Moraine State Park

The Mission: Take a day trip to Moraine State Park.

The Prep: Packed a picnic lunch and strapped my bike to the car.

The Gear:
Shades
Sunscreen
Bike/helmet
Picnic lunch
Water
Sandals
Beach towel
Walking shoes

The Execution:
Growing up in Pittsburgh, my family would often take a day trip to Moraine State Park. An easy 45 minute drive from the city, the park has a gorgeous lake, bike and hiking trails, disc golf and even a beach. I decided to relive my childhood and spend the day at my beloved lake. I packed a cooler with water and a picnic lunch, strapped my bike to the car and headed north to the park.

I decided to start my day on the lake with some kayaking so I headed towards the South Shore. I put on my sandals and shades and rented a kayak at Crescent Bay boat rental. Canoes, boats and SUP are also available for rental here.

Out on the water, boats cruised by, fisherman made the catch of the day and my skin fried to a crisp. I paddled around a small island, over to the opposite shore and through some passing sailboats before my arms were completely worn out and I headed back to shore. All in all, I spent about an hour out on the water which was more than enough for my arms.

PA

After a morning on the lake, I stopped by one of the many picnic areas in the park to enjoy my lunch before heading to the bike trail on the North Shore. I brought my own bike and helmet for the day, but there is a bike rental area at the trail head if you don’t have your own.

The 14 mile RT trail weaves in and out through the trees offering glimpses of the lake. Along the trail there are several picnic areas, benches, restrooms and even a camp site. At the 7 mile marker, the trail ends with a great view of the lake. I stopped here to hydrate and rest my legs before heading back. This trail is NOT a loop; the trail is 7 miles each direction and there are many hills and curves. On my return, I stopped by the “beach” to cool my feet off in the ice-cold water before I continued my journey. There is a parking area at the beach if you decide to drive out after your ride. The actual beach is rather tiny, but there is a large grassy area, picnic benches and even a disc golf course. After my stop at the beach, I finished my 14 mile ride and headed back towards Pittsburgh utterly exhausted.

The Highlights:

  • Level of difficulty: moderate
  • Photo ID and cash or credit deposit is needed for all rentals.
  • You will have to drive from the South Shore to North Shore- this is not walking distance.
  • Trail maps are available at the bike rental center.

Biking the Coastal Trail in Anchorage

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The Mission: Bike 22 miles from downtown Anchorage to the chalet at Kincaid Park.

The Prep: 
No need to reserve in advance. Head to the Downtown Bicycle Rental  shop and pick up your bike, lock, helmet and directions. The trip should take roughly 3 hours. Bike rental is $16 for the first 3 hours. You will be charged upon return for any additional time you keep the bike.

The Gear:
Light layers as the wind can be chilly on the bike
Water
Sunscreen
Comfortable shoes

The Execution:
We started the day early and picked up our bikes at the rental shop where we received detailed instructions from the staff on how to get to the entrance of the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail. We pedaled through town to the trail entrance where we followed the coast of Cook Inlet. We encountered sweeping views of far off mountain ranges and a glimpse of bald eagle soaring high above us. The trail proceeds to parallel the train tracks for a bit before weaving back into the lush greenery. There were a few rest areas where we stopped to take in the view of Anchorage,snap some photos and grab a snack. You can choose to stop and turnaround at any point on the trail, but we continued on to the end (11 miles) and then turned around to head back to town- 22 miles in total. Unfortunately, we didn’t see a ton of wildlife on our ride, but it was still a beautiful and relaxing ride- a great introduction to Alaska and a must do if you visit Anchorage!

The Highlights:

  • Level of difficulty: casual to moderate
  • If you’re not up for a bike ride, it’s a nice trail for a casual walk.
  • Keep your eye out for wildlife!
  • Wear bug spray- lots of mosquitoes.

A Day at Sun Moon Lake

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The Mission: Cycle and Hike in one day!

The Prep:
From Taipei, take a train to Taichung. When you arrive at Taichung, stay in the building, but go all the way downstairs where you will see a counter to purchase bus tickets. Ask for a ticket on the Nan-Tou bus to Sun Moon Lake and which station to wait at. The bus ride will take approximately 90 minutes.

