Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Outside Magazine's List of 25 Best Documentaries Ever


Love documentaries, adventure, nature and sports? I do! Outside Magazine's list is so compelling that I wanted to see the list all in one place, not movie by movie as their web page displayed, so here it is! I added the movie links I preferred and some screen shots, too. Presenting 25 of the best adventure, investigative and nature documentaries ever. By David Holbrooke,  festival director of Mountainfilm in Telluride.

Adventure
TRUE-LIFE EPICS

1. Riding Giants

There's a peculiar challenge to making a surf film: The action footage is so good, it's easy to get lazy with everything else. But director Stacy Peralta wasn't just trying to chronicle a surf quest. He wanted to explain the evolution of a sport. Peralta is the Ken Burns of boardsports (he directed 2002's skating history Dogtown and Z-Boys), and Giants, made in 2004, was his Baseball, with the brash pioneer Greg Noll and the modern master Laird Hamilton sparring for the role of Babe Ruth. Indeed, it's the surfers, not the surf, who make Riding Giants so much fun. Even as they describe the terror of wiping out at Maverick's, you can sense their smirks. They are crazy, clearly. But, by God, are they stoked!

2. Man on Wire
In 1974, French performance artist Philippe Petit and a team of riggers infiltrated the Twin Towers and strung a high wire between them, enabling Petit to spend 45 minutes performing 1,300 feet above Manhattan. History forgot about the Frenchman until 2008, when director James Marsh resurrected Petit's story in the Oscar-winning documentary Man on Wire. Combining actors' reenactments and interviews with all of the original players, the film explains just how the bohemians fooled the guards, strung the cable, and pulled off an amazingly illicit stunt in what's become haunted airspace.



3. Touching the Void
Joe Simpson and Simon Yates's 1985 escape from their first ascent of the west face of Peru's 20,853-foot Siula Grande became one of mountaineering's greatest epics with the publication of Simpson's 1988 memoir, Touching the Void. The 2003 documentary of the same name, by director Kevin Macdonald, masterfully re-creates both the feat and the disaster, which started when Simpson fell and smashed his tibia through his kneecap. Yates lowered his partner through a blizzard, then, when Simpson's weight began to drag both men off the mountain, cut the rope, sending a nearly unconscious Simpson on a free fall into a crevasse. Simpson's four-day crawl back to base camp redefined the limits of human endurance. "I just cried and cried," Simpson recalls in the film. "I thought I'd be tougher than that." Turns out he was.

4. Encounters at the End of the World
Only an obsessive like Werner Herzog could put reality on film, zoom in on the mystery, and create something that's more far out than any sci-fi. One of the most overlooked movies of the decade, 2008's Encounters was filmed at McMurdo, the U.S. research station on Antarctica peopled by "philosopher/forklift drivers" and other "linguists on a continent without languages." There are singing seals under the ice, microorganisms that haunt the daydreams of biologists, and, yes, penguins—but Herzog is only interested in the rogue members of that society that venture off in the wrong direction, for reasons nobody understands. It's a fitting metaphor for the humans who converge at the bottom of the planet, looking for new truths that may hold the keys to our survival.

5. Stranded
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0283015/ 
Alive, the 1993 Hollywood film starring Ethan Hawke, amped up the story of the 1972 plane crash that stranded an Uru­guayan rugby team in the Andes. ("Hey, I'll pay you for the pizza if you go and get it!" jokes one survivor, before they decide to eat the flesh of the dead.) Stranded: I've Come from a Plane that Crashed on the Mountains, Gonzalo Arijon's 2007 documentary, tells this story the proper way: with reverence. Arijon re-creates the plane crash, then gathers the 16 survivors and simply allows them to recount their ordeal. The result is haunting. Here's hero Nando Parrado, who eventually hiked out to find help: "Others saw it as a holy communion. That's fine. I wanted to see my father. To live."

WILD THINGS
6. Winged Migration
No documentary has produced such beautiful images as this Jacques Perrin–directed meditation on the journeys of migratory birds. Shot on every continent, with the collaborative efforts of 450 people, including teams of bird handlers who lived 24/7 with goslings, the 2001 movie literally takes flight, filming the creatures at close range and offering us, for the first time, a real bird's-eye view.

7. Grizzly Man
On the surface, Timothy Treadwell's story is unsurprising: A self-appointed bear researcher is killed, along with his girlfriend, Amie Huguenard, by his subjects in Alaska. But Werner Herzog uncovered in Treadwell's handycam footage a fragile but ultimately agreeable character. The resulting film, 2005's Grizzly Man, culminates with Herzog listening to the recording of Treadwell and Huguenard's demise (the camera was rolling with the lens cap on). The look on Herzog's face is graphic enough. "You must never listen to this," he tells Treadwell's ex, Jewel Palovak. While Treadwell mostly projected human emotions onto wild animals, he tapped into something universal, too: the desire to find oneself in the wilderness after being rejected by the world.

8. Red Gold
Made in 2007 by young filmmakers Ben Knight and Travis Rummel, Red Gold is an ode to Bristol Bay, Alaska, site of both the world's largest sockeye run and a proposed open-pit mine that could obliterate the fish. The DIY film is less refined than the others on this list, but that's the appeal: The upstarts broke this story long before most major media outlets, and scored enough ominous quotes from tin-eared mining exec Bruce Jenkins to help spur an ongoing protest movement. "Just because you don't think this is a good idea," scolds Jenkins, "doesn't mean you're right." Unless, of course, you are.

9. Earth
The best wildlife and natural-history footage ever to come to the big screen. This is ultimately why you don't care that some 60 percent of it was poached from Planet Earth, the holy-s**t made-for-TV series that aired on the Discovery Channel in 2007: It's just as good the second time. Earth marked the launch of Disneynature, a label intended to help the entertainment behemoth reclaim its nature-doc glory days of the 1950s. The film focuses on three animal families—polar bears, elephants, and humpback whales—and certainly feels Disney. At its weakest moments, it's cute. But the James Earl Jones narration helps, the score soars, and—most important—it's just stunning to watch.

10. March of the Penguins
It's anthropomorphic, but don't call it a kids' film. March, which grossed some $77 million and won the 2006 Oscar for Best Documentary, is about survival. Over the course of a year, filmmakers Luc Jacquet, Laurent Chalet, and Jérôme Maison suffered through frostbite, an Antarctic blizzard, and reeking valleys of guano to capture the story of the emperor penguins. The birds endure far worse: 80-below temperatures, months without food, predatory leopard seals. It's a film packed with graphic moments of death and new life, lacking only the smell.

OLD SCHOOL
11. South: Ernest Shackleton and the Endurance Expedition
The original footage of Shackleton's 1914–16 Endurance voyage is a document for the ages. The 1919 film, directed by expedition member Frank Hurley, is silent, and the ship itself is the most compelling character—charging 800 miles through the floes toward its unlucky fate, before being surrounded by the ice on all sides like a cornered animal.

