kingdomexperiences

Italy Calls: Part 2

An early winter has settled in Vermont, sitting by the fire my mind drifts back to spring in Italy:

In my last blog I left off in Agerola getting ready to make the trek across southern Italy to the east coast.

I had spent quite a few hours viewing maps and reading about towns along this region and discovered the ancient town of Matera where cave dwellings spread across layers of hillside rocks. This is where Mel Gibson filmed the Passion of the Christ along with many other films. We had a quick view of this ancient area from the town piazza where we had a lovely outdoor lunch. We continued on to Ostuni and as we drove closer to that area we drove by white cone shaped trulli homes and beautiful countryside. After almost 6 or 7 hours we finally reached a landmark called Ostuni Palace Hotel and called our host Joe. He met us there in about five minutes and we dragged our luggage along the road, where the most famous view of Ostuni welcomed us. We continued on into the Piazza, past a big statue of some past Pope and up a narrow street that led to a set of stone steps onto a narrow road with beautiful whitewashed buildings and our wonderful airbnb.  Ostuni is the white city on the Hill and in the distance you can see the Adriatic Sea. This place was so beautiful! Every turn through the ancient streets met you with jaw dropping charm and wonder. We dined on amazing seafood nearby in a place packed with locals.

We had a full day in Ostuni, starting of with some cappuccino and then a shot of espresso with a croissant. Later we walked the city streets, peeking into churches, stores, and admiring the architecture all around us! We enjoyed a nice afternoon siesta and that evening we craved a salad and found a spot right on the piazza outdoors, where Eric enjoyed eating a fresh olive to my surprise (he hates olives)! My octopus salad was the best! We also switched to a local beer and took a break form the wine! An after dinner stroll led us to the full moon rising and the most amazing luminous view of the city where I caught some great photos!

That night I made sure to download google offline maps while I had wifi for our next journey south and our next journey north to Umbria because we would be without wifi for the next couple of days. I had to downloaded three separate maps to fit the whole area of where we would be traveling and then put in the destinations of where we would go as well. This technical challenge was getting a little bit easier each time I did it. It was key that I put in the destination so it would pop up when I did my search offline while driving. Once I figured this out then offline maps worked like a charm- all with voice prompts and no use of data!

Only a one hour trip deeper in the heel of the boot brought us to our next airbnb in Borgange just 2 Km from the ocean. This drive consisted of flat endless farms of huge olive trees as far as the eye could see. Eric found it unappealing being the mountain man that he is, but I appreciated the arid climate with a tropical ocean side beauty. Once again we did need the detailed directions from our host to find this hidden Masseria along a private road leading up to a gated entrance made of stone. The map took us to the town center but from there we used his directions. We had the most amazing warm welcome from Lucca and his family! They were so friendly and passionate about their place and being hosts. A lot of loving care went into the renovations of this very old walled farm creating three lovely units for guests. Ours had every comfort you could ask for. The bathroom felt huge compared to the past two and even had crazy cool colored lights that changed hues on it’s own and lit up the stone in the shower. They even greeted us with a cool bottle of rose, fresh mullberries from their garden, sheep cheese from their neighbor, cherries and sliced tomatoes stuffed with wild arugula (which grows like a weed there). This was so very sweet and yummy! They set us up with bikes and we went for a ride down their back road along the olive farms and out to the ocean road where we found a beach and went for a swim, while being entertained by local guys playing with a soccer ball alongside beautiful young Italians soaking up the sun. That night dined outside on fresh seafood again. The pub next to us had a guy playing guitar singing with a woman. We were immersed in a typical evening of local family, friends and babies in strollers living life with simplicity and grace. We walked down to the water along a huge modern boardwalk. There weren’t many people around except for a party scene in a bar right down by the water packed with a youthful vibe.

