Have you ever been steeped in historical lore in one of the most culturally rich areas of the United States? Eaten delectable local cuisines from recipes passed down through generations? Partook in energizing cycling rides, sunset boat sails, and languid kayaking excursions in wild nature? If you haven’t done any of these things, and always wanted to try, the amazing and unique world of the Backroads Charleston & Savannah Bike Tour is for you!
My name is Rue Mapp. I’m the founder and CEO of Outdoor Afro, and this was my first-ever experience with Backroads. The Backroads team and I first connected during a conference at which I spoke in Banff, Alberta, Canada. After chatting a bit about what Backroads had to offer and learning their headquarters was nearby my own office in the San Francisco Bay Area, I decided to go on the trip to peek under the hood of what Backroads is all about... and I wasn’t disappointed in the least.
I experienced so much during my Backroads trip that I just can’t stop talking about! First of all, I loved the small and intimate group of just nine participants (including my boyfriend, Darin). Second, the food, one of the highlights of this trip, was out of this world, as authentic soul food, unique to the coastal south of the United States, such as a delicious low country boil, and the tall helpings of incredible comfort food out of Ms. Wilkes’ Dining Room.
The curated hotel accommodations were luxurious, with world class service to match, but the little things took center stage as well. At the Rhett House Inn, which hosted our group, we were treated to savory pies and cookies. It was one of many quiet moments of hospitality that impressed me throughout the trip. In addition, the Backroads trip leaders showed their strength by creating an atmosphere of welcoming and hospitality, easily facilitating connection among our small group.
With many group trips, you’re either totally on your own or have to follow a strict itinerary. The beautiful thing for me about going on a Backroads trip was the abundance of flexibility in the itinerary. For example, we had a choice of cycling routes, which were easy or more challenging depending on one’s desired activity level. Guided walks and kayaking were also on the menu, which were perfect for all activity levels. Even though there were plenty of group activities scheduled, I was impressed with how my Backroads itinerary did an excellent job of also weaving in personal time. Darin and I were able to steal away from the group at times to explore our surroundings on our own, adding a little personal touch to our unique trip.
Being exposed to local culture and history is a big part of any Backroads trip. One of the best parts of the trip for me was the deep knowledge and information the other participants and I were exposed to. The depth of history exploration was a delightful surprise, and I was most enchanted by the traditions of the Gullah people of the Lowcountry region of South Carolina, whose painstakingly preserved culture greatly influences the local region, while sharing a strong linguistic and cultural connection to Africa. As a Black woman, I appreciated overall how the African-American story of the region was presented in tales of triumph, contribution, and joy—such as the story of Beaufort, South Carolina historical figure Robert Smalls, who escaped from slavery and rose to prominence from being a captain in the Navy to eventually a politician.
The natural and human history of the region was such a beautiful, immersive experience for me, and the educational value of the Backroads trip reinforced for me the importance and joy of learning through adventure!
There were many incredible moments I experienced over the week with Backroads, but one defining memory for me was the sunset boat ride our group took on our fifth evening heading to dinner near our incredible luxury resort located right on the water. It was a moment of pure bliss. Everyone was relaxed and felt connected. Wildlife was on display all around—we even spotted dolphins! While perhaps just a simple boat ride to most people, the moment symbolized the fact that it’s not about the destination. It’s about the journey. And Backroads is there to make sure you make the most of that journey.