Meet The Flock of Black Sheep Adventures

Barn Staff
Fred Ackerman founder the Black Sheep Adventures Team

Fred Ackerman

Founder & Chief Shepherding Officer, 2002

 

Born in the Mojave Desert, raised in Northern Minnesota and blessed to call Cape Cod “home” for most of his life, Fred began traveling from a young age. He has not only traveled six continents, he has lived in four of them. With a degree in mechanical engineering from MIT in hand, Fred was a busy young professional with no time to plan vacations, but had a strong desire to get out there and explore. After traveling with a few adventure tour operators, Fred quickly realized that he wanted to be on the other side of the equation to be out seeing the world and to share his passion for being active outdoors with others.

Leaving a promising management consulting career, Fred joined one of the industry’s largest active tour operators, creating and leading trips throughout the US and Europe – and hasn’t looked back since! Although his waking hours are now shared with raising a family (baby number 4 was born in May 2016), Fred is focused on managing the business growth and ensuring we stay true to our values, but he loves it when he can get out to guide a trip. 

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Ashley Vincent

Operations Ninja, 2011

 

Quick to smile and laugh, serene and yet a master of productivity, Ashley grew up in Connecticut and graduated from Vassar with a degree in Economics. After college she started guiding trips for kids at Overland Travel including an epic one across the USA from Savannah, GA to Santa Monica, CA. Back in 2003, a friend invited her to join her for a through-hike of the entire 2,200-mile Appalachian Trail. Her friend bailed, but Ashley did it – alone. Back when Ashley started with us in 2011, she did it all: lead guide, head mechanic, IT department, and any and everything else we needed. Now mother to two children she’s working behind the scenes on many essential tasks.

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Tim Mills

Multifaceted Operations Manager (a.k.a. MOM), 2014

 

Tim was born of an American mother and English father, Tim has explored and traveled since a young age. He has traveled to 48 of the United States, explored 5 continents, spent 7 months in New Zealand, carved marble for 3 months in Pietrasanta, Italy, and lived in Senegal, West Africa for 2 years as a Peace Corps Volunteer. Originally from Connecticut, he has a BA in Studio Art from Hobart College. For the last decade he has been working in the tourism and hospitality industry.

Tim has guided small intimate tours of two guests wine tasting all the way up to bus tours with 150 passengers. He has guided hiking trips with participants from seven to seventy years old up 10,000 foot Mount Hoffman, in the center of Yosemite National Park. Recently he managed the front desk of Westin hotels in Bellevue, WA and San Francisco before joining us to work in the office and help in the field as needed.

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Nick Brodnicki

Rental Bike Meister, 2016

 

A former professional triathlete holding a masters degree in Library Science from SUNY Buffalo, Nick is a beacon of positivity and a renaissance man. As an accomplished athlete and former teacher, he’s merged those skills as a certified USA Triathlon, Cycling & Masters Swimming Coach. Nick’s a total extrovert, yet he loves to hunker down and “nerd out” on IT, organization and process efficiency.

He was attracted to Black Sheep Adventures saying our “goals and values align quite well with my own. To be unique and have fun, deliver exceptional value, and be the best at what you do are important tenets to me.” Nick enjoys being part of a community supporting folks staying active, healthy, and allowing them to explore the world on two wheels. He & his wife moved to the Bay Area because of the ability to explore the world on two wheels here.

We’re pleased to have him on the team. While his primary role is here at the Barn managing the rental business, talking with our cyclists and wrenching bikes, he’ll be guiding a few trips as well.

The Shepherds
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Ryan Fowler

Senior Shepherd & Custom Tour Specialist, 2011

 

Born and raised in Northern California, Ryan began cycling at age 15 and the wheels never stopped rolling from that point on. He began racing as a junior, started a collegiate cycling team while studying film production and banana slugs at UC Santa Cruz, and still competes at the semi-professional level for mountain bike events nationwide. Now living near Lake Tahoe, Ryan spends his free-time backcountry skiing, capturing photographs, writing, backpacking, and, yes, cycling. His passion for the outdoors and all things cyclical is challenged by his love for good food, great wine and even better beer. The resident quick wit, Ryan is likely to leave you on the floor laughing. Now in his 6th season guiding professionally, Ryan also researches and plans many of our custom tours.

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Jen Slowey

Senior Shepherd & Custom Tour Specialist, 2013

 

Jen grew up in Upstate New York (smack dab in the middle) and after a semester abroad in New Zealand, knew she wanted to see more of the world. She graduated from Ithaca College with a degree in music, then headed to Europe for some adventure and culture. She fell in love with Chamonix, France where she lived high up in the Alps, played trumpet in a band and skied powder with the locals. Now she lives in Truckee. Jen has perhaps more nicknames than anyone else here at BSA: Some favorites include: Slowdog, J.Slo, Jennifer Snowski, Flowbee and Jen. Between trips she plays French horn in the Reno Orchestra and, like Ryan, plans custom BSA tours.

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Marie Hernandez

Senior Shepherd & Custom Tour Specialist, 2016

 

Four years ago Marie found her calling leading trips. A California native, she loves to explore new areas as well as showcase the place she calls home. She holds a BFA in Photography and Digital Media from CalArts and previously was a professional photographer. In her last career, she managed a team of 50 people, hosted team building activities and coordinated events for up to 200 guests. She has lived and worked in remote parts of Australia (where her Irish-born mom is from), traveled throughout New Zealand and South East Asia independently, cycled through Taiwan, and planned a 21-day, 225-mile rafting and camping expedition on the Colorado river in the Grand Canyon. All of these past experiences have been invaluable training for her role with us as a professional guide and trip planner. Phrases like “How can I help” and “Let me get that for you” are a mainstay of Marie’s vocabulary. The reason? She genuinely enjoys people and loves to go the extra mile to help. She has a fun sense of humor and is a prankster as well (which apparently, like her triple Australian-Irish-American citizenship, she also gets from her mom).

