Tuscany by Bicycle
“Fantastico!” Giulio, our cycling guide exclaims as we gear our e-bikes into Turbo mode, on the way to the perched village of Monticchiello, in the Tuscan Val d’Orcia.
The vista is, in fact, fantastico: forever fields of spring wheat roll in patchwork vivid green as pencil-thin cypress, bushed olive, and elaborately pruned stone pine grace the rocky precipices. A solitary villa sits atop one rise; a Romanesque church on another. We stop at the tiny chapel, Cappella di Vitaleta, built in 1540, by artist, Andrea della Robbia, and marvel at its unbleached façade as it stands sentinel to golden hills. Then, off, biking long empty roads, bouncing over a maze of cobblestone alley ways that lead past slate cottages and the town square of Monticchiello.
“Teatro Povero,” Giulio explains.
But soon, Giulio gestures, “Andiamo!” And off we zip, into another valley of undulating farmland, past a field of bleating lambs, along a shaded meadow of oak, and then through more ripening olive groves. All this landscape is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, recognized for its important winegrowing History, with Montalcino and Montepulciano as its most famous landmarks.
Giulio is taking us to a hidden gem—a special vineyard, hovering above Bagno Vignoni, home of thermal baths. This “square of sources” was a healing respite for aches and pains and utilized by ancient Etruscans as they traveled the “pilgrim’s route” of Via Francigena to Rome. Waters bubble in a stoneencased pool. Majestic holly oaks surround tiny trattorias and osterias.
“There,” Giulio points up, to Tenuta Sanoner Vineyards. We zoom to a lush grove and orchard with undulating views across to Rocca d’Orcia. After shared bottles of Aetos Sangiovese, and more good conversation, it’s time to head back to the Adler Thermae Resort, our spa home for four days.
Adler Spa Resort Thermae – Tuscany
Embedded in the Tuscan hills, with swaths of green meadow, garden, and trellis, indoor and outdoor thermal heated pools, sitting areas hidden in cushioned nooks, there’s a sense of quiet luxury endowed with authentic charm. We are treated like victorious cyclists and offered glasses of Vini Bianchi and plates of sweet frangipane, crème brûlée, and Torta della nonna.
“Spettacolare,” Giulio says. “Alla prossima.”
“See you tomorrow,” we all agree.
Boston by Bicycle
We all know the early bird catches the worm, and this is especially true if you are bicycling in Boston on a weekend. After a quick breakfast of buckwheat pancakes, followed by yogurt and granola, my husband and I grab two complimentary bicycles at the Element Boston and take off down empty bike lanes to Harborwalk.
There is nothing better than bicycling without traffic. Especially if you can ride directly in the road. We glide across the usually crowded N. Washington Street Bridge, and down to Old Ironsides, the world’s oldest commissioned naval vessel. No tour groups, no buses, no one, but seagulls and us.
Sun warms the harbor as we continue to Paul Revere Park and go under the Zakim Bunker Hill Bridge to North Point Park, and soon, we are on the Charles River Bike Path. Twenty-three miles of traffic-free fun, this bike path was named for Paul Dudley White, a prominent Boston cardiologist who was known to proclaim, “Let’s put everyone on bicycles!”
With the harbor on our right, and Boston lit up in pink dawn, the sidewalks are magic at this moment. Daffodils bloom in planters and weeping willows sprout, newly green. We zip past Fan Pier Park and 0ver a traffic-free Seaport Boulevard to Rose Kennedy Greenway–a curving garden path.
It’s one of those spring mornings, with blue bird skies and breezes that taste of warmer days to come.
Bicycling the Kennebunkport Coast
The Yachtsman is like Miami Beach meets foggy Maine with its yellow and white umbrellas, chaise lounges, outdoor wooden bar with heat lamps, oversized lawn games and bean bag chairs for sprawling. The marina is filled with sailboats, fishing charters, and full-on power yachts.
“Or we have bikes for the beach,” the front desk manager suggests.
I take my time rolling along Ocean Avenue, the empty road unfurling itself next to the sea. Past St. Ann’s Episcopal, with its outdoor chapel directly on the rocks, then onward to Spouting Rock and Blowing Cave, where I listen as waves howl underground to blow salt to the breeze. Then it’s Walker’s Point, with a view over to the Bush Compound, which sits surrounded on three sides by the Atlantic. I decide to ride all the way to Cape Porpoise, a delightfully tiny town of art galleries, seafood shacks, and my favorite general store, Bradbury Market.
