Archive for the ‘Sports’ Category

Are You Ready for The Winter Olympics? Tips for a Front Row View (Whether You Are Traveling or Not)

Wednesday, January 22nd, 2014

The upcoming 22nd Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia will feature some of the greatest demonstrations of athleticism and skill in the Games’ history.

Travel Warning for Those Heading to Sochi

If you are packing your babushka and making the trip to Russia next month for the Winter Olympics, be advised that the U.S. State Department has issued a travel warning for Americans planning to attend the Games. United States intelligence officials are considering recent threats from terror groups against the Olympics to be very serious.

  • Sign up for the STEP program (allows the US government to better contact you with information during overseas travel) and keep up on important Visitor information for Travel to the Olympic Games.
  • The State Department also said that Americans should consider buying private medical evacuation insurance as medical facilities are “untested” in Sochi.
  • An additional warning was also made for Americans to be wary of common criminal activity, which tends to increase at most large gatherings around the world. Here are a few tips on how to keep money safe when traveling abroad that we posted a few years ago here on Travel Smart Blog.

Safety Precaution: Ban on ALL Liquids
Most people heading to Sochi will travel through one of Moscow’s two main international airports. A flat ban on all carry-on liquids as part of a mass security clampdown has been announced, and the ban covers “all liquids, including personal hygiene items, cosmetics, medicines, liquids, sprays and gels in any amount.”

Watch Every Competition as it Happens

Thanks to amazing sports production, the best seat in the house may literally be in your living room. And this year, that statement couldn’t be more truthful.  You can have a rink-side seat to all the Winter Games thanks to NBCOlympics.com.  NBC will broadcast ALL competitions online as they happen. With more than 1,000 hours of live streaming coverage, combined with the 539 hours scheduled to be televised on NBC and its affiliate stations, next month’s coverage of the 2014 Olympics will be more than the coverage of the past two Winter Olympics combined.

The NBC Olympics Twitter handle and Vine app will be great for real-time Olympic news and athlete interviews once the games begin on February 6th.

  • If you do want to stream the Games live, you’ll have to register your satellite or cable TV subscription with NBC’s Live Extra site.
  • The NBC Sports Live Extra App is another option if you have a paid-TV subscription, as the app allows for live streaming and full event replays on your phone. The app, which is free, is available for both iOS and Android operating systems.

Do Not Miss

  • 12 new events have been added to this year’s Games including the women’s Ski Jump, and Ski Half Pipe and Ski Slope Style are two new freestyle skiing events for both men and women.
  • Men’s and Women’s Figure Skating. It’s always popular but the U.S. Team is already packing its own controversies, which will make chasing Gold that much harder.
  • Men’s Hockey. Rumor has it that of all events in the Games, this is the one that host-country Russia really cares about.
 
 

 

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Mulled Wine, Snowshoes and Ice Climbing – Best Ways to Brighten Your Winter Months

Thursday, January 16th, 2014

Skiing and snowboarding may be winter’s top activities but there are plenty of other fun ways to embrace the cooler temps. If you’re looking for something to do this winter, whether with friends, on a date, or just some family fun, try a few of these winter must-do’s.

  1. Drink hot buttered rum and mulled wine – and hot chocolate for the kiddos, of course.
  2. Hot tubbing – Kick back in an outdoor Hot Tub. Is there really anything better?
  3. Take a carriage ride through downtown – Assuming that the weather outside is above zero, take a romantic carriage ride through a downtown near you.  By day or by night, there’s something special about snuggling with blankets and the gentle jingle of bells tinkling to the stride of strapping horses.Snowmobiler Driving Through Snow
  4. Ride on a snowmobile – A snowmobile is winter’s convertible.
  5. Take a trip to Reno - The city’s proximity to ski resorts and other recreational areas make Reno a top winter vacation spot. You can find 18 ski resorts in the Reno and Lake Tahoe area.
  6. Stay in the Québec Ice Hotel - The Hôtel de Glace is a must-see attraction to discover each winter. With its huge snow vaults and its crystalline ice sculptures, the Hôtel de Glace impresses by its dazzling decor. From January 5th to March 23th, enter this magical universe and live an incredible experience by visiting this ephemeral work of art.
  7. Strap on some snowshoes – Even your backyard can become a new adventure.  Local outdoor stores have hourly rentals for a one-time extravaganza.
  8. Try ice climbing – Learn to climb waterfall ice in New Hampshire. There are multiple guide companies to help you get your crampons.
  9. Visit Old Faithful and Yellowstone National Park - The famed national park is even more splendid in the. For a very unique experience stay at the Old Faithful Snow Lodge. The only way to get there is by a commercial snow coach.
  10. Watch the 2014 Olympic Winter Games – A great excuse to veg out on the couch and cuddle up by the fire in the dreariest month of the winter.

