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  1. #1
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    Spain Tour - Picos de Europa

    Had a lovely tour in Spain with Erickson Cycle Tours June 19 to July 5. The modest Picos de Europa mountains in Cantabria and Asturias, near Bilbao. Can't believe so few of us have ever even heard of this area! Anyway, I blogged it primarily for my daughter's benefit, but figured maybe some here will find it interesting.
    Erickson Tour: 2010 Picos de Europa
    So, keep in mind that its a blog, and chronologically newest posts are first. If you want to see the trip unfold, click quickly to the bottom of the page, and click "Next" twice to get to the first day, etc. Also note that the pictures are set to auto-slideshow mode. You can click arrows, or pause to control. Highly recommended tour, though Glenn appears to be cutting back on how many tours he offers. Rats.
    Last edited by 2frmMI; 07-28-10 at 12:30 PM. Reason: Goofed the URL.

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    Thanks for sending. That sure looked like a very challenging trip with a lot of climbing.

  3. #3
    hors category TandemGeek's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by 2frmMI View Post
    Highly recommended tour, though Glenn appears to be cutting back on how many tours he offers. Rats.
    One of Glenn's tours has been on our 'must do' list for ten years... Several of our friends have been on multiple tours and have never been disappointed. Perhaps we'll just need to make a point of checking that box next year as we really do want to spend some time with Glenn & Nancy on one of their tours. They're still some of the best-value tours offered by anyone who has the legs and lungs for a unique and challenging tour experience. These ain't no Sunday rides to the coffee shop!

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    Quote Originally Posted by TandemGeek View Post
    These ain't no Sunday rides to the coffee shop!
    We've now done Erickson tours in: Provence, Dordogne, Tuscany, and Spain. Planning for Geneva to Nice perhaps in 2012. Although they are all challenging, for most days he has alternate shorter and longer routes, though "shorter" seldom qualifies as "easy". Don't procrastinate!
    (p.s. Hope you checked out the photos on the blog!)

  5. #5
    hors category TandemGeek's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by 2frmMI View Post
    Don't procrastinate!
    Our challenge is being able to carve-out the 17 days needed for a two-week tour. Thus far, in the 32 years that I've been working I've taken exactly one 2-week long vacation... back in Sept '02 when we did a San Francisco to San Diego tour.

    That, and dropping $13k - $14k on a 'vacation', just hasn't been embedded in my DNA. So, the Erickson tour remains high on our bucket list, along with Mel & Barbara Kornbluh's 3-week long New Zealand tour and a few other less ambitous trips in Europe. Right now I'm thinking these are still a couple years away.

    In the mean time, we'll continue to drive to 4 or 5 semi-regional tandem rallies each year (Closer to $600 a pop for a 3-day weekend) and do a few other weekend get-aways with friends which work rather well with our work schdules. For example, we'll be heading up to Pennsylvania for our annual, summer-time visit with my family and then catch the 3-day MATES Rally in Virginia on the way home. Every once in a while we'll also hope on a plane and sample a rally in a different part of the country that's a bit beyond reasonable driving distance.

    While this little trips lack the total immersion that you get with a two-week tour in Europe, they just seem to be a better 'fit' for our lifestyle thus far. Again, we are hopeful that we can evolve to a point where a major tour will become an every-other-year occurance, rather than the once-in-a-lifetime event that it's been thus far.

  6. #6
    Senior Member Homeyba's Avatar
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    I've done three trips to Europe an not spent anywhere near 13-14k$! Actually less than half that for me, the wife and son (and my mom on one trip). We do make an effort to stay with friends and relatives which helps a lot on the costs. Other than that airfare is the biggest cost. We also don't pay for a "tour guide." We much prefer the freedom to do what we want.

    TG, are you serious? Only one two week vacation in 32years!!!! Man, life is tooo short. By the time you get around to enjoying life you're going to be too old and decrepit.
    It doesn't get harder, you just go slower.

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    hors category TandemGeek's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Homeyba View Post
    I've done three trips to Europe an not spent anywhere near 13-14k$!
    Absolutely... We have a lot of friends and acquaintances who have also done self-guided tours for a mere fraction of the 'package tour' costs to which I was referring. However, I don't think I'm that far off on what a one-week Santana or two-week Erickson tour would likely cost with airfare, incidentals and other normal travel / vacation costs.