Our bed at the Masseria was so comfy and the room made of stone kept us cool all night. Luca asked us a time for breakfast and at 9:30 we were given an amazing fresh made juice from an orange, beet, ginger and mulberry concoction. Along with cappuccino, fresh  pastry with cream filling, organic yogurt and cereal. Sitting outside under the pergola hearing the neighbors cow bells and distant roosters topped of the scene. Luca set us up with the bikes and a map leading us along a small gravel road away from traffic through olive farms and out to the main road that we crossed over to reach the ocean through a resort that provided public access. It was a bit tricky finding the trail but eventually we found it and it brought us along dirt road paralleling the coast until we came out to a public beach access where there was a small bar. We took our bikes off to the left of this area and found a trail leading along the ocean with spectacleular views of the cliffs and blue, blue water. We rode along until we found a small cove with a sandy beach-the perfect spot for a private place to settle in for some beach time. The Adriatic Sea was a perfect temp and so blue and clean- it reminded me of Hawaii a lot. After soaking up the warm sun and ocean water, we continued our mountain bike ride along the coastal trail for a few kilometers. We came out to San Andrea where we spotted a cool open air bar and pizzeria called Babilonia where we later went out for a dinner of pizza and beer. We rode our bike some more north until the trail ended and then we went back to San Andrea. I loved every minute of this day filled with warm sun, swimming and bike riding. Before dinner we finished up the cool Rose wine and local cheese made from the neighbor along with the fresh mullerries and cherries. A little siesta and back down to the oceanside pizzeria where we had the view of the ocean, listening to classic American music by The Beatles, Jethro Tull, and others. The servers were so friendly and the scene was very local. No crowds of tourist anywhere near here.

We had another lovely breakfast this time under a larger pergola in the garden area where a monster rosemary bush grew amongst mulberry trees, fig trees and beautiful flowers. Saying good-bye to Luca, Marco his brother and the parents was sad as they were the most gracious hosts I’ve ever experienced and the mom gave us a little ceramic bell as a token to bless our marriage and future. Their genuine hospitality made me want to come back just so I could see them again. I hope someday they visit us so I can take them on the kingdom trails!

Stay tuned for part III when we head up to Umbria- located in the heart of Italy.

The Nuances of Bike Travel

By: Quinn Campbell

I squeezed my truck between the trees. Peering past a rain streaked windshield and frantic wiper blades, I looked up at the canopy of evergreen bows which I hoped would shelter my home on wheels from the steadily falling rain. Shifting into park with a sigh, I listed to raindrops, undeterred by the trees above, plopping heavily on the roof. Opening the driver’s door and stepping outside, I surveyed my campsite for the evening. My breath plumed thickly, and the rain, falling ever harder, created a constant backdrop of noise in the otherwise still woods. I spread grime coated riding gear throughout the cab of my Chevrolet Silverado, in a half hearted attempt to dry things out, and worked on accepting the fact that it was going to be a soggy couple days. I chained my bikes to the roofrack, out of habit more than necessity, and grimaced at their perpetual exposure to the elements. Deciding to forgo dinner and avoid the cramped hassle of cooking inside my 78 x 65 inch home, I crawled into the bed of the truck, and called it a night. I lay perfectly still in my sleeping bag. The whine of a few massive British Columbia mosquitos broke through the otherwise continual drone of pounding rain. Wandering in the abyss of thoughts that comes just before sleep, I could hear my dad saying, “Life is all about compromise.” A phrase I’d heard from him on more than one occasion. With that in mind I fell asleep, managing to ignore the mosquitoes and the driving rain and the all-consuming dampness and focus on how good the dirt would be tomorrow afternoon.

A month and a half earlier, I’d left my home of Marshfield, Vermont to embark on a summer long bike trip across the United States and up to Whistler, BC. Like most words of wisdom that are imparted upon us by our parents when we’re young, I’d always taken that phrase with a nod of the head and passed it out my 2nd ear. But nothing gives you more time to reflect than traveling solo across the continent. Miles of solitude, 4,407 of them, to be be exact, gave me plenty of hours to think about the place I call home and the people who’ve given me advice along the way. And at some point in my time behind the steering wheel, I realized that for the most part, if not all the time, our parents really know what they’re talking about. I’m not sure what embodies compromise, and my father’s saying, more than a life on the road in search of pristine singletrack and word class riding destinations.

Mid day snack break.                                                            Whistler, BC.

About a year and a half ago I decided I had to spend a summer in Whistler. But I shortly realized that the only way I could afford to live in Whistler was if I worked essentially every hour of my stay. So I compromised. I gave something up –a house, and the security and comfort that comes with four walls, a roof, and indoor plumbing–  in order to get what I really wanted, the opportunity to rip bikes all day, every day.

