WARNING: Some of this story might qualify as Too Much Information. If you think so, you should probably skip it. You’ve been forewarned.
“Non e’ difficile,” said Francesco. It's not difficult. He was telling me how to get an Italian girlfriend.
Francesco had an eagle's head tattoo on one of his muscular arms. He stood beneath a “No Smoking” sign, rolling cigarettes and smoking them one after another.
“Irene, do you think I can teach this American how to pick up Terracina girls?” Francesco asked a young woman who was sipping a cappuccino. He pronounced her name ee-RAY-nay.
She put her hands together as if she were praying, and said “O Dio mio.”
For the next minute or so she looked at me, wide-eyed, shaking her head and her index finger, and mouthing the word “no,” while Francesco tried to impart his favorite observations and techniques.
Ask almost any Italian woman, and she’ll tell you Italian men are pigs. But the truth is, they’re the same as any guys anywhere. They’re just more transparent about it.
I wouldn’t recommend most of what Francesco told me that day in a bar in Terracina. But during my years in Italy I dated three--yes three!--Italian women.
If you're interested, you're about to learn a secret to picking up Italian women. Or any women, really. This could probably work on men, too.
You see, in Los Angeles, I'm just an ordinary dude who talks too much. But in Italy I'm a foreigner with an accent.
When someone speaks to me in Italian, I have to try really hard to follow along. Sometimes the only conversation I can manage is an awkward smile while I nod and say, “si’.” If I need to say much more than that, there’s a long pause while I struggle to remember the Italian word for peanut butter or how to conjugate the verb spalmare.
Apparently my weak language skills come across as intense concentration. My awkward pauses make me look thoughtful. To Italians, I appear to be a good listener.
It turns out many women can't resist a good listener, especially if he has a foreign accent.
Using my foreign accent mojo, I had once met a young woman who lived in a small town in central Italy. We were kindred spirits. In better economic times, she had traveled far, and had seen and done many interesting things.
She broke up with me over the phone about a week before I arrived in Italy to bike the via Appia. Then, the night before I started riding, she texted me and wanted to meet for coffee.
Now here I was, at the beginning of one of the coolest adventures of my life, and all I could think about was this girl. When I looked at Irene, and whenever I looked at just about any Italian woman on this trip, I was really thinking of her.
All I needed to do was alter my travel plans a little, and maybe I could rekindle an old fire. Would I call her? Or would I just keep going, and run away from another relationship?
I’m not an expert at this stuff, but I do have a litmus test. If the relationship makes you stronger, if the person helps you and encourages you to pursue your goals, especially if the two of you pursue your goals together, then you’ve found a winner.
If the person makes you feel insecure and confused, especially if that distracts you from enjoying the fulfilment of whatever really matters to you, then walk away.
On that day in Terracina, I didn’t know if I wanted to embrace the relationship or walk away. Maybe she didn’t, either.
As I write this now, I’m married (to someone else), and all those old issues have disappeared. I just want you to know the truth about my trip. I traveled across half of Italy with only half my mind and half my heart, because I could neither embrace nor let go of the relationship I was in.
If you ever do a solo bike tour, keep in mind that your emotional baggage will color your adventure in unpredictable ways.
If you enjoyed this article, you'd be crazier than a young Caligula not to sign up for the newsletter. When you do, I'll send you a free copy of my travel notes from the latest bike tour along via Appia.
Did this magic mushroom coffee somehow make me smarter and more creative? Probably not from a single cup. But there are a lot of good reasons to try it out. It might even help you handle longer and faster bike rides.
“This will light you up like a Christmas tree,” was how Tim Ferriss described a brand of mushroom coffee.
I couldn’t resist. I went online and bought some for myself.
A week later, my package arrived. It was a great coincidence, because I was about to meet a potential client to talk about some business writing. I made a cup and the strange potion, and went to the meeting.
To make a long story short, the client wanted to see what I could write in 10 minutes. I came up with a draft for one of his web pages that made him laugh out loud. He wrote me a check on the spot.
So, did this magic mushroom coffee somehow make me smarter and more creative? Probably not from a single cup.
But there are a lot of good reasons to try it out. It might even help you handle longer and faster bike rides.
