Last week our Cuba Trip Expert Lara and I returned from our annual Cuba “dry run,” where we prepared for our upcoming Backroads Cuba trips starting in November. We were once again reminded that the vibrant personalities, artists and friends we encounter on this trip make an impact that lasts a lifetime. Cuba is changing so rapidly that the time to visit is now, and our Cuba Insider Trip is the best way to experience it!
Have you ever wondered who answers the phone when you call with questions about a trip? Mark Vashro is one of our newest members in the Guest Services department at Backroads. He’s been a Trip Leader in New Mexico, Utah, Arizona, and Maine but has recently accepted this new position in our Berkeley office in order to have a more geographically stable life. Why? Mark’s in the process of finishing and releasing his documentary, Bike Against the Wind.
For many of us, the brain’s parsimonious nature seems to record time with less fidelity as we age. What happened in 2004? 2006? Do we remember a hundred things? A thousand? Ten? All is not lost! We have the opportunity to bring back that “child’s mind” of discovery, growth, novelty and lush memories. Unlocking this secret is incredibly straightforward: change things up. Try something new every day. Vary your routine. Or, even better, go on an adventure!
The other day a guest asked me how we’re able to hire such amazing leaders with such consistently exemplary values. He then asked whether we specifically recruited for values. Which prompted me to review the criteria we use to screen leaders. Guess what–no “values” were listed. Plenty of leadership, guest service, judgment, motivation, teamwork, ability to connect with guests and all of the obvious language, active lifestyle and mechanical inclination type criteria. And about 40 sub-criteria. But no values.
I’ve been lucky in my time as a Backroads leader to have some amazing guests, like Andy Russell. If that name rings a bell, it’s because Andy was an NFL star in the 1960s and ’70s. It was day three of our trip and Andy and I were riding along a gorgeous stretch of road. Something shiny coming from Andy’s handlebars caught my eye, so I took a look: a ring. It looked like a Super Bowl ring. I had to ask…. Andy, who hadn’t mentioned anything up to this point, grinned a little grin and told me his story, and what a story it was!
Trying to stay upright, I slowly place one foot in front of the other, and I focus on the encouraging face of my Malagasy guide. One false step and I’ll be in the drink with all my gear. I’m crossing a stream on a slippery log in southern Madagascar on my way to learn how to develop sanitation projects in remote communities. This is pretty incredible, considering that just 48 hours earlier I was staring at two male lions in the comfort of a Land Rover while leading one of Backroads’s most impressive trips: South Africa & Botswana Multisport. Now, here I am trudging through the lush green countryside of one of the poorest countries on earth: Madagascar.
“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do.” For me, this is travel. As a soon-to-be junior at Wake Forest University, constantly bogged down by the pressures that come with college, the opportunity to travel is something that I could never turn down. I’ve been lucky enough to grow up in a family that makes travel a high priority (active travel in particular), but it wasn’t until recently that I began to fully understand why I appreciate travel so much.
I do know a thing or two about getting kids on bikes, and doing so at the earliest possible juncture. Also into baby joggers, backpacks and the like, but that’s a whole other story. It started 19 years ago with my oldest child, now a college sophomore who has recently emerged from what I would call “my parents dragging me around the world” stage into a delightful appreciation for all things travel. What a wonderful metamorphosis. Have faith ye of teen children!
I’m flying down the hill at 50 miles an hour. Trees blow past me as I rapidly descend in elevation. Suddenly, smack in the middle of the road, I see two grizzly bears. I slam on the brakes, skidding sideways on my road bike. Somehow, I maintain control and stop, a mere 20 paces away from the two grizzlies. Startled, one runs to the side of the road, but the other holds his ground.
Cycling in the ridiculously hot region of South East Asia for months on end with no support, camp assistant Brant Haflich and I figured we’d be spending a good amount of time in search of clean drinking water. We had just finished cycling across our own country and we wanted to continue our bicycle adventures while learning something along the way. We wanted a purpose for our pedal strokes and we had questions about global water issues.
It was springtime in northern New Mexico. The snow was melting off the Sangre de Cristo mountain range, the wildflowers were blooming and the bold colors of chiles rojos y verdes adorned my plate night after night. Our first Backroads Santa Fe & Taos walking tour of the season was infused with that ethereal ebullient light that has attracted many to reflect and interpret its artistic form.
Backroads Family Trips are packed with fresh air and outdoor activity sure to keep even the most energetic kids entertained. Our on-trip Kid Coordinators love to get kids playing with these fun variations on the classic game of Tag.
We at Backroads know bikes. Those of you who travel with us know bikes. We are bike people. We love our world on two wheels. They give us great joy and take us behind the scenes. We speed through the countryside along quiet trails. We feel empowered with the wind in our hair and the strength of our pedals.