For the last three months, and the next two, I’ve lived out of the back of my pickup truck. My bed is 30 inches wide, and not quite long enough for me to stretch out fully on. My clothes live in a bag on the floor and get washed when I notice that people don’t want to ride in the gondola with me. My kitchen is a small cooler, that perpetually smells like beans, a 6 gallon water jug, and a two burner stove that I can almost never find a level spot to use. My shower, the rivers of glacial melt, which are as close to ice as you can actually get without becoming a solid. And Regardless of my craftyness with a silicone gun, it’s always wet inside when it rains.

Life in the woods.

The lack of an actual house trickles down in compromising affect. My bikes live outside, constantly exposed to the elements and in danger of being relieved by a passerby. And I’ll guiltily admit that they don’t receive the same level of kindness as they do at home. Extreme frugality being a side effect of multiple months on the road. When I run out of chain lube, or my suspension wheaps for new seals, I juggle my options and decide that I’d rather have chicken every night. However, I’ve decided that being a little cramped, a lot stinky, and having occasionally clapped-out bikes are all compromises I’m happy to make, because what I get in return is more than worth the hassle.

Tailgate/ table/ work bench.

My days start in the woods. I usually wake up to the sound of morning birds, hidden in the tall British Columbia evergreens. Crawling from my sleeping bag and dropping the tailgate I get to examine the early morning scene. The last month and a half I’ve been watching BC fog lift from the valleys and hover delicately around snow capped peaks. But when I was traveling across the states, my morning view was often a high desert sunrise. The open tailgate and back window framing a masterpiece of watercolor skies and rocky outcroppings still in shadow. And then, while cracking a few eggs into my cast iron pan, I get to decide exactly what I want to do with my day. What trails do I want to ride? What peaks and rivers do I want to explore? Where do I want to drive to? I’m constantly exposed to the new and exciting.

Early morning in the Colorado high desert.  

Each time I park at a trailhead my body fills with the jitters of a kid on Christmas morning. Every new trail a present, full of turns and descents completely different from those in states before. And with every new riding location, I get the opportunity to meet the people who call those trails home. Whether it’s home for a night or two, like me, or where they’ve learned to ride and cultivate an addiction for two wheels and a path of dirt. If I’m lucky, I get to spend an evening around a campfire with people I met hours before. We lounge on tailgates and camp chairs, telling stories of how we got here. Whatever food we’ve found in our funky smelling coolers is mashed together and used to refuel spent legs. When the firewood runs out, or I’m too whooped to fight my drooping eyelids, I’ll crawl into the truck bed and fall asleep, with excitement for the next days adventures. That routine, in my opinion, makes abandoning normalcy and the comforts of home, well worth it.

You never know who you’ll meet. There are rippers everywhere!  

Though I’d highly recommend it, it’s important to note that your bike travel doesn’t need to be a multi month voyage across the continent and into a different country in search of the best trails. Just take a chance, make the compromises required, and give yourself the opportunity to explore something fresh. Put yourself in a situation to make new friends, discover new trails and have a campfire with some strangers. Even if that means letting go of a bed for a few nights, or a house all together.   

                

2018 KT Retrospective and planning for the 2nd Annual KT 100K & 50K

There are not many places in North America where you can link up 75 miles of nearly continuous, pristinely made and maintained singletrack, but Kingdom Trails is one of them. Situated in the bucolic countryside of northern Vermont, Kingdom Trails was created out of passion but sustained and grown by necessity to balance a dying agriculture industry in Northern VT.

In 2017,  Kingdom Cycling & Experiences, a locally owned and operated mountain bike instruction and tour company, had their first annual KT 100K (62 miles) Guided Trail Challenge. There were 20 hearty riders who embarked on the challenge, but only 13 who finished the full 100K. Groups departed from KC&E trailside headquarters around 8 am and finished between 4 – 7pm. Along the route, the riders were supported mechanically and nutritionally with 3 aid stations packed with maple glazed donuts, homemade brownies, maple syrup, coffee and a fully catered lunch. The ride began with amazing pastries and coffee from local pastry purveyor, Aunt Dee Dee’s Bakery, and finished with freshly made pizzas from Juniper’s at the Wildflower Inn and ice cold beers at the Hub Trailside Beer and Espresso bar.

