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Displaying items by tag: Dale Fehringer

Monday, 29 October 2012

Cycling the Coast of Maine


Our tour leader, Brian, was off his bicycle on the trail in front of us and he held up his hand for us to stop.  His head was cocked upwards and he was listening to something in the trees.  “It’s two woodpeckers,” he told us when we pulled up beside him, “they’re calling to each other.”  We could hear them above us; their calls sounded like a series of sharp clicks, almost like two stones hitting together, followed by a high-pitched rattle -- from one tree and then the other.  It was enchanting.  

Maine had been all we had hoped for – gorgeous coastlines, beautiful national parks, friendly people, and scrumptious lobster.  Hearing woodpeckers in the woods was icing on the cake. 

Carriage Roads

Meeting the Group

We met our biking group at the Claremont Hotel, a historic bed-and-breakfast in the quiet Maine coastal village of Southwest Harbor.  Our tour leaders, Tom and Brian, had arranged a dinner during which we introduced ourselves and talked about traveling and cycling.  After the meal, we received an overview of the tour, and then trundled upstairs to bed, excited and nervous about the next day’s ride.


Swan’s Island

The morning broke clear and cool for our first day of cycling.  Tom and Brian fitted us to our bikes and we cycled to the harbor where we took our bikes onto a ferry for Swan’s Island.  

Swan's Island is an historic lobstering and fishing island with a year-around population of about 350.  We cycled around most of the island, taking in fabulous views of the rugged coastline and visiting Hockamock Point Lighthouse and Burntcoat Harbor.  Brian prepared a delicious lunch, after which we visited Saturn Press, a small printing company where greeting cards are made the old fashioned way on four antique printing presses. 

Saturn Press operates in an Arts and Crafts style building the owners, Jim and Jane, designed and built themselves.  Their cards are beautiful with striking images and they do it all without the conveniences of modern technology, not even a computer. Although Jane and Jim say they “didn’t mean to be green.” Isolation and hardship forced them to adopt efficient methods a long time ago, and it’s now a natural part of the way they do business.

It was great to see an old-fashioned  business thriving in today’s instant-communication world, and we left Swan’s Island feeling refreshed. 


Dinner at a Lobster Pound

We had several excellent meals during our tour, but our favorite took place at a lobster pound.  

Lobster Pound

It was raining as we walked from our inn, and we shook off the wet when we arrived.  The restaurant was warm and pungent and wooden picnic tables were lined up in rows, set with paper plates and plastic utensils and bibs.  

The staff brought buckets of steamed clams and mussels, with pitchers of cold beer, and we dug in with gusto.  That was followed by plates heaped with corn-on-the-cob, coleslaw, and whole cooked lobsters.  The lobster was warm, messy, and delicious; we dug all of the rich and savory meat from the shells, relishing every bite.  We devoured the corn, barely taking time to put it down between bites, and not caring where the butter wound up.  And, when we finished, we wolfed down slices of the best blueberry pie ever! 

The short walk back to the inn was a happy one.  It had been a delightful evening, and we were full of lobster and filled with good cheer.

  

Cycling on Carriage Roads

We spent two days cycling Acadia National Park, including Sargent's Drive, the Loop Road, and the famed carriage roads.

There are 45 miles of carriage roads in Acadia National Park, a gift from philanthropist John D. Rockefeller Jr. and family.  Rockefeller wanted to travel Mount Desert Island via horse and carriage, so he poured some of his fortune into building a series of private roads and bridges to contend with Maine’s wet weather. Rockefeller had workers align the roads to take advantage of scenic views and grade them so they were not too steep or sharply curved for horse-drawn carriages, which also is a benefit for cyclists. 

Tom and Brian took turns riding with us; telling us stories and pointing out sights most people wouldn’t  see.  We enjoyed views of spruce and fir trees that sit atop dark granite ledges, and rugged hillsides that tumble to the sea, surrounded by blooming flowers and fluttering butterflies.  We watched men in small fishing boats harvest lobsters, and heard the ocean boom as it shook the cliffs at Thunder Hole. We then had lunch at beautiful Jordan Pond and enjoyed extraordinary views and savory popovers 

Jordan Pond


Pretty Marsh Harbor

We chose kayaking for our “off” day, which turned out to be an excellent choice.  Paddling across Pretty Marsh Harbor and enjoying the peaceful views and marine life was a treat and a nice change of pace from our bicycle seats.     

