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Go the distance in 2014

A few months ago, my husband came home with an idea that I wasn't quite expecting.

Hey! Let's ride bikes from Germany to the Czech Republic.

Yes, that Germany and that Czech Republic. Two entirely separate nations.

Now, you should know that although we own bikes, we don't ride great distances. Maybe 20 or 30 miles on a Sunday morning, but we don't even cross county lines, never mind national borders. Yes, I go to the gym, and I suppose if pressed (or chased) we both could run a couple of miles. Still, this two-nation bike ride seemed a bit much.

But after 10 years of marriage I've learned to at least try entertaining my husband's schemes. So we studied the adventure on the website of tour organizer Road Scholar (more about them in our cover story).

The two-week route follows the Elbe River valley (so no mountains), covers no more than 38 miles a day with frequent stops for things like visiting a chateau with a wine cellar, and (this is key for me, a devout non-camper) you stay in nice-looking hotels.

I started to think this might be feasible and even fun. We signed up for the trip, which is in May. I hope I can keep up with my uber-fit, 72-year-old mother-in-law and her cycling-tour-experienced friend, who are joining us.

There's something marvelously focusing about committing precious funds and vacation time. So we've been increasing our bike riding and even working on our German.

Still, I was slightly apprehensive the other day when the phone rang and it was Frank Behrendt, owner of International Bicycle Tours, which operates the Elbe River trip and others for Road Scholar. We'd recently received detailed instructions for the trip, including a warning that we would be tested on our cycling skills upon arrival. Fail the test, and you go home.

Frank was calling to help me with today's story on traveling for fitness, but I first had to establish just how hard this test would be.

"Don't worry. If you fall off the bike, we pick you up,'' he laughed. "If you fall off again, you might have a problem.''

I told him I was confident we could stay up and told him about our training regimen.

"You'll qualify,'' he said without pause. "People who play tennis or go to the gym have no problem.''

What about the fact that we rarely encounter a grade steeper than a Pinellas Trail overpass?

"We have lots of participants from Florida. There's a man in Cocoa Beach who has taken 32 trips with us. He's 88 and can outbike anyone.''

Now that sounds like someone I'd like to meet, I told Frank.

"You meet the nicest people on our bike trips. Very positive people. When we bike all day in the rain — which happens — you come to the bar where we meet before dinner and the water's running down everyone's ears, and they're so proud of their accomplishment.''

I thought the bar and dinner sounded a lot better than the rain, and Frank agreed.

"You eat and drink wonderful stuff, and you come home and haven't gained any weight,'' he added.

Now that, I thought, would be a real vacation novelty, and a great way to fulfill my own resolution: Do your best, and forgive yourself when you don't.

Whether you have a far-flung destination planned for 2014 or are keeping your adventures closer to home, I hope that our experts' suggestions help you find new ways to fulfill your resolutions and enjoy the journey, too.

Go the distance in 2014 01/09/14 [Last modified: Thursday, January 9, 2014 4:20pm]
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