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Free Wheeling : Bicyclists will be steering away from the cities and pedaling into a past that involves journeys along the back roads of Britain, the coast of Northern California, the cool byways of Canada, the paths of Provence and the salty shores of Cape Cod. They'll seek out quaint New England villages and Rocky Mountain retreats and spend lazy afternoons collecting shells along the Maine seashore with its sandpipers and tide pools.

June 18, 1989|JERRY HULSE | Times Travel Editor

As Americans gear up for fitness vacations this summer, bicyclists the world over are spinning their sprockets.

Alone and in groups, they'll be traveling peaceful back roads and towpaths and passing hedgerows and split-rail fences, scenes that will recall an era when

vacationers focused on the simple life and reaped the rewards of summer's sweet pleasures.

The world was gentler and more serene, and picking berries alongside a mountain meadow, as I recall, was far more satisfying than riding the jet stream.

It is for this reason that bicyclists will be steering away from the cities and pedaling into a past full of journeys along the back roads of Britain, the coast of Northern California, the byways of Canada, the paths of Provence and the salty shores of Cape Cod.

They'll seek out quaint New England villages and Rocky Mountain retreats, and spend lazy afternoons collecting shells along the Maine seashore with its sandpipers and tide pools.

Mile after mile they'll pass weathered barns and farmhouses and white-steepled churches that appear beside rolling hills and in fields of wind-blown grass. Other cyclists will attend concerts and nap beneath giant elms on the green.

In Colorado, Timberline Bicycle Tours is scheduling rides that will take in the awesome Uncompahgre National Forest, the Gunnison Valley and Slumgullion Pass.

Riders will pedal over mountain peaks into pastoral valleys and through forests where daylight turns to near-darkness. On a five-day tour labeled the Rocky Mountain Hilltopper ($465), bicyclists will ride from Denver to Boulder and onward to Estes Park and an alpine setting overlooking valleys and lakes. Afterward, they'll snooze at Estes Park's gracious Stanley Hotel, with its front-porch rockers and a dining room that brings to mind a lost moment in Colorado's colorful past.

Other groups will ride into Leadville, challenge Independence Pass at 12,095 feet and coast 18 miles downhill into Aspen to window-shop and join white-water rafters. After catching their breath, they'll spin off to the Roaring Fork and Crystal River valleys, where they'll rest the frame at historic Redstone Inn before detouring to Glenwood Springs, Vail and Breckenridge to end the seven-day ($525) trip.

Timberline Bicycle Tours produces other rides to Montana and Wyoming, Idaho, New Mexico, Oregon and the Canadian Rockies. A nine-day tour along the rugged Oregon coast and beyond to the Cascades is pegged at $695, including accommodations, breakfasts and dinners and a support van for luggage. During summer '89, Timberline will dispatch riders on 70 journeys to 20 national parks.

In Canada, Rocky Mountain Cycle Tours is putting together six-day camping trips through Banff and Jasper ($550) with a support trailer that features beds and showers. Other RMC tours take in Washington's San Juan Islands, the Big Island of Hawaii, New Zealand, West Germany, France and Japan.

Summer riders will pay $699 for six-day trips through Yellowstone with Backcountry Bicycle Tours of Montana. The price includes lodging, meals and refreshment breaks.

Backcountry is adding a six-day trip into Idaho's Sawtooth Mountains ($799) starting in Ketchum, with overnight stops in log cabins at Busterback and Idaho Rocky Mountain ranches. Backcountry will be doing other tours to Bryce/Zion, Wyoming's Grand Tetons and Glacier and Beartooth in Montana.

In New England, riders will pedal across covered bridges, dip into swimming holes and soak away the aches in hot tubs. With its back roads and cozy inns, New England is expected to draw record crowds this summer.

Vermont Country Cyclers does dozens of leisurely two- to six-day trips. High marks are given to a five-day tour ($609) that rolls along the lake shores of southeastern Vermont, with stops in the hamlets of Chester, Weathersfield, Saxton's River, Windham, Cavendish and Woodstock.

Picnics are spread on the village green in Chester and Weston, with its old-fashioned general store, fudge shop, country inns and Vermont's oldest professional summer theater.

A five-day ($599) tour along the eastern shore of Lake Champlain follows back roads through Vermont's rural countrysides, where the Adirondacks rise on the horizon.

Cyclers will visit apple orchards and dairy farms and cross one of the last two-lane covered bridges in the United States. Later they'll picnic at the renowned Morgan Horse Farm and pedal away to Lake Dunmore and the land of Robert Frost, which is where the poet spent his final 23 summers, inspired by its beauty.

Similar paths are followed by Vermont Bicycle Touring, the originator of country inn bicycling in New England. VBT hosts both novice and experienced riders on 2- to 21-day trips, and sends its groups spinning down memory lane--beside lakes and waterfalls and fields of wildflowers, to 18th-Century villages that conjure up mental images of an earlier America.

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