We were in two-person kayaks, rented from a local supplier, who also furnished Jacob, a young, personable guide.  Jacob helped us into our safety gear, explained how to operate our kayaks, and got us over our fears.  Once on the water, we found it surprisingly easy to paddle and steer, and we relaxed and enjoyed the experience.  A light mist began to fall, which cooled and refreshed us.  We listened closely to Jacob’s descriptions of the marine life and enjoyed the views of the lake and surrounding hills.  


Cadillac Mountain

At 1,528 feet, Cadillac Mountain is the highest peak on the Atlantic Ocean in North America.  During much of the year, it’s also the first place the sun shines in the U.S.   

We were determined to cycle to the top of Cadillac Mountain, and we laughed   as we started up the hill.  The laughter slowly died as the hill continued and the sky grew dark – a storm was coming and we still had a long way to go.  Raincoats came out and we hunkered down on our handlebars, pushing hard on our pedals.  We weren’t going to quit!

Cadillac Mtn.

It was raining steadily when we rounded the final curve and saw the top of the mountain ahead of us.  We reached the brow, parked our bikes, and congratulated each other.  Despite being wet and cold, we hiked the short trail to the peak so we could see views from all directions.  Just as we reached the peak the storm broke and the clouds began to part.  

We watched as the Porcupine Islands began to reappear in the bay, one at a time.  The sun came out from behind the rain clouds, our rain jackets came off, and we celebrated our good fortune.  This was one of those special moments that turn a good occasion into a great one.  This is why we travel, and this is why, whenever we can, we go by bicycle!


Thank you, Maine!

It was a bittersweet moment the last morning when we took group photos and said goodbye to our new friends.  We had established a special bond with our group; cycling, kayaking, and sharing meals together.  Now, this group of cyclists, who less than a week ago had been strangers, were friends.  Maine had worked its magic on us, allowing us to explore its beauty and warmth, and developing in us an appreciation for its charms and for each other.  

Cycling Group

Thank you, Tom and Brian!  Thank you, new friends!  Thank you, Maine!  


Five-day Cycling Tour 

There are several companies that operate cycling tours in Maine.  We selected Bike Vermont (http://bikevt.com/index.aspx) and we were completely pleased with them.  Their prices are mid-range, the lodging comfortable, and the restaurants excellent.  Bike Vermont supplied bikes, leaders, lodging, most of the meals, and a sag wagon.  They also moved our luggage for us, so all we had to do was show up, cycle, and enjoy the experience.


There were 10 in our group (five of us knew each other), and we ranged in age, background, and cycling experience.  The leaders were excellent – experienced, caring, and fun.  They always seemed to be where we needed them to be, and they encouraged us to take advantage of the activities, ask questions, help each other, and exchange stories.  They even added a little zest each day by awarding a yellow kerchief to a group member who had done something special the previous day.   


The cycling routes were well-planned, with longer and shorter options each day.  We cycled an average of 4-5 hours per day (with plenty of breaks), mostly on quiet streets and highways, and on carriage roads.  


Standard cycling route lengths were:

Monday 31 miles 

Tuesday 19 miles 

Wednesday   off day

Thursday 22 miles

Friday 16 miles

We stayed two nights at the Claremont Hotel in Southwest Harbor (http://www.theclaremonthotel.com/) and three nights at the Manor House Inn in Bar Harbor (http://barharbormanorhouse.com/). Cycling typically involved riding a “loop” that started at the inn, circled through a particularly beautiful area, and wound up back where we started.


Dale Fehringer is a freelance writer in San Francisco.  His articles on travel, lifestyle, and contemporary culture have been published in a variety of publications.  He can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


Patty McCrary is a freelance photographer in San Francisco.  Her travel photos have appeared in several travel publications and on YouTube.  She can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.












Published in interest
Sunday, 01 January 2012

Cycling through History in Denmark


Denmark may be the most ideal cycling destination in the world.  In addition to a strong cycling culture in this small Scandinavian nation, Denmark has developed an extensive network of cycling paths, which make touring by bicycle safe and easy.  The locals are welcoming, friendly, and fluent in English; and, to make cycling interesting, Denmark has a long and varied history that is easily accessed by bicycle.     



City of Bikes


DSC 0047We arrived in Copenhagen a couple of days before our cycling tour and explored the city on foot, including Tivoli Gardens, the royal palace, and the history of this Scandinavian capital, which is presented in several excellent museums.  It quickly became apparent why Copenhagen is known as the City of Bikes, because cyclists fill the streets at all times.  They cycle to work, take their children to school on their bikes, and generally leave their cars at home.   


