayed in someone’s place we found the night before online at Airbnb.com, we had killer take-out indian food, we slept like the dead, and the next day we got home in much the same manner as we arrived. Our panniers were re-packed into the large rolling bag, we returned the rental bikes (the guy’s face was great when I told him where the bikes had been), we took a train to the airport, and eventually biked home from Logan to Fresh Pond, Cambridge.

Conclusions for folks who want to bike there with a kid

1. Make sure you know how to let your kid nap while riding. Our solution worked great, your mileage may vary.
2. Don’t sweat light rain, but DO sweat heavy winds. Bring Goretex and a cheery attitude, and check that forecast for wind before you decide what you’re doing that day.
3. Become internet lodging ninjas. Airbnb.com, Homeaway.com, and the local tourist info office’s kiosks will get you sorted quick.
4. Don’t be in a hurry. Follow the routes, even when there’s a straighter line on the map. That’s how we found 75% of the really cool cafes, the petting zoo, fortress ruins, WW2 ammo depos and such.
5. Go do this, or something very much like it. Now. The people rock, the beer is incredible, the scenery is inspiring, and you’re not getting any younger.



Comments (5)

Netherlands and Belgium by bike with a 2 year old

Trip Planning
Towards the end of 2010 on one of our rare dates, I asked Kyle what 2011 held for us in terms of travel plans both domestic and international. We decided that Portland for domestic and either Copenhagen or Amsterdam for abroad. Portland was replaced with Montreal (very lovely trip) and the decision between the other two cities came down to airline prices, weather and pairing countries.

We could either go to the Netherlands and Belgium or Denmark and either Sweden, Norway, Finland or Iceland. I was not prepared to split Sweden’s time with another country and didn’t know enough about Norway, Finland and Iceland to make a good decision. In the end, bicycles and Belgian beer (and chocolate) won.

In the months ahead of our trip, we collected stories and maps from friends who had visited and bought a book on Bicycling in Holland (with excursions to Belgium and Germany). In addition to the maps, the book was good for recommended day trips and multi-day tours. Additionally, New York Times travel section did one of their 36 Hours on Amsterdam, which was full of great tips. After digesting all the information and knowing that we were going to be flying overnight with our 2 year old daughter who would need to adjust to a 6 hour time zone change, staying a few nights in Amsterdam at the start of the 2 weeks seemed like a good idea. So it was 5 nights in Amsterdam and then 9 nights on the road.

Flight

Which would you choose?

  • nonstop flight (Boston to Amsterdam) on Delta in coach
  • 1 stop layover flight on Iceland Air in Economy Comfort (better than coach, not quite business class) for a little more.

I left the decision up to Kyle and he chose the latter. Here’s the deal. Economy Comfort on Iceland Air is advertised very vaguely. They say it’s 2 seats with a tray in the seat between them. I saw that as an empty seat with a removable tray for Annika’s car seat. I tried reading reviews of the Iceland Air and search all over the place for pictures, but could not find anything, so I went ahead and booked the flight.

2 Economy Comfort seats are actually 3 coach seats with a little bit more leg room and the center seat has a retractable tray with an operational seat belt. It’s absolutely perfect for 2 adults traveling with a child that’s less than 2 years old, because they are free regardless. I called Iceland Air three different times and got three different answers and I decided to go with the third answer which was, “the center seat is not a real seat and cannot be used for a car seat”. And the answer we got from the flight attendant after we boarded the plane and clearly saw that it was a normal seat and that we could have very well brought her car seat was, “I don’t know why they told you that.”

It just folds up, and the leather cover zips back down over it.

All in all, not bringing her car seat ended up working out for the best because here’s the way Economy Comfort seating works: it’s essentially a hedge for the airline between coach and business class (Saga class). If Saga class books up, they put Economy Comfort ticket holders in coach with 3 seats instead of 2. If coach class books up, they put EC people in Saga class. We rode Saga class on 3 out of the 4 legs of our trip. Between the lounge at the airports and getting to ride in business class, it was a great way to fly and I’m glad we didn’t lug Annika’s over sized toddler car seat with us to and from and between the airports.

Accommodations
AirBnB.com was my resource for booking accommodations in Amsterdam and from talking to a nice guy I met in our neighborhood dog park, I knew I wanted to stay in the Jordaan neighborhood. Sadly, nothing was available that had a crib (they call them baby cots), so we branched out the area around Vondelpark, and I am so happy we did.

Other than AirBnB.com, we stumbled onto many nice inns at the end of our days and if anybody travels without kids, I would recommend using Vrienden op de Fiets (friends of the bike). It’s like couch surfing, but hosts cater to bicycle tourers and the rate is only -25 euros per person. You can order their guidebook online and then send them a check.

Luggage
A few things to consider when packing for traveling with a toddler and bike touring is involved:

  1. 3 days or less worth of clothing
  2. Rain gear for everyone – we had goretex jackets and pants for us and a jacket and boots for our daughter and this seemed to work well and we did get rained on pretty hard. Bring an umbrella.
  3. Diapers – we used a combination of reusable and G-diapers and between staying in apartments and inns with laundry, we were okay. There was one time that I used a laundromat in Bruges and one time we ran out and had to use a couple hotel hand towels as diaper inserts, but otherwise, we got through the whole trip without having to buy disposables.
  4. Four panniers – test pack them to make sure everything fits. We brought two with us because I wanted to wait until we arrived in bicycling heaven to buy two for my bike.
  5. Sleeping bag for kiddo – even when there are cribs, she slept really well because the sleeping bag was extra padding and it smelled like home. The sleeping bag also served as a nap time aid while in transit on bikes…see pictures later in trip.
  6. Ergo only – don’t bring a stroller for a walking toddler, that’s such a headache in cities and frankly, that’s what bikes are for. All museums offered strollers, as well.
  7. Pack panniers into rolling bag and check the bag for free. This makes traveling to and from the airport simple and easy. Our bag floated above 53 lbs, but the agent was so pleasantly surprised that a family of 3 was only checking one bag with no stroller or car seat that he might have given us an exception to the 50 lb max. We used a nice day pack as our carry on, which was perfect for day trips in the cities.

Traveling to Europe
So we took off on Monday, August 29th at 9:30 pm, the day after hurricane Irene blew through Boston. It was the most beautiful day in Boston that day, so since one of the themes of our trip was bicycling and we’d be pretty much secluded to a 2*2 foot seat for 12 hours, we chose to get to the airport by bike. Annika got her playground time in before we hopped on the bikes at 6 pm, making it to the airport by 7:15 and to the Virgin Atlantic Lounge by 8 pm. The lounge was courtesy of the Economy Comfort seat class we had booked on Iceland Air.

We boarded the plane with Annika already in PJ’s and a fresh diaper, and saved the bottle for take-off to help with her ears popping. Then we made a “bed” for her with extra pillows and blankets on the floor between our feet. She fell asleep not too long after we got up to altitude, and slept all the way to Iceland. At about 1am our time we had to land in Iceland and change planes, and then we flew to Amsterdam. On this second plane, and the other 2 on the way home, our seating was in the back of Business Class. The floor sleeping trick worked this way as well.

