Tag Archives: biking

Frolicking with friends in Texas

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We are lucky that we have great friends in Texas as Texas is HUGE and takes a good day and a half to drive across, so it’s nice to have some places to stop and play.  Going both east and west we made stops in San Marcos to kayak and Houston to play and regroup.

Our Houston stop is at Kelly & Phil’s house and it’s a fabulous pit stop. Everyone gets to decompress a bit and stretch their legs in a low key way. Hunter has non stop fun with Phil, making wacky things on the 3-D printer, playing with remote control toys, doing bizarre science experiments and making original music productions on garage band. We always manage to get in a leisurely walk and bike ride to explore. Funny that we’ve now been there three times but yet never really hit the highlights of Houston – it just feels like too much effort and would take us away from the joy of connecting with friends in a low key way.

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Our stop in San Marcos is all about kayaking with our friend Ben, who got a new addition this year! San Marcos is spring fed so the water is in the 70’s year round. It’s a small play section on the river with three waves or drops and makes for a fun afternoon.

We got really lucky on both our visits this year  (November & January) with sunny afternoons, which made for a great pit stop to get back on the water (or in the water) and just play.

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160 km bike down the Florida Keys

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Back in March our brother in law Andy, who lives in southern Florida, shared that one of his bucket list items was to bike the Keys from end to end. Being adventurers, we thought “why not”… without really doing much thinking about the actual details. Fast forward nine months and we found ourselves driving from Fort Lauderdale down to Marathon to get set up for our 3 day biking extravaganza.

DSCN1907We had 8 adventurers on board with ages ranging from 12 to 73. We based ourselves out of Knights Key Campground which is just south of the town of Marathon and about 2/3 of the way down the length of the keys. The plan was to ride 60km day one, 48 km day two and 70 km day three. The night before these distances finally started sinking in to our heads – Ack!

To avoid the heat of the day, day one started really really early – we were up at 6:15 and in the truck shortly after 7:00 to drive back up to Key Largo and start the biking. Andy’s brother Peter joined us as rider and shuttle driver and this was invaluable. Peter rode short distances out and back from the truck and then drove the truck towards our final distance, picking up anyone that wanted to opt out along the way.

The original goal for Hunter was to make it to Dairy Queen, which was about 20km from the start. With such an early start we arrived before DQ actually opened (11:00) and since he was riding so well we pushed onwards. At the 30km mark he was definitely done due to a sore butt. Hunter and I called Peter for a ride and then took a small detour back to DQ for his promised blizzard before continuing on to the finish point for the day to pick up Bob, Andy and Tim.

The first 30km of the ride was mostly side walk or bike paths as we made our way through Key Largo and down into the keys. The second 30km of day one started to see things open up and the last 10km of it was now along the water. The boys took a pit stop at the IslaMorada Fish Company, which is a restaurant and a Bass Pro Shop location with a Tarpon pool out front – neat to see these large fish.

DSCN1987The weather was unseasonably warm (in the high 20’s celcius, 85-88f) and I was craving a swim in the ocean, especially with water temps in the high 70’s. Unfortunately Knight’s Key is more about boats on the water than people in the water so there wasn’t a great place to swim. First Hunter and I tried walking out into the water at a small opening we found in the mangroves. We made it about 8 steps before our feet were so sucked down into the muck that it took a team effort to make it back to shore. Attempt number two was to take the SUP out to get us far enough from shore to be able to jump off and swim. This was hampered by fairly strong winds and the fact that the depths stayed shallow for quite a distance. It was fun but unsuccessful and I was left craving some water time.

Day two was another early morning start – up and in the truck for 7am. It was a shorter drive to the start so we were on our bikes and riding by 8am. Grandma Liz joined us for this leg so Hunter, Grandpa and Tim rode in the back of the truck to make room for her in the truck. Day two was mostly oceanside riding with a few stretches of great bike path in the mangroves. About 15% was along the side of the road. With a sore butt Hunter made it 20km and then had fun touring with Peter in the shuttle truck.

Grandma Liz rode with the group for another 10km and was happy to catch a ride with the shuttle gang while Tim, Bob, Andy and Lee continued on for the remaining 18km.