Introducing Lion's Mane
For the past year or so, there’s been a lot of buzz about this mushroom, Hericium erinaceus. It’s popularly known as Lion’s Mane, and it has been used for centuries as food and medicine.
For years, Lion’s Mane was quietly touted as a “smart drug.” Then in 2009, Lion’s Mane was tested on humans. A Japanese study found that H. erinaceus helped people with mild cognitive impairment, such as Alzheimer’s disease.
Unfortunately, a cup of mushroom coffee isn’t enough. The test subjects took almost a gram of dried Lion’s Mane every day for sixteen weeks. It was four weeks before any significant benefits were recorded.
I believe in doing things over the long term, and for the past month I’ve been taking Lion’s Mane supplements. I’m not smart enough to tell if this is making me any smarter, but the more I read, the more benefits I find out about.
One of these benefits is an increase in glycogen levels.
Glycogen is quick fuel for your muscles. It’s stored directly in your muscles, and the more you’ve got, the more endurance you have. A study in 2015 showed that H. erinaceum can increase the storage of glycogen in muscle tissues. At least if you're a mouse.
That’s good enough for me. I’m setting up a space in my house to grow my own Lion’s Mane. Apparently it’s delicious when fried in butter with a little bit of salt and pepper. I’ll keep you posted.
DISCLAIMER: Hopefully you know that I am NOT a doctor, and this article is not meant to diagnose, treat, prevent, or cure any illness. Consult a licensed professional before you consume anything meant to be medicinal.
By the way, if you want to try Lion's Mane for yourself, I recommend two things:
Make sure you get the "fruiting body" of the mushroom. That's the part of the mushroom with all the recorded benefits. Cheaper brands might include other parts that taste nasty and have no confirmed benefits.
Some of the beneficial compounds can be dissolved in water, others need alcohol to break them down. That's why I like the "dual extraction" process used by Four Sigma. They do both. Better still would be to get the actual mushroom, as I'm planning to do.
If you enjoyed this article, you'd be crazier than a young Caligula not to sign up for the newsletter. When you do, I'll send you a free copy of my travel notes from the latest bike tour along via Appia.
This story has stayed with me over the years, and now I pass it on to you because you should always regard your work as important. When you think about the importance of your work, when you care deeply about the results, you will show up every day full of passion and ready to give 100%.
I was about to start teaching English to a group of kids in southern Italy, but first the director of the school insisted on sharing the local drink and a gem of wisdom.
The people of Puglia make their own limoncino, using the peels of fresh-picked lemons and the strongest grappa they can find. They serve it in a tall, narrow shot glass that looks like a test tube. These glasses are kept in the freezer, along with the limoncino.
The glass was glazed with frost that stuck to my lips for a second. It was like kissing a snowflake, until I tasted the limoncino.
Imagine a box of the finest high-quality gourmet lemon drops you can find. Now dissolve them in vodka. That’s what limoncino is like.
After my shot, I couldn’t stand up for 10 minutes. Which is good, because the Director of the English School had something to tell me.
“Jacob,” she told me, “we have a story here in Cerignola. When we began construction on our duomo, a Cardinal came here to bless the work. While he was here, he spoke to the common people working in the olive groves and the wheat fields.
When he saw three men building a wall for the duomo, he stopped and asked them what they were doing.
“The first man told the Cardinal, ‘I am laying bricks, Monsignore. It is tiresome work.’
“The Cardinal blessed the worker, saying, ‘May the Lord grant that you never carry a load beyond what you can bear.’
“The second man said, ‘I am earning good silver coins so I can buy a donkey and two goats and give my family a better life.’
“The Cardinal blessed him, ‘May your honest labor bring prosperity to you and your family.’
“Finally the third man put down his trowel. He stood tall and said with great pride, ‘I am building a cathedral for the glory of God and the pleasure of His servants.’
“The Cardinal smiled and said a great prayer for this one, ‘May the Lord give you the power to fulfill the great visions you hold in your heart.’
“Now, Jacob,” she continued, “you have seen the great Duomo we have in the center of Cerignola, the Chiesa del Carmine. It is very big and beautiful for a city as small as ours.
All the men in our story worked on this cathedral, but only one of them understood the importance of his labor.
