Anne Francis is a name I’m used to seeing on guest lists since I started working at Bicycle Adventures a few years ago. She’s been traveling with the company far longer than I’ve been around and is always kind and enthusiastic when I’ve talked to her on the phone. So when her name popped up on a guide list last year I admittedly was a little confused. It’s doesn’t happen often but every once in a while we have a guest who takes the step into guiding tours as well. It’s not for everyone, but when it does happen it can be really great, as they bring the unique perspective of having been on both sides of tour life.
I asked Anne a few questions about her experience going from the guest side of things to the guide side. As a guest who has frequently traveled solo with Bicycle Adventures, she knows exactly how important it is to have a great guide who can help everyone (especially our solo travelers) feel included.
1. How did you find out about Bicycle Adventures and what was your first tour as a guest?
For a milestone birthday in 2015, I Googled “bikes and beers” and Bicycle Adventures showed up. Searching the website, I found the Bend Breakaway trip which timed perfectly for my birthday. Since I was traveling alone, a group trip seemed like a great idea. Brad Barnard, one of the owners, was the tour guide. He and I spent a lot of time talking about “adventure lifestyle” and after day 1, he dubbed me “Annergy”. Never having spent any time in Oregon before, I fell in love with diverse terrain and realized that biking is an amazing way to see the world.
2. What made you want to start guiding?
To be honest, Covid had a lot to do with it. After spending about 18 months hosting online beer tastings, I was tired of being stuck inside drinking beers. Because I hadn’t been able to travel in 2020, I scheduled two bike trips for 2022, and actually brought people with me which gave me a great opportunity to see how important the guide’s job is to make each guest feel supported and special. Always being a front-row guest, I had the chance to speak with all the guides about their diverse backgrounds and experience that brought them to guiding. And, BA had a need for late-season guides and I was lucky enough to be able to get back to Oregon at the right time.
3. What’s been the best part about guiding so far?
The best part about guiding is learning more details and specifics about the places we visit. As a guest, I have always been focused on surviving the biking part since the climbing is always a physical and mental challenge for me. As a guide, with the van support days and usually being sweep as a rider to make sure the guests are having their best possible experience, I have the opportunity to pay more attention to the surroundings and learn background information for the sites, restaurants and hotels. Also, after a day of hoisting bikes up and down off the van, I feel strong and accomplished. I actually enjoyed Death Valley much more on my guide weeks than when I was a guest.
4. What’s been the biggest challenge or the biggest difference between being a guest and being a guide?
The biggest challenge of being a guide is definitely the lifting of the bikes and the luggage. As a 5′ 2″ woman of a certain age, I spend most of my time not on tour lifting my mountain bike and doing kettlebell swings in prep for each trip. I have definitely gotten more adept since I started last summer, but it is going to always be my biggest challenge. Fortunately, since James’ height made it better for me to be on top of the van on my last tour, my confidence and skills up there have improved significantly.
The main difference between being a guest and being a guide is that your time is not your own and the workday ends much later than finishing dinner most days. I love it actually because I like being busy, but I have also learned to get up early and take a walk on my own to make sure I have some quiet time before the day begins since I usually crash right after finishing the dishes or prepping meals for the next day.
5. What Bicycle Adventures tour is still on your bucket list?
Really looking forward to Scotland this summer, but San Juans and Beyond as well as Glacier-Banff-Jasper are the two that I keep trying to fit into my schedule to do as a guest. I think the logistics behind San Juans are definitely served better by a local guide and the beauty of Glacier etc. is something I want to experience first as guest, so guiding those doesn’t seem logical to me.
It’s noticeable when someone is doing something they love and that’s exactly what I heard in Anne’s voice when I spoke with her about guiding. She was telling me about a particularly rainy day on our Oregon Coast to Crater Lake tour in 2018 when she had a moment where she thought “I chose to be out here doing this kind of thing. I’m lucky to be riding in the rain.” I know we can all relate. Even on the gross days, it’s better to be out on the bike.
Anne will be guiding more this summer! If you see her on tour she’ll take great care of you and if you’re into beer, be sure to ask her for recommendations.