Fresh off a 10-day cycling trip through the glaciated mountains and rain forests of New Zealand with 25 of their closest friends, Bellevue Club members Jane Springman and Susan Williams talk about the joys of traveling abroad by bike.
For almost two decades, a group of Bellevue Club members have been consistently meeting at 5:30 a.m. to take a spin class. The group was initially drawn together by their shared desire to get a ride in before a busy day, but as the years passed and the friendships strengthened, the group took on a whole new meaning.
In 2002, the pack of about 15 members decided to board a plane for Spain, where they would take two weeks to put their cycling abilities to the pavement. Traveling with a group of that size overseas is no small feat, especially when equipment rentals, tour guides and long bouts of hard physical exercise are involved. But, it was successful and ultimately became the blueprint for what the group affectionately calls “ed-ventures.”
“We’ve biked through Poland, Hungary, Budapest, Italy, Spain, the Canary Islands, Morocco,” says Jane Springman. “And we call these trips ‘ed-ventures’ after my husband, Ed Springman. He is the catalyst and the planner, and he is also a frugal man who is always looking for ways to shave costs. So there’s usually a quirk or two. We just laugh and say, ‘Well, it’s an ed-venture.’”
The group has now grown to about 27 people, and they just recently returned from New Zealand where they rode an average of 30 to 50 miles a day, depending on the terrain, for 15 days. To help transport their luggage from place to place (as they actually travel across countries, not just return to the same hotel each night), the group hired a truck to follow the pack and tour guides to ensure the group stays on the route.
“We’re people who are committed to an active lifestyle, and we just took it a step further,” Jane says. “We want to enjoy our lifestyle when we’re on vacation, so we do active vacations.”
Jane estimates the group has done somewhere between eight and 10 trips on various continents, and she says although the tone is pretty easy-going there are a few things they refuse to compromise along the way.
“There are a couple of criteria. We don’t camp. We don’t even glamp. We want hotels with showers and good food. We also rent the equipment and get a sag wagon [support vehicle],” she says.
“And we want good equipment,” adds Susan Williams, fellow club member and adventurer. “It is a vacation after all.”
Jane and Williams both agree there is something very special about traveling in this way as they often find themselves on lesser known routes and roads.
“I think we all like the slower pace so we can stop and talk to the locals,” Jane says. “It’s also just a great sensory experience. You’re smelling things, hearing things, experiencing different things because you’re out in the open. Also we’re eating at little out-of-the-way places where they don’t normally see tourists.”
The women also poke fun of their ages and say people are often shocked “to see so much gray hair ride by and that we’re still fit. I think we set a pretty good example of how to age gracefully. I hope our children and grandchildren will assume that’s just how you get older,” Jane says.
Williams agrees and says the best advice she has for anyone else interested in starting a similar group is “to start local and think small because there are a lot of organized rides around here, and it’s a good opportunity to see how everyone travels and how everyone handles the miles.”