About Blue Marble...

Some of you have known us since the early years, when the offices were in our apartments, the bike workshop was the towpath of an industrial canal on the edge of Paris, and all trips, including Austria and Portugal, started and finished with train rides out from and back to Paris.  The days before route sheets, back when we kept track of your travel projects by remembering to tell each other about them.  Usually.

But Blue Marble has grown.  Though most of the old names are still around in one connection or another, there are many new ones. So, allow us to introduce ourselves.



History...

Blue Marble was founded in 1986.  Perhaps “evolved” would be a better word.  Or “hatched.”  And the date is somewhat artificial.  We came up with the idea for the type of trip we run, and operated our first trial trips, in the early 80's.  Conversely, the company was not incorporated until 1989.  So there are a lot of different start dates, depending on how you define “start.”  But the first Biking Transcontinental trip under the Blue Marble name ran in 1986, so that seems as good a date as any.

Despite being relatively unknown to the travel industry, or to other cycle trip outfitters (we do not target the usual clientele of wealthy 60-year-olds), we are one of the largest European bike trip outfitters.  At least if you measure in rider-weeks.  If you measure in revenue, the people charging 1,000€ a day for the same trips are bigger.

Our marketing has always been our weak point, and remains so.  In fact, it essentially relies on our regular riders telling other people about us.  Roughly 3/4ths of our riders over the past 5 years have been either alums or the friends they brought along.  A note to you wonderful folk:  please accept our heartfelt thanks!  We don't like to sell ourselves, because we never know if the people we convince to go will find our trips right for them.  When they don't, we feel terrible (plus, we have to listen to them whine).  It is much more fun to go with people who know what they are getting into:  you, and the friends who travel with you!  We only hope that we can continue to bring you as much as you have brought us over the years....



About Us, Personally...

The Early Years

At the beginning, Blue Marble consisted of a few pioneering souls:   Nicolas Clifford, Brigitte Bruneau, Ethan Gelber, and Jacqueline Sirven.

Nicolas grew up in Greenwich Village, New York, son of a wine journalist and sometime cookbook editor.  He acquired an undergraduate degree in Economics, and then an MBA from Wharton with a specialty in Transportation Management, before abandoning civil society for the world of cycle travel.  His current role at Blue Marble is logistics manager (he meshes the trips and the trains), and CFO (he refuses funding for the latest wacko/visionary idea from one of the others, so don't hold your breath on Ethan's “Sri Lanka Biking” project).  He also leads trips:  about 2 month's worth each year.

In his spare time, he volunteers for his daughters’ school’s PTA, campaigns for Green candidates in local elections, and cooks a mean lapin à la moutarde


Brigitte has an even more pointless degree:  a doctorate in Chinese (which she no longer considers she even speaks).  She grew up in the western suburbs of Paris, and now lives in the eastern suburbs of Paris, but she spent a core 17 years in the center of Paris.  If we extrapolate, she should make it to Champagne in another 120 years.  She left her role as Paris office manager and comptroller in 2000, after 14 on-again, off-again years with us.  We still miss her playful office presence.  But we all see her regularly, and she has a happy life teaching anti-gymnastics to people opposed to fitness.  Or something like that.


Ethan grew up on Manhattan's Upper West Side, in the era before that was a trendy place to be.  He has an undergraduate degree from Yale, in a major of his own creation, “French Studies.”  Most of what Ethan does falls into the category of “of his own creation.”  He also got a master’s in diplomacy from Columbia, but it hasn't really helped.

Ethan still leads trips when he feels like biking in Europe on a budget that permits him to eat.  Otherwise, after a year in Sri Lanka, he moved to Australia with spouse, Jane.  There they had two bouncing boys, Rohan; and little brother Kaian, whose name Ethan describes as “multiculti”....  They are most recently back in New York.  You can probably imagine how cute the Australian accent is in a 4-year-old New Yorker....

He writes guidebooks (recent contracts were for “Lonely Planet;” including their guides to cycling in France and Italy), consults for a variety of NGOs, and is working on several web development projects....  A busy, connected guy. 


