ExperiencePlus! Blog

Cristina Taioli Survives the Polar Vortex

Cristina Taioli - ExperiencePlus! tour leader

ExperiencePlus! tour leader Cristina Taioli spent over a month touring the U.S. visiting our travelers, spreading the word about bicycle touring and doing her best to survive one of the coldest winter’s on record. Here’s what she had to say about the experience.

It is always interesting when someone ask me about my job, including the agent at U.S. customs. When I told him about bicycle touring, his answer was: “that’s how you keep fit!” This was my fourth time traveling to the U.S. as “the Ambassador” of Experienceplus! But this year, unlike the other times, it was very cold and very white; perfect timing! In fact I was there with the “Polar Vortex”,  and we ended up having a very nice trip together! 😉

I thought I’d share some highlights from my journey:ExperiencePlus! tour leader Cristina Taioli

I’ve never been to Minnesota before and for sure, I have never seen the Mississippi River, frozen!

A pistachio muffin; a screaming green color, which ended up being very tasty!

In Saint Paul, MN, I was welcomed by Bess, an English cocker spaniel, very nice and very funny, she decided to eat my cookies and my gummy bears, stealing them from my bag, when I mistakenly left it unzipped in my room.

When I arrived at the La Guardia Airport I told the taxi driver where I needed to go, and he asked me: “and where is that?” I didn’t know what to say: “I’m from Europe, how would I know?” 😉 finally with the help of a GPS he managed to drive me to my destination.

Everywhere I went all I was surrounded by white and it was very cold, so to warm up a bit, I decided to join a friend for a yoga lesson: level 2. Not as easy, as I thought it would be, especially for someone who’s never done yoga before. In the end I was glad to survive!

Then it was time for the “frozen tundra”: Michigan State, Essexville, to be precise. With crunching snow, wind chill, icy hair, blizzard, icicles in my eyelashes…….I got used to this terminology! Thankfully at the end of the day, I had a very nice hot tub, waiting for me, in my friend’s backyard! The only hard part was that I had to walk barefooted in the snow, at 6F, wearing only my red bikini, to reach the tub. It took a lot of self-encouragement, but once inside it was like heaven!

Michigan was the best place to see people ice fishing, staring at a hole in the ice, waiting for a fish, with the help of some alcoholic drink I suppose!  The ice sculptures festival, in a nearby Bavarian Village, was way more interesting!

sm_iceChicago was even colder, if that is possible to believe! The “windy city”, yes, now I understand why they call it that! Like Siberia: -2F with the wind factor -22F! No wonder I was totally frozen, like the lake! It was the first time I saw Lake Michigan frozen! Not to mention that I was the only human being walking on the snow, around the lake, my only companions were Canadian Geese, squirrels and some little birds! Luckily, in the evening, I could warm up with some very good beer!

Lunch at DIA, Denver Airport, while waiting for my connection was very nice and very pleasant, and I really thank Dave for coming to join me there, keeping me company for a while.

I love skiing, and I must say that Park City, Utah, is the perfect place if you like that sport! I had 2 very nice days of skiing with friends in Deer Valley, and finally the snow was welcome here and the temperature was nicer too! Nevertheless, hot chocolate with marshmallows tasted very good, after watching some Olympic athletes practicing their jumps. Wow, what a treat! The perfect combination for a sunny day on the snow!  Plus the Super Bowl at the end of the day.

Portland, my first time there, I was expecting some rain there, but instead, it snowed constantly for two days. It was the first time in twenty years that they had that much snow, and it forced many shops and bars to close down because of the extreme weather. I started thinking that this is happening just because of my luck! 😉 It was too slippery to walk outside, over the thick crust of ice, so I spent time indoors, playing pool, watching the Olympic Games, eating, drinking and chatting with friends: not too bad after all!

In the end, even if I felt  cold most of the time, I don’t regret anything, because it’s the people that makes the difference, and I want to thank all the wonderful friends I met, for taking such a good care of me, that  this Italian woman was warm enough, and for the great time we had together.

Thank you all,
Hope to see you again……….keep the wheel spinning!
Ciao Cristina