In spring, this not-so-young man’s fancy turns to fly fishing, sea kayaking, biking and other activities that require skilled use of both hands, putting away electronic distractions and simply being outdoors. Especially the latter. By this time of year, I’m always geared up and ready to go. But what about those who’ve never wet a line, paddled a quiet lake or estuary in the early morning, or tried to ride a single track.Or simply don’t know how to leave Facebook behind for a few hours, get outdoors and have some fun?
For that, we can turn to L.L. Bean Outdoor Discovery Schools, which began offering courses back in 1979. Every year, Bean introduces newcomers to a variety of sports and also raises the skill set among experts who want to tweak their cast or shoot a straight arrow. The Schools are a smorgasbord of courses, trip and tours, ranging for a few hours to several days. In addition to offerings for the beginner to the expert in kayaking, fly fishing, clay shooting, biking and camping, highlights for 2014 include stand-up paddle boarding yoga experiences, including a weekend-long retreat, multisport weekend-long adventures, island bird watching tours and more. New offerings include Teen Adventure Weeks, offered all summer long and featuring canoeing, paddle boarding, hiking, kayaking, fly fishing, archery, leadership skills, Leave No Trace ethics and more.
“We’re very pleased with how our Outdoor Discovery Schools have grown over the years,” says L.L. Bean spokesperson Mac McKeever. “Last year alone, over 100,000 people engaged in our activities—many for the first time. Our founder, L.L. Bean was the quintessential guide—he loved to share his passion for the outdoors with family and friends. That sentiment is as strong today as it ever was in his and we get really excited knowing that we are turning so many people onto the outdoors—our passion is infectious. We hope that we are instilling this passion for the outdoors in others and sparking what will hopefully become a lifelong passion. “
A few examples:
Summer Weekend Getaway—a three-day, two-night adventure featuring home-cooked meals, hiking, canoeing and kayaking in a remarkable wilderness Maine setting
Kayak Camping Adventure—three days and two nights of hiking, camping and kayaking in a pristine, remote Maine setting
Maine Bike and Kayak Trip or the Maine Bike and Paddleboard Trip—the best of Maine by land and sea, a chance to explore the beautiful Maine coastline, plus enjoy a lobster or steak dinner while camping at L.L.Bean’s private oceanfront campground
Stand-Up Paddleboarding Yoga Weekend Retreat—a great way to refresh your body and spirit with a relaxing weekend of yoga on land and sea, plus stand-up paddleboarding and kayaking tours of Maine’s Casco Bay.
Visit L.L. Bean Outdoor Discovery Schools for more info on classes, trips and tours.
Home to two of the most active volcanoes in the world, one would expect Hawaii’s southernmost island to be an angry land of deadened rock and rivers of red. But this ever-expanding island has a myriad of moods—the gentle rolling hills of Waimea; the inviting sand of the Kohala Coast; the almost impenetrable jungle-like interior of the Hamakua Coast; the enormity of two mountains that are nearly 14,000 feet; even a rain forest on the backside of a volcano. Indeed, Hawaii is more like a miniature continent than an island in the Pacific.
Cape Cod is so close to Boston that I often drive there on a day trip. This past Sunday, I went with family and friends on one of my favorite rides. We start on 26 Main Street in Orleans in the lot next to Orleans Cycle and head out on the Cape Cod Rail Trail toward Eastham. Soon we pass the velvety marsh, where red-winged blackbirds sit atop the swaying cattails and cormorants dry their wings on floating docks. At Locust Road, we veer right off the CCRT and cross over Route 6 to reach the Cape Cod National Seashore Visitor Center. This is the start of a 2-mile bike trails that sweeps up and down through the forest and marsh, leaving you off at Coast Guard Beach, recently named one of the top 10 beaches in America. However, I think the beach up the road, Nauset Light, is more scenic, backed by towering dunes. We lock up our bikes and walk down the stairs to watch surfers dressed in wet suits trying to catch the waves.
Once back on the bikes, we take Cable Road past Three Sisters Lighthouses, three absurdly small lighthouses built in the mid-19th century. A left turn at the end of the road and a right turn on Brackett Road leads us back to the CCRT. Turn left towards Orleans and you’ll soon smell the fried clams of Arnold’s, a lobster-in-the-rough restaurant beloved by my family. Stand in the long line (most likely out the door), order from their vast selection of seafood, including lobster, fried clams, scallops, shrimp, and mounds of tender onion rings and grab a seat at one of the outdoor picnic tables. Afterwards, play a round of miniature golf or grab a brownie sundae. Continue on the CCRT through a tunnel and you’ll arrive back at the Orleans Cycle parking lot in less than 30 minutes. A perfect summer outing.
