A traveler’s Halloween to remember

Halloween. It’s every kid’s dream, but can be difficult when traveling. Where do you go trick or treating? What do we use to piece together costumes?

bike touring Grand CanyonFor us, as a family traveling on bikes, Halloween has provided some wonderful memories. The boys and I were talking about Halloween the other day, and our conversation brought back some real treats. We all agreed our favorite Halloween ever was in Williams, Arizona when the boys were 8.

When we left the Grand Canyon that morning, we knew we had fifty miles to get to Williams. “That shouldn’t be a problem,” we thought. We thought wrong.

As it turned out, it’s uphill from the Grand Canyon to Williams. And we faced a stiff headwind. John, captaining our bicycle built for three pulling a heavy trailer, was struggling. We pedaled a few miles, then John stopped for a break.

“C’mon, Daddy,” the kids urged. “We need to make it to town!”

“We really need to get to Williams,” I told my husband. “It’s Halloween!”

John peeled himself off the ground and climbed back on the bike for another heroic effort. A few miles later, he collapsed on the ground again.

I could see the fatigue in John. The way his eyes glazed over, his shoulders slumped, and his exhausted speech. I knew how hard this was for him, but the boys and I sat around, chomping at the bit to get back on the bikes.

climbing hill in Arizona

Finally, we three miles to go to town, we passed a National Forest. “If you want, we could stop here,” I said as I pedaled alongside the triple bike. “The boys and I could walk into town from here.” I figured John would just push on in to town – it was only three more miles, after all.

“Are you serious?” he asked as he glanced sideways toward me. “You don’t mind?”

I was stunned. “Ummm…” I stuttered. “We’re close enough now. The boys and I could get into town.”

John ground to a halt and looked off into the forest. “I’m exhausted,” he said. “If you don’t mind, I would love to stop here.”

We pushed our bikes through the brush until we found a good spot for the tent. The boys and I grabbed a daypack and some plastic bags and were off. John would set up camp alone.

bike touring in Arizona

It didn’t take long for us to hitch a ride into town, and soon we were wandering the streets of Williams trying to get our bearings.

“Come to our Halloween party!” a witch said. “We’ve got a great party going on here at our church.”

We took her up on her invitation and, an hour later, walked back out with a couple bags full of candy, a plate of cupcakes, and two entire strawberry-rhubarb pies. One would think that was enough junk, but we were just getting started.

halloween costume

Halloween costumes tend to be pretty basic when we’re on the road as we can’t carry a lot of fancy stuff.

For the next two hours, the boys and I wandered the streets of Williams, knocking on doors. At each house, it seemed, they got a whole handful of candy.

It didn’t take long before their bags needed emptying, so we dumped it all into my daypack and they kept going.

Thirty minutes later, we emptied their bags again. My backpack was getting full.

By the time we finally called it quits, my pack was so stuffed we forced candies through a tiny opening in the zipper one by one, and each boy carried a full bag of candy. Plus we had the cupcakes and pies. Oy!

And then we faced a dilemma: how would we get back to the tent? We were three miles from “home,” and Daryl was so tired he could barely take another step. Try to walk it? That would take us all night. We headed out to the main road, hoping that someone would stop.

Within a minute of putting out my thumb, a van raced past us, then slammed on their brakes and started backing up. “Where are you going?” they asked.

And so it happened that the three of us climbed into a van full of fairies and princesses and pirates – they lived in a small village and had gone into the city to go trick-or-treating. Three miles later, I told them we needed to get out.

“Here? There’s nothing here!”

I assured them that Daddy was back there somewhere with our bikes and tents, and we climbed out of the van and waved goodbye.

It was pitch black, without a trace of a moon as we followed the dirt road back to a particular sign I had noted on our way out. We turned right, climbed over a rock pile and started counting steps as we stumbled through the woods. Sure enough, right at 227 steps, we found John passed out in the tent, and quickly joined him.

The following morning, with temps way below freezing, we remained curled in our sleeping bags as we sorted the candy and identified favorites. Then we crawled out of the tent and feasted on a “nutritious” breakfast composed of frozen cupcakes and frozen strawberry-rhubarb pie before discovering that our water bottles were frozen solid. Brushing one’s teeth with frozen water is a <erm> challenge.

As we prepare for Halloween a few days away, we remember that night eight years ago with many fond memories. My hope for every other family is that they, too, will create special memories that will be talked about forever.

Here are the boys’ journal entries from that day:

From Davy: We went trick or treating and got lots of candy. First we went to a church that had lots of games. They had a cake walk, bowling, basketball, football, hula hoops contest, and a bean bag race. Outside the church were a balloon popping game and a bounce house. I won a plate of cupcakes and a pie. I also won a bunch of toys. Then we went to the houses. We went to a lot of house. We got more than a backpack full of candy.

From Daryl: We went trick or treating. We got lots of candy. We went to a church. We did a cake walk. Davy won a plateful of cupcakes and a pie. I won a pie. Me and Davy’s candy combined was a backpack full of candy. It has lasted us 2 days so far. It will probably last a long time more.

bike touring with kids

See that backpack Davy is wearing? That’s the candy a few days later. There was no way we could fit it all in our panniers, so Davy carried it on his back. We had a LOT of candy!


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.

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