I stop for yogurt and a homemade blueberry muffin. Locals greet each other and ask about summer plans. I circle back through Wildes District woods, and come into downtown Kennebunkport, which is filling up with day shoppers and ice cream eaters. I take a left onto Beach Road and stop for a hike around the Franciscan Monastery grounds. Trails lead past misty pines and fern grottos to the harbor and on one ledge, a rope swing waits for a brave jump into the Maine ocean. I continue past Gooch’s Beach–Barbara Bush’s favorite, dog-friendly beach—and follow the coast around Oaks Neck. I pause at Mother’s Beach on Lord’s Point, with its oceanfront children’s playground, and watch parents chasing toddlers. Finally, I head to the end of Great Hill Road, where I park the bike and contemplate a swim across Mousam Inlet to an empty Parsons Beach just as a light fog rolls in from the ocean.
Bicycle Martha’s Vineyard Off-Season
With 20 minutes to spare, we rush into our bike shorts and speed easily on the bike path from the Palmer Avenue Lot in Woods Hole, Mass., to the Steamship Authority Ferry. Settling our mountain bikes against the rails of the ferry, we high-ﬁve it up to the empty deck of the ship for a Bad Martha microbrew. The sun is setting orange and red against the cliffs of Falmouth as we coast along Great Harbor over to Martha’s Vineyard for a spring weekend of biking without crowds.
“Shoulder seasons” – those book-end months before and after the summer rush of late June, July and August – are the hidden gems of New England. Hotel specials abound in traditionally pricey resorts and quaint inns. Restaurants offer dinner specials, and window tables are immediately available.
Beaches like Katama and Oak Bluffs are beautifully barren and, more importantly, more than 100 miles of bike routes curve past inland ponds, wildlife preserves and empty country roads. Trafﬁc is local and sparse.
Flipping on our headlamps, we pedal off the ferry to Beach Road bike path and head toward Oak Bluffs and Seaview Avenue. Nantucket Sound is lit in twilight as we glide past Sengekontacket Pond toward Edgartown. A lone kayaker waves to us as he paddles past Felix Neck Audubon Sanctuary.
Edgartown in the summer is wall-to-wall trafﬁc and tourists. In the spring, the roads are ours as we pedal through downtown side roads. The Edgartown Lighthouse is our beacon because our hotel for the weekend, The Harbor View, is located directly across from it. We wheel our bikes, with full week- end pannier packs, right through the lobby, and we feel like celebrities in our Spandex and clicking bike shoes. It took us 40 minutes from ferry to sea view room. After a hot shower and change of clothes, we head out on the town.
We eat in a quirky pub called The Newes From America on Kelly Street and gorge on onion rings and sweet potato/black bean burgers. Two more Bad Martha IPAs are a hit as well, especially when an acoustic guitarist starts singing some old whaling songs.
Walking back past whitewashed whaling captains’ homes of the 1830s and 1840s, we hear a distant fog horn and the clanging of buoys. After a 10-minute stroll past the shops on the wharf, the library and the docks of the Chappaquiddick ferry, we make it back to the shingle-style hotel. Opened in 1891 as a summer retreat for vacationing families, it continues the tradition with a full array of activities. That night, there’s a comedy show in the Lighthouse Grill and we make the last few jokes as we sit near the open air veranda.
The next morning, after a breakfast sandwich and hot coffee at the Among the Flowers Cafe, we head out to the beaches. The wind has picked up and we are glad we packed wind breakers for the bike ride over to Katama Beach. The dunes and bluff break the wind gusts as we watch seagulls careen. A couple of brave surfers in wetsuits grab wave after wave on the empty barrier beach.
After power bars and Gatorade, we take a 10-mile loop through Tisbury’s State Forest of scrub oak and pine, which links us back to Beach Road. Passing East Chop Lighthouse, we coast down the hill to Wesleyan Grove and the magical Oak Bluff Gingerbread Cottages. Soon, we are inside a psychedelic fairytale of Carpenter Gothic style bungalows.
One-of-a-kind in bright colors of the rainbow, this nook of a neighborhood was built for Methodist revival meetings in 1835. First as a tenting community, it became a collective neighborhood consisting of hundreds of unique, two-story, bric-a-brac cottages.
After 35 miles of biking that day, we are ready to sit on the Harbor View’s porch in rocking chairs. Sailboats glide past Edgartown Harbor and just across the bay sits the rural expanse of Chappaquiddick.
