Entries in great trips (15)


did you ever have a crazy 21 year old dream?

My daughter, Libby, is graduating from Bowdoin College with a coordinate major in Environmental Studies and Sociology. She has a passion for maps, geography and urban planning and she likes a challenge. It is her dream to bike across the US this summer. As her parents, we are so proud of her and scared out of our gourds (trucks, cliffs, bad brakes). But as a former hobos and enthusiastic world travelers we have to put all that aside and support her fantastic adventure.

She has found a wonderful group, Bike the US for MS. She is taking the North tier from Bar Harbor, across New England through the Midwest to Montana and Seattle. She is an experienced treker and has done the NYC to Montreal, Albany to Cape Cod and Pittsburgh to DC trails. Bike the US for MS organizes cross country bike trips that raise awareness for multiple sclerosis, research & volunteer for patients. Many cyclists come to this program for the ride but become passionately involved with the cause. To participate she needs to raise $1 per mile - that is $4295 before the early spring25% of this amount goes to the cost of the trip (support van and trailer, gas for these vehicles, campsite fees, minor bike repairs, team gear, etc.) and public awareness of the program, 50% goes directly to MS research, 15% goes to service projects for MS patients that they will be involved in on the trip, and the final 10% goes for administrative costs.

Since we are in the midst of final (double) college payments and the fundraising is as much of a challenge as the continental divide, we are hoping to assist in her crowd sourcing.

If you can support this amazing cause and dream
Donations (which can be anonymous) can be made online here (please make sure to donate in Libby Szuflita's name)

Libby's Page

Old blogs about the other trips:
Our trip on the Great Allegheny Passage and C&O

Teen Treks


great allegheny passage and c & o canal bike trek

If I was going to design the perfect 340 mile bike trek, it would be two completely flat, car free, shaded stretches, separated by a 20 mile downhill coast through beautiful farmland, with charming trail towns conveniently placed for lodging, food and homemade ice cream. When I was told that there were no up hills, I just didn't believe it, but it was not misrepresented and I did not disgrace my family. This is two combined trails; the GAP (Great Allegheny Passage - a Rail to Trail) and the C & O Canal Tow Path. The direction you take makes a difference - definitely go from Pittsburg to DC and not the other way round (and don't just do half starting at Cumberland like many people do, because you just miss the best stretch of road!) We did it all in 10 days (approx. 34 miles a day). We were two families (4 parents and 3 high school grads). We stayed in hotels, hostels and B & B's for the first 5 nights and then alternated camping in the free sights provided with hotels for the second week. These paths do go over the eastern continental divide but the grade is so low on the way up that it is truly not noticeable (believe me, I would be complaining if I had noticed). Our friends first did this trip with their son when he was 8 years old, but I think that it is the perfect trip for 12 years and up (you need some endurance). There were a lot of father/son duos and college roommates (both young and old) on the trail. The trail on the Pennsylvania GAP portion was very well maintained cinders. The C&O varied wildly in maintenance from newly packed clay to stone chips and muddy ruts, but aside from sore bums we had no injuries. You don't feel the heat on a bike because there is always a breeze.
Here is a brief list from the trip:

  • 3 high former train trestles (the photo is taken from the first one - there are railings)
  • 3 lonnnng dark tunnels (super fun and very disorienting)
  • 75 antique C & O canal locks
  • 1 continental divide
  • 1 twenty mile coast downhill (worth mentioning twice)
  • 4 rivers (Ohio, Youghiogeny, Casselman, Potomac)
  • 1 beautiful 6 mile detour that did have some hills (not part of the official trail)
  • 1 almost disastrous hotel reservation in Harpers Ferry (on a 4 lane highway)
  • 1 round of drinks at the bar, courtesy of the hotel in Harpers Ferry
  • 4 soaks in a river (Youghiogeny - cold and Potomac - warm)
  • 1 Frank Lloyd Wright masterpiece (Falling Water)
  • 3 nights camping
  • 1 raccoon, 6 fauns, 5 woodchucks, 7 turtles, 2 herons, 1 buzzard, 3 bright green caterpillars, countless songbirds and butterflies
  • 1 spider museum (women's bathroom)
  • many, many trains
  • 0 cars (except in the first 13 miles leaving Pittsburg)
  • 2 very brief rain storms (just enough to cool us off)
  • 5 blown tire tubes, 2 repaired luggage racks, 1 cracked axel, 1 cracked rim
  • 2 panniers bounced off mid ride
  • 1 lost bathing suit by the side of the trail
  • 3 Ruben sandwiches, 5 crab cakes, many Caesar salads and a coconut cream pie
  • 2 root beer floats
  • 1 one match campfire
  • 7 happy campers



that's right! i am traveling 334.5 miles on a bike this summer with all my camping gear

So what does a middle aged, soon to be empty nester do on her summer vacation? She ships her bike to Pittsburgh and travels under her own steam with the camaraderie and encouragement of her super fit family and their adventurous childhood friends to Washington DC. It is called the Great Allegheny Passage and connects to the C&O Canal tow path - motorized vehicle free! (I guess that means no ambulances or Enterprise Rent-a-Car pick ups)

We will do 10 days of biking (I have been assured that it is flat, flat, flat, but I grew up in the shadow of the Skyline Drive so I am skeptical) with stop overs to visit Frank Lloyd Wright's Falling Water and see the grandparents in northern VA. What will you see when you book a consult with me in August? Tanned, toned and ready for the Albany to Montreal trek or beaten limp noodle? Kind of exciting isn't it?! We will be camping a bit and staying in the little towns along the way a bit. I will be out of the office from July 16 to July 31. I am not sure that I will be able to update on our progress along the way, but I will eventually give you a full report.


twinsburg, ohio

Why drive 8 hours one way to the suburbs of Cleveland? - for the largest gathering of twins in the world. This trip has been my girls' dream for years and this summer they finally got us to agree by saying that they would use it as a topic for their college essays. They know how to deal with us. We figured it would be a silly goof of a weekend. I believe that they will probably attend every year from now on if they can.