Jacqueline was born in Algeria, but moved to the south of France, and then to Paris, at a young age.  Her studies were at Sciences Po, where she earned a degree in – any guesses? – that's right, Political Science.  Jacqueline assumed Brigitte's role as manager of the Paris office in 2000, but has now moved on to a new career helping others find jobs.  She has a teenage daughter, Lauren, who visits the Paris office from time to time and practices her budding English on befuddled cyclists. 

Within the first few years of our existence, we were joined by two others:   Padraic Kennedy, who first travelled with us as a rider, and then did so as a Trip Coordinator for nearly two decades following.  Also Ron Kurtz (of the “full Ron”), who came home after his trip with us, married his sweetheart Carol at a Flintstones theme park, and opened our Canadian commercial office a year later, in 1992.

Professor Padraic


Padraic (his name is pronounced like Patrick:  Padraic is the Irish spelling) started with Blue Marble as a rider, and realized mid-trip that he was better at running things than we were.  So he came back to do so the next year.

In 2002 he married his longtime sweetheart, Alison.  They became acquainted in 1995 on our Denmark trip, and the rest is (as they say) history.  Appropriate enough, since Padraic holds a PhD in same, and is now a tenured professor, teaching at York College.  They are parents of two boys, Harry and Iain.

He has long had a hand in our Austrian trips. 

Trip Coordinator Padraic

Ron is an Anglo-Quebecer, born and raised in Montréal in a German family.  He has an MBA from York University with a specialty in marketing.  Ron has a real job outside of Blue Marble, and Carol does the day-to-day work in our Canadian back-office.  She is from the Maritimes (New Brunswick, to be precise), and is a trained accountant.  Which is why Brigitte, trained in Chinese, did our accounting, and Carol, trained in accounting, did marketing.  If you haven't figured this out by now, Blue Marble has provided most of us a way to escape our destinies, which we were all manifestly trying to do.

This is their wedding photo, dated 1991.  Ron looks, er, “svelte” compared to more recent photos.  Mysteriously, however, Carol still looks much the same.  Ron & Carol have two boys:  Connor, and Owen.


There have been many other important names added over the years, and a number of introductions are in order.  We'll make them by geographic location.


The U.S. Office


Lesley Good joined us in the US office in 1997.  She is British, but grew up largely in the Middle East and Africa (and has recently acquired US citizenship, much as one would acquire a new trading card).  Prior jobs included assisting a famous rock photographer and being a field manager for the Girl Scouts.  These positions did NOT require ANY of the same skills.  And if they did, she is not talking.

Lesley and husband, John, have a long-term goal of returning to (his) family roots in Arkansas, now that all four of their children have taken wing.  They want the space to tend to a menagerie of pets (such as the late, great, Floyd the Potbellied Pig, pictured here).  We thought the idea behind empty-nest moves was to escape a noisy home filled with chewed furniture and random food lying around.  Well, at least they’ll need fewer phones.

You will come across her distinctive phone voice in the US office.  Though semi-retired, she continues to keep the bookkeeping approximately moving. 


Laura Malone was the first full-time (solo) manager of the U.S. office, back when it was a brick-n'-mortar affair, then in Morristown NJ.  She grew up in a suburb of Chicago.  Her professional background was in publishing (with an undergraduate degree in English and music), and later in computer programming (needed to make a living).  She travelled with us on a trip in Spain in 1993, decided that the making-a-living-thing was overrated, and that we were more fun than computer programming.  Unfortunately for her, we were so delighted to have someone who knew how to at least turn a computer on that she has been our I.T. person ever since.

She and Nicolas were married in 1997, in a bar in New Orleans, before the city was given over to rising water and snakes.  They claim that they were both sober at the time.  Remarkably, witnesses do not dispute this account.  They now have two daughters, Mathilde and Elise, born in 2004 and 2006. 


We first met Tom DeTroy when he signed up for our Burgundy trip in... 1996. Two years later he met now-wife Cherie on our Provence trip. They celebrated their engagement with us in Champagne, brought their wedding party to Umbria the following year... all in all, Tom had travelled 16 of our trips, before a career change made the annual trip to Europe a financial stretch. But he found a way around the problem: taking the job of running our US office. Now, you see, he has to come to Europe every year, to keep current.