 

 
 

 

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Omaha! Omaha!

Wednesday, January 15th, 2014

Apart from Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos team, no one really knows what ‘Omaha’ means, but it was certainly part of the team’s strategy to determine their in-game play calling against the San Diego Chargers on Sunday.

Central Park in Omaha, NebraskaManning used the word “Omaha” 44 times during Sunday’s playoff game, resulting in the city becoming a trending topic on Twitter during the game.  According to Hotels.com, Omaha also saw a 21% increase in hotel searches for January 12-13 compared to the previous weekend.  Omaha may just see a boost in travelers thanks to Peyton’s secret language.

But don’t visit Omaha just because Peyton says so.  It’s also a vibrant vacation destination chock-full of family activities like the Henry Doorly Zoo which houses the world’s largest indoor desert and tropical rainforest.  Summer is the best time to travel to Omaha to experience great outdoor activities like the Lee Simmons Wildlife Safari and Conservation Park and to go fishing, boating and tubing along the Keystone Trail.

Travelers interested in exploring Omaha can visit Hotels.com, which has a selection of hotel deals offering up to 50% savings.

 
 

 

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Travel App of the Month: EpicMix

Friday, December 27th, 2013

The FREE and dare I say, addictive, EpicMix (EpicMix for Android) ski app keeps you in the “snow” if you ski in Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, Keystone (all in Colorado), Heavenly, Kirkwood, or Northstar (all in California). The app is feature-rich, and brings a whole new level of interactivity to your ski vacation.

EpicMix uses scanners mounted on lifts at each of these Vail Resorts ski areas to automatically read radio frequency identification tags embedded on people’s lift passes. Get on a lift and your elevation is automatically tracked. I find it especially interesting to see where my family (my son, in particular) has skied that day since they are typically more adventurous than dear ol’ mom.

EpicMix lets you:Familyskiday

  • Track your vertical feet
  • Access trail maps, lift status, run conditions, weather reports, web cams, and the latest traffic info for all six mountains
  • Race against your friends, family and even four-time World Cup Champion Lindsey Vonn
  • View and download photos taken by the EpixMix on-mountain photographers
  • Connect with friends and family within the app to share your ski results; and you can connect with Facebook and Twitter to share your action photos, activity, and special accomplishments

Special accomplishments? Yes! Skiers who have an RF-enabled Season Pass, Epic Day lift ticket, or PEAKS card earn digital pins for their ski activity and accomplishments on the mountains.
 If you are competitive or curious, it can be a lot of fun. Skiers collect points for each digital pin they earn and can choose to share their point totals to see how they measure up against all skiers and achieve some serious bragging rights. EpicMix posts nothing publicly until a user activates an EpicMix account and chooses to share information.

New for the 2013/2014 Ski Season: lesson goers (that’s me) can track their progress in Ski and Snowboard School with EpicMix Academy.

 
 

 

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Hotels To Inspire Your Travel for the New Year

Monday, December 23rd, 2013

If you’re like me, then you’re already thinking about all the places you want to visit in 2014. But we can all use a dose of travel inspiration. And maybe it’s not where you go, but where you stay that needs that inspiration. Hotels.com® recently recognized some of the most outstanding hotels based on insights from the more than 10 million verified Guest Reviews found on the leading hotel booking website.

