December 1, 2016

The people you meet on the way

The first day of a bicycle trip is much like college. You immediately assess based solely on baseless first impressions. Even as mature as you think you are, your inner seventh-grader always comes through just a little.

What we’ve found is that we’re usually wrong. We’ve met so many incredible, interesting, well-traveled, intelligent, and adventurous people. And a few others.

First, the guides:

We do a lot of traveling by bike, and generally either through an outfitter (Note:  most of our bike trips have been with either Butterfield & Robinson or Backroads), or a private guide that used to work for one.

The characteristics of a bicycle guide:  athletic, multi-lingual, excited, borderline perky, always smiling, well-traveled, over-educated, painstakingly flexible, and ready for the biggest to the smallest inevitable catastrophes.

Honestly, they can’t be flustered.  We’ve seen some true testers from the people you meet on the road.

The lawyers:

For some reason, every trip has lawyers. Usually, lots of them. There are multiple theories for this, most of them derogatory.

The overpackers:

Two weeks in Europe does not warrant luggage suitable for transporting dead bodies. News flash: There is laundry service, and you don’t need three changes of clothes and shoes per day. Nobody cares what you look like except you.

The politicos:  

Almost all fervent liberals (yes, we’re being a bit stereotypical…) feel it necessary to proclaim their political status and assume everyone is like-minded.  It usually happens at the first communal meal. The politicos are the key reason the alcohol flows freely and one of the biggest reasons finding the local sparkling wine is a first priority (yes, every country does have their own version of sparkling wine). Travel tip: Don’t talk politics, at least in the first few days. Or probably at all


Including our dearest friends who can find the means and place to wash their clothes anywhere from finest hotels to the desert tent camps to a boat in Turkey. And you often see their undies drying in plain sight.

Come on, your backpack can fit more than two pairs of underwear

The shoppers:

They will find something to buy in a dirt pile by the side of the road if someone will let them. Travel tip: Find the local artists, don’t just find the stores. And most places ship. Collect memories, not stuff.

The room changers:

It doesn’t matter if you’re in the best hotel in the world or a hotel where every room is absolutely identical.  The room changers will find a reason to hate their original room for whatever obscure reason and need to change.  Usually several times.  We’ve never figured out the room changers, but they’re always there.

The overachievers:

On these trips, everyone is type A.  Successful, driven, smart, curious.  Some still make it a competition, even if it’s the need to beat their wife up the hill.  Really?  Unclench and have a drink.

The Barbie: 

Full makeup every morning for a day of cycling, self-tanning cream, and coordinated cycling outfits, every one different enough to ensure everyone knows they’re different every day. And jewelry. Full jewelry.  On a bicycle.

The Gyney Girls:

Every third or fourth trip you run across the group of women, usually groups of three to four, traveling together.  And they can be outrageous.  One of our favorites was the self-proclaimed “gyney girls,” three gynecologists from Canada who at the first day’s picnic declared, “I love veggies. Of course, I love wine,  meat, cheese, bread, wine, sweets, wine, and pretty much everything else a lot more.

The family unit:

No offense against bringing your kids.  We’ve met some incredible young adults along the way.  Just don’t bring your snotty 19-years-olds that are FORCED to be there, and say “like, I had no idea we’d be gone over New Year’s.  Bummer” as you’re hiking up one of the most beautiful spots in the world

The George:  

The George is unlike any specimen we’ve ever met.  Hopefully there’s only one left in existence, and you will definitely know the George when you see him.

Generous, kind, thoughtful, athletic, batshit crazy, snarky, libertarian, high-maintenance, obsessed with WiFi, dresses in layers when it’s 90 degrees, eats 24 pounds of food for every meal, drinks like a fish, washes his clothes every night, requires 10 gallons of water each night in his room, brings his own fiber everywhere he goes, goes to bed early, pees more often than a school child (see aforementioned water), and turned out to be one of our best friends.  His wife, the Niki, is awesome.  A saint, really.

The real treat of any trip are the local guides. The outfitters find locals to help with language, local customs, history and just basic knowledge.  They are all incredible.  And, they always have a cousin’s sister’s dogs best friend’s uncle who can find you laundry service/leather goods/local jewelry/rugs/whatever you want.

Where do we fit in all of this mess?

We’re self aware enough not to tell you.