“A few weeks after the Cardinal’s visit, this third man was pulled aside by one of the engineers. The engineer began to teach him the basic principles of construction.
“Soon he was directing small groups of men in their labor. He earned more money, and was able to go to Naples to study.
“By the time this young man was 35, he was a well-known architect. Important people hired him to oversee the construction of roads, bridges and palaces all over Puglia.
“Do you see, Jacob? All of this happened because he understood that his work was important. Never forget this. Even when you are just teaching children to say ‘Hello’ in English, you are building a cathedral for someone.”
This story has stayed with me over the years, and now I pass it on to you because you should always regard your work as important. You don’t need to be blessed by a Cardinal.
When you think about the importance of your work, when you care deeply about the results, you will show up every day full of passion and ready to give 100%.
Do this enough, and you can build a cathedral.
By the way, this story is why I'm writing a book about misadventures along the via Appia. I'm planning to release it in the second half of 2018, but I could use your help.
You see, I want to offer my favorite readers some incentives for buying my book. I wish I could just give you an all-expense-paid trip to southern Italy. But I'm basically a starving writer, so that's not possible right now.
Instead, what would you like to have as a special bonus? I'm open to almost any ideas. Leave your suggestions in the comments, below.
This story hides a secret to productivity. And it may also be one of the best examples of fiscal responsibility in the history of western civilization.
If you’re ever in Rome, you’ll probably (hopefully) visit the ruins of the Roman Forum.
There, you’ll see a well-preserved temple dedicated to Antoninus Pius and his wife Faustina. Near the top of the temple you’ll see two lines inscribed in travertine marble:
Divo Antonino et
Divae Faustinae Ex S.C.
The story goes that the emperor, Antoninus Pius, deeply loved his wife. When she died, he asked the Senate to make her a goddess, and he built a lavish temple in her honor.
He spared no expense. You can still see the marks left on the pillars by looters who tried to steal the rare cippoline marble.
But they couldn't tear the building down.
In fact, the temple was built so well that it survived through the centuries and was even made into a church. The church was dedicated to San Lorenzo, who may have been martyred on the alter at the base of the temple.
But I'm getting off topic.
On the front of the temple, Antoninus Pius carved the first dedication, “Divae Faustinae Ex S.C.” This means “The Goddess Faustina by Senatorial Decree.”
Some years later, when Antoninus passed away, the Senate was left with the burden of making him a god just like his wife. Her temple had been costly, and the emperor’s own temple would have to be its equal or better.
But then someone had a brilliant idea.
Instead of building a new temple, they simply added a new inscription above the old one: “Divo Antonino et.” The translation: “The God Antoninus and.”
Now the full inscription read:
The God Antoninus and
The Goddess Faustina by Senatorial Decree
The immortal emperor and empress are together for all eternity, while the Roman taxpayers were spared the cost of shiploads of marble and thousands of man-hours of labor. Everyone was happy, except the family who owned the marble quarries.
Build your house with bricks
There’s a lesson here, and it’s not about finding ways to cheap out.
If the Romans had build Faustina a cheap temple, Antoninus would have required a new, better temple.
In other words, this money-saving trick never could have worked if the original temple hadn’t been built as well as it was.
So, the real lesson: If you do something really well, it’s easily worth twice as much as if you do an “okay” job. Spend more time, money, effort up front and you’ll ultimately get twice as much done in half the time at half the price.
Whatever you do in 2018, challenge yourself to make it bigger and better than it needs to be.
Once there was a tiny bar near a bus station in Rome, where an old man made the best cappuccino in the world.
He would drop the saucer on the counter at an angle, so it spun for a few seconds, rattling faster and faster as it settled in front of you. He whipped the steamed milk with a loud clattering flourish, folded it into your coffee with a wire whisk, and poured out the last bit of foam into spiral shapes that would turn into a heart, a smiling face, or the colosseum.
Any barista could use this kind of artistic display to mask a mediocre coffee, but this guy didn’t need to. The cappuccino itself was even better than the performance. Rich flavors arose from a perfect balance of espresso and milk. There was a subtle hint of sweetness, and the temperature was always just right.
This place was too far from my apartment for a daily visit, but I know the owner had a lot of regulars. The maestro would greet many of his visitors by name, and get into long, interesting conversations.
