Monday, November 21, 2016

Escaping The Newspaper World For Escape Adventures

When I worked at the daily newspaper in Las Vegas, I used to admire Escape Adventures bike tours and this Jared guy, the founder and owner and marathon bicyclist who seemed to be doing 50 things at once while also biking through the night somewhere through Death Valley or Henderson or Utah or across the center of Nevada.

I'm a crazy bicycle guy who thinks up crazy bike rides like biking across the state of Florida from the Atlantic Ocean in Vero Beach to the Gulf of Mexico in Clearwater Beach in one day -- 175 miles all along State Road 60.

I soon realized that ride would be a nice warm-up for Jared.

I also got to know Jared's original, resourceful and unpretentious business techniques by writing about some of his Escape Adventures tours, such as three days in Utah with a tour guide named Merrick who enjoyed rolling out his sleeping bag and catching his Zs under the stars.

Jared also loved mountain biking the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, so I wrote about one of his mountain bike festivals there.

Life changed at my Las Vegas newspaper when casino tycoon Sheldon Adelson bought the Review-Journal nearly a year ago. I went newspaper job shopping and found a job in Vero Beach, Fla. about two hours or so north of my dad and my sister who both live in South Florida.

I was hired by a fascinating weekly newsmagazine in Vero Beach to cover business news and I said good-bye to Vegas, the desert and this fella named Jared.

But not for long.

*   *   *

So, I got to Vero in March with Pugsy -- the 17 year-old canine critter with the sweetest, most peaceful, zen-like personality you have ever seen this side of Mother Teresa.

The new newspaper job was OK.

The owner was a guy named Milt, another original. He's a deep-voiced former editor and writer at the Washington Post who carved out a lucrative news market on the Vero barrier island thanks to ultra-local hard-hitting local news coverage that had a certain literary bite to it.

But it wasn't bicycles.

And I wanted to get back to the two-wheeled world.

So, I made a pitch to Jared back in Vegas.

How about expanding East to offer day bike tours along the prettiest bike routes in Florida? I'll take guests out on these rides as an Escape Adventures employee and now you can say Escape Adventures offers tours everywhere from the Pacific Ocean to the Atlantic Ocean.

I asked Jared to come to Florida. Bike with me on my favorite bike rides.

And if the routes were awesome enough, fly your drone, capture amazing bike footage and spin your video magic with a Florida day tour promotion video.

And he did just that. The video rocks.

We biked seven different tours in 2 1/2 days covering 275 miles along routes in different parts of the state, from the Atlantic Ocean to the Gulf of Mexico. And at the coolest spots, we'd stop and Jared would take out his drone.

Jared rode my 1993 Cannondale R-300 road bike with the downtube shifters (he didn't shift; he just kept the gear setting in one position to replicate his single-gear bike back home).

And all the while he kept the drone in his backpack and piled up the mileage with that gear on his back.

I had picked Florida's nicest bike rides -- the hills of Clermont and Mt. Dora in Lake County, the underrated Ormond Loop, and the Withlacoochee, Pinellas and Lake Okeechobee trails.

These bike rides are like great, old-time friends. I knew whenever I returned to them, they would lift me up.

And these rides didn't disappoint.

Jared and I batted emails back and forth to reach an agreement.

And now Escape Adventures will add some amazing bike tours to its stunning roster of great bike experiences out West.

*   *   *

So, Escape Adventures is in launch mode for its new Florida day tours.

Check out the terrific slate of Florida rides.

I've gone from working with senior writers at a weekly paper to now becoming co-workers and friends with a brand new group of can-do bicycle tour lovers who make Escape Adventures a leading bike tour company in this country. There's Heather, Brittany, Eric, Sally, Kevin, Merrick, Nikki and others who love to get people biking in special and inspiring places in our country.

I can't wait for this new trip of my life to start.

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