Steve Jermanok As a columnist for National Geographic Adventure, adventure travel expert at Budget Travel, and regular contributor on outdoor recreation for Outside, Men’s Journal, Health, and Sierra, Steve Jermanok has written more than 1,000 articles on the outdoors. He’s also authored or co-authored 11 books, including Outside Magazine’s Adventure Guide to New England and Men’s Journal’s The Great Life. His latest book is Go Now! Put Your Life on Pause and See the World, due out late 2010. He’s currently an adventure travel expert at Away.com and blogs daily at Active Travels.
Bike trails on Nantucket branch off in every direction, like the spokes on a wheel. My favorite ride, especially in the spring, is the 6-mile jaunt from town to Madaket Beach. Head out on Cliff Road. You’ll quickly meet up with the Cliff Trail as you pass the rolling meadows and red-winged blackbirds at Tupancy Links conservation land. Merge with the Madaket Trail and you might be greeted by flittering goldfinches and osprey peering out from their oversized nests. When the trail becomes sandy and you can hear the pounding surf, you know you’re getting close. On the westernmost part of the island, the beach slopes down to the crashing waves. All around you is water, as if you’re stepping off land into the great abyss. If you don’t have the energy to do the return trip, the Wave bus runs until 11:20 pm and has a front rack for two bikes.
Boston takes its biking very seriously. When I lived in Cambridge, there were four bike shops within a three-block radius of my apartment. Just on Mass Avenue, I saw bikers with suits going to work, bikers with backpacks heading to school, and crazed riders who just seemed to enjoy weaving in and out of the car traffic. Needless to say, road biking is more than just a sport in this town, it’s a mode of travel. The 17.1-mile Charles River Bike Path runs from the Museum of Science along the Boston side of the Charles through the Esplanade to Watertown Square. The trail then crosses the river to the Cambridge side on its way back to the Museum of Science. Be on the lookout for Harvard, MIT, and BU crew teams that make their way up and down the Charles. Yet, it’s that iconic image of a single sculler slicing through the water, backed by the red-brick bridges and white steeples rising from the Harvard campus that locals and out-of-towners alike find so alluring. It’s like a waterbug skimming the placid surface of a pond, a tranquil setting in the midst of the urban buzz.
Known for their weekend and weeklong bike trips throughout Maine, Summer Feet Cycling is now offering a half-day bike tour that will visit five lighthouses in the Portland region. Running daily from Memorial Day to October 31st, the 5-hour jaunt will start on a bike path alongside Willard Beach to Bug Light, which marks the entrance to the Portland Breakwater. From here, you’ll cycle on to Spring Point Lighthouse, the Portland Harbor Museum, and Fort Preble, a 19th century stone fort, before ending at the iconic Portland Head Light. Built in 1791 and sitting on a bluff perched out to sea, this exquisite white edifice has been painted by the likes of Edward Hopper. You’ll dine on lobster rolls, peering at the large oil tankers that make their way in and out of Portland Harbor. Lobster, salty air, biking. Sounds like a winner.
Steve Jermanok As a columnist for National Geographic Adventure, adventure travel expert at Budget Travel, and regular contributor on outdoor recreation for Outside, Men’s Journal, Health, and Sierra, Steve Jermanok has written more than 1,000 articles on the outdoors.He’s also authored or co-authored 11 books, including Outside Magazine’s Adventure Guide to New England and Men’s Journal’s The Great Life. His latest book is Go Now! Put Your Life on Pause and See the World. He’s currently an adventure travel expert at Away.com and blogs daily at Active Travels.
What’s the Deal: BikeHike Adventures is a Vancouver based global adventure travel company that offers guided tours to 30 destinations worldwide. Their new self-guided vacations program features five self-guided cycling tours throughout France and Switzerland. Self-guided travel remains to be among the fastest growing sectors of the active travel market. The trips also feature a lower price-point than the average guided tour, offering an affordable alternative to cost-oriented travellers looking for their first taste of adventure travel.
Details: The five self-guided itineraries vary in difficulty greatly, from easy-going journeys through the RhoneValley to strenuous rides featured in the Tour de France.
What’s Included: Accommodation, luggage transfers, route maps, bikes, navigational equipment (GPS), and 24-hour phone support.
Fine print: From $1,099
Booking: BikeHike Adventures
By Everett Potter
When I hear the words “bike tour,’ I usually think of a week of cycling in Provence, Vermont or Napa Valley. I picture relatively easy riding, incredible scenery and great food and wine, neatly packaged into a six-night trip by an adventure travel company.
