By Steve Jermanok
By Steve Jermanok
Interview by Everett Potter
This month, we’re giving away an amazing bike trip in Italy with ExperiencePlus! (you can enter here). Rick Price and Paola Malpezzi-Price founded the company that would become ExperiencePlus! in 1972, an eternity ago in the world of adventure travel. Italy was and is their specialty, but today the company offers biking trips to two dozen destinations and is owned by their daughters, Monica Malpezzi-Price and Maria Elena Malpezzi-Price. I caught up with Maria Elena at the Adventure Travel World Summit in Kilarney Ireland last fall to ask her about ExperiencePlus! and its continuing role as an adventure trailblazer.
Your parents were adventure travel pioneers when they founded ExperiencePlus! in 1972. What do you and your sister do to keep their original vision alive, even as you deal with a new generation -or two-of travelers?
From the beginning, and still today, the emphasis has always been about combining the advantages of a bicycle, a human powered vehicle that is independent so you can start and stop when you want for photos, gelato, coffee and more gelato. The two wheeled pace is slow and yet you can travel significant distances.
What we find has changed is how people decide where to go and when. We have developed shorter and longer tour options for most of our trips. Most itineraries now have a 7 or 8 day option and a 10 – 12 day extended option so that we can accommodate different needs for different travelers. We also find that more people want to just travel with their friends or on their own schedule so we found ways to easily set up custom dates or private trips within our schedule. There are certainly differences in the newer generations but we find that ultimately the desire to explore and the delight people have in exploring by bike hasn’t changed that much.
You’re based in the US and your sister is in Italy. Is that a competitive advantage when it comes to planning and running trips?
We definitely find that having a solid base in North America, where most of our travelers come from, and then another headquarters where most of our trips are operated helps us in terms of logistics, staffing, trip development and overall quality control. It actually mirrors how we grew up, part time in the United States and part time in Italy and so for us it seemed like a logical way to maintain our “split identities.”
What is the most under rated ExperiencePlus! destination for biking?
Northern Argentina, around the Salta area, is likely not on the top list of cycling destinations for most people, but we have found a fabulous combination of diverse scenery, breath-taking landscapes, friendly and welcoming people, good roads and great food. We started running trips in Chile and Argentina about 10 years ago and although we don’t offer as many dates as we do in Europe, we are seeing an increase in interest. They are great “winter” destinations for those of us in the Northern hemisphere and although they have a slightly different character than our European trips, the beauty of the regions and the interesting history make up for that. After all, if we can pedal the vineyards in Italy and France, why not Chile!
For riders who’ve done some of the classic rides in France and Italy but want that special mix of old Europe, great food and scenic countryside, which destinations might you suggest?
I’m partial to our cycling tours in Spain because in my days as a tour leader I spent most of my time there. Whether it is our bicycle tour in Andalusia (a harder trip), or pedaling the Camino de Santiago, or our easier Catalonia tour north of Barcelona, Spain always seems to surprise people with its history and interesting food.
Another destination is Germany. Germans travel by bike more than almost any European nation and so their own network of roads and streets and bike paths are incredibly friendly to cyclists. Our bike tour in Bavaria often receives high praise from longtime customers who have cycled all the “classic” destinations because of its picturesque towns, great routes and good food. The trip follows Germany’s historic “Romantic Road” and in fact, it has even been called by some of our senior guides – who are not even German! – as one the prettiest tour that we have.
You mark your routes with chalk dust? Who came up with this great idea? Does it really remove the need to look at a map?
Our father, Rick Price, came up with this idea in 1986 or 87. It is considered by many of our travelers’ one of the biggest advantages of traveling with ExperiencePlus! Anyone who has cycled in a local charity ride or even just with a group of friends knows the feeling of having to navigate with a group of cyclists.
Imagine a family road trip when your GPS is broken and you aren’t sure whether you should go right or left at the next intersection. There are multiple opinions, arguments and the feeling like you are just going around in circles. Our arrows take all of that anxiety away and truly allow for people to ride at their own pace and they do in fact remove the need for a map. Of course, Rick was also a geographer and so we still provide very good marked maps for every day! The arrows are “chalked” each day by one of our tour leaders who rides out in front, usually an hour or two before others leave. They are not permanent and they aren’t paint. One of the beauties of the arrows is that we can really take people on small tiny back roads that would otherwise be hard to explain with cue sheets or with maps.
