Escapes

Q:

Where can I road bike while my husband hikes and mountain bikes?

I like to road cycle, and a good workout for me is 35 to 60 miles per ride. My husband doesn't enjoy this. Do you know of any vacation spots where I can ride while my husband hikes and/or mountain bikes or can otherwise entertain himself? A spot where he can meet me at the end of my ride as we travel would also be nice. Denise St. George, Utah

Hike, bike—or both, Switzerland vies for the next-generation Middle Earth     Photo: image courtesy, Swiss Tourism

Switzerland

Hike, bike—or both, Switzerland vies for the next-generation Middle Earth

A:Living in one of the fastest growing communities in the country—with fantastic outdoor rec right out your backdoor—I'll take the liberty of assuming you want something a little farther afield for your multisport family antics than St. George. Truth is, there are no shortage of places you could go, from Bend, Oregon (number six on that fastest-growing list); to Bozeman, Montana; to Tucson, Arizona. But two places spring to mind right off the, um, pedal that are destined to please any number of disciplines: Santa Fe, New Mexico, and, if you want to go big, the Vaud region of Switzerland.

Santa Fe, a former hometown of mine and HQ for Outside magazine, gets on the lists of "Best Places to Live" for the very reasons you should vacation there. Just off the adobe-lined streets you can find miles of trails, plenty of rocks to climb, and with a little drive, even water to raft. For the road biker in you, there are scores of great rides to cast off on. For a warm-up 20-mile ride—don't forget the lowest elevation you'll ride here is about 7,000 feet—head out on the Las Campañas loop. This takes you out through a subdivision west of town that has little trafficked roads and plenty of wide-open scenery (think high desert hills, 13,000-foot mountains, and the occasional bighorn sheep). The ride has a few short climbs but is otherwise a fast way to get used to the thinner air. Once you're done with that, you can ride down Cerrillos Road for about 20 miles to Madrid, a funky art/mining town swaddled in the hills. The ride back can be a touch tougher as it's mostly up. And if you're feeling really strong, muscle your way up to the Santa Fe Ski Basin by heading out Artist Road, which turns into Hyde Park Road out of town. The ride is about 15 miles one-way and climbs a good 2,500 feet. You'll wear the brake pads out on the way down.

For your hubby, Santa Fe is hike and mountain-bike central. The trails here can be tough if you aren't accustomed to steep, rocky trails and tight switchbacks. But head out on the Dale Ball trail system, accessed off Hyde Park Road or Upper Canyon Road. A network of trails here offers countless combinations. Ride for an hour. Ride for a day. Maps at each intersection make it nearly impossible to get lost. Also, many of the trails off the Winsor Trail, which runs more or less parallel to Hyde Park Road but hidden in the mountains, make for great hikes and excellent biking if you're fit. The Chamisa Trail has to be one of the hardest starts to a mountain bike ride around—straight up—but reach the top and you'll have ribbons of single track to roll along, all the way back to Tesuque, a village about five miles out of Santa Fe, if you want. Stop by New Mexico Bike 'N Sport at 524 West Cordova, in the shopping center with the Trader Joe's off Saint Francis Drive. The folks there can point you to group rides as well as maps and suggestions on which trails to hit. (505.820.0809; www.nmbikensport.com)

If you're looking to do a little more touring where the husband can meet you at the end of the day, make your vacation truly unique by using the train system in Switzerland. I lived in the country for a year back in the '90s and some of the best riding you can do is with the help of the trains. Why? If you get your luggage to the train station by 9 a.m., the Swiss will make sure it gets to your hotel that night, anywhere in the country, for about $18 per bag. That frees you up for a ride from say, Montreux along Lake Geneva, to Aigle, a medieval town in the Alps. Also be sure to take the time to explore the small villages outside Vevey, Switzerland's wine country, where you can pop in to cellars for tastes of chasselas, one of the most common grapes in this region. This is big country, though, so expect tough climbs and blistering descents. If you're looking for a big day ride and then want to cool off some, pedal your way up to Hotel Les Sapins (www.les-sapins.ch). Your husband can take the bags and meet you at this chalet, which sits high over the lake near Blonay. It's only about ten miles from Vevey to the hotel, but you'll feel like fondue after the climb up. That is if your husband hasn't eaten it all after all the hiking through those Swiss meadows right out the door.

The Lake Geneva Tourism office (www.lake-geneva-region.ch) has excellent maps showing bicycle tours in the region near Vevey, and lots of good information on sporting activities in English. For more about the Swiss train's luggage delivery system, visit www.sbb.ch/en and search for "Fast Baggage," the name of the service.

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