Too many months have passed since we returned from our family bike tour last summer to justify a trip report. But I think just enough time has passed to allow me to reflect on the experience and look forward to the next one.
Last summer we loaded up Tim’s Big Dummy (with most of our gear), the tandem (equipped with 3 Ortliebs and a bucket pannier) piloted by Anne and the 8-year-old and the 10-year-old’s bike (toting her clothes, sleeping bag and thermarest) and pedaled away from our house on a sunny Saturday afternoon in August.
We ended up in the San Juan Islands 5 days later.
The family spent 5 more days camping, relaxing, reading, playing on the beach and enjoying the tranquility of Lopez and San Juan Islands. We then hopped on the Victoria Clipper and motored back to downtown Seattle (covering the same distance on the passenger ferry in a few hours that took 5 days on the bike).
The trip came to an end after a 5 mile ride back to our house in North Seattle on a quintessential Seattle summer evening.
Sounds nice, huh?
Recounting the trip in that manner makes it seem like a piece of cake. We pedaled, arrived 5 days later, hung out on the Islands for 5 days and took a ferry back to Seattle.
Truth be told, there was plenty of suffering mixed in as well. And some grit and definitely some character building.
This NYT education piece about education, failure, building character and ultimately success reminded me of bike touring.
(stay with me for a bit).
Many of the traits (zest, grit, self-control, social intelligence, gratitude, optimism and curiosity) that are explored in the piece relate to success in education and life in general.
Frankly, you don’t even need to leave your town or city to experience many of them, these traits can be learned from riding bikes instead of driving in cars on a daily basis.
Take some time and read about family on bikes journey from Alaska to Argentina and you might follow my meandering train of thought.
While the 200 + mile tour our family completed in 10 days last summer pales in comparison to the Vogel’s epic journey, the lessons we learned are similar: bike touring is challenging. And whether you’re young or old, challenging experiences foster growth.
As bike tourists we pedaled up hills, cruised down hills, crossed some “scary” bridges. We rode on the narrow shoulders of highways shared with speeding cars and trucks, ultimately fraying our nerves and causing some of us to shed tears. We experienced tense moments that tested our self-control and possibly resulted in a bit of yelling.
We’re being honest, right?
The weather was sometimes hot, sometimes cold, sometimes very wet. We all got tired and hungry and thirsty and at times wanted to give up. From time to time, we may even have fantasized about sticking out our thumbs and getting a ride (which I admit I did 20 years ago while on a bike tour of New Zealand’s South Island with the boyfriend I didn’t marry. But that is a whole nother story).
We got up every day and did it all over again. And looked forward to the new sights we would see and the new smells we would smell. And we learned to read each others moods and realize when it was OK to complain and when it was time to keep our pessimism to ourselves. We were thankful for sunny days and when it rained, hopeful that the sun would come out soon…..