A bicycling kind of love story

“What on God’s green earth am I doing here?” I thought as I gazed upon the pile of bikes, panniers, and miscellaneous gear strewn about the floor of the Pakistani airport – and at the strange man putting it all together. “How in the heck did I go this far over the deep end?”

nancy in indiaLet me make this clear from the beginning – I am normally a fairly “together” person. I am intelligent. I’m confident. I’m… well, let’s just say I wouldn’t typically do something quite this stupid. I mean – why on earth would any reasonably sane woman fly to Pakistan with a man she didn’t even know and plan to spend the next twelve months bicycling with him?

That’s a very good question.

I hadn’t really planned on doing something quite so crazy – I had planned on doing the trip by myself. Yes, I planned to be a 29-year-old female out cycling the Indian subcontinent by myself. But that seemed a whole lot more sane than attempting the same journey with a man I had barely met. Or so thought I.

My parents, on the other hand, didn’t quite see eye-to-eye with me. They thought I was nuts. Loony toon. A few cards short of a deck. And they were panicked – terrified at the thought of their daughter out pedaling to the ends of the earth by herself.

camel plowing field in Rajasthan, IndiaSo what does a good daughter do to put her parents at ease? Cancel the trip? Heavens no! I put an ad in an off-the-beaten-track magazine. You know the kind – the magazine that prints articles about the craziest trip mankind can dream up. About heading off into nooks and crannies nobody had heard of.

Every month I devoured each and every word of Great Expeditions magazine. I read about far flung corners of Mongolia or Ghana. I dreamed about visiting remote villages in the Amazon and little known temples in Egypt. I longed to be one of those travelers – the travelers who went beyond – beyond the normal and expected places to travel to really discover the world. And in the back of every Great Expeditions magazine they had a classified section.

nancy ad

on top khunjerab pass between Pakistan and China 15397 feet

On top Khunjerab Pass between Pakistan and China (15,397 feet)

“Sure,” I thought. “Like anybody is going to drop everything to take off on mountain bikes with me!” But at least I could assure my parents that I had done everything I could to find a travel companion.

Here comes that whole serendipity part of this story…

One day in April I came home from a day of teaching to find my new issue of Great Expeditions in my mailbox. “This is it! The issue with my ad!” I hurriedly turned to the back of the magazine and scanned the ads. I read an ad for a travel companion in Africa. Another man hoped to sell his backpack and other travel gear. A tour company had an overland truck heading off for South America.

And then – there it was. Not my ad, but a nearly identical one.

John ad


“Holy Mother of Pearl!” I thought. “This guy is doing the same thing I am!”

Remember I mentioned serendipity? Great Expeditions was a Canadian magazine. I lived in a small town in New Mexico. He lived in Albuquerque two hours away.

Four days after I first read his ad, I was sitting on the pavement outside a bookstore in Albuquerque when John walked up. He wore an old t-shirt two sizes too small, a pair of jeans left over from the 1970’s, a tacky green Boston Celtics cap, and an awkward grin splattered across his face. Nerd. Big time.

crossing raging river carrying bicycle

In the remote Pakistani areas, there were no bridges. The water was ice melt and COLD!

An hour later I walked out of the nearby Dairy Queen after having committed to spending the next year with this guy. We had discussed plans of what gear to take and where to fly to and which camera we would take. But I realized I didn’t know the man.

“What in the hell?” I wondered as I drove two hours back home. “What if? What if we don’t get along? What if he’s a lunatic? What if….”

And yet, in the back of my mind, I knew. I knew it would be OK. I knew it would work. I hadn’t the foggiest idea how it would work, but I was confident it would work itself out.

And so it was that two months later I found myself standing in the Islamabad airport with a bike, a mountain of gear, and a man I didn’t know. John put my bike together for me and off we went – off to explore the wonders of Asia.

waking up to snow

This was not a welcome surprise!

It was six months later that John asked me to marry him for the fifth time and I finally agreed. And six months after that we arrived back in the USA and I walked down the aisle to become the wife of that man I barely knew so long ago. I had no idea what our lives together would bring, but I knew that – with John – nothing would be predictable. Unpredictable perhaps, but wonderful.

What Were We Thinking? Bicycling the Back Roads of Asia is our book about that journey.

That was 21 years ago in 1991. Since then, we’ve been around the world a time or two. We taught overseas for twelve years and discovered many hidden wonders in remote nooks and crannies of countries wide and far. In 1998 our twin boys were born and we embarked on our greatest adventure yet – parenthood.

If history is any indicator of the future, our adventures are far from over.

John and I in Kathmandu


books by Nancy Sathre-Vogel

About Nancy Sathre-Vogel

After 21 years as a classroom teacher, Nancy Sathre-Vogel finally woke up and realized that life was too short to spend it all with other people's kids. She and her husband quit their jobs and, together with their twin sons, climbed aboard bicycles to see the world. They enjoyed four years cycling as a family - three of them riding from Alaska to Argentina and one exploring the USA and Mexico. Now they are back in Idaho, putting down roots, enjoying life at home, and living a different type of adventure. It's a fairly sure bet that you'll find her either writing on her computer or creating fantastical pieces with the beads she's collected all over the world.

Connect with us!

We love to get to know new people. Send us a message!

, , , , ,

28 Responses to A bicycling kind of love story

  1. Wilma in WV November 17, 2010 at 4:29 pm #

    What a wonderful entry! I doubt that many others can top this! My Mom and Dad celebrate their 70th wedding anniversary on the 20th (this Saturday). We were talking the other day about how they met. They were very young, my Mom 14 or so and my Dad was 17. She was chasing a calf that had gotten out of its pen. He was walking along the road and decided to help her. They got to know each other through church and married when they were 16 and 19. My Dad said that he remembered that she was “awfully” pretty. He didn’t remember what happened to the calf!

