If you don't know me, then you don't know that the Finger Lakes is one of my favorite tours. I consider it my back yard and I still think it holds some of the best cycling in the nation.
It's so close to home that our favorite photographers - Annette and Beth - were able to join us for a day to create another one of their beautiful slide shows. We tasted wine, we dined well, and we watched the colors change before our eyes. By the end of the week, everyone had declared they wanted to move here. Click on the image below and then on the small triangle in the bottom left corner, and you may want to move here too, or at least join us on our next tour.
Our 2007 catalog is in the mail. Name one of our cover girls and you get 5% off a tour if you register by the end of November. The 4 of them have been on 15 different tours. Surely, someone out there recognizes one of them!
Don't sweat it if you don't. You can still qualify for a 5% discount by being within the first 6 to register for a tour. So don't hesitate - start dreaming of your 2007 adventure today!
I wasn't able to be there, but our photographers were on our Maine tour to document it in all its fall glory. Click below and then click on the bottom left triangle to play a beautiful slide show - makes me wish I'd been there.
Last year, Lisa Burd came on our cross country Southern Tier tour to make her first feature length documentary about women bicycling across the USA.
Lisa was inspired to attend film school when she first rode across the country with WomanTours in 1999. She was so touched by the other women's stories that she swore she'd come back.
And what a film she has made. It is a touching, thought provoking, and fascinating story of the women and their determination. For a quick promo of the film, go to its website ChangingGearFilm. Once on the site, click on Promotional Trailer.
Now that it's been shown to the women who appear in the documentary, we're hoping to get it included in film festivals, picked up by a distributor, and ultimately, televised on public television. It has already been chosen as 1 of 4 finalists for the award for best feature-length documentary in New Zealand.
If you or anyone you know can help, please post a comment. It's a great movie!
I probably shouldn't display this photo. I'm afraid I'll scare everyone off from what I think is one of the best tours we offer. But perhaps I'm biased as the Finger Lakes are my backyard. Nice quiet roads, green vineyards and beautiful blue lakes. And at the top of every hill is a gorgeous view. But, of course, you have to get to the top. As Virginia, Gaia and Claudia are doing so well here.
It was a great tour and a great group of women. But they'll never let me live down the time I told them the hill was short. But really it was short -- compared to what they had coming up....
But now I know I'm scaring you off. The Finger Lakes aren't all hilly. We found plenty of flat roads to bike along beside the lakes. And on the last day, they were blessed with a wonderful tailwind. Now they're all talking about their next tour. I can't wait either.
We awoke in Martha's Vineyard to the ominous sound of rain yesterday. After breakfast, we had a 3 mile bike ride to the ferry which would take us off the island and back to the Cape. There was no complaining as they donned their rain jackets and rode off. It was my day to drive the van. The rain followed us across the channel, but when we waited for the crew to unload our bikes, we realized the rain had stopped. A few miles later and we were all riding on the Cape Cod Rail Trail in pure sunshine. Sometimes it's as if someone is watching over us on our tours.
This was Karen's (left) first tour with us. She came with her sister, Elaine, and she's all ready to come back this fall on our New Mexico tour. Laurie (right) will be guiding that one as well. We all wish we were related to Karen, as she works at Nike and her family gets a discount at the company store in Portland.
Today there is more cycling on the Cape Cod Rail Trail into Provincetown. And then it may just be warm enough to stop by the beach.
I had the opportunity to visit New Orleans last month. Our Meandering Mississippi Tour starts here next May, so I longed to see how the city was doing. I stayed at one of the best hotels in town and it was cheap – and empty. If you're looking for a place to visit, there's no town that needs your tourist dollars more right now than New Orleans. The French Quarter is as charming as ever, but there is evidence everywhere that it is struggling to become what it used to be. Famous restaurants like Brennan's are closed for renovations. There are help wanted signs in every storefront.
East of the city is where you see the devastation. Huge parking lots of cars covered in dried muck, left unclaimed since the hurricane. Miles upon miles of empty houses, deserted malls, former neighborhoods where the only people we saw were clean-up workers wearing breathing masks.
But in the French Quarter, from our hotel room on the 26th floor, we watched the huge ocean-going ships as they floated down the Mississippi River. We walked along Bourbon Street and listened to the Zydeco music dance through the open bar doors. We stood in line for 30 minutes to eat the best shrimp Po’Boy sandwiches in town. These are signs of the old New Orleans, signs of renewal, signs that this city will come back.