It was June, which is not our usual time of year to travel (because of crowds and high costs), but that’s about as early as it’s warm enough to cycle in Denmark. It turned out to that we had comfortable weather with lots of daylight, green hills and fields, and an abundance of blooming flowers.

We took a train north to the city of Helsingor, toured the castle that was the setting for Shakespeare’s Hamlet, and rode a ferry across the Oresund Sound to Sweden. This narrow strait is an important passageway between Europe and the Baltic countries, and for centuries Denmark enriched its coffers with fees from ships passing through it.  It’s also the crossing used by the resistance movement and fishermen during World War II to smuggle 8,000 Danish Jews out of German-occupied Denmark, thereby sparing then from deportation to concentration camps and certain death. 


Coastal Roads and Small Villages



Danish VillageThe cycling portion of our trip around the island of Zealand was organized by Die Mecklenburger Radtour of Germany who furnished maps, directions, bicycles, and transported our luggage. 

We cycled independently, rode an average of 30-40 miles for six days, and followed the directions from one location to the next. 

It took us a while to catch on to Denmark’s system of cycling paths and roads during our first day of cycling, which was a 34-mile ride from Copenhagen to Koge, down the east coast of Zealand.  As we cycled along coastal roads and through small villages with views of fishing boats, beach homes, and sea birds we spent part of the day huddled over our maps, asking directions, and making sure we were on course.  Everyone we talked to was helpful, friendly, and spoke excellent English.   

The weather was sunny and mild, the terrain was flat, and the views of the coast and fishing villages were wonderful.  This is what traveling by bicycle is all about!

We arrived mid-afternoon in Koge, a coastal town founded in 1288 as a gathering place for farmers to sell their goods.  The scope of Danish history is remarkable; here events (and buildings) often pre-date Shakespeare and the Pilgrims landing at Plymouth Rock.  For example, Koge's town hall (which is still in use) was built in 1552. 

Koge was also the site of a witch hunt in the 1600s known as the Koge Huskors, in which a wealthy merchant accused a local woman (Johanne Thomes) of having sent the devil to his house. She was found guilty and implicated other local women (including her maid, who said Johanne had made her urinate in the baptismal bowl at church).  In all, around a dozen women were burned at the stake, including the unfortunate maid. 



Legends of Trolls


By our second day of cycling we were on to Denmark’s system of cycling paths, and we were able to enjoy rolling along in the warm sunlight, past tree-lined roads, tidy farms, and well-kept villages.  Today’s ride was a little longer ride (41 miles) across southeast Zealand.  We took in the picture-perfect roses, fragrant sweet peas, and delicate peonies and stopped for lunch in a grove of trees where we ate olives, bread, and cheese purchased that morning at the farmers’ market in Koge. 

In the afternoon we took a wrong turn (my fault) and wound up in the picturesque coastal town of Praesto.  The bad news was my error cost us an extra 12 miles of cycling; the good news is we were able to enjoy the beautiful Præstø Fjord, which for centuries has been a Danish vacation site.  We saw swans swimming in the coastal waters, which Hans Christian Andersen must have seen, too, because he was in the area when he wrote “The Ugly Duckling.”

Back on our bikes (and back on track) we cycled on to Naestved, our destination for the night.  There is evidence people lived in this area as far back as 400 BC.  The town that now stands was founded in 1135 by the Benedictine monks. 

Scandinavia is filled with legends of trolls, which are generally held to be large, ugly, and dim-witted.  Such a legend is associated with the hills outside Naestved: 

Dale Cycle FieldsThe troll Fladsa couldn’t stand the sound of Naestved’s church bells, so he filled a sack with sand and set off for Naestved to bury the churches.  But there was a hole in the sack and most of the sand ran out. As the sand leaked, it formed the Mogenstrup ridge near Naestved and the highest hill in Naestved was created when the troll threw the last bit of sand at the village.  (Source:  www.visitnaestved.com)




Borreby Castle


Day three was a scenic 38-mile ride across the south of Zealand, following the coast in the morning and meandering inland in the afternoon.  We stopped for a lunch of fish cakes in the coastal village of Bisserup, and then cycled through fields of wheat, corn, and barley.  In the afternoon we came across a field of strawberries being picked, and stopped and ate a few – freshly picked from the field, warmed by the sun, and incredibly juicy!