By the time we arrived in Amsterdam, Annika had actually slept for at least 5 hours, and things went well. We got our big rolling bag, got her dressed, and transitioned to a train to get into the city to go find our rental home near Vondelpark.

We were able to get basic groceries, take-out dinner, some wine and excellent beer, come home and enjoy the roof deck and sunset, and then get to sleep… which lasted until noon the next day. All 3 of us. I flatly refused to believe the clock, my watch, and my cell phone, all of whom were attempting to tell me in concert that it was in fact noon. It just didn’t seem possible… I sure as hell felt great, though!

Out & About in Amsterdam

Out to make the most of what was left of the day, we picked up rental bikes and a map and began to find out what Amsterdam cycling traffic is really about. We’d seen the slides, read the blogs, and talked to people who raved about the ease of getting around here on 2 wheels, but having an experience of a thing is never the same as the research leading up to it. I’ll speak for myself (Kyle) and allow Megan to disagree or comment if need be… I found it challenging and intense, kid or no. I enjoyed it, I was not scared or intimidated, but it required ALL of my attention if we were anywhere near the city center and the train station. The sheer volume of bikes around you (parked and moving) is difficult for a first-timer from the US to process. Most bikes are in a moderate hurry but not incredibly so. The bikers are generally forgiving and polite, pretty much everyone uses hand signals, and as long as you’re not completely zoned out and staring at the scenery, you’re not going to get flack from locals who just want to get home after work. But there are SO MANY of them… the sheer number of bikes going everywhere at once is incredible for a kid from Georgia.

I stood up on the pedals when things got intense, and Megan made fun of me for it, but I needed to be able to control that big wobbly bike and see over peoples’ heads, and I reverted back to “what works on a mountain bike.” It served me well… by the end of the trip I could whip impressively tight u-turns without touching a foot down on that bike. Skills, people.

The bike lanes are just one layer of a much more balanced public transit lane sandwich (compared to most US cities), with cars, pedestrians, and bikes all getting pretty equal billing across the street space. That means you have peds stepping off the curb right in front of you sometimes, and cars turning in front of you at times as well. But neither of these were constant obstructions… not like the scooters.

For some stupid reason, Amsterdam lets 50cc scooters in its bike lanes. Many of these are still 2-stroke machines, which means they are loud, fast, smokey, and cheap. That’s a recipe for shitball behavior if ever there were one, and by and large that’s what we saw. 50cc scooters can still go faster than 40mph, and many of them do, in your bike lane. Right next to your elbow. Hey! How you doin? Every red light they go around the bikes to the front of the light, and then launch off in a cloud of oily smoke and chain saw noise. The average scooter rider seemed to be a kid in his late teens / early 20’s with sweatpants on and a friend on the back, with the general driving behavior of someone who was very late for something.

So that’s the bad part. The good part is that bikes outnumber every other form of transportation in town by a large margin, and generally get their way without much contest. There are good bikes lanes damned near everywhere, there’s bike parking pretty much wherever you need it, and it’s only really crowded and serious in the very center. Biking here is not as simple as it sometimes sounds when people point to it as an example of a bike-centric city – which it is, to be sure – but nothing ever is that simple. It requires your attention, and a little experience helps, that’s all.

What to See – Amsterdam

Anne Frank House. We hadn’t heard much about it other than “long lines.” We rode by it and saw no line whatsoever, so we quickly ducked in. It is sparse, tasteful, informative, emotional, and something I am incredibly glad I saw in person. I feel like it was a personal bookend for me, having also seen one of the places that innocent people like the Franks met their end (Dachau in my case, not Bergen-Belsen where the Franks were sent). Don’t ever look me in the eye and tell me that mixing national pride and religious politics is harmless. -Ahem-


Van Gogh Museum. The best art museum I have ever seen. Because it has a person’s life at its core, (especially a person who corresponded frequently about himself, leaving a huge record of letters behind), this isn’t like other art museums to me. It’s a story with some of the world’s best illustrations.

Brauerij de Prael. Beer geeks rejoice. Amsterdam has 2 small breweries that I found, the other being Brauerij t’Ij which is in a windmill. They both branch out beyond the Usual 4 (blonde, dubbel, trippel, quad). For the record, I preferred De Prael’s beer and interior space, but both are damned fine. Bring cash and your liver.

Mac Bike Rentals. Every single person working here is friendly and helpful and happy to see you. I don’t know how they do it. They have good, sturdy bikes, the prices are very good, they take all forms of plastic, and they make the whole process painless. I didn’t try anyone else, but I cannot imagine how to improve on these guys.

Leaving Amsterdam…Ghent

After 5 days in Amsetrdam, we took a train to Antwerp to get a head start towards Ghent and duck some weather. Sometimes having bikes on the train is easy – platforms level with the train car, small gap, big open storage space (see pic). Sometimes it’s not as easy, with some steps to climb and a small room to cram your bike(s) into. It was never a “problem” problem, for sure, so don’t hesitate to use this route.

Special Advisory, Though: When that train pulls up, brother, you had better be READY to get your bike hustled onto it fast. Otherwise that train will leave you standing there sratching your head and saying “I wonder if the bike car is at this end or the other en- HEY WAIT”… Ask me how I know. Mach schnell!

I’m going to just come out and say it – Ghent was my favorite place of the whole trip, even including Amsterdam. With 60,000 students on the outskirts of the old town, it is still alive, where other beautiful old cities have turned more into museums. There is a massive, imposing castle right in the center of town, and it was re-done in the last century to something carefully approximating its original 1100’s condition. Interestlingly, it was built not to defend the city, but to whip the citizens in line. The Count wasn’t getting his way and decided a conspicuous show of force was in order.

Gent has muscles, beer, canals, castles, bed and breakfasts, chocolate, cobblestones, boat tours, grand open plazas, enormous church towers, and friendly people. Our b&b was nestled behind a furniture store whose structure dates to the 1500’s and whose basement dates to the 1300’s. You should go to Ghent. Tomorrow.

After 3 days of sitting idle in the b&b’s back hallway, our trusty rental bikes once again saw some action as we biked from Ghent to Brugge. Weather was cloudy and 60’sF, with light wind.

Ghent to Brugge… a little over 40km’s

This leg was almost entirely along arrow-straight canals with long tree-lined stretches going for miles. We met up with a friendly german who was going the same way, and rode with him chatting about any/everything for over 5 hours. He was a big help in both navigating and in passing the time. We picked blackberries and had sandwiches. Bike people are good people. Hannibal Lecter, Magneto, and Dracula… you never saw any of them on a bike. Think about it.

Not as evil.

