GREAT BIKE RIDES I HAVE KNOWN Let's face it. Hudson County, NJ, my home county, may have alot of thing to recommend it, but its long steep hills, heavy traffic, urban congestion, and triple parked cars hardly make for ideal cycling conditions, unless perhaps you're a kamikaze pilot.

Therefore I've had to search far and wide for bike rides that A) Don't require me to spend more time walking the bike than riding it

Mountain Biking in Jamaica

I did this ride twice when our cruise stopped in Ocho Rios. It is run by Safari Tours, Ltd. They also offer canoe trips, jeep tours, and inner tubing (A bike ride combined with inner tubing sounds like my idea of heaven!)

The tour bus picked us up at James Bond Pier, a big, rusty warehouse which was part of a 007 movie years ago. The 40-minute ride to the top of Murphy Hill, where the ride began, was an adventure in itself. Jamaicans drive on the left hand side of the road and are not well known for cautious, conservative driving.

Mountin Biking in St. Croix, USVI

This 12-mile tour, known as "Pedal Through Paradise," is operated by St. Croix Bike & Tour in Frederiksted. The owners, Mike and his son, Mike, Jr., are transplanted New Jerseyans.

St. Croix Bike & Tour is set in a small courtyard a short walk from the pier. While a jukebox from a nearby saloon blared a reggae version of "Santa Claus is Coming to Town" (in August), Mike Sr. gave us a brief history lesson about St. Croix from the Carib and Arawak Indians to the Spanish, French, Danish, and finally US colonization of the island. Then the two Mikes and their employee, Jimmy, outfitted us with helmets and sturdy 21-speed KHS mountain bikes with Grip Shifts and filled our souvenir water bottles with water (unfortunately not St. Croix's famous Cruzan rum).

With Mike Sr. in the lead and Jimmy riding sweep, we set off, riding on the left side of the road, to explore the pretty town of Frederiksted. We slogged up hills and paused to visit old churches and cemeteries while Mike pointed out various architectural landmarks, some dating back to the 18th century. As we left the town, we rode past a saloon where men sat on the porch drinking beer and playing dominoes. Mike explained that this was the nearby brothel (No women on the porch; presumably they were all inside taking care of the customers).