On one side it is a small town fair; hot dogs, a couple of rides, a bouncy castle, a parade with antique fire trucks and a talent show. On the other, it is over 2000 sets of twins, triplets and quads of all ages, races, shapes and sizes, gathering for 3 days of unqualified understanding, comraderie and silly fun. I have rarely seen my kids as happy. In normal life, even in twin filled Brooklyn, they are oddities. "Who is older?" and "who is the evil twin?" are the first two questions that they are always asked. They occasionally enjoy the attention but it can also be a burden. During Twins Days they are the normal ones (we singletons are the misfits). Everyone gets it. Everyone has a bond that has no age, race or philosophical differences. It is a beautiful thing.

Side note: they will want you to know that they are not in any of these pictures although they did dress alike and had their picture taken by a National Geographic photographer (watch for the twins edition in Nov. 2011)


road trip

I have logged a lot of hours on the road with my family (masking tape down the center of the back seat). This is the summer of college tours so we will be doing even more. I choose to drive because then I don't have to be the one turning around to constantly monitor the food and fun in the backseat. Now that the girls have their music for the road, things have gotten a lot quieter back there, but there are some family traditions that they still enjoy participating in. I do believe that my family's love of brain teasers has been instrumental in their success on the SHSAT (it isn't why we did it, but they have years of experience with logic puzzles). The best test prep is an active mind.

Click to read more ...


Teen Treks

My teens are all over the map this summer.
They got back from a great Teen Treks bike trip across Mass. from Albany to Provincetown on the Cape. This is the second trip for one of them and it didn't disappoint. The rain and the Berkshires didn't deter them (although now when we are sitting in a car and they see a slight incline they exclaim "oh no, a hill!") It was a fantastic small group this year and they did everything from Tanglewood to Great Adventure, lots of beaches and two days in Boston. I highly recommend this trip for giving them a real sense of accomplishment and adventure.

We hardly had time to scrape the bike grease off before we headed to the family reunion in Chicago. Chicago is a great town for kids with amazing free summer concerts and programs all over the city (and a great bike path along the lake and its own beaches). It is a little early, but we decided to tour Northwestern as long as we were in the neighborhood. There is plenty to love there and I highly recommend their tour which was "awesome!" We had a very excited tour guide who also happened to be extremely knowledgeable (good job Northwestern, my kids are now looking further west than they were a week ago).

I have to give a shout out to Daniel, junior at Stuy, who I happen to know, follows this blog religiously. He is doing a summer debate program at Northwestern that sounds interesting. It seems that I have a few fans at Stuy, Hi J.! which keeps me from writing anything really interesting about my kids.


Teen Treks #5

She's back from Montreal. It was great. She wants to do it again. The rain coat was shredded but other than that everything came home, including the large unread book. She talked a mile a minute about every detail until she hit the couch and instantly fell asleep. She woke up long enough to whisper "pizza" and "pedicure" and then back into dreamland.

We are happy to have our darling girl home again. She can't wait to see her sister. It always amazes us that they have so much to talk to each other about even when they are with each other every minute. So up to Rhode Island this weekend to retrieve the mildewy sleeping bag and soggy twin A.

Check out www.hipslopemama.blogspot.com for my guest blog in support of summer boredom.


Teen Treks #4

Twin B was sighted in Burlington Vt. (by a pre-approved, non-stalkerish friend of the family). She is tan, happy and ready to kick our lazy, non bike riding butts when she returns home in 5 days.

No word from Twin B (known as the "good phone contact twin") unlike her sister, "the good house key remembering twin". Together they make one perfect child. The first year at camp all we received were envelops full of stationary that all said, "Sendmunchies.com" Needless to say, we were more than a little put off by the lack of substantive news and declined to order the $40. brownies online. So far there is no word from Rhode Island. Silence is golden and so are the candid photos from bunk1.com


Teen Treks #3

Got the call. Got the rain. But it wasn't as bad as I had imagined. It was a scheduled call, and even though hearing our voices made my daughter emotional, she did squeak out that it was fun before we lost the connection. The postcards are a different story. Because of the snail mail time lag, they were written in the first couple exhausting days, when their tent was flooded out. "...low blood sugar sucks..." I have been on google maps looking at terrain and I am quite jealous of the beautiful scenery they will be traveling through. We are quite proud of her. She said that after the first day she was going to call us to pick her up, but she pushed through it.

We just dropped off "twin A" at sleep away camp and all we had to contend with were memories of "Shark Week" and how to smuggle the rice crispy treats past the counselors.


Teen Treks #2

Day 2, no rain, no call.
After checking the itinerary and studying my online maps I realize that while we visit my uncle on July 4th, we will be 10 miles from my daughter's campground. I cook up several schemes including leaving mystery cookies at the Ranger's Station. My husband suggests that we just drive by and wave, but don't stop. My other daughter wisely convinces us that this is all too "stalkerish".
Disaster averted, dignity maintained, just barely managing to be a good parent.