After Ghent: Brugge

Brugge is what everyone tells you it is – quaint on a level that would give Tinkerbell a tooth ache. Quaint to a degree that would make Walt Disney pass out cold. Quaint in a way that seems to draw grandparents like moths to an incredibly expensive flame. It is cobblestones, high end retail, massive old churches and towers, canals, chocolate, good food, and boat tours. BUT… I didn’t like the boat tour as much as Ghent. I didn’t find as many quiet back streets with unique doors and shops and restaurants. I DID find one of my favorite breweries, the Halve Maan, makers of the phenominal Straffe Hendrick line of beers. Beer drinkers MUST visit this place, it is incredibly good beer in a beautiful setting.

Halve Maan Brewery’s beer garden

I’m largely splitting hairs here – Brugge was wonderful, but I don’t personally see why it gets top billing over Ghent. Ideally see both, but don’t think that Brugge is the only place for the reeeeally good stuff.

Brugge to Middelburg

Our next segment of biking was up toward the coast, over a ferry, and up to Middelburg, which is back in the Netherlands. Along the way we saw more cows than you knew existed (and I used to live in Wisconsin), along with an amazing bike-and-kid-friendly cafe along the bike paths… it was stunning. There were TWO trampolines, an apple tree, a ball pit, tons of slides and swings and a zipline. And for mom and dad, there was top-shelf beer, good wine, and very good food.


This is how you do a roadside bike cafe.

Back on the road, we immediately passed a petting zoo, built right up along the bike path. You have to love this country. As for the destination, I had never heard of this Middelburg (my dad lives in the one in Florida), so I had no expectations, but we were pleasantly surprised by a city with a good mix of old and new to it. There’s a big central city plaza with an open-air market, and there are old churches and the like, but the stores are more realistic and designed for regular people who live there, as opposed to loaded grandparents. We found the best bike shop of the whole trip (by FAR) here, but their website must not be as robust as their selection because I cannot find them via the innerwebs.

We stayed in our one and only Vrienden Op De Fiets house in Middelburg. The woman was probably in her early 60’s, and was a 50/50 mix of “Welcome to my home!” and “Don’t spill anything on my carpets!” There was no crib, and we made do with some pillows and blankets on the floor for Annika. She slept, but it wasn’t great. Also the next morning when it came time to pay, we were figuring it would be 30 Euros (15 each). It was somehow 50 Euros, which wasn’t a show stopper, but when hotels go for around 70 or 80 Euros in that town, it wasn’t an amazing deal to have to share the bathroom and be extra careful with everything.

Middelburg to Den Haag

The next plan was to get up to Den Haag. The weather was not amazing, and there was a wind advisory. We opted to get another head start and take a train from Middelburg to Delft, then bike the rest of the way and find a hotel or b&b. Arriving in Den Haag, however, we discovered that it’s just a big, modern, boring, semi-dirty urban center. I later realized that I didn’t take a single picture while biking through the city… I guess I didn’t want to remember landromats and scooters and bank headquarter buildings. That being the case, we pushed on through the city and immediately found ourselves in the woods. Northeast of the city center, you run into a giant green wall of park lands following the main biking route. Past that, you go through a few neighborhoods full of giant mansions, some of whom were actual diplomatic consulate buildings. Specifically I recall seeing one for Iraq and one for Yemen. We passed several impeccably dressed people riding horses the other way down the street. After the mansions, the path goes into the woods again, then farms, and emerges at another spectacular cafe, where we took our lunch and made full use of the ample kids’ puzzles and books on offer.

By now it was late afternoon and we weren’t 100% sure where we would end up sleeping, but we didn’t get nervous, we just pushed on into the sand dune paths going northeast along the coast. Something would turn up. “Something” turned out to be a stunning 3-star hotel in amongst the dunes, with amazing views of empty wilderness and a gorgeous outdoor dining area. There wasn’t another building in sight. They took Amex. It was perfect. I cannot recommend the place enough.

A fine place to have a beer

I slept better here than I have anywhere else in a long, long time. The next day we got up and started along those same sand dune paths northeast, meaning to make Haarlem by dinner.

Den Haag to Haarlem… sortof

Riding through the dunes was incredible. The weather was great (at first), the scenery was beautiful, the paths are in outstanding condition, and there are no scooters. None. It’s perfectly quiet. The ocean is up over the dunes to your left, should you care to stop and climb up to see it.


This was some of the best riding to be found in both countries. There are gentle hills, nothing but bikes around, and the air smells nothing like the air in your office. At some point, though, my wife’s inner wanderlust took over, and we left the rolling dune paths for the cow-filled interior to have a change of scenery and suss out some hot lunch opportunities.

After lunch in some little town square, we began to battle some serious rain. Annika slept through a lot of it (naptime is naptime, weather be damned) under an umbrella and her own raincoat. The Bobike’s windshield helped a ton here as well, but credit goes almost entirely to my wife for holding a crap-ball umbrella in one hand and piloting a fully-laden battleship with the other. At one point we stopped under a bridge, then went to a hotel to ask about renting a crib for a few hours, but in the end we just sucked it up and got back to biking.

A few hours later the rain had stopped and we rolled into Haarlem ready to find a place to sleep. But the city didn’t look as good as we had hoped. We looked around, looked at our watches, looked at a map showing Amsterdam a few tantalizingly short hours away, shrugged, and made east once more for the capital city.

We rolled into Amsterdam at about 5:30pm, exhausted and ready for food and a good room. I took Anni to a playground while Megan took off on one of the bikes to go searching for a room. 45 minutes later, she returned and frowned. “Nothing. Everything’s full so far. I’m starving and I can’t think straight. Let’s eat first.” We had a gigantic meal and started out again to find a room, this time starting with the Tourist office. They informed us that there was a 30,000 person conference in town, and that rooms were going to be tight. We managed to find a grand total of ONE room in town, which was 480 Euros a night… not gonna happen. So we hopped onto a train at 9:00pm and went south to Utrecht, figuring they wouldn’t (couldn’t) be as full. We were right.

By the time we got a room at 10:30pm, we had biked for something like 10 hours and ridden a train for another 30 minutes south. The hotel in Utrecht was fine, the city looked beautiful at night – canals, cobblestones, the usual formula.

Final Trip – Utrecht to Amsterdam

Awake, dressed, and fed in Utrecht, we looked at the forecast to find “severe wind advisory.” The direction of the wind was generally north-northeast. That would put a 25mph wind more or less behind us. I’ll be honest, I was ready to chicken out, but my wife does not know how to surrender, and the last viable day of riding in the Netherlands was at stake. We opted to bike it back up there for our last night in country, optimistic about having the wind help (and not hurt) our progress.

In a perfect world, the path from Utrecht to Amsterdam would be devoid of any left turns. As it is, however, the path frequently veers and bobs and meanders going around farms, through villiages, and under highways. Each of those western jogs meant squaring off with a steady 25mph wind in your face, with gusts in the mid 30’s. In my case that meant I was over the bars, crawling in 1st gear to stay upright. In my wife’s case, it meant that the wind had not just her body and her bike to push on, but a giant windshield. She was able to do it sitting down, somehow, which was both amazing and humbling. To make matters even worse, we both missed a sign somehow and turned west directly into that wind for at least 5 miles of path so long and perfectly straight you could see the curvature of the earth at its end. It took us a gruelling hour to finally realize our mistake, and just 15 short minutes to backtrack that same distance – in 3rd gear, barely touching the pedals, cursing.