So come join us on our Meandering Mississippi tour next May. And help revitalize a city that needs our support.
For all you dog lovers out there - meet Jack! Jennifer added a new member to her family recently, and he comes to work, just as she does. And the best part for me is he goes home every night. He keeps us busy--finding him toys to keep him busy. Today's specialty was a nearly empty peanut butter jar - kept him occupied for hours so we could get some work done.
Harriet Tubman would be proud. She'd be proud to know that her birthplace is commemorated today with a plaque. That her former home is the destination of a ride on our Maryland tour. And that we were all honored to be in her midst.
We say we have extraordinary tours for extraordinary women. No one is more extraordinary than she.
The Maryland Tour of Blackwater kicked off our season of shorter tours this spring. And it couldn't have been nicer. Stunning weather (once the thunderstorm on the first evening passed over,) some beautifully flat roads to bicycle, and a great bunch of women.
You'd never know that most of them called themselves beginners. Tracy (second from right,) who had just lost 50 pounds from cycling, was always out front. Claudia (far right,) who called herself only a hiker, was always with her. I could barely keep up with them. We had lots of personal bests on this tour. Who knew they'd all go home admitting they easily biked 20 miles before lunch on the last day.
And then there's Debby (far left,) who doesn't even own a bike. She just registered for our 2007 Cross Country Tour. "I'm hooked!" she said. Now she's bike-shopping.
Yes, it was a wonderful tour. I'm only sorry it ended.
It has taken me a few weeks to be able to write about Laraine Lagattolla.
I lost a dear friend on our Cross Country Southern Tier tour last month. A 52 year-old man was pulling out of a parking lot, in a hurry to get home from work, and hit her. He never saw her. She was alone at the time, about 200 yards from our hotel in Cleveland, TX, more than halfway through the two-month tour. She died instantly.
Laraine was a wonderful person – I knew her from the Finger Lakes tour she did last year with us. I helped convince her that she could do the cross country tour. Her friends tell me that she’d wanted to do it for years. Unfortunately, there was nothing anyone but the driver could have done to prevent the accident.
I rejoined the Southern Tier tour when I heard the awful news and I grieved with the women who had become very close to Laraine during the tour. They tell me she was having a wonderful tour, and had had a great day. Most of her last day, she’d been riding with another woman, and the two of them had saved a puppy trying to cross the road. They’d gone door-to-door until they found the puppy’s owner – in effect, they’d saved the puppy’s life.
I left the tour to attend Laraine’s funeral and meet her family and many long-time friends and co-workers. My heart goes out to all of them for their terrible loss.
At WomanTours, we pride ourselves in helping women be all they can be. We challenge each other and support each other to become stronger -- both physically and emotionally -- than we’ve ever been before. So it makes no sense to me why someone would be taken from us so unfairly. There are times on a bike when I feel unbeatable, free, youthful and exuberant. Certainly there were times on the cross country tour that Laraine felt invincible -- here she is proudly cresting a hill in New Mexico. But times like these remind me how fleeting our lives are, and how we have to cherish every moment by doing the things we love to do. There is no better time than now and no better way to honor Laraine’s life than to get back on my bike. As painful as that has been in the past few weeks, I ride in memory of Laraine. I will never forget her.
If they're not chasing the resident office mouse or sleeping in the swatch of sunlight streaming across the carpet, they're watching over me. Making sure I answer all the emails, update the website correctly, and pay the bills on-time. Pumpkin and Audrey -- they're the best bosses a woman could have.
I was out on a short bicycle ride today thinking back on the Cross Country tour and the ride I had last week with Barb Jarmosky. The road was smoothly paved and completely flat. The day was cool and the sky was clear. Best of all, we had a strong tailwind and we found ourselves flying through the miles effortlessly.
I turned to Barb and said, “Everyone should feel this.” When she replied, “Yeah, there’d be peace on earth,” I knew we were feeling the same thing.
If they could all feel as we felt -- the sheer joy of riding a bike at 20 mph with the wind at their backs -- they’d all forget their anger, their hatred, their sorrow. They’d forget their road rage and put down their arms. They’d be thankful for every moment of living and of loving.
If only we could put everyone on a bike, on a quiet road somewhere in California, in spring, with a tailwind, the world would be a much better place.
Just got back from the beginning of our cross country tour. You never know what you'll see up ahead on a tour like this. Barb and I nearly tripped over our bikes to stop at this avocado stand. We tried hard to think of things we could do with 15 avocados. At a price like this, how could anyone pass them up?