12. Olympia
The 1938 movie is 3.5 hours long, is devoid of a storyline, and was funded by the Nazi party. But Leni Riefenstahl captured the drama of the 1936 "Hitler Olympics"—Jesse Owens showing up Das Führer—and pioneered now-ubiquitous filming techniques, such as slow-motion panning and cameras planted on athletic equipment.

13. Kon-Tiki
Thor Heyerdahl & Co.'s 1947 float from Peru to Polynesia calls two words to mind: balsa and balls. After the Norwegian ethnographer's theory—positing that pre-Columbian South Americans used "primitive" craft to settle Polynesia—is laughed off by his fellows, Heyerdahl recruits five guys with names like Bengt and Torstein, then builds and rides a big raft some 4,300 nautical miles into the Pacific, battling sharks and cruising with the trade winds the whole way.

14. The Conquest of Everest
The big peak has inspired many documentaries, but the 1953 original still stands above the rest. George Lowe's Conquest follows Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay's team from the planning stages to Camp IV, where the cameramen fall back. No matter: The climax—when expedition leader Colonel John Hunt breaks military decorum to hug Hillary and Norgay upon their descent—is plenty dramatic.

15. The Silent World
It's extremely hard to find, stars skinny French divers in yellow bun huggers, and features numerous acts of animal cruelty: a whale harpooned and sharks clubbed to death onboard Jacques Cousteau's Calypso. It also won a 1957 Oscar and created the phenomenon we now know as the underwater film.

16. Endless Summer
Cornball ("He could have a ham sandwich" on the nose of his board). Insensitive (try counting the use of "natives"). And yet, you can't help but love this 1966 film. Mostly because the plot is so pure: Two guys travel the world in search of the perfect wave, ultimately finding it off South Africa. Still, there's something bittersweet in watching the quest: You just don't find empty breaks like this anymore.

17. Fitz Roy: Mountain of Storms
In 1968, Yvon Chouinard and Doug Tompkins, along with skier Dick Dorworth and climber Lito Tejada-Flores, drove a van from California to the bottom of Argentina and summited 11,073-foot Fitz Roy. (They picked up another climber, Chris Jones, on the way.) Tejada-Flores's gift to us was the camera he brought to film the journey. Sadly, the original Fitz Roy: First Ascent of the Southwest Buttress is tough to find, so go with this version. It contains cheesy voice-overs and funk music, but it still features Chouinard and Tompkins aid-climbing Fitz Roy in wool hats and incredibly cool shades.

18. Koyaanisqatsi
There is not one word uttered for 86 minutes, just a collection of gorgeous and disturbing images—Canyonlands National Park; freeways; an atomic bomb test—backed by Philip Glass's haunting soundtrack. The magic of this 1982 cult classic lies in director Godfrey Reggio's willingness to leave the entire experience up to interpretation.

19. Blizzard of Aahhh's
The early years of extreme skiing, in the late eighties, were not pretty. There was too much neon, too many hop turns. There was a new sport—snowboarding—to ridicule and a myopic ski industry to rant against: Most American resorts wouldn't allow you to ski their gnarliest terrain. But, as the rebellious spirit and ripping action of 1988's Blizzard remind you, the birth of big-mountain skiing is still fun to watch.

20. For All Mankind
As this Oscar-nominated 1989 film demonstrates, the 12 men who walked on the moon's surface during the six Apollo landings between 1969 and 1972 were some of the most intrepid explorers in our history. Director Al Reinert and editor Susan Korda culled through 6,000 hours of NASA footage—and set it to a quietly rapturous Brian Eno score—to create this composite view of a complete moon mission from liftoff to splashdown.

IMPACT
21. An Inconvenient Truth
Did Al Gore—with those cartoons of Mr. Sunbeam and greenhouse-gas goblins—oversimplify the facts? Were the projections showing Manhattan underwater too dire? Did he turn himself into a lightning rod for skeptics? Perhaps. But Davis Guggenheim's 2006 film on Gore's nationwide campaign to sound the climate-change alarm works because of Gore's lecturing style: patient, accessible, and scarily informed. The film permanently elevated the national discourse on the most crucial issue of our time.

22. Who Killed the Electric Car?
While Martin Sheen's narration is occasionally wooden, this 2006 murder mystery is otherwise pitch perfect. The victim here is the General Motors EV-1, a concept car that was released to California drivers in 1996 in response to the state's 1990 Zero Emissions Vehicle Mandate, only to be literally thrown on a scrap heap in 2003. Director Chris Paine finds plenty of Big Oil and Big Auto villains, but he lays equal blame on us consumers, and avoids turning his film into an anticapitalist screed. Who Killed demonstrates that we had the technology to usher in the era of the smart car long before Toyota did, and long before Detroit had to beg for a bailout.

23. Food, Inc.
Super Size Me, Morgan Spurlock's 2004 McDonald's binge, was more popular, but Food, Inc. stands as the signal culinary documentary of our time. With images like headless chickens shuttling down factory lines, the Robert Kenner–directed film offers a quick and very dirty crash course in subjects we knew we were wary of—Uncle Sam's subsidization of the corn industry; feedlots; E. coli; genetically modified crops—but until now had never seen in such graphic terms.

24. Gasland
An exposé on clean natural gas's dirty secrets? We don't hear you stampeding to theaters. But Josh Fox's new film is a fresh successor to investigative docs like Food, Inc. Fox is Michael Moore without the ranting: Approached by energy companies hoping to drill on his Pennsylvania land, he sets out on a cross-country road trip to explore the side effects of drilling. Everywhere he goes, he finds Americans reporting illnesses and some of the mankiest-looking water this side of Bangalore. With natural gas touted as the savior to our energy woes, this film is one you won't want to miss. And wait'll you see the pyrotechnics. Many characters in this movie can—and will!—set their water on fire.

25. The Cove
Night-vision goggles, bad guys wielding harpoons, corrupt cops, hidden cameras—never has environmentalism seemed this exciting. This exposé of the now infamous dolphin slaughter in Taiji, Japan, plays like a thriller, right up to the denouement—activist Ric O'Barry walking into an International Whaling Commission meeting with footage of the hunt playing on a video monitor strapped to his chest. The Cove won the 2010 Oscar for Best Documentary, and established director Louie Psihoyos as the anti–Paul Watson, a guy who spurs change with his camera, not his antics.

