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Category Archives: Travel

Walk Date: Up 5th Avenue for New York Steaks

For our last night in New York City, my boss told me “treat yourself and your husband to a nice dinner on the company.” So there was no guilt when I made reservations at Uncle Jack’s, where the steaks are thick, juicy, and quite expensive, and the side dishes are a la carte. Since I had been trapped inside at a conference all day, I convinced Dick to walk the 22 short blocks and 3 long blocks to the restaurant (1.6 miles).

Fifth Avenue is literally the heart of Manhattan and it was thumping on this warm night. The sidewalks were so crowded, what should have been a leisurely stroll past some of New York’s most notable landmarks and famous stores felt like rush hour on a freeway. By the time we got to Uncle Jack’s, Dick was hot and cranky and my feet were starting to complain in my strappy heels. But all was forgotten when our cocktails arrived, and we enjoyed our thick and juicy steaks, steamed asparagus and mashed potatoes, and the requisite New York cheesecake.

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Not wanting to spoil the mood with another long walk back, we hailed a pedicab to take us back to the hotel. With the wind in our faces, a cushy bench seat, and unobstructed views upward, we had the best seats on Broadway for our ride home. Pull over, yellow cabs. Trot aside, horse drawn carriages through Central Park. Pedicabs rides are the best way to see the Big Apple.

Have you ever taken a pedicab ride? Was it a fun ride or a stupid tourist trap?

About Bike Date Friday: Since September 2010, my husband and I have had a standing date every Friday night. We eat at a different place every week and arrive by bike. There’s no better way to end the work week.

 
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Posted by on September 25, 2011 in Bike Date, Travel

 

New York City: Sweet Sweet Adeline Adeline

When Dick and I travel we love to check out the local bike shops. We used to seek out the high-profile traditional bike shops selling everything from kids bikes to high-end racing machines. But more and more, we’re gravitating toward shops featuring city bikes, like Clever Cycles in Portland, My Dutch Bike in San Francisco and WorkCycles in Amsterdam. Before we arrived in New York I already knew I wanted to visit Adeline Adeline.

Founded as an alternative to traditional sport bicycle shops, Adeline Adeline offers a boutique experience with stylish bicycles and accessories that are as artful in design as they are functional to ride. After reading glowing reviews about them and browsing their online catalog, I had to see Adeline Adeline in person.

I was not disappointed. Their selection of European city bikes is extensive and their bags alone will keep me coming back again and again after I’m home. ‘Cause you know, there’s always room for another bicycle bag even when there’s not room for another bicycle.

Have you stumbled upon shops while traveling that you wish you had back home? Where were they and why?

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Posted by on September 24, 2011 in Travel

 

New York City: Subway vs Bike

You can’t say you’ve experienced New York City until you’ve ridden the subway. Besides, between the $30 per day cost of renting bikes in NYC and how intense our ride was yesterday, we opted to take the subway to visit the Metropolitan Museum of Art. I was also curious to compare taking the subway to taking the bike.

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The Google Maps transit option recommended we take the A-C blue line from Penn Station to 86th, then walk across Central Park to the museum at 82nd and 5th Avenue. Buying subway tickets was fast, easy and not too expensive at $2.50. But Dick’s ticket wouldn’t open the turnstile, so he had to ask the ticket agent for help. Twice. Also, we had a hard time figuring out whether we should take the A and C lines. The fact that the subway didn’t having a system map posted in the station didn’t help.

But we made it to 86th Street and walked a pleasant 3/4 mile in light rain across Central Park to the museum. For the route back we walked to the East Side’s 77th St station and took the 6 line subway to 33rd and walked about a mile back to the hotel. Total walking: 2 miles.

Thinking back over our trip and comparing to our ride yesterday, which happened to take us past the museum, here’s my take on subway vs bike.

Time: Factoring out the lost time in the station it took us about 30 minutes on the subway. On the bike, the 3.2 miles would have taken about 15-20 minutes. Bike wins.

Comfort: On a bike with fenders, riding in light rain and walking are about the same. Sitting on a bike is more comfortable than standing on a crowded subway. Bike wins.

Mental stress: Riding a bike in city traffic, especially in the rain, is much more mentally stressful than the riding the subway. But the subway is LOUD. Not that the street is quiet either. Subway wins.

Physical stress: If you have foot problems that make walking difficult, note that the subway route requires significant walking, including stairs, so I had to wear comfortable walking shoes. On a bike I can wear heels, and on a bike I can comfortably carry more stuff: laptop, shopping bags, groceries, etc. Bike wins.

