The story of how I came to be straddled on my bike looking south at the longest road in the world
As romantic as it sounds to fly to the northern edge of the world with children and plans to cycle as far south as is possible, it didn’t happen quite that easily.
There were a whole lot of years where I learned hard lessons about how to do that and, more importantly, how NOT to do that.
I was at the tender age of sixteen when I faced my first potentially life-threatening situation in the wilderness and had to dig deep to find the courage and wherewithal to get not only me, but three of my siblings out of the mountains safely. As my older sister and I carefully talked through all possibilities and options and our younger brother and sister blindly trusted in our capabilities, I fended off panic and cautiously put one foot in front of the other until somehow, miraculously, we arrived back home.
As I look back upon it now, with many years to see how the pieces have fallen into place, I realize that that experience, that near disaster, laid the groundwork for many of my future adventures. If I had survived that one, surely I could safely navigate others.
During college, I took advantage of weekends to climb around on Mount Rainier or explore the rugged coastline of Washington state. When I transferred to a university in Colorado, my adventurous spirit took me into the Colorado Rockies and canoeing down the Platte River in a blizzard.
Each time something went right OR wrong, I added another piece to the puzzle; another tidbit of knowledge and wisdom that I could draw on at some point farther down the road.
International travel became my passion in 1984 when I left behind the life I had known and starting working in Honduras as a Peace Corps Volunteer. During the next few years I learned that Honduran people weren’t all that different from me. They all had the same basic needs I did, and had their own dreams and aspirations.
It sounds funny to me now, but back then I truly believed that “other” people were somehow different from me in many fundamental ways.
When I left the Peace Corps, they handed me a bunch of money designed to help me get my feet on the ground when I got back to the USA. I took the money and spent seven months backpacking around South America instead.
Penniless, I arrived in my home country and set about looking for a job on an Indian reservation – my experiences in South America had piqued my interest in Native Americans. A week later I headed to Arizona to start a new job teaching on the Navajo reservation.
I learned then that things work out. Many people had told me the ‘responsible’ thing to do was go back to the USA right away and not waste that money. In the end, I made the right decision for me.
From that point on, my life was filled with various adventures, each one teaching me its own lessons and taking me one step closer to Prudhoe Bay. I spent a summer biking from Norfolk, Virginia to New Orleans; another summer visiting my brother who worked in a refugee camp in Malawi. John and I took off in 1990 to spend a year cycling around Pakistan, India, Nepal, and Bangladesh.
It was 1993 when John and I took off for Egypt to spend the next twelve years living the expat life in Egypt, Ethiopia, Taiwan, and Malaysia. During those years we figured out how to navigate foreign countries (in more ways than just the driving sense!) and gained a deep seated respect for foreign cultures.
We dealt with our share of medical emergencies, which showed us that life doesn’t end the moment we leave our own country. I injured my back and broke my hand in Egypt; John’s heart went into arrhythmia in Ethiopia and he had to be evacuated out to Israel. Daryl broke his arm AND had pneumonia in Malaysia. I came down with pneumonia in Argentina. We found medical care to be both great and affordable in most places of the world.
Our sons were born during our fifth year abroad and we turned into an expat family. Hauling our kids all around the globe became a part of our life and we adapted quickly to the changes. It wasn’t long before we discovered that backpacking with young kids was even more fun; more rewarding than travel on our own.
On a beautiful spring day in March 2006 my husband came home from work and suggested quitting our jobs and heading out with our children for a year-long bike tour.
And the rest, as they say, is history.
We spent the boys’ third grade year exploring the USA and Mexico from the vantage point of our bicycle seats, then went on to spend the boys 5th, 6th, and 7th grade years cycling from Alaska to Argentina.
In each step of my journey, each phase of my life, I’ve learned various lessons that helped me push on to the next chapter.