The best route to a cheaper holiday

Retired Kitchissippi residents, Ric and Joan Potter, have been cycling Europe and North America on a tandem for over 10 years. Their love of cycling goes back a long way for the couple, starting when their children were small.

Ric and Joan Potter have cycled 50,000 km over the last 10 years.Photo courtesy Ric and Joan Potter
Ric and Joan Potter have cycled 50,000 km over the last 10 years.
Photo courtesy Ric and Joan Potter

“One week a year we would farm out the kids to our parents and camp, taking our pots and pans and tent with us,” explains Joan.

They initially travelled with another couple and as their children grew and wanted to come along, both couples travelled with children on the back, cycling and tenting in Ontario, New York State, and Vermont.

Cycling came naturally, having been posted to Germany, England (where Ric Potter has family) and later Belgium. Bikes are modes of transportation in Europe. The Potters bought their first tandem in England.

Back in Ottawa, the Potters joined the Ottawa Bicycle Club and started going on weekend and Sunday rides. Ric was on the Board of the OBC for a few years and helped organize the Rideau Lakes tour, which he rode at age 70 with his grandson, who was 10 at the time.

In order to escape the winter, 40 to 50 OBC cyclists go to North Carolina every year and get a 6-week head start on cycling.  “We’ve gone for the last 10 to 15 years,” says Rick.

Ric and Joan have cycled 50,000 km (“mostly in Europe”) over the last 10 years. They’ve been to France, Mallorca and the Pyrenees twice, to the Alps several times, Barcelona, Germany, Belgium, The Netherlands, and are planning a possible tour of Austria on bike this year.

His favourite place? It’s tough to decide.

“You can’t beat France for scenery,” says Ric. “Not many French people bike, but Germany has huge networks of bike paths. They run for 10 to 20,000 km. It’s part of their health system and the need to get people fitter,” says Ric.

Cycle trips are pre-planned with plenty of flexibility in terms of time and location.

“It’s a nice way to see a country,” says Joan, because you are not just “rushing through.” They cycle from 8:00 a.m. to about 2:00 p.m. each day, stopping in one star accommodations along the way.

“I just need a clean bed and a shower,” says Joan, a retired nurse. “We are not fussy, after all it’s only for one night,” she adds.

They like to spend time in the small villages of Europe taking in the local scenery and finding a place to eat.

The Potters went to France with friends in the late ‘90s and found it expensive. They quickly discovered that they could do it on their own. Their longest trip, which lasted four months, began in Crete and ended in Leiden, Holland. Ric was 59 and Joan was 55 at the time.

“The first couple of weeks were tough,” remembers Joan. “But one gets stronger day after day.”

They recall trying to find a place to stay in a small village in Crete on Easter Sunday. Too early for tourist season, and with all other accommodations booked, they were directed to the town inn where they found the owners entire family just sitting down to Easter dinner.

“They pushed over and invited us to eat with them,” says Joan.

When they went to pay the bill the next morning, they were told that there was no charge.

The Potters plan their trips on the Internet and often base their routes around information they find in tour guides. At $150 a day, it’s an affordable way to travel. 

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