Reliability: Due to the number of riders it supports, the subway in NYC is very reliable. But if something halts the line, like a water main break, it can be long walk to an alternate line. On a bike on the street grid, there are almost always adjacent streets available if there’s a street closure. Bike wins.

Given the pros and cons above, which would you take: subway or bike? Does one factor trump all others?

Speaking of water main breaks, here’s my video of the break that almost kept us from using the subway.

 
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Posted by on September 20, 2011 in Issues & Infrastructure, Travel

 

New York City in 30 Intense Miles

With sunny skies and rain forecasted for later in the week, we hit the ground rolling on our first day in NYC. Not wanting our first pedal strokes to be in the heart of Midtown Manhattan during rush hour, we walked up 8th Avenue and rented bikes near Central Park. I’ve rented bikes in enough cities to keep expectations low, but I must say my “Mt Pocono” bike was the sorriest nag I ever swung a leg over. Nonetheless, Mt Pocono took me on an epic journey across 30 miles of noisy urban landscape.

The route took us through Central Park, up to the Upper West Side, down the Hudson River, through the Meat Packing, Greenwich Village and Financial Districts, across the Brooklyn Bridge to Brooklyn Heights, back across the Manhattan Bridge, through Chinatown, past Ground Zero and then back up the Hudson. We survived!

Of all the challenges we faced–cars, taxis, buses, pedestrians, double parked vehicles, navigation and bad pavement–you may be surprised at how we ranked them. The biggest challenge? Pedestrians. They stood, walked and ran in bike lanes, crossed streets against the light, and were willing to step right in front of not only bikes, but oncoming vehicle traffic. A close second was stopped vehicles, from taxis unloading passengers to delivery trucks to city vehicles. That video of the guy crashing in the bike lane was very accurate.

The surprising positive note were the cars, buses and even taxis–as long as they were moving. In general, they anticipated what you needed to do and would adjust accordingly. And they were cool when you wove through standing traffic or needed to take the lane to get around the all-to-common double parked vehicles. Another positive note was the way-finding signage the city has installed. It got us through almost everywhere, except the difficult Manhattan Bridge detour that dumps you onto the Bowery. That said, we’re not renting bikes again today. We need a mental break. Riding in NYC is INTENSE.

Where’s the most intense place you’re ever ridden?

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Posted by on September 20, 2011 in Around Town, Issues & Infrastructure, Travel

 

Amsterdam: The Ballet of Traffic

Organized chaos or an unscripted symphony? The bike, scooter, car and foot traffic in this Amsterdam shopping district flows around obstacles like leaves on a stream. We drank our coffee and watched in amazement. Despite some close crossings, no one collided and we never heard honking or yelling. Pretty amazing since there are no stop signs or traffic signals, and there’s road construction to the left of the camera.

When I get back home and want to remember Amsterdam, I’ll grab a cup of coffee or glass of red wine, watch this video and be transported back to a rainy day with the traffic ballet. [see notes below to skip to the highlights]

Do you think this level of smooth interaction is possible in the US? Perhaps on a college campus?

Timecodes for interesting passersby
0:14 Two blondes on Dutch bikes; 0:18 Dad with kid in front seat; 0:37 Guy riding with cell phone; 0:57 Cyclists set up for full touring; 1:30-2:03 Fashionable women with boots, scarfs, mini-skirts; 2:52 Mom with toddlers in cargo bike; 2:50 Clueless male tourists; 5:48 Girl on bike walking dog; 5:50 Blonde with a cell phone; 6:26 Kid sitting on back rack

What we didn’t catch on video, but wish we had
Girls sitting sidesaddle on back racks of Dutch Bikes; Guy with cello on his back, resting it on his back rack; Guy with pink rollaboard suitcase on his front rack; Family on a triple tandem; Two moms with full cargo bikes stopping in the street to say hello; Guy helping his girlfriend fight the wind by pushing her back; Dad coaching 3-year-old on how to cross busy street.

 
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Posted by on September 19, 2011 in Around Town, Issues & Infrastructure, Travel

 

Gallery: Bikes from the Streets of Amsterdam

Imagine a city filled with timeless, utilitarian bicycles with their own special charm. That city is Amsterdam.

[Click thumbnails for higher resolution photos]

If you could bring one of these bikes back to the States, which would you choose?

 
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Posted by on September 18, 2011 in Bike Gallery, Travel

 

Bike Date Friday: Amsterdam After Dark

With three days of Amsterdam cycling under our belts, we were ready to venture out after dark. Understanding the traffic rules was only part of the difficulty, it was also hard to navigate. For example, we couldn’t find a direct route to the Leidseplein, a popular eating and shopping district about a kilometer from our hotel. We kept riding in circles up and down canals trying to converge on our target.