BorrebyWe took a side tour to Borreby Castle, which was built in 1556 as a defense against invaders.  Access is via a drawbridge, and the castle is surrounded by moats and equipped with scald holes and loop holes (vertical slots to shoot arrows through). 

Borreby Castle was the setting of a Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale (What the Wind Told About Valdemar Daae and His Daughters), told through the perspective of the wind, in which a nobleman and his three daughters bought the castle and then squandered their time and money and wound up with, “Nothing to eat and nothing to burn!  It was a hard lesson they had to learn!” 

We spent the night in the port city of Korsor, which since the 13th century has been an important defense and transportation port on the “Great Belt” between Denmark’s islands.  We had dinner at Madam Bagger’s restaurant, named after Hedevig Bagger, a local who in the 1700s became the first woman in Denmark to gain status as a postmaster on her own right (not inherited from a spouse).




Vikings



DSC 0003The fourth day was a pleasant 39-mile ride along Zealand’s west coast and then inland.  For much of the afternoon we cycled on a narrow grassy trail that was formerly a railway, and then through fields of grain and tree-lined lanes to the coast and the shipping town of Kalundborg. 

Kalundborg was first settled in 1170 as a harbor and fortress, and a brick wall enclosed the village.  As the town grew, it expanded upwards, because there was no more space inside the city’s walls.  Today, Kalundborg is a major shipping port and a stop for many Baltic Sea cruises.

The next day it was pouring rain when we woke up, so we explored Kalundborg while waiting for the weather to improve.  A statue in the city square honors the town’s founding father, Esbern Snare, who is generally credited with designing the town and its beautiful five-spired brick church.  While history says Snare’s daughter actually oversaw the church’s construction, a local legend tells otherwise:

Fin the Troll offered to help Esbern Snare build the church, but in return he wanted Esbern's eyes and heart unless Esbern could guess his name. When only half a column remained to be built, Esbern had still not guessed the name, and he was getting desperate when he suddenly heard the voice of a troll-woman singing:

      Lie still, baby mine!
      Tomorrow cometh Fin, Father thine,
      And giveth thee Esbern Snare's eyes and heart to play with.

After hearing this Esbern returned to the building site, and when the troll brought the last half of the column, Esbern greeted him by name. Fin flew into a fury and vanished. 

The rain didn’t let up, so we took a train to Roskilde.  It felt good to take a day off from cycling and allowed us more time to explore this ancient city. 

This town of 10,000 was started in 900 AD by the Vikings as a trading post, and it served as the capital of Denmark for 200 years.  In medieval times, Roskilde was one of the most important cities in northern Europe.  The magnificent cathedral in Roskilde is the burial site of Denmark’s royalty and today it is a tourist attraction that hosts concerts and weddings.

The Viking Ship Museum in Roskilde offers a history of the Viking civilization and displays Viking longboats that were excavated from nearby Roskilde Fjord in the 1960s. 



A Hard Country to Leave


Our final day was a relatively short ride (26 miles) on small cycling paths along the coast.  It rained lightly on and off all day, and we stopped frequently to adjust our rain gear, check our maps, and enjoy the fields of bright yellow mustard and swans (many with babies) swimming in the waters.  It was satisfying to complete the tour and arrive back in Copenhagen, where we started the tour a week earlier, but also sad because our trip was nearing an end.

Esbern SnareDenmark was everything we had hoped it would be and we thoroughly enjoyed our time in this very special place.  It is a place where travelers are appreciated, cyclists are accommodated, and history is abundant.  We found Denmark easy to fall for – and hard to leave.



About the author:

Dale Fehringer is a freelance writer in San Francisco.  He can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

 


Published in in-depth
Thursday, 30 December 2010

Riad Laaroussa: An Oasis in the Fes Medina


Our trip to Morocco would not have been complete without a few days in Fes, but I have to admit that we weren’t fully prepared for the hectic pace of life in the Medina (old walled area) of this ancient city. Thankfully, we stayed at Riad Laaroussa!

Fes is one of the oldest and largest medieval cities in the world, and life in its Medina has changed little over the centuries.

Fez CraftToday, the 9,000 narrow winding streets are filled with bazaars, craft workshops, tanneries, fruit and spice stalls, and throngs of people, mopeds, and donkeys.

