Monthly Archives: November 2009

2009 Roatan Honduras Plans


We’re scheduled to visit Roatan Honduras in December.  It’s been compared to  the TV Fantasy Island.  Check out the map here.  Note that the island is 33 miles long and only three miles wide.  The spine of the island is more than a few hundred feet above sea level.  So the island has been used for triathlons where the bicycle part is challenging.  Where possible, therefore, I’ll try to avoid crossing the island over the hills.  The ship lands in the city in Coxen Hole near the west end of the island.

Among the things Bicycle Cruising has learned to look for (Honduras/Belize Travel Site and GoNomad) are the varied cultures, the beaches and diving sites, a few special viewing facilities for Iguanas and butterflies, and to beware of the sand fleas.  Roatan has few or no remaining natives from before the Spanish arrived, but there is a Caribbean-African Garifuna community at Punta Gorda along with influences from the Spanish and, particularly, the British, who decided to compete with the Spanish in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.  Thus, most of the people speak “Caribbean English.”  I found a lot of hotels and rental sites who rent bicycles and many of the villa owners who provide bicycles, so I presume the island is bicycle friendly.  I’ve learned that paved roads are available but that potholes may be a hazard and the roads may be slippery, especially in the rainy season which lasts from November to February–the time we’ll be there. (Take our rain gear).  But there are also many unpaved roads, some of which may be navigable for Marilyn and me, but some which may be more challenging than we want to take on.

Prior to leaving the ship, we will have breakfast and collect some food to carry in our backpacks.  This will include some fruit, some muffins or pastries, and some bottled water.  We’ll carry the food in some sort of a box to protect it from getting crushed and a plastic bag to avoid contaminating the rest of the backpack in case something comes loose.  There are three areas in which we will be interested, actually four.  The first area is the area around the port in Coxen Hole, where there will be a market and other vendors.  Since the market areas are best visited in the morning, we’ll start there with the actual market.  We plan to taste food from some of the carts and especially pick up some fresh fruits to taste there and to eat during the rest of the ride.  The second area is the West End which houses most of the resort area and the better restaurants, but also has attractions like the Butterfly Garden and the Carambola Botanical Gardens.  We may try a beach in this area if one looks good.  The distance to the end of West End is approximately 9 miles and we should easily make this in an hour.  We’ll try the attractions on our way back toward Coxen Hole, but still in the morning.  Once back in Coxen Hole, we’ll take off toward French Harbor, a trip of about 6 miles.  In French Harbor, we’ll take a look at the Iguana Farm and check out other beaches.  During the midday, we’ll also be looking for someplace to eat lunch.  I really want to try something with conch in it.  I’ve heard some places have French Fried conch sandwiches which are wonderful.  The trip to French Harbor is another hour out and an hour back.  That gives several one hour opportunities to see places like the Iguana Farm and beaches.  I’ll be looking for remnants of the pirate past for Roatan and I’ll try to get photos for the blog after we’ve done the trip.  I’ve read that pirates buried some of their loot on this island.  Maybe I can buy a treasure map and come up with some real buried treasure.

The fourth area I want to visit is the Garifuna Village at Punta Gorda.  Garifunas are the remnants of the Black Caribs who were brought to Roatan two or three hundred years ago.  Punta Gorda is the area where most of them still live and I am really interested in learning about their culture.  But this area is about thirteen miles from Coxen Hole and about 6-8 miles beyond French Harbor.  The time to get there and back is probably longer than we will have available on this trip, so we’ll probably have to put this off till our next trip to Roatan.

Finally, I am aware that Honduras is undergoing some political turmoil.  I’m convinced Roatan is isolated from most of that and we are unlikely to see anything which would cause a problem.  I look forward to a great ride and a great time.  I’m stoked, aren’t you? Bicycle Cruising

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Europe 2007


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Marilyn in Porto. Note the bridge in the background with the city on the left and the Port Caves on the right with all of the Port demo buildings. This path is typical of good riding paths along coasts and rivers in Europe. We also saw many large wading birds and other birds along the river.

We’re always ready with the right equipment.  Note the brace on Marilyn’s leg.  She lost her anterior Cruciate ligament in her knee as a young girl.  This makes it difficult when she is twisting to dismount the bike.  The brace stabilizes her knee and lets her ride with the pros. 

We always wear helmets, too.  Marilyn got her bike stuck in a railroad track in  Lisbon and fell.  Luckily, her helmet prevented any injury.  As was typical in Europe in our experience, a passing truck driver got to her well before I even noticed she had fallen.  The driver helped her up and helped move her and the bike to safety.  She suffered a skinned knee which was patched up in a nearby restaurant while we tasted the local fish cooked Lisbon-style along with a bottle of Mateus wine which I hadn’t seen since my days in college in the 60’s.  Remember the rounded bottle we saved to burn candles in?  The wine had a slight sparkle to it and was light pink.  And only $3 a bottle.  I don’t know why we don’t see it in the US any more.  But the important thing was the helpfulness of the restaurant staff when Marilyn walked in.  By the time I arrived after locking up the bikes a minute later, they were pointing me to the ladies’ room and handing me a first aid kit, telling me it was OK to go into the ladies’ room because they would lookout.   We normally keep our own first aid kit for these little emergencies.

And don’t you think the hat under the helmet is stylish?  We always get a lot of weird looks from the hat.  But Marilyn believes it is necessary to prevent the sun from drying and wrinkling her skin.  Works for me! 

