It was very important for me to finish this big trip slowly and in a way adaption into society would be easier. Therefore we decided to cycle in Europe over the summer months. As I already mentioned in my previous post Peter worked a big part of June and July. I didn’t want to wait and stay in one place for such a long time. Cycling with the children and Luna all by myself was an idea that formed already earlier in our trip. I have been touring a lot in the last 10 years but I hardly ever toured alone. Peter and I always shared the responsibility for the children and discussed every decision that had to be made. Now, at the end of our big tour, I had the feeling that I knew everything about touring and wild camping. I felt confident that I would manage on my own. It was a welcome new challenge. I wanted to know how much I learned in the past two years and how strong I am now.
It was easier than expected. My trip, my decision, my rules. I had to be strikt with Ben and Esmé every now and then. They had to help me more than when Peter is with us and I had to give them more responsibility than usual. For example: Whenever we had to do groceries one adult plus one child would stay outside with the bikes and take care nothing would be stolen. The other adult plus child would do groceries. Now it was only me with two children and a dog. I told Ben that I can’t leave Esmé outside the store with the bikes. She simply is too young for that. But Ben and Luna would be a good care taker team. I explained why it had to be this way. He and Luna stayed in front of the supermarket with the bikes every day. Esmé always choose something she knew Ben would like (e.g. salami, cheese, grapes). This was his reward for taking care of our stuff. Coming from the US, where you would never ever be allowed to leave your six year old child in front of the supermarket alone, this situation stressed me every time. In Europe it is more common to give your children more freedom and responsibility but I was still more used to the American culture.
Another big thing was Ben having to cycle every single kilometer by himself. We always had the opportunity to attach him to an adult bike on our way through North America. Now Luna was too big to carry in a box in the front of my bike. Luna and Esmé shared a two seat child trailer which was not the best but the only solution I could think of. “No Luna, this is my half of the trailer and this is yours.” is a sentence I heard several times a day. Luna and Esmé were fighting a lot. I longed for Peter and his bike, pulling Esmé and her bike, which would result in less fighting and growling. Ben on the other hand did great on his own bike. We averaged 40km a day in the first week which slowly increased to 50km a day average with a maximum of 68km in one day. Ben needed a rest day or two every four days. I am very proud of his achievement. He did a great job.
Finally we made it to Berlin without taking a train or a bus. We wild camped almost every day (except on rest days). I also planned almost the whole route by myself. (Only in the beginning I followed the R1 cycle route.) I feel proud of myself and the children and now know that I am capable of doing tougher things than I thought. While possessing a strong personality and will I do underestimate myself a lot of times. I learned that about myself on our way from Helmond (NL) to Berlin (D).
We flew from Mexico City to Denver, Colorado and exploerd the area around Aspen for a couple of days. After that we drove to Moab, Utah and stayed there with friends. We left our bikes and camping gear in Mexico City. We gave everything away to people who, we thought, would really use our gear. We travelled light, four panniers was all we owned for about 3 weeks. Our bikes were old and worn out, same with most of our camping gear.
We flew from the US to Amsterdam at the beginning of June. It was not easy to bring our dear and most valuable souvenier Luna to Europe but we made it and she is now a happy european dog.
We bought new bikes and camping gear in the Netherlands and I am currently with Ben, Esmé and Luna on my way to Berlin. Peter got a job offer as guide for Austin Adventures and guided tours in the past three weeks. He will join us in Berlin in a couple of days and then we will start the last part of our big family adventure: we will cycle back home to Austria and finish our trip after 21 months on the road.
As much as we loved the South of Mexico a year ago, the much we loved the North this year. It is a beautiful cactus country which we enjoyed to explore.
One day, at the end of March we climbed a big hill, just a little bit north of the town Ciudad del Maìz in the province San Luis Potosì. It was extremely hot, we were in the tropics again, and on top we found a little chapel and some benches where we took a break. After about twenty minutes we saw a little creature moving in the middle of a cactus, leaves and trash.
It was a little puppy dog. She was very weak, could hardly walk, was full of flees and her tummy looked like a baloon (full of parasites). We had the feeling that she couldn’t see or smell well. We offered her water and soaked some bread but she was extremely shy. She ran back to her cactus whenever she was done drinking. We stayed with her for about 1 1/2 hours and then decided to take her.
Of course we didn’t have any dog basket, crate or trailer for her. She was tiny anyway. We went to the next supermarket and bought proper dog food. We went to the veterinary several times and helped her getting rid of the flees and parasites. Now she is healthy again. Her name is Luna. The kids are thrilled to have a dog now. Especially Ben. The first thing he does when he gets up in the morning is cuddling and playing with Luna. Sometimes I have the feeling that he understands and cares more for animals than for people.
In the last couple of weeks we also made some new and special human mexican friends. In the little town Jalpan we took a break of a couple of days on a campground next to a pool. All four of us were ill the day before we arrived there. We felt very weak, couldn’t eat well and slept bad. We needed to gain strength again because from Jalpan we planned a huge climb of 2500 altimeters up into the mountains. You can’t cycle such a climb with 80kg of luggage without eating well. Anyway, there on this little campground we met an argentinan-mexican family. They had three beautiful kids. The parents were artisans and made beautiful jewelery.