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Top 10 Ways to Avoid a Motorcycle Accident - Guest Post by Gina Williams

When Gina Williams of Houston, Texas, requested to write about motorcycle safety for my blog, I thought at first that she didn't realize that I am bicyclist not a motorcycle rider. But I quickly decided her topic was important since we all share the road: bicycles, motorcycles, cars. Plus, I can immediately think of 10 friends who ride motorcycles and want them and all riders to be safer. Tragically, Gina lost a good friend to a motorcycle death. This loss inspired her to spread the word on safety through this website. Please share this post with other motorcycle riders and friends. Here's Gina's list:

Top 10 Ways to Avoid a Motorcycle Accident
For every motorcycle on the road, there are nearly 40 passenger vehicles.  Yet slightly more than 1 in every 10 accidents in the United States involves a motorcycle.  Motorcyclists are much more vulnerable to injuries and death in the event of an accident.  Given this, motorcyclists must take every precaution to protect themselves on the road. Below is a list of 10 ways to avoid being involved in a motorcycle accident (in random order).
Full Gear Versus Fool's Gear! Photo Credit: National Association of State Motorcycle Safety Administrators
1. Be Aware of Fellow Motorists.
Motorcyclists must be fully aware at all times of their fellow motorists in order to act quickly in the event of a possible collision.  
• 56% of crashes that result in a motorcyclists’ deaths were multiple-vehicle crashes
• Of those multiple-vehicle crashes, 89% involved only 2 vehicles
• For the passenger vehicle drivers involved in two-vehicle motorcycle crashes, 35% of the driver-related factor was failure to yield right-of-way; failure to yield right-of-way is generally caused by a driver’s inability to see a motorcyclist.  
Source: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) published 2007 report after analyzing fatality data of two-vehicle motorcycle crashes from 2001 to 2005.  

2. Be Aware of Your Surroundings.
Constantly check the road ahead of you for possible hazards, such as animals, debris, and roadway defects.  Hazards can be a direct or an indirect cause of an accident, i.e. avoiding a hazard can be the cause of an accident.  

3. Follow the Road Laws.
Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol and speeding are known causes of motorcycle accidents.  According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, motorcyclists were found to have engaged either in drugs, alcohol, or excessive speeds in 90 percent of motorcycle accidents involving no other motorists.  

4Do Not Lane Split. Also known as lane sharing, lane splitting is only legally allowed in California.  Lane splitting in other states puts you at risk; other motorists do not expect it, and thus they will not watch for motorcyclists engaging in it.  It simply isn’t safe!

5. Practice Preventative Measures.
Practice preventative measures, such as gripping your bike’s handlebars properly.  Holding your handlebars in a ready position for emergency braking is just one preventative measure you can take to protect yourself.

6. Practice Preventative Skills.
Periodically practice your preventative skills.  Emergency braking is perhaps the most important of these skills.  Laying your bike on its side is no longer the safest option in emergency situations, braking is.  Find a safe location and practice emergency braking; use both your front and back brakes.

7. Rid Yourself of Distractions.
Advanced motorcycle safety classes can save lives
Stow cellphones, your iPod, and other distractions while driving.  Wear properly fitting clothes so that you can ride comfortably and without constantly adjusting straps, strings, etc.

8Safely Position Yourself on the Road.
Always try to position yourself in a lane that will allow you the most room possible if you need to avoid an accident. In most instances, this will the lane closest to the shoulder of the road.

9. Take a Motorcycle Safety Course.
Motorcycle safety courses are not just for beginners. Advanced safety courses for seasoned riders exist as well.  They serve as a resource for new information and a refresher course for old information.

10. Wear Proper Motorcycle Gear.
Wearing a helmet, protective clothing, shoes, and gloves are a must for motorcyclists. Helmets save thousands of lives every year according to the NHTSA. Protective clothing, shoes and gloves protect riders from the elements and injuries in the event of a crash; additionally, proper shoes and gloves help riders maintain a proper grip on their vehicle. Wearing brightly colored gear is just another precaution you can take as it makes it more likely that you will be seen by other motorists.

Gina Williams is a writer based in Houston, Texas, who is passionate about educating people about motorcycle safety tips. She currently rides a Yamaha FZ1 as a hobby, not as a daily commuter.
For more on safety and Gina's writing, visit http://www.motorcycleaccident.org/motorcycle-accidents-statistics-and-possible-causes.


NOTE from Karen:

1. Here's a good source for motorcycle safety, written by Geoff Drake: http://www.amazon.com/Smooth-Riding-Pridmore-Way-Reg/dp/1884313469/ref=ntt_at_ep_dpi_2
Smooth Riding the Pridmore Way
www.amazon.com

2.  At least motorcycles can't text well driving! (I hope). This is scary info in this article.

"Despite laws, more drivers texting behind the wheel" - Chicago Sun-Times
 http://www.suntimes.com/lifestyles/9332524-423/despite-laws-more-drivers-texting-behind-the-wheel.html

www.suntimes.com


Tuesday, December 06, 2011

10 Best Bicycling Blogs List 2011 from Outside Magazine - What's Missing?


Karen Kefauver's Outdoor Blogging Office (One Warm Afternoon)
"The Top 10 Biking Blogs — The best sites for expert race commentary, gear reviews, and bike porn," compiled by Aaron Gulley and published November 28, 2011, has made me wonder:

What are your picks for the best blogs for cyclists? (And unlike this list, please DO include ones like Velo News, Pink Bike, etc.)

* In my previous blog post, I summarized Outside Magazine's Top 10 Adventure Blog Websites.

Despite Gulley's disclaimer: "Before you get your chamois in a knot over all the killer pages I neglected and start sending hate mail about how out of touch I am, let me say this: These picks are personal, somewhat arbitrary, and based on the frequency I visit the blogs and the regularity that I ride away with something useful" there are plenty of heated comments. 

In the 30+ comments generated on this post, many were dismayed that these 2 blogs were not on the list: Drunk Cyclist and All Hail the Black Market. As for me, I am partial to Richard Masoner's Cyclicious.
Typing and biking go together, just not at the same time. 

"There are tons of great sites out there that provide detailed, ongoing bike news and coverage (e.g. CyclingNews, Velo News, PinkBike, etc.)," said Gulley. "These aren't them. What I look for in a blog is analysis and opinion beyond the headlines and quirky bits that make me scratch my head or laugh out loud. These sites do that, so go check them out."






Saturday, December 03, 2011

Outside Magazine's List of 70 Best Adventure and Outside Sports Blogs

I salue these fellow bloggers who were selected "The Best Of" by Outside Magazine writers and editors. Ten blogs were selected from these 7 categories: adventure, environment, gear, biking, climbing, fitness and running. Out of these 7, my favorites are adventure and biking, so please find below one handy list of advnture blogs that I have restructured for faster reading! My next post will be on the bicycling blogs.

Credit for the content goes to: OUTSIDE ONLINE, Nov. 30, 2011
THE 70 BEST ADVENTURE AND OUTDOOR SPORTS BLOGS


Good for: Media reviews and adventure news from local papers
Written by: Wend staff and ambassadors

Good for: Viral videos.
Written by: Pete Thomas, Tom Morin, and crew.