Best Ski Hotels

YMs68xaP7RI-C_SFKLgT1iF9fPYsbEzLYY_0k22nVtkThe Arrabelle at Vail Square in Vail, Colo. was rated 4.8 out of 5 by Hotels.com guests and for good reason; it has an ice skating rink on site! Hotel Madeline in Telluride is another excellent choice in Colorado, rated 4.7 by Hotels.com Guests, featuring everything from a ski valet to a wintertime hot chocolate bar. In Jackson, WY, The Rustic Inn Creekside Resort and Spa is the place to go, with several acres to explore on ski, foot, sled, or snowmobile – it’s the winter outdoor enthusiast’s paradise.

Best Spa Hotels

Relaxation-seekers will be hard pressed to find any better places to kick-off 2014 than at any of the top spa hotel picks from Hotels.com. The Guerlain Spa at The Roosevelt New Orleans (4.6 rating) is one of only three in the country and has a 180 year tradition in beauty and relaxation. New spas, like the one in the 2-year-old Mandarin Oriental, Atlanta (4.8 rating), are also offering unparalleled services that receive high marks from Hotels.com guests. In San Diego, the 4.9 rated Rancho Valencia Resort and Spa is an award-winning wellness oasis that includes a Yoga Pavilion, Pilates studio, advanced exercise programs and retreats.

Best Casino Hotels

The Wynn Las Vegas (4.7 rating) is among the most glamorous destinations on the Las Vegas Strip. Along with its sister property Encore at Wynn Las Vegas (4.6 rating), the two hotels offer a luxurious high-limit gaming experience with quality complimentary drinks and a number of high limit table games. The all-suite Palazzo Resort Hotel & Casino (4.6 rating) is the largest building in the U.S. after New York’s World Trade Center Towers (according to The Real Deal real estate magazine in New York City) and offers the most standard accommodations on the Strip.

Best Golf HotelssqJqTapHKWzo6Xj9V35EtH7Fzbohv6ucpw7LsXHz-Ws

The Mediterranean-inspired Grand Del Mar – San Diego (5.0 rating) offers everything from practice facilities and an instructional golf academy, to golf-hotel packages and a junior course for youth. The Boulders, A Waldorf Astoria Resort (4.8 rating) features two striking golf courses that traverse around granite rock and boulder piles outside of Scottsdale, Ariz. The Four Seasons Resort Maui at Wailea (4.8 rating) boasts three 18-hole championship golf courses amidst the island’s natural beauty and even offers unique activities such as yoga for golfers.

Best Bed & Breakfasts

The Almondy Inn (4.9 rating) in Newport, R.I. is one of the top bed and breakfasts in New England, serving up afternoon wine and cheese within steps of famed Bannister’s Wharf. Visitors to Cape Cod’s Provincetown can stay in the luxurious rooms of the Revere Guest House (4.9 rating). Eva’s Escape at the Gardenia Inn (4.9 rating) in San Antonio offers guests in-room massages, as well as afternoon and evening desserts.

Feel Inspired? I sure do. Happy and Safe Travel for the New Year!

 
 

 

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The College Bowl Game Predicament

Friday, December 20th, 2013

Dedicated college football fans live and die by their team’s success each Saturday during football season. The thrill of watching your favorite team from the bleachers and not from the living room is a privilege that doesn’t come cheap. Travel to a bowl game, and the cost gets even higher. This bowl season, several teams (and their fans) are making cross-country trips, including the National Championship game, featuring Auburn and Florida State University.

College bowls are typically played in cities that make for a good winter weather escape: Miami, New Orleans, Pasadena, Orlando, Atlanta, for example. This year, college football fans are finding it difficult to afford the travel cost of the bowl experience. And in turn, their universities are having trouble selling the ticket allotment they were required to purchase.

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Finding decent prices on airfare with such a quick turnaround is extremely challenging for fans. Tickets to the bowl games range from $95-$275, legitimately. Factor in other expenses such as organized festivities, celebrating after the game, lodging, food, attire, and it could get pricey quick.

Take UCF in Orlando. The team will square off against Baylor in the Fiesta Bowl in Glendale, Arizona on January 3rd, but it’s going to be without its fan base. The high cost of plane tickets from Orlando to Phoenix during bowl week has jumped to more than $700; and has left the school with 75% of its ticket allotment.