I loved to sit and listen in as I sipped my cappuccino. And I could do it, too, because this was one of the few bars in the center of Rome that didn’t charge you extra for sitting down.
Today the old man has long since retired, and now his bar is just another random place to get average coffee.
I’m telling you about this because you probably know a few hidden gems like this, too. It could be an old reliable hangout where everybody knows your name, or a place where you find silence and solitude, or maybe somewhere you only go every now and then as a special treat.
Cherish these places, because they may not last forever.
I could write an entire book about old bars and cafes up and down the coast of California, places where friendly people laughed and shared jokes, places that have gone out of business. I’ve danced in crowded old buildings to live music that you’ll never hear on Pandora, in buildings are now banks or corporate headquarters, or worse yet chains such as McDonalds or Starbucks.
This is all a smaller ripple in the trend that is reshaping the planet. In my youth I hiked and played in wild forests. I saw the trees cut down and the ground criss-crossed with roads and construction. This happened in my backyard in Illinois, it happened where I went to college, and it’s happened to many of my favorite places.
And what about you? If you’ve been in this world for more than a decade or two, surely a few of your most beloved haunts have disappeared or changed forever.
In Minturno I had a favorite place, a place that was vanishing. What’s different is it became a favorite even before I ever got to see it first-hand.
A book called The Appian Way: A Journey has a photo taken in the early 1970s.
The picture is in black and white, but you can see the sparkle of the leaves in the sunlight. It's easy to imagine the bright colors of flowers basking in the sun. You can feel the breeze, and hear the stalks and leaves whipping in a gentle wind.
But a skeletal arch looks like it's ready to fall down. Broken pieces of marble are hiding in the tall weeds.The earth is slowly absorbing the familiar basalt road bed.
This is the site of the ancient Roman city Minturnae.
People lived here. They felt things. They loved, labored, suffered, thought, and dreamed. Now all that's left of their life is a stone boneyard in a field of wildflowers, and that won't last.
The photo shows the effects of ecological succession. Bits of grass take root in the cracks between the bricks. They die, decompose, and turn into soil that can hold deeper roots and nourish slightly larger plants.
The weather goes to work on the rock, releasing minerals into the soil. Soon bigger plants move in, their seeds carried by birds and wind. These plants attract insects, which become a food source for birds and other animals.
All of this biological activity produces acid and moisture, which slowly wear down the rock and widen the cracks even more.
The land changes from the ground up. Plants, bugs, birds, and their droppings decompose and form more soil. Every trace of human work is slowly dissolved by the ages.
Normally I’m a big fan of this regeneration. It gives me hope for our future. Not just for humanity, but also for the millions of other species who share the world with us. But I wanted to see this lonely, man-made city before nature reclaimed it forever.
The Appian Way: A Journey talks a lot about the natural decay of human monuments. The authors Dora Jane Hamblin and Mary Jane Loeb Grunsfeld spent years driving and hiking along the Appian way. Their verdict on Minturnae, in the 1970s: “It will not last another decade.”
Their photos of Minturnae charmed me into dreaming up a bike tour down the Appian Way. I have to see it, I told myself. Even if all I see is a half-buried pillar like the skeleton of some giant reptile, I have to see it.
But I may already be more than thirty years too late.
I was in a hurry, but I still stopped in Formia for a shot of espresso. I went to lean my bike against the wall outside a cafe, where three old men sat around a table playing dominos. This scene could have taken place back in Itri, or Terracina, or really anywhere in the Mediterranean. The drink in their glasses did not look like coffee.
“Posso?” I asked permission. “Can I leave my bike here?”
“Only if you stay for at least an hour and a half,” one of them joked.
“But I have to go sooner,” I told them in the best Italian I could muster. “I'm looking for the via Appia Antica.”
This caused a flurry of inebriated laughter.
“Ragazzo,” insisted one of the men, “la via Appia Antica e' proprio qui!” and he swept the back of his hand towards the busy street a few yards away. “Via Appia is right here.”
Inside the bar, I bought five tomato and mozzarella tramezzini, triangular sandwiches made of white bread with the crusts cut off. The tomatoes were green. An Italian had once explained to me that green tomatoes keep longer, and they don't make the bread wet. Best of all, they're crisp as lettuce.
