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Tour Guide Spotlight: Jessica Lah

Jessica Lah is a California native who loves to cook, paint, and explore new places on her bike. A few years back, she bicycled across the US, spending three and a half months—and over 4,000 miles—biking from Washington state to New York.

Where are you from?

From Southern California (Orange County, but I’ve lived all over California) – then China, and now Seattle.

How did you get into guiding?

I had just finished riding my bike across the country on a self-supported, solo trip when I moved to Seattle. In the first weeks of moving, I met someone who was a tour guide for Bicycle Adventures. Until then, the only kind of bike touring I knew of was carrying my own tent and peanut butter, I had no idea that luxury bicycle tour even existed. The concept that a company would take care everything—the riders, their luggage, hotels, and meals—took me by surprise. I was instantly intrigued.

What was your first “serious” bike?

My first bike was a Novara Carema Pro that I bought off a friend for $250 two days after I moved home from China. I had an unrealistic goal of riding my bike from Santa Barbara to San Francisco—the wrong direction to ride—but was I was determined. I reached the start at Santa Barbara and realized that I didn’t know how to change a tire, that my bike was all wrong for touring, and that carrying only a backpack was probably not a good idea. I decided to take time to learn about bike mechanics and touring. One year later, I had myself and a touring bike together and cycled the correct direction, San Francisco to Santa Barbara, successfully.

Where is your favorite place to cycle in the whole world and why?

Before my cross-country tour, I had dreams of an open road, a broad horizon and an endless sky. I met my dream in Wyoming. Wyoming is one of the last remaining states in the US where the urban sprawl hasn’t settled in, cattle ranchers ride on horses and are humbled by nature, and sitting on the back porch to watch the stars is a common pastime.

In addition to guiding, what else do you do for work or with your time?

I cook, paint, and sew. I just moved into a new home, so gardening has just be added to my hobbies. Mostly veggies, herbs and some hops for home-brewed beer I make with my partner.

Why do you like to bicycle? Why did you get into bicycling as a guide?

Because there’s always ice cream at the end of the ride? At least after all my rides.

So many of life’s nuances like eating, showers, and sleep are heightened after a good ride. The pace is perfect to see everything from the seat of a bicycle and the views are never taken for granted. Every moment to feel the road, the sun, and wind in your face feels so much better. I’m not a racer, I’m a joy rider. When I crest a hill on San Juan Island, sharing a perfect view with a guest is the greatest way to share that joy.

Where’s the one place in the world that you’d like to explore on bike but haven’t yet?

Slovenia. Part of my unknown ancestry is from there and I hear the country is stunning.

After a hard ride, what do you like to do to unwind?

Usually a good beer and some salty fries.

What’s your favorite cycling memory? OR Is there a cycling experience of yours that’s very vivid and stands out?

A memorable moment was at the end of cycling tour across the US. I finished my tour New York City the same weekend of Hurricane Sandy.  The day the city mandated business, and road closures, I road the length of Manhattan to George Washington bridge with no cars on the street. Winds picked up and blew crisp fall leaves in my path unobstructed.

Do you have any tips or tricks on how to host a great cycling tour?

Something that I really like to do? Well, for me it’s in the touches. The little touches. I make my own cycling jerseys out of Hawaiian shirts, and I really like to do everything that I can to bring something special or unique to the tour. On one tour, I made my own pickles out of cucumbers from my garden as a snack – and once I brought fresh tomatoes from my garden. I made Hawaiian leis for the guests on a Big Sur tour. On almost every tour, though, I do watercolor paintings each day and by the end of the trip I am able to share our memories of the trip through paintings.



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