Good for: News of the weird.
Written by: Chris Owen on ocean travel, Jessica Festa on international travel, Laurel Miller on food and drink, and a handful of guest contributors.

Good for: Quirky outdoor facts
Written by: Edward Abbey-quoting, vintage-picture-finding journalist Jeffrey Thrope

Good for: Jaw-dropping videos and photos from the ends of the earth
Written by: Photographer and climber Jimmy Chin, expedition leader Conrad Anker, skier Ingrid Backstrom, and, well, you get the idea

Good for: Expedition updates
Written by: Austin, Texas-based blogger Kraig Becker, owner of the twitter handle @KungFuJedi

Good for: Easy listening
Written by: Do-it-all multimedia guru Fitz Cahall, cofounder of the web video series Tracing the Edge and The Season

Good for: A daily adventure fix
Written by: Veteran adventure travel editor Mary Anne Potts, Steve Casimiro on gear, Aparna Ragagopal-Durbin on outdoor skills, and a handful of other contributors

Good for: Multiple daily adventure quick hits
Written by: Veteran gear and adventure blogger Rocky Thompson, with news hits from Adventure Journal

Good for: All things adventure
Written by: Steve Casimiro, former editor of Powder and Bike, and Michael Frank, a former editor at Esquire and Bicycling.



Sunday, September 25, 2011

Hong Kong--coming to the end of our trip

This is the first time I have had an internet connection in more than a week. We've been very busy the past two days. Today in Hong Kong we got up at 6 a.m., took 4 buses, and went through 2 customs check points. The other day we took an amazing 24 hour scenic train ride across Tibet, then had a city tour on a bus before we went to the airport for a 5 hour flight.

Alas, I am vincible! The cigarette smoke in China has finally caught up with me. I am better now though still a little congested and tired. My kind travel mates were well-stocked in over the counter meds which helped me.


It is 10 30 p.m. in Hong Kong on the eleventh floor of my hotel. I will wake up at 6

a.m. to catch a bus to the airport to return home at 7 a.m.




Sunday, September 18, 2011

Halfway Point in Imagine Tours China Biking Trip

It's been a whirlwind trip, day after day packed with adventures!
I have just hit the halfway point in the 20-day trip. Tomorrow, our group leaves for Tibet. We leave our hotel at 3:30 a.m. to get to the airport for an early flight. I am excited - and very tired, too. We have a quick overnight in Chengdu, one of the larger and wealthier cities in China.
So far, Dali has been a favorite city. And after that, we went to Lijiang and ShangriLa. Here are a few photos to share! Also. my story on bicycling in China appeared in the my monthly bike column, Spin City. Here's a link to the story online.

Karen Kefauver Spin City Learning the Rules of the Road in China ...
Dali, China I survived my first bicycle ride in China. I felt like a little kid on training wheels -- scared, uncertain and thrilled, too.
www.santacruzsentinel.com/sports/ci_18908372

Adventures in Dining

Tiger Leaping Gorge

We cycled to the famous Stone Drum Town along a beautiful river (round trip 20 km), known here as the Jinsha River. Then we continued to cycle about 40 km to Tiger Leaping Gorge. Here we admired the majestic snow capped peaks of Jade Dragon Snow Mountain and Haba Mountain above us. We hiked to the Gorge (round trip about 5 km). We spent the night at Yi Xiang Hotel in the town of Tiger Leaping Gorge.

Karen at Tiger Leaping Gorge, the world's deepest gorge

Bai Village Outside Dali

We cycled out of Dali city through the rolling and beautiful countryside, experiencing the local rural life as we pedaled through several Naxi and Yi minority villages on our way to Lijiang. We had a picnic on the road and in the late afternoon transfered by bus to Lijiang. This UNESCO World Heritage site of ageless charm is home to the Naxi, an ancient matriarchal society descended from Tibetan nomads.

We visited a colorful market in a Bai village.


We cycled past this Naxi woman who represents an ancient matriarchal society descended from Tibetan nomads.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Exploring Dali in Yunnan Province

We hit the road on our comfy private bus, all 15 of us tired and excited to see another new city, Dali. So far we have been to Beijing, then flew to Kunming and drove to Dali.
Our bus trip from Kunming, the capital of the Yunnan province to Dali, in the same province, took more than five hours including stops.

One stop was at an odd dinosaur theme park, which also claimed to be a center of scientific study. Here Barbara plays with the Tyrannosaurus rex.

My favorite part of the theme park exterior (we didn't want to pay to go inside) was these tall walls. Everything built in the public domain in China is massive, huge, expansive - that hit home in Beijing after walking miles and miles thru Tiananmen Square, the Forbidden City and the Summer Palace.



Not everyone drives a traditional car!



Once we arrived in Dali, we explored the old town section. Tourism is now Dali's top source of revenue. In fact, the main drag has been renamed Foreigner's Street and is filled with vendors and tourists.


We got on our bikes and got outside the city.

We saw some crops being tended to.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Beijing Acrobats and then on to Kunming in Yunnan


What a surprise and delight to see Philip MacMaster for the first time since 2007. We met in Whistler, Canada, at the Adventure Travel Trade Association conference and have kept in touch since then. I was delighted he came to our Beijing hotel, met our Imagine Tours group and was kind enough to be our after-dinner guide to show us the spectacular performing arts center

Today, in Dali, a smaller city on the Yunnan province, our group got our bicycles, new Giant mountain bikes, provided by Grand China Bike Tours. We aspire to do tricks like these by the end of the tour. These acrobats were in Beijing - note the ones on the bottom look a little less happy.

The acrobatics show made me vow to do more stretching on the road. My yoga practice has fallen by the wayside here in China.
.
Our group is 15 total, including Nancy Redpath, the Imagine Tours organizer. Two members of our gang are not in this picture which was taken in Kunming, the capital of the Yunnan province in southern China.


One thing our group excels at is eating! This delicious soup is a specialty in Kunming.

Rickshaw Tour of Beijing Gave Behind the Scenes View of Neighborhood

One of my favorite activities so far was an hour-long rickshaw bike tour in one of the neighborhoods of Beijing. No, I didn't do the cycling myself, I just climbed into the back while our "driver" pedaled us along, two of us per bicycle rickshaw. This was a great opportunity to squeeze through narrow alley way like streets and see how people go about their daily lives. It was about 5 p.m. when we set out on this tour, so many people were coming home from work. Here are a few pictures. I especially liked spotting an older woman checking out the rickshaw while it was parked.