I wanted to sit down, talk to the old men some more, and eat my sandwiches here. Everyone I met in Formia was unusually friendly. In fact, it felt like the town didn’t want me to leave. But I was impatient to keep moving.
This quiet, friendly place offered peace, companionship, and good food. This was the real Italy, the country I had called my home for several years. But I barely stopped for a coffee.
That photo of ancient Minturnae, that fear of missing out, that’s why I zipped through Formia and rode hard enough to make my quads burn. I was so close, and I was certain the last glorious marble columns of Minturnae would melt away forever in the next two hours!
By the early afternoon I reached a campsite outside Minturno, the modern town near the ancient city. The couple who ran the campground offered me a coffee and asked about my travels.
I was anxious to find whatever was left of Minturnae, but as we finished our coffee, the husband told me we were close to the river that marks the border between Lazio and Campagna.
Italy is divided into 21 regions, in the same way the USA is divided into states. Lazio is one of these regions, from the ancient “Latium,” the land of the Latins with Rome in the center. The region of Campagna, which just means “countryside,” is best known for Mount Vesuvius.
The Garigliano river separated these two regions, Lazio the Eternal City and a center of civilization, and Campagna the home of nature in all her savage glory.
Over the ages, Italians built half a dozen bridges at across this river. The ancient Roman bridge is now underwater. Today, the Via Appia now runs across a 19th century bridge that was destroyed in World War II and restored in the 1990s. The bridge is suspended by thick black chains, and guarded by a pair of stone Sphinxes.
Just to the west of this bridge, you'll find what’s left of Minturnae.
In the early 1980s, the locals decided to do something about the burglars who were carrying off the remaining stones of ancient Minturnae. Today, the site is protected by a tall steel fence. Skilled and caring hands have restored and protected the place.
It turns out the writers who brought me here were wrong in their predictions. As I followed the river to the site of Minturnae, marble columns and a large amphitheater waved at me from above the shrubs.
Minturno has seen thirty years of economic growth, along with a growing interest in preserving ancient historical relics.This has led to improvements, not destruction. The Appian Way runs on through an expanded and restored Minturnae, which is carefully guarded and proudly promoted.
I gladly paid a few Euros towards the cause, and bought a ticket to walk inside among the ruins. Clean basalt and sun-baked travertine gave off their warmth. Insects scurried along the stones of the amphitheater. I walked the old Appian Way where it passed through Minturnae, complete with deep ruts carved by centuries of wagon wheels.
I should have been thrilled, but I surprised myself.
Here’s the problem. Today we enjoy a level of comfort and convenience that most people couldn’t have imagined a century ago. But we also need mountain bikes, skateboards and all kinds of games to maintain a sense of adventure.
Bike tours are my way of escaping the comfort zone and entering the untethered universe where anything can happen. This beautiful, chaotic place is the real world. It’s unpredictable and dangerous, but going there is a necessity if you want to feel alive.
Reconstructed Minturnae has been tightly insulated from the real world. Gone are the gorgeous, tragic scenes of the old photo images. Instead, ropes and chains guide you along a pathway through the site. A team of experts have designed every inch of it. They dictate exactly where you can walk and exactly what you’ll see.
Minturnae would have been gone in a decade without the help of these archeologists. But when I planned this trip, I had pictured muddy treks in search of unfettered ruins. I had imagined seeing ancient walls and arches without the benefit of a guide or a guardrail.
Minturnae really is gone forever, replaced by a museum. I love museums, but I have to report a sad conclusion to Hamblin and Grunsfeld’s story: Minturnae has fallen victim to the ancient trade-off between freedom and security.
The Italian government is letting ordinary "civilians" take over old historic buildings.
Nine of these properties are along via Appia!
Here's the deal. They want to encourage tourism in the lesser-known regions of Italy. They want to create a market for local cuisine and products. They want to attract tourists to the bikeways and hiking paths.
They want passionate dreamers like me (and maybe you) to renovate abandoned old buildings, convert them into hotels, hostels, AirBnB places. They want marketing plans that will bring commerce to the towns and regions that surround these romantic buildings.
In return, they'll let us (me and my team, which may include you) lease the building for free or at low cost. While it will be run as a commercial venture, we will have our own "private quarters" on site.
