In the weeks before the race, I spent a lot of time basking in the glory of telling my friends that I’d be riding a 12-speed steel-frame bicycle on gravel roads in Tuscany. I did not, however, spend a lot of time actually visualizing myself riding a 12-speed steel-frame bicycle on gravel roads in Tuscany. Ten minutes into the race, I found myself flying down a loose-gravel hill in predawn darkness with only dim candles lining the curving road, and it became apparent why this famous bicycle race is called L’Eroica, or “The Heroic” in English.
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.
Wait! Don’t put that winter active wear away just yet. If you’re planning a trip to the Dolomites during the summer, you might just need it. There is often this misconception about “sunny Italy” being, well, warm all the time. But it’s a long peninsula that experiences true seasons and isn’t always under the Tuscan sun.
All right, I realize I’m not about to unleash a revolutionary statement here, but the fact is, Tuscany has some amazing bike routes. Even if you haven’t been there, I bet you’ve seen postcards. The real thing looks just like that! No—even better! It didn’t take me much time in Tuscany to realize this part of the world is a cyclist’s haven.
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!
If you’ve ever imagined a small desert down, Moab might be the place that you’ve pictured. This tiny Utah town is nestled between glowing red rocks and natural wonders that draw visitors from all over the world. It’s a mecca for outdoor activity, where adventurers come for world-class climbing, mountain biking, rafting and off-roading. Weeks of exploring could not even graze the surface of Moab’s wonders. However, if you have just 24 hours in Moab, these activities will give you a good taste of what it has to offer, and will surely leave you thirsting for more!
It was pure serendipity that allowed Collier Lumpkin and me to be here together, enjoying an enormous fish stew at Ristorante Belforte overlooking the tiny harbor of Vernazza in Italy’s Cinque Terre. Our lives had been running parallel paths for some time, but it wasn’t until a year before that our worlds finally collided on a Backroads trip in Puglia.
When people ask me about my cross-country biking adventure, they almost always ask, “Where was your favorite place to ride?” Perhaps it was because we were tired, sun-burnt cyclists, worn out by the consistent headwinds and 105-degree heat of Kansas, but my answer is almost always Missouri. Yes. I said, Missouri. Last summer,
Is spinning a good training for a biking trip? Will it make you strong enough to face the demanding hills of the Canary Islands? I was curious about this topic and I tried to investigate a little bit. I eventually found all the answers I was looking for when I met an extraordinary sporty couple: Andrea and Caterina.
“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.
It’s 50-something degrees out and you’re soaked to the bone. You’re on an epic ride and your heart is beating like the bass drum of a metal band–fast. While standing at the top of a gnarly climb, you’re sure that the well-deserved descent will be steep and send you screaming past moving cars like they’re parked on the side of the road. The only dilemma is that you’re dripping sweat, fully kitted out in spandex, and going 45 mph sounds awfully chilly and unpleasant. With hypothermia around the corner, you realize you might have to squeal the brakes all the way back down the mountain. Having a windshirt would have turned this epic fail into an epic win.
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 woke up toward the end of the drive from Salt Lake City to Southern Utah and realized the world had completely changed. The land was brilliantly red, and I could see across the sloping rocks for miles. It was unlike any landscape I had ever seen. The rocks there twist themselves into pillars, arches, giant craters and vibrating hoodoos as they reflect the brilliance of the sun. This land can be brutally hot during the summer, but it also invites you to participate in the world in a unique way. Since my first trip to St. George, Utah, I’ve never lost the awe I felt for the area’s interactive geography, myriad state parks, beautiful scenery and animal wildlife.
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.