So don’t do that. Ever.

Once we got back on track, we came across something interesting a mile or so up the correct trail; a canal crossing. This one was hand-powered, with a little barge that you crank across by turning a big wheel on shore which pulls on a stainless steel chain submerged in the water. It’s difficult to turn, and each full rotation brings the barge about 4 inches closer. It took about 6 minutes of all-out cranking to bring it over.

C’mere, boat.

Suffice it to say that Utrecht to Amsterdam was difficult, but the difficulty was entirely due to the wind, which turned out to actually be the remnants of Hurricane Irene. If it weren’t for the special conditions, this would’ve been an amazingly pretty route. The area leaving Utrecht to the north in particular was gorgeous, with tiny town after tiny town marking the progress as you go along with the canal always to your left. We did make it back to Amsterdam, we stayed in someone’s place we found the night before online at Airbnb.com, we had killer take-out indian food, we slept like the dead, and the next day we got home in much the same manner as we arrived. Our panniers were re-packed into the large rolling bag, we returned the rental bikes (the guy’s face was great when I told him where the bikes had been), we took a train to the airport, and eventually biked home from Logan to Fresh Pond, Cambridge.

Conclusions for folks who want to bike there with a kid

1. Make sure you know how to let your kid nap while riding. Our solution worked great, your mileage may vary.
2. Don’t sweat light rain, but DO sweat heavy winds. Bring Goretex and a cheery attitude, and check that forecast for wind before you decide what you’re doing that day.
3. Become internet lodging ninjas. Airbnb.com, Homeaway.com, and the local tourist info office’s kiosks will get you sorted quick.
4. Don’t be in a hurry. Follow the routes, even when there’s a straighter line on the map. That’s how we found 75% of the really cool cafes, the petting zoo, fortress ruins, WW2 ammo depos and such.
5. Go do this, or something very much like it. Now. The people rock, the beer is incredible, the scenery is inspiring, and you’re not getting any younger.



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Cape Cod Family Bike Trip, Memorial Weekend

First, a tiny bit of background. We are a couple in our mid-30’s with a 21 month old girl, we own no cars and 6 bikes, and we’re chiefly practical city bikers. The young’un has been in a bike trailer from 5 months old, and now in a Bobike seat for the last 2 months. Thus, in contemplating a multi-day bike trip with our daughter along, we had a fairly good idea what to expect from her. The longest trip with her in the Bobike prior to this was probably 3 hours of seat time in one day, possibly 4. For this Cape trip, we were estimating more like 6 a day, with breaks of course.

Next, a quick blurb about gear and setups. My wife rode a 70’s Phillips 3 speed with a new Sturmey-Archer 3 speed rear hub and an added front caliper brake. Her bike has a big steel + cedar japanese front rack, and a cheap aluminum rear rack. I rode a new Trek Belleville which comes with a Shimano Nexus 3 speed rear hub and a generator front hub to run lights. The Trek comes with stout front and rear racks, and the whole thing is powder coated. Each bike cost us about 0 with everything on it, in its current state of tune, I would guess. Each weighs around 40 lb’s, I am guessing, and mine is heavier than hers… I know I don’t want to actually weigh mine, for fear of being cripplingly depressed. I’m happier not knowing. On each of our front racks, we tossed on a big open Coleman aluminum-framed basket, held on with one bungee cord (visible below). On the rear racks we brought 3 panniers, and a bungee net containing a huge beach blanket. So, the trip…

We took the Provincetown ferry out from Boston friday afternoon at 5:30, which put us in P-Town by 6:30.

The ferry was a pleasant experience, and we’d both strongly recommend it. The bikes are secured by staffers using stout rope, and I didn’t see anyone’s bike so much as twitch during the ride, though we did have calm seas. There is basic food in the galley, a full bar, enough seating for everyone, and the views are spectacular. We even saw a whale! I got no picture of it, sadly, but I saw the back and the fluke, and it was my first real whale sighting.

Once on shore, we biked to the motel we’d found. If you’re going to do this, finding places who will rent to you for just one night can be tricky. The hotels, motels, and b&b’s of the cape would really, really like you to stay for 3 nights at least on Memorial Day weekend. You, on the other hand, would not like to stay for 3 nights… you have places to bike. What we did was book it all last minute, literally the day before, and Google/Yelp/call like hell until you track someone down who has vacancy. At this late point they’re pretty happy to get one night’s worth of dough from someone instead of nothing for any rooms available. We had to find places with a crib, too, so if you don’t have that hangup you’ll have even better luck. A basic understanding of Guest Industry economics and some blind faith will serve you well here.

Depending on how many days you have to do this and where you will end the biking portion of your journey, you could be doing anything from 20 to 60 miles a day. In our case, we did 30-something a day, roughly, plus excursions, and it was very manageable even with the kiddo and the slow bikes. Also, we lucked out on heat – it was cloudy but dry, with temps in the 60’s and 70’s for the most part.

Loaded up and ready, Saturday morning in the fog:

6A leaving Provincetown:

The northern section of 6A from PTown to North Truro is pretty pleasant to bike. The traffic was minimal for us, drivers were slow and considerate, and people are generally not in a giant rush. There’s really nothing else to choose from, so you’ll wind up on it. The cape feels skinny here – you can see the water on one side and sense that it isn’t far off on the other side. Up here it’s still really VacationLand. Soon it will be less so.

At North Truro, laid-back slacker Route 6A joins up with its faster, loudmouth big city cousin Route 6 Proper, and the ride becomes less pleasant. There are 2 lanes each way, cars go as fast as they can manage (70+), but there is a decent 4-foot shoulder, so the more hardened riders (and especially those without a toddler between their elbows) can probably stay on 6 and make bullet-like progress south, if that’s desired. We opted out.

The only problem with opting out is that every road except 6 between North Truro and Truro looks like you tossed a handfull of cooked spaghetti at the map. Also there are hills. If you’re on a carbon-framed jobby with 4 lb’s of gear total on it, have no fear. If, however, you’re on a powder coated steel battleship with 75 cubic liters of stuff and two breathing life forms on it, the hills will be a bit of a challenge. It’s manageable, there are almost no cars – we rode side by side – and the scenery is woodsey and wonderful. But this is the one section of the whole trip that felt like work. Pull over and have a beer to shore up your fortitude, but watch for ticks… there are tons of them, and you are delicious.