Riders face many challenges on the ride, both physically and mentally, in order to get through 62 miles and 8000 ft of climbing on 99% singletrack. The challenge is set up to be exactly that: a challenge built around a group mentality to finish the feat and help one another reach their goal. Since this is a guided trail challenge this will not turn into a race, as groups are divided by the average pace of the group.

Moving into 2019, KC&E will be adding a 50K option as well to make the ride more accessible to riders and have a step for people to build up to the 100K. Beyond adding the 50K option, KC&E’s Certified Skills Instructors will be providing free skills clinics on the day before to prepare riders technically for the challenges that await them the following day.

To sign up for this year KT100K and be apart of an amazing and unique trail riding experience click here! If you have any questions about the event please either email info@kingdomexperiences.com or call/text 802.427.3154.

Happy Trails,

Caitlin, Collin & Taco the Trail Dog

Biker’s Backache

By: Marie Vaine

You may have felt that horrible lower back pain as you hop off your bike after a long ride. You know, that lower back pain that makes you feel like you are ninety years old as you to take an extra minute or two to stand up straight. What you’re feeling is biker’s backache and believe it or not, you don’t have to endure the pain just to ride your bike. Here are a few tips to help ease that pain and keep you riding for longer!

Most of the pain that you are feeling begins with the tightness of your hip flexors, glutes, and piriformis muscles. This tension lessens the mobility you have in your hip and causes your lower back to compensate for the movement. By increasing hip mobility, your lower back can stay more stable and will prevent it from taking all the pressure.

Be careful how much you put in your backpack. It’s easy to plan for the worst and load up on water, snacks, lunch, clothing layers, spare bike parts, and tools, but every ounce you put in your pack puts a little more pressure on your mid back. As you lean forward, your lower back has to work extra hard to hold up your backpack. A lighter pack means less pressure on your lower back.

A few extra lines of defense that you can do are to build core strength and stretch! It takes a lot of core strength to stay bent over on a bike, with or without a pack. Strong core muscles support your lower back on those long hours of leaning forward. Stretching helps increase mobility throughout the body and release tension in the muscles. Yoga is a great way to stretch, build core strength, and relax those muscles that work hard all the time. Here are a few suggestions for poses that are great pre- or post- ride:

Reclined Butterfly
Reclined Pigeon
Sphinx
Bridge
Half Split
High Lunge Twist
Low Lunge Twist

Italy Calls! (Post-trip update part I)

Kingdom Experiences, Mountain Bike Skill Camps and Tours in Vermont
Kingdom Experiences, Mountain Bike Skill Camps and Tours in Vermont

By: Karen Wilson

Part 1 of the follow to up to “Italy Calls”

Seeing farmland dotted with sheep as we were approaching the runway in Rome’s Leonardo da Vinci’s Airport was the first of many beautiful and surprising images of Italy. Our two week journey in southern and central Italy had just begun fulfilling a dream and sparking a passionate appreciation of this land, people and culture.

Here’s a reflection of the first stage of this adventure along with the ups and downs of planning your own trip and driving over 1200 miles in a foreign country finding secluded airbnb’s far from the luxuries of hotels and organized trips:

Following a red eye to Rome with a four hour drive south past Naples and Pompei was a stretch, but the adrenaline was flowing strong along with the espresso! Our silver Fiat Panda and a hard copy map in hand with a few tips from our airbnb host miraculously brought us to the town Centro of the small village of Agerola that sits high on the cliffs overlooking the Almafi coast. Driving on the autostrada was an adjustment from I91 in Vermont! I think Italian drivers all have race car driver’s blood with a fierce determination to pass anyone in their way. Staying alive and keeping the rental car in one piece became a priority. Figuring out the automated toll system was a fun hurtle too, but the icing on the cake was when we hit the last stretch of narrow (and I mean narrow) hair pin turns taking us up to the cliff towns and Eric’s slalom turning skills kicked in. As the passenger, that’s when my breathing froze and my stomach turned. I couldn’t help but think this is why people take trains or guided tours with vans. We left our car peacefully parked for our two day visit here and at our next one in Ostuni.
 