Outside, the night closes down on Edgartown, but inside the Harbor View, the mood is convivial; faces are rosy with wind and sun and laughter. I choose buttermilk fried chicken and a baby kale salad, chock full of black walnuts and gorgonzola cheese. My husband chooses marinated ﬂat iron steak and hand-cut fries.
Martha’s Vineyard in the springtime is perfection. We take our three gigantic, warm, chocolate chunk cookies and go back to the porch. Candles glow and the lighthouse blinks its call to summer. Take the ferry over, grab a bicycle, and enjoy the quiet time of Martha’s Vineyard.
Bicycling NH: three weekends, three trails
Fall in New Hampshire: The air gets crisp, the leaves blaze into color, and the back roads beckon – especially if you are on bicycle. I’ve found three special routes that uncover all the New Hampshire nooks you’ll need for a long-weekend getaway. Covered bridges, apple festivals, back-country wineries, chilled dips in lakes and mountain vistas. It’s open-air roads for two wheels, traffic not included.
Bicycling Lake Winnipesaukee, New Hampshire
The Wolfeboro Inn is smack-dab in the center of bicycling heaven. Located in a coveted cove along mammoth Winnipesaukee Lake, it’s a perch offering sunsets from a private beach or from your deck. I got there in early afternoon and headed to the nearby Cotton Valley Trail.
This 12-mile crushed-rock railroad trail stretches from Lake Winnipesaukee to the railroad turntable in Sanbornville. It meanders across three lakes, passes over many trestles and winds through pine forests, open fields and quiet marshland. Stop at Cotton Valley depot – a restored train station with picnic spots, bathrooms and parking – if you are not staying overnight. From Fernald Station, it’s an easy 6.5 miles one way from the depot to downtown Wolfeboro. Take a dip at Albee Beach and then zip back over the causeway for views of lake on all sides. You’ll deserve one of the 100 different varieties of beers in Wolfe’s Tavern back at the Wolfeboro Inn. With great pub fare at the bar and an organic/locally inspired restaurant menu, you’ll be content to while away the evening. Local bands often play in the fireside lounge.
With covered bridges, tumbling waterfalls, wide-open meadows, white clapboard churches and explosions of autumn leaves, Jackson is heart-stoppingly beautiful – especially if you’re riding the back-country lanes and stopping occasionally to catch your breath.
Jackson, New Hampshire Loop
Starting at Christmas Farm Inn, where I’ll return for hot tubs, heated pool and dinner after a longer mountain ride, I park the car at my quaint stream-side cottage, Livery Stable. Biking straight down the driveway, I head toward Jackson Falls. From the bridge, make sure to stop for a long-range view of Iron and Tin mountains and Doublehead peaks, as the falls crash down to Wildcat Brook into Ellis River. This is the place for a dip after the loop up and over the hills. Find a hidden pool of mountain-cold water and jump right in!
Carter Notch Road takes you past Eagle Mountain House and a wide expanse of golf course, meadow and stream. With limited traffic and Spruce Mountain hovering to your left, it’s two miles of autumn colors all to yourself. If you dare, continue up Carter Notch Road to Prospect Farm Road for a heart-pounding view from peaceful apple orchards and late-season gardens. After you catch your breath, zip down from Prospect Farm to 16B, or Five Mile Circuit, for a calm, rolling ride through pine forests and mountain vistas – no uphill required. Shovel Handle Pub, at the intersection of Black Mountain Road and Moody Farm Road, is a three-story post-and-beam barn with more than 10 microbrews on tap and pub fare perfect for sweaty bicycle riders. Then, it’s a quick downhill jaunt back to Jackson Village and its covered bridges. You decide if you’re up for a jump in the falls or a soak in the hot tub back at Christmas Farm Inn. I take a dip, then a soak, and call it a perfect day.
Red Hill Mountain to Squam Lake, New Hampshire
– Parking my car at Loon Preservation Museum on Lees Pond in Moultonborough, I stop in to learn about all things loon before the bicycle ride over Red Hill to my destination at Rockywold-Deephaven Camps. Loons are solitary birds and come to quiet ponds and lakes of New England every spring. Squam Lake is known for families of nesting loons, and Rockywold-Deephaven Camps hosts resident loons every year. They especially come out during the fall, when the lakes calm from boat traffic.
