1 0 Posts from: May, 2012
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The origins of a bike-touring family (Part 1)

Posted by on May 29th, 2012 9 Comments

After realizing we wouldn’t be able to make it out to Boston due to time restrictions, we were pretty bummed. It wasn’t because we would be missing out on visiting that city, although we were interested in exploring its transit system and bike culture. We were disappointed because we wouldn’t be able to visit with our college friend Gabe, who now lives there with his wife and daughter. We haven’t seen or really even spoken to Gabe in over five years, but he plays an interesting role in our trip. Whether he knows it or not, he was instrumental in our decision to take this crazy adventure in the first place.

It started out a long time ago (okay, 10 years feels like forever sometimes). Reuben, Gabe and I all went to the same college in northwest Iowa. We noticed that Gabe was doing something unprecedented in this tiny Midwest town. He was riding his bike. Every day. 12 miles or more. And not for just for recreation – he was riding to his work and back – in all kinds of weather! He also did some bike overnights. He would pack his two small rear panniers with gear and ride to a campground 30 or 40 miles away, sleep there, and return the next day. I remember one night we drove out to meet him on one of these trips and were surprised that he did not want to take any of the extra food we had brought along. The self-sufficiency aspect of the trip was important to him and he didn’t want to use anything that he hadn’t brought along on his bike. It was all very interesting to me.

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NYC with Friends, Family, and 32,000 other cyclists

Posted by on May 27th, 2012 1 Comment

For most of this year, we enjoyed waking up with the sun, or when our bodies told us we were well-rested. However, there have a been a few times when we have had to use an alarm clock: a 4:00am wake-up to tackle a few mountain passes in Colorado, or 5:00am alarm calls to beat the late morning heat in Central America. While we are now far from the Rockies or the heat of the tropics, we once again found ourselves bleary-eyed at 5:30am the morning of May 6th. With snacks, toys and camera gear loaded and the bikes prepared the night before, it took us a mere 15 minutes to go from bed to saddle and roll down the hill to catch the 6:15am train from Scarsdale, NY to Grand Central Station in Manhattan.

May 06 2012 DSC 8769 548x317 NYC with Friends, Family, and 32,000 other cyclists

5-boro riders in Central Park

Coffee and tea in hand, we squeezed our unloaded bikes and trailer onto the train, stuffing them into seats and along the aisle near the doors. Reuben’s Surly Big Dummy longtail made this a little difficult with its extra 18” of length – not to mention we weren’t the only people with bikes on this train. With a pile of bicycles behind us, we sat down and ate our breakfast, arriving in downtown NYC an hour later. We quickly navigated the elevators and stairs of Grand Central Station and rode out onto the eerily empty Sunday-morning streets of Manhattan towards the Westside Greenway, a dedicated bike path that was already teaming with riders. Most of the cyclists we saw were wearing bright green vests that matched our own, emblazoned with the Bike NYC logo. We were about to join 32,000 other riders for a 40-mile bike tour of New York’s five boroughs – and it seemed like every cyclist in the city was on their way to the starting line.

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A Playroom on Wheels: Our Wike Moonlite Child Trailer

Posted by on May 23rd, 2012 7 Comments

June 28 2011 DSC 2475 548x362 A Playroom on Wheels: Our Wike Moonlite Child Trailer

Our first family bike tour was a nine day outing in northern Ontario when Eden was 16 months old. At the time, we owned a garage-sale-quality bike trailer and didn’t think it was up for the task of transporting a child comfortably during the 700km ride from Sudbury to Hamilton in variable weather. We weren’t quite sure we wanted to purchase a trailer just yet (they all seemed so expensive), so we borrowed a Chariot Cougar 2 trailer from a friend for the trip. Eden loved the trailer and the quiet time it provided while we were riding – she kept busy napping, playing and singing and was perfectly content as we cruised along. However, after we got home from this tour, we had a few concerns about the trailer. The fabric floor wicked up and absorbed a lot of the moisture tossed up from the tires in rainy conditions, soaking Eden’s feet and toys and often leaving a pool of water inside. The rain cover also seemed a little insufficient and let more water in than we thought it should. We also didn’t see how it would hold two children comfortably as it already seemed a little small and cramped in there with just one. We held off on our new-trailer purchase until we began to gear up for our current adventure, and because of the misgivings of the Chariot, we were open to any bike trailer possibility that fit better with our style of loaded touring.

