Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Two Passions: Solo Travel and Cycling

Posted on June 8, 2010 - by Solo Traveler

Two Passions: Solo Travel and Cycling

I can’t remember where I first heard about cycling and hosteling but I do remember when. I was ten years old. It struck me as terribly romantic in the literary sense of the word. Maybe it was a character in a book that introduced me to the idea, I don’t know. But when I asked my Mom if it was still done she fueled the romance by describing her days as a teenager cycling and hosteling the Eastern Townships outside of Montreal.

Four years later I was on my first cycling tour. I saved my money carefully for 10 months to take a trip that my parents didn’t really think I’d manage to do. I spent one month in Wales and southern England cycling and hosteling. My bike was a white Peugeot.

I did a number of other tours after that. Some with a couple of friends, others on tours that I joined. While marriage and kids put hosteling off my agenda, I never gave up cycling at home and on vacation.

You can rent a bike at the McDonald's Cycle Center in Millennium Park, Chicago.

City Cycling and Solo Travel
When I plan to travel, I don’t choose my destination based on whether it’s good for cycling but, if it is, I make plans to make it happen.

Chicago is definitely a bike friendly city. Before going to Chicago I requested a guide from the Greeter program and specifically asked for someone who cycled. The result was a fabulous day. We picked up my bike at the McDonald’s Cycle Center in Millennium Park (just a few blocks from my hotel, the Hotel Monaco which was fabulous) and rode along the waterfront.

When I took my recent trip around Lake Ontario I brought my bike with me. I cycled in Kingston and Rochester. Neither city is really set up for bikes but each is small enough to make city cycling quite safe. It’s a great way to get around and see the many sights.

At home in Toronto, my bike is transportation April to October. The system of bike trails and lanes in Toronto is quite good. If you plan to visit Toronto you can get a free cycling map from the city. The best bike rental I’ve found in Toronto is Community Bicycling Network.

Country Cycling
If I had had more time on my trip around Lake Ontario, I would certainly have spent it cycling both Prince Edward County and around Niagara on the Lake. It would be the perfect mode of transportation for visiting the vineyards. But I was packing so much into that trip that it just wasn’t possible.

The one day I did get out of the city cycling was when I was in Kingston. A 15 minute ferry ride from downtown Kingston to Wolfe’s Island and you are in the country. The wind may be more of an issue than the island’s rolling hills.

Cycling is a wonderful way to explore a city and country. The pace is slower. It involves more of your senses. You breathe deeper. And, I’ve found that you meet more people just because you’re on a bike.