Sojourn Tour Leader Series: Meet Mark Piccone
Sojourn bike tour guests tell us time and time again that our tour leaders are the best in the business. Gracious, engaging, and intelligent. Always a step ahead of your desires, they are adept at everything from spinning wrenches to whipping up fabulous picnic lunches or suggesting the perfect beverage to pair with your dinner selection. They even have a knack for magically appearing with the support van and refreshments just as your energy is waning.
For those who have yet travel with Sojourn, our bicycling vacations feature two world-class tour leaders who are truly jack of all trades. In addition to ensuring guest safety and enjoyment while on vacation, our tour leaders also make for exceptional travel companions. From retired teachers to Olympic alpine ski coaches to commercial bankers to professional photographers to non-profit philanthropists to former military pilots and more, our tour leaders are the heart and soul of Sojourn. Needless to say, we take great pride in these ‘curators of fun’ who are not just employees, but rather like our guests, they are family.
In this new Meet Your Tour Leader series, we are excited to showcase our tour leaders’ incredibly diverse and fascinating backgrounds as a way to better get to know your future travel fellows. Every tour leader has a remarkable story to tell and would be happy to share more with you on tour next time you ride with Sojourn. You might just end up with a new life-long friend!
First up, it is our pleasure to introduce, Mark Piccone aka “New York”, “C”, or just Piccone. Mark currently resides in La Habra, CA so you’ll be able to enjoy his company and impeccable tour leader services on several of our West Coast tours, including Sonoma Wine Country & Coast and Joshua Tree National Park & Palm Springs, Oregon, and Arizona bicycle tours.
Snow Belt Boy
I was born in Rochester, New York, also known as the ‘snow belt’. I lived there until I moving to Hilton, New York when I was 3 years old. My family still lives in Hilton and has been there for over 40 years.
Prior to Sojourn
After graduating high school, I enlisted in the United States Army and later attended college at State University of New York (SUNY). While in college, I enrolled in the Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) program and was bestowed with the honor to go to Aviation School. After completing basic flight and combat flight skill training, I served as a helicopter pilot for 21 years piloting two of the Army’s helicopters, the OH-58 Kiowa and AH-64 Longbow Apache.
My military time also included a stint as the professor of military science and commander of the Army ROTC program at Kent State University. Following my retirement from the Army in Jan of 2015, I transitioned to teaching High School JROTC in Colorado and ultimately, here in Anaheim, California. Being able to impact the growth of ROTC students and watching them go out into the world to do great things is something I truly cherish.
“I loved how the company was small but personable, and took great care in providing the highest quality of guest services possible.”
I’ve always been an active person with a passion for cycling, health, fitness, and travel. My wife and I happened to be on a guided bike tour of Death Valley and the notion of being a leader really intrigued me. I had the pleasure of leading single-day bike rides down Pikes Peak and around Colorado Springs, but I found that I preferred longer trips where you get to know the guests and have the opportunity to make real connections with people. That inspired me to start looking at tour operators who offered week long trips. At that time, my wife was being relocated to Southern California and I learnt about Sojourn’s Sonoma Coast & Wineries tour. I loved how the company was small but personable, and took great care in providing the highest quality of guest services possible. I led my first tour in Sonoma County in May 2016. So far I’ve had the pleasure of leading our Sonoma Wine Country & Coast , Joshua Tree National Park & Palm Springs, Oregon, and Arizona bicycle tours.
Best moments at Sojourn
For me, I love meeting and getting to know Sojourn’s guests. Although we have travelers from all over the world and with very different backgrounds,everyone is there for the same reason: the love of cycling and being outdoors. Interacting with guests andhaving the ability to spend time with them on tour is really the best part for me as a tour leader. I’ve made quite a few life-long friends from previous tours and actually, my wife and I are meeting up with a Sonoma tour couple this week to ride and vacation in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Favorite Sojourn tour
Of the tours I have led, Oregon is my favorite as it is the whole active outdoors package: hiking, biking, and rafting. Plus, the scenery you can witness through routes traversing fruit loop (fertile area with fruit trees and produce) to Columbia Gorge are are absolutely mind-blowing.
Favorite meal/beverage on tour
My favorite meal hands down is the hangar steak with chocolate cake for desert during the private reception and dinner at the Le Vallauris restaurant on the first night of tour. Le Vallauris was named a “Best Coachella Valley fine dining restaurant’ by Palm Springs Life for its time-tested and cutting-edge recipes.
For beverage, I’m a beer guy so I enjoy the selection at Carlee’s, a local watering hole, in Borrego Springs on Wednesday night (Day 4).
Favorite accommodation on tour
The Korakia Pensione in Palm Springs. Its Mediterranean style atmosphere is unique and with the dark sky and surrounding hills of Palm Springs as the back drop
Tough question! I love Sojourn’s Monday’s (Day 2) ride through Joshua Tree National Park to Box Canyon to Mecca. The varying terrain and vegetation of Joshua National Tree Park is awesome and you ride across the San Andreas Fault Line. Also, Wednesday’s (Day 4) climb up Montezuma grade in Borrego Springs as another favorite. For those seeking a challenging ride the route continuously climbs 4000′ in 12 miles and the rewarding ride back down is almost as fun. 🙂 Also, the Tuesday ride in our Sonoma Coast & Wineries trip from Madrona Manor to the Armstrong redwood forest and continuing on to highway 1 to ride the California coast to Bodega bay is incredible; It’s quintessential California coast line. While in Bodega Bay, riding the Coleman ave EPIC ride that was once part of the Tour of California, is a must.
We hope you’ll get the chance to meet Mark and our other amazing tour leaders as you ride with the best in the business in 2018. For more information on upcoming tours, view our bike trip schedule.