Tom is a cheerful, upbeat, incredibly active guy, his broad native intelligence coupled with the attention span of a squirrel. Because of his mellifluous singing voice, he's often mistaken for James Taylor. He also has legendary barbeque abilities (ask him about the flying salmon). A good colleague, and a better friend: a man who is tired of Tom Detroy is tired of life.



Tom DeTroy or James Taylor?
“So THAT's how it works...”

Tim Suba is another of our multi-trip clients who was sucked in joined the Blue Marble team, and became our “Swiss Army Knife.”  His checkered past includes a stint as a beer truck driver in Far Rockaway (NYC), as an MBA student at Washington University's Olin School, and for more than a decade as some type of sales/marketing guy for Anheuser-Busch. (he claims to have been the model for the original Budman -- though he also claims to have invented the “question mark”).

More recently he was some type of sales/marketing guy for Coca-Cola USA.  He was lured back to the beverage world in '03, this time with Gambrinus (Corona), now with Moosehead, but continues to make “special guest star” appearances, most recently in 2013.


Jason Konigsberg has been a welcome on-again-off-again office presence since 2000.  Another native New Yorker, his impressive language skills and travel knowledge, coupled with his cycling experience (short-lived careers as a bike messenger and a unicycle instructor) make him a real asset in the office.

He does his best to stay out of  Tom and Lesley's way, and we do our best to keep him away from our bikes. 

 

 


The Paris Office

We opened our Paris office in 1992 (and installed heat in 1997).  It occupies the ground floor of an old building in the center of the city, midway between the Louvre and the Pompidou Center, and within walking distance of both (our rental apartments are in the building above).

Before 1992, we ran our trips out of an apartment rented for the purpose; a 6th floor walk-up next to the Pantheon, on the left bank.  This became impractical as the number of people who needed to actually visit the place increased.  It was also illegal, and our landlord was getting testy.

Our current building is a national historic monument, because some of its bits are among the oldest stones in Paris.  The foundations were probably laid in the 12th century.  The basement, where many of the bikes are kept, was part of an old tunnel which lead from the Louvre (a royal palace at that time, not a museum) to a mansion in the Marais, the neighborhood adjacent ours to the east.  A branch of the tunnel forked off in our basement, and lead under the Seine to an alternate escape hatch on the left bank -- one of the world's very first underwater tunnels.  The building's ground floor, where our office is, dates from the 13th century, and the upper floors were rebuilt subsequently, probably in the 15th or the 16th.

Despite (or maybe because of) its age, the building is not particularly pretty:  it was cheaply built as a hôtel de passe (the type of hotel where rooms rent by the hour).  The neighborhood was one of the only ones to escape Baron Hausmann's reconstruction in the Napoleonic era, and it had always been (relatively) poor, until very recently.  Victor Hugo's “Court of Miracles,” vividly described in “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” as the epicenter of Paris’ medieval squalor, is only three blocks away.  Today the neighborhood is the last in Paris’ historic center to still have a meaningful working class component, though it is gentrifying fast.


Michel Corvelyn, with us since 1997, is our “mechanical genius.” Once a semi-pro cycle racer (he has raced in such classics as the Paris - Roubaix and the Liège - Bastogne - Liège), he designs bike prototypes, which serve as models for the ones we have built for our trips.  He is also our ace mechanic, and a craftsman of just about everything else, too.  In fact, he has extensively renovated the apartments we make available as rentals.

He is also a very nice man, though his French is likely to be too fast and too colloquial for most of you.  He is seen here with one of his creations, the Bike Chariot, which we use to shuttle our cycles to and from the local stations.


Julie Rotharmel joined us in our Paris office in 2012.  We (Laura) were so happy to meet someone in Paris who grew up in the Chicago suburb right next to Laura's, that we immediately hired her. A French father and an Italian-American mother means she is a great cook (although we're still waiting for her to host an office lunch). A graduate degree in Art History from the Sorbonne brought her to Paris, and her rabbit, Bistrot (and a French boyfriend) keeps her here.

Positive, multilingual, young.... She likes to remind us that she was born when Blue Marble was founded. We like her anyway.

 


The Road Show

That leaves the Trip Coordinators.  Tim, Padraic, Ethan and Nicolas have been previously introduced.