Any new destinations for 2015 or 2016?
One of the key design principles we work on for all of our itineraries is that people can ride from point A to point B without getting into a vehicle unless they want to! In fact, the allure of being able to say you cycled from point A to point B is part of what gave way to our ExpeditionPlus! trips in 2006 when we first ran a tour from St. Petersburg, Russia to Istanbul, Turkey. Since that first Expedition trip we have developed other continental scale 30+ day Expeditions and almost every year we design a new one. Our 2015 Venice to Kalamata Expedition tour sold out within 2 weeks. For 2016 we are reimagining the Eastern European expedition, this time from Tallin, Estonia to Istanbul, Turkey and we are also looking at a Scandinavian or Rhine River to Danube River Expedition.
Most cyclists don’t fall into the “I want to cycle 2000 miles over 30 days” camp and most of our trips are perfect for the recreational cyclists. So we have designed some exciting new tours that are meant to more of an introduction to cycle touring, called Sightseer Tours. These tours still include cycling every day but they also have more options for half day activities off the bike and the cycling is on quiet roads and bike paths. For 2015 we have two such trips: a Veneto and Lake Garda tour as well as one along the Loire Valley in France.
And where are you off to next?
I’m headed to Italy in February for a conference and to also have some meetings with our guides and guide selection as we plan for the season. But in April I’m very excited to be on our inaugural tour in the Alentejo in Portugal. My sister Monica has some plans to go out and scout some new tours, either in Southern Italy or the new bike and barge tour. We seem to never have a shortage of places to go, just a shortage of time!
Read a blog post from Rick Price about the founding of the company.
By Steve Jermanok
Biking slightly uphill outside of Hunter’s River, horse farms replace dairy farms and the velvety green pasture flourishes. Purple lupines line the trail to add their color to the brilliant canvas. I was on my final ride of a three-day bike tour of Prince Edward Island one September, on assignment for Canadian Geographic magazine. Hunter’s River is less than a 15-minute drive from the fabled dunes and red cliffs of Cavendish, the PEI tourist hub made famous by that young girl in braids, Anne of Green Gables. Close to civilization yet far enough removed to relish the solitude (I’ve only greeted one other biker this day), I’m lost in a bucolic setting that has changed little since Lucy Maud Montgomery penned her timeless novel in 1908.
Every year as I come close to celebrating another birthday (and this year is a big one), I try to partake in an activity that confronts my fear of heights. Ziplining upside down in Costa Rica or attempting a treetop obstacle course in the Berkshires are two of my most recent examples. Since I hate driving across long bridges, I thought this would be a good time to bike across the Golden Gate Bridge. My family took the Powell-Hyde Cable Car to the biking outfitter, Blazing Saddles, located near Ghirardelli Square. At 10 am daily, they lead a guided tour along San Francisco Harbor though the Marina District, taking a brief stop at the Palace of Fine Arts. Striking views of the bridge open up as you head northwest past Crissy Field to Fort Point. We biked up a short hill and were soon starting our ride in a bike line across the bridge. I was nervous at first, but my passion for biking eased my anxiety. I even stopped several times to take in the view of Alcatraz and the rising bluffs of Marin County on the opposite shores.
In spring, this not-so-young man’s fancy turns to fly fishing, sea kayaking, biking and other activities that require skilled use of both hands, putting away electronic distractions and simply being outdoors. Especially the latter. By this time of year, I’m always geared up and ready to go. But what about those who’ve never wet a line, paddled a quiet lake or estuary in the early morning, or tried to ride a single track.Or simply don’t know how to leave Facebook behind for a few hours, get outdoors and have some fun?