The Gear:
Comfortable shoes
Shades
Sunscreen
Light layers
Lots of water

The Execution:
The bus dropped me off near a 7-11 in town at Sun Moon Lake. I walked down the main road where I saw several places to rent bikes. I surrendered my photo ID and a cash deposit to rent a bike asked for directions to the Yuetan bike path. I chose to do the 8km trail, but you can also opt to do the full 30km around the lake!

The trail started out paved, crossing a bridge and weaving in and out through the trees before opening up parallel to a main road. Here the trail turned into an elevated boardwalk with vast open views of the lake. I continued on through the trees, over abstract bridges, around meticulously landscaped gardens and out to an overlook. I passed the visitor center and came to a fork in the road, I opted to ride up the ramp and eventually down along the lake again. After riding sever more kilometers, I realized I was no longer on the trail I had intended to do, but continuing further on. Since I planned on hiking later in the day, I opted to turn around and head back to along the trail to town. I was amazed by the variety of vantage points along the trail that provided a different perspective of the lake from every angle.

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With only one day at Sun Moon Lake, I decided to follow up my bike ride with a hike to Xuanzhuang Temple. After dropping off my bike, I went down to the pier and took a shuttle boat for $NT100 across the lake. the Mt. Shueisheda trail is approximately 5.6km and got rather steep in certain areas. It was a beautiful hike with lovely foliage, but not many tourists tend to hike that far back so it was not nearly as crowded as many of the other trails. I hiked the steps and reached the main road where I finally saw the temple. After touring the temple and the grounds, I stopped at a lovely covered sitting/picnic area and enjoyed the great view of the lake. After my legs recovered, I headed back down the trail and took the shuttle back to the other side of the lake.

The Highlights:

  • Level of difficulty: moderate
  • Grab a lock from the bike rental company so you can stop and explore.
  • Take your camera for this scenic route!
  • The bike rental company will charge you by the hour so make sure to time your ride if you are trying to stick to a certain budget.
  • Take plenty of water for your hike, there are steep areas including a section of steps.

Bikes and Brews in Bruges

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The Mission: Bike from Bruges to the tiny town of Damme in Belgium.

The Prep: 
Before you head out, hit the internet to find the closest bike rental shop.  No need to reserve a bike in advance, but a little research will save you from wandering around town in search of a rental spot.

The Gear:
Comfortable shoes
Light layers
Shades
Sunscreen
Water

The Execution:
I hit up Bauhaus (no, not the band) youth hostel AND bike rental spot a short walk from the center of town. They offer bike tours, but I wanted to explore on my own so I opted for the hourly rental. I traded my photo ID for a bike, lock and map and hit the road.

I started pedaling and headed out-of-town, stopping at a few of the windmills to explore and take a few photos before continuing my journey down the path that parallels the canal. A very easy, flat, dirt, tree-lined path took me through the quiet countryside all the way to Damme. Damme is a charming little village; I stopped on the bridge over the canal for a few photos and made friends with a nice German couple before continuing into the village. I pedaled through the village before hopping off my bike to explore the remains of the lovely old church. After a peaceful walk through some gardens, I set out to return to Bruges. On my return ride, I cycled down the opposite side of the canal for a different perspective.

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BRUGES

Upon my return to Bruges, I stopped by De Halve Maan Brewery for a tour and ice-cold beer (nothing like a nice beer after a long ride). No reservation was necessary, and for 8 Euro, I received a tour of the brewery and a beer! The tour is not only an interesting way to learn about the history of the beer and how it’s brewed, but there’s also a fantastic view of the city from the brewery roof. And the best part of all….a blonde Brugse Zot to end my day. Bikes and brews make for an iconic Belgian day; just remember…don’t drink and bike!

The Highlights:

  • Level of difficulty: casual
  • Take water and snacks as there is nowhere to stop between Bruges and Damme.
  • Take your time and enjoy the ride!

Biking Denali National Park

ride denali

The Mission: Cycle 30 miles through Denali National Park.

The Prep: 
Since I was visiting Denali in June- the height of tourist season, I contacted Denali Outdoor Center a few months prior to my visit to reserve a bike. For $40, I reserved a bike including helmet for the day of my choice. There are 2 locations for bike pickup so be sure to specify that you would like to pick your bike up at the Canyon office. The Canyon office is a short 2.5 mile ride to the Wilderness Access Center at the park entrance where you will board the bus into the park.

