"We're going up over that hill?" I said under my breath, looking ahead as the road went up, up, up and disappeared over a hill. It was a beautiful sunny day in Nova Scotia, Canada, ten years ago, and we had been riding on quiet, shady roads all morning. More talking than riding, I had slowly been getting tired during the ride, but I knew we were almost at our destination for the day, Lunenburg. I hadn't been mentally preparing for this hill though. I turned back for a glimpse of my dad, riding behind me. I could tell he was worn out too, but we were riding together and, by all means, we were going to keep going. Yes, yes we were. Up and over the hill, no problem. Push, pull, push, pull. Lowest gear, slower, slower...and stopping. Aw, shoot, I had to walk. After I pushed my bike to the top of the hill, we paused to take in the view of Lunenburg's colorful harbor and let our heart rates come back down. "That view is wicked," my dad said, turning to me and smiling. I had to agree. Looking back at that moment, I realize it was my start to an era of active vacations.
The reason I was biking in Nova Scotia in the summer of 2007 was because of my grandfather. Ever since I could remember, he biked. He loved it and biking kept him active and healthy. In the mid-1990s, he invited my uncle and my dad to go on a special kind of vacation with him--a biking trip in California's wine country with a company called Backroads. The three of them loved the trip so much they started working on their families and friends to join them for future Backroads vacations. For many years, they regularly convened all around the world for more biking trips in various combinations of siblings, spouses and children.
After a decade of hearing about how awesome these vacations were, I couldn't get the thought out of my head. In the summer after I graduated from college, I finally had the time and the interest to seriously peruse the Backroads catalog with my dad. We decided to spend a week biking and hiking on a Backroads trip in Nova Scotia. Before we left for the trip, I was nervous. I wasn't a great biker and I had never ridden hills, sticking to the flat bike paths near home. My dad assured me it would be fine, and besides, it wasn't about technical or competitive riding. By the second day, I couldn't believe how much I was enjoying it. The exercise felt great, the rides felt challenging, the views filled my heart with wonder, and the time with my dad was a chance to bond without the rest of the family around. Since then, we do trips together whenever we can. When I started dating my husband, I dropped hints about the magic that is a biking vacation and I could tell he was intrigued. I convinced him and my dad to do the Backroads Yellowstone and Tetons trip in 2015, and I thought my heart couldn't get any fuller. Yes, the views were spectacular, but the best part was being with two of my favorite people as we all did something we enjoyed together.
This past spring, we kicked it up another notch. For a week of biking in Croatia, my father-in-law joined us too. It was his first Backroads trip and I was beyond thrilled to get both of our dads together with us for a week. It was spectacular. Because here's the secret: biking is the best time to talk to someone. Not a three-minute-weather-related phone call, but a REAL conversation. A time to catch up on what's important and meaningful, what's coming up on the horizon, and what's going on in your mind. When you don't see your family often, that time on the bike is real bonding time. Being together for a week with a focus on seeing, learning and enjoying a place is a shared experience. It's a way to create memories that stay with you beyond another blurry Thanksgiving or Christmas holiday trip. Next up on my agenda: convince even more family members to join us for Backroads adventures. Maybe the walkers in the family will walk and the bikers will bike; we'll all keep sweating up those hills. It doesn't matter if we ride to the top or walk, because the truth is, it's not a race up the hill, it's about going through the experience together.