Here are a few money saving tips if you’re hoping to attend a college bowl game this season:

  • Book now
  • When shopping for flights, consider flying into a larger airport within driving distance and then renting a car or taking a bus to the bowl city
  • Choose a hotel located 10-15 miles away from the bowl venue. Hotel prices and occupancy will be much higher the closer the hotel is located to the stadium.

 

I want to make a special shout-out to my hometown, Tampa, which will host the College Football Championship in 2017 for the first time.

 
 

 

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Things to do in Charlotte, NC: TSB City of the Month

Wednesday, December 11th, 2013

Charlotte is a fast growing city with much to enjoy for people of all ages. While most visitors head to ‘The Queen City’ between the spring and fall, there’s still plenty to do during the winter months; and right now during the holidays is no exception.

Holiday Happenings in Charlotte

Just 15 miles west of Charlotte is the small town of McAdenville (population 700). For the past 50 years, McAdenville, otherwise known as “Christmastown USA” has kept the Charlotte area merry and bright with its amazing light display that drawls more than 600,000 visitors each year and has even garnered the attention of TIME Magazine. There’s only one way through town so you can’t miss anything. Locals say the lights are best experienced on foot.

An animatronic orchestra of computerized bears, the Leonard Bearstein Symphony Orchestra, is one of Charlotte’s favorite Christmas attractions. The “Bearstein Bears” complete with singers play favorite holiday classics at Founders Hall for free daily throughout December.

200177110-001Things to Do in Charlotte

One of the city’s oldest cultural institutions is the Mint Museum. The historic building used to house the United States Mint – hence the name – but today its two-campus set-up houses both an impressive art collection and a popular craft and design museum.

North Carolina is regarded as the “Birthplace of Aviation,” and the Charlotte region is steeped in flight history. Located on the grounds of Charlotte/Douglas International Airport, the Carolinas Aviation Museum has a collection of over 50 aircraft and a large collection of smaller historic items related to aviation in the North and South Carolina.

The museum even recently added the body of US Airways flight 1549, the famed “Miracle on the Hudson” plane.

For the theme park enthusiast, you’ll be thrilled to know that Charlotte is home to Carowinds. This theme park actually crosses the borer between NC and SC, so you can be in two states at once. And, if it’s a water park you are looking for, Charlotte is also home to a Great Wolf Lodge, doubling as a great hotel option for your visit, too.

The first actually documented gold found in the United States occurred in the nearby Reed Gold Mine in Midland, NC. There’s no charge to tour the mine or see the museum and it is $3 to pan for gold.

Food for the Soul in Charlotte

Charlotte’s unique blend of business and southern hospitality seem to be the right ingredient for culinary success in the city. You can find just about anything in Charlotte to please even the most discerning palettes. Here are a few dining recommendations for your visit to Charlotte.

Mert’s Heart & Soul serves southern cuisine that is as authentic as it comes. All I can say is “Yum”. Mert’s has the best fried chicken, shrimp & grits, fried catfish around. Be sure to stop by for all the fixins.

The North Carolina Barbecue Society created a BBQ Trail all the way to Tennessee featuring 24 historic barbecue pits. I’m not sure whether to file this under “things to do” or “where to eat” but either way it would be deliciously fun.

Soul Gastrolounge is a hip and delicious choice for dinner. It stands in the top ten of Zagat’s best restaurants in Charlotte list. And, you can even catch a glimpse of the restaurant as it’s a backdrop spot in the new TV series, The Novice.

Be sure to make dinner reservations early enough in the evening so you’ll be able to get downtown for the Bobcats game at the Charlotte Bobcats Arena. The new team brings a lot of new excitement to the area.

We’ll round out the week with a few hotel recommendations for when you visit Charlotte whether on business, pleasure, for romance or with family.

 
 

 

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College Football Rivalry Week!

Wednesday, November 13th, 2013

The long Thanksgiving weekend is most sports fans’ favorite holiday time with NFL football games, the NBA season underway and the exciting Rivalry Weekend of NCAA college football. If you’ve been riding the college football roller coaster this season then you know that Rivalry Weekend takes intensity to a fever pitch that divides colleagues, friends, families and even spouses.

