This week the spotlight shines on Liza Cotter, a recent guest on our Heart of Tuscany tour. Joy and enthusiasm just spill over her. Ciclismo guide Alessandro Draghi described Liza to me in two words: "Grandissima donna!" Larger than life.
Splitting her time between Lake Tahoe and Florida, Liza shares her approach to life, cycling, and her ricetta (recipe) to staying happily forever young.
I met this amazing woman 20 years ago on a bike ride in Vietnam with disabled veterans. Her energy and gioia di vivere was contagious even way back then. And, so we meet again...
How does cycling fit into your life? What do you get out of it?
I try to be on my road bike or hand cycle at least five days a week. I think I basically work my day around biking. It has become such a regimen for me that on the days that I don’t bike I feel stiff and lazy. I generally ride 20-40 miles on my road bike and 12-20 miles on the hand cycle. Biking makes me feel young, energetic and like a kid again. It represents freedom, fun, and incredible exercise for me.
Does cycling keep you forever young and how?
Well it absolutely keeps me forever young. The only time my body doesn’t have aches and pains is on a bike (ok, well except up an Italian hill). I feel the wind on my face and I feel the joy of freedom and speed. My life has always been filled with sports and competition and speed so it’s what I thrive on. Forever a tomboy!
"I feel the wind on my face and I feel
the joy of freedom and speed."
Tell us more about your job/life/family.
I’m retired and married to an incredible man and awesome biker named Terry (76 years old) who I met on a disabled bike ride around the world in 1995. We fell in love and decided to commit our lives to each other and helping those in need find joy in athletic adventures. I have two grown children who are amazing athletes and my son just took up biking to join us on the Ciclismo Classico Heart of Tuscany bike ride a few weeks ago. He is a natural and I think he’s hooked!
Given all your riding and touring experience around the world, what stands out for you the most about riding in Tuscany and how does that experience tie into this theme of long-life...youthfulness?
Not only is Tuscany so physically beautiful but it’s so filled with history, culture, and art. It’s history is so massive that I felt like I was part of a universal cosmic repeat process. That we are just an endless part of each other’s lives and we have lived everywhere for centuries. And I learned so many new things about wine, olive oil, cooking, art that I felt really curious again. I haven’t felt that curious in a long time.
How does the bicycle contribute to your artistic endeavors?
When I bike, especially abroad, I’m more cognizant of colors, texture, characters, and stories. It’s all of art in a bundle. I feel the trees. I feel the sky. I feel the ground beneath my tires. I think the varieties of the color green must run into the millions. And if I would ever feel the urge to write a book, I have hundreds of character studies and stories to share. Really too many for one person to handle!
"A bicycle tour is one place where you can spend a
good amount of money but come home richer than you were."
What is your favorite ride in your area or in the world, in general? A wow moment?
I have so many favorite rides. We used to ride beautiful back roads in Sonoma County, but after our house burned down last year in the Tubbs Fire, we moved to Amelia Island, FL and we are finding bike rides just as fabulous there. And really for us, the people in our bike groups are really what it’s all about. Such wonderful camaraderie! Internationally speaking, we were in Russia with our able bodied/disabled group biking and hand cycling into Moscow. A man on a skateboard had come many miles to greet us after he heard we were coming on the news. He only had an upper torso. No lower body. And he perched on the skateboard and paddled along the ground with his hands. I spent the afternoon with him and that was a wow moment.
Other sports or physical activities you do besides cycling?
Well, I was a tennis professional, then a competitive hunter jumper horseback rider and I’ve been a very active skier, snowboarder and, golfer. But now I’m a very broken “rode hard and put away wet” 66 year old, but I feel as physically great on a bike as I ever did in those other sports. Biking is the only sport that doesn’t hurt now. My knees, back, ankles, shoulders are all issues that I have dealt with in the past but when I am on a bike nothing hurts and I feel like I’m 21 again. And ain’t that some kinda grand?
Would you recommend bicycle touring to a newbie cyclist 50+ years of age?
I would recommend a bike trip to anyone of any age but especially the 50+ group. I think by that age we really appreciate the cultures of other areas/countries/nations and what a better way to witness the world than by a good ol' bicycle ride. Great scenery, great people, great food, and an endless supply of new things to learn. A bicycle tour is one place where you can spend a good amount of money but come home richer than you were.
"Biking makes me feel young, energetic and like a kid again."
Where is your next international ride going to be?
My next bike trip is going to be in Spain. I’m joining a friend for a Podenco dog rescue mission there and she was so inspired by my Italy bike trip, that she suggested that we bike through Spain before we get to the rescue site! Another convert!
Favorite cycling story?
My favorite cycling stories are all connected to disabled riding. Blind tandem partners, paraplegics on hand cycles, amputees with all varieties of adaptive bike equipment come immediately to mind. It certainly puts in perspective for me, the inconsequential issues of a steep hill climb or a lazy morning when I think I’m too tired to ride. My issues are nothing. Get that 66 year young body out there and have at it.
Photos: Liza and Terry Cotter
Find Liza inspiring? We do too! Read last week's Forever Young story to keep the inspiration flowing!
Looking for another reason to visit Tuscany? Did you know that they harvest their grapes at night? Read about it here,