Note: the following is the initial account of our summer family bike tour. If we were good bloggers we would have shared with you along the way. But instead we chose to be good bike tourists and (mostly) disconnect. And then we returned home and started the “back to school” cycle. So we’re a little late (and as you’ll see, there’s nothing unusual about that), but we think worth sharing anyway. We’ll add more installments over the next couple weeks.
Starting point: our house in Northeast Seattle
Destination: the San Juan Islands, eventually.
Bikes: 1 tandem with front and rear paniers, 1 kid bike with token rear paniers, and a Big Dummy loaded down with most of the gear
Transportation modes: Pedal power, assisted by state, county and private ferries.
After several days of bike upgrades and maintenance, endless laundry and packing, we were finally ready to roll. Our dog/house sitter arrived and settled in for her week+ stay.
We planned to ride 13 miles to Edmonds, catch the ferry to Kingston, then pedal 12 miles to Kitsap Memorial State Park. We said our goodbyes, then pedaled out of the driveway heading in the direction of Edmonds. Sure, our departure was about four hours later than planned, but so what. We were on the road.
And we made it about a block and a half. Seriously.
Though we thought we packed light, our bikes felt like RVs. The kids were moving even slower than usual. Uh-oh. Was this such a good idea?
That one long block made us realize 5-10 MPH would not get us to Kitsap Memorial before dark, especially with the threat of rain and darkness. Had we been kid-less (or just hauling them on the Xtracycles) we could have made it in time, even with the late start. But as a full pedaling family? No way.
Consider this reset expectation number one.
So now we’re not even out of the neighborhood and we needed a place to sleep that didn’t feel like defeat. Because our dog sitter was at our house, we couldn’t tuck tail and go home even if we wanted to. We had to go forward. Somewhere.
We pulled over in front of a neighbors figure it out. We mulled all of our options for a full 15 to 20 minutes on the side of the road. The kids sprawled on the grass. The neighbor looked out the window a couple of times to check on us and at one point took out a tiny bag of garbage–probably just a ruse to see what was going on with the loaded down bikes and the kids in the street.
This was the first of many unexpected changes in plans we experienced on the tour. And while we know this happens all the time while traveling, the kids were a bit confused.
“Where are we going? Where will we sleep? You mean we’re not going on our trip? Are we going home? I’m scared.”
Tim and I like to refer to the constant ups and downs as the peaks and valleys of travel. We often classify the difficult moments along the way as therapy. This was definitely a valley. We really had no idea what to do.
We’d left late on road trips many times. In fact, leaving late is our norm. On time would be unusual. Early? Unheard of.
But this was the first time we’d experienced this on bikes.
Had we been traveling by car, we would have simply hit the road. And driven late into the night until we found a place to camp (our M.O for road trips). Our former trusty VW camper was perfect in this scenario: all we had to do is drive until we couldn’t drive anymore, find a fire road off the beaten path, pop the top and crash for the night.
Not an option on bikes. At least on bikes with kids.
Reality: there aren’t many campgrounds near Seattle a family can reach on bikes with only a couple hours of daylight. And if you know Tim, there was no way we were staying in a hotel our first night.
What should we do?
Go back home and leave in the morning? No way. We can’t go back home: our gracious dog sitter had already settled in (we’d already delayed our trip a couple of times and we were pretty sure she thought we were the most disorganized people ever).
Yes! That’s it. We’d go south instead of north; set out in the morning and take the Seattle/Winslow ferry instead of Edmonds/Kingston and ride up Bainbridge Island to the bike camping sites at Kitsap Memorial. Everything else would be the same. Perfect.
But her sister wasn’t answering.
Tim was kind of bummed we weren’t powering through with the epic option (ride as far as we can, then have our daughter ride on the Big Dummy once it got dark). But mostly we thought the kids would be disappointed about our aborted start.
They surprised us.
“Cool! We get to camp at Gail and Dan’s house? And see the cousins? And have a back yard fire with s’mores? Awesome.”
So we pedaled 5 miles to central Seattle, had dinner at a brewpub, then set up camp at their house and enjoyed a lovely evening sharing stories around a campfire with our gracious family. They even fed us hot breakfast and espresso in the morning. Bonus.
This was the perfect way to start our family bike adventure (reset expectation #3. The journey is at least as important as the destination).
One day down and the kids (parents, too) learned invaluable lessons: Be flexible. Unexpected twists in plans are part of the adventure (and sometimes better than the originals).
Had everything gone according to schedule, we would have missed out on so much fun.
Stay tuned for the part of the tour where we actually leave Seattle.