Pedal pleasures: Tri-Valley couple heading to Italy for 14th bicycling tour


Passports. Toiletries. Clothes. Cycling shorts. Susie and Del Krause, 74 and 78, have a slightly different packing list from most folks their age headed to Europe.

This summer's trip will be the Pleasanton couple's 14th bicycle tour, as they cycle nearly 300 miles across Italy in the course of a week.

As a boy growing up in Lodi, Del mostly biked while delivering newspapers. But Susie, who grew up north of Chicago, always loved biking adventures and while in high school planned a summer trip with four girlfriends.

"The five of us would bike the Door Peninsula that goes up Lake Michigan, 30 miles a day," she recalled. "Our mothers drove in the car with the suitcases and found places for us to stay."

Susie met Del on the beach in Carmel in the early '60s. He was in the Navy and happened onto the beach with a couple of buddies.

"We went bodysurfing together," Susie recalled, despite the cold.

They were married in Sausalito 51 years ago, and after their son and daughter were born 22 months apart, they would put them on the backs of their bikes and pedal around town. When the children were old enough, the whole family went on biking excursions.

"We would go over the Golden Gate Bridge, to Sausalito and Tiburon and back on the ferry," Susie said.

But the Krauses began their bike touring after the children were grown. They visited their son when he was in medical school at University of Vermont in 1994 and, at the airport, Susie began to peruse a rack of brochures.

"One was on biking in Vermont: Vermont Bike Tours, VBT," she remembered. "A few months later, we were back in Vermont -- biking from one B&B to another."

The following May, they joined a bicycle tour of Arcadia National Park in Maine.

"From there we went to Holland and started doing all sorts of tours," Susie said.

They have gone on seven bike trips in Europe, six in the United States and one on Prince Edward Island in Canada -- all with VBT.

"Every trip was unique," Del said. "The very first one in Vermont was during the fall colors."

They used Rick Steves travel books to plan long trips with EuroRail passes and backpacks, then would join a weeklong biking tour.

"We went to France for a month but spent one week biking in Provence," Del said.

The company provides bikes, helmets and water bottles for the 16 to 20 cyclists in each tour. And the Krauses said they enjoy the other riders.

"We like to get to know people. Every morning we all eat together," Susie said.

Each tour has two leaders, one to drive the van and another who bikes with the group.

"They ride back and forth, checking on you," Susie said. "Once we went 10 miles in the wrong direction until we figured out we'd gone the wrong way. We've had some adventures."

At times they have to deal with rain, as in Ireland, where they donned rain gear, then a half-hour later had to stop to take it off -- until it rained again.

Overseas, the leaders are always natives of the area, and they organize tours along the way.

"We're not constantly biking all day long," Susie said. "In Holland, we went to someone's house where they had a business of making wooden shoes. In Provence, we went wine tasting."

Del noted they might also walk an average of 10 miles a day.

"We went on a hike on Inishmore, one of the Aran Islands in Ireland," he said. "The whole island was a maze of rocks, and we got lost. We were worried we were going to miss the ship, but we finally found our way back."

In the wintertime the Krauses travel with a ski club to Colorado, Banff and other destinations. Every other year they take an international ski trip, including France, Switzerland, Austria and Italy.

Otherwise they keep in shape by biking locally, or sometimes on the Peninsula or in the South Bay. They spent two recent Sundays cycling all 32 miles of the Iron Horse Regional Trail, first to Danville then onward to Highway 4.

"On trips, we go 30-45 miles in a day, but the difficulty is not so much in the distance as it is in the hills," Susie said. "We started doing more challenging kinds of rides but now we are doing 'easy.'"

The Krauses raised their children in Los Gatos, then lived in Menlo Park for 25 years, before moving to Stoneridge Creek in Pleasanton.

"We started to hear about plans to build it and thought, 'Why don't we do this while we can still enjoy the amenities?'" Susie said.

They swim laps three times a week and do classes in Zumba, yoga and senior exercise.

"At our age, we are winding down," Del said.

But a peek at their daily schedule -- or inside their suitcase -- might belie that statement.

Cycling adventures

Southern Vermont -- October 1994

Arcadia National Park, Maine -- May 1995

Tour of Holland -- May 1996

Natchez Trace, Mississippi -- May 1998

Provence Wine Country -- September 1998

Ireland West Coast -- August 1999

Outer Banks, North Carolina -- September 2000

Tuscan Coast, Italy -- May 2002

Salzburg Region, Austria -- August 2003

Prince Edward Island, Canada -- August 2004

Warsaw to Krakow, Poland -- August 2012

Cape Cod, Martha's Vineyard -- May 2013

Chesapeake Bay, Maryland -- May 2014

Dolomite Valleys, Italy -- June 2016

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