Detail of a FootballTraveling for college football is full of tradition and revelry. It’s a different experience than cheering for an NFL team, because it’s more than just a game. There are the college towns, the bands, the students and alumni, the history and the future that make attending a rivalry week matchup something special. In fact, as much as airports prepare for holiday travel, many regional US airports prepare each fall weekend to transport the players and fans of college football.

The recent success of the University of Alabama’s football program has led Alabama’s Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport (BHM) to roll out the crimson carpet. In fact, during last year’s national championship game, the airport added 27 additional flights to its flight schedule. Last year, the airport even brought in musicians to play for passengers while they waited to depart for the title game.

  • Many airlines offer last minute football fares that get fans in before kick-off and home that night or the next day. Follow your favorite airlines on Facebook and Twitter to scout any available deals.
  • Hotel rooms in a college town can often be harder to come by than the tickets. Hotels.com shows you the distance to a location so you can judge just how far from the stadium or the college town you will be.
  • While going to the game is ideal, simply being present for the college tailgate is worthy of the trip.

Rivalries Worth the Travel
If you’ve been meaning to travel to a college football game to see what all the hype is about, there probably is not a better weekend than Rivalry Weekend. And even though this season has thrown some perennial stand-outs a few shocking losses, these typical in-state rivalries are as contentious as they are packed with tradition, honor, and a whole lot of fun. Here are a few of the leading match-ups this year.

The Bayou Classic: Southern vs. Grambling
This Louisiana rivalry is so big that it is the first and only black college football game to get prime-time, major network coverage every year on Thanksgiving weekend. This season has been somewhat disastrous for Grambling. Hopefully both teams show up for the game but more importantly, hope they don’t leave the brands behind as these two coordinated groups often steal the show. The Bayou Classic — Southern University vs. Grambling State – Nov. 30 at 2:30pm on NBC.

Royalty Free stockSouth Carolina vs. Clemson
In Columbia this year, #8 Clemson heads to its in-state rival #11 The University of South Carolina. Under the “Old Ball Coach” Steve Spurrier, this game between the Gamecocks and the Tigers has taken on added importance on Rivalry Weekend, which means added intensity and competition between the two schools who are equally matched for the first time in a long time.

Florida vs. Florida State
This was THE rivalry of college football throughout the 80s and 90s, which often decided who went to the national championship. During Rivalry Weekend, the #2 FSU Seminoles head to the Swamp to take on the unranked Florida Gators. It is still among college footballs best rivalries, and will determine which team has in-state supremacy for another year.

The Civil War: Oregon vs. Oregon State
First played in the rain in 1894, this rivalry is anything but civil. Like FSU-UF, this game has emerged in recent decades to capture the American imagination. #6 Oregon has won the last five meet-ups, let’s see what Rivalry Weekend 2013 has in store.

What is your favorite college football rivalry? Have you ever been to the game to experience it first hand? Tell us about it here on TSB!

 

 

 
 

 

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100 Days Until Sochi!

Wednesday, October 30th, 2013

0_129222827Yesterday marked 100 days until the city of Sochi, Russia will hold the XXII Olympic Games from February 7-23rd next year.

Team USA Celebrates 100 Days In NYC today!

Team USA’s Road to Sochi 100 Day Countdown event took place yesterday, Oct. 29th in Times Square. Approximately 40 Team USA hopefuls for the 2014 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games (teams for each sport are named in January) participated in the celebratory countdown that turned Times Square into a mini Olympic village for one remarkable day.

About Host City Sochi

The host city Sochi is part of what is called the Russian Riviera located on the Black Sea coast. It has a population of 400,000 people and is situated in Krasnodar, which is the third largest region in Russia. Unlike most Olympic Games, all the events will take place within 30 minutes of each other. Many people don’t realize that these events are often quite spread out to other surrounding cities making the venues often difficult to travel between.  There will be a coastal cluster for ice events in Sochi, and a mountain cluster for the snow events located in the Krasnaya Polyana Mountains.

