The Bike Family: 5000 Miles Done, 15,000 To Go

NOB HILL--A week ago Thursday I met a family on loaded touring bikes in front of my favorite bike shop, Two Wheel Drive. We spoke briefly. The man was in a hurry to leave. I went inside the shop, and they were gone when I came out. Two days later on The Duke City Fix, Mary Tafoya posted a discussion titled "Helping a cross-country bike family?"

About a block from the bike shop the man and one of his sons had been hit by a car.

In a comment to the post I offered to help. It was a week later I heard from them. The man and boy were okay...more or less. The tandem had been repaired. The insurance company had already settled up. They just needed a place to stay for a night. So we hosted them Friday night.

John and Nancy have twin 10-year-old boys, Daryl and Davy. The four of them started biking on this trip 5 months ago on Alaska's north slope, at Prudhoe Bay. That was 5000 miles ago. They are headed for the southern end of Argentina somewhere around Tierra del Fuego. That's 15,000 miles from here.

The trip figures to take another two years. The twins, of course, are being home schooled. Nancy and John said they have 16 school books packed up on the bikes. John and son Daryl ride on the tandem which also has a trailer attached to it. Altogether it is as long as a Honda Civic. The other son Davy rides a single, an REI Novara Safari. His mom Nancy also has a single. Her ride is another REI product, a Novara Randonee. I mention this because I own the same bike.

She pulls an unusual trailer, called an 'Extra Wheel.' It consists of a full-sized wheel with mesh sacks hanging off either side. Other items such as cooking pots hang off various other points on the bike.

It takes a lot to keep a family going. For instance, on the tandem John carries 7 bottles of water, 2 bottles of gas for the stove, and a whole trailer full of stuff. Davy carries all four sleeping pads and other light-weight but bulky items. Nancy has the food.

Speaking of food, my own experience has taught me that the most common lunch on the bike is peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. It is common fare for the boys. The adults favor other things. Suppers usually consist of pasta or rice. With two kids and a two years to go, cooking as many meals as possible is the only way to go.

We fed them pasta. We shared road stories. I asked about mosquitoes. Nancy and John talked about cooking on a bridge because the mosquitoes weren't so bad there. They related eating while walking around to try to get away from them. Nancy described how to put on netting and how difficult it is to keep killing bugs that sneak inside. They said that the mosquitoes were only bad for about a month.

Bears were also a concern. Nancy faced an aggressive black bear once that got within 5 feet of her while she was standing astride her bicycle. She was trapped and only escaped by talking softly to the bear and smiling. Eventually the bear backed away.

Thinking about their trip I asked whether either of them spoke Spanish. Nancy speaks Spanish from her days in the Peace Corps stationed in Honduras. In fact, they are going to stay with people in the same village where she had lived those many years ago.

What about the boys? Well, what an adventure. And I can't help but think that after two more years of traveling in Central and South America, they will be speaking Spanish as well. But there is more than that. They share in the work. They suffer and rejoice at the same things as their folks on a trip like this. Their are only so many accommodations one can make for an individual on a long bike trip. Ultimately they have to pull together.

The boys were asked by their parents if they wanted to set a world's record for being the youngest to travel top to bottom in the American continents. Their answer was an enthusiastic "Yes!" Meeting the standards for the record determined where the trip started and where it will end.

Of course the family has their own website called Family On Bikes. The section this morning talks about a policeman stopping them on the freeway near Socorro. He had seen their story on TV and just wanted to say Hello. By the way, it is not illegal to ride a bike on a freeway shoulder when there is no alternate route available. Bookmark the blog. Follow them going south. And think about the possibilities in your own life.

I'm not going to preach any kind of 'Life is a Journey' metaphor here. But think about living in the present. That is what this kind of journey is all about. Being at the ultimate destination is not worth this kind of sustained effort. But what IS worthwhile is being alive, awake, and aware for two and a half years while you get there.

Views: 1407

Comment by Carol on November 25, 2008 at 1:11pm
What a cool post! That is certainly one way to keep the kids active. This also reminds me of the stories of families who've lived aboard sail boats, and covered vast distances. Kids who've lived aboard boats are reported to be very personable and immensely competent. I bet the same is true of these kids. Huge adventure for the whole group. Best of luck to them. Cool pictures of their rigs, too!
Comment by Patricia on November 25, 2008 at 1:35pm
What an interesting story. Their blog is pretty inspiring too. Thanks for sharing!
Comment by Barelas Babe on November 25, 2008 at 2:19pm
Another awesome post, Johnny!
Comment by cathyray on November 25, 2008 at 3:10pm
I was wondering what happened to them. waayyyy cool. now I can follow along. thanks for the cool post
Comment by Gemini Goddess on November 25, 2008 at 3:47pm
Oh my god, how incredible! They are brave and strong! I sure as hell couldn't and probably wouldn't want to do that with children in the mix! (I doubt I'd do it by myself anyways! *lol) My oh my, what an adventure!!
Comment by once banned twice shy on November 25, 2008 at 4:19pm
Great story. Figures they would be hit by a car in Albq. What a nice memory they will have from our city. Grrr. I hope you improved it for them, Johnny.
Comment by missy on November 25, 2008 at 10:04pm
that is awesome. and inspiring. what an incredible adventure!
Comment by Kevin on November 26, 2008 at 9:20am
I hope I'm not the only person who feels, well, a bit inadequate when reading this. They are amazing. Bravo, Family on Bikes!
Comment by Chuckie on November 27, 2008 at 6:56pm
Wow, small world we live in here in ABQ. I let Nancy and her family borrow my car from Monday through Thursday. On Friday morning, I picked it back up from her at the top of Tramway. She mentioned that they were relocating to another house for their last night in town.....now I know who put them up! Cool.
Comment by Christie Mc on November 28, 2008 at 8:57am
Wonderful, inspiring story! I'm bookmarking the website you mention. Thanks for sharing.

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