We prepared for Portugal by printing a small 8-page playing card-sized phrase book in Portuguese.  As I shouted Hello in Portuguese to everyone we passes, almost everyone responded with a quizzical look and only a few responded back.  In the restaurant, when I mentioned that to the waitress, she asked me to repeat it.  She then told me that my phrasebook was in Brazilian Portuguese and the word for Hello in Portugal was different.  I can imagine that everyone thought I was a Brazilian foreigner with a bad accent.

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Welcome bicyclecruisers. Let’s get started


How did I get started on bicyclecruising?  A travel agent arranging a cruise for me told me of the adventurers she had when traveling in Europe on a cruise.  Her husband was an avid bicycler and wanted to bicycle with her while they were on their cruise.  They shipped their bikes to the cruise ship start in Amsterdam and stored them in their cabin.  They took the bikes off the ship each morning when in port and cycled around the town for 5-7 hours, visiting museums, scenic points, and getting enough exercise that they could eat everything the ship offered for meals at breakfast and dinner.  They took some food with them each day for lunch but stopped for any special foods or at a restaurant if it looked interesting.  Sounded neat to me!  You too?  Read on.

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We found this place in A Corunha Spain. That's me, Bob in front of the two bicycles we bought in London. We cycled around town and as we came down a hill to the water, we found this Cerveria (beer house?) around lunchtime. We ordered what we thought was sausages and received a delicious potato omelet typical of this part of Spain. It went very well with a small bottle of white wine.

We (my wife Marilyn and I) secured our first bicycle cruise on Marilyn’s first trip to the continent in late Fall of 2007.  We flew to London for four days in town before the cruise left from Dover.  We purchased two collapsible bikes, one used from a Craigslist entry, and one new from a bike shop in Chelsea, where we were staying at the Football Stadium.  We rode around town and took them to the train station after the four days for the train ride to Dover to board the cruise ship.  We needed special large taxis to carry the bikes and our luggage.  The cruise ship attendants took our luggage and bikes right from the taxi and we found them in our rooms after we processed onto the ship.  Even our inside cabin was large enough to store the bikes on one side of the bed each night.  Enough, if not plenty of room.  It would have been better if the ship had been willing to store the bikes in one of their holds.  I know they can do this, because we noticed other people taking bikes off the ramps some days and eventually found out these were crew members using bikes owned by the ship for the express purpose of letting the crew see the ports themselves.

Now we had prepared for the bicycle cruise by filling a three ring binder while searching the internet for each port to get maps of the harbor area, ideas for places to visit in each port, and advice, from bicyclists from the town or who had visited the town, about which roads were safe or best for bicyclists and which places to avoid.  We got great advice for really different things to do, which restaurants to try, where to meet the locals–just the kind of info a bicyclecruiser really wants–if you are anything like me.  We were travelling with my brother-in-law and his wife and they also wanted some of the material we had.  We took it to the cruise staff and arranged to get a copy.  Later, when my brother-in-law met us for dinner, he said he had a great time and he saw lots of other people with the same maps and site descriptions we had given to him.  At the second port, we mentioned that to the cruise staff and they said they had taken the liberty of making a few extra copies and given it out to people who had asked for info.  They agreed to copy our stuff for no charge under these circumstances. 

Needless to say, we had a great time and came back with great stories about places never mentioned by the cruise lines because they were frequently accessible best by bike.  Places like Marina del Pisa in Italy with long oceanside drives lined with cabanas for the local Italians and open markets.

That’s what occasioned our idea for a blog site for bicyclecruisers.  We’ll collect material and make it available to other bicyclecruisers and you should help us with your own ideas and your own secret information about ports accessible by cruise ships.

We find that one shouldn’t expect to bike more than 50 miles each day since the cruise ships frequently allow disembarkation around 8am and require reboarding around 6pm.  That gives us eight hours to bike.  I therefore make a 25 mile circle around the port site and expect to bike at a speed of 8 to 12 miles per hour, although you can go faster in a pinch and might be kept to slower speeds by traffic in the city.  I plan to bike for up to an hour at disembarkation, then stop for a place to visit or to get something to eat.  Sightsee and eat for an hour or so and then take off for another hour to another site.  This gives me about four separate places to visit and uses up as much as 3000 calories.  Add that to my daily normal burn of 2000 calories or so and I can really enjoy the sumptuous meals aboard ship without worrying about gaining weight.  I can even hit the chocolate extravaganza and the midnight buffet. 

By the way, bicycle cruising isn’t just for the triathlon crowd.  I’m 66 years old myself and I weigh 5 or 10 pounds more than I would like to weigh, although my doctor says I’m in great health.  I already get lots of bicycling time because I am a bicycle commuter, although I own two cars.  I don’t suggest bicyclecruising for someone who has never ridden a bike or who is not comfortable on a bike.  But biking is a great way to lose a few or a lot of pounds and to begin to get in shape.  Take at least a few weeks to get ready for the bicyclecruise.  But if you are then comfortable on the bike, bicyclecruising is a great way to spend your vacation time.  It is great for couples or families to spend the time together biking on the cruise and also preparing the information before the cruise.

I plan to be cruising this winter in the Caribbean and am searching out South American cruises for the first part of 2010.  In the next days and months I’ll show you some of our plans, the pictures from the cruises, and provide some special tips on how to ship your bikes, where to get bikes in port, tips on restaurants, cafes, wine bars, vineyards to visit, local food, and many other ideas.  Keep in touch!

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