August 2014




Dr. Vukichs transformative cycle

by Maxine Lipner EyeWorld Senior Contributing Writer


Ive had the opportunity to summit Mont Ventoux three times, Col du Tourmalet once, and also Col dAubisque. Those are very difficult climbs that are a challenge to anyone. ... Youre rewarded with the views and the satisfaction of having done it.


Dr. Vukich cycling in Maui, just one of the many scenic locations he has visited.

Dr. Vukich has cycled on every continent; here he rides in New Zealand.

Source (all): John A. Vukich, MD

Vacationing by the seat of his pants

The wind in his hair and a first taste of freedom in motionsuch was the exhilaration experienced by John A. Vukich, MD, Madison, Wis., as a youngster trekking around on his bicycle. As an adult, Dr. Vukich has parlayed this early enthusiasm into something more, regularly going on cycling excursions instead of traditional vacations. In fact, he is among those select enthusiasts who can say he has cycled on all of the continents. He has also, while vacationing, cycled up impressive summits such as Mont Ventoux in France and even had the opportunity to test the Tour de France route prior to the start of the race.

The first time I did biking beyond just a means of transportation, I was 16 and a friend of mine saw an advertisement for a century ride. We rode 100 miles in one day, and I thought, Wow, not only is that good exercise but its a great way to get out and travel routes that I wouldnt have otherwise and see a part of the area I had not seen before, he recalled.

However, it was not until he finished his residency and began to practice as an ophthalmologist that he began to seriously consider cycling as a form of exercise. I met like-minded friends who lived in the neighborhood, and we would get up early before work, Dr. Vukich said. Wed ride in the summertime from 5:30 until 6:30 in the morning to get a little exercise in. He enjoyed the fact that cycling was social as well, and he could converse while moving. He began to consider the idea of planning a vacation around the sport.

Alternative trips

I was lucky enough that my wife also enjoyed it, Dr. Vukich said. The couple began looking into cycling as a vacation option. We found a bicycle tour company that would organize trips that sounded like fun, and we thought, Lets give this a try, he said. Our first trip was in Napa. During the 4-day excursion they also rode to Sonoma, which Dr. Vukich said involved aggressive climbs. They were also down amid the vineyards where they could smell the grape must. I realized that this is a very different way to experience wine country, he said. I guess thats where we got hooked. Since that time the Vukichs have cycled in Croatia, Vietnam, New Zealand, Australia, and France several times, including the Normandy coast, as well as the Pyrenees. In addition, they have tried their luck at the epicenter of bicycle culture, the Tour de France route, riding just hours before the racers themselves, when the roads were closed to vehicular traffic. You get to ride on the same route with all of the chalk messages on the road. There are a lot of people who have been sitting all day waiting for the Tour so if anyone on a bike comes by, theyll hoot and holler, bang their cowbells and egg you on, Dr. Vukich said. Then you pull over, find a place to sit, and watch the race go by. One of their most memorable trips was to Vietnam. Theyre hurtling into this century in so many ways, he said. You dont have to go too far off the beaten path to get into areas that are very traditional. Cyclists there can experience the lushness and beauty of the country, while seeing how many Vietnamese people are living, offering a chance to meet them in an open way, he said. Its a great experience in terms of riding along the coasts to get to the agricultural areas where there are rice paddies on either side of elevated paths that are used for agricultural purposes, which are also great bike roads, Dr. Vukich said. We rode into very rural areas where, without fail, we were met by people who were genuinely nice and looking to interact in a positive way. Over the years, Dr. Vukich has also taken part in some classic cycling climbs that are part of the Tour de France. Ive had the opportunity to summit Mont Ventoux three times, Col du Tourmalet once, and also Col dAubisque, he said. Those are very difficult climbs that are a challenge to anyone. These 16- to 18-mile climbs at an 8% to 12% incline are tests of mettle, he said. Youre rewarded with the views and the satisfaction of having done it, Dr. Vukich said.

Ophthalmic view

In addition to joining vacation tours with groups of strangers, Dr. Vukich has arranged to meet up with other ophthalmologist cyclists. He noted that on one of the Tour de France trips, he assembled a band of 18 ophthalmologists who had become friends over the years, spurred in part by cycling. Its a small but deeply deranged group, he joked. Some of the others interested in the sport include Stephen Slade, MD, Marguerite McDonald, MD, Scott MacRae, MD, and Mark Kontos, MD, he said.

Dr. Vukich makes it a practice to cycle whenever he attends conferences, contacting area bicycle shops ahead of time to see about renting a bike and possibly securing a tour guide. Without fail the people who work at bike shops are nice and outgoing and always want to help, he said, adding that for about $50 you can find someone to take you on rides around a city.

Even though he has already ridden all over the world, Dr. Vukich envisions more cycling adventures ahead. One place on the agenda is Puglia in southern Italy, known for the rustic feel of the countryside, the food, and the wine. Thats high on my list of where next, he said. But you dont have to go to ItalyBryce Canyon is also beautiful. There are many rides in America that are just gorgeous. Riding in the wine country of California is still one of the areas that Dr. Vukich finds most memorable. A lot of people dont realize that the grape leaves turn color in the falltheyre deciduous, he said. If you go in the fall after the harvest, you can get these waves of beautiful colorits very much a sensory way of approaching travel. For those who have not ridden a bicycle in a while, Dr. Vukich recommends reintroducing yourself. Its that joy of being a child and of motion and freedom, he said. I dont think we ever lose that.

Contact information


Dr. Vukich Dr. Vukich
Ophthalmology News - EyeWorld Magazine
283 110
216 125
True, 8