So what's in it for you? Two things.
First, if you've ever wanted to know how something like this works, I'll be recording all my steps and efforts right here in this blog. I'm creating a new category for these posts, so you can search under "renovation."
Second, this is going to be a team effort. If you'd like to join me, leave a comment and we'll get in touch.
What's your vision of a perfect life, a perfect world?
Mine would have a lot of wonderful requirements, but here are my top five:
1. Health. A pollution-free environment, and healthy people who get lots of fresh air and exercise. If they want it. I would want it.
2. Friends. Lots of relaxed adventures with cool, interesting people
3. Coffee. Lots and lots of caffeine every day. Preferably organic, shade grown, fair trade, and hand-packed by members of an autonomous collective of indigenous transgender people of color who donate a portion of their profits to help underserved communities of dolphins with special needs.
(Okay, maybe I've had too much coffee...)
4. Books. Lots of books. And time to read them. Even if it's just a page, read out loud on a busy street.
5. A healthy dose of silliness. Laughter at my expense is okay. I probably did something to deserve it.
You can help make this vision a reality!
If you're in Los Angeles, you can help make it all happen.
Group bike rides cover most of this. And there's a new one that's having an impact at least twice a month.
This bike ride has an immediate positive impact on your health, and you're reducing pollution by getting around on your own power. You'll meet lots of interesting people, and the ones you're not ready to throttle by the end of the ride will probably become friends.
Still not convinced? Well, there's going to be coffee at the beginning of the ride. Probably more in the middle of the ride. And usually at the end of the ride, unless we drink wine instead. (I guess that should be #6 above)
There will be books. In fact, we'll be stocking the free boxes of L.A., providing fine literature for readers all over the city. There will be a dramatic reading at every stop. You can read one too, if you want.
That covers everything on the list except the silliness. But this is the Street Librarians Ride, created by stand-up comedian and journalist Nick Richard. So you should probably be ready for some silliness.
If you’re a seasoned, confident bike tourist then I would love to have you along next spring. But if you think there’s some insurmountable obstacle that would make the journey impossible, no matter how badly you want to go, then this post is for you.
This post is for you if you’re interested in biking via Appia but you aren’t doing it because you think:
You can’t afford it
You’re too young
You're too old
You’re not in shape
You’re afraid of being in the wilderness in a foreign country
There is some other reason holding you back
You can do it. And I’m going to help you. Here’s why:
10 years ago, at the Leo Carrillo State Beach hike and bike campground, I met a man who took a group of developmentally disabled teenagers on a bike tour. They rode north from LA to San Francisco and across the Golden Gate Bridge, fighting the wind all the way.
I met them on their way back home. The kids were confident and street-smart. I got the feeling they could go anywhere they wanted. And they knew it.
“The ride up was brutal,” the guy told me. “The only thing that kept these kids going was the idea of riding across the Golden Gate Bridge. You should have seen their faces when they finally did it.”
Ever since then, I’ve hoped to meet another person like that. Maybe it’s time to become someone like that, at least in my own small way.
So here’s the deal.
I’m going to do another bike tour of via Appia in May, 2017. I'm looking for people who have a burning desire to come along, but something is stopping you.
I will help you.
I can’t buy your plane ticket for you, but I can show you a number of ways to raise the money you’ll need.
I’m not a doctor or a physical therapist, but I can direct you to resources for strengthening your mind and body. In fact, if you think you’re not in shape for a trip like this, that makes two of us! We’ll hold each other accountable as we get in shape (and to tell you the truth, this tour isn’t superhard as far as bike tours go).
If you have a specific physical challenge that you think is going to stop you, I’ll look for someone who can build a bike that’s adapted to your needs.
I will personally coach you on getting into shape, making money, even learning Italian if that will make you more confident. We’re gonna make this happen!
Maybe you’re not especially interested in a bike tour of Italy. There’s still something in this for you.
Over the next several months, you’re going to hear stories of people overcoming their fears, their doubts, and their limits. Hopefully these stories will inspire you to do that one thing that you dream of, the one thing you think is impossible.
