Meet the Mende Family

The Beginning of a Family Tradition

The Mendes’ VBT story began six years ago in New England, not too far from our headquarters in Bristol, Vermont. A few members of this Rhode Island family took a small bike trip around Maine to visit some of the state’s famous lighthouses. It was a short trip, but a good time was had by all and it wasn’t long before Lori Kelley, a second generation Mende, was brainstorming about a full-on family biking vacation.

With a fun-loving father who has always been a bit thrifty, Lori may have had her work cut out for her. After a friend recommended VBT, Lori simply asked her dad, Richard, what he thought of taking a biking vacation through Europe. To Lori’s surprise, without a moment’s hesitation he responded, “I’d do it in a second.” That was about all it took to begin making plans for a family vacation with VBT.

Where to Next?

The family decided that it was important to explore their heritage as they traveled. So they landed on a bike tour of The Czech Republic, Germany & Austria. In the fall of 2009, Lori, her husband Charlie, her sisters Jeanne and Nancy, her Uncle Bob and her father all headed for central Europe with high hopes for a great family vacation.

As it turns out, everyone was thrilled with the time that they spent together, riding, connecting and laughing. “My Uncle and my dad just had smiles pasted on their faces the whole time,” said Lori. The days were so enjoyable that upon returning home the question on everyone’s mind was, “Where to next?”

It’s that very question that has prompted four family vacations with VBT over the past four years. In addition to their first vacation through the Czech Republic, the Mende family has biked in Slovenia, Austria & ItalyHungary & Slovakia: The Best of the Danube and Puglia: Italy’s Undiscovered Coast. And coming this Fall, the family will join VBT again in Italy: Cycling the Dolomite Valleys.

The More the Merrier

In an effort to spread the good times, the Mendes have done a bit of recruiting since their first vacation together. With each new trip, more and more family members have joined in on the fun. In fact, on their next adventure, the group size will almost have doubled since their first trip, making 11 family members in all. With ages ranging from 23 to 81, three generations will be thoroughly represented as the family rides through Italy’s Dolomite Valleys.

For the Mendes, the joys of biking vacations with VBT vary for each different member of the family. Lori’s father and Uncle Bob genuinely enjoy getting in touch with their heritage through historical exploration, regional cuisine and the occasional pálinka tasting. Her son is partial to cultural encounters in the cities that they’ve visited along the way. For Lori it’s hard to pick one favorite aspect of her vacations, but she fondly notes that she has gotten to know her extended family in a way that she had never known them before.

Lasting Memories

In Lori’s memories of all of her family vacations, one theme seems to clearly emerge: laughter. Whether it’s riding through Austria singing songs from The Sound of Music, her dad and Uncle Bob indulging in their accommodations’ luxurious bathrobes or a quirky communication with a local while biking up a German hill, each recollection for Lori is accompanied by an enthusiastic chuckle or even an all-out belly laugh. As Lori looks back on her travels, she admits that these are just a few of the many, “memories we’ll have for the rest of our lives.”

At VBT, we’re all about making connections as we travel. That’s why we couldn’t be more thrilled to have helped the Mende family get in touch with their roots, connect with locals throughout Europe and strengthen their own family bonds. With family vacations that grow in numbers every year, it doesn’t look like they’ll slow down anytime soon!

Recipes from our Backyard

With the onset of spring, flowers are blooming, fruits and vegetables are coming into season and our famous Farmers Markets are sprouting up all over the state. It seems as though at this time of year you can’t throw a stone without it landing in one of these seasonal Vermont fixtures. We thought we’d make use of the abundance of fresh local ingredients and offer up complementary recipes for a Vermont-inspired salad and soup. These recipes were donated to us by VBT Associate, Janet C. (pictured above). Now in charge of Document Services, Janet has been with the company for 27 years and she knows cooking just about as well as she knows traveling. You’re in for a treat!

For a full, locally sourced meal, enjoy our Roasted Beet Salad alongside our Green Garden Soup. Or lighten it up a bit, and enjoy each one separately.

Salad Recipe, Beet Salad

Roasted Beet Salad


  • 3 Large Beets, peeled, scrubbed with ends cut off
  • 2 tbsps extra virgin olive oil
  • Black pepper and salt to taste
  • 1 tbsp Vermont Maple Syrup
  • 5 tbsps fresh lemon juice
  • 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tbsp fresh, minced parsley
  • 8 scallions, sliced
  • salt to taste
  • 2 cups mesclun (radicchio, watercress, spinach, arugula)
  • 6-8 tbsp sliced, fresh goat cheese

Cooking Directions

  1. Slice beets and arrange in a large glass baking dish. Coat with extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper to taste. In a preheated 350˚ oven, roast the beets for 45 minutes or until tender. Remove from the oven to cool. Then further slice the beets and set aside.
  2. While beets are cooking, whisk together the maple syrup, lemon juice, oil, parsley, scallions and salt in a medium bowl for the dressing and set aside.
  3. Once the beets have cooled, toss them with mesclun and dressing, top with the fresh goat cheese and serve. Note: For an added garnish add 1/4 cup of chopped pecans.

Soup Recipes, Soup Recipe, Garden Soup, Soup Greens

Green Garden Soup


  • 2 tsps olive oil
  • 1/2 medium onion diced
  • 1 leek, scrubbed and sliced fine
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 carrot, peeled and diced
  • 1 stalk celery, chopped
  • 2 tsps paprika
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 2 large Yukon Gold potatoes, scrubbed, diced & soaked in cold water
  • 2 medium green zucchinis, trimmed and diced
  • 10 cups organic low sodium vegetable stock
  • 1 sprig fresh thyme or rosemary
  • 1 hot pepper, whole (habanero or red chili)
  • 6 cups greens (mix of kale, collards and Swiss chard) finely sliced
  • 2 cups (tightly packed) fresh spinach
  • 1 tsp maple syrup (optional)
  • 1 tbsp plain yogurt
  • 1 tbsp green onion, sliced
  • Juice of half of a lemon and half of a lime (or more to taste)

Cooking Directions

  1. In a large soup pot (6-8 qts), heat oil over medium-high heat. Add onion, leek, garlic, carrot and celery and stir well. Reduce heat to medium and sweat vegetables for 2-3 minutes. Add paprika and cumin, stirring constantly until vegetables are coated with spices. Continue to cook for 3-4 more minutes.
  2. Add potatoes and zucchini and stir, sautéing for 1-2 minutes. Add stock, herb sprig and hot pepper, allowing pepper to float in broth. Bring mixture to a boil. Then, reduce heat to med-low and simmer for 20 minutes.
  3. Add greens to pot and stir carefully to submerge greens completely in broth. If additional liquid is required, add a bit more stock or water. Increase heat to high and bring to a boil again. After reaching a boil, reduce heat to simmer and cook for 5-8 minutes.
  4. Remove soup from heat. Remove hot pepper from broth and remove herb sprig stems. Add spinach and stir until immersed in the broth. Using a hand blender, puree the soup in the pot. Be careful of splashing hot soup or wait until soup cools down a bit and puree in blender or food processor. Add lemon/lime juice, salt and pepper to taste.
  5. Garnish each bowl with yogurt and green onion. Serve immediately.