6 People on 2 Bikes across 1 State
"Mommy, I got to go pee!" These were the words i heard from behind me precisely three minutes after loading up our bikes and heading out on a cross-Florida bike trip with our 4 kids. I heard those words many more times in the following month as well as we made our way slowly westward across the State.
At that moment, i began to wonder if we were indeed slightly crazy for undertaking such a feat with our four kids in tow. It wasn't as if we had ever done a long bike trip before. We had in fact never biked with the kids farther than 10 miles away one-way and never overnight. But, the opportunity arose to go on an extended bike trip and we thought, "why not?" So we went for it.
We loaded up our kids, tent, cooking supplies, clothes, diapers, sleeping bags, bottles and everything needed for the next month on our two fat bikes and started out. Wow, we had a lot of stuff. Imagine all you need to live for one person. Now multiply that by 6.
We started out slow and the first few days only made about 15 miles in a day. Our legs, heart and lungs were getting in better shape although our rears were very sore. That came partly from wearing a heavy backpack-- I recommend trying very hard to not need a backpack. By the end of our trip we were able to make 40 miles by lunch if it wasn't too hot out.
When we got to Osceola National Forest we decided to camp there for a week. Tristan and I were both coming down with colds (which turned out to be quite bad) and needed the entire week to get better, rest our bodies and enjoy some family time.
We had campfires, went on walks, celebrated Sprout #4’s 1st Birthday, visited with other families camping, and sat through a couple huge thunderstorms. Sitting in a small tent with 4 active kids for 4 hours in the afternoon waiting for the downpour to stop is quite the family experience. Not my favorite, but we survived and came out the other end stronger for it.
In fact, that seemed to be the thing we learned the most this whole trip. Bike hard, push through, go just another mile. And we realized that we could do a whole lot more than we thought we could. We learned that it is OK to ride though the rain and after we were more refreshed. We learned it is OK to take breaks often, and not get lots of miles in each day. We learned that it is more about the journey than getting to the destination.
We would ride on the shoulder of the roads, on bike paths, or even through back-wood sand roads. We would camp at night at campgrounds, or would ask people to camp in their yard. Sometimes we would stop at dark and begin again at dawn, and other times we would stop for a few days, enjoying the luxury of swimming in pools, having campfires and playing on playgrounds.
We had never gone done a long bike trip before and at the end of it we realized we much rather bike the mountain trails of a state park with our kids, than grueling through miles of highway in the sun. It was a good experience for us though, and we learned a lot.
We ended up buying an old used vehicle, (amazingly it is cheaper than renting) and made our way North, home to Nova Scotia. It was starting to get very hot in the South and I was very glad to get up to cooler weather in Canada. We took the time to go on mountain bike trails with our bikes and the kids, discover new wild edibles, and visit with old friends we haven't seen in years.
Would we do it again? Probably not a long bike tour.
But off-road biking and camping? Absolutely! We are already planning for it.
We have grown because of this experience. Grown as individuals, a couple and as a family.
We accomplished more than we thought we could, and it was just one step at a time... well, one pedal at a time i guess. :)