Our days in Fes were hot, exciting, and hectic; as there is a lot to do in Fes and the surrounding area. At the end of each day we craved a calm, safe haven.

Our haven turned out to be Riad Laaroussa. Once inside we could relax, sip mint tea, and reminisce about the day’s adventures.

Fez Riad Night PhotoRiad Laaroussa is a meticulously-designed guesthouse built around a private courtyard that includes orange trees, grass (a rarity in the desert climate), and cozy chairs. The building has a rich history dating from the 17th century; and over the years it has been the home of Morocco’s Minister of War and a Koranic school. Now, it has now been restored to a small, comfortable guesthouse, which opened to guests in 2006.

The Riad caters to a broad range of interests, and the staff are adamant about helping guests take advantage of the options. We relied heavily on them for advice, directions, and suggestions, and their response was well-informed, gracious, and warm. This began with our arrival, when we were greeted with cool towels scented with rose water, served tea and cookies in our room, and offered a choice of dining on the rooftop, courtyard, or in our room.

Activities in and near Fes

In Fes:

Explore the Medina (shopping, museums, arts and crafts, tanneries)

Go food shopping and help cook a traditional Moroccan meal

Have a traditional hammam and massage

Near Fes:

Tour the Roman ruins at Volubilis

Visit the historic city of Meknes

Day Trips:

Tour the Middle Atlas mountains

Taste wine and olive oil in Meknes

Fez Food SoukThe Riad’s chefs shared their knowledge of the legendary Fassi cuisine, and we accompanied them to the local market and watched as they shopped for the ingredients for the day’s meals. They also encouraged us to watch and help as they cooked the evening meal.

After long, hot days in the Medina, we retreated to the Riad and relaxed in the courtyard. We enjoyed the private hammam (traditional steam bath) and massage room, where treatments included a wash down with warm water, an aroma body scrub, and a massage with jasmine or orange flower oil, candles, music, and scents. It was a perfect ending to each wonderful day!

Details: Rooms at Riad Laaroussa start at around $132. The hammam and massage together cost around $83.

©Dale Fehringer is a freelance writer and editor who lives in San Francisco. He can be reached at 415.602.6116 or by email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Photos by Patty McCrary

Published in innkeeper

La Rioja

Seeing a new part of the world on a bicycle is one of my favorite experiences. But it’s even better if you are fully prepared. This is what I recently discovered when I fell off my bike in the middle of a week-long cycling tour of northern Spain.

Following the Ebro River

We chose this particular cycling tour (La Rioja – The Descent of the Ebro River) because it offered an opportunity to visit a part of Spain few tourists get to see. It was organized by Iberocycle (www.iberocycle.com), a small family-owned tour company headquartered in Santander, Spain. Simon Proffitt, the owner, and Ignacio Silva, our guide, planned it for us and all we had to do was cycle, follow instructions, and enjoy this amazing part of the world.

Map Of Spain

To get there we flew to Madrid and then took a bus to Bilbao where we spent a couple of days exploring the Guggenheim Museum, dining on tapas and paella, and trying to improve our limited Spanish. Simon and Ignacio picked us up at our hotel in Bilbao and drove us along the north coast of Spain and south over the Cordillera Cantábrica Mountains. The countryside was lush green from winter rains, the weather was sunny and mild, and we enjoyed views of the Ebro Valley and nearby snow-peaked mountains. We wound up at a small, cozy inn in a village near the source of the Ebro River. Simon and Ignacio fitted us with our bicycles, described the week ahead, and bought a round of welcome drinks.

The next morning we started cycling after breakfast, riding at a leisurely pace and stopping frequently for coffee, food, and water. It was the last week of May and the cool, cloudy weather was ideal for cycling. We rolled along quiet asphalt roads beside the river and relished the panorama of jagged canyons, ancient villages, and tumbling waterfalls.

River Ebro

A “Hybrid” Bicycle Tour

This was a “hybrid” bike tour, with elements of a fully-supported tour (cycling with guides) and self-guided (cycling on your own). Iberocycle supplied the bikes, accommodations, maps, and instructions and they moved our luggage each day to the next inn. They also provided a support van which was always nearby to help with flat tires, equipment problems, or tired riders. We cycled around 40 miles a day, starting when we wanted and stopping whenever we chose. It worked great for us because we enjoyed having other cyclists to ride with and share experiences, and we appreciated the ability to cycle at our own pace.