And here is Johanna before the aptly named Chocolate Mountains. We feared the road would never turn and we'd have to go directly over them. She was getting ready.
I'm back home now and the women have all crossed California into Arizona by now. One time zone down -- two more to go. I miss them - and the road - already.
The Southern Tier Cross Country Tour started with our first ride out of San Diego today. We always start together, ride to Dog Beach together and dip our tires in the Pacific Ocean together. Here we are waiting to leave the hotel....
And waiting to hike to Dog Beach....
And hiking to Dog Beach....
And finally dipping at Dog Beach... with the dogs!
There are 25 of us, ranging in age from 39 to 72. The average is 60. Pretty awesome!
We had a big group on our Arizona tour last week and I was there to guide it. I'm not in the photo because I had to shoot it. Why am I always the one to miss out? This photo was taken in Gloria's new living room. Gloria (bottom row, far left,) is the founder of WomanTours. She just designed and built herself a beautiful contemporary southwestern home south of Tucson and we all had dinner there one night during the tour. Chef extraordinaire Claudia (top row, right) cooked us a feast of sauteed shrimp in a white wine sauce, pork with braised apples and raisins, steamed broccoli, potato latkes and a ginger cabbage cole slaw. None of us went hungry! We got to experience Arizona during the longest drought in history. There were no wildflowers in bloom, but the blue skies and warm weather were perfect for many of us northeasterners. We had a wonderful tour and many of them have taken advantage of our 10% discount for 2 tours in a year and registered for another tour this year. Looks like a lot of us will be together again on the Natchez Trace in Mississippi this fall! More sunny skies and great food....
For all of you wondering who's really in charge around here, now you can see Jennifer hard at work at the office. When she's not on the phone answering one of your questions, she's sending out tour registration confirmation packets, paying the hotel bills, or keeping track of where our vans are on the map behind her.
Not only is she the greatest Office Manager a company could have, she's also my sister. We shared a bedroom growing up, so it's only appropriate that we share an office now. Sometimes her daughters stop by after a basketball practice. Sometimes our mother brings homemade soup for lunch.
I leave tomorrow to guide the Arizona Spring Training Tour and then head to San Diego to start the women off on the 3000 mile Cross Country tour to Jacksonville, Florida. So be kind to Jen, as she'll be the only one here for 3 weeks. But she'll get to have all the soup to herself.
We had to put the finishing touches on our new Cape Cod and Martha’s Vineyard tour, so I took the unseasonably warm weather last week and used it to drive the route we’ll use on the tour. Even on a dreary, gray day, the beach was inviting in its vastness, the lighthouse welcoming with its red and white light. One of the best things about this tour is the bike paths. The island of Martha’s Vineyard is full of them and the Cape Cod Rail Trail winds through most of the Cape. Here is one of the beautiful paths we’ll be on, as it crosses salt ponds near Eastham.
We had only one bike between the two of us, so we didn’t get a whole lot of riding in. Instead, we headed north on the way home and went cross-country skiing. It’s snowing outside my window as I write this. My biking in New England will have to wait for a warmer day in June. I’m looking forward to the tour. It’s another one I get to lead, and it looks like it’s going to be a sell-out. Ahhh, spring can’t come too soon.
I just finished my first full year at WomanTours and I can’t help but take this time to reflect upon it all. It’s been a wonderful ride. But the best part has been getting out on tour and actually meeting some of the women I’ve spoken to on the phone or written email messages to in the middle of the night.
I biked a century with the women on the Cross Country tour in Alabama. I met up with the cyclists on the Mississippi tour in the heart of the delta where we dined on barbecued ribs and apple crisp. I helped guide the Terry Tour in Maryland, the Tour de Tetons in Idaho, the Big Island Tour in Hawaii, and the Finger Lakes Tour in my own backyard. Yes, it’s been a busy year.
Thank you to everyone who sent me Christmas cards, notes and photos. How cool to know that a picture of your bike in front of the Hawaiian bakery where we all stopped on our way to the Black Sand Beach was your chosen holiday card. How wonderful to see you looking so happy in a WomanTours jersey on your bicycle waving. How awesome to see the elegant ornaments you made out of our Finger Lakes cue sheets. When I’m up late at night worrying about one or another detail, I just have to think of some of these photos and cards, and the worries subside (at least for a short while.…)
It’s been a great year, and I am so looking forward to 2006. I hope you are too. I can’t wait to get out there on my bike and ride some more with you.