0_107478903The Sochi Olympic Park is being built along the Black Sea coast, for the ice venues such as the Bolshoi Ice Palace, the Maly Ice Palace, the Olympic Oval, the Sochi Olympic Skating Centre, the Olympic Curling Centre, the Central Stadium, the Main Olympic Village and the International Broadcast Centre and Main Press Centre, will be (all new!) for the 2014 Games. The mountain cluster in Krasnaya Polyana will be home to all the skiing and sliding sports. Again, getting between the coastal and the mountain venues is going to be very easy for these Olympic Games.

Where is the Olympic Torch?

I enjoy following the torch relays of the Olympic Games.  The Sochi 2014 Olympic Torch Relay began in Moscow on October 7th and will end, of course, at the Opening Ceremonies on February 7th carried around Russia by more than 14,000 Torchbearers.  In fact, just this weekend the torch reached the North Pole!

Learn more on the Sochi 2014 Olympic Torch Relay here! 

 

 

 
 

 

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Cycling through Cities: Seeing the Sites on Two Wheels

Friday, August 23rd, 2013

0_153975071This week in Colorado, the best cyclists in the world are convening for The 2013 USA Pro Cycling Challenge drawing record crowds to cheer them on. Now in its third year, the seven-day race includes this year’s Tour de France champion Chris Froome and Tour sprint jersey victor Peter Sagan.

There was a time when bicycling was merely a functional affair. Now, cycling is seen as eco-friendly, cool, healthy, cheap and practical. And bikes- and those who ride them – have become the epitome of style. But it’s more than that! From Millennials to older generations, more people are forgoing cars for bikes; and cities are responding with more bike lanes.

In bigger cities like New York, Denver, Washington, D.C. and Boston, to smaller cities such as Chattanooga, Tenn., and Spartanburg, S.C., bike-share programs are taking off.

Check out this article in last month’s USA Today for the Top Urban Bike Paths Across the US.

New York has one of the newest bike sharing programs that is also the largest in the U.S. so far. With over 6,000 bikes at 330 stations across Manhattan and Brooklyn, visitors can strategically plan their day of sightseeing with unlimited 30-minute trips for about $10. Stay at the Millennium Hilton (4.4 Hotels.com Guest Rating; rooms starting at $199) and take a bike across the Brooklyn Bridge or ride along the Manhattan Waterfront Greenway.

Chicago launched its bike share program earlier this year and will soon have 4,000 bikes at 400 stations in its bike share program. The 18-mile Lakefront Trail along the Lake Michigan coastline is one of the country’s top city bike paths. Stay on the waterfront at the W Chicago Lakeshore (4.0 guest rating; rooms from $199) and explore points north and south of the area.

0_161951320Washington, D.C. was the first city to automate bike sharing back in 2010 and currently has a fleet of 1,800 bikes at 200 stations around the nation’s capital and Arlington, Va. Visitors can avoid the city’s traffic and explore Rock Creek Park or visit the monuments of the National Mallon bike. Stay at the Graham Georgetown (4.6 guest rating; rooms from $229), which is centrally located near many of the city’s paths and trails.

Minneapolis was recently named the number one bike city in the U.S. by Bicycle Times. With over 1,550 bikes at 170 stations across the Twin Cities, visitors can enjoy unlimited 30-minute rides starting at just $6. Stay at the Depot Renaissance Minneapolis Hotel (4.4 guest rating; rooms from $139) for easy access to the riverfront’s many bike paths, as well as the Cedar Lake Trail – a paved three-lane bicycle freeway that connects downtown Minneapolis to the region’s other popular trails. Visitors to Boston enjoying a long weekend can take advantage of the city’s three-day bike share pass for only $12. Stay at the Hyatt Regency Cambridge, Overlooking Boston (4.0 guest rating; rooms from $199) and explore the Charles River Bike Path and the nearby university campuses. Or follow Paul Revere’s famous ride and embark on the Minuteman.

Other major cities including Los Angeles, San Francisco and Philadelphia are planning to introduce community bike projects soon. And even without bike shares, many cities are getting “on the bike” offering visitors a healthy and up close way to see their cities. Do you have a favorite bike tour?

 
 

 

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