f you're like me, you're already scheming and planning for 2024 travel. And, since the holiday season is upon us, let's skip more stuff and give the gift of travel instead. What's on our 2024 wish list? Montana, Park City, Quebec, and of course a return to NW Arkansas. If you are looking for outdoor adventures, mountain bike vacations, or golf destinations check out this 2023 recap, they are all places worth a return trip for sure. Cheers to the holidays and to adventures in the new year!
February arrives in Michigan with the hope for Spring, but winter typically holds us in its clutches for longer than we would like…especially for biker types. Not in the mood to wait, Josh and I drove five hours south to Nashville, Indiana, in search of Spring and mountain bike trails.
The other Nashville, the Indiana variety, is a quick hour south of Indy, home to Brown County State Park and almost 40 miles of mountain bike trail, designated an IMBA bronze-level ride center in 2015. It's Indiana's largest state park, plus there are 21 miles for hikers. Then, add the quaint small town with its locally-owned restaurants, boutique shops, and art galleries, just two miles from the trail system. It's a winning combination: the trails, the town, and the people (townies).
Bella Vista in the Northwest Arkansas Ozarks is an outdoor epicenter where golfing and mountain biking are intertwined – golf course fairways intersect with rolling ribbons of singletrack trails. Golfers in khakis and collared shirts traverse fairways in power carts and give right-of-way to bikers pedaling through in spandex, wrap-around shades, and helmets. Golf and mountain biking – An odd pairing? Actually, the terrain is ideally suited for par fives or trail systems like Little Sugar and the Back 40 that churn up and around the signature mossy slate and rock ledges. Both sports take advantage of the elevation change, contributing to the unique flavor of pedaling bikes or swinging clubs. Flat and boring – not in Bella Vista.
Most days of our April visit, we celebrated an occasional par on greens like Kingswood that flanked signature trails like Danger Will Robinson. There are 99 holes to shoot at and 100 + miles of trail to ride. So my tip is to golf nine in the morning, grab a sandwich, then roll out for some afternoon trail time. It's the perfect two-a-day that will lead to the happiest of hours and the always colorful OZ sunsets.
Most mountain bikers are men, 70% according to current demographics. That means my fellow femme shredders make up the other 30% or less. I'd love to see this stat continue to change, and I hope more women will take up this unique and adventurous sport. Change is a few pedal strokes away, especially with events like Roam Fest; the most recent iteration occurred in May in Knoxville, Tennessee. What's ROAM Bike Fest? It's a 3-day party on two wheels. Roam Fest is a fun-first mountain bike festival that creates space for women, marginalized riders, and genderqueer folks to build community while riding in world-class bike destinations. The festival showcases over a hundred guided rides, plus workshops, bike demos, adventure films, community programs, and some really fun happy hours and a dance party. The advertising was spot-on; bonus, I met nine new bike besties during 3-days of epic camaraderie. A male-dominated sport…sure didn't feel that way at Roam!
Reflecting on a visit to Canada's heartland in the Manitoba province, I am struck by the diversity of experiences: bikes, bison, baseball, and beauty, to name a few. We found adventure in the wilderness and the city of Winnipeg. The vast outdoor spaces were inspiring throughout the trip. Crowds, it's not a thing here. There's room to move, space to explore, and expansive views to soak in. And the people, I am used to Midwest Nice, but I've discovered that Manitoba Nice is a notch above that.
We travel to experience amazing places, but the people make the adventure an unforgettable experience.
Mel and Alex of Northgate Trails in Dauphin guided our first day on two wheels. Their energy was infectious, so I eagerly followed them on a rip around some trails: Jersey Shore, The Finger, Crop Duster, and Auto Alley Jump Park. On the edge of RMNP (Riding Mountain National Park), Northgate Trails (26 k and counting) weave through impressive stands of Aspen, evergreens, and a gorgeous fern-laced canopy. Limestone cliffs and riverbanks provide the elevation for a great romp around dirt ribbons of single track. Northgate is Manitoba's newest multi-use trail destination featuring professionally built trails, jump lines, community gathering areas, and cozy cabins for overnights. Join them for group rides, or the littles will love being a part of KOM (Kids of Mud). Biker trip tip: Reserve rental mountain bikes from Woodcock Cycle Works in Winnipeg before the drive to Northgate.
It was the neighborly thing to do: pop one state over to Wisconsin's CAMBA mountain bike trail system. You may not be able to say the name (Chequamegon Area Mountain Bike Association), but I guarantee you'll want to return. I cheated and took the cross-lake ferry from Muskegon, MI, to Milwaukee, which saved hours of driving and the angst of Chicago traffic. CAMBA has 130-plus miles of trails stocked with lakes and lodges, stretching from quaint towns like Hayward to Cable and Bayfield overlooking Lake Superior. It's all just a mere hour and a half from Duluth, two and a half hours from Minneapolis, and only an hour from Michigan's Upper Peninsula.
The upper Midwest is gaining mountain bike cred, and CAMBA is a solid cornerstone. For example, add in Minnesota's Cuyuna Lakes, Michigan's Keweenaw Peninsula, and Marquette, and don't forget Brown County, Indiana. No mountains, no problem; ride CAMBA, in Wisconsin's Northwoods, and the Midwest.
Mountain biking is better…when you are actually in the mountains! The biking we do at home in Michigan, at sea level, on dirt trails with no rocks, on gently rolling hills, I pondered. Is that really mountain biking? Of course, the genre encompasses a wide range of terrain, but I decided my Michigan version of riding does not have the sex appeal like the mountain trails cut above 10,000 feet with panoramic views of the Rockies. Enter Fall MTB in Frisco, Colorado, with my Lake Michigan sea legs and lungs attempting to pedal and breathe at elevation.
We were humbled but up for a challenge. The golden stands of turning Aspens and stately evergreens had a good chuckle all week at my gasping attempts at climbing to their peaks! Our first order of business was a stop at Rebel Sports for bike fitting and high-performance rentals. The crew hooked us up with two Transition Spires with plenty of travel to absorb the rocky and technical terrain. Besides the bikes and gear, we left armed with trail tips and ride route suggestions.
Remember, regular people go on adventures too! Lighthearted travelers laugh at unexpected happenings along the road. Sometimes when you stop looking for your destination, it will find you
The Bridge and River tour is a scenic 3-hour bicycle tour will take you from the Upper West Side of New York City up and over the George Washington Bridge for a ride along the river on Route 9W. Get the full touring experience and leave New York City for a few hours. During the ride, we make stops at Grants Tomb Memorial on the Upper West Side.