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.
During my time in Tuscany, I led the Backroads biking trip several times but I have never had the feeling I was repeating something. I just love being with people and getting to know their stories: that’s the main reason why I applied for this job in the first place and that’s also why every trip is so unique.
One of the best parts of a Backroads trip is the connection with a place and its locals, and one of the best parts of being a Backroads leader is creating our own connections and facilitating them for our guests. At the beginning of my first season leading trips in Italy, I was unsure about my ability to provide this connection.
Why is it that when some people are brought together, they end up falling in love? Is it similar personalities or shared interests that connect them? Perhaps it’s purely chemical. Or maybe it’s something more dramatic, like conquering a feat together…
Awaken to the smell of mountains–a mix of cold morning air, dew-laden grass and the faint, earthy smell of livestock. Tuck into your slippers and shuffle across the chilled tile floor, opening the shutters to look out onto a valley still encased in early-morning fog.
My Facebook newsfeed of late is chock-full of photos and status updates from my Backroads colleagues residing in far-flung locations. I see gorgeous sunsets in Costa Rica. The hustle and bustle of city life in India. Tumbling Hawaiian waterfalls and spectacular New Zealand landscapes. Me? I spend my winters living in a boys’ dorm in snow-covered Wisconsin. I find this rather humorous. In place of gregarious co-leaders, my building-mates are 120 teenage boys.
At Backroads, we make a great big deal about hiring Trip Leaders. And today marks the start of our hiring “season.” At 8:30 this morning, 43 hopeful candidates arrived at our Berkeley headquarters for what has got to be one of the world’s most involved first interviews. Candidates are in our courtyard now–donning nametags, changing flat tires, showing off their public speaking skills and getting to know our staff. They’ve come from such far flung locations as China and Hawaii to interview with us. They’ve got degrees as diverse as MSc in Physiotherapy and BA in Elementary Education.
I could see the distant glimmer of the hot coals pulsing red under the Dutch oven, stained black from ash. Apple cobbler was bubbling through the seams of the cast iron pot and its sweet smell lingered in the air, taunting hungry bystanders. I admired the flavor of the familiar atmosphere…
Since April, I’ve been in five countries, met hundreds of new people, and slept on more than 50 different mattresses. A full season of leading with Backroads is a whirlwind of new places and faces. After seven plus months full of nonstop travel, what do leaders do when it all comes to an end?
For the 35th anniversary of Backroads, we decided it was about time to get me out talking to the press, something I hadn’t done in ages. Everyone wanted to talk about Ebikes, electric assist bikes. All the editors and writers I met challenged my decision to offer them on trip.
I am absolutely allergic to fluff. Business fluff, stuff fluff. Things to buy and do without substance. Slick concepts with nothing behind the marketing smoke screen but a bunch of garbage. Falsity bugs me to no end. In my head, I keep a running list of the worst offenders in the commercial marketplace. You should hear me rant about theme parks! But the Back Beat isn’t the place for venting. I want you to come here to peek behind the scenes and get some useful information on health, fitness and travel.
Ukulele chords strummed, vibrant plumerias bloomed and hula skirts swished as soon as my feet hit the tarmac. I was back in Hawaii–one of my favorite places on the planet. But this time, instead of training for a grueling Ironman, or spending time with friends, I was in Hawaii as a first-year Backroads Trip Leader…
It’s not often in life you get an opportunity to see how loved you are. The opportunity to be reminded just how lucky you are. There are birthdays, but then those are almost obligatory. Random moments caught in time when someone tells you how much you mean to them…
The expectations I had about being a Backroads trip leader when I first applied for the position were far from reality. In the first place, I thought the job was about being a simple tour guide with a little activity, but what it is all about is much more than that.