    Quote Originally Posted by Homeyba View Post
    TG, are you serious? Only one two week vacation in 32years!!!!
    Sad but true. Of course, since 1984 I've worked in Aerospace where our plants shut down between Christmas and New Years and take at least one full week to visit family + the multiple aforementioned 3-4 day weekends and various other days off when I feel the need. Case in point, I took off 6 hours on Tuesday so I could get some siding up on my shed project and I left work early today so I can frame the roof. I'm off Lowes to get lumber in a few minutes: it works....

    However, things are changing that are causing me to look at vacation time a bit differently. Our company used to let us 'bank' up to 600 hours of vacation and then paid you for excess vacation not taken beyond that every year which was a nice little stipend. However, over the past several years they've ratcheted that down by 40 hours a year and capped vacation accrual. So, I'm now having to figure out how to 'burn' 4 weeks of vacation each year and even now am having to take off afternoons to burn my balance down to 440 hours by the end of this year. What complicates things is my wife's work schedule, in that her firm has two specified down times per year -- down time at Christmas and 4th of July -- instead of a more liberal / flexible vacation plan. So, add all those things up and you get somewhat boxed-in.

    But, hey, we're doing OK and enjoying life in our own way.
    Last edited by TandemGeek; 07-29-10 at 03:10 PM.

  8. #8
    Senior Member Homeyba's Avatar
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    I know how it is, I did the "corporate life" for too long myself. One thing I always did do when I started a job was to negotiate my vacation to ensure I could do the long vacations. My parents worked for the schools when I was a kid and every summer we would do a cross country trip so I made sure we could do that for my son as he was growing up. I've gotten into the habit of it now I won't go without. We don't go to Europe too often, usually we're hanging around here in North America somewhere. People get so excited about Europe and miss all there is to see here in the states. Having ridden my bike across the US 4 times now I know there is still a ton we haven't seen!
    It doesn't get harder, you just go slower.

  9. #9
    Senior Member Homeyba's Avatar
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    While we're talking about tours like the Santana, Erickson or even Pac tours, what exactly is the draw for that kind of thing? I've always equated it with backpacking vs camping. I've always been a backpacking type of guy. I like the idea of seeing a trail or road and deciding that it looks interesting and go. I'm sure there is some leeway on a scheduled tour there can't be much or they'd have people all over the place. Maybe the appeal is having your luggage carried for you? I suppose that would be cool. Most of them, with the exception of Pac tours, appear to be geared towards more recreational type riders with relatively short mileages each day. I don't mean to be bagging on tours, I'm more curious than anything. Maybe it's something I should give a try one day, kind of like going on a cruise ship.
    It doesn't get harder, you just go slower.

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    We have never been on a cruise, a guided tour of any kind or an all-included resort. We would also be interest to know what the draw is besides the logistic advantages.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Homeyba View Post
    Most of them, with the exception of Pac tours, appear to be geared towards more recreational type riders with relatively short mileages each day.
    Well, that probably isn't an Erickson tour. Glenn has some funny stories about his screening of riders to make sure they are up to his tours. These are for serious riders, and he gets it right almost all of the time... How about this: on our Spain tour, one of the women riders (on a single) caught us on a descent (!) because she likes to go fast and knows about tandems!! I really don't know how you catch us on a descent - we were booking, +50. She later confessed that she is a ski racer, and a crit racer.

    We love the attention to detail on an Erickson tour: the perfect route, ending at the perfect hotel. Consider that Glenn is a connoisseur of riding in Europe, and that is the total package, not just the ride but the pre and the "apre". We've compared prices. Erickson tours are amazingly modest in cost. We did a Santana tour that was obscene in comparison: a gazillion riders, crappy accommodations, *%#@y food, and WAY higher cost per day. The Santana ride actually booked us in a -DORMITORY- for several nights, at $many per night!!!