Wellfleet is where we had lunch. The oysters are indeed worthy of the hype, my wife assures me. (I only eat them cooked, and [20 miles into an 80 mile trip + bike shorts time to try out new raw seafoods]). At Wellfleet we joined back up with interstate-wannabe Route 6 for a few miles, until the rails-to-trails bike trail started just after South Wellfleet. There was a sign pointing it out to the left, so we carefully merged over and rode down through a parking lot, up a path, and there it was…

Once the bike path starts, the miles begin to fly past. My wife commented that she felt no sense of progress on the path, because there were so few things pasing by with which to mark the distance. I, on the other hand, had a gps unit on my handlebars quietly doing a bunch of math and whispering encouraging things to me. I suddenly saw a huge difference in both our whole-trip total moving average speed (from 9.8 to 10.4mph in about 1 hour), and the distance left to our destination as measured in a straight line. There is a tool for every job, and if your job is mile munching by bike, then the Cape Cod Rail Trail is the right tool. Some history on it:

“Somewhere around the elbow” was our target range when we were trying to find a place to stay for Night 2, and we found an incredible place in Chatham that I will gladly name-plug here: Pleasant Bay Villiage. They have what I would lovingly call a “compound,” consisting of a motel-row front, behind which are paths and ponds and trees and fountains, populated with small houses and other nicer rooms for rent as well. Everything is landscaped in a very japanese style, it’s family friendly without being noisey, and the staff was VERY friendly and helpful to the last man. The dog that hangs around the front office is still the largest I have ever seen, even after having slimmed down from 200lb’s to 135 on a diet of frozen carrots. They also have a nice pool and a hot tub, though I cannot guarantee that the latter will not be clogged with 14 men in t-shirts and sunglasses discussing golf.

We settled in, got the baby fed, and put the integrated bottle opener to good use.

Sunday morning we had to use more 2-lane busy roads to get back to the rail trail, which was less than ideal. Cars south of Chatham (Training Field Rd, George Rider Rd) were uniformly doing 15-25 over the speed limit and not pleased to see us laboring along on the right shoulder. The worst offenders were work pickups, a dump truck, and a guy in an unidentifiable bondo-grey mid-60’s Dodge with open pipes who thought it would be great fun to dump the throttle once he got right alongside us. Less than an hour after we started, we got back onto the path next to Chatham Municipal Airport.

From here it’s smooth sailing west all the way until you hit 134, at which point the bike path ends. This is the end of it… some bricks, a map, and a parking lot.

After this you’re back on surface roads as you head west. We incorrectly headed north for a block or two, as seen below from the GPS track data, then realized it and went south.

Then you pick up Highbank Rd going west northwest, which leads you pleasantly enough up to 6A near Yarmouth. 6A is pretty decent for bikes. It winds and twists gently, the hills aren’t imposing or frequent, and the towns you’re going through are incredibly quaint. We had a great meal for lunch in Barnstable at the Barnstable Restaurant & Tavern. The outdoor patio is wonderful, the Cape Cod IPA (brewed right down the street) punches above its weight class, and the mediterranean stew hit the spot.

Back to the business of going west. 6A looks like this…

…and then this…

…and then you’re in Sandwich, more or less.

Sandwich is a cute / serviceable little town with some basic amenities but not a ton to choose from. We stayed at the Belfry Inne / Painted Lady Inn, which are side by side and share ownership and operations. That night there was a wedding, so we couldn’t eat in the Belfry, and were left with slim pickin’s. We ended up calling in an order to a pizza/burrito joint, and the meal wasn’t amazing. The Painted Lady is an old mansion-turned-hotel that has excellent bone structure but whose interior has been regretably slathered in whore’s makeup. The decor consists of high-density kitsch and a collection of awful folksy “humor” paintings, far too many of which feature half naked mermaids. Noise travels through the floors like water through a screen, so if you stay here, aim for the highest floor you can get. We stayed at ground level and heard every footstep and dropped TV remote above us with unwanted clarity, in addition to chatter from people in the small “bar” room across the hall from us. Drink some beer and bring earplugs.

Sure is pretty, though!

Getting home… We had planned to ride up to Plymouth to take the commuter rail back to Boston, but it’s been closed every weekend for awhile now for repairs. That left us with an easier-yet-pricier option, the P&B Bus Line which picks up right over the Sagamore bridge. It took maybe 30 minutes from Sandwich to the bus pickup spot, which is in the parking lot next to the Shell gas station. Tickets are sold inside the Shell, and 2 adults + 2 bikes cost us . The bus was clean, had good a/c, was at less than 1/2 capacity, and had us home in an hour flat. It picked up once an hour, so if you’re close by at the end of your trip and don’t feel like slagging it out all the way to Plymouth, this was a good option.

Specifics like trail on/off points, gps coordinates, etc, available upon request. Cheers and thanks again Brian!

-Kyle, Megan & Annika

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Cape Cod Family Bike Trip, Memorial Weekend

First, a tiny bit of background. We are a couple in our mid-30’s with a 21 month old girl, we own no cars and 6 bikes, and we’re chiefly practical city bikers. The young’un has been in a bike trailer from 5 months old, and now in a Bobike seat for the last 2 months. Thus, in contemplating a multi-day bike trip with our daughter along, we had a fairly good idea what to expect from her. The longest trip with her in the Bobike prior to this was probably 3 hours of seat time in one day, possibly 4. For this Cape trip, we were estimating more like 6 a day, with breaks of course.

Next, a quick blurb about gear and setups. My wife rode a 70’s Phillips 3 speed with a new Sturmey-Archer 3 speed rear hub and an added front caliper brake. Her bike has a big steel + cedar japanese front rack, and a cheap aluminum rear rack. I rode a new Trek Belleville which comes with a Shimano Nexus 3 speed rear hub and a generator front hub to run lights. The Trek comes with stout front and rear racks, and the whole thing is powder coated. Each bike cost us about 0 with everything on it, in its current state of tune, I would guess. Each weighs around 40 lb’s, I am guessing, and mine is heavier than hers… I know I don’t want to actually weigh mine, for fear of being cripplingly depressed. I’m happier not knowing. On each of our front racks, we tossed on a big open Coleman aluminum-framed basket, held on with one bungee cord (visible below). On the rear racks we brought 3 panniers, and a bungee net containing a huge beach blanket. So, the trip…

We took the Provincetown ferry out from Boston friday afternoon at 5:30, which put us in P-Town by 6:30.

The ferry was a pleasant experience, and we’d both strongly recommend it. The bikes are secured by staffers using stout rope, and I didn’t see anyone’s bike so much as twitch during the ride, though we did have calm seas. There is basic food in the galley, a full bar, enough seating for everyone, and the views are spectacular. We even saw a whale! I got no picture of it, sadly, but I saw the back and the fluke, and it was my first real whale sighting.

Once on shore, we biked to the motel we’d found. If you’re going to do this, finding places who will rent to you for just one night can be tricky. The hotels, motels, and b&b’s of the cape would really, really like you to stay for 3 nights at least on Memorial Day weekend. You, on the other hand, would not like to stay for 3 nights… you have places to bike. What we did was book it all last minute, literally the day before, and Google/Yelp/call like hell until you track someone down who has vacancy. At this late point they’re pretty happy to get one night’s worth of dough from someone instead of nothing for any rooms available. We had to find places with a crib, too, so if you don’t have that hangup you’ll have even better luck. A basic understanding of Guest Industry economics and some blind faith will serve you well here.