What the words “bike tour” don’t conjure in my imagination is a four month trek from Cairo to Capetown or a 2,700 mile ride from Paris to Istanbul. These are rides where your mind and body are tested and where strenuous riding is often the rule, as are deep cultural encounters you’re unlikely to have on a six-day pedal.
The company that offers such extraordinary adventure experiences is Tour d’Afrique and I learned about them from a guy named Shanny Hill, whom I met at the Adventure Travel World Summit in Lucerne, Switzerland last October.
Shanny is the Project manager for the Toronto-based company and we recently had a chance to speak about the groundbreaking trips that his company offers.
EP: How did Tour d’Afrique Ltd begin?
SH: Tour d’Afrique Ltd was conceived in the late 1980’s when Henry Gold, the company’s Founder and Director, was managing an international NGO that delivered humanitarian assistance to disadvantaged communities in Ethiopia and other African countries. His original concept was to produce inexpensive, rugged mountain bikes in Africa, for Africans, as a low cost solution to local transportation needs, and to market this new bicycle by organizing a cycling race across the continent – the Tour d’Afrique.
While the mountain bike project did not take off, the pioneering vision of the Tour d’Afrique proved irresistible. In early 2002 Henry and Michael de Jong began the preparations in earnest, undaunted by enormous skepticism and the mountain of logistical challenges to be overcome, and, on January 15, 2003, thirty-three cyclists saddled up at the Pyramids at Giza and started pedaling south. Four months later, with Table Mountain and Cape Town in sight, they celebrated the realization of their dream and the establishment of the Guinness World Record for the fastest human powered crossing of Africa.
Since then our unique little company has grown, in leaps and bounds, through many trials and tribulations. The Tour d’Afrique has been recognized as the world’s longest and most challenging stage race. Following in its spirit, several more continental and sub-continental cycling expeditions have been undertaken,
All told more than 800 intrepid souls have now completed one of our epic trans-continental rides. Through our Foundation, and the donations of many of our clients, more than 2000 bicycles have been distributed to health care and community development workers in Africa and India.
EP: Give us an example of some of your trips and their length.
SH: Here are three of our upcoming trips. The North America Epic is just as it sounds – an epic cycling ride across all of our great continent from Anchorage to Mexico City. The intrepid cyclists from all across the globe will cycle 7,000 miles through Canada and the USA, and then along stunning Baja Peninsula before returning to mainland Mexico to cycle the final leg into Mexico City. This epic journey under human power takes 4 months and gets underway in Anchorage on Independence Day.
The Orient Express Cycling Expedition follows in the spirit of the luxury train line that once crossed Europe from Paris to Istanbul. But this is no luxury tour of Europe. We will be pedaling our way through each day and each town – covering 60 miles each day and staying in campsites and 2 and 3 star hotels to rest our heads in some of Europe’s hotspots – like Ulm, Vienna, Bratislava, and Budapest. This 2,700 miles journey takes 6 weeks during July and August. We arrive in Istanbul on August 25 after a ferry ride down the Bosphorus Strait. We take advantage of Europe’s rich history, wonderful cycling routes, explore its great cities, and its fabulous countryside scenery, at a pace much slower than the Orient Express trains of the past.
Our inaugural Bamboo Road Cycling Expedition will become the mother tour of South East Asia. This truly trans-continental trip will take participants from the metropolis of Shanghai, thru southern China, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Thailand, Malaysia, and then ending in the city-state of Singapore. For several years now, SE Asia has been a popular destination for cycling tourists, and we want to offer a grand tour that can encompass a great deal of the region in one tour.
EP: Who’s going on these trips, how many riders, what are their ages, and how experienced are they as riders?
SH: The people who are participating in our tours are from all walks of life it seems. From nuclear physicists, to truck drivers, and teachers, they have many varied professions. Though we typically have 60 to 70 % males on our tours, we are increasingly seeing more and more women participating and more and more nationals from all over the world, including Australia, New Zealand, UK, Canada, and the USA. We have also had Brazilians, Egyptians, South Africans, Taiwanese, and many other nationals from emerging markets.
The skill level and experience of our participants is also quite varied. We have serious racers, and fit seniors, to first time cycle tourists who come on our tour and treat it as their own weigh loss program. Participants are as young as 18 and have been as old as 71. We do our best to accommodate all that wish to participate with staffing, cooks, and support vehicles working to create a framework built to give them the best chance at completing each day’s ride.