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Zack Reinhardt

Shepherd Extraordinaire, 2015

 

This Pennsylvania native studied film at Temple University before making his way out west. The first things one notices about Zack are his impressive moustache and equally mature demeanor that belies his chronological age (many folks have been shocked to learn he’s only in his mid 20s). Zack enjoys guiding “as the opportunity to share unique experiences with people and lead them on an adventure they may have otherwise would have never experienced.” A passionate cyclist, and mechanic he’s built a few bikes from scratch and rides regularly. A few months ago we successfully lured him away from his 9-5 at a little company you may have heard of called “Facebook”.

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Patrick Makiri

Shepherd Extraordinaire, 2012

 

Native Californian, Pat was born and raised in Southern California, but he has lived in Northern California for much of his adult life. At UC Santa Cruz he earned a degree in American History and further developed his great appreciation for surfing and cycling. Patrick just relocated from Santa Barbara back to San Francisco where he continues to enjoy time on the water and on two wheels as well as cooking with his girlfriend using farm fresh organic ingredients as much as possible. 2016 marks his 5th season of guiding active vacations with Black Sheep Adventures. He is now one of our “go to” guides for both active and educational tours and between trips he also helps out with trip planning, bike maintenance, and warehouse organization.

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Aja Cook

Shepherd Extraordinaire, 2013

 

Perhaps due to nostalgia for a high school experience shared with Ryan Fowler, Aja never left high school. Ok, she did actually go to college and get a Masters Degree in Education so she could return to her high school as a teacher (and high school mountain bike league coach). A former professional mountain bike racer herself, as well as an incredible chef and wine connoisseur, Aja took to the hard and soft skills of guiding like a duck Michael Phelps to water. She has guided tours with us around California and on the East Coast. Always quick to smile and make it look easy even when giving her all to create a sensational experience for our guests, Aja now calls Sausalito home.

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Daryl Spano

Shepherd, 2015 (started with UDC in 2009)

 

Daryl’s day job is at Lockheed Martin as a Senior Security Systems Engineer. He is the closest thing we have to an in-house rocket scientist. A Cat 2 bike racer, Daryl loves to use his vacation time to share the beauty of California with fellow cyclists visiting our great state from around the world. He is passionate to enjoy a great time and really deliver a top-notch experience for our guests. Daryl takes pride in a job well done and greatly enjoys the friendships he makes with guests on tour and the chance to spend time with his wife.

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Laura Spano

Shepherd, 2015 (started with UDC in 2011)

 

Laura (as your Spider-sense may have correctly alerted you, is Daryl’s wife although she looks like a conjoined twin here – I think it’s the matching lycra). Laura enjoys guiding guests on tours up and down the state. Laura prides herself on her ability to beautifully execute a trip (tapping her “inner mommy”) and share her love of cycling and the outdoors with guests. A native of the Bay Area, prior to starting in the bike tour business she trained and worked as a real estate lawyer with her own practice. She and Daryl regularly ride their road bikes and their latest feat was completing the Death Ride on their tandem. Laura and Daryl call Fremont home.

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Nicole Marcoe

Shepherd, 2015

 

A graduate of Binghampton and native of the Northeast. Her love of the wilderness and adventure travel led her to teach at various educational institutions. These include The Student Conservation Association, The Appalachian Mountain Club, The Outdoor Academy, The White Mountain School, Visions Service Adventures and The National Park Service.

From Alaska to Guadeloupe, and the Cascade Mountains to the Appalachians, Nicole has had the pleasure of exploring many scenic areas throughout the U.S. After honing in on her love of the bike, both mountain and road, Nicole began guiding trips to Europe. A fluent French speaker, she has spent ten summers in France guiding cyclists following Le Tour. Formerly of Sausalito, these days she’s building a successful career as a florist and setting up her new home in Silicon Valley.

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Zephyr Sylvester

Shepherd, 2015

 

With a degree from Whitman college and native of the Green Mountain State a.k.a. the Emerald of New England (actually I’ve never, ever heard anyone call it that, but hey, let’s start something!). Zephyr seemingly has more guiding experience than is mathematically possible for her years on earth, but somehow it’s true! She has guided countless tours all over the western states from Utah to Oregon to Washington. Another NorCal High School Mountain Bike League coach, she currently lives in San Francisco and apparently closes her eyes when she laughs. So don’t make her laugh too hard while she’s driving or biking.

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Frank Ackerman

Learned Shepherd/Co-founder of Founder, 2005/1974

 

A retired National Park Service Ranger who in his 32-year career lived and worked in a variety of parks from Dinosaur National Monument, Grand Canyon, Death Valley and Voyageurs National Parks before retiring as Chief of Interpretation for Cape Cod National Seashore. Frank later returned to full-time work for another 5 years as Curator of Education and then Director of the Nevada State Railroad Museum. Now he’s our resident educational tour expert, designing, writing educational commentary, and accompanying many of our educational tour programs. He greatly enjoys living in Northern California and exploring the region’s various hiking trails, and railroads.