The last stretch of day two was through the town of Marathon and then over 7 mile bridge. The winds were in our favour which made crossing the bridge much easier than anticipated. I was concerned about any strong cross winds and what it would take to blow me off my bike and over the rather low guard rails into the water. The old rail bridge travels beside the new bridge for about 5 miles on one side and then 2 miles on the other side with a small gap for boat traffic in between. Hopefully they will soon finish refurbishing the bridge so that you can bike on it rather than with all the traffic on 7 mile bridge.

I was still jonesing for some time in/on the water so Bob and I took off in the canoe after some lunch and a rest. We paddled out from the campground and over to check out the bridge and surrounding area. The winds were still decent so we had some bouncy water in sections which made things interesting since we were in his marathon race boat (sleek = tippy). We circumnavigated a few islands, checked out the real-estate and saw lots of birds. Thankfully no swim while in the canoe so I finally gave in and headed to the local swimming hole for a quick dip. It sits right on the edge of the marina and I wasn’t all that excited about the idea of swimming in boat engine water so while it was refreshing it was also quick.

Day three had a slightly later start – 8am vs 7am which was nice. Hunter had set himself a goal of 40km, which would be 4km higher than his personal best from our epic ride in Columbus.We set a slower pace with the goal of getting him to his target. Around the 30km mark we came across a fire station that had their pumper truck sitting out – a perfect place to rest. One of the firemen noticed us lingering and came out to spend time with Hunter… one happy kid!

Once you make it to the 40 km mark the next goal of 65km seems pretty doable so Hunter pushed on. We had an ice-cream pit stop at a gas station at about the 48km mark and that helped provide energy to push on. Hunter did amazingly well and the first tears and strain only showed up around the 60 km mark. We pushed and cajoled and made it to the almost final stop – meeting up with the rest of the gang at Publix/Wendy’s in Key West. The idea was for Peter and Liz to join us for the final 5km ride through Key West to reach the Mile 0 buoy.

It turns out that this is quite the tourist stop and people were lined up around the block to get their photos taken with it. Definitely the end of our peaceful ride… people, tour buses and cars everywhere!

DSCN2176One more DQ stop as the reward for Hunter riding 70km – what an awesome new personal best! While some people went for lunch, a few of us drove around in the air conditioned car and checked out Key West – it was the perfect compromise for Hunter who was not going to move another foot on his bike for a few hours. We finished the day with a short ride back through town to the shuttle truck and headed back to the campground for a big sleep!

About 75 miles of the keys is now accessible via the Overseas Heritage Trail, which is the paved bike trail. They are working on completing the last bits and when that happens this will be a great family adventure. Until that point there are a number of places where you have to ride on the side of the road, which is not great for cyclists under 10. We just rode with someone in front and behind Hunter and felt fairly safe.

 

 

Everyone MUST go to Columbus, Georgia

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We spent a fast paced 3 days in Columbus, Georgia over the US Thanksgiving long-weekend and LOVED every minute of it. We knew very little about the town other than what I had seen online from the Kellogg and Holcombe families kayaking experiences and were blown away by the amenities, the history and the people.

Columbus is located on the Alabama/Georgia border with the Chattahoochee River running right through the middle of town. It was built on a bluff beside the river and founded in 1828, named for Christopher Columbus. In 1850 the railroad arrived and by 1860 it was one of the more important industrial locations in the south, with textile mills up and down the river. With the civil war in 1861 Columbus industries increased capacity and Columbus ranked second to Richmond as a centre of commerce within the Confederacy.

Although much of the town was destroyed at the end of the Civil War by union troops, most things were quickly rebuilt and by the Spanish-American War the town was thriving again. The addition of Fort Benning has also been a significant contribution to the community and local economy.

The late 1990’s saw a significant revitalization occurring through the establishment of a Business Improvement District downtown. This non-profit group has focused on major capital investments that have resulted in Columbus being noted as a top place to live as a young person.

We made good use of our bikes to explore Columbus and rode all the way out to Fort Benning and the National Infantry Museum (37km round trip). It was a beautiful fall day and the river walk trail is very scenic and well maintained. The museum itself is a bargain – there is no entry fee, just a requested donation of $5.00. The exhibits cover off the life of the Infantry from the Civil War to current day as well as highlighting the role that Fort Benning plays in the development of the Infantry. Needless to say, Hunter was thrilled and we spent a good 3 hours wandering around the various exhibits.

