When I got on the plane to Italy in October 2006 for our Trek Travel Tuscany trip, I knew nothing about the van. A week later, the van was to become one of my favorite things about a Trek Travel trip.
Words by Deb Dingwall, Trek Travel Guest
We landed in Florence and spent the next couple of days exploring the city before hopping on a bus and heading out to the Tuscan countryside with our fellow Trek Travel guests. What I remember most about that first day was standing astride my bike in the Val d’Orcia, gazing up at the lovely hilltop town of Pienza, and thinking, “How beautiful but what the hell have I gotten myself into?” You need to understand that I grew up in Lincoln, Nebraska (Go Big Red!) and was very comfortable with a relatively flat landscape of the Midwest. And while I had spent plenty of time skiing in Colorado as I was growing up, that was downhill. Grudgingly, I clipped in and started to slowly ascend towards the town, my husband Adam alongside me.
Our Trek Travel guide, Dave Edwards, rode up next to us and noticed I was struggling. “Just put it in your easiest gear and pedal slowly” he said. I wasn’t about to break out my, “Don’t tell me what to do” attitude at this early in the game, so I did as Dave suggested and Adam and I made our way up to the town. From the walls of Pienza we gazed across the valley and a shot of reality hit me, each and every town seemed to be at the top of a hill. From our vantage point we could see enough hilltop towns to make my heart sink a bit, and I wondered how the rest of the trip was going to be. I was very convinced I would never let Adam talk me into another one of these vacations.
That night we enjoy an amazing Italian four-course feast with plenty of wine. Dave stopped by our table during dinner to ask how the first day went. Admittedly I was a bit down, and I told him the elevation for the rest of the week looked daunting as it wasn’t quite what I had expected. “Simple,” Dave said, “there’s always the van. You don’t want to ride up the hill, just let us know and we’ll boost you to the top in the van. It’s your vacation.”
“There’s always the van” became my new mantra, and one that I’ve shared in numerous conversations about Trek Travel. It is my vacation and if part of what I want on vacation is relief from some of the cycling challenges that are an awesome part of every Trek trip, I’m allowed to jump in the van. I’ve been known to do that for a boost up a steep hill, a rest after lunch for a bit, or at the beginning of the day if I’m not quite feeling up to the start.
I’ve boosted up climbs in Tuscany, France, Vermont, California, Oregon, and the San Juan Islands just to name a few. My reluctance about that first climb up to Pienza disappeared with the realization that the van was there to enhance my, and any Trek Travel guest’s, experience.
Adam did talk me into another trip, and another, and another. This July we will take our 11th trip with Trek Travel, this time to the California Wine Country. I’ve grown to enjoy the riding–and even the climbing–so much more than I did on that first trip. But ever since my childhood days skiing in Colorado, the downhills have always been, and always will be, a love of mine. And if you ever have the chance to descend into Bend off of Mount Bachelor, do it.
A Trek Travel vacation is so much more than cycling. It’s food and wine, conversation and amazing scenery. It’s the bike and the guides. And sometimes, it’s the van.