For that, we can turn to L.L. Bean Outdoor Discovery Schools, which began offering courses back in 1979. Every year, Bean introduces newcomers to a variety of sports and also raises the skill set among experts who want to tweak their cast or shoot a straight arrow. The Schools are a smorgasbord of courses, trip and tours, ranging for a few hours to several days. In addition to offerings for the beginner to the expert in kayaking, fly fishing, clay shooting, biking and camping, highlights for 2014 include stand-up paddle boarding yoga experiences, including a weekend-long retreat, multisport weekend-long adventures, island bird watching tours and more. New offerings include Teen Adventure Weeks, offered all summer long and featuring canoeing, paddle boarding, hiking, kayaking, fly fishing, archery, leadership skills, Leave No Trace ethics and more.
“We’re very pleased with how our Outdoor Discovery Schools have grown over the years,” says L.L. Bean spokesperson Mac McKeever. “Last year alone, over 100,000 people engaged in our activities—many for the first time. Our founder, L.L. Bean was the quintessential guide—he loved to share his passion for the outdoors with family and friends. That sentiment is as strong today as it ever was in his and we get really excited knowing that we are turning so many people onto the outdoors—our passion is infectious. We hope that we are instilling this passion for the outdoors in others and sparking what will hopefully become a lifelong passion. “
A few examples:
Summer Weekend Getaway—a three-day, two-night adventure featuring home-cooked meals, hiking, canoeing and kayaking in a remarkable wilderness Maine setting
Kayak Camping Adventure—three days and two nights of hiking, camping and kayaking in a pristine, remote Maine setting
Maine Bike and Kayak Trip or the Maine Bike and Paddleboard Trip—the best of Maine by land and sea, a chance to explore the beautiful Maine coastline, plus enjoy a lobster or steak dinner while camping at L.L.Bean’s private oceanfront campground
Stand-Up Paddleboarding Yoga Weekend Retreat—a great way to refresh your body and spirit with a relaxing weekend of yoga on land and sea, plus stand-up paddleboarding and kayaking tours of Maine’s Casco Bay.
Visit L.L. Bean Outdoor Discovery Schools for more info on classes, trips and tours.
We’re thrilled to be giving away the Czech Republic & Austria Bike Tour, a six-day ride from Prague to Vienna Along the Danube, with Backroads, the World’s #1 Active Travel Company, and Adventure Collection.
This six-day trip starts in captivating Prague, with its glorious architecture, music and cafés. Then you trace the gentle contours of the Bohemian landscape on two wheels. Absorb firsthand accounts of the Communist era. And delve into enchanting cities including Tábor and Český Krumlov, a fairy-tale town with a medieval castle looming overhead and a warren of cobblestone streets. Roam through Austria’s Wachau Valley wine region and stop in at a heuriger. Even find the castle where Richard the Lionheart was imprisoned. Last stop: romantic Vienna.
HOW TO ENTER & WIN
For a chance to win this Czech Republic & Austria Bike Tour for two with Backroads and Adventure Collection, just fill out the form below. Multiple entries are welcome, so come back and enter once a day through April 4, 2014. Complete details and rules are below. The winner will be notified by e-mail on or about April 15, 2014.
Important: Please adjust your spam filter to enable receipt of e-mails with the domain EverettPottersTravelReport.com, so that we can notify you if you’re a winner. Good luck!
This prize is for one (1) six-day (6) Czech Republic & Austria Bike Tour for two (2) people (sharing) with Backroads and Adventure Collection
What’s Not Included:
The winner can choose any scheduled trip departure for the Czech Republic & Austria Bike Tour during 2014. If the winner is unable to travel in 2014, they can redeem the prize on a scheduled trip departure in 2015.
No credit will be extended for unused portion of the package. Package may not be redeemed for cash, resold or transferred. Gratuities are not included. Airfare not included. The total cash value of the prize is approximately $7,196.
ITINERARY: CZECH REPUBLIC & AUSTRIA BIKE TOUR
DAY 1 Explore Tábor, a 15th-century enclave sitting atop a hill overlooking the surrounding countryside Stroll the cobbled streets of its lovely Old Town, lined with colorful homes, open-air cafés and artisan vendors A clever maze of tunnels lies below the streets, which in times of danger were used to shelter its citizens.