Depending on how many days you have to do this and where you will end the biking portion of your journey, you could be doing anything from 20 to 60 miles a day. In our case, we did 30-something a day, roughly, plus excursions, and it was very manageable even with the kiddo and the slow bikes. Also, we lucked out on heat – it was cloudy but dry, with temps in the 60’s and 70’s for the most part.

Loaded up and ready, Saturday morning in the fog:

6A leaving Provincetown:

The northern section of 6A from PTown to North Truro is pretty pleasant to bike. The traffic was minimal for us, drivers were slow and considerate, and people are generally not in a giant rush. There’s really nothing else to choose from, so you’ll wind up on it. The cape feels skinny here – you can see the water on one side and sense that it isn’t far off on the other side. Up here it’s still really VacationLand. Soon it will be less so.

At North Truro, laid-back slacker Route 6A joins up with its faster, loudmouth big city cousin Route 6 Proper, and the ride becomes less pleasant. There are 2 lanes each way, cars go as fast as they can manage (70+), but there is a decent 4-foot shoulder, so the more hardened riders (and especially those without a toddler between their elbows) can probably stay on 6 and make bullet-like progress south, if that’s desired. We opted out.

The only problem with opting out is that every road except 6 between North Truro and Truro looks like you tossed a handfull of cooked spaghetti at the map. Also there are hills. If you’re on a carbon-framed jobby with 4 lb’s of gear total on it, have no fear. If, however, you’re on a powder coated steel battleship with 75 cubic liters of stuff and two breathing life forms on it, the hills will be a bit of a challenge. It’s manageable, there are almost no cars – we rode side by side – and the scenery is woodsey and wonderful. But this is the one section of the whole trip that felt like work. Pull over and have a beer to shore up your fortitude, but watch for ticks… there are tons of them, and you are delicious.

Wellfleet is where we had lunch. The oysters are indeed worthy of the hype, my wife assures me. (I only eat them cooked, and [20 miles into an 80 mile trip + bike shorts time to try out new raw seafoods]). At Wellfleet we joined back up with interstate-wannabe Route 6 for a few miles, until the rails-to-trails bike trail started just after South Wellfleet. There was a sign pointing it out to the left, so we carefully merged over and rode down through a parking lot, up a path, and there it was…

Once the bike path starts, the miles begin to fly past. My wife commented that she felt no sense of progress on the path, because there were so few things pasing by with which to mark the distance. I, on the other hand, had a gps unit on my handlebars quietly doing a bunch of math and whispering encouraging things to me. I suddenly saw a huge difference in both our whole-trip total moving average speed (from 9.8 to 10.4mph in about 1 hour), and the distance left to our destination as measured in a straight line. There is a tool for every job, and if your job is mile munching by bike, then the Cape Cod Rail Trail is the right tool. Some history on it:

“Somewhere around the elbow” was our target range when we were trying to find a place to stay for Night 2, and we found an incredible place in Chatham that I will gladly name-plug here: Pleasant Bay Villiage. They have what I would lovingly call a “compound,” consisting of a motel-row front, behind which are paths and ponds and trees and fountains, populated with small houses and other nicer rooms for rent as well. Everything is landscaped in a very japanese style, it’s family friendly without being noisey, and the staff was VERY friendly and helpful to the last man. The dog that hangs around the front office is still the largest I have ever seen, even after having slimmed down from 200lb’s to 135 on a diet of frozen carrots. They also have a nice pool and a hot tub, though I cannot guarantee that the latter will not be clogged with 14 men in t-shirts and sunglasses discussing golf.

We settled in, got the baby fed, and put the integrated bottle opener to good use.

Sunday morning we had to use more 2-lane busy roads to get back to the rail trail, which was less than ideal. Cars south of Chatham (Training Field Rd, George Rider Rd) were uniformly doing 15-25 over the speed limit and not pleased to see us laboring along on the right shoulder. The worst offenders were work pickups, a dump truck, and a guy in an unidentifiable bondo-grey mid-60’s Dodge with open pipes who thought it would be great fun to dump the throttle once he got right alongside us. Less than an hour after we started, we got back onto the path next to Chatham Municipal Airport.

From here it’s smooth sailing west all the way until you hit 134, at which point the bike path ends. This is the end of it… some bricks, a map, and a parking lot.

After this you’re back on surface roads as you head west. We incorrectly headed north for a block or two, as seen below from the GPS track data, then realized it and went south.

Then you pick up Highbank Rd going west northwest, which leads you pleasantly enough up to 6A near Yarmouth. 6A is pretty decent for bikes. It winds and twists gently, the hills aren’t imposing or frequent, and the towns you’re going through are incredibly quaint. We had a great meal for lunch in Barnstable at the Barnstable Restaurant & Tavern. The outdoor patio is wonderful, the Cape Cod IPA (brewed right down the street) punches above its weight class, and the mediterranean stew hit the spot.

Back to the business of going west. 6A looks like this…

…and then this…

…and then you’re in Sandwich, more or less.

Sandwich is a cute / serviceable little town with some basic amenities but not a ton to choose from. We stayed at the Belfry Inne / Painted Lady Inn, which are side by side and share ownership and operations. That night there was a wedding, so we couldn’t eat in the Belfry, and were left with slim pickin’s. We ended up calling in an order to a pizza/burrito joint, and the meal wasn’t amazing. The Painted Lady is an old mansion-turned-hotel that has excellent bone structure but whose interior has been regretably slathered in whore’s makeup. The decor consists of high-density kitsch and a collection of awful folksy “humor” paintings, far too many of which feature half naked mermaids. Noise travels through the floors like water through a screen, so if you stay here, aim for the highest floor you can get. We stayed at ground level and heard every footstep and dropped TV remote above us with unwanted clarity, in addition to chatter from people in the small “bar” room across the hall from us. Drink some beer and bring earplugs.

Sure is pretty, though!

Getting home… We had planned to ride up to Plymouth to take the commuter rail back to Boston, but it’s been closed every weekend for awhile now for repairs. That left us with an easier-yet-pricier option, the P&B Bus Line which picks up right over the Sagamore bridge. It took maybe 30 minutes from Sandwich to the bus pickup spot, which is in the parking lot next to the Shell gas station. Tickets are sold inside the Shell, and 2 adults + 2 bikes cost us . The bus was clean, had good a/c, was at less than 1/2 capacity, and had us home in an hour flat. It picked up once an hour, so if you’re close by at the end of your trip and don’t feel like slagging it out all the way to Plymouth, this was a good option.

Specifics like trail on/off points, gps coordinates, etc, available upon request. Cheers and thanks again Brian!

-Kyle, Megan & Annika

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Biking to Boston Logan with a baby

Back in March Megan and I wanted to go to Wisconsin for a wedding, and to visit friends and family. This would be Annika’s first flight, and we did not relish the idea of it lasting a second longer than necessary, so we opted for the only direct flight we could find into Milwaukee. There was one problem: that flight left before 7am. Normally our method for getting to the airport is public transportation – bus to Harvard Square, Red Line to South Station, Silver line bus to Logan. But to be on time for a flight that early, we would have to catch the first bus, the first subway, and the first silver line, and all of them would have to be running on time. And even then we’d be technically “late,” arriving with 40 minutes to spare instead of the prescribed hour.

