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Last year, we introduced you to Bob Blair of New Hampshire, who won our #My7WorldWonders contest. Recently, we caught up with Bob for an update on how his first trip went, what it was like cycling for the first time in fifty years(!), and where he’s off to next.
Last time that we talked, you were just starting to plan your first trip! Where did you end up going, and what made you pick that destination to kick off your #My7WorldWonders experience?
I have 7 trips over 7 years, and, as it turns out, 2 are bike tours. I decided since I’m 70 years old now, and I haven’t been on a bike in 50 years, I wanted to cross the cycle trips off the list while still young enough to enjoy them, so I picked the cycling Croatia tour first.
50 years, wow! How did you prepare for the cycling aspect of this first trip, and did your preparation set you up for a smooth ride?
It’s true what they say, you never forget how to ride. It’s just like riding a bike, after all! You just kind of hop on! Getting on, off, stopping—that takes a bit of practice. I did buy a road bike and rode in the summer in preparation. But mostly, I was in pretty good shape anyway. I don’t think cycling on the tour necessarily needed new muscles for me.
My exercise routine before was fine, I didn’t switch it up much to prepare for the tour. I did get some cycling practice on the road bike in though, and I was glad to have done 50-60 miles of practice in the summer to get back in the hang of it. I didn’t have any trouble on the trip, despite the much longer rides—we were doing around 30 miles a day, more than I had practiced doing. We had a coffee break in the morning though, and a lunch break and an afternoon break—it was all pretty well-paced. I was also glad to have the right gear—riding gloves, a seat cushion, cushioned shorts, and so on. I wouldn’t want to cycle like this without the gear!
And what did you think of Croatia?
Croatia is a really interesting place. On our Croatian tour, we were basically island hopping along the coast. You have the mountain range along the Aegean, but happily we were on the islands, which are relatively flat. We would have about one ferry ride a day as we island hopped. It was very beautiful, with crystal clear water and stunning views.
Was there a memorable moment in Croatia that filled you with wonder?
The most memorable spot for me was Dubrovnik. I’m a fan of Game of Thrones, which was filmed in a couple of Croatian towns, and King’s Landing, home of the famous Iron Throne, was in Dubrovnik! So, a lot of things we saw there were featured in the show, which was incredible. It’s a very cool place, and we were there at a very cool time of year—it was early October, the summer tourists were already gone, the cruise ships had stopped for the season, and yet the weather was perfect for a cycling tour.
Did anything surprise you on your trip? A view, a culture shock, an unexpected delight?
Our guide was Croatian, and they talked openly about the war, which I didn’t really know much about—in fact I didn’t really know much about Yugoslavia at all going into it. Hearing about all the countries that were born from that—probably doesn’t sound like a fun, touristy thing to talk about, but it was a fascinating discussion, a really enriching experience.
Let’s talk about food! How was the food on the Dalmatian Coast?
The Croatian food was really good. A lot of fish, for obvious reasons. We were always very close to a fishing village, and most of the places we stayed were in harbours, so the food was always fresh caught. I was a bit surprised that the food wasn’t really Germanic—no bratwursts or anything, it was more American in style, but delicious for sure.
What advice would you have for a fellow traveler planning to take the Cycling Croatia tour?
Time of year is important. It can be very hot, and very crowded—watch out for that if you can and plan your timing to miss the crowds and the heat! I’m planning my next trip in the same way, aiming for the off-season to miss the crowds.
Already planning the next trip! Where are you off to next? What are you most excited about for that trip?
Italy! Florence, Pisa—I’ll be cycling through Tuscanyon an Italian tour, crossing my second cycling tour off the list. I think it’s going to be a good bit hillier, so I think I’m going to get an e-bike. I’m looking forward to it, I was last in that region when I was a student in college, but I was on a train pass, so I spent most of the time on the train. I learnt from the Croatia trip that being on a bike really lets you take it a good bit slower than the trains, makes it a more immersive experience.
How has winning #My7WorldWonders changed your life so far?
The biggest thing I would say is that despite being a traveler, the chances of me going on a bike trip in Croatia without winning it in this way were pretty non-existent, it’s not something I would have thought of—I knew nothing about Croatia, and I don’t bike! So, it kind of threw me in a totally different realm, and as it turns out, I love Croatia, and being on the bike was pretty cool! 35 miles a day is not that taxing and a cycling tour was truly an amazing way to travel.
Any last thing you’d like to say to your fellow travelers?
I encourage anyone thinking about visiting a new place in a new way to just get out and do it! It was my fifth Exodus trip, and it was such a great way to travel.