Catherine Dundie (a.k.a. Caterina) leads trips mostly in Italy, though she speaks good French and can be convinced to go there on occasion.  She lived in Perugia and Rome for 10 years, and, after a brief stay in her native New York, has returned to Italy, to Bologna, with her cat and her Bianchi as carry-ons.

In addition to being a hardcore italophile, her enthusiasm and love of all things Europe and bike-related is contagious.  And it goes without saying that she will kick your you-know-what on the hills.


Jeff Kralik has a past career as a teacher of French and of history, and a sometime basketball coach.  He is also an amateur cycle racer, an amateur German speaker, and a semi-pro wine blogger (The Drunken Cyclist).  He now lives in Philadelphia, where he has finished his PhD and is now running some really important department at Temple University.

He is otherwise supported by his sons Nathan, born in 2003, and Sebastian, born in 2008, with help from wife Tammy (a “top doc” at Children’s Hospital).  He has been leading trips with us since 1994, and tries to get in a couple a year.  He is also co-responsible, with Laura, for the design of the famous Blue Marble biking jersey.  He is happy to discuss sponsorship deals for future jersey runs.

Pierre Garoia joins us in 2013, and we're delighted to have him!

He insists that he is first and foremost an artist.   He also turns out to be an excellent chef (he's already hosted a spectacular office lunch... Julie?), a teacher, the founder of his local bike polo league, and, in his spare time, bicycle tour guide.

A man of many, varied interests who loves sharing his passions of cuisine, culture and cycling.  A French mother, an Italian father, and 5+ years living in Australia means he can talk to just about anyone, and he is happy to oblige.

Pierre


Kathleen MacCauley is a native Ottawan, whose day job, to which she commutes by bike, requires lots of top-level security clearances and super-secret government paperwork. We don't ask too many questions.

An avid world traveller, her first European bike trip, with Blyth & Co., gave her experience in the world of cycling touring and guiding.  Her enthusiasm and can-do attitude, combined with impressive experiences as an organizer, administrator, and teacher (not to mention lifeguard, pub worker, and cotton picker), make her a born Blue Marble Coordinator.  Now, if she could just figure out the Ron system...!

 

Jimi Thomson is Canadian (born in one of the frozen prairie provinces, but beat a hasty retreat to BC a while ago).  More recently, he has been a resident of the Swiss and French Alps, the only place in Europe where he can experience that biting Winnipeg wind he so loves.

He started with us in 1999, during which time he has managed to become best friends with every single person in Tuscany.

Jimi left our full-time employ after the 2012 season, but we will always be grateful for the good work he did here, and especially for his development of our Italian routes.   And we hope to see him back often as a “special guest star," leading the trips he did so much to create.


Carlos Correa joined us in 2005, leading trips in France, Switzerland, and Italy.  He has since added Spain and Portugal to the mix, which makes some intuitive sense when your realize his native language is Spanish.  Why didn’t we think of that sooner!?

When not on the bike, he can be found working on his PhD in Economics (sustainable development, broadly speaking) in New York City.  Married his favorite Blue Marble guest, Karen Moscow, in 2007, and have since added two baby Blue Marbles to their brood.

A native Colombian, Carlos entered the world of bicycle touring with 3 years of bike instruction, an impressive fluency in three languages, and experience as an Ultimate Frisbee competitor under his belt. And the prerequisite:  an “appreciation of a well-prepared meal with a cup of wine....”


Kevin Little is a biomedical researcher from Montréal, though when we met him he was working as a bartender in a Dublin pub.  He had the good sense to initially hide from us that he was not a total goof -- we only found out about his PhD aspirations once it was too late.

Years were spent in New Zealand with wife Claude and daughters, Clara and Leonie, trying to convince tourists to go there (but, unless you are already in Australia, it is a very long flight).  He has recently returned to Montréal.  For a while, he enjoyed “playing at being a researcher.”   He speaks good French (learned more from his daughters than from his environment), and Italian, and has been with us in three seasons. 