The main draw for us to go to Columbus was the whitewater play park that they have built right downtown. As part of their Ready to Raft 2012 campaign, the community developed over 8 miles of whitewater features on the Chattahoochee and some great play features right in the middle of downtown. This created the longest urban whitewater rafting venue in the world. The river is dam released and while we were there the water ranged from 1 Turbine (about 1,000 cfs) up to 3 turbines (about 8,000 cfs). At times it can run full out at between 15-18,000 cfs, which makes it the biggest water volume on the east coast outside of the Ottawa River. On both Saturday and Sunday it was running at 1 turbine during the day and then shifted to 3 turbines at 5pm. We planned our paddles to warm up at 1 turbine and then get to ride the flow increase all the way up to 3 turbines – it was really neat to see the features change as the flow increased.

There is a nice big island right at the put in and it usually attracts lots of people for photos along the river and to watch the paddling scene. The lights kick on just as dusk starts and stay until 10pm in the winter and 11pm in the summer making you feel like a total rockstar! It does help to have paddled the features during the day so you have some sense of the water…

IMG_3157Broadway Avenue is 2 blocks up from the river and full of shops and restaurants. We did not move the truck between when we arrived Friday night and when we left on Monday at lunch time. Everything we needed was in walking or biking distance, which was so handy. Best dinner was had at Your Pie – a custom pizza place in the historic district. Hand made, brick fired pizza plus yummy drinks on tap. It was so good (and came after our epic day of biking) that we ordered a full second round of pizzas!

DSCN1501Our amazing experience in Columbus was completely due to the five star service from the staff at The Outside World, a local gear store in town. They helped us find somewhere to park, pointed out everything we needed to know and were beyond friendly. They also have great gear in their store! In addition to that, every kayaker we ran into was happy to contribute to our knowledge and education about the water and the waves.

Columbus has something for everyone and we will definitely be back again!

 

 

Who else gets an RCMP escort in a bike race???

lee hunter RCMP KCIBRAfter last year’s great experience (fabulous weather, good friends) at the Kluane Chilkat International Bike Race (aka Haines 2 Haines) we thought it would be fun to do it again. The bike race runs from Haines Junction, Yukon to Haines, Alaska (240km) and you can ride it solo, in a 2 person team, a 4 person team or an 8 person team.

Screen Shot 2014-06-26 at 11.55.08 AMWe pulled together an 8 person team, with the focus being on creating a fun experience for the kids – all about having a goal to train towards and feeling the pride of accomplishing something difficult. With that in mind, we let the 4 kids pick their own legs. This was a good decision from an engagement perspective and an incredibly poor decision if we were actually being strategic about anything… (noted for next year – kids ride the last 4 legs!!!).

Friday night we camped at Quill Creek, which is just near the end of leg one. It meant that we didn’t have to get up at 6:00 am on Saturday morning to head down the highway from Whitehorse. Hunter had a great time hanging with friends and pogosticking/mountain skateboarding under the midnight sun…

Last year the weather was near perfect – no winds and temperatures in the mid 20’s for the whole day. This year, not so much… it poured rain all day on Friday and the winds showed up. Saturday the skies cleared off and there were even moments of sunshine (moments), which helped to offset the significant headwinds that were in place for almost every leg.

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The race starts with a 19 km leg, of which half is uphill coming out of Haines Junction. We had an import for this leg, a local Haines Junction runner and dog musher, and she did great – coming in 40th out of 89 riders.

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Leg two is just under 40 km in length and mostly flat with some rolling hills. It runs parallel to Dezadeash lake and the headwind came into full play here and Ruby (above with mom Heather & brother Quinn), our 10 year old rider, got pummelled and had to work hard just to keep moving forward. Unfortunately this dropped us into 88 out of 89 teams. The upside is that she worked really hard and finished the leg – a great lesson in perseverance!

IMG_9727Tim rode leg three for us and was a ROCKET! Soooo proud of him – being at the back of the pack, he had to work really hard for the first 5 km to get within reach of a set of riders that he could chase down. He came in 24th out of 89 riders for his leg when you compare times.

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Leg four was Anais – another one of our junior riders (10). She was a late addition so didn’t get to select her leg, but bravely took the one available. It was a tough one, with another big up hill section in the front half. It was also long (29km). She and her dad Dave tackled it side by side and her quiet conviction was impressive, even after a bike malfunction early on that had us swap out bikes and she rode Hunter’s bike for most of the leg!

Her team mates were out to cheer her on for the last 500 meters to the checkpoint, running along side. Smiles on everyone’s faces!

