A Summer To Remember

Sept. 3, 2003

By Stephanie Dolmat-Connell

This summer I led a bicycle tour for high schoolers from London to Rome. The first question most people ask me is "how did you get across the Channel?" I usually respond jokingly, "well, we biked. It was hard, but a good challenge." (actually, we took a ferry). We biked 1500 miles in five weeks, averaging about 60-70 miles a day. It was the most amazing experience I have ever had. I had a co-leader, Michael, and we were the sole leaders in charge of 12 juniors and seniors in high school. The trip is organized by a company based out of Williamstown, Mass., called Overland-they sponsor many hiking and biking trips for American kids.

We started off sightseeing in London and then bicycled through the English countryside (full of sheep!) to the English Channel. We took a ferry from New Haven over to Dieppe, France, where we were greeted by the famous white cliffs of Normandy. We biked through Normandy to Paris, where we dined underneath the shadow of the Eiffel Tower. We then rode through wine country in Burgundy, and then went up and over the Jura Mountains into Switzerland.

We stopped by Lake Geneva before heading into the Rhone Valley into the Alps. We reached the most challenging part of our trip by going over a mountain pass called Nufenenpass (2478 m). Along the way up the mountain pass, which was a steep 13 km long, we explored an ice cave, went sledding, and basked in the Alpine sun. It was definitely a high of the trip! We then rode down into Italy and went to the Italian Riviera and spent an amazing day on the Mediterrenean. We saw the Leaning Tower, the hills of Tuscany and Siena, and saw the duomo of Florence before heading down into Rome. Seeing the Roma city-limit sign was so exciting-knowing we had biked all the way from London to Rome was quite an accomplishment!

We carried all of our stuff on our bikes. Michael knew Italian and I know French so we were covered with the languages. The kids were amazing-none of them thought they could do it at the beginning, and seeing how much they improved was so awesome. It was really challenging because basically you are these kids' parents for five weeks-but in the end, you know everyone so well and appreciate all of the fun times that you had. The bike trip also prepared me for field hockey season-being in bicycling shape translated well into being in running shape.