Juan Carlos, our host in Agerola walked us along the amazing vistas and introduced us to Pasquale who arranged our first Italian dinner in his home restaurant. Most of the food and wine including his amazing limoncello came from his farm and kitchen. His teen-age daughter served us while his wife cooked and in the middle of this delicious four course meal Pasquale came in with two glasses of warm goat’s milk fresh from the udder. It was hard to tell if I was in a dream or if this was all real. Later Pasquale took us down to his cellar where he had his meats curing, wine aging and jars of homemade preserves stored. Then he proudly shared a painting of four generations of his family painted on the stone wall of the cellar like a modern day fresco.These are just some of the results of traveling off the beaten track and searching out stellar hosts in magical places.
 
Our first full day in Italy took us along the cliffs of the Almafi coast on “The Path of the Gods” . The views were unbelievable! The terraced gardens, small inns, and simple dwellings with the backdrop of the Tyrrhenian Sea brought us down to the seaside town of Positano which was swarming with tourists. After lunch we took a boat north to the town of Almafi where we had a swim and a gelato and caught a bus back up to Agerola. It was an incredible loop that Juan Carlos suggested. Getting a seat on the bus was shear luck as the weekend crowds didn’t want to miss the last ride up the long, very narrow twisty road that only a seasoned Italian driver could maneuver. Oh, and who would know that bus tickets are often sold out of the tobacco shop. Just some little details in adventurous, independent expeditions! That night the meal and wine tasted extra good or “molto bene”. Planning the next road trip for the following day involved a technology growth spurt that I’ll share later….
 
Stay tuned for Part II’s follow up to “Italy Calls” when we drive across the country to the east coast in Puglia….
Kingdom Experiences, Mountain Bike Skill Camps and Tours in Vermont
Kingdom Experiences, Mountain Bike Skill Camps and Tours in Vermont

A Close Encounter with a Bear

Kingdom Experiences, Mountain Bike Skill Camps and Tours in Vermont

By:  Marie Vaine

As I rounded a raspberry-patch-covered corner, I slammed on my brakes as I saw the berry-eating black bear sitting ten feet in front of me in the middle of the trail. It took all 5’2’’ of me to speak sternly to the bear that was at least twice my size as my hands and knees shook. I slowly unclipped my foot from my pedal and that slightest click startled the bear, as it stood up on its hind legs, towering over me.

I talked to it as I slowly placed my bike on the ground between us and backed away slowly. It grunted and pawed the ground. When I was twenty feet away it took a few quick steps toward me, the first bluff charge. My palms sweat as I continued to walk backward. “One foot at a time,” I said to myself, “Just one foot at a time.”

Twenty-five, thirty feet of distance between the bear and I. Apparently not far enough because it ran at me again, this time taking six steps before stopping and watching my reaction. My knees buckled and I looked around for something – a stick, a rock – anything to save me, but found nothing useful and I just kept walking backward. The bear took one more step toward me and then turned and ran away. “One foot at a time,” I whispered, as I walked backward for another quarter mile.

Bear sightings are not uncommon on Kingdom Trails, though most encounters end quickly as the bear runs away. It is important to know what to do in the case that you do come across a berry-eating bear on KT. Here’s a few tips about biking in black bear country:

First, make noise when you are riding, either by talking or singing (my personal favorite) loudly as you round blind corners. Bear like to avoid people so if they hear you coming, they will most likely get out of your way. Riding in groups is another great way to avoid bears as they are usually much more intimidated by numbers.

If you do come across a bear, stay calm and give it space. A bear can run much faster than you so while running or biking away might be your natural reaction, resist. Stay calm, talk to it in a clear voice, and begin backing away slowly. It might stand up on its hind legs to smell you better, but continue to back away. Bluff charges, such as the two that I experienced, are just a bear intimidation factor so don’t run or try to play dead. Just stand your ground or continue to back away. Eventually it will run away.

We not only share the trails with other bikers, we share it with all the wildlife around. Keep your eyes out for bear, deer, moose, squirrels, and everything else, big and small, that live with us in the Kingdom. Remember, a perfect berm for you might be a perfect spot for lunch for someone else!

Best Breakfast in the Kingdom – Travel Guide Vol. 1

Kingdom Experiences, Mountain Bike Skill Camps and Tours in Vermont

By: Caitlin Daulong

Our first travel guide seeks to answer a question that we get all the time. Where is the best spot for breakfast? Below we have outlined several of our favorite options for a variety of tastes and preferences.