What most people do in this situation is beg a friend to drive them, or take a cab. I didn’t have the heart to rouse some kindly neighbor at 5am, and we hate cabs. “Hate” is a strong word and I don’t toss it out lightly. Cucumbers, clowns, needles, Dick Cheney, and modern urban cab drivers… the world would instantly be better place if of all of them suddenly vanished. Germaine to this discussion, cabbies around here drive incredibly dangerously, are rude / aggressive towards bicyclists (and motorcyclists), and they lobby with all their might against bike lanes. It’s their road, and you are in their way. So f_ck ‘em… they don’t get our hard earned dough at 5am.

That left us with Plan C: Bike to the airport. Now we’ve done this once before, but not with a baby. Not only does her adorable little body take up space, but she travels with a retinue of sleep-aiding devices, toys, feeding equipment, clothing, and butt care products that take up even more additional room. The first order of business, then, was to figure out how all of this stuff would travel safely the whole 8 miles each way from Fresh Pond to Logan, no matter what the weather was like.

First we hit up TJ Maxx a few times and scored some small rolling carry-on luggage. These were just big enough to cram our personal effects into, but small enough to be rigged onto the back of a bike as panniers… somehow. These would go on one bike, and the baby and the remainder of the luggage would go behind the second bike. As it happened, the night before the flight came and I had to try and rig up the TJ Maxx bags without Megan. I enlisted our neighbor Rush to help, and being a sailor he whipped out some hot-pink poly rope and had it lashed together in seconds. There were some minor issues with things rubbing on other things, but it was more than workable.

The morning of, we got out the door close to the right time and began heading east. Whoever carries the baby trailer needs to ride in front, so that the second bike can ride cover just behind and to the car-side so the cars don’t get too close. Megan’s bike can carry panniers and mine can’t, so I had to lead. But Megan knows the way and I don’t, so I enlisted the GPS device I got for my birthday. Megan mapped it out for me, I translated it into points and a route for the Garmin, downloaded it to the device, and mounted it to the handle bars. That way I could easily see how far ahead the next turn was and focus on the road. So we biked the whole way there by that method: Megan covering for me from behind, and me following the GPS’s plotted points.

Just like last time, East Boston and Chelsea have some of the worst road conditions in the northern hemisphere. Even having ridden them once before doesn’t lessen the shock and/or awe much. They are THAT bad. Also those same roads are hoppin’ at 6am, it turns out, with cabs and delivery trucks. What they thought when they saw two luggage-laden bicycles trundling along through the craters I cannot guess. I am amazed that neither of us got a flat tire going over those roads, looking back on it. The GPS has a nice feature (ETA at Destination) that helped reassure us that we were going to be ok time-wise. As we slowed down, I could see us “arriving” later at the airport, and as we sped up, I could see us getting there earlier. It’s a great tool for managing your pace when it matters.

So we arrived, locked everything up, hustled in, made our flight, enjoyed Wisconsin, flew back, and found all our stuff more or less as we left it. The trailer had been opened and inspected, then left open. And it was raining steadily when we landed, with temps in the 50’s. So we tried a combo of riding and subwaying that proved worse than if we’d just ridden the whole soggy way there by bike. Too many subway stations have only narrow turnstiles that don’t allow a bike trailer to fit through (or a wheelchair, for that matter, so tough luck to the handicapped folk I guess). Several times we had to leave one bike at the bottom of some stairs and double-team the bike/trailer combo up or down several flights. As I said, it would’ve been easier in hindsight to just retrace our steps and stay above ground. And all of it was still better than taking a cab.

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Last throes of winter blues, boredom and blogging

Det finns inget dåligt väder, bara dåliga kläder. Swedish for “There is no bad weather, only bad clothing.” My Madisonian friend, Sam, first introduced me to this phrase a couple months ago, and I’ve adopted it as my life mantra. The phrase can speak volumes of a person’s disposition, extending farther than feelings toward bad weather.

Blues & Boredom
Normally Winter does not get to me like it does other people. But living in the city is different. And even though we can get ourselves out of town with Zipcar, there hasn’t been much snow this year…only A LOT of rain….which in my opinion, is the worst weather. Cold, rain – yuk! Any day that has not been raining, even cloudy and cold, I’ve made it a point to bike or walk somewhere and this has helped me through this winter with a newborn.

And then there are Saturdays like this past one. The rain started Saturday morning and I saw what the forecast had in store for us…the bitchiness set in and didn’t let up until the following morning. Saturday consisted of Kyle making is knife block and not understanding how to make Annika happy and me rolling my eyes constantly and making Annika happy. These are the days where that saying, “Kids will make a beautiful marriage ugly” makes sense. Tears.

Sunday morning and daylight savings, Spring Forward, (also, Kyle’s morning to sleep in) was much better. Woke up, geared up with my Marmot pants, Mountain Hardware jacket, rain boots and the stroller decked out and we went on a stroll through professor slums that is Brattle Street to Darwins LTD to sip coffee. There were many new rivers and ponds from all the rain.

Blogging
While I was at Darwins, I read a New York Times article, “Honey, Don’t Bother Mommy. I’m Too Busy Building My Brand.” The subject of the article was about mommy bloggers…me! Blogging as a mom is very diary-ish and a great way to relate to fellow mothers. I learned how some stay at home mommies make six figures doing this – nuts!

Today I took a walk around Fresh Pond to see what the damage was after three days of continuous rain and to have fun in my duck hunting boot. A guy passed me running and stopped to say, “I thought I was hard core.”

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Magnetic Knife Block

(A guest blog by Mr. Megan ~ Kyle Ramey)

We have amazingly good friends. Mike and Christen, for example, have been giving me a different Shun kitchen knife for each birthday and/or other such event for a few years now, to the point that I have now amassed 6 of these hand-made japanese objects of kitchen porn. They are beautiful beyond words. They are balanced, solid, and substantial. They mean business. They come sharpened with a frighteningly good edge, and when ours eventually dull I use only japanese water stones (1000# and 6000# grit) to carefully put a fresh, wickedly effective edge on them again. The large santoku will go through an acorn squash with just a firm suggestion of a push. I probably like these knives a little more than is strictly healthy, but I blame an upbringing steeped in the use and care of quality tools, now squeezed into the mold of urban garage-less condo living… these are now the best tools I get to use on a regular basis. In my house, tomatoes are not crushed as they are sliced, they are surgically divided.

