Meet Ann Christianson, creative expert here at Trek Travel. Advised by her parents to avoid a career in art or computers, Ann became a graphic designer. Armed with a college degree and a handmade bicycle, she started her own business. The rest is history.
What do you do at Trek Travel?
I create marketing materials for Trek Travel, like the annual Trip Planner. I have always been artistic and always drawn to (pun intended) anything creative. My medium of choice is acrylic painting, but I also like to draw, sew, and mess around with crafting like Ukrainian Easter Eggs.
My favorite part about working at Trek Travel is the camaraderie and spirit. Put simply, it’s inspiring. I have also always been a cyclist, and I love the rolling hills of riding country roads. But I don’t limit myself to only one kind of cycling; truly, if it has two wheels and pedals, I love it.
Trek Travel Bucket list trip?
Favorite post-ride beverage?
- Post-Ride: Grapefruit juice.
- Post-Post-Ride: Cabernet Sauvignon (Napa 2009)
- Post-Post-Post-Ride: Irish Whiskey
Tell us your story.
When I was young, my parents (mom, a talented artist and dad, a computer programer) gave me a few pieces of advice, including what do to for a living. They advised me to avoid any career in art because it doesn’t pay AND not to do anything pertaining to computers because I was sure to burn out early. Not taking my parents advice, I decided to do both and I couldn’t be happier. Let me give credit where credit is due: my father also used to say, “Do what you love and the world will come to you, or if you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life.” Nothing could be more true for me than those statements.
My interest in cycling began just like many. I was given a red Radio Flyer tricycle, with the fixie front wheel and the panel to stand on in the back. You know the kind where you have to take your feet off the pedals when you go downhill? Then, in 1976, I was given my first two-wheeler which I affectionately named my “Bicentennial Bike.” It was a special bike, handmade by my Grandpa Frank out of old lawn mower, tractor and chainsaw parts. This, I believe, is the exact moment that the beauty of bicycles and cycling entered my soul.
In high school, I bought my first bicycle after one month of working at my first job. I put money down on a Raleigh 10-Speed and it took me four payments of $50 to pay it off. Total cost was $250.
Fast forward to 1999. New to the Madison area and recent college graduate with a design degree, I accepted a job at a non-profit organization designing for their trade monthly magazine. During the day I worked on magazine layouts, and at night I worked on freelance projects. In 2001 I transitioned from a few freelance projects to starting my own design business.
I had made a few cyclist friends who worked at Trek Bicycle, and an opportunity arose to work on a pro-bono project for their annual Breast Cancer Awareness ride. It was a cause that was personal to me and I got a free T-shirt, socks and registration into the ride. I was happy.
At the ride I was introduced to Tania, the president of Trek Travel, who was in need of some marketing and design assistance. For me it was a ‘meant-to-be’ kind of meeting. I couldn’t have created a more perfect opportunity combining two loves: cycling and design. The cherry on top was the company’s service they provided, guided travel by bike! Though my travels were limited to driving or day trips, mainly because of my young family and limited funds, our bikes always came with us.
Based only on our initial meetings, I knew Trek Travel was what I had been looking for. They were passionate about cycling, had such enthusiasm for travel, and you just knew they did what they did because they loved it.
Tell us about your best day on a bike.
I made my way to The Netherlands in the Summer of 2012. It was a three-week long work trip that left my weekends free for exploration and adventure. I had mentioned to local colleagues that I was interested in seeing some early impressionist art, and they suggested the Kroller Muller Museum. Plan in hand and navigation set for the museum, I set out on my day adventure.
I arrived in Otterlo, a very small town set at one of the entrances to the Stichting Het Nationale Park. Located in the center of the park is the Kroller Muller. At the park entrance, you are given the option to drive to the museum or take a bicycle provided by the park. I, of course, chose the bike option and set off with my camera and a map. My anticipation of the destination made me quicken my pace. I went about a mile and a half through a thick wooded area and reached a clearing where I could see for miles. The scenery stopped me in my tracks and I realized this was one of those moments when it is as much about the journey as it is the destination. So, in the profound words of the youth of today, I slowed my roll.
An hour later I arrived at the museum. This part of my perfect day was absolutely not a disappointment. It is a quaint, unassuming setting for a museum. You would not know that it is full of original paintings by some of the most admired impressionist artists, such as Renior, Seurat, Picasso, Mondriaan, and of course, Van Gogh. Unlike other museums with laser security and alarm trip wires set to keep you back, the viewing of this artwork is intimate and impactful. It’s as if you are in someone’s living room and they are showing you their personal collection.
After pausing my tour for a slice of the most amazing lemon cheese cake and cappuccino, I made my way through the sculpture garden and got back on my bike for a few more miles of adventure through the park. I stopped reading the map and just let the paths take me at will. A little over an hour later I arrive back in Otterlo. I was about to go back to my car and head home when I noticed the parking lot was barricaded and a large crowd people were walking towards the town center. I asked the park attendant if I could keep the bike and use it to go into the town. She approved and I went on my way.
As I approached the town square, I noticed all of the spectators were gathered along the street, gazing in the same direction like they were waiting for a parade or a race. Around the corner comes a group of racers in cycling skin suits and bullet helmets. They are not on bicycles, but roller blades!
I made my way to a café hotel with outdoor seating and spent the rest of the afternoon and evening cheering for the racers and drinking wine. I made new friends with some locals seated next to me, who spoke very little English, and were unsuccessfully trying to teach me Dutch.
When the streets opened I returned the bike to the park. On my way back to my living quarters, I thought about the day’s events and it occurred to me that everything that happened seemed to be destined for me. The landscape and the bicycle. The art and the food. The festivities and people. I will forever remember that day as one of my most perfect.