A family vacation that includes a bike ride or two is always fun. An hour biking to the beach, or around town, with the promise of ice cream at the end — what’s not to like? I always felt a little sporty after incorporating bike rides into my family’s travel experiences, until I started (virtually) following the Vogels on their adventure. This “Family on Bikes” would surely laugh at my 3-speed efforts; they’ve biked all the way from Alaska to Argentina. This has to be some kind of record. Nancy Sathre-Vogel — the mother of the group — agreed to answer some questions, before probably biking another 50 miles just for fun.
We — me, my husband and our (then) 10-year old twin sons left from Alaska in June 2008. We spent the next three years cycling 17,300 miles through fifteen countries to the southern tip of South America, in Tierra del Fuego. The boys were 13 when we arrived.
What motivated you to undertake this big bicycle adventure?
Our feeling was, because we can! For any trip of this magnitude there are lots of reasons, but it mainly came down to wanting time together as a family before it was too late. It won’t be long before our sons are grown and have moved on to lives of their own. They might not want to travel with ol’ Ma and Pa anymore! Besides that, we like a good adventure and we love traveling on bikes.
This must be some kind of record, distance-wise, for your sons. Does it qualify for a Guinness World Record?
After we had decided to take the trip, the idea of a Guinness World Record came up — and my sons were immediately all grins! However, the record has always been a secondary aspect and was not ever the primary motivation for the journey. Getting the official Guinness World Record as the youngest to bicycle the length of the Americas was a pretty darn cool thing for a kid! Davy and Daryl are very proud of their accomplishment and nobody can ever take that away…but they want the certificate too. Just because. And really, it makes sense for them to want the certificate of the Guinness World Record. Unfortunately, Guinness changed their policy while we were on the road and are now denying that honor.
Back to the trip: what were your and your family’s favorite stops along the way from Alaska to Argentina?
For the kids, the best parts were those active adrenaline-charged activities; sand-boarding in Peru, floating down a river in Belize, and horseback riding in Argentina. For me, it’s harder to pick a favorite. each and every place we traveled through had good points and bad. If I had to choose one, it would have to be Honduras. I was able to return to my Peace Corps village after 22 years away, and with my family! What could be better? My husband John would choose the wilds of Alaska and Canada, as he considers it a special experience knowing that you are just part of the food chain in the great wild yonder.
Any words of advice for other families considering a mammoth, multi-month bike trip?
Oh yes, I sure have some words of advice. Take it one step at a time. Don’t overplan. Know that when you’re biking there are a million things that can happen that will screw up your plans, so don’t make rigid plans to begin with. Just know that you’ll get to your destination by putting one foot in front of the other. Slowly, but surely, it will happen.
Putting one foot in front of the other and eventually getting to where one ends up — great advice, from a great, intrepid traveler. Thanks, Nancy!