Saturday, September 27, 2008
Friday, September 26, 2008
Thursday, September 25, 2008
On October 1st, I join the team at Ciclismo Classico, a leader in adventure travel.
I’m as excited as I could be about this opportunity. It will allow me to combine two of my great passions – cycling and travel – into my career, and who could ask for more than that? And on top of that, I’ll be working with two of my oldest friends (Lauren and Mauro), who I’ve known for almost 20 years.
I met them way back in 1988 when I was looking for a place to live. When I spotted a flyer with drawings of bikes and Italian scenes about a room for rent in a Somerville house, I knew it was for me. That’s how I ended as house-mates with Lauren and Mauro, but my fascination with cycling and Italy really came to be a couple years before that.
I was not very organized at all when I was in college. So it shouldn’t have come as a surprise when Thanksgiving arrived during my junior year and I still hadn’t applied for a program abroad for the spring semester. I was studying German, and I really wanted to go to Germany or Austria – but I missed the deadlines for every one of the programs. Fortunately, though, my college ran a program in Rome, and I made it in with days to spare. Of course, I didn’t know anything about Italy and spoke no Italian, but I wasn’t deterred – it was bound to be an improvement over Hartford!
Despite my lack of knowledge going in, I had a perfectly wonderful time in Rome. Sure, I enjoyed my classes and my buddies and I had a nice time drinking wine in the Forum. But the best times were on my bike. While most of my classmates spent their time surrounded by other Americans and speaking English, a couple of us had brought our bikes along and ventured further afield. We headed out of town most weekends and had all manner of adventures. We eventually met someone who invited us to join his racing team, and we had lots of fun riding with him (though we never actually managed to compete in a race, somehow). The really wonderful thing was that it forced us to start speaking Italian and become comfortable in a foreign culture – something many of our classmates never managed to do.
That was really the start of it all for me. And that’s why I begged Lauren to let me work with her and Mauro leading tours for Ciclismo Classico during the first year of the company. That summer was another great adventure. I drove the big red Fiat van (I did get to ride my bike a bit, though). Lauren, Mauro and I spent days before each tour planning and marking routes, then I would shuttle clients’ luggage from one destination to the next. Even from behind the wheel of the furgone rosso, I could recognize the power of the experience Ciclismo was providing, and I was sure that the company would ultimately succeed.
A few years later, I was able to experience Ciclismo Classico from another vantage point: as a client. I was living in London, and a week on a bike in Italy was a perfect getaway for me (and an easy one, with flights many Italian destinations lasting only a couple hours!). By 1994, the company had been transformed: everything was much smoother and more professional than I’d remembered, and the trips I did (Elba and Sardegna) were completely blissful. I met delightful, interesting people that I’m still in touch with almost 15 years later, and my memories of those trips are still as clear as the waters surrounding L’Isola d’Elba.
When the draw of family led us back to the US in 2006, Lauren was the first person I called for advice on where to live. We dropped in for a visit, and Lauren felt compelled to make her case for us moving to Arlington by putting me on a bike and riding a ways up the Minuteman Bikeway with me. That’s a trait that she and I most definitely have in common: when we’re passionate about something, we can’t keep it to ourselves – we have to share it. That’s part of what’s made Ciclismo Classico the success that it is, and that’s also why I’m so excited about this role: I can’t wait to share my passions with others and enable them to experience the personal transformation that cycle touring can create.
Monday, September 22, 2008
The day was gorgeous - low 60s in the morning to low 80s in the afternoon. Perfect! Nice and sunny, too. The route was beautiful for the most part. The first bit seems to be a major selling point: riding car-free on Storrow Drive. For me, that wasn't that big a deal at all - I mean, I ride on the Esplanade right there most days anyway, and Storrow's views aren't even as nice as that.
More impressive were the parts of the route I don't normally experience, notably the bike path around the JFK Library, Arnold Arboretum, and Forest Hills Cemetary. The paths along the water really reminded me of the paths around London's Docklands - especially the haphazard way in which they pamper you one minute and dump you out into a brownfield warehouse disrict the next!
The ride was generally well organized and executed, particularly considering the number of people who turned up. It was very well marked, with arrows all along the route (not just at turns), and the route splits clearly indicated as well. The marshalls at each major turn were also very good.
The one notable problem was the food. The ride purports to be "fully supported" which, to me, means that you don't really need to bring anything along, including sustainance. Each stop had plenty of oranges and little food bars, but only the later stops had any bagels or bananas, which were just what I needed early on. The first rest stop had bags of dinner rolls, but nothing to put on them. If I hadn't brought my own snacks, I would have been in big trouble. A little energy drink would have been nice too, considering how hot it got to be.
My final niggly comment is about the promotion of the ride. It isn't ever really clear who's organizing it, and who the proceeds benefit. Sure, that info is there if you look hard, but it's confusing that the city promotes it so heavily and yet the least you can get away spending if you want to ride is $45. If it's really a charity ride pure & simple, it ought to be billed as one - not as an event designed to get people out biking in Boston.