DAYS 2-3 Český Krumlov, a charming 13th-century town with twisting lanes and red-tile roofs where most of the buildings are designated cultural monuments Pedal across the hills of Bohemia, through tranquil farmland and Holašovice, an impeccably preserved World Heritage-site village In Český Krumlov, behold views of ornate 13th-century Krumlov Hrad, the second-largest castle in the Czech Republic Dive into Czech history with Helena, our local friend and historian Gather at a local pub for a pint-sized taste of Czech culture.
DAYS 4-5 Discover two intriguing countries and cultures in one trip Czech treasures make way for Austria’s beautiful Waldviertel, draped in forests and rolling fields of barley and wheat – a great place to pedal Bike along the fabled Danube River and through Wachau Valley vineyards Visit Melk, whose magnificent Baroque abbey is perched high on a rocky promontory A local oenologist invites us over for a private estate tour and tasting of famous Rieslings and grüner veltliners.
DAY 6 Austria’s picture-perfect villages with onion-shaped church steeples Soak up the views from the Dürnstein’s castle ruins, where Richard the Lionheart was imprisoned Say goodbye in vibrant Vienna, an enchanting place to extend your vacation.
Visit Backroads for more info
REVIEWS FOR THIS BACKROADS ADVENTURE
“I really can’t say enough positive things about the trip and the two leaders. Simply put, it was one of the best experiences of my life. I don’t know one person who can claim to have experienced a new culture on such a wide and intimate scale. Add the great people on the trip, the food, my birthday gift and the 800 some odd pictures I took…well, I’m already looking at my next adventure with Backroads. Outstanding!”
Jeff Dalton – Annapolis, MD
“I loved this trip. It was really a great experience all around. I loved the blend of athletic activity, with cultural and historical information. The guides are truly amazing people. The people were very nice and lively and intelligent. It was a great first Backroads experience.”
Hilary Thomas – New York, NY
“This was a tremendous experience. The leaders were outstanding, the van/bike support excellent, the destinations and accommodations terrific. I felt safe knowing that someone had my back. Also, it was a great blend of fitness and leisure, while also fulfilling my need for learning about new cultures. Overall, this will go down as one of my most memorable vacation experiences. Thank you!”
Marjan Panah – New York, NY
Tom Hale, founder of Backroads and Adventure Collection, possesses a passion for two seemingly divergent interests – business and back roads – which he has powered into the world’s most successful active travel company.
Armed with a Masters in Environmental Planning from UCLA, Hale was six months into an environmental planning position in Las Vegas when the back roads called. A middle-of-the-night inspiration to start a bike touring company motivated him to pedal 5,000 miles alone through the West, all the while formulating plans for his new business. Settling in Berkeley, Hale washed fondue pots by night and built his fledgling travel company by day. In true entrepreneurial fashion, he did it all – designed the itineraries, maintained the bikes, led the trips, produced the catalog. His first trip – a bike tour of Death Valley – attracted four guests (one of them his mother.) Fast-forward 35 years of nearly consistent growth to 2014.
Today Backroads annually hosts thousands of guests on biking, walking & hiking and multisport trips worldwide. Their 183 trip itineraries showcase the best lodging, dining, cultural attractions – and of course back roads -in destinations from California’s Wine Country to classic settings in France, from the pampas of Patagonia to the hill country of Thailand. Backroads is staffed by some 135 people in its Berkeley headquarters and regional offices in Utah, Canada and France, and also employs approximately 390 Trip Leaders worldwide. From the beginning, Hale has strived for and succeeded in offering off-the-charts trips, believing that the world is best experienced up close and under one’s own power. Backroads success is largely measured by an exceptionally high rate of repeat guests – on average about 80% become repeat and referral guests. Visit Backroads at www.backroads.com.
ABOUT ADVENTURE COLLECTION
Adventure Collection consists of 9 dynamic adventure companies:
Adventure Collection member companies are experts in the activities they offer. These include cultural exploration, bicycle touring, hiking, walking, expedition cruising, safaris, general touring, mountain biking, heli-skiing, heli-hiking, mountaineering, rafting, sea kayaking, river kayaking, wildlife and nature cruising, camping, horseback riding, rain forest exploration and ecotouring, snorkeling, fly fishing, llama trekking, sailing, golfing, and more. Visit Adventure Collection at www.adventurecollection.com.