At 92 miles long, you could spend days biking the road through Denali, but as an amateur biker, I thought 30 would be more reasonable. I contacted the park to reserve a space on the shuttle bus to Eielson Visitor Center at 9am for $34.50. It’s important to make your reservation in advance and let them know you will be bringing a bike as not all buses have bike racks and they fill up fast!

The Gear:
Check the weather before your trip as weather can be quite unpredictable. At this time in mid-June, it was quite chilly in the 40s and raining so rain gear was a must!

Light layers
Rain jacket
Rain pants
Wicking socks
Waterproof hiking boots
Bike gloves
Skull cap for under the helmet
Hydration pack
Lunch/snacks
Camera
Road ID
Bike and helmet from rental company

The Execution:
After gearing up at Denali Outdoor Center, I cycled the short 2.5 miles to the Wilderness Access Center where I picked up my ticket, loaded up my bike, and boarded the bus toward Eielson. My goal was to take the bus into the park and ride back out toward the entrance. After some time on the bus, I decided I would hop off before Eielson and disembarked at mile 39- Sable Pass.

The road through the park is unpaved gravel and on this lovely rainy day, I was covered in mud before long. The wet and muddy road conditions definitely made cycling more difficult this day. The ride started off easy heading downhill and cruising into fairly flat terrain. After a few hours of enjoying the lovely scenery, I stopped for some lunch and a rest only to be immediately attacked by swarms of mosquitoes! I’ve never seen so many mosquitoes, and the only way to escape them was to keep moving so I cut my break short and hopped back on the bike.

I continued riding until I reached Sanctuary River where I hit an intense incline. After much stop and go (and a little walking my bike), I had climbed over 1000 feet. After the climb, my legs felt like Jello and I wasn’t sure how much further I would make it. I continued pedaling, though much slower now until I ran into a shuttle bus heading toward the entrance of the park with an open bike rack on the front. I flagged the bus down, mounted my bike, and headed back to the entrance covered in mud and mosquito bites! After another 2.5 mile ride back to the Denali Outdoor Center, my journey came to a wet and muddy end.

photo (7)

The Highlights:

  • Level of difficulty: ugh!
  • You cant control the weather so be prepared for various riding conditions.
  • Wildlife sightings are NOT guaranteed! Im still disappointed I didn’t see a bear or moose.
  • I only saw one bathroom along the route so bring TP in case you need to make a stop in the woods, but remember to always take out what you bring in…preserve nature!
  • Reservations for the bike and shuttle are necessary in peak season.
  • You can hop on and off the shuttle buses at any time so if you want you can ride a ways, wait for a bus, hop on, bypass the giant inclines, and hop back off to continue riding.
  • Buses do not run that frequently so may have to wait awhile before you can flag one down to hop on.
  • Bug spray, bug spray, bug spray.
  • Check the elevation map from nps.gov below before you plan your route.
  • Take your time and enjoy the scenery!

Biking the Grounds of Versailles

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The Mission: Discover The Palace of Versailles in one day!

The Prep:
Tickets can be purchased online or at the palace. I arrived early and purchased “the passport” ticket for 18 Euros.

The Gear:
Comfortable shoes
Sunscreen
Shades
Light layers as it was a bit chilly inside

The Execution:
Chateau de Versailles, the opulent palace known for the grand Hall of Mirrors. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed upon entering this vast estate. Many visitors tour the palace and a bit of the gardens and call it a day, but that wasn’t enough for me. I wanted to see it all, explore all the estates and frolic in all the gardens, but how you ask? By bike of course!

versailles 2

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versailles

After seeing the palace, I walked through the gardens at the back of the estate toward the Grand Canal. On the north (right) side of the canal near the restaurant, I found a bike rental station. I also rented a lock so I could stop and explore some of the other estates. There are numerous paths throughout the vast estate that are gravel, paved, or dirt and make for a very smooth and easy ride. I road around the canal, through the tree lined paths of the gardens, stopped to tour the Grand Trianon and Marie Antoinette’s estate before I found an old farm. After riding for a few hours, I stopped for a bite to eat at one of the food stands before heading back to drop off the bike. There is absolutely no better way to see Versailles!

The Highlights:

  • Level of difficulty: casual
  • A photo ID is needed for bike rental.
  • Food and restrooms are available throughout the estate or bring your own picnic!
  • Biking offers the opportunity to see much more of the estate than you would see on foot.
  • Arrive early and enjoy a full day at the estate.