Rhode Rash Team

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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.

Backroads bike tour guests in Siena, Italy

The Rhode Rash team and friends in Siena

As it always happens with interpersonal relationships, there are times you just get along with somebody extremely easily and quickly, and today I would like to introduce you to one of the craziest and most enjoyable groups I had the chance to meet in my past season. They are called the Rhode Rash team, and you will soon realize where this name originates from.

Their names are Gordon and Wendy Hoover, and Lisa and Andrew Robinson. The two couples are friends who come from Rhode Island and they entered my life last year on a trip I led with two very close co-leaders and friends, Mike Giusti (called Juice) and Miss Holland.

Backroads trip leaders give a route rap in Tuscany, Italy

A typical Backroads “Route Rap”

If you have ever taken a trip with Backroads, you know that there is a very important moment every morning: the so-called “route rap.” It’s an overview, given by the leaders, of the events of the day: we look at the elevation profile together, we go through all the possible riding options (and sometimes we have A LOT!), we give some cultural highlights of the area and we explain the logistics of the day. In other words, it’s a key moment of the day: if guests follow the route rap, any possible doubts are removed before they even arise.

Of course, a basic requirement is to follow what leaders say during the route rap. My dear friends and guests mentioned above never ever listened to one minute of a route rap. I would call Gordon the head of this group of ungovernable–but lovely–guests, and if I close my eyes I can still see them in their goofy poses walking down the staircase of a charming countryside hotel, grabbing a copy of their directions and starting to laugh, playing among themselves and making jokes with other guests–distracting them too, of course! And then, after no more than one minute after the talk, they would come to either Juice or me, asking questions that would have been answered if only they had listened to the talk. The fact is that Gordon is so much fun that I couldn’t even get bothered by that. He just made me laugh all the time, as he did with his friends.

Backroads trip leader Alessandro Fusaro with cycling guests in Tuscany, Italy

With Gordon and Wendy, some of my most memorable guests

They cared so little about the route rap that they didn’t even bother to remember its real name. Gordon would come to me and say, “What did you guys say at the…at the…at the…road rash?” every single morning. I kept in touch with Gordon throughout the whole winter and eventually he started calling himself “proud member of Rhode Rash team,” mixing up the place the group comes from and the original name of the Backroads morning event. That’s how the name originated.

Getting to know the group a little bit more, I discovered that Gordon and Wendy met in Dallas, in a very unconventional circumstance. Both of them were passionate about country music, and they both were in the same bar on a Ladies Night, right when they were having a “tight jeans contest.” The contest was about having women judging cowboys in their tight jeans. Well, Gordon wasn’t really a cowboy type of guy, but he just gave the contest a try and indeed he was lucky! Wendy was a member of the jury and just couldn’t help falling in love with Gordon’s moves. How crazy, right?!

The story of how Andrew and Lisa met has a more intellectual twist. Both of them were working at a hospital in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Andrew was working as a pharmacist and Lisa approached the pharmacy window to say hello to a colleague of Andrew’s. The pharmacy window had the top part open and the bottom part closed–and Andrew could just see the top part of Lisa’s body. As the colleague asked her to come in, she opened up the bottom part of the door and…bingo! (I am quoting here.) Andrew was hooked.

Tuscany, Italy vinyard countryside

Tuscan countryside

The four Rhode Rash Team members met while walking their dogs, and they soon realized they had a lot in common. They all like being active, they love traveling and they all have a brilliant sense of humor. Last year’s trip was the first time they were taking a holiday together, but they will surely repeat the experience. Lisa recently retired, so she is keeping the Hoovers occupied with a whole bunch of sparkling initiatives.

It seems that Backroads was the catalyst for new members of the team, too: Steve and Linda, a Canadian couple they met in Tuscany during our biking trip. They just invited the Hoovers to Calgary to attend the Calgary Stampede, the world’s largest rodeo.

The Rhode Rash Team is expanding, and I am seriously wishing good luck to my dear colleagues that will have the pleasure – and the challenge – to lead this shiny happy group of hilarious guests on any future trip.

Backroads biking trip guests in Tuscany, Italy

Gordon and Andrew with Steve, a future member of the Rhode Rash team

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Alessandro Fusaro

Alessandro Fusaro

In another life, Alessandro may have been a snake charmer. He's so dang charming, he'll have you falling in love in no time. Just listen to him wax prophetic about biscotti and sunsets. Mama mia! Conveniently for Alessandro, falling in love is precisely what he wants you to do—though he claims it's his country—Italy—he wants you to love. A self-proclaimed "Proud European," Alessandro is a Backroads Trip Expert in Sicily (he also leads trips in Tuscany). He loves to crush hills and build bonds with guests (to see just how serious he is about this, see his post Being A Leader) He's also pretty darn smart, holding a master's in computer science engineering. Immediately after graduate school, however, Alessandro realized he was not meant to "spend his life in a neon-lighted room, in front of a computer, programming." Like many Backroads leaders, he had a different vision for his life. We're so happy he did!
Alessandro Fusaro

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