EP: How about accommodations and meals?
SH: Most of our tours are a mixture of camping and simple hotels. Our new tour of South East Asia, along with a few others, are all hotel or indoor accommodation. We choose simple and practical hotels when staying indoors. While camping in some of our more remote locations in Africa and Asia, we do some rough camping where our support trucks, and the water and supplies they carry are all that we have to sustain us for the night.
We do not compromise on is food. We have used trained chefs on many of our tours, because we know the importance of a tasty and nutritious meals at the end of a long day of cycling. You don’t ever want to have a hungry cyclists on a tour.
EP: Are there guides along for the entire ride or do I need to be proficient in map reading and another language or two?
SH: We have tour support staff that help create a framework of support. The style of our tours means that we also expect the participants to be involved in the process and involved in making the tour a success. This can mean that the participants will be using maps at times to double check the directions given by the tour leader, helping the chef chop vegetables to prepare for dinner, or helping others in the group with their bags perhaps. The idea is that on an expedition of this nature, its necessary that staff and clients work together as a team.
With that said, we do provide a great deal of staff support – with most of our longer expeditions having a full time medic, chef, bike mechanic, drivers, and tour leader.
EP: What sort of training regimen is required for these rides?
SH: We send out training tips to our registered riders. The most common thing that interrupts riding on tour is soreness. Sore knees, sore backs, sore butts…. The best way to combat this is to ride regularly in the run up to the tour. At a minimum we suggest you start some dedicated training 3 months before the tour starts.
Riding at least three times a week for a minimum of two hours each time. This could be in the form of cross training or bike rides at a steady pace. This will get you to the tour start with a base of fitness and well adjusted to your bike.
EP: You’ve got five levels of difficulty –easy, moderate, average, challenging and hard. How hard is “hard?”
SH: Good question. Hard can be very hard.
If I think back to my toughest days on one of our tours, it would be in Northern Kenya – part of the ‘Meltdown Madness‘ section that is rated as hard. Picture yourself riding in the rocky desolate landscape of the Dida Galgalu desert for 60 to 70 miles in 100 degree heat with no shade over a terribly rutted road. Now picture doing that for 5 days straight.
The truth is that this section described here has actually recently been paved and we may soon drop the rating down a notch to ‘difficult’
There are other examples I could come up with, but the truth about these ‘hard’ sections is they are often the most memorable, and people who at the start of a tour were struggling through the easiest of stages, find themselves stronger and more determined and ready to face these hard stages halfway through the journey.
We also have many sections with much lower difficulty rating, and so the ratings scale is definitely worth checking out.
EP: Tell me more about the North American Epic.
SH: The North American Epic was redesigned for 2013 to become a truly unique and truly trans-continental tour. In 2011 it was an west to east tour – from San Francisco to St. John’s, Newfoundland. This was a good route, but not quite exotic enough for our taste, and not truly a crossing of all of the North American continent.
Now with the new route from Anchorage to Mexico City, participants can see a line on a map stretching all the way across our continent. With many other tours being offered across the US or Canada from West to East, this tour give people a chance to cover the continent North to South.
Interestingly, those that have already signed up to participate are not North Americans, but people from all across the globe that want to come here and experience these places from the seat of their bicycle. They are from Norway, Britain, Finland, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa to name a few.
All the tour dates, details, and prices can be found here: http://tourdafrique.com/tour-overview/?t=north-american-epic
EP: Can you do parts of the North American Epic, if you do don’t have time for the entire journey?
SH: Of course. All our expeditions are split into 2 and 3 week segments to allow people to be part of the experience while not committing to the long time require to complete the whole expeditions. The North American Epic is split into 8 tantalizing sections. With names like ‘Land of the Midnight Sun‘ and ‘Alaska Highway’ and ‘Canyonlands‘ interested cyclists are sure to find a section that suits their interests and timeframe.
We have had some people do a section at a time and eventually completing one of our trans-continental tours over the course of several years.
EP: Any new trips planned for Tour d’Afrique?
SH: Yes, we always have new projects in the works. The Bamboo Road Cycling Tour described earlier is one, and in 2014 we will start where that tour left off and launch the Trans-Oceania from Singapore to Sydney, Australia – crossing the outback and cycling through Adelaide, Melbourne on our way to the big finish at the Opera house in Sydney.
And, with the completion of this tour, we will have completed all the tours we needed to be able to offer the 7 Epics Challenge – a global cycling challenge for the truly crazy cyclists. A series of 7 supported cycling epics that touch every corner of the globe.
Visit Tour D’Afrique for more info