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    Quote Originally Posted by cornucopia72 View Post
    We have never been on a cruise, a guided tour of any kind or an all-included resort. We would also be interest to know what the draw is besides the logistic advantages.
    Every single road is selected to be the perfect road for that day. I'm not kidding here. Attention to detail that YOU cannot match unless you have been riding in Europe as long as Glenn has. If you add up all the costs, you would be hard pressed to do such a tour for less if you did all the planning and logistics on your own. Maybe if you camped, but not if you stay in good to excellent hotels with good to excellent meals. Admittedly, these are "deluxe" tours, but deluxe for BIKERS, because of the details. And Glenn and his staff can add to every.single.experience. Really, you should give it a try.

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    hors category TandemGeek's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by 2frmMI View Post
    (p.s. Hope you checked out the photos on the blog!)
    Indeed... Spectacular, as one would expect!

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    Senior Member Homeyba's Avatar
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    You make it sound great and your pictures are spectacular! When I go to Europe I tend to stay with friends or family and they usually take us out on "their" roads. It's great riding with the locals. Sometimes I just like to go where the wind blows. One time in Scotland I took off from Inverness and ended up on the Ilse of Skye. It was awesome. I may give a tour a try sometime. How many miles did you ride each day? I assume they provided SAG support on the route?
    It doesn't get harder, you just go slower.

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    Quote Originally Posted by 2frmMI View Post
    Every single road is selected to be the perfect road for that day. I'm not kidding here. Attention to detail that YOU cannot match unless you have been riding in Europe as long as Glenn has. If you add up all the costs, you would be hard pressed to do such a tour for less if you did all the planning and logistics on your own. ....
    Well, you got our interest. We checked the 2010 tours that they offer and there is 2 week one in Tuscany this fall. The cost is $4,000 per person, so, little over $500 a day. We did a similar trip 3 years ago on our own, I think the parity with the euro was worst then. We spent little under $5,000 and stayed at small inns, ate where and what the locals did. We followed scenic routes and connected with local cyclists on a few occasions. We consulted with several fellow cyclists here and in Italy and spent countless hours planning and booking. This year have solid plans to go to Barcelona and tour the Pirineos. Next year we will seriously consider an Erikcson Tour.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Homeyba View Post
    How many miles did you ride each day? I assume they provided SAG support on the route?
    50-80 miles, depending on terrain and choice of longer or shorter. SAG isn't quite like one of the local rides where it sweeps. The van carries bags to next hotel, so leaves last in the morning, overlaps riders typically late morning. Fill water bottles mostly. If there is a predictable need for clothing change, the van may have a planned stop also. Example: we descended from Alto Campoo first thing in the morning wearing jackets, arm, and leg warmers. Van stopped at the base to let us take those off before the long traverse and next climb. May stop at a pass or other spot with a picnic lunch - often on Spain tour, once or twice on Tuscany, Provence tours. Fully stocked with tools and almost any part that could go wrong. Will rescue in bad weather if needed, though the van only holds about 5 riders. Driver has a cell so can be called if unexpected mechanical problem, etc.

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    Quote Originally Posted by cornucopia72 View Post
    2 week one in Tuscany this fall. The cost is $4,000 per person, so, little over $500 a day.
    Um... 4000/15=267.

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    hors category TandemGeek's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by 2frmMI View Post
    Um... 4000/15=267.
    x 2 people = $533 per day for a double occupancy / tandem team.

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    Looks like a great trip. Quite deluxe! Sometimes we too will try to do more of a DIY tour but based on your pictures, this looks to be led by someone who knows the area and knows how to do it right.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Homeyba View Post
    Sometimes I just like to go where the wind blows.
    [Missed this earlier Homeyba, so, sorry it seems out of sequence.]
    So, I too have such tendencies, but it is also nice to avoid the occasional bad choices that come with that mode, by its very nature. Interestingly, on our first tour with Glenn, Provence, in his opening evening discussion he encouraged us to use the route maps as general guidance; to take other roads if they look interesting; to not fear getting lost if that is what happened - a phone call to the van driver would get you rescued, and you might just discover something great that he hadn't found. In Tuscany we did this: on the wrong road we stopped to photograph a small wine grape crushing operation and ended up getting invited into the small family vineyard/winery/home where we tasted grapes, juice, wine, and met the entire extended 4-generation family with only the teenage boy able to speak a minimum of English. They sent us on our way with full water bottles, a snack, and a bottle of their wine! We later found the route, but everybody else was jealous that they hadn't gotten lost, too!

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