Our friends, Mike and Kathi, broached the subject once again. "You guys really should think about coming with us on this Tuscany biking trip." As I lowered my head and peered at them over my sunglasses, I remember musing: "Are you insane?" "We'll think about it," is what came out of my lips. At that time in our lives, Marian and I were much more likely to be spending our vacation time soaking up the sun on some snow-white beach in the Caribbean or hitting the course for another 18 holes of golf. Biking was not remotely on our agenda but we finally said, "Okay," and we were on our way to Tuscany.
Neither of us had ever ridden a road bike nor had been in the saddle for more than a 30-mile ride. We were not in great biking shape, to say the least, and making that final climb into Cortona to our first night's hotel was a true challenge. We dragged ourselves up to our 'room'--a gorgeous three room suite--opened the shuttered windows and laid our eyes upon the most unbelievable view of the Tuscan countryside imaginable...and we were hooked! That was then; this is now. We just signed up for our 30th Backroads trip! We've always enjoyed travel, taking many trips with our aforementioned travel buddies long before our first Backroads experience. Researching destinations, booking accommodations and planning our itineraries have always been fun for us. And still are, as we often piggyback an extra week of time 'on our own' either before or after our Backroads adventures. But there's nothing more comforting than the feeling of supreme confidence that Backroads will completely take care of us when we meet up with our leaders for a trip, especially in a land far, far away.
What have we learned over the years of Backroads travel? First, it's never too late to start traveling. I was 46 when we took that first trip to Tuscany. Now, 16 years later, we hope to be able to continue for many more years. Second, we've both embraced biking and hiking as a regular part of our northern Wisconsin spring, summer and fall routines and we're so much more physically fit because of it, making it a true life-changing experience! Lastly, you meet some pretty unbelievable people on these trips...like the 82-year-old that blew past me on every one of the long uphill climbs in Crete! The fantastic friendships we've made with our fellow travelers, each with their own great life stories, are precious.
No, we can't tell you which Backroads trip was our favorite, because we've taken so many truly great ones. We still anxiously await the latest Backroads catalog or website update with new adventures to consider. And it's so nice to know that we'll never run out of exciting places to visit with our Backroads friends. Yet, I will say the Peru Lodge-to-Lodge Trekking from Cusco to Machu Picchu trip, the Patagonia Walking & Hiking trip and of course that very first Tuscany Biking trip rate pretty highly in my book! What continues to bring us back to Backroads is the trust we've developed: knowing that Backroads has planned a great trip, the fantastic leaders who truly do want to make each trip your best ever and the anticipation of our next adventure to a new part of the world.
Being a bit of a travel photography nut, these trips have given me ample opportunity to hone my amateur skills. I'm proud to have had several of my photos selected by Backroads for their catalogs, website and social media, as well as in the annual Backroads photo contests. Thanks, Backroads, for being the best....and for that first life-changing experience. On to our next trip!