Bicycles are an affordable way to see the world in an up-close and personal way. That's the verdict from syndicated television personality Judge Alex E. Ferrer, a Miami resident who ranks a bike ride through Shark Valley in Everglades National Park as a favorite way to get back to nature.
Far beyond local nature trails, Nancy Sathre-Vogel and her husband John (www.familyonbikes.org) embarked on a multi-year bike journey with their twin boys to ride the Pan-American Highway from Alaska to Argentina. She gave us a few minutes of her time during the family's brief layover in the Peruvian Andes. There are many factors to consider before launching a bike tour, Sathre-Vogel said.
Logistics: Decide what you're going to carry and how you're going to carry it. Sathre-Vogel is a fan of side panniers for storage, while her husband prefers the tow-behind trailer. Turns out, they need both options for things like spare parts, home-schooling supplies and all-weather gear.
Planning: To cross the Darien Gap — a stretch between Panama and Columbia with no road — the Vogels made arrangements to strap their bikes to the front of a sail boat. That option enabled them to spend five days relaxing on the water while making their way to Columbia. In Peru, the family had to choose between a flat coastal route with strong daily headwinds and desert, or a stunning mountain route that offered scenery and opportunities to interact with local people. They chose the latter, but paid the price with brutal climbs.
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City tours: Travel writer Shelley Seale, author of "Insider's Guide to Seattle," recommends scoring a free copy of the city's bicycling guide, available from www.seattle.gov. The guide provides frugal tips about enjoying the city on two wheels. To highlight Seattle's bike-friendly status, Seale points to the city's 270 miles of bike trails, bike rack-equipped city buses and bike-friendly accommodations on ferries and streetcars. Her overall top tip? Check out Bikestation.com. This site lists bike-transit stations around the U.S. that provide secure bike parking for travelers seeking to shop or sightsee.
Packing: Travelingringo.com's Glen Abbott has a motorized view of bike touring. He lives and writes about motorcycle travel. According to Abbott, packing the right supplies is critical. In addition to a camera, two lenses and a portable computer, he travels with a light wardrobe. That strategy provides ample room for weather gear, including a breathable rain suit and warm gloves. But he clears space for one comfortable outfit to change into at the end of the day, along with a pair of tennis shoes.