The whole shebang

Juniper’s at the Wildflower Inn

2059 Darling Hill Road, Lyndonville, VT

Looking for a spot that has it all? Well, Juniper’s is for you! From the delicious, local coffee that is poured steaming hot the minute you sit down, to the stunning views from the porch and deck, to the divine breakfast options, you can’t go wrong. A few not-to-be-missed dishes: their pancakes! They are so fluffy and heavenly, you will be hard pressed to find a better pancake anywhere. Topped with maple syrup from just down the road, the pancakes are a sublime Vermont experience. For the more health conscious eater, their Paleo option (veggies topped with poached eggs, hollandaise sauce, bacon, and sweet potato spirals), and the fruit and yogurt parfait are a sure bet. If you have young kids, ask for the kitty eggs (summer) or snowman pancakes (winter)!

 

Pastries so good, you might as well be in Paris

Auntie DeeDee’s Homemade Baked Goods

185 Mountain Road, East Burke, VT

Auntie DeeDee’s is quite possibly the most delightful small bakery you can find outside of Paris. Anything you order will be exceptional, but our favorites are the almond croissants (genuinely out of this world) and the Belty Bun (a delicious pastry packed with veggies , eggs, and/or meat). Be warned: this place gets crazy busy on weekends, so plan accordingly.

 

Local, Organic Goodies & organic food shop

The Freighthouse

1000 Broad St, Lyndonville, VT

The Freighhouse is a fantastic spot for healthy, locally sourced, organic food, beverages and baked goods. Some of our absolute favorites are their avocado toast, vegan chocolate chip cookie dough bites, and affogato during the sticky summer months (affogato is a shot of espresso over a scoop of gelato – if you haven’t experienced this phenomenon yet, TRY IT and thank us later!)

Authentic Espresso & more

Cafe Lotti

603 VT – 114, East Burke, VT

The coffee is so good here, even if they offered nothing else at all people would still flock to them. Luckily for us, their breakfast and lunch options are a delicious and added benefit to their exceptional coffee. If you are a coffee snob (and even if you’re not), Cafe Lotti is going to be your new favorite spot.

Trailside treasures

The Hub Brew Counter and Feed the Pour

2099 Darling Hill Rd. Lyndonville, VT

Looking for a fun trailside vibe ready to fuel you with delicious coffee beverages and quick breakfast food? This is the place! Beyond their breakfast and energizing drinks they have a full array of apres ride libations to reward yourself with.

A unique Vermont experience

Bread & Butter

139 Eastern Ave, St. Johnsbury, VT

Where else in the Northeast Kingdom can you order shakshouka or banh mi, with a side of chaga tea? Bread & Butter is utterly charming and completely inviting, and even though it’s slightly farther from the trails (a roughly 15 minute drive), it is well worth the drive!

 

Italy Calls!

Kingdom Experiences, Mountain Bike Skill Camps and Tours in Vermont

By: Karen Wilson

Traveling to Italy isn’t just a line item on my bucket list to check off- it’s a calling from deep within. Most travelers inevitably seem to be tantalized to discover her beauty and way of life. This dream is soon to become true as my husband and I follow the calling and celebrate 25 years together!
 
Rather than going the easy route with a bike touring group, I’ve decided to create my own tour. It’s taken months and countless hours of research but I’m confident that the places and experiences I’ve mapped out will be fruitful:
 
1, Red Eye from Montreal to Rome (great airfare from Montreal)
2, Rental car for two weeks (cheap)
3, Drive to the Almafi coast-2 nights and hike “The path of the gods”.
4, Drive to Puglia (the heel of the boot) to Ostuni -La Citta Bianca (the white town) and stay in the heart of the city for two nights.
5, Drive farther south in the boot to Borgagne and stay at a Masseria (old fortified farmhouse) for two nights.
6, Long road trip north to Citta della Pieve in Umbria near the Tuscan border for one week on an organic farm.
 