Martha took on leg five, just as the rain started to show up. It was a long slog into the wind on her mountain bike, even with the shiny new slicks and clip less pedals…

IMG_9792Hunter selected leg six again this year (27km), which was great as we knew what to expect and even had a time to compare against. Normally the checkpoints are much busier, with lots of people and infrastructure but from checkpoint #2 onwards (transition from leg 2 to leg 3) we seemed to be closing out the checkpoints as one of the last few coming in… it was a bit depressing!

IMG_9800Hunter took off like a rocket, with me as his chaperone riding behind him. At about km 2, we had an RCMP vehicle come up the road towards us with his lights flashing. Hunter waived while all the adults thought – shoot… we’re going to be busted for having 2 riders out on a leg at once. Turns out that a large grizzly bear had just been seen about 2km down the road so we got an RCMP escort for the next 3 km! Hunter was thrilled and I had to smile as he is certainly a kid that would appreciate it!

IMG_9807We caught our own little weather system and ended up with heavy rains and hail at one point on the leg. Hunter did a great job and you could really see his growth and improvement from last year, which was also reflected in his results – he came 75th out of 89 riders, most of which rode the leg without the weather system as they were that much ahead of us in terms of time window. He was 4 minutes slower than his time last year, which was ridden in 25c sunshine and no headwinds. REALLY PROUD OF HIM!!!

Hunter handed off to Hayley (10) for leg seven. She had her dad Rod riding along side to keep her company and check to make sure her cape was flying properly! Unfortunately, checkpoint 7 had actually closed by the time we got there so we came up with our own finish line for her to cross. With the knowledge that the checkpoint was closed, Hayley chose to ride her entire leg (37.5km) to prove that she could do it. FABULOUS JOB…

There is a rule in the KCIBR race that the last rider must leave checkpoint 7 by 7pm Alaska time, whether their team mate has reached there or not. We were definitely well behind that target schedule so sent Jennie, our leg 8 rider, ahead so that she could make the 7pm start. Although we didn’t have a chance to cheer her on, we heard that she had a great ride and came in 65th overall for her leg.

IMG_9852We had lots of fun cheering our team mates on through the ride, even if we were the only ones out on the road. It was a different experience from last year when you were surrounded by other riders and their support people cheering as well. The flip side is that it was really quite peaceful for the kids…

IMG_9846We rolled into Haines around 9:45 alaska time (10:45 yukon time) and were able to sweet talk the folks at the Lighthouse Restaurant into allowing us in, as they were trying to close, for some food. After lots of patient waiting, we finally finished dinner around 11:30 ak time and headed out to the cabin that Rod, Martha & Hayley were borrowing as we didn’t want to wake up our other friends at the campground.

The cabin was tucked away in the woods and had a beautiful view (in the morning). We climbed up into bed in the camper and everyone was sound asleep right away. Morning brought typical SE Alaska weather of rain and fog. We all headed out to the Mountain Market for breakfast and ran into our camping friends, who had been quite worried about our “no show” the night before! With the rain in mind, everyone made the dash to the ferry terminal and we all luckily caught the ferry over to Skagway – it saves about 3.5 hours of driving. The kids enjoyed watching Frozen in the on board movie theatre while the adults chatted and caught up. We topped off the day with a yummy thai lunch at Starfire in Skagway and some shopping for alcohol and smoked salmon, which are both cheaper in Alaska than the Yukon.

IMG_9860It was a LONG and adventure filled weekend and has created a great set of shared memories for many of us.

Tybee Island, Savannah Georgia

hunter tybee turtle 2We used Tybee Island as our home base for all of our Savannah activities. It is a great little beach community about 20 minutes east of downtown Savannah. It is a bike friendly community and the local surf spot. We stayed at the Rivers End Campground, which is owned by the City of Tybee Island. It is clean, well cared for and has good internet and cable (and space for us to sprawl since it is low season).

We stayed here before and after our trip to Charleston. One of our reasons for coming was for Tim to try out some surf kayaks. Nigel from Savannah Canoe and Kayak was amazing – he spent tonnes of time with us and allowed Tim to demo abunch of boats.

We had one really nice day onour 2nd stop here so we got out for a beach bike ride and an afternoon of surfing. It was wonderful!

We would definitely recommend Tybee as a place to come and stay. It seems like it is fairly busy from March to September in terms of Campground traffic so be sure to book ahead!