Until now, I’ve kept them in their original boxes in a kitchen drawer. For everyday cutting jobs we have a nice set of Henckels, but for the really good cooking prep sessions I always go for The Good Stuff. So we’ve certainly used them, but I always knew I wanted them to be out where I can see them (and lust after them). The problem is that the magnetic knife holders I can find anywhere around here are all an exposed steel rail bar magnet, which will scratch your knife blade if you’re not perfectly careful everytime. I wanted to do better. These knives DESERVE better. So I hatched a plan to secure a good piece of suitable wood, get some magnets, drill them in from the back side of the wood to right below the front surface, and then have nothing but wood on the face of my holder.

A quick email to my good friend Terry Bigelow, who runs Heritage Drum Works (he makes drum kits the hard way, using solid hardwood staves instead of ply) for advice and help went a long way. Terry first sent me a link to a website for rare earth magnets, then asked for my address and mailed me (!) a perfect piece of mahogany. As I may have mentioned, we have amazing friends. The roll of 50 magnets was about . If I had found and bought the wood myself, I think it would be around -, depending on what I’d found.

The Materials:
So here is the as-yet unmolested piece of mahogany, the smallest of the Shun knives, the roll of 50 1/4 inch rare earth magnets, some layout tools and some coffee.

These are very, very strong. I was optimistic that I’d be able to get them close enough to the surface of the wood for them to grab the knives while still not being seen.

Testing the depth:
I decided to do a test first, to see how much wood-like material could be between the magnets and the knives with them still working. So I used a big book, putting 2 magnets in the pages, covering them up, and seeing if the knife would still stick.
It sticks, but not as well as I’d like, and there are only bout 15 pages between the magnets and the knife. That’s not good news… with no drill press it’s gonna be awfully hard to drill riiiiight up under the surface 30 or 40 or 50 times and not screw up once. Enter: doubt.

It sticks, but barely. But I decided to try a few of them out in the wood anyway, just in case. Enter: Denial.

Redneck drill stop depth gauge… masking tape. This is as deep as I dared go. At this depth I could feel the wood at the tip of the bit moving as the bit turned and compressed the fibers ahead of it. Danger, Will Robinson. So if it didn’t work at this depth, then it wouldn’t work this way at all. Enter: Desperation.

So I tried one. It had almost no grab on the knife whatsoever. I tried a second one, going as deep as I could go without poking through, and again… no grab. I was not going to be able to pull this off the way I’d been dreaming of. I opened a beer and pondered my options. Enter: Depression. As you can see by the magnet on the right, I decided to try to drill one just below flush with the surface. It held very, very well, and the knife couldn’t touch it. So this would be Plan B. Drill them into the face, and make it look as good as possible.

So here’s what I decided on. I laid out the knives the way I wanted to display them (not the actual order pictured here), then traced the blades on the surface of the wood lightly. Within each outline, I spaced magnets going up from bottom-to-top the same way, with the spaces getting wider as they go up. I wanted it to look somewhat uniform.

With all the holes marked up, I put in a brad-point 1/4″ drill bit for cleaner edges and set about carefully drilling each hole. I had to eyeball it. My neck is killing me today from standing at the counter and looking down for 3 hours. If I drilled a little too deep, I’d add some sawdust back in, and each magnet got 2 drops of super glue as it went in. Only one pair of these matches, the rest are all shaped for the actual knife they hold. All were recessed about 1 millimeter below the surface of the wood… no scratchy!

Here we see all of the magnets in, and it’s ready for a quick final sanding and coat of mineral oil (food safe).

After sanding and mineral oil, ready to mount on the wall. Love the ribbon grain of mahogany! Excellent choice, Terry.

The finished product. I hope I did them justice. Cheers Mikey!

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Google Bicycling Directions = huge step in changing culture


I, like David Byrne, am a lifestyle cyclist. The predominant reason that I ride is to get from A to B, not for pleasure…even though I get a lot of pleasure from doing it. Because bicycling is a necessity for me, there’s never been a safer, less hilly, prettier route option. When I moved to Madison in 2001, I knew it was a bicycle friendly city, and even though I didn’t have a map, I got on and rode and I taught myself where the safest, least hilly and prettiest routes were. And then I moved to Boston, one of the five worst cycling cities, in 2008. Even though I was a pretty seasoned urban cyclist, the car culture and poor condition of the roads were definitely daunting. I got over there not being a bicycle map to work with and yet again, I learned which routes were a better fit for me. Not everyone is like me, which is why I believe that knowing the safe cycling routes is the number one excuse people use not to engage in the activity.

This past Wednesday, March 10th, was a huge day for bicycling culture. Google added a bicycling option in addition to car, public transportation, and walking in the directions drop down menu. Here are my assumptions of why this will transform our culture:

  1. Accessibility – everyone knows where to find and how to use Google maps and directions
  2. One algorithm or governing body – with Google managing the code and symbols for every location, the maps will be easy to read and transferable between cities. No more proprietary dotted, slashed or solid lines.
  3. Problems? – no one is more passionate about road conditions and safe routes than fellow cyclists and they will be sure to submit correct information via the ultra-slick application. This can be accessed after the respective map or directions have been called up, by right clicking on the map and selecting “Report a Problem”.
  4. Subliminal cultural effect – just the presence of the bicycling option on the directions drop down menu will have an effect on people that they may not realize. Yes, people do get around on a bicycle. It’s not an activity reserved for second class citizens, weekend warrior triathletes or rails to trails pleasure cruisers.

Here’s the bicycle map of my stomping ground, Cambridge and Boston.

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The Bachelor at Jade Mountain?

My best friend, Mary, called me the other night to tell me that The Bachelor (brain numbing reality tv show), was at Jade Mountain where her and Joe were married in October 2007. Kyle and I were privileged enough to be invited to witness this beautiful event in a place most people would call the closest thing to paradise. “Nooooo!” was my reaction to this voicemail, because I almost liked that Jade Mountain was off the radar from the masses. In my mind, Mary was a pioneer of the destination wedding, only she didn’t invite a whole mass of people, which pretty much defeats the point. It was just the four of us. The morning following the apparent Bachelor finale, I almost spit soy milk out of my nose when Ellen gave Jade Mountain vacation packages to her game players.
It’s really hard not to sound like snob here, but I’m going to go ahead and say it. Please, Jade Mountain, for the love of God, don’t turn into Sandals. On the flight to and from St. Lucia that glorious week, Kyle and I noticed a ton of couples wearing air brushed “Just Married” tees with “bride” or “groom” on the rear carrying Sandals garment bags with their wedding apparel…and the women wore their veils…on the plane…ugh. This is just depressing. What I can’t figure out with Sandals, is why don’t the couples just go to Florida? I mean, it’s not like they plan on leaving the resort to explore or see the local community?
Looking at these pictures and reliving those blissful memories was hard enough without considering that we are in the final stretch of winter here in Cambridge, MA. What stands out most in my mind about this trip

  • architecture
  • vegetation
  • blue tones
  • INFINITY POOL!!!
  • Campari
  • snorkeling
  • windsurfing
  • walking into town, pickup trucking it back up the hill
  • private beach cabanas
  • doing Mary’s hair poolside
  • witnessing our best friends become man and wife at sunset on the beach
  • rooftop toast and dinner






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