Finding places off the beaten path with options to bike and hike are the focus. Living close to the locals is accessed with airbnb and planned well in advance for the best options. Most offer breakfast and the Masseria offers bikes as well. In Umbria I’ve booked 3 different bike tours with 3 different companies. I like having a balance between planned tours and spontaneous adventure. Spring is prime time for biking so reserving in advance won’t leave us high and dry. No cross-country, single track tours have been on my radar via online searches, but I’m good with riding through the vineyards, olive groves, hidden ancient ruins and coastal paths along the Adriatic Sea! Save the single tracks for the Dolomites on another trip…
 
Being a tried and true non-motorized Kingdom Trails rider, I’ve surprised myself with reserving one tour using e-bikes. I figure we can cover more territory in hilly Tuscany. I expect the scenery to be pleasantly a little more serene on that day. On the other days we can scope out one of their thermal hot springs for some ancient healing powers!
 
So stayed tuned next month for a follow up blog reporting on the ups and downs of the itinerary, the challenges of driving and communicating with bare bones Italian and the highlights of fresh, flavorful foods and vino. Hopefully my shared experiences will inspire you to respond when Italy Calls!
 
Ciao….
Photo Credit: Tour Radar

The Silver Linings of April

Kingdom Experiences, Mountain Bike Skill Camps and Tours in Vermont
By: Karen Wilson
It’s an ugly picture outside my window regardless of the great view. The steady rain and intermittent cries of wind make even an outdoor enthusiast want to stay in. The garden in the back yard still has measurable snow in mid April in contrast to the front where I can see large areas of grass and dirty snowbanks. This bleak image of April in Vermont happens to awaken the laden indoor enthusiast with endless possibilities.
 
I hear the phrase “carpe diem” as I consider this window of time to embrace the indoors while not being tugged by outdoor callings. This is the time to comb through all that clutter and purge! Losing hundreds of pounds of accumulated, unused stuff from my living space can have remarkable effects on my psyche! Knowing that I can drop off stuff down at the Burke Clubhouse for their annual Memorial Day yard sale has added motivation.
 
Anticipating the opening of the Kingdom Trails in just a matter of weeks has prompted me to get my bike in the shop to be prepped for the season. It’s good to know it will be ready when the time comes. April is a time to embrace indoor yoga sessions and consider taking a spin class or actually put to use those weights in my basement.
 
One of my favorite April traditions is visiting a spa where I can purge in a sauna and steam bath built up toxins and indulge in a tranquil space of stillness. The off season rates are irresistible and the experience is priceless. There are quite a few options out there!
 
The best part of April is that it can change overnight. The temperature can swing like a pendulum and when the sun breaks  through it’s a gift to be celebrated! Walking through the woods on a warm spring day is special because there are no bugs- I love that!
Although April is considered “off season” in the NEK, I like to flick  my attitude switch to “on” and seek out the silver linings that are calling me to seize the day!

Last Call for Chaga!

Kingdom Experiences, Mountain Bike Skill Camps and Tours in Vermont

By: Karen Wilson

As I slipped in and out of the mud ruts driving down Brook road this morning, I saw two guys shoveling snow off a gathering tank for sap. This scene didn’t trigger fond thoughts of french toast drenched with maple syrup as one would expect. Instead it signaled my inner mycophile (a devotee of mushrooms; especially : one whose hobby is hunting wild edible mushrooms) to consider the image as “Last Call For Chaga”. 
 
One of the many rewards of meandering through the frosty, winter, woods in northern Vermont is the opportunity it lends to foraging for the coveted friendly fungus known as Chaga (just do a search to discover it’s many health benefits). Wether on fat bikes, snowshoes, back country skis or those motorized monsters I prefer to avoid, it’s an invitation to exercise your visual discrimination skills. Hunting for chaga is like going into an “I Spy” or “Where’s Waldo” book and living it out with the woods as your backdrop. In general, chaga is hard to find, so when you discover some it’s a rush!
 
Timing is a key element when harvesting chaga. Since the trees are dormant in the winter, all the good stuff is drawn into the trunk that the fungus is growing off of. This in turn feeds the chaga with all the goods that make it a healer. That’s why it’s prime time to forage. Once the sap starts running, the concentration of its magic lessens. There are different schools of thought on this, but it sure sounds logical to me. 
 
If your curiosity is calling you to search out a chunk of chaga to claim as your own, then take note that time is running out. When you see the sap buckets hanging from the maples, remember that means “Last Call For Chaga”.