Friday, September 09, 2011

Night time stroll in Beijing September 9

Last night, after dinner at a hotel, our group walked about an hour to try and find a street celebration of Autumn Festival, a major holiday that ranks up there with New Year. It is a time to celebrate family and the harvest season - there is a full moon. Naturally, I was most interested in trying the Moon Cookies - but alas, we found no cookies or celebration. Happily, we did stumble upon some adorable kids racing on their inline skates and eager parents cheering them on in what appeared to be amateur, but spirited races. Nearby, we were astonished and mesmerized by the recently built performing arts center, nicknamed, "The Egg." We were treated to an amazing light display as the building appeared, blue, purple, silver, alternatively as huge spot lights beamed upon it. Truly space age and breath-taking. All the more so because the builiding was surrounded by a reflecting pool. This was a highlight so far and all the more delightful because we just stumbled up on it - not part of our "official tour."


Kids racing on inline skates

Amazing light show for the new performing art center known as The Egg

Building turned blue, purple, silver, as huge colored spot lights beamed upon it

Silver Egg

Bookstore in Beijing September 9

This huge bookstore was packed with people. Very reassuring to see a bookstore with such a huge bustling, buying populations, kind of like Apple stores in the U.S.

Large statue celebrating reading

Busy bookstore in Beijing

Beijing September 9

People Watch Report: People in Beijing are more fashionable that I expected, wearing jeans and Western-style clothes; almost no one on the streets wears hats, sunglasses or helmets (on scooters or bicycles).
A few fellow bikers from my Imagine Tours group celebrate in the lobby of Guangzhou Hotel

No sunglasses or hats but women do carry umbrellas

More fashion-conscious than I had imagined

Watch out for the Dumplings! September 9

I made it to Beijing after the longest flight of my life - 12 hours - which got longer when our United flight was delayed 2.5 hours by mechanical problems. On the flight, I met most of our 15-person group and instantly liked our group leader, Nancy Redway, the owner of Imagine Tours, based in Davis, California. Very quick "check out" of Beijing Airport and our private bus took us through the rush hour traffic to our hotel, an hour's drive. Rush hour is no joke in a city of 9 million people. I slept a solid 8 hours at our hotel Guanghzou Hotel (http://www.bjgzds.com.cn)

Biggest danger in Beijing, besides smog, crazy traffic and cigarette smoke in the hotel, is the dumplings! They were served at our breakfast buffet.I could live on these fattening treats.

The dumplings were delicious--and addictive.

Imagine Tours: Karen's China Bike Trip

IMAGINE TOURS / GRAND CHINA BIKE TOURS

2011 China's Yunnan & Tibet Cycling Tour with Beijing extension

September 8: ARRIVAL IN BEIJING. After clearing customs and claiming your baggage, your tour guide will meet you at the airport and you’ll transfer to our hotel, located in the heart of the city. You can join other arriving participants to do some sightseeing for a day at leisure. Overnight at a 4-star hotel Beijing [extra cost is $80 US per room].

September 9: BEIJING. Plan to arrive in China’s vibrant capital at least by mid-afternoon, but most flights arrive in the morning. This evening the group will enjoy a special Beijing Food tonight. Overnight at a 4-star hotel Beijing [included in tour fees].

Day 4: September 10. BEIJING. Start your day with a visit to the Forbidden City, the former seat of the emperors throughout the Ming and Qing dynasties. It’s a true architectural masterpiece and home to the National Palace Museum. After lunch you'll visit the Summer Palace, built in classical Chinese style in 1750 as a royal recreational resort. Among its famous features are the 700-meter-long corridor with its wonderful Painted Gallery, the Marble Barge, and several magnificently painted pavilions and pagodas. Tonight you'll enjoy a mesmerizing acrobatic show. Overnight at a 4-star hotel in Beijing.

Day 5: September 11. BEIJING. On today’s exciting excursion you’ll scale the ramparts of the legendary Great Wall, built 2600 years ago and extending over 3,700 miles. Walk atop this ancient wonder of the world, one of the two man-made structures seen by US astronaut Neil Armstrong from outer space. Next you’ll visit the Ming Tombs, the burial place of thirteen emperors of the Ming Dynasty and their families. Overnight at a 4-star hotel in Beijing.

Day 6: September 12. BEIJING / KUNMING. This morning we will fly to Kunming ( 07:35 -10:55), your tour guide will meet and transfer to our hotel. We'll have a city tour in the afternoon, if time permits. Overnight at a 4-star hotel in Kunming.

Day 7: September 13: DALI. We’ll have an early breakfast in hotel, then transfer by bus to Dali, home to over 1.5 million Bai minority people whose culture, crafts and warm hospitality create its renowned laid-back atmosphere. Lunch will be served in our hotel. In the afternoon we'll take our bicycles for a test ride and adjustments, then cycle to the Park of Three Pagodas and around the old town of Dali. There are plenty of places to explore or cafes to visit within the town's old city walls. Overnight at a 4-star hotel in Dali.

Day 8: September 14: DALI. This morning we cycle on the scenic and rolling road around the gorgeous Er Hai Lake (60km). The Cang Shan Mountains rise behind Dali city as we skirt the shores of this huge inland sea, passing through fishing villages and farming communities. A picnic lunch will be served on the road. Alternatively, visit the colorful Shaping markets and the preserved architecture of Xizhou. Overnight at 4-star hotel in Dali.

Day 9: September 15. LIJIANG. After breakfast at the hotel we'll cycle out of Dali city on the rolling and beautiful countryside. Experience the local rural life as we pedal through several Naxi and Yi minority villages on our way to Lijiang. We’ll have a picnic on the road and in the late afternoon transfer by bus to Lijiang. This UNESCO World Heritage site of ageless charm is home to the Naxi, an ancient matriarchal society descended from Tibetan nomads. Overnight at 4-star hotel in Lijiang.

Day 10: September 16: TIGER LEAPING GORGE. Today we head off along the Tibetan Highway for dramatic Tiger Leaping Gorge, the world's deepest gorge. On the way we'll visit the ancient Stone Drum Town set on the first bend of the Yangtze River. Here the Yangtze makes sudden V-shaped bend, nearly 180-degrees, and creates beautiful views. At the river's bend stands Stone Drum (Shigu) Town, named after a drum-shaped marble plaque commemorating the victory of Lijiang's Naxi ruler over an invading Tibetan army. We cycle to the famous Stone Drum Town along a beautiful river (round trip 20 km), known here as the Jinsha River, then we continue to cycle about 40 km to Tiger Leaping Gorge. Here we can admire the majestic snow capped peaks of Jade Dragon Snow Mountain and Haba Mountain above us. We'll hike to the Gorge (round trip about 5 km). Overnight at Yi Xiang Hotel in the town of Tiger Leaping Gorge.

Day 11: September 17: SHANGRI-LA. After our breakfast at the hotel we cycle 60km on a scenic and challenging road to Shangri-La (Zhongdian). We’ll stop for a picnic lunch on the road, and in the afternoon we cycle through beautiful Tibetan villages to Zhongdia. Visit the Songzanlin Monastery which was built 300 years ago under the instruction of the 5th Dalai Lama. Now there are still 800 monks and 3 living Buddhas inside.