Jed Buckner is, well, Jed Buckner.  A Colorado mountain town type, he climbs rocks and cycles up Rockies for fun (?!).  Somehow managed to pick up Spanish, French, Portuguese and Italian along the way.  He worked with us full-time for two seasons, then moved to the North Shore of Maui, Hawaii, where he and his wife ran a B&B.  They got the important work done:  teaching their three children (including a pair of twins) to surf.  Then moved back to Colorado, and are filling ATM machines in the Rockies. 

Sue Sterling hails from Toronto, leads trips for us in French, German and Italian, and has in the past helped out in the Paris office.  She has had a host of jobs with the underlying theme of “using languages,” and did so with us for two seasons.

In recent years, Sue’s “day job” has involved representing a winery back in Canada.  She comes to visit periodically with samples :-).  Check out her award-winning “Naked Wine Show” at www.slurpswish.com

Sue can still be found here most years, where she spends her vacations with us, half working, and half watching us do it.
Sue with bottle

Break Battlee (the misspelling is intentional — he doesn't want to come up on Google, for fear of being associated with us) is Australian.  He came to us in 1999 via Canada, where he was studying snow -- um, French -- at the Université de Chicoutimi.  He has run trips in Spanish, French, Italian and Danish, the last of which he does not actually speak.  But then his English also leaves something to be desired, so we take what we can get.

Brek is commonly agreed to be one of the nicest people on the planet.  We’re not sure what he does in the off-season (actually, we are sworn to secrecy), but we put out that he operates a chain of bordellos, and would appreciate it if you would sustain that rumor....


Joey Dodd also hails from Australia, and joins us this year as chief baggage master. His resumé was full of cool stuff, like managing skateboard stores and a skateboard team, travelling around the world, and riding the Transiberian Railway with a menagerie of creatures of the 2 and 4-legged varieties. He also posseses the rare and valuable skill of being able to double-ride bikes, and is looking forward to taking a fully-loaded Bike Chariot out for a spin around the Place de la Bastille during rush hour. That's just how he rolls.

His only fault, as far as we can tell, is that when he arrived on our doorstep, he had never drunk wine, ever, of any kind. Don't worry -- we're working on it....

Ty

Ty Murray spent six years with us.  When he hired on, he was the only person, ever, to hail from southern California and not possess a driver’s license.  Which driver's license, let it be said in passing, is a requirement for the job he was being hired for.  Oh well.  Figure we hired him for his good looks, instead.  Rumor has it that he happens to have a driver’s license now, so he's finally qualified for his old job.

The son of an Amtrak Train Attendant, Ty has a remarkable sense of all things railroad, enabling him to load 8 bikes to a train without losing his smile (thought not without sweating).

For two seasons our support and logistics were handled by a Baggage Master extraordinaire, Tony Gentry.  Discussing his work, he once laconically commented, “There's easier ways to kill a man [sic].”  He speaks in a North Carolina drawl remarkable for the fact that it reduces his word-per-minute count to about 3.

He was a water sports instructor at a resort in Saipan, then went to Japan to hunt down a Japanese celebrity to whom resort visitors were sure he was related.  Sounds like “stalking” to us....  He has since taught English there (and, more remarkably, French, which he is still trying to learn himself).  He has also worked as a bouncer for the Japanese mafia, which he described as “only slightly less dangerous than [his] girlfriend.”  And he is currently back to teaching, which we hope is safer....

We love seeing Tony, who continues to put in appearances when he needs a Europe fix.  And we always wish him the best of luck, though he seems to make his own.  Perhaps his language students will need it more:  they may wind up as the only Japanese English speakers with precisely that accent. There is no risk that they will ever learn French....


No list would be complete without mentioning Ross Dukes, who established the “Baggage Boy” (his title) position some years back (we now call them Baggage Masters).  It is quite rationally the most highly-paid at Blue Marble.  A little like Michel, Ross can do anything, or at least is willing to try.  A big guy from Sault Ste-Marie, Canadian side, Ross can eat several half chickens or carry 8 suitcases with equal ease.  Ross was most recently spotted working on the Algoma Central Railway as a short-order cook.  He didn't seem to be quite sure why, and none of us except for Nicolas know where the Algoma Central goes.  All the same, since he created the Baggage Master position, we will always fondly associate it with him.

There are others, but these are the ones you are most likely to come across, so we'll spare you the details.

Who & Where Are We?

Who

Where