For the past four weeks I’ve been telling you about the steps I’ve been taking to physically and mentally prepare to kick ass on my six day cycling adventure through California Wine Country with WomanTours.

Now that I’ve made it home in one piece, I get to share all my favorite trip highlights with you.

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1. I didn’t think I was going to survive

After a fairly long day of traveling, all 13 tour participants, plus our two tour guides, gathered around the patio of our hotel in Calistoga for an orientation meeting. That’s when I learned that a) I was the youngest cyclist on the tour, b) Our first ride was going to be through a mountain pass, and c) I was going to fucking die.Even though these ladies are older, many by several decades, they were used to logging a lot more miles. Most had been on several WomanTours trips before so they knew what to expect. It was totally inspiring but, I’m not gonna lie, super intimidating at first.

2. The biggest physical challenge of my life
The first ride of the tour was a 50 miler consisting of 3500 feet of climbing, most of which occurred over a six mile stretch. It was followed by a steep two mile descent with tight hairpin turns likely to result in more bodily liquids, other than just sweat, in your chamois shorts.

We could choose to opt out of the first half of the ride, instead hitching a ride in the “SAG wagon” up through the pass and back down to the bottom. Even though I seriously doubted I’d be able to complete it, I decided to try. I made sure to fill my water bottle with Vega Energizer, aka my liquid courage, and guzzled it down before we pedaled off into the unknown. I surprised the hell out of myself by not only completing the ride, but enjoying every minute of it. Well … except for that part where I ran into brake troubles on the steep descent. That was the scariest thing I’ve ever lived through. Luckily the WomanTours van was there to adjust the positioning of my brakes to be better suited for the remainder of the days hills.

3. FaceTiming with the kids
The kids and I FaceTimed that second night so we could check in on one another. My son, Reuben, is known in our circle of friends for being the most obedient and mature 10 year old on earth. So I was surprised when our conversation went like this:“Hey, Buddy, how was your day?”“It was …interesting. I called one of the girls on the bus ‘the b word,’ punched another girl in the stomach, and got caught messaging ‘parents are annoying’ to Tommy on Skype.”

Well alrighty then!

If good ole’ reliable Reuben was falling apart at the seams so quickly, I figured the house would probably be burned to the damn ground by the time I got home. So I did what any smart mom would do … pretended the conversation never happened and then avoided talking to the kids for the rest of the week.

4. A new party trick
While there wasn’t a lot of extra time to stop, several of us managed to get to a handful of wineries for tastings during our rides. One of the awesome wine educators at Markham Vineyards even taught me a new party trick, called the double swirl, which I’ve since coined the “double-your-chances-of-being-the-biggest-asshole-in-the-room-swirl.” Check out this video to see it in action.

5. I wasn’t helpless
On our third day of riding, we knew we were up for another tough ride. It was only 35 miles but most of it was uphill. I was feeling a little sluggish on my bike right from the moment we pulled out of the parking lot. I thought it was from all the wine the night before, but then my friend pointed out that I had a flat rear tire.I was thrilled because I knew it was a great opportunity to use the skills I learned at my Mechanic 101 Class through Gregg’s CyclesSo I tapped into my inner badass, quickly replacing the tube and getting my tire back on my bike within just a matter of minutes.

Unfortunately, after I got the tire back on, I noticed there was a fat 1 inch gash in the rubber. So I pedaled 12 miles uphill to meet the SAG wagon and replace my blown tire. But at least I never had to sit on the side of the road helplessly until someone else could come help me. Pro tip: Riding uphill is a lot more fun when both tires are full of air.

6. My body surprised me
The morning before I left for the trip, I woke up with the world’s biggest crick in my neck. I had practically no range of motion and couldn’t believe my bad luck. I doubted I was going to be able to bike those first few days. Luckily, the friend I was traveling with is a seasoned Physical Therapist, so she was able to manipulate my neck each morning and evening to provide more mobility. She was a total life saver. The rest of my body held up pretty well the whole way through. Thanks to all the treatment and rehabilitative exercises provided by Kinetic Sports Rehab, my back stayed nice and strong, despite the intense and constant physical demands. Oh, and that half a valium at night really helped, too.

7. Friends for life
It was clear mid way through that first challenging ride that I’d already begun to form some special new friendships. There’s something about pushing yourself to the brink and being on a great adventure together that solidifies new bonds hard and fast. Lots and lots of wine never hurts either. These ladies are my friends for life, and I have no doubt I’ll ride with many of them again, probably on another WomanTours trip.

8. We lived large
We spent the days pedaling hard, climbing hills and pushing our bodies to the limit. But in the late afternoons and evenings we were totally spoiled. A crew of us would grab some wine or champagne from the always full cooler in the WomanTours trailer and then nurse our sore asses in the hot tub for a bit, while other people chose to schedule massages, mud baths or other spa treatments. Then we’d clean up and head out to an amazing dinner at one of the local hotspots, one night even being treated to an incredible private wine tasting and dinner at Rutherford Grove Winery. The last night, after dinner, we gathered around the campfire, overlooking the water at the Bodega Bay Lodge, and listened as one of our guides, Michelle, strummed her guitar and sang some original songs. It was like overnight camp for grown ups. Except some of us (ahem!) still act like children.

9. I almost didn’t come home
We were about half way from Napa to the airport on the Evan’s Shuttle bus when we had a rear tire blowout.That sidelined us for 90 minutes on the side of the highway while we waited for another bus to come get us in the middle of Bay Area rush hour traffic. It took us a total of three and a half hours to get to the airport from Napa. I couldn’t help but think that we could have gotten there faster on our bikes … and that maybe I was meant to stay a while longer!

Next week, in the final post of the series, I’ll tell you all about the biggest lessons I learned along the way. It’s full of juicy revelations you won’t want to miss!

This is the fifth post in a six part humor series called 40 Ways To Get Back in the Saddle. Follow the madness and get inspired to chase your own dreams! To start from the beginning, go here.