The kids played all day long together and Peter and I felt a strong connections with the parents. It was hard to say goodbye.
The climb up to the pass was beautiful and it was not as hard as I thought. We cycled all of it, without walking a meter. It just went up, up, up for two days.
Crossing a border is always very special. We thought a lot about crossing the border from the US into Mexico and planned wel. The closer we got to the border the more warnings we got. Policecars and people we encountered on the road stopped to check on us regularly. More and more people told us stories about drug problems, gangs fighting each other, shootings and crazy police chases. That made us feel insecure and sometimes indesicive in which road and bordercrossing we should take. Finally we decided that we should be careful (not cycling when it is dark, locking our bikes well, keeping an eye on our belongings, taking hotels near the border) but that we should listen to our sense and feelings. We have not had a single dangerous or unpleasant encounter. On the contrary, everyone has been extremely friendly and helpful.
Bordercrossing in Laredo. On the left: everyone who wants to enter the US. On the right: everyone who wants to enter Mexico.
On our first day cycling in Mexico the Policía Federal found us somewhere on the road. They felt responsible for our safety and insisted to escort us until Saltillo. From that moment on a policecar drove behind us for the next 130km. They encouraged us through their speaker when going uphill. “Go Peter go! Go Petra go!” We felt like a professional Tour de France cycling team.
After Saltillo we went on smaller and quieter roads into the mountains. We felt relieved. Not only were we able to wild camp again but cars drove much slower and there was way less noise than on the big highways. For me hearing the noise of passing cars all day long is one of the most unpleasant things on tour. I often try to listen to music which works a little bit but it can also be unsafe because you don’t always hear the traffic coming.
Mexico is magical. Last year, when we traveled in the South, we loved this country a lot. And it is the same now with the North. People are extremely friendly and curious, the food is nice and cheap, the roads are good, car drivers treat us respectful, the climate is pleasant and the landscapes are beautiful. We enjoy Mexico and highly recommend it for cycletouring and traveling as a family.
We left Cancun, Mexico, by bike on 12th of December 2016. We are on the road already since one year! To celebrate our anniversary we created this 12 minute slideshow which we want to share with you. Enjoy!
Fietsreis 2017 - Vimeo
Impressions from our first year on the road. We started our cycle tour on 7th of December 2016 in Cancun, Mexico. We stayed five months in Mexico, Belize and Guatemala and then flew to Canada where we stayed for four months. After Canada we entered the USA and cycled through Montana, Wyoming, Colorado and Utah. Our adventure is not over yet! To be continued … Adventure cycle touring with two small children – http://www.thecyclingfamily.com Music: Eddie Vedder "Rise"; Hang Massive "Once Again"; Eddie Vedder "Society"
It is a long time ago that we wrote our last blogpost. Sorry for that. We didn’t take time to write. We took time to enjoy the desert in Wyoming, Colorado and Utah.
The landscape, especially the colours and shapes, we saw in the last weeks were amazing. We loved it so much that we took the longest break in the past year. We stayed 2 1/2 weeks in Moab, where we stayed with several new friends that felt like family.
We experienced a lot of generosity and hospitality. Not only in Moab but all along our route: in Savery, Grand Junction, Telluride, Dolores, Durango, Oxford, Dulce and Abiquiu. In total we have been helped and invited about 40 nights in the last two months, which is amazing and very often has helped us a lot. The days are short and as soon as the sun is setting it gets very cold. We have had some snow on the tent but campfires and hot tubs keep us warm.
We are still doing fine and managing well. All the other cyclists we follow on social media are already further south and in warmer weather.
It was also time to say goodbye to our friends Sjoerd, Hanneke and their son Ramses. They are heading towards California now and we continued into New Mexico.
Ben and Esmé are doing really well in this circumstances. They are wearing many layers of clothes every day but are still playing cheerfully and not getting grumpy at all.
The cycling family is not touring alone anymore. Since Calgary we are the cycling families and friends!
Our friend Geertemarie (green shirt behind Ben) joined us for 3 weeks. Our friends Sjoerd and Hanneke will join us with there 1 1/2 year old son Ramses for the next couple of months.
Currently we impress car drivers and locals with our “bike train”…
… and cute children.
The weather has been perfect. It was hot every day, our raingear was in our panniers almost the whole summer and we swam in lakes most of the days since Calgary.
Probably most of you heard it in the news: parts of Canada and the USA struggled with forest fires this summer. Those fires didn’t affect us until Waterton National Park. There we have been evacuated from a campground and had a lot of smoke for the next two weeks. Our eyes burnt, our lungs hurt, we coughed and all our camping gear smelled as if we sat next to a campfire for a long time. We had to change our route. Instead of staying in the Rocky Mountains we had to go further east to escape the fires and the smoke.
But suddenly the temperature dropped and it started raining and snowing and we started wearing almost all the clothes we carry. (The good news is that we are now able to carry way more food than before … very important for every touring cyclist!)