If you are interested in biking via Appia with me next spring, here are just a few of the things you’ll get to do as a result of this journey:
Tap into hidden physical and mental powers you didn’t know you had
Build lasting friendships with extraordinary people
Bring back stories and experiences that will change the way you look at the world
Grow stronger and healthier than you dreamed possible
Give yourself the classical education you always wanted
This journey will change you forever. I challenge you to join me. I dare you.
In fact, I beg you.
You see, by coming along on this trip, you’ll give me a chance to face down one of my own big fears.
I’ve biked the entire Appian way from Rome to Brindisi already. I know enough about Italy and Italian to fix most problems that I can’t avoid in the first place. I’ve done bike tours that are longer than this.
But now I want to help you experience the magic. Especially if you’re the kind of person who dreams about a journey like this, but you’re frightened to try.
If I commit to helping you do it, then I have to face my own fear of failure, that maybe I won’t succeed in getting you to Italy and across the finish line.
But I accept the challenge. I will teach you to overcome any obstacle, and you’ll ride triumphantly into Brindisi like an ancient Roman noble.
Let me be clear about this offer, and especially what I am not offering to do.
This is not a free ride. I can’t pay for your airplane ticket or your AirBnB. (I would like to buy you a coffee, or maybe something stronger, while we’re in Italy.)
I’m not a doctor, physical therapist, or psychologist.
But what I do bring to the table is experience, creativity, a lot of good ideas and the will to help you carry them out.
Are you in? Fill out the form below, and we’ll be in touch.
If you're over 40 or will be someday, you need to fight back against the slow erosion of time. There are guys 20 years older than me who can beat me without breaking a sweat. But now I know their secrets.
I was fighting a strong headwind for most of the first day, and when the weather improved I didn’t. My left knee was swollen and sounded like a blender full of ice cubes. I turned back less than halfway through the tour, and I took a bus the last ten miles back home because it hurt too much to ride.
I’m better now, but this trip was my first sign of middle age. Although it’s not just about the years (or even the mileage).
I know a lot of people 20 years older than I am, who could ride circles around me all day and wake up ready to do it again tomorrow. I want to be like them, and now I've learned their secrets.
I’m writing this because you might be in the same situation. If not today, then someday…
For my birthday, my wife bought me Roy Wallack’s book, Bike For Life: How to ride to 100--and beyond. If I had read this book a year ago, I wouldn’t have been defeated on my tour. The chapter on knee pain taught me how to fix my problem in less than a month.
I’m not going to give away all of Roy’s secrets. There are some tools, techniques and exercises in this book that haven’t been discussed anywhere else that I’m aware of. But there are some very useful concepts I think you should know about.
The biggest take-away was the importance of maintaining your fast-twitch muscles as you get older. These muscles are the first to go, and that’s a big part of the reason old people lose their balance, coordination, and reflexes.
(For a quick primer on fast-twitch and slow-twitch muscles, check out this BBC article.)
You build fast-twitch muscle fibers by lifting very heavy weights. There’s a science to this, and a specific way to do it,* which he explains in detail in the book. I had never done this kind of exercise before. It’s been a game-changer for me after just a few weeks.
Roy Wallack also reminds you that you have a life off the bike as well as on it. Bike for Life teaches you a handful of critical exercises that reverse the damage caused by cycling. (Yes, riding a bike can be bad for you, just like too much of anything) Your posture and your back muscles need extra attention.
The flip side is that everyday life tears down your body in ways that make you weaker and slower on the bike. Bike for Life has 10 longevity stretches and another set of exercises that make you stronger and faster.
This book is packed with a ton of other great tips that I can’t get into here: Yoga routines that help your biking, detailed workout plans designed to put you at your peak for a ride or race on a specific date months in the future, tips on attacking hills and a lot more.
Roy also implies that you shouldn’t take his advice as absolute truth. Throughout the book he interviews “mature” cyclists who sometimes win races by doing the exact opposite of what he suggests. He’s also candid about his own embarrassing mistakes.
Early on, the book recommends that nobody over 40 should ever go on a bike tour. I’ve already broken that rule many times, and I intend to do so for decades to come.
Thanks to this book, I’ll be able to.
*Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes only and is not intended to provide medical advice. This information is not intended to diagnose, prevent, treat, or cure any disease. The activities described are potentially dangerous. Consult a physician before engaging in any kind of exercise regimen.