    I am so blessed! Thank you for sharing your adventure!


  2. Harry & Ivana November 17, 2010 at 4:46 pm #

    Wonderful story, thanks for sharing. I met a girl on a bike while climbing in Tibet. Perfect place to meet an Argentinean cyclist!

  3. Beth November 17, 2010 at 10:12 pm #

    OK Nancy,
    So where is the rest of that story. I read it just after meeting you guys in the Grand Canyon. Now I can’t find it. I would love for my daughter’s fiance to read it. (and anyone else who have been following you for the last two years.)

  4. Hans November 18, 2010 at 3:25 am #

    I certainly believe in ‘destiny’ and this is yet another example of it! The great thing is that you have continued to be guided by your destiny and not tried to control it and live ‘to the mould’ as ‘people’ expect you to.
    And after reading your story about ‘going home’ a few days ago: My prediction is that that will not last too long. Before you know you’ll be in the saddle again! Destiny, remember?

  5. Becky November 18, 2010 at 5:15 am #

    Beautiful story – one thing I have learned on my bike journey was a strong belief in fate. When you put yourself out there, something special always happens 🙂

  6. Laraba November 18, 2010 at 2:27 pm #

    That’s crazy, but I love it. WOW! So glad it DID work out well. How fun. You two are obviously made for each other.

  7. Kristina Wegscheider November 2, 2011 at 8:00 am #

    What a wonderful story! It is always funny how love finds you in the strangest places!

    • Nancy November 2, 2011 at 4:05 pm #

      @Kristina Wegscheider,
      I never, ever expected to fall in love with a man while out touring on my bike. You just never know…

  8. Robyn December 26, 2011 at 5:09 pm #

    I’m having so much fun catching up on your posts. This story just made me teary. Loved it!

    • Nancy December 26, 2011 at 5:21 pm #

      Thanks Robyn! Ours is not the typical love story, that’s for sure!

  9. Anyiko January 22, 2012 at 10:29 pm #

    What a crazy-love-bike story! SIGH. Recently read on Lance Armstrong’s bike book, ‘My journey back to life’ & now here you two found love on the bike. I think i should start biking SOON 🙂 Wish you all the best in your future escapades!

    • Nancy January 22, 2012 at 10:55 pm #

      Definitely need to get a bike!! You never know what adventures it might lead you on.

  10. Andi of My Beautiful Adventures January 23, 2012 at 7:08 am #

    One of the greatest love stories I’ve ever heard!

  11. Heidi January 23, 2012 at 9:48 am #

    Ok, I knew the story before but reading it here again just reminds me how cool this is! You two are the ultimate adventurers and this story reminds me that life is what happens when you say “Yes” to things. Imagine if you’d taken the “sane”, “rational” road? You’d never have met John and never embarked on the greatest adventure of your life. What an inspiration…

    • Nancy January 23, 2012 at 10:23 am #

      I’ve often thought about how different my life would have been if I hadn’t taken that risk and said yes. I can’t even imagine it now.

  12. Shirlene from Idelish January 25, 2012 at 12:29 am #

    What a heartwarming love story! It’s like a fairytale! Cheers to many many more years of adventures and spontaneity to you and your husband!

    • Nancy January 25, 2012 at 11:15 pm #

      @Shirlene from Idelish,
      Thank you Shirlene! I’m still blown away that I did that – but I guess it was all for a reason!

  13. Gone Traveling. January 26, 2012 at 8:51 am #

    I never knew that camels plough fields! Everyday I learn something new!

  14. Marina K. Villatoro February 15, 2012 at 8:30 am #

    what a story, Nancy. I never knew that’s how you met.

    Good for you for taking the chance. I think most women would be too scared and lose out on love!

    If I listened to the world around me before going on my solo trek, I would never ever have met my husband and live the life I am leading now with 2 amazing little boys.

    • Nancy February 16, 2012 at 1:55 am #

      @Marina K. Villatoro, I think upon on it now, and wonder how I let myself do it? It all turned out fine, but what if?? Again – that’s what’s wrong with this world.

  15. Melissa February 16, 2012 at 1:48 am #

    Aww! I’m new to your blog, and I absolutely love this particular post. It really seems like fate was pushing you two together. Keep on livin the good life!

    • Nancy February 16, 2012 at 2:09 am #

      @Melissa, Thank you Melissa! We’ve talked about that a lot – fate or the man upstairs or something like that. Welcome to our story!

  16. Mike Beyersdorf March 5, 2012 at 5:00 pm #

    I really enjoyed your love story. I’ve been a bicycle tourist for many years, though unlike you, I have no yearning to experience other cultures and novel forms of dysentary. I got to this page seeking intel on the extrawheel trailer. I’m going to check out your blog next. Mahalo.

    • Nancy March 6, 2012 at 7:50 pm #

      @Mike Beyersdorf, Thank you! It’s a very different story for sure. We have discovered that the USA is one of our favorite places to tour – enjoy!


  1. Bio of Family on Bikes | Family on Bikes - August 27, 2011

    […] brings us to spring of 1990 when a series of unusual events brought John and me together to cycle in […]

  2. LIVE: Falling in love with a traveller « VOICE TRAVEL - November 5, 2012

    […] search engine wasn’t a total miss; a beautiful story from author Nancy writes “A bicycling kind of love story” that gives a gutsy glimpse at what life can be like even when you don’t follow society’s […]

Leave a Reply