Although the temperature may say one thing and the late-winter snow adds further evidence of the cold, daylight savings and the calendar tell us that warmer weather is on its way for much of North America. It's time to think about dusting off that bike in the garage and plan a trip that allows you to experience parts of the U.S. you may have not seen before. While many of these trips are by nature active, some if not all of them permit you -- nay, encourage you -- to get off the path, slow down, and enjoy the towns you pass through. It's exercise, and yes it is work pedaling up and down hills, but it's also your vacation.
Back Roads (tel. 800/GO-ACTIVE; www.backroads.com) has bike trips around the world and offers a more upscale experience than you'd expect from a pedal yourself experience. The prices are higher perhaps than some other packagers but you're paying for flexibility of tours (you don't always have to finish every route and you can call for a pickup if you get sidetracked by something along the road) and you're paying for the more-than-average accommodations, good food, and expert guides. Take advantage of the warmer than usual weather in Alaska in June and July, for seven nights/eight days, priced from $3,298 per person. It's a challenging pass through South Alaska's aspen and cottonwood forests, and you'll stay at "casual inns." The company classifies this a multi-sport, as there is hiking and walking involved, too. You must get yourself to Anchorage, the departure point. In addition to seven nights at what the company terms "casual inns," all of your meals are included in this price, except for one dinner, along with internal flights in Alaska. Departures are June 30, July 30, and there's even a special trip for singles and solos leaving July 21. As with many of the company's trips, they provide you with several route options depending on your skill level and how many miles you want to rack up.
Taking a more laid-back, do-it-yourself approach is the Bicycle Adventure Club (tel. 858/715-9510; www.bicycleadventureclub.com) a non-profit organization that helps you pair with ride directors, who are basically volunteer club members who organize the rides and arrange logistics. Pay $50 for the membership upfront, bring your own bike, and participants take turns driving the van. Most trips are two weeks. There are tours available starting April 1 through late November in the United States and Canada. There is availability for six people, for example, on the Delaware Valley, Bucks County and environs trip, scheduled May 19-25 and rated as a 2C -- which means moderate terrain and 45-55 miles per day. The cost is cheap (estimated at $150 per person for the registration) but the actual cost will depend on where you stay, whether at a campground nearby, hostels, a bed and breakfast or motel either in Lambertville, NJ (the trip's beginning and end point) or in New Hope, Pa, just across the river.
In the summer, the club offers a Colorado Mountains, Valleys and Brewpubs trip estimated at $1,350 per person, with a $400 deposit. It's for the more advanced rider, though, and it starts in Dillon on August 18 and ends in Durango on August 30. Along the way, you ride through Fremont Pass, Twin Lakes, Aspen and McClure Pass, and stop at brewpubs and inns along the way.
Bicycle Adventures, unaffiliated with the aforementioned club, (tel. 800/443-6060; www.bicycleadventures.com) is offering a trip from Santa Fe to Taos for a route that basks in the natural beauty of the Southwest, which has inspired painters and artists such as Georgia O'Keeffe. Many of the company's trips involve more than one sport, and this one includes biking, hiking and river rafting and over the course of six days, Sunday through Friday. The trip, which is priced at $2,390, starts and ends in Santa Fe (you must get yourself there) and there are departures May 20, June 10 and September 9 and 30. All of your meals except for one lunch and dinner are included in the price. Plus, you get the expertise of the company's tour guides, lodging at unique and often award-winning properties, and gourmet meals
Bike Riders Tours (tel. 800/473-7040; www.bikeriderstours.com) has a Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket family trip for five nights and six days, priced from $2,480. The price includes all breakfast and all dinners except for one. Accommodations are at inns and you stay in Oak Bluffs and Nantucket. The company tries to keep the groups small, which enables bikers to see places larger groups can't; this trip is limited to 16. Expect to pedal 15-35 miles per day through Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket Island, with stops for ice cream a brewery, a trip on a lobster boat. You'll spend three nights at The Victorian Inn on Martha's Vineyard and two at the Jared Coffin House in Nantucket.
VBT (tel. 800.245-3868; www.vbt.com) has a web special for California wine country for May 13 -- the sale is good for $150 off for land-only. The trip's itinerary includes Napa, Sonoma, Dry Creek, Alexander and Russian River valleys, with a picnic in the Armstrong Redwoods Forest and a visit to historic Sonoma. You will pedal and stop periodically to sip the wines of Robert Mondavi, Mahoney Vineyards, and tour the Culinary Institute of America, just footsteps from vineyards itself. Rated easy-to-moderate, the tour averages 18-45 miles and priced from $1,695 includes five nights at inns, 12 meals, full van support, daily route directions and maps, admissions to wineries and other attractions, and use of VBT bicycles and helmets.
Escapades Bike Tours (tel. 202/232-1531; www.bikeescapades.com) has a trip April 15-21 through the Texas Hill Country, just in time for wildflowers. Pedal 20-45 miles per day through country roads with wildflowers on either side, as you see ranches, cacti, and the towns of Comfort, Utopia, Bandera and Lukenbach. The trip also includes a visit to Lyndon B. Johnson's ranch, Texas wineries, a wildflower farm, Lady Bird Johnson's Wildflower Center (she's the woman behind the colorful, historic initiative in Texas), and local antique shops -- the area's chockablock with the latter. The trips is priced at $1,795 for six nights/seven days, based on double occupancy and stays at B&Bs, inns, four dinners, all breakfasts and three picnic lunches. You also get van support and baggage handling, and transportation from Austin (you must get yourself there) to Fredericksburg. Of course, you also have the services of knowledgeable guides, and route maps and notes. An additional $135 for a hybrid bike, with helmet, water bottle and lock, is required, or $165 for a road bike.
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