COMPLETE RULES: BACKROADS AND ADVENTURE COLLECTION Giveaway
Presented by EverettPottersTravelReport.com and BACKROADS AND ADVENTURE COLLECTION
NO PURCHASE NECESSARY TO ENTER OR WIN
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3. Random Drawing/Odds. One (1) winner will be selected in a random drawing from among all eligible entries received during the Giveaway Period. Odds of winning depend on the number of eligible entries received. Drawing will be conducted by EverettPottersTravelReport.com on or about April 15, 2014. By entering the Giveaway, you fully and unconditionally agree to be bound by these official rules (“Complete Rules”) and the decisions of EverettPottersTravelReport.com, which will be final and binding in all matters relating to the Giveaway.
4. Prize. The prize will be given to one (1) winner. This prize is for one six-day CZECH REPUBLIC & AUSTRIA BIKE TOUR for two (2) people (sharing) with BACKROADS AND ADVENTURE COLLECTION. The winner can choose any scheduled trip departure in summer 2014 or 2015. The winning prize is valid through BACKROADS AND ADVENTURE COLLECTION’s 2014 season, which ends in September 2014. If the winner is unable to travel in 2014, they can redeem the prize on a scheduled trip departure in 2015.The prize is subject to regular booking policies and availability.
What’s Not Included:
Winner’s certificate is for (2) two people sharing the same accommodations. No credit will be extended for unused portion of the package. Package may not be redeemed for cash, resold or transferred. The prize may not be sold on eBay or any other auction site. Otherwise, the offer becomes invalid.
The total cash value of the prize is approximately $7,196.
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Home to two of the most active volcanoes in the world, one would expect Hawaii’s southernmost island to be an angry land of deadened rock and rivers of red. But this ever-expanding island has a myriad of moods—the gentle rolling hills of Waimea; the inviting sand of the Kohala Coast; the almost impenetrable jungle-like interior of the Hamakua Coast; the enormity of two mountains that are nearly 14,000 feet; even a rain forest on the backside of a volcano. Indeed, Hawaii is more like a miniature continent than an island in the Pacific.
Cape Cod is so close to Boston that I often drive there on a day trip. This past Sunday, I went with family and friends on one of my favorite rides. We start on 26 Main Street in Orleans in the lot next to Orleans Cycle and head out on the Cape Cod Rail Trail toward Eastham. Soon we pass the velvety marsh, where red-winged blackbirds sit atop the swaying cattails and cormorants dry their wings on floating docks. At Locust Road, we veer right off the CCRT and cross over Route 6 to reach the Cape Cod National Seashore Visitor Center. This is the start of a 2-mile bike trails that sweeps up and down through the forest and marsh, leaving you off at Coast Guard Beach, recently named one of the top 10 beaches in America. However, I think the beach up the road, Nauset Light, is more scenic, backed by towering dunes. We lock up our bikes and walk down the stairs to watch surfers dressed in wet suits trying to catch the waves.
Once back on the bikes, we take Cable Road past Three Sisters Lighthouses, three absurdly small lighthouses built in the mid-19th century. A left turn at the end of the road and a right turn on Brackett Road leads us back to the CCRT. Turn left towards Orleans and you’ll soon smell the fried clams of Arnold’s, a lobster-in-the-rough restaurant beloved by my family. Stand in the long line (most likely out the door), order from their vast selection of seafood, including lobster, fried clams, scallops, shrimp, and mounds of tender onion rings and grab a seat at one of the outdoor picnic tables. Afterwards, play a round of miniature golf or grab a brownie sundae. Continue on the CCRT through a tunnel and you’ll arrive back at the Orleans Cycle parking lot in less than 30 minutes. A perfect summer outing.
Steve Jermanok As a columnist for National Geographic Adventure, adventure travel expert at Budget Travel, and regular contributor on outdoor recreation for Outside, Men’s Journal, Health, and Sierra, Steve Jermanok has written more than 1,000 articles on the outdoors. He’s also authored or co-authored 11 books, including Outside Magazine’s Adventure Guide to New England and Men’s Journal’s The Great Life. His latest book is Go Now! Put Your Life on Pause and See the World, due out late 2010. He’s currently an adventure travel expert at Away.com and blogs daily at Active Travels.