From Moultonborough, I find Sheridan Road, which takes me past a tiny rope-tow ski area called Ski Red Hill, and Garland Pond. There are late-season wildflowers and roadside farm stands with heirloom tomatoes – and most importantly, no cars. Red Hill looms on my left, but I bicycle along its edges until I hit Range Road and the paved ride becomes packed dirt. A huge boulder, called Great Rock, urges me to stop and climb. Even though I’m tempted to grab a sandwich in Sandwich, I decide to push on around Squam Lake via Millbridge Road. Squam Lake sits like a sapphire, still jewel as I follow its curves and coves.
If you want to see a bird’s-eye view of Squam, head to the top of Rattlesnake Mountain, a 15-minute hike to a rocky outcropping with a vista straight out of the movie “On Golden Pond.” I see Rockywold-Deephaven Camps below and decide it’s time for a late season swim before a lakeside salmon dinner.
That night, in my rough-hewn cottage nestled in a corner of Bennett Cove, I hear first one loon, then another, calling to each other in the still of the night.
The Adventure of Two Lifetimes – Bicycling Cross Country in 1996
Excerpt from Midwest Book Review, April 10, 2002:
“Part travelogue, part memoir, and all excitement”
“The Adventure Of Two Lifetimes by Peggy Newland Goetz and Brian Goetz, with June Meyer Newland, is part travelogue, part memoir, and all excitement as it tells of an American husband and wife who embarked on a bicycle tour from New York to California. The Adventure Of Two Lifetimes also transcends generations, viewing the great journey through the eyes of mother and daughter and son-in-law. An exciting, fascinating, and unique look at America from the point of view of highly dedicated and exuberant people, The Adventure Of Two Lifetimes is rewarding, enjoyable, thoughtful, and occasionally inspiring reading!”
In 1956, June Meyer, and her friend, Teri Foster, rode 3-speed Schwinn bicycles from New York to California. They wore saddle shoes and Bermuda shorts and trained by “riding around the blocks of Brooklyn a couple of times.” They went, not to break records in speed or distance, but for “the adventure.” David Garroway of the Today Show interviewed them from Rockefeller Center and since their saddle bags were overstuffed, June remembers almost crashing into the photographers taking their pictures. What followed were 90 days of adventure and misadventure. Upon reaching California, she went on a blind date. The biketrip forever changed her life, but her blind date changed it even more.
Forty years after that epic trip, June’s daughter, Peggy Goetz and Peggy’s husband Brian followed that same east to west 3,000-mile cross-country bike route. This time, they had 24-speed Schwinns, wore hi-tech polypropylene outfits and had clipless pedals. Bryant Gumbel interviewed them on the Today Show as they started out from New York City. Following June’s 1956 path, she and Brian bicycled through the Pocono Mountains of upstate New York, across the north coast of Lake Erie in Ontario, through the corn, wheat and soybean fields of Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois, over the rolling hills of Iowa and Nebraska, the 12,000 foot Continental Divide in Colorado, the wondrous beauty of southern Utah’s canyon-country, across Nevada, into Yosemite National Park and finally, dipping our front tires in the Pacific Ocean in San Francisco.
In their book, The Adventure of Two Lifetimes, Peggy and Brian interweave their trip with her mother’s. While they tell their story from the road, June is back in Virginia Beach, keeping in touch with them by phone and re-constructing her 1956 trip from her detailed journal, her memoirs, an extensive scrapbook, and photographs.
In the same vein as William Least Heat-Moon’s Blue Highways, The Adventure of Two Lifetimes takes a few “sidetrips”. It tells of an America that has changed, yet has remained the same, over 40 years. How booming towns of the 50’s have become modern day ghost towns due to the “bypassing” interstates. How friendly people from both the 90’s and the 50’s opened their houses to weary travelers and shared their stories to our own. How June’s idealistic naiveté of the 50’s almost got her raped in Las Vegas and how Peggy and Brian’s pessimistic attitudes of the 90’s occasionally held them back in fear. How the quiet of farmland, the vastness of deserts and snow-capped mountain peaks, the smiles of strangers, and the power and freedom of riding on the road, made realizing individual dreams worth all the effort.
The Adventure of Two Lifetimes is not a travelogue, of daily mileages in linear directions — its a memoir to time, of places, of a mother’s story, and her daughter’s. It’s a book about taking what you already have and journeying to places unknown, inside and around. How the process of doing becomes the process of being. How one woman’s courage and quest for a place in the world forever changed her life. And how her daughter, after years of living in the shadow of that great feat, found a place of her own, together, with her husband.