It was a high note to end on. We said our goodbyes after a short bike ride and lunch on Friday, and drove an hour south to Berkeley to unload and clean out the van & trailer. Then I had to say goodbye to my co-leader, Melissa, because she is off to Costa Rica for a few weeks, and then to the Tetons to lead more trips. I just met her 7 days prior, but I felt like I had a new best friend and I didn't want her to leave. It's amazing how quickly you get to know someone when you are spending every moment with them for an entire week. This is her second year leading, so she's used to making close friends and then saying goodbye: It's part of the Backroads lifestyle. I drove the van solo back to the leader house, did a quick load of laundry, ate some leftover pesto pasta with a glass of Sauvignon Blanc on the deck, and put sheets on one of the 12 twin beds. (What a change after 5 nights in plush kings with turn down service!). By 10pm I fell into bed and closed my eyes until my alarm went off at 3:45am for my 4am shuttle to the airport.
Being back in Durango for the week has been a breath of fresh air. I've been able to rest my mind and do the things that I love here. It felt like vacation at home: I went mountain biking on my favorite trails, floated the river in duckys, went to my favorite yoga class, and cooked lovely meals with Jarrod. A smorgish board of grilled salmon and veggies one night; Another night we roasted lamb with a fresh sage and mint rub from the garden and drizzled it with a red wine and portobello reduction sauce - The Michellin starred Santè that we dine at in Sonoma has nothing on Jarrod's cooking!) It's been such a treat to just be home. Jarrod has all kinds of colorful lettuce growing, as well as tomatoes, kale and soon corn and beans and squash. We've been able to have fresh salads every day. Alpe greets me in the morning, tail wagging and happy and ready for a hike. It's quiet and peaceful in the house and I can just be with little distraction.
On our last day together we spent the morning mountain biking the high alpine Engineer-Coal Bank trail among the beautiful Colorado wildflowers and impressive Engineer mountain. By the afternoon we were on the river once again in the inflatable kayaks (we set up our shuttle with a car and a bicycle). Then, by the evening we were dressed up and seated at a private wine dinner with a German winemaker and the Chef at Seasons explaining each course and wine that was placed in front of us. It was like having our own private Backroads tour!
Next week I'll be back at it again with 4 back-to-back trips in wine country. Two of them are support roles, so I will have the evenings to myself. I plan to get out and enjoy some evening rides past the vineyards and on the coast. When I'm in a leading role, I am on my bike every other day and usually get in a good amount of exercise. I like to use the hiking dog analogy to describe my day: Lots of back and forth, checking on everyone in the front and in the back.
Last week, as I was waiting at a park for the slower riders to arrive, I met an older woman who was also on a bike ride, stopping for a quick break. She told me that her favorite ride was a 49 mile loop from her house and part of it was up Chalk Hill, a climb that some of our guests were choosing to shuttle to avoid the uphill. She grinned and said the climb was the best part. She must have noticed me studying her wrinkled face and offered, "I am 73 years old". I was stunned. She looked great and was obviously very fit. She took a hold of her bicycle and said, "This is the fountain of youth; don't you forget it". She has lived in Sonoma County since '72, before the big wine boom started. She's seen a lot of changes but said that she still loves it. "I've traveled and seen a lot of the world, but I've never found a place that fits me as well as here." There is something special about home, isn't there?