Planning 2017 Bike Trips

It’s that time of year. Tomorrow the ISO will announce the official 2017 Tour de France route. Rumors are flying on Twitter and Facebook about some of the stages being more than 400 kilometers. Ugh. When will they learn from the Vuelta and the Giro that shorter stages are more competitive? The race is already an endurance test. As a fan, the main reason you should tune in to the route announcement is to begin planning your own adventure–especially booking your hotel.

You can cycle or spectate with an official tour, such as Trek Travel or Thomson Bike Tours. Or you can plan your own adventure. I recommend looking for places where there are starts and finishes close together. The Pyrenees are also terrific: beautiful, many viewing spots within reach, lots of hotels to accommodate teams and fans.

The catalogs for bicycle trips are also arriving. Trek Travel’s beautiful brochure arrived and I spent several happy hours looking at the possibilities. With Trek you know your hotel will be fabulous, the food fantastic and the guides/support reliable, and you pay dearly for this top of the line experience. The Adventure Cycling Association tour catalog also landed in my mailbox this month. These trips are less expensive, generally a bigger time commitment and a bigger physical challenge than your typical bike tour. Two people in my RAGBRAI 2015 group met while riding across the USA with Adventure Cycling Association and they had all positive things to say. You can select from fully supported, Inn to Inn, self contained or van supported rides (and more).

I’ve been dealing with some health issues so my goal is to work my back to the place where I can consider one of these adventures. My ideal trip in 2017 would include the start of the Tour de France in Dusseldorf, Germany in July. What destination is in your future?

 

Rediscovering Santa Barbara, Part II

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Santa Barbara is so much fun. We enjoyed the food, the surf, the history, the shopping, and the sunshine. When my friend UK Sarah chose it for our USA adventure I was not sure there was enough to do. It had been a few years since I last visited. I need not have wasted a moment worrying about getting bored.

One morning we drove up to Lake Cachuma and saw the terrifying impact of the lingering drought on the lake levels. Otherwise we found plenty to occupy ourselves right in Santa Barbara–almost all within a few miles from our lodgings at the uber comfortable Harbor House Inn.

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The person checking us in recommended we make a reservation at Toma Restaurant and Bar. We are so glad we did. We dressed for dinner and walked the short 2 blocks to the restaurant. We were quickly seated and met our waiter Stephen. He noticed Sarah’s accent and began teasing her and she dished it right back. The food was wonderful but the highlight was when he sprinkled rose petals across the white table cloth and served a dish to “the Queen.’ We were all broad smiles by the time we finished our after dinner coffee. The food is Mediterranean inspired and one of the most elegant and delicious meals I have enjoyed anywhere in California. At the time I am writing this post, Toma is the number 1 rated restaurant in Santa Barbara on TripAdvisor.

We also enjoyed authentic spicy tacos at Lilly’s Taqueria and coffee more than once at Santa Barbara Roasting Company. On the final night we decided to drive up the coastline a mile or so to the Boathouse at Hendry’s Beach. I devoured the most delicious crab legs. I only dare eat seafood (and then just crab) once a year as I often get hives. When I saw an order going by I knew I had to have them tonight. We dined outside and enjoyed the million dollar view of the sea and the beach.

We found time to explore a premium stationery shop and a used bookstore, to read and to nap. With the Inn’s bicycles we had more freedom to explore independently. We also cycled together to the trail’s end at the shore. We could have kept going away from the coastline but chose to turn around and explore the pier instead.

I can easily imagine spending a week in Santa Barbara. Our king room at the Inn had a kitchen so we could prep some meals at home for a change of pace. Everything, except getting there, is so easy. In fact, Santa Barbara epitomizes relaxed elegance.

One Really Good Reason to Visit California in May

Visit California May 10-17, 2015 to be precise.  The AMGEN Tour of California will be hosting men’s and women’s bike racing throughout California. The route was announced yesterday and there are some exciting new changes. I plan to watch Stage One where the cyclists will ride along the Sacramento River, through the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, with a dramatic finish in front of the State Capitol.  I will also check out the Stage Two finish in Lodi for the first time. They are also expanding the racing opportunities for women.

Amgen Tour of California inspired sugar cookie from Karen's Bakery
Amgen Tour of California inspired sugar cookie from Karen’s Bakery

They are staking themselves as “America’s greatest race.” It certainly showcases the beauty of the majestic state of California.

Watch this video to see all the reasons you will want to make California a destination in May.

Postcard: Bicycling to Winters, CA

If there is an upside to the worst drought in California since 1977 it is that I rode to Winters, California in bright sunshine with no wind on dry roads on the third weekend of January. Wow!

Mecca for cyclists in Winters, California
Mecca for cyclists in Winters, California

It was a gorgeous ride. I left my house about 10:30 for a ride of indeterminate length. It is a psychological game that I play with myself. I leave the house prepared to ride as far as Winters and back but I tell myself that I will just get out there and see how it goes. I arrived at the Three Palms Nursery (about 4 miles down the road) feeling great, so I kept going. Then I reached Putah Creek Road and still felt great and reached Winters, CA (12.5 miles out) feeling good.

County public works has one of those solar powered signs that tells you your speed to get you to slow down before the bridge work at Winters. It confirmed my hunch: I averaged about 10 miles per hour.

I hung my bike by the seat at Steady Eddy’s and ordered a bagel and cream cheese and diet coke. (I waited for my order remembering that it is steady not fast Eddy’s) It was just before noon and the place was crowded with riders drinking coffee and eating healthy snacks from their pockets. Winters is a mecca for cyclists from all over the west side of the Valley. I shared a table with someone who rode over from Vacaville and I realized that when I am ready I can easily ride 50 or 75 miles from my house.  The challenge will be finding some hills!

I made slightly better time on the return trip. My shoulders got tighter and my hands and feet needed shaking to keep the blood flowing. I enjoyed the ride. There are lots of people on the road–cyclists, rollerbladers, horseback riders–and the occasional “hey” or “morning” was enough company for me today.

I accomplished my first set of goals for the new year. I get to buy clipless pedals!!!  I also feel more at ease on my bike. My next goal is to keep riding (4-5 times a week for at least 40 minutes; this includes commuting to town on my cruiser) and to sign up for a bike maintenance class.