There were 11 of us, ranging in age from 22 to 67. Everyone was in good cycling shape, but we rode at different speeds. There were seven from the U.S. (a family of four and Patty, her cousin Tom, and me), David and Eva from Australia, and Dermod and Helen from Ireland.

Our guide was relatively new to Iberocycle and loved his job. Each day, he outlined the route and pointed out highlights, areas of danger, and good places to eat. After we took off, he loaded our luggage, drove it to our next inn, and then spent the rest of the day driving the route, making sure we were OK and offering advice and encouragement. At night, Ignacio recommended a restaurant and went there with those who wanted to join him, entertaining us with stories about this part of Spain.

Ignacio Instructs

 

 

Oops…

I had just started cycling up a hill after a break when I heard my wife ask me to come back for a photo. I turned around – too sharply – and tipped over. I hit the road with my left hand and left foot, rolled onto my back, and wound up on the road with sharp pain in my left ankle. My wife, Patty, picked up my bike, rolled it off the road, and helped me to my feet. I hobbled across the road and sat on a nearby bench.

The pain was so intense I was sure I’d sprained my ankle. When I lowered my sock, I found a golf ball-sized bruise on the outside of my foot, just below my anklebone. While I waited for the pain to subside, I held my water bottle on my ankle and thought about how we had gotten here.

After sitting for awhile, the pain subsided enough to allow me to take stock of my situation. I found I could bend my ankle and even put limited weight on my foot. Walking was painful, though, so Patty brought my bike to me and I gingerly climbed aboard. I was able to get my badly swollen left foot in the toe clip, and I could press on the left pedal with minimal pain. So I got on and started cycling – very slowly – up the hill. I could continue, but not quickly. Somehow I managed to finish the remaining six miles.

At the end of day’s ride I got ice from the hotel’s front desk, limped to our room, and elevated my foot. I called Jack, a member of our tour group who is also a physician, and asked him to come to our room and examine my foot. After a suitable amount of poking and prodding, he diagognized my injury as a partially torn ligament and prescribed ice, elevation, and rest.

After an uncomfortable night my foot was nearly twice its normal size. I stretched a cycling sock over it (which acted as a wrap), loosely tied my shoes, and stood up. I could put weight on my foot and could walk (with some pain), so I limped down to the lobby.

After breakfast, I climbed aboard my bike, expecting the worst. To my surprise, I found I could put pressure on the foot and pedal, although I definitely favored my right side. I started the day’s route with cell phone handy, in case I needed to have Ignacio rescue me. The foot limbered up so I kept riding, and finished the day’s route. I was glad, because it was one of our best days.

Poppies, Wildflowers, and Sweet Peas

It was spring and the countryside was in full bloom. We cycled past fields of red-orange poppies, yellow wildflowers, and sweet peas with tiny white blossoms. The villages had white stone houses and well-groomed vegetable gardens and we stopped to smell lilacs and roses, watch storks tend their nests, and listen to cuckoo birds along the river.

Poppies And Wildflowers

Cycling with “Lazy” Cuckoo Birds

The sound of cuckoo birds accompanied us each day as we cycled along the river. We listened for their “coo-coo” calls, which sound just like the birds in the clocks. Ignacio called them “lazy,” and described their habit of laying their eggs in the nests of other birds. This unusual characteristic means that many species of cuckoo rely on “host” birds to raise their young. Cuckoo egg shells are very thick, which prevents them from cracking when they are dropped in the host nest, and cuckoo eggs hatch earlier than the host's. The cuckoo chicks grow very fast, and often throw out eggs of the host species. The host feeds the cuckoo chick (thinking it is its own) until the cuckoo is old enough to leave the nest.

Everyone we met was friendly and helpful. Some of the locals didn’t speak English, but when we asked questions in our broken Spanish they tried to help, or they found someone who could.

 

 

Comfort Food and Comfy Inns

This is a region of fresh and hearty food that includes tapas, paella, cheese, and seafood. There are several Michelin-rated restaurants in the area and a well-established base of first-rate local eating establishments. Our meals were well-prepared, tasty, and inexpensive; our favorite foods were tortillas (potato omelets), white asparagus, black pudding (pork blood), tear peas (tiny, tear-shaped spring peas), and patatas bravas (fried potatoes in spicy sauce).

