By most standards, I would be considered a novice, or for sure a neophyte bike rider, first learning the skill at age 65. But since that first bike ride, I have finished a total of 17 international motorcycling tours with multiple companies, first learning of Edelweiss in 2009 on a trip to Tuscany. With this riding experience, I truly feel qualified to comment on and even to evaluate Edelweiss on its 40th anniversary. When asked by Thomas to "write something" for this publication, my first thoughts were "What makes Edelweiss the best there is?". For sure it is a well-run, well-organized company, with great "glitzy" brochures, catalogs, and slick travel guides for each trip. Just perusing their catalogs still gets me excited; even at age 79. Also, it is a company, more than others, that stresses safety and ensures that each participant is familiar with local and international laws. It is a company that continually teaches participants improved riding skills, and they are also a company that has a state-of-the-art headquarters with well-maintained motorcycles and e-bikes. All of this aside, maybe it is the logistics of their trips that excel for Edelweiss; the routes, the hotels, the food, all of which are top-notch! In reviewing photos of all my 10 Edelweiss trips it gradually hit me, "It's the GUIDES of Edelweiss"! Of course it is!
As a combat surgeon in Vietnam, and later a plastic surgeon for forty years, I learned that really good doctors usually are surrounded by great nurses. Great motorcycle journeys always have great guides. In my photograph review of my trips, so many fond memories and funny stories popped up. I wish I had room to share. Edelweiss truly has hired and tenured guides who absolutely love what they are doing, love riding, love art and history, and most of all, love teaching and people. But as I have learned over these many years, those are just the beginning requirements. I have had many mentors and professors over my lifetime, but I assure you, none could skillfully lead a gangly group of eleven motorcycles across Florence, Italy, at rush hour without losing anyone in the process!
Another facet of Edelweiss is their ability, not just to hire great guides, but to keep them loyal. Nothing is more exciting for me when I have signed up for a trip to learn I had the same guide ten years before. It's a great feeling and an old friend. Listening to Michael's guitar is the same in New Zealand as it was in Sicily. Swimming with Ursula in the Adriatic was just as much fun as ten years later, in the Mediterranean. The only difference was the ten pounds I sort of gained. Like a camp counselor, they are there to make sure your experience is the absolute best. First-aid, psychologist, sociologist, and multilingual are all traits they must have. One of my most memorable "guide experience" was taking Ursula and Domenico to help me buy an engagement wedding ring. Not having purchased a ring in nearly 50 years, I admit I was not up on current ring prices. We chose a jewelry store on the Ponte Vecchio bridge in Florence Italy. I was assured that Ursula could handle the feminine side of picking out an appropriate ring and both she and Domenico could use "their bargaining and language skills" to help with the cost. Ursula picked out a really pretty ring and I was so happy, then she calmly asked the price. Well, as it turned out, it was about $100,000 more than my budget. Normally, never at a loss for words, they both were totally speechless and almost aphasic, leaving me to finally pick a ring with a "little less quality". I was glad to get out of that store. Boy, were they a big help!
To all the guides of Edelweiss I have not met, to Viktoria and Karin, the office staff I have not met, to Toby, Michael, Peter, Pablo, Domenico, Thomas, and Markus, THANKS GUYS for being the backbone of a great company! And to my beloved Ursula, thanks for teaching an old fart how to ride a bike without looking like an "old fart"!
Dr. John Frist, Tennessee, USA