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A toddler bike touring adventure

Posted by on September 13th, 2008 3 Comments

Nine days away from work. A two-night stay booked (with huge discount) at a resort hotel 200km from home. One 16 month old daughter. Sounds like a pretty normal holiday — except that this was going to be our first family bicycle touring vacation!

A looping tour of southern Ontario, starting and ending from our home in Hamilton was our original intention. We could lengthen or shorten the loop as we felt necessary, adjusting our cycling mileage — and with the hotel stay in the middle of the trip we would have a nice break.  However, the weather forecast the day before our departure called for LOTS of rain around Hamilton. So we brainstormed of ways we could avoid the bad weather and still make our hotel stay, finally arriving on the idea of taking a train up to Sudbury, Ontario, where there was better weather predicted, and biking back from there. Sudbury to Hamilton (via the Bruce Penninsula) is about 650km — a bit more of a challenge distance-wise than we originally intended, and with no option to shorten the route once we started. We thought maybe we were crazy to change things up so suddenly seeing as this was our first big trip with the three of us, but we decided to go for it.

The following is the account of our adventure!

Day 1 – Saturday, September 13, 2008

A Rocky Start

The alarm must have gone off this morning, since we had set it for 4:30am (our bus to the train station departed at 5:30am and we needed to wake Eden up and bike there), we don’t remember hearing it.  Reuben woke up in a haze and glanced at the alarm clock. He knew something was wrong but since we had gone to bed at 1:30am the night before (we were packing!), he couldn’t put the pieces together.  He nudged me with his elbow.

“Heidi, it’s 6:15”.

I woke up with a start.  “6:15! We’re late! We’re going to miss our train! What are we going to do?”

In harried confusion, we got dressed in the clothes we had set out for ourselves and started doing the last minute things on the list we had made the night before.  We were running around with no idea what we were doing.  Could we catch another bus or a cab and still make our train?  Could we get the bikes on the car in time to drive to Toronto and park the car long term somewhere?  Could we still cancel the train tickets and just adjust our route again?  Maybe someone we know could drive us to the station?  That’s when, at 6:30am on a Saturday, I called our friends down the road (a family with three young kids), to ask them to drive us to the train station, an hour away.  I called twice.  A few minutes later they called back and amazingly said one of them could drive us!  Yeah!

Day 1 OnTheTrain 150x150 A toddler bike touring adventure

Relaxing on the train to Sudbury

Thanks to our incredible friends, we got to the train station on time and packed our bikes, trailer and gear in boxes. Then our train was actually delayed (of course it was!). Eventually,  the three of us boarded our train with a huge sigh of relief –ready for the 7-hour journey to Sudbury. We spent the day lounging, entertaining Eden, snacking, talking to other passengers (who all thought we were insane for taking an 16 month old in a bike trailer for 9 days), and trying to get Eden to take a nap (which she eventually did in my arms).

And then the train kept getting delayed. We were getting a little antsy as we needed to bike at least 30 km through Sudbury  in order to find a place to camp that night.  Originally the train was supposed to arrive at 4:00pm, but we arrived at Sudbury Junction an hour late. I could tell Reuben was nervous and so was I. Setting out on our first tour with our young daughter, arriving late into Sudbury, 650 km from home in a city we didn’t know — and now with an overcast sky threatening rain (despite the forecast! — why did we re-route again?) — what were we thinking?!

Day 1 Departure 300x215 A toddler bike touring adventure

Leaving on our first bicycle tour with our 16-month-old daughter Eden.

We hastily unboxed our bikes, threw on our gear,  and then we were off.

It wasn’t long before Eden was upset and we needed to pull over to console her.  The road was bumpy, noisy and full of traffic.  She had had a long day with a short nap — we knew we were asking a lot of her.  On the outskirts of the city, we hit our first hill — and I had a brief moment of hysteria.  I was actually laughing and felt very panicked as I attempted this first of many hills pulling Eden in her trailer behind me. We zigzagged in and around Sudbury and finally made our way out of the city.

We biked a few more kilometers and started looking for a campsite. When we toured in the past, pre-baby, we stealth camped, so we were planning on continuing with that method for this trip.  It was at this point that I realized how apprehensive I really was as we tried to discern a good spot to set up a tent for the night.  In the past it would sometimes take an extra 5-10 km’s of biking to find a decent spot — which would be unacceptable now if Eden was unwilling to sit in the trailer for another ½ hour.  We chose a spot quickly, so while it was hidden, it was just right off the road (so it was a bit noisy). But hey –  it was secluded and flat and easy to get our bikes and gear to, so we were happy!

Day 1 StealthCamp 150x150 A toddler bike touring adventure

Stealth camping with a toddler!

Making our first meal of the trip (in the dark), it started to drizzle truely damping our spirits.  We trekked all the way out to Sudbury trying to avoid bad weather and we were getting rained on anyway? Would we have to bike all that distance home enduring weather we weren’t fully prepared for? Amazingly, Eden didn’t take any notice.  She was having a splendid time romping around in the grass and playing with stones and twigs.  She loved playing in the tent and when it came time to sleep, she loved that mommy and daddy were right there.  She went to bed peacefully at about 8:30pm and we joined her shortly thereafter, too tired to really even think about what tomorrow held.

Kilometers traveled: 25.5
Hours on the bikes: 1.25


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  1. Travelling Toddler ( Twitter: )
    June 9, 2010 @ 3:15 pm #

    Love this post, I’ve never read about anyone taking a toddler on a little cycling/camping trip like this before. It’s exactly what I want to do, but wasn’t sure how a toddler would get on. It’s given me the confidence to go for it :)

    • Pedal Powered Family ( Twitter: )
      June 9, 2010 @ 7:21 pm #

      travelling toddler — fantastic! toddlers on bikes are really a lot of fun. would love to hear more about your trip as you plan for it…

  2. Jami ( Twitter: )
    June 9, 2010 @ 7:23 pm #

    Eden is resilient!

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