Category Archives: San Juan 2011

Family Bike Touring: Character Building on Wheels

Yesterday I began a post about our summer bike tour. As the post progressed, I realized it was becoming bigger than just recounting our trip. It was more about the lessons we all learned. As parents, Tim and I want to teach our kids about character and grit, and bike touring is a great way to accomplish that.


…How many of the character traits have I covered so far?

Riding into townWith two kids along for the ride, bike touring is even more challenging. Because bike touring involves some suffering and grit and our modern-day, middle-class kids aren’t accustomed to that.

Karen Fierst, a teacher who oversaw the character program  at Riverdale, reflected in the aforementioned NYT piece:

“Our kids don’t put up with a lot of suffering. They don’t have a threshold for it. They’re protected against it quite a bit. And when they do get uncomfortable, we hear from their parents. We try to talk to parents about having to sort of make it O.K. for there to be challenge, because that’s where learning happens.”

Yes! I completely agree. Suffering is OK, it’s where learning happens. Continue reading

Bike Touring with Kids (building character one pedal stroke at a time)

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. 

IMG_0006Last 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.

SunsetThe 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). Continue reading

10 days, 3 Bikes, 2 Adults, 2 Kids: A Family Bike Adventure

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.

The boy is readyIt’s 4:00 PM on August 13th and we’re finally ready to head out on our first substantial (multiple days, 200 mile) family bike tour.

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.Geared up and ready to ride 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. Continue reading