Rio Ebro

The last couple of days we cycled through Rioja, which is one of the oldest and largest wine producing regions in Spain. The rolling hills and sweeping views of vineyards and wineries make this a great place to cycle. Rioja wines are flavorful and inexpensive and feature vanilla overtones from oak aging. Local winemakers have used oak barrels for hundreds of years – originally French oak, but now primarily American oak. During a winery tour we saw oak barrels being made by hand – a rare sight indeed!

We stayed in a variety of small, comfortable inns staffed by friendly and gracious hosts. Two of our favorites were a flour mill that has been converted into a charming B&B, and an overnight in Frias where our hostess offered to do our laundry (!) and brought in neighbors to serve us a homemade seven-course feast.

Inn

Location

Highlights

Casona de Naveda

Naveda

Charming country inn with rural views

Posada El Cazador

Villanueva de la Nia

Rustic hunting lodge

Posada Molina del Canto

Valle de Zamanzas

Converted flour mill with comfortable two-story rooms

Hotel La Alhama

Medina de Pomar

Within walking distance of the old town of Medina de Pomar and leather factory

Poza de la Torca

Frias

Nicely decorated rooms, great views, excellent meals, gracious hostess

Hotel Luz

Haro

Modern hotel within walking distance of tapas bars, shopping

Hotel Villa de Laguardia

Laguardia

Comfortable rooms, excellent meals, great place to end our tour

Lucky in So Many Ways

I was incredibly lucky in so many ways. This was a spectacular cycling tour and despite my accident I was able to enjoy it all. But I might not be so lucky the next time, so from now on I plan to be completely prepared. Before I start riding, I will become familiar with my bike by thoroughly testing the brakes, gears, and turning radius. From now on I will carry a first aid kit that includes bandages, ointments, and instant ice packs. And I will make sure I always have a cell phone, so I can quickly summon help in case of an accident.

These small adjustments will help ensure that we will be able to thoroughly enjoy the wonder of seeing a new part of the world by bicycle.

Resources:

Casona de Naveda (www.casonadenaveda.com/inicio.htm)

Hotel La Alhama (www.hotelrestaurantealhama.com)

Hotel Luz (www.luzhotel.com)

Hotel Villa de Laguardia (http://www.jpmoser.com/villadelaguardia.html)

Iberocycle (www.iberocycle.com)

Iberia Airlines (http://www.iberia.com)

Miro Hotel (Bilbao) (www.mirohotelbilbao.com)

Posada El Cazador (www.posadaelcazador.com)

Posada Molina del Canto (www.molinodelcanto.com)

Poza de la Torca (www.pozadelatorca.es)

©Dale Fehringer

About the author: Dale Fehringer is a freelance writer and editor in San Francisco. He is a columnist for Competitive Intelligence Magazine and writes for inTravel Magazine
(
www.intravelmag.com) and Writer’s Showcase (www.storyhouse.org). He shares office space with his wife, Patty, and cats, George and Gracie. He can be reached at (415) 602-6116 or by email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Published in interest

Nestled in the hills above Knysna (pronounced “nighs-na”), in the middle of South Africa’s Garden Route, is a lodge that blends luxurious accommodation with environmental responsibility. It’s called the Phantom Forest, and it’s one of the most unique places I’ve ever stayed.

Published in indulge
Friday, 20 November 2009

Incognito Contest Jan-Feb 2010

I am riding in a safari vehicle which stops in front of a water hole. Less than 30 feet away is a group of 40 Kalahari elephants. It's spring, and there are baby elephants following behind their mothers, trotting on uncertain little legs to keep up.

Published in incognito
Sunday, 28 September 2008

Cycling the Dalmatian Islands with Ana

Ana just might be the hardest-working tour guide in Europe. During the week she led our cycling tour around Croatia’s Dalmatian Islands she rode with us, entertained us, educated us, and watched over us – from breakfast until we were safely tucked in bed at night. Because of her efforts, we were transformed from a group of strangers into a cohesive group of friends … and in some respects into her temporary family.

Published in interest

Deep within Chile’s beautiful Lake District lies a small lodge shaped like a volcano, and furnished like a tree house, complete with every modern comfort. It’s called the Magic Mountain Lodge (La Montaña Magica), and it was our pleasure to stay there last November.

Published in innkeeper
Tuesday, 06 February 2007

Cycle Sicily on Your Own

With the dollar’s recent decline versus the Euro, there are few travel values left in Western Europe. For adventure travelers willing to go on their own, a self-guided bicycle tour of Sicily is still a bargain – and a wonderful adventure.

Published in inexpensive

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