But Friday night was Bike Date Friday night, so we had to risk it. We found the elusive direct route to the Leidesplein where we walked the square, had a tasty Dutch dinner, did a little window shopping, and pedaled back to the hotel through the Vondelpark with the unmistakable scent of marijuana in the air.

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About Bike Date Friday: Since September 2010, my husband and I have had a standing date every Friday night. We eat at a different place every week and arrive by bike. There’s no better way to end the work week.

 
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Posted by on September 16, 2011 in Around Town, Bike Date, Travel

 

Fashion Friday: Cycle Chic in Amsterdam?

In a tailored jacket, skinny jeans, heels and the essential scarf, I’m gearing up to cycle with the fashionable folks of Amsterdam, on my Dutch rental bike.

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Posted by on September 16, 2011 in Cycle Fashions, Travel

 

Amsterdam: Finally Riding a Bike!

After five days wistfully watching the bicycle riders in Amsterdam, I finally got to step through the frame of a Dutch bike and go out for a spin. It was heaven–and a little bit of purgatory.

Renting a bike was super easy. We just asked at the hotel desk, and the clerk gave us keys to bikes parked outside the front door, explained how the locks worked, and sent us off. We were both surprised how the same frame size could accommodate Dick’s long legs and my short ones with a quick adjustment for the seat height.

Our hotel was adjacent to the Vondelpark, Amsterdam’s answer to Central Park, so we had a gentle start to get used to the bikes. But before too long we hit the city center and had to ride tight cycle paths with the men in suits, blondes on cellphones, mothers with toddler-filled cargo bikes, plus motor scooters. Then there were the cars, streetcars and pedestrians, all crossing the cycle paths at regular intervals.

The myth of separated pathways is that it isolates users by group. In practice, there are so many places where paths cross and people turn that it’s carefully orchestrated chaos. Unfortunately, we didn’t know the tune. Sometimes there were separate signals for pedestrians, bikes and cars, but not always. And if you don’t move right away on a green light, expect a tongue lashing in Dutch just as you would a car horn in Boston.

Nontheless, we made our way across the city all the way to the Central Station, then out to the ferry dock, into the Westerpark. We had no agenda, so it really didn’t matter where we rode. After getting a bit of advice from a friendly Dutchman, we stopped for ethnic food in the Oud West, got completely turned around and miraculously found our way back to the hotel.

In four hours out on the bikes and we probably covered 12 miles. But we saw some unique areas of the city, got some exercise, and learned a little about how to navigate the city (and how not to).

When was the last time you felt like a complete newbie at something you consider yourself experienced at?

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Posted by on September 15, 2011 in Around Town, Travel

 

Amsterdam: Trouble Adapting

The trade show is over, Dick has arrived, and I’m on vacation in an amazing city. It feels odd to complain, but I’m having trouble adapting. Before I left I was having a minor panic over my iPhone, iPad and MacBook not being able to work there. Did I need a power converter or would a simple adapter work? Would my cell phone work? I thought I was being overly anxious.

My friends reassured me I’d only need an adapter, so I picked up one at Best Buy. But at the hotel, I found the adapter didn’t fit the outlet. The prong configuration was correct, but the plug body was too big for the outlet.

So I had to recharge my beloved devices during the day at the trade show on power strip in the booth. At the show, I could get internet access through a network cable at the booth, but we had to share. So at the hotel: no power, but internet access. At the show: power, but very limited internet access. All frustrating.

After the show ended, we moved to a hotel closer to city center, where they had the same type of outlets so I really needed an adapter. I asked the guy at the check-in desk and they didn’t have any, nor did they know where to buy them. So I wandered the streets searching for one while Dick slept off his jet lag. I finally found this little hardware store with “keys made” sign in the window. I wanted to hug the sales guy who not only had the right adapter, but also explained how the new deeper outlets were grounded, which is why the old style adapters didn’t fit them.

For the cell phone concerns, an internet search said that AT&T doesn’t off cell service, so I’d have to pay very expensive international rates, which I could reduce by upgrading my service. I decided I would upgrade my voice service only, and not use my data services at all. I didn’t know just how how lost I would be without them. As we meandered around the city today, there were a half dozen times pulled over to reorient ourselves and couldn’t find our location on the tourist map. Where was my little blue GPS dot showing my location?

Fortunately, we found that if you’re looking at a map, especially in a tourist area, some genial Dutchman will stop to give you not only directions, but tour advice. A man stopped to help us at the Westpark, and we later saw another man helping these girls too.

What items would you be lost without in your life? Your phone? Your watch? Your favorite cup of coffee?

 
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Posted by on September 14, 2011 in Travel

 
 
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