Looking through the window of the bus that was driving me from the airport through town, I understood this trip was going to be very different. I could see many people walking the dusty streets of the capital in oppressive heat, some of them carrying jugs of water on their head. For the first time of my life, I was in Africa.
We handpick the most scenic biking routes–from the Rocky Mountains to the Tuscan countryside. Our biking trip leaders know the least trafficked cycling routes and also the most terrific stops–the trattoria where you can lunch al fresco, the olive orchard perfect for a picnic, the best spot to pick wild blueberries. A Backroads bike tour is a dream vacation. Can you already feel the wind in your hair and the sun on your face?
It isn’t just cool that we’re a group of chicks on bikes, it’s phenomenal that we’re a team of women riding vintage bicycles in a historically male-dominated Tuscan race. We’re five Backroads Trip Leaders who have each led trips in Tuscany, and we’ve been planning to partake in the famed L’Eroica vintage bicycling race together for almost a year. This is my second experience racing L’Eroica in Tuscany, and this time I feel like I belong.
What happens when 65 Backroads employees take almost 600 DaVita staffers on vacation together? It’s called Tour DaVita and it’s the biggest deluxe camping and bicycling trip that Backroads runs! This annual event was extra special last year — not only did it mark Tour DaVita’s 10th anniversary and a return to Nashville where the bike trip originated, but it was also the largest with nearly 600 riders, almost 400 tents, 250 miles of cycling, one enormous catering operation, two mobile shower trucks, a mobile dialysis center, live country music and tons of Tennessee sunshine. Right now we’re gearing up for another incredible tour in Washington at the end of September!
Over the decades, we’ve learned a thing or two from our guests, our own excursions and our intrepid leaders. While I could write a book on our evolution, I’ll narrow it down to a brief(ish) list of my favorite improvements in recent years.
Backroads Trips aren’t cheap. We get it. As a Backroads leader, it’s not uncommon for me to hear (always from someone who hasn’t traveled with us yet) “I could go there and do it myself for half the price.” When I hear someone say something like that, I usually just smile and say, “Well, there are certainly a lot of ways to travel, but you’d be surprised at just how much you get from a Backroads trip.” And the reason for my smile is that, having seen firsthand what our guests experience in the course of their trip, the question of “Where is the value?” is hardly a question at all. I’ve lost count of how many guests have expressed to me how worthwhile their experience has been. So what is it? What makes a Backroads trip so well worth the price?
My husband and I love to travel. Years ago, we were on a trip to Paris and we took a day excursion to the Loire Valley. As we traveled by bus through the countryside, I was stunned by the beauty yet dismayed to be seeing it from a bus. We are active people and I was sure there had to be a better way!
Exploring a new place actively, whether on a bike or your own two feet, sets a pace that enables you to appreciate its sights, sounds and smells, to experience its depth beyond the tourist attractions, and to notice details of its character that might slip by if viewed from a car or a tour bus. Both cycling and hiking offer excellent ways to experience a new place, and whether you want to push your limits or take it easy on your trip, Backroads offers a trip sure to appeal to you. The question is: how do you choose?
Happy 200th birthday to the bicycle! While today we rely on bikes for exercise, commuting and touring the wine country, the bicycle originated in difficult times. It all began in 1815 after a large volcano erupted in Indonesia. So much debris was ejected into the atmosphere that global temperatures cooled and crops around the world were ruined. This also meant starvation for animals, and in a pre-automobile era, left the problem of how to transport people without horses.
Stockholm is not a city that speaks for itself. Like the Swedes, it exists with a quiet elegance and humility that is discovered by the foreigner with the patient peeling away of layer after layer. Its skyline is one of the most striking I’ve seen in Europe, with spires reaching towards the sky and pastel-colored buildings lining the canals and bridges that unite the city across 14 islands. From Lake Mälaren through a web of canals and rivers reaching the Baltic Sea, the Stockholm Archipelago draws city dwellers from the capital’s urban chic into the countryside.
Put together everything you love about Italy: a warm climate, the rugged coastline, mountains, food, history, wine and rich cultural traditions. Lake Garda, at 31 miles long and touching three Italian provinces, manages to offer it all.
The perfect cycling combination awaits in the rolling desert hills near St. George, Utah: a butt-kicking workout on the way up followed by an adrenaline-pumping downhill race. When I first rode up Snow Canyon last summer, it was a real “sufferfest.” Finally I crested that last sweaty hill, pushing my poor legs harder than they had any right to be pushed, filling my lungs with hot desert air… then I looked around. Miles of pristine Navajo sandstone stretched out before me, carved into towering walls of red and white striations. I felt like I was on Mars, and I was hooked.
Before I became a Backroads Trip Leader, a crazy project took me on a bicycle adventure along the spine of the Americas, from northern Canada to southern Argentina, chasing down the Rockies, the Sierra Madre and the Andes mountains. Here is what I consider to be the Top 10 Best Roads Segments from that trip. This list includes different sceneries, jaw-dropping sights and some of the places that made me shout out “wow” uncontrollably. Moreover, some of these routes can be experienced on your next Backroads adventure!
Mixed abilities, mixed interests, mixed goals, or maybe mixed inclinations. Whatever label we put on it, this is one of the key quality factors that differentiate Backroads: choice. You choose where you want to go, who you want to travel with, what activities you want to enjoy – and for how long or how far. The leaders are not there to decide your day, but to see what you want to do and help make it happen.