After countless hours of research into other Chariot models as well as Burly-brand trailers, it seemed the clear winner was a lesser-known brand that was quite literally in our backyard. Wike Bicycle Trailers is located in Guelph Ontario, just 50km from our home in Hamilton. Off the bat, we really liked the idea that Wike welds, sews and assembles each unit right in Guelph – in fact every bit of the trailer is made in Canada (save for the wheels, which are made in Taiwan). According to the specifications listed on Wike’s website, the Moonlite model is the lightest in it’s class at 23 pounds – a major plus when considering a trailer for touring. The trailer also has a unique fold that packs down smaller and into a more manageable ‘package’ than other models.

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Our one-year Bike-iversary!

Posted by on May 21st, 2012 8 Comments

One year ago today, when we left on this bike tour with nervousness, fear and anticipation, I spent a lot of time thinking about our return home every day. My mind would dwell for hours on the idea of the glorious ride down the familiar escarpment rail trail to our home in Hamilton with a year of cycling under our belts. I would grin from ear to ear as I imagined pedaling into my driveway. Maybe thinking about the ending of the trip motivated me to continue, or maybe it was just a pleasure in the happy thoughts of the trip being over, this goal being accomplished, a return to be my own house, my own bed, my own kitchen.

Depart Jenn Stark Photographers 548x364 Our one year Bike iversary!

Rolling out of our driveway on May 21, 2011

But a few weeks in, a momentous transition hit – a moment I remember reading other cyclists and travelers having – where this vague fear of the road is replaced by a wonderful sense of freedom. And then there was no looking back. For me, this also meant I no longer thought about the end of the trip – I was living in the moment and loving every minute of it. Home had become the company I was with, my bicycle, my tent, the playgrounds and libraries and campgrounds we stayed in, and the homes we were welcomed into.

September 05 2011 DSC 3903 548x362 Our one year Bike iversary!

Cooking breakfast in Oregon

Now, we are living in the moment that I used to dream about. We are 10 days from home after being on the road for a year. While I do feel accomplishment, I do not feel the great sense of relief I had expected to feel when dreaming about this time so many months ago. In fact, I feel just as nervous and anxious and sad now about coming home as I did about leaving it. I LOVE my life right now. I love being outside almost every hour of every day. I love pedaling on my bicycle and the tingling in my legs at the end of the day that means I worked hard. I love buying only the groceries I need each day and only thinking about the 24 hours that lie ahead. I love having so much time to play with my kids – and that I feel so connected to my husband. I don’t really look forward to the return to household chores like vacuuming or cleaning toilets – and the idea of waking up to an alarm clock and sitting at my desk for 35 hours a week is pretty undesirable.

November 12 2011 DSC 5902 548x362 Our one year Bike iversary!


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Approaching the Big Apple

Posted by on May 21st, 2012 3 Comments

Spring was in the air and the weather was absolutely gorgeous on our ride out of Washington D.C. We had spontaneously adjusted our route plan the night before – and instead of heading towards Baltimore and Philadelphia, we left the metropolises behind and turned our wheels due east towards rural Delaware. We had set our sights on arriving in New York City by Eden’s birthday – May 3, and could just make the timing work out using two boats as shortcuts: the Lewes/Cape May ferry to get into New Jersey and the Belford ferry to jump right into Manhattan. Reuben’s aunt and uncle live just north of NYC and we were eager to visit with them and enjoy some downtime at their house. Also, my mom, dad and sister were planning on driving down from Hamilton to see us for a few days, so we had a lot to look forward to. The icing on the cake was that the largest cycling event in the country, the NYC 5-boro Bike Tour, was scheduled for May 6th and we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to experience New York with 32,000 other cyclists on traffic-free streets. We did not have registrations for the event, however, as they were assigned months ago with a lottery system, so we were hoping to somehow make things work when we arrived.

April 28 2012 DSC 8653 548x362 Approaching the Big Apple

Delaware fields

Our ride across Delaware was a quick one thanks to the flat nature of this small state, or maybe we were just distracted with the thoughts of tasting some great craft beer at Dogfish Head in Rehoboth Beach. A generous reader hooked us up with an amazing beach house near the brewery where we had an incredibly relaxing and wonderful stay after enjoying tiny sips of 16 flavourful brews.

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