Day 12: September 18: SHANGRI-LA / LIJIANG / CHENGDU. After our breakfast at the hotel we transfer back to Lijiang. We will pedal about 30 km to Yunshanping of Jade Snow Mountain. At this scenic spot a ski lift has been built with a view of the majestic snow capped peaks of Jade Dragon Snow Mountain above us. Sightseeing at Yunshanping of Jade Snow Mountain. Later afternoon we'll will fly to Chengdu (17:40 -18:50). Meet and transfer to our hotel. Overnight at 3 star hotel in Chengdu.

Day 13: September 19: CHENGDU / LHASA / SHANNAN. Early morning we'll fly to Lhasa (06:30-08:30), our tour guide will meet us at airport and transfer to Shannan (Tsedang) by bus. On the way you'll enjoy spectacular scenery, driving through typical Tibetan villages and past Yak-skin boats cruising the Yalung Zangbo River. In the afternoon we'll cycle to Yumbulakhang Palace and Traduk Monastery. Overnight at 3-star hotel in Shannan.

Day 14: September 20: TO BE DECIDED

Day 15: TO BE DECIDED

Day 16: September 22: TO BE DECIDED

Day 17: September 23. XINING / GUANGZHOU. Early morning we will arrive in Xining, our guide will meet us and transfer to city center for breakfast. We'll have a city tour in Xining. In the afternoon we'll transfer to airport to fly to Guangzhou (16:50 --21:45). Meet and transfer to our hotel in Guangzhou. Overnight at 4-star hotel in Guangzhou.

Day 18: September 24. GUANGZHOU. Visit Sun Yat-Sen Memorial Hall, Memorial Hall of the Chen Family, Temple of Six Banyan Trees. Tonight enjoy the dinner with famous Cantonese local flavor. Overnight at 4 star hotel in Guangzhou. (B,L,D).

Day 19: September 25. HONG KONG. Breakfast at the hotel, then take an early express train to Hong Kong and transfer to hotel on your own by taxi. Overnight included at 3-star hotel in Hong Kong. Dinner is not included in tour package. Additional days in Hong Kong are an option (all Imagine Tours cyclists will stay an additional day).

Day 20: September 26. Imagine Tours cyclists depart. Breakfast in the hotel, then transfer to Hong Kong Airport on your own by shuttle bus from hotel. Depart for US and arrive in the US on the same day!

I love welcome home messages! Feel free to call and know that I may be very out of it with jet lag for several days! See you in 3 weeks!

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

In Transit! Santa Cruz to San Francisco to Beijing

It's strange to think that on September 11, 2011, I'll be on the Great Wall of China, for the somber 10-year marker of the 9-11 attacks. For now, though I am focused on getting to Beijing. I'm at San Francisco Airport now.
My trip so far, by the numbers:

2:30 a.m. - Time I went to sleep

5:00 a.m. - Time I got up

1 stop - at Emily's Bakery for pumpkin muffins and sandwiches for the plane ride

8 a.m. - Time Saskia got me to San Francisco Airport

33 pounds - weight of my 1 checked suitcase! (with 50 pound allowance)

40 minutes - time to get thru security line

1 - thing I forgot so far: hairbrush

1 - thing I miss already but deliberately left at home: my cell phone

12 hours - flight time directly from San Francisco to Beijing (United)

133 - number of yuan, Chinese currency that I have (thanks Bobby!) About $20

16 hours - China is 16 hours ahead of Santa Cruz time - it's tomorrow there already!







Sunday, September 04, 2011

My First Trip to China is a Bicycle Tour - Travel Preparation is Challenging!

The flag of the People's Republic of China is a red background with five golden stars: one large star, with four smaller stars in a semicircle. The red represents revolution; the five stars and their relationship represent the unity of the Chinese people under the leadership of the Communist Party of China (CPC). This flag is flown in Mainland China, Hong Kong, and Macau.
I'm so excited to ride my bike in China on a guided, organized trip in September with Imagine Tours. I'm less excited trying to figure out what I need to pack for a 21-day trip that includes, planes, trains and bicycling. Happily, I don't have to carry my gear on my bike while I am riding - my suitcase will be in a car. Stay tuned here on this blog for China trip details. Click here if you want to get email notices when this blog is updated with new posts and photos.
There is a suitcase buried underneath my pile of stuff. Packing light is NOT my specialty! I need either a bigger suitcase or less stuff!





Wednesday, August 31, 2011

10 Great Cities for Cycling by Karen Kefauver on MSN Local


Great Cities for Cycling

1. Austin, Texas

2. Boise, Idaho

3. Boulder, Colorado

4. Davis, California

5. Minneapolis, Minnesota

6. New York, New York

7. Portland, Oregon

8. San Francisco, California

9. Seattle, Washington

10. Washington, D.C.

This story of mine, Great Cities for Cycling,  appeared in July online on MSN and has generated many thoughtful comments.  I want to share these comments (see at bottom of this post) which reached me via email, my website and Facebook, with fellow cyclists. It's exciting to see so many people passionate about biking in their cities. Hopefully, next time I write a bicycling story, I can have the top 50 cities instead of just the top 10. 

*If any of these links do not work, please view the 10 Best Cycling Cities on my website, karenkefauver.com.

August 2011 MSN.com
By Karen Kefauver

Biking is a great way to see a city. It's good exercise, easy on the wallet and good for the environment.

It's even more fun to ride if you know where to go, where to find a good bike shop and how to connect with local riders.  A city’s bicycle community can point you in the right direction for the type of riding you like.

These cities (with populations of 10,000 or more) stand out as some of the best "cycling towns" in the U.S.  Find out why these cities are two-wheeled wonderlands, and discover a route or two from an insider.


Austin, Texas

Think about biking and Texas and Lance Armstrong may come to mind. But you don't have to be a Tour de France champion or a Texas native to have a fantastic cycling experience in Austin. The Austin bike culture is so strong that on any given week there are a dozen rides, races and bike events. No wonder: The City of Austin has developed one of the finest trail systems in the nation with more than 193 miles of well-surfaced scenic paths following natural greenbelts into all areas of the city.

Grab an Austin bicycle map published by the City of Austin Bicycle Program at one of the city's bike shops and start exploring the featured 315 square miles of riding.

Insider Tip: The last Friday of every month is Austin's Critical Mass, a group ride that is part of a worldwide movement of bicyclists aiming to take back the streets. Also, pay a visit to Lance Armstrong's bike shop, Mellow Johnny's.

Ride: Visit the Town Lake Hike and Bike Trail for an easy ride with great views of the lake and the Austin skyline. This giant park contains 10.1 miles of hiking and biking trails. The trail around the lake is mostly flat, fairly wide and very popular.

Other Bike Routes in Central Austin:

Shoal Creek to Pleasant Valley and Oltorf
Transit: Most city buses have bike racks on the front that can hold multiple bikes.

Bike Shops
Austinbikes | Bicycle Sports Shop | Nelo's Cycles

Resources
Austin Bike Routes | Bicycle Austin | Austin Cycling Association | City of Austin 


Boise, Idaho

Stroll around downtown Boise on a warm day and you'll see throngs of cyclists — and packed bike racks. The variety of cruisers, mountain bikes and road bikes shows that biking is a beloved way of life here.

For cyclists, the Boise Foothills beckon as they rise above Idaho's capitol and largest city. There you'll find a network of roads and trails through the hills that link neighborhoods with public lands. With over 130 miles of trails, there is something for everyone.

Insider Tip: Check out the nonprofit bike co-op, Boise Bicycle Project. There you can buy used bicycles and parts, work on your own bikes and volunteer.

Ride: Camel's Back Park, in north Boise, is a popular cycling hub because it's a convenient and scenic central meeting place for access to riding in the foothills. Ride lengths vary.

Other Bike Routes: Toll Road Trail #27A / Cottonwood Creek Trail #27;
Owl's Roost #37 / Red Fox Trail #36

Transit: City buses are equipped with bike racks that hold two bikes.


Boulder, Colorado

From hard-core mountain biking to cruising on the gorgeous Boulder Creek Path, there's a ride for cyclists of all skill levels. If you see a cyclist going super fast, don't compare yourself! Boulder is home to many of the country's top professional racers.

Ninety-five percent of Boulder's streets are bike-friendly; 120 miles of trails are in the greenbelt that surrounds the city; and there are 300-plus miles of bike lanes, routes, designated shoulders and paths that make Boulder a pedaling paradise.

Groups like Community Cycles strive to educate and advocate for the safe use of bicycles and teaches about bicycle repair and maintenance. Forget driving; it’s faster to get around Boulder on a bike.

Insider Tip: Boulder Indoor Cycling offers a 142-meter long, state-of-the-art velodrome and the only indoor mountain biking facility in the Denver metro area. The indoor cycle track is open to both elite and recreational cyclists.

Bike Routes in Boulder: Road riders use U.S. Highway 36 for their training and recreational rides into the mountains or toward the plains. Also, Boulder Creek Path (east-west), along its seven-mile stretch, passes several city parks, a kayak slalom course, fishing ponds, a sculpture garden, the public library, a fish observatory and classic cottonwood groves.

Transit: All buses (except the 16th Street FREE? MallRide) are equipped with bike racks on the front of the bus. They can hold two bikes and are available on a first-come, first-served basis. Bikes can be loaded at all bus stops except those marked “Non-bicycle stop.” Two-wheeled adult (except recumbent bikes) and children’s bikes fit on the bus bike racks.

Bike Shops
Full Cycle Bikes | University Bicycles | Boulder Cycle Sport


Davis, Calif.

Davis was one of the first cities in the United States to actively start planning for and incorporating the bicycle into its transportation infrastructure. This started in the 1960s. Maybe that's why the number of bikes now exceeds the number of cars here.

The extensive network of bike paths and the mostly flat land make bicycling an attractive mode of transportation for many. Plus, the city of Davis actively encourages bicycle travel for both transportation and recreation. For example, keep an eye out for traffic lights designed specifically for cyclists.

Insider Tip: It makes sense that the U.S. Bicycling Hall of Fame is in Davis. Visitors can pay homage to their favorite American cycling legends with a trip to see the exhibits and other special events.

Bike Routes in Davis: The 12-mile-long Davis Bike Loop is a winding path that flows through the Greenbelt. It passes through tunnels, bridges and runs mostly on paths and trails, but has some sections on quiet residential streets. The route is safe and pleasant, but not designed for speed demons. A perfect ride for relaxing on the bike!

Other Bike Route: View Davis' architectural history from the seat of your bicycle in a historic tour that passes 26 of Davis' landmarks, including Davis Community Church, the Dresbach-Hunt-Boyer House, the Boy Scout Cabin, the Southern Pacific Depot, the Old Davis City Hall, the Avenue of Trees, and the Davis Subway.

Transit: Buses are equipped with bike racks. Also, buses connect to Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) trains that allow bikes, except during select peak hours.

Bike Shops
B & L Bikeshop | Wheelworks | Apex Cycles

Resources
City of Davis | Davis Bike Club |  U.S. Bicycling Hall of Fame | Bike Davis


Minneapolis, Minn.

Despite the freezing winters, Minneapolis has a thriving bike community that has received many awards including the League of American Bicyclists’ Bicycle Friendly Community Award. It has earned this recognition with 46 miles of streets that have dedicated bicycle lanes and 84 miles of off-street bicycle paths.

Minneapolis is home to Nice Ride Minnesota, the Bike Walk Ambassadors, and the Midtown Bike Center. Yes, you can bike in the winter; the city offers indoor bike parking and other cycling-friendly facilities.

Insider Tip: Freewheel Midtown Bike Center is a joint effort of Allina Health Systems and the City of Minneapolis to provide a full service bike transportation station, complete with long/short term bike storage, bike rentals, cafe, repair classes and even a public shop where you can do your own maintenance. There's also a full service repair shop, bicycle and accessory sales and public restrooms and showers.

Bike Routes in Minneapolis: Also known as America’s first bicycle freeway, the Cedar Lake Trail is a 3.5-mile path connecting St Louis Park with Downtown and the Mississippi River. From west to east, three separated lanes (one for pedestrians and two for bicyclists) run past Cedar Lake, through restored tall grass prairie, next to a commuter rail line, under the Twins Ballpark, and finally to the Mississippi River. The trail connects to other important bicycle facilities such as Cedar Lake Parkway, the Kenilworth Trail, the Luce Line Trail, the Downtown bike network, and West River Parkway.

Transit:
 Metro Transit encourages cyclists to take bicycles on buses and trains. All metro transit buses have a bike rack on the front.

Bike Shops
Freewheel Bike | Erik's Bike Shop | One on One Bicycle Studio & Go Coffee

Resources
Bicycling in Minnesota | MNTrails | Bicycle Alliance of Minnesota | Nice Ride Minnesota


New York, N.Y.

In June 2009, the city of New York reached its ambitious goal of building 200 bike-lane miles in all five city boroughs. In just three years, it nearly doubled the citywide on-street bike network while reshaping the city's streets to make them safer for everyone.

In addition, bicyclists were thrilled to get 4.9 miles of bike paths physically separated from car traffic lanes; 20 sheltered bike parking structures; and 3,100 bike racks. This means that biking in New York City is safer and better than ever.

Insider Tip: When riding on the street, look for “bike boxes.” These are advance waiting areas for bicyclists at intersections, in front of the “stop” line for cars. They increase the visibility of cyclists stopped at red lights.

Bike Routes in New York City: The Manhattan Waterfront Greenway is a 32-mile long walking and bicycling path around the island of Manhattan. Most of the Greenway is away from cars, although there are several sections that require street riding. This is a popular path and perfect for a moderate ride.

Other Bike Routes: Mark your calendar for the annual Five Boro Bike Tour. Five Boro participants pedal by iconic landmarks like the Empire State building, Brooklyn Bridge, historic Harlem, and the Statue of Liberty. More than 30,000 cyclists participated in 2010.

Public Transit: Overall, it’s great if you have a folding bike – they are allowed onboard all trains and don’t require a permit. The regulations vary extensively. The Metropolitan Transit Authority Web site has all the details.

Bike Shops
Bike and Roll | Central Park Bicycle Shop | Gotham Bikes Downtown | Bicycle Habitat

Resources
Bike New York | New York Cycle Club | Bike Snob NYC | City of New York (bicycle info)


San Francisco, Calif.

The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency is dedicated to helping promote bicycling, along with overseeing all the city’s transportation networks.

Already home to one of the most robust cycling communities in the nation, San Francisco aims for an even more robust bicycling future in its “San Francisco Bicycle Plan,” which calls for more education, bike lanes, bike parking and funding for bike projects.

Insider tip: “Healthy Saturdays” are a great opportunity to breathe in the beauty of Golden Gate Park. Every Saturday between April and September, JFK Drive is opened to fun activities for your family, like bicycling and rollerskating in between Tea Garden Drive (8th Avenue) and Transverse Drive.

Bike Routes in San Francisco: Biking over the spectacular Golden Gate Bridge is something you must experience! The views of the San Francisco Bay are phenomenal. Also, don't be discouraged by San Francisco's legendary hills. If you don't feel like testing your legs and lungs to the max, there are ways to avoid the infamous climbs. Then again, the hilly Marin headlands are paradise for road riders, and Mount Tam is where some of the mountain bike pioneers field-tested the sport of downhill riding.

Other Bike Routes: Bike the Marin Headlands: Conzelman Loop, Tennessee Beach and Miwok Trails
Bike Mt. Tamalpais and the Old Railroad Grade
Bike from Fisherman's Wharf to the Golden Gate Bridge to Sausalito

Transit: Bicycles are allowed on all Bay Area ferries and nearly all rail lines. Exceptions are San Francisco Muni Metro, historic streetcars and cable cars. Nearly all Bay Area public transit buses are equipped with bicycle racks. Exceptions are a number of San Francisco Muni bus routes, AC Transit small-bus vans and certain routes of other transit operators.

Bike Shops
Bike and Roll | The Bike Hut | American Cyclery | A Bicycle Odyssey (Sausalito)
Resources
San Francisco Bicycle Coalition | 511.org | Western Wheelers | San Francisco Mtn. Biking


Seattle, Wash.

Seattle has consistently been rated one of the top spots in the country for bicycling. Not surprisingly, a substantial proportion of Seattleites use their bicycles for recreation or transportation. It's estimated that about 36 percent of Seattle's 608,000 citizens engage in recreational bicycling, and between 4,000 and 8,000 people bicycle commute in Seattle each day, depending on the time of year and weather conditions.

The Seattle Department of Transportation's Bicycle Program has been working steadily toward developing an urban trail system to accommodate bicyclists. Urban trails include shared use paths, bike lanes, signed bike routes, arterials with wide shoulders, and pedestrian pathways. Seattle has about 45 miles of shared use paths, 120 miles of on-street, striped bike lanes and about 120 miles of signed bike routes.

Insider tip:
  A nice way to spend a lazy Saturday or Sunday is riding along Lake Washington Boulevard from Mount Baker Beach to the entrance of Seward Park. On alternating weekends the road is closed to cars, making for a lovely and leisurely lakeside ride.

Bike Routes in Seattle: The Burke Gilman Trail is a local favorite and one of the best bike trails in the Seattle area because of its variety as it snakes through parts of the city and around the northern end of Lake Washington. The trail extends all the way from Marymoor Park in Redmond all the way to the Fremont area and runs west of the University of Washington.

Other Bike Routes:
 The Green Lake trail is one of the best bike trails in the Seattle area because it's great for beginners and even more experienced riders. Green Lake Park has 323.7 acres, and it loops around Green Lake. It's maintained by the Seattle Parks and Recreation, so the asphalt surfaces are consistent and smooth. There are also lots of people around, so if you have mechanical problems, you know you'll always be able to find help. Since the trail loops around the lake, it's a nice waterfront ride. At the same time, it's in close proximity to urban Seattle. So you have all the elements of relaxing natural scenery and still have the excitement of being in Seattle.

Transit: If you would like to ride a bus while traveling with your bicycle, you now can do so -- at no additional cost! Metro has installed bike racks on the front of all its buses, providing a convenient way to "bike-and-ride." You may load and unload your bicycle at any Metro bus stop.

Bike Shops
Gregg's Cycles | 2020 Cycle | Wright Brothers Cycle Works | Velo Bike Shop | Bike Works

Resources

City of Seattle (bike maps) | King County Web site (biking information) | Seattle Bicycle Club | Evergreen Mountain Bike Alliance


Washington, D.C.

Washington, D.C. was the first major city in the United States to implement a bike-sharing program. Happily, it’s a very bicycle-friendly city. In the past two years, the city has added 11 miles of bicycle lanes and 10 miles of signed routes. In total, hundreds of miles of interconnected off-street trails and on-street bike routes make bicycling a pleasure for riders of every skill level.

Insider tip:  Check out the Bike 'N Ride Bicycle Program.

Bike Routes in Washington, D.C: The 184.5 mile long Chesapeake & Ohio Canal is located along the north bank of the Potomac River, starting in Washington, D.C. and ending in Cumberland, MD. Try riding just a short section! Built between 1828 and 1850, the canal became a National Historic Park in 1971. The canal's towpath remains a favorite of bicyclists. Want a really long haul? The Great Allegheny Passage Trail provides 330 traffic-free miles from Washington, D.C. to Pittsburgh, PA. Note: The towpath is not paved (the surface is typically clay and crushed stone), so it can be rough.

Other Bike Routes: The 13-mile Capital Crescent Trail is a wonderful Rail-to-Trail conversion. This route goes from K street in Georgetown to Downtown Bethesda. The first three miles parallel the C&O Towpath, then head up the hill through the affluent neighborhoods NW of DC. The first seven miles between Georgetown and Bethesda are paved. Once you arrive in Bethesda, you can continue east using the unpaved Georgetown Branch Trail to the Rock Creek Trail.

Bike Shops
Big Wheel Bikes | Bike and Roll | City Bikes | Capitol Hill Bikes 

Resources
Bike